Lifestyle, reading: blogs: Maanini

Finding blogs to follow leads to self-tutoring: the tutor mentions Maanini Singhvi’s blog A Fresh Outlook.

Reading a blog can inject you with the writer’s point of view. Such was my experience today, reading Tagore’s Ideals and Our Progress. Therein, Maanini observes challenges India faces towards becoming an ideal nation. I wonder if Maanini realizes any large democracy could be the subject.

Tagore’s poem, displayed above the post, sounds almost biblical, and reminds the reader that our “western” ideals actually come from the eastern world. Asia was the centre of human civilization for thousands of years before the “western” countries even existed. India, China, Iraq, and Egypt, with their marvelous agricultural potential and other natural resources, hosted the development of our common ideas of civilization.

Large western democracies had their time of prominence during the 20th century, but now, seemingly, need reinvent themselves. Maanini, mentioning India’s internal challenges, highlights our own as well.

A couple of clauses from Maanini’s article catch my attention. One is the observation that Parliament’s “sessions are washed away with trivial issues….”; I love the imagery there. The other is that India’s progress is a thousand mile journey that must begin with a single step, which is based on the saying by Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu.

While India and China seem seldom to be mentioned together, they are neighbours. Both have emerged into dominance this new millennium, from starkly different approaches. As we all go forward, what will those two old giants teach to each other, and to us in the west?


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Canadian culture, social studies: Canadian ethnicity

Tutoring social studies, ethnicity may arise. The tutor brings up an example he observed.

In the Fraser Valley last week, I was leaving a hotel lobby to return to the room. The night air felt brisk on the face; snow or rain may have been falling.

Feeling the cold’s sharpness, I was hurrying to return indoors, but slowed to do a double-take. Twenty feet outside the main doors stood a tall man in cowboy hat and boots and a sports shirt. Behind him, a pickup truck idled; on its other side stood his friend, dressed similarly.

By their posture, the two men were in their twenties. I could tell they are taller than I am, and fit. Neither wore a coat, nor were they in any hurry to enter the hotel. They looked at me, in my quilted bright orange winter jacket, as if I’m from the moon. Then they resumed talking.

“They must be from Alberta,” I realized. Glancing at their license plate, I saw red numbers.

Sometimes it might take a Canadian to know another one. Furthermore, Canada is big enough – and old enough – to have its own distinct ethnicities. The ability of those Albertans to cross the Rockies, then stand in a Fraser Valley parking lot like it’s their backyard, is delightful.

Happy holidays:)

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Civic duty: voting, part II

Tutoring social studies, one is compelled to take voting a little more seriously. The tutor shares his voting experience of the BC provincial election, May 9, 2017.

In my post from October 13, 2015, I describe my experience voting in that federal election. Today, May 9, 2017, is BC’s provincial one. I voted in it, too.

On voting day, kids still need to be driven to school, meal prep still needs to be done…nothing else changes. There’s just one more thing to do – vote. (Many of us have come to take voting for granted, even though it truly is a critical right that has been earned by the sacrifice of thousands of lives.)

Our local poll opened at 8am; my wife and I went there with our kids, en route to school. There was no lineup; we went straight to the voting station and were out again five minutes later. It couldn’t have been more convenient.

The ease with which we voted was only because of the election personnel who received us. I’d say there were twenty at our poll. Thank you to all the election workers who make voting not only possible, but convenient and pleasant.

As for the election results – we’ll see. They might be worth a post:)

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Geography, Social Studies: ISIS or ISIL?

The tutor explains two names for the Islamic State, commonly called ISIS.

ISIS and ISIL are two names for the same group. Both are acronyms:

ISIS: Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

ISIL: Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

As I explain in my post from February 4, the Levant refers to the countries along the Mediterranean’s eastern shore: Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.

ISIS, or ISIL, presently holds territory in Syria and Iraq.

Apparently, ISIS, or ISIL, is sometimes called simply IS, for Islamic State.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Lifestyle and seasons: cross quarter days: August 5

The tutor discusses the meaning surrounding the cross quarter day August 5.

