November 29, 2017

Well, I guess the Baylor Bears aren't the undisputed worst FBS football team in America. Call me crazy, but I would rather be THE worst instead of just ONE OF the worst. It would have made for a much more compelling rags to riches success story in 2020 when Baylor wins the Big XII conference championship. (When compelled to make a prophetic utterance, it's best to predict an event far enough into the future so the prophecy will be forgotten when it doesn't happen.)

When my saline nasal spray ran out several months ago, I replaced it but saved the empty bottle, filling it with disinfectant cleaner. Logically, I know there are easily 100 places here more germ laden than a toilet seat, but emotionally I couldn't get there. The spray provided me with some solace and has worked very well until one evening this month when I thoroughly sprayed it twice into both nostrils. I was fine, but only for the next 30 seconds and after 48 hours. Don't try this at home.

For those who live under a rock, pl...

November 24, 2017

There are many causes for the criminal recidivism rates for drug offenders being as high as 75%  in this country. I've written here about the fallacy of criminalizing drug abuse instead of approaching it as a public health problem.  But that's only one contributing failure of our criminal justice system. Many inmates leave prison with neither family support, housing, nor job skills--a clear road to failure.

Earlier this year, an inmate at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp, a white collar offender in his mid 30s, decided to do something positive about this distinctly American tragedy. With the help of his family, he reached out to a group in Dallas called Texas Offenders Reentry Initiative (TORI), a program started by Bishop T. D. Jakes' Potter's House Ministry in Dallas. 

Jakes recognized the need for re-entry assistance for inmates who were returning to their communities across Texas. TORI began offering services in January 2005, by assisting with housing, family support, employment t...

November 19, 2017

According to Thomas Jefferson, it's a self-evident truth that "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" are "unalienable rights." But does that include the right to health care? As an inmate at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp, I have time to ponder such a question. Then I have even more time to write about it. Such is prison life, limited liberty and pursuit of sanity. At least I can find solace in knowing that Thomas Jefferson had to confront the same question in 1801. While he certainly had less free time than me, he had a distinct advantage in knowing what he intended these words to mean.

During Jefferson's first year as President, Edward Jenner developed a vaccine in England for smallpox. When Jefferson learned of this, he had 200 of his relatives, friends and slaves vaccinated. Jefferson believed in a limited federal government, but by the time he finished his second term in 2009, it was sadly apparent that city and state governments had done little to curb smallpox with the new...

November 14, 2017

The study of behavioral economics, created by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky at Hebrew University in Jerusalem in the early 1970's, is the fascinating fusion of psychology and economics. Michael Lewis (author of Money Ball, The Big Short, and The Blind Side among others) chronicled their lives and ground breaking work on decision making in The Undoing Project. Kahneman won the Noble Prize in economics in 2002, after Tversky's death. Others like Dan Ariely from Duke University have written about how our actions are often irrational, but when studied, can be predictable. Robert Thaler from the University of Chicago is the latest genius in the field, winning the 2017 Nobel Prize in economics last month.

Kahneman's book Thinking Fast and Slow is a treasure trove for anyone interested in how we process information and make decisions. In one of his experiments, subjects were asked, in what was called the Short Episode, to put one hand in painfully cold water until asked to remove it 60 seco...

November 9, 2017

The prairies of South Dakota hold an enduring place In my heart. There's a uniqueness in the quiet solitude of walking the seemingly endless roll of these grasslands with only the sound of the wind and the native grass brushing against my L.L. Bean boots and pants. I marvel at how the great Missouri River bisects these lands, and I can't cross it at Yankton or Pierre without wondering what Lewis and Clark must have thought about America's vast new purchase. 

No American author captures the prairie landscape better than Willa Cather (1876-1947). So the following, from her My Ántonia, is for my fellow grouse hunters who walk these prairies again this fall.

     I wanted to walk straight through the red grass and over the edge of the world, which could not be very far away. 
     The light air about me told me that the world ended here: only the ground and the sun and sky were left, and if one 
     went a little farther there would be only sun and sky, and one...

November 4, 2017

On October 13, 1994, Astronomer Carl Sagan addressed an audience at Cornell University. He showed them this picture of earth from 3.7 billion miles away taken four years earlier by the Voyager I spacecraft.

Part of what he then said that day are these now famous words:

That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there--on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam...It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-build...

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© 2016 by Charles D. Jones