Thursday, August 27, 2015

Take it from philosopher Blaise Pascal: For students, preparing for the PSAT is a can't-lose proposition

Click to enlarge
    In just over six weeks high school juniors will have the chance to take the PSAT, or National Merit Test. Those with scores in the top one percent of their state will become National Merit Semifinalists. The overwhelming majority of these students (15,000 of 16,000) will become National Merit Finalists.
    To score in the top one percent of Mississippians one need but post a score that is just above the national 97th percentile on the PSAT. On average our state’s students have lower scores, and so it’s easier to become a National Merit Finalist in Mississippi than in most states.
    I’ve written it before, but I’ll write it again. The National Merit Finalist designation carries with it some of the sweetest scholarships available to prospective college students. Ole Miss offers a free ride. Alabama and Oklahoma go one step further, offering 10 paid semesters, both undergraduate and graduate, plus free summers. Since most NM Finalists will arrive at college with more than 50 hours through AP classes and dual enrollment, these schools are essentially offering a free graduate, law, or medical degree. This can be worth a quarter of a million dollars to an out-of-state student.

    So it pays to put some effort into preparation for the PSAT. But don’t take my word on it. Take the advice of Seventeenth Century philosopher Blaise Pascal.
    They didn’t have the PSAT back in the 1600s, but Pascal advanced a theorem which provided a logical basis for believing in God. Essentially his theorem was that there was no penalty in believing in God and being wrong, but if one refused to believe and was wrong the result was eternal damnation.
    The chart at right sums up the possible outcomes for someone who believes or doesn’t believe in God. (Belief, by the way, means more than just detached observation, but rather belief with commitment; however, I’m not attempting any theological debate here).
    I’m not sure when I first heard of Pascal’s Wager, as it’s called. I actually had conducted the same mental exercise as a child of 8 or 9. But it’s an interesting way of looking at things, and in my view a valuable contribution to religious thought.
    One can use a variant of Pascal’s Wager as providing a real incentive to study for the PSAT, at least for those who have at least an outside chance of making the test’s Semifinalist cutoff score. There are four choices, based on two choices and two possible outcomes. One can prepare or not prepare. One can earn a high enough score to become a Semifinalist; or not.
    Those who attempt to become Finalists and fail will still be better students because of their preparation. They will likely have higher grades and score higher on the ACT and SAT. Even if they don't bag the National Merit scholarship, they might improve their scores enough for other merit aid. And of course, those who don't prepare and just barely fail to make the Semifinalist cutoff will be forever burdened with the knowledge that massive amounts of money could have been theirs with just a slight bit of effort.
    I’ve put all of this in the chart which is at the top of this blog post. If this doesn't convince your student to prepare for the PSAT, I'll end by offering this poem by William F. O'Brien.

Better To Try And Fail Than Never To Try At All
by William F. OBrien

Some say risk nothing, try only for the sure thing,
Others say nothing gambled nothing gained,
Go all out for your dream.
Life can be lived either way, but for me,
I'd rather try and fail, than never try at all, you see.

Some say "Don't ever fall in love,
Play the game of life wide open,
Burn your candle at both ends."
But I say "No! It's better to have loved and lost,
Than never to have loved at all, my friend."

When many moons have gone by,
And you are alone with your dreams of yesteryear,
All your memories will bring you cheer.
You'll be satisfied, succeed or fail, win or lose,
Knowing the right path you did choose.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Unpatriotic cities which ban our state flag shouldn't receive discretionary state funds