I’ve written a couple of posts about cross quarter days (see here and here): they’re days at mid-season, rather than season boundaries. Often, a celebration is at or near a cross quarter day, the most famous being Halloween.

In the British Isles, Lammas (England) or Lughnasadh (Scotland, Ireland, Isle of Man) are harvest festivals that happen around August 1. They have pre-Christian origins.

Someone might approach a cross quarter day with a festival, or perhaps more subtly. Either way, awareness of the seasons allowed humans to become agriculturalists, so continues to be indispensable.

I’ll be talking more about seasonal holidays:)





Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Election platforms: NDP (Tom Mulcair)

The tutor offers commentary on the NDP election platform.

A party’s leader is perhaps the most important consideration for many voters. “You vote for the leader, not the party,” I’ve heard. Not everyone agrees, of course; some people are loyal to a specific party.

The federal NDP leader is, of course, Thomas Mulcair. He’s French Canadian, born in Ottawa; most of his career has happened in Quebec. He’s a lawyer. Born in 1954, he joined the NDP in 1974.

I like Tom Mulcair. I heard him interviewed on CBC radio (in French, I believe). However, while I like Mulcair as a man, I have reservations about the NDP platform, which you can view here. I fear it’s too optimistic. In particular, I believe the government will need substantial new revenue to make real improvements to health care and CPP, as well as the proposed infrastructure investments.

With government, new revenue generally means collecting more tax. To me, the NDP platform expresses hope that it can be funded by closing tax loopholes on CEOs and asking corporations to pay “their fair share.” While there’s nothing wrong with the sentiment, I just don’t believe there’s enough new money available from those sources to pay for what the NDP hopes to accomplish. My only available conclusion is that some of the platform will not be delivered, or else personal income tax will be increased.

Tom Mulcair is likely an idealist, for which I congratulate him. I’m sixteen years younger than he is; already, my idealism has been subdued. Anyone who loves Canada would love to believe that what Mulcair proposes is possible. Ironically, though they live in the world’s greatest country, Canadians aren’t primarily known for being optimistic.

Good luck, Tom.



Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Civic duty: voting

The tutor offers reflections about the coming election.

According to my voter’s card from the mail, the Canadian federal election is October 19.

In a busy life like mine, with a ten and a thirteen-year-old, you never know when, for any given task, a “good” time will present itself. Therefore, when something important comes up, you probably do it at the first reasonable opportunity, knowing then it will be done.

On Friday night at around 6pm we drove by an advance polling station which showed a long lineup. Sunday around 1pm we did the same and saw the same. After some shopping we headed back, my reasoning being that the line would shorten at the time of Thanksgiving Dinner. At around 4:30 pm my wife and I cased the advance poll station a third time, and saw a shorter lineup that looked promising. We joined it.

I didn’t notice any young people in the line, but of course our town is known to have an aged population. The election volunteers were smiling, but all business. We were brought to our proper table, where my wife signed in, took her ballot, marked it behind a cardboard blind, then brought it back to slip into a ballot box. Next my turn came. From when we joined the line, until when we walked out again, might have been six minutes. I thought we really lucked in.

The lineup outside the advance polling station tells me that people are serious about this election. I wonder what voters are hoping for. Are they basically satisfied with how things are, or seeking change? I guess we’ll see.

I might give my take on the various platforms in the coming days.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Conspiracies, part 0

The tutor opens a discussion about conspiracies. While the concept is still important to some, it might be losing mainstream appeal.

I understand conspiracy to mean a group of people acting in secret towards a possibly sinister, but certainly dubious, goal.  My Merriam-Webster and Collins Essential Canadian dictionaries agree that a conspiracy centres around a crime.

The first conspiracy I ever heard tell of was during the Reagan presidency.  From centre stage Reagan faced a tough recession and a blossoming Cold War.  His unshakeable confidence proved contagious:   he presided over a tremendous economic recovery and the Western World’s final encirclement of Communism.  I’ve heard he was the most popular president ever.