    A number of Mississippi cities, including Oxford, have decided to show their support for the Obama-donor-led effort to cram a new state flag down our throats by voting to remove our current state flag from city property.
    The idea is that our current flag is objectionable because it pays tribute to our Confederate forbears by incorporating the battle flag of Northern Virginia in its canton. And so cities with liberal boards of aldermen are voting to refuse to display our state flag to pressure the legislature into adopting another one.
    I happen to believe the Confederate flag is a wonderful symbol of our Southern heritage, and its inclusion in our state flag makes it unique. When people see it they know immediately that it represents a Southern state; most flags give no clue as to region. Every disparagement that can be made of the Confederate flag can also be made of the American flag, save that the American flag has represented far more evil.
    But I will leave the arguments over whether our current flag is a wonderful or evil thing to another day. Good or bad, it’s still our flag, and it’s the duty of our municipalities to display it.
    Suppose the Obama-donors were to be successful and the legislature were to adopt a new flag. Imagine the reaction of the same liberals if people like me refused to accept the new flag, or cities across Mississippi voted not to display it. I can just hear their sanctimonious sermonettes now!
    Mississippi is a sovereign state, and we as citizens have a duty of allegiance to our sovereign. This includes recognition of our state’s emblems, the most notable of which is our state flag. Municipalities incorporated under the laws of our state have an equal, if not greater, duty to recognize and display these emblems.
    As citizens we are welcome to seek changes in our state’s symbols. We the people are the sovereign together, but the decisions we make together must be respected by all. A refusal to display our state’s flag is, plain and simple, unpatriotic. It is a renunciation of citizenship.
    Mississippi’s various agencies distribute a great deal of discretionary money each year to counties and municipalities. If a city does not recognize its duty to show fealty to the sovereign through the display of our state flag, then the state should not provide these cities with any discretionary funding. The legislature should not advance any local bill for any of the municipalities, and if one should pass, Gov. Bryant should veto it.
    Certainly I will be contacting Gov. Bryant and other state officials and will ask them to end any discretionary funding for Oxford and other cities that have voted to ban our state flag. These aldermen can be just as unpatriotic as they wish, but if they have no allegiance to our state then our state owes them nothing, either.


I have emailed the following to Gov. Bryant and will be sending similar messages to other state leaders. I urge everyone who disagrees with this nonsense to send a similar message to him and others.
Many cities are trying to pressure the legislature to change our state flag, despite the fact that the people voted overwhelming in favor of keeping the 1894 flag in 2001. This includes votes to ban the display of the Mississippi flag on municipal property.

I believe that municipalities have a duty of fealty to the sovereign, which includes the display of our state flag. Those municipalities which ban our state flag are effectively renouncing their state citizenship. I would ask that you, as governor, direct the executive agencies not to direct any discretionary spending to municipalities which have banned our state flag.

In the upcoming legislative session, I would also ask you to veto any local bill sponsored for the benefit of any municipality which has banned our state flag. Those who refuse to pay tribute to our state should not receive any special funding or favors from our state.

Thank you so much for standing up for the people and for the rule of law rather than the rule of the mob.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

With flag decision Oxford's unpatriotic aldermen show lack of respect for democratic process

    In a rather disgusting attempt to curry favor with liberal elites, the Oxford board of aldermen voted unanimously to refuse to display the Mississippi flag on city property Tuesday night.
    The aldermen weren’t acting in response to a groundswell of citizen demand. In fact, 15 years ago Lafayette County voters decided in favor of keeping the 1894 flag, in the election where an overwhelming majority of Mississippi voters said “Leave Our Flag Alone!” The leftists who sought to change the flag 15 years ago are the same ones seeking to change it today. They just won’t quit.
    A recent newspaper ad calling for a new flag was signed by a number of "notable"Mississippians. A campaign donor search found most were either Obama donors or flunkies of ousted Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones. In other words, the people we should listen to the least!
    What has happened is that the Oxford city board has been filled for the most part with extremely liberal aldermen. Usually this doesn’t matter; after all, these people are running a city, not establishing national policy. But give them a chance to jump off the George-McGovern deep end, and they will.
    I happen to think we should keep our state flag. We’ve already voted on it, and by an overwhelming majority Mississippi voters made it clear they did not want a change. But if we have to argue this again, then the issue should again be presented to the voters. The city of Oxford shouldn’t be taking a position one way or the other.
    Suppose the left-wing fringe is successful in ram-rodding a new flag through the legislature. I’m sure they will immediately insist that it is the duty of all Mississippians to accept the flag which has been adopted through the democratic process. And yet, by refusing to display our state’s flag, Oxford’s city board has made it clear that it doesn’t respect the democratic process very much. Is every city henceforth to just display the state flag of its own choosing?
    I am a former Oxford resident, in that I now live a few hundred yards outside the city limits. So although I voted in the last election I can’t vote in the next one. But I still have an interest in what goes on in a city where I consider myself a resident. And what the Oxford City board has done is disgraceful. A refusal to display our state flag is unpatriotic, and in making this decision Oxford’s aldermen are not very different from the hippie flag burner’s of the 1960s. The hippies were wrong and so are Oxford’s elected officials.
    Unfortunately, Mississippi doesn’t have recall elections, but these are clearly power-hungry aldermen; most will be seeking re-election. Hopefully the citizens will turn them out en masse. Alderman Jay Hughes is seeking to oust Republican Rep. Brad Mayo in this fall’s legislative election. I hope the voters will send him – and the whole sorry lot – a loud and clear message.