While America revelled in its surprising success under Reagan, some people watching from their armchairs didn’t believe Reagan was responsible.  While clearly a great man, did he seem to possess the technical understanding needed to tackle America’s complex problems?  Someone else behind the scenes must be doing it, they thought.  They suspected those people were highly intelligent and would remain unknown. I heard people talk about a “shadow government” that actually controlled America, virtually independently of whom the voters chose.  They called it a conspiracy.

If the “shadow government” was a conspiracy, what was the crime?  The secrecy of how the country was actually run, the detractors argued, violated the spirit of democracy.

There are many other suspected conspiracies; like with the possible one discussed above, proof is often lacking.  However, there are puzzling scenarios that involve numerous accounts, much documentation, yet no answer to satisfy everyone.

As well as probing deeper into the philosophy of conspiracy theorists, the tutor will examine possible conspiracies in coming posts.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

English: the unequivocal truth

For many living in today’s society, the equivocal answer is an essential tool.

Many a person in a responsible position feels they are a glorified servant.  Why? Because they have power, they are often asked for things.  They can just say no, but such an answer might make them unpopular.  In a democratic society, unpopularity is menacing.  So perhaps they don’t say yes or no; they simply answer “maybe”, in one of many ways.

Politicians are sometimes accused of not giving a definite answer, but rather an equivocal one.  I’ve looked up equivocal in my Collins Essential Canadian, my Merriam-Webster, and my Oxford Canadian dictionaries.  All three suggest the meaning “uncertain” or “ambiguous”.  However, the Oxford Canadian is my favourite for another meaning it gives:  “capable of more than one interpretation.”

As a parent, I’ve no choice but to give equivocal answers often.  A parent can be asked for five hours’ worth of activities during a five minute conversation. Even if the parent would like to give the children all they ask for, it’s impossible.  “No” is perhaps more provocative than “maybe.”  (I can only imagine what politicians are asked for; they obviously can’t say yes to everyone!)

In the academic world, by contrast, equivocal answers are generally not so appreciated. Academics believe much more in right vs wrong, or, in the case of English, coherent vs incoherent.  As I was telling my son this morning:  dealing with people is often more complicated than doing schoolwork.  If you’re right on a math test, you can count on getting credit for it.  By contrast: suppose that, in a social situation, you’re right, while your friend is wrong.  While not acquiescing, you might still need to make some space for their point of view, using soothing, equivocal language.

I’ll be talking much more about the fascinating phenomenon of people skills:)

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Bullying: the ubiquitous menace

The tutor weighs in on bullying.

This morning I was told it’s pink shirt day.  Since I’m known for wearing pink anyway, my wife pointed out that I should wear it today.  I built an outfit around a hot pink sweater:  it was great.

I love wearing pink because, when I was a kid, I was bullied for not being “manly”.  I was one of those skinny boys with no apparent muscles.  I took abuse for that from elementary school right into my twenties.  I was never seriously hurt, but the bullying took its toll.

At school, there was no rule against bullying when I was a kid.  Physical fighting wasn’t allowed, but social bullying was wide open.  If you were being bullied, that was your problem.  You either had to solve it, or just “take it.”

Social bullying is, supposedly, frowned upon today.  Yet, it seems unlikely to stop. Bullying is expressed through unkindness, which can be effective even when it’s very subtle.

One problem with confronting bullies is that, of course, they are generally gifted in some way.  Many I faced as a kid were physically gifted with strength.  Social bullies are gifted with an awareness of how to gain approval from the “right people” – and how to use that approval as ammunition.  They are smart, and attractive.  That’s a pretty tough combination to go up against.

What bullies gain from being so, is a question I’ve pondered.  I think in the end, bullying is a waste of time.  It’s a symptom of talent mixed with immaturity.

I think the best defense against bullying is love at home.  If a child knows they’re loved and cherished, and that they will be welcomed home, I think that child can survive just about anything.  Let’s hope that all children can count on that.

Happy pink shirt day:)

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.