Friday, August 14, 2015

I just saved $12 and increased my family's food security

    I just finished splitting a 20-pound bag of parboiled rice into 25 slider-seal storage bags. The rice cost $7.50 and the slider-seal bags (purchased in bulk when on sale) cost about $1.10, for a total cost of $8.60.
    Each of my slider-seal bags of rice contains two cups of rice, which is enough for eight 190-calorie servings. I tend to cook two cups at a time, which is a bit wasteful, since we don’t eat it all. But parboiled rice keeps fairly well overnight in the refrigerator. Parboiled rice, for those who don’t know, is brown rice that has been steamed in the husk, thus retaining 80 percent of the nutrients that are lost when producing white rice. I really can’t tell the difference in taste, except that I prefer parboiled, because it doesn’t get “sticky.”
    A two-pound of bag of parboiled rice sells for about two dollars, so the same amount of rice purchased in two-pound bags would cost about $20. So by buying a large bag and splitting it myself into smaller sizes I’ve saved about $11 on food costs. If you reuse the slider-seal bags, which I usually do, then the savings come to $12.
    One advantage of having a lot of rice on hand is that we eat it more often. Rice is a cheap food, and when it’s there already split into single-meal size it’s easy to pour a bag into the rice cooker and cook a quick, inexpensive meal.
    In addition, I’ve frequently pointed out that saving money on groceries by stocking up on deeply discounted or bulk purchases is a form of disaster planning. It promotes both national and family security. There is about a two percent chance each year of a major natural or civil disruption in the food supply. It’s unlikely, but should such an event occur it certainly would be nice to have a month or so of food in the pantry.
    A 20-pound bag of rice contains 32,810 calories, or enough food to feed a family of four for about five days. Obviously one isn’t going to eat nothing but rice for five days, but with emergency preparedness it’s best to just go through the pantry and add up all the calories and then divide the total by the family’s anticipated consumption level.
    Sugar, by the way, is the ultimate survival food. A four-pound bag has 6,810 calories, or roughly enough to keep a family of four afloat for a day, and it has a shelf life of around a million years. A couple of years ago sugar was on sale for a dollar a bag and I bought 20 bags, or 80 pounds. We’ve slowly chomped our way through most of it, so I didn’t protect us from a disaster, but I saved $30 on the grocery bill. If four-pound bags of sugar go on sale for a buck again I’m buying 100 bags.
    Wise preparation for a disaster that probably will never happen is a good way to save several hundred dollars a year on groceries. So start preparing and start saving today.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

ColRebCooks: Eat Your Black-eyed Peas Casserole recipe

Eat Your Black-eyed Peas Casserole

Serves 8 easily, or freeze half and have two large meals for family of four

Here’s a recipe that I made up after looking at several similar ideas online. It worked pretty well. I failed to take a photo, but it looks decent.

If possible you should buy the hamburger meat off the old meat rack for less than $2.50 per pound; buy the rice in 25-pound bags and the rice cost is about 20 cents; stock up on the black-eyed peas the week after New Year’s and you can get them for as low as 25 cents a bag, or 12.5 cents for the half-bag this recipe uses; buy the Cream of Chicken soup in the weeks before Thanksgiving or Christmas for 60- to 75-cents per can; stock up on store-brand cheese when it costs $3 a pound or less; buy the diced tomatoes on sale for 50 cents. My total meal cost was about $7 for eight very large servings.

1 lb. Hamburger meat
1 onion and half green pepper, or use one-half to one bag of frozen seasoning mix
Plenty of garlic and other seasonings to taste, added to the meat and onions while browning
3 cups cooked black-eyed peas
2 cups cooked rice
1 can Campbell’s Cream of Chicken soup
12 to 16 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 can diced tomatoes
½ cup water from the black-eyed pea pot, or tap water

I’m on a semi-bland diet these days, but this dish would likely be improved by substituting a can (or maybe two!) of Rotel for the tomatoes. Alternatively you can add jalapenos and other Mexican seasonings.

Also, I think this casserole might be improved with the addition of 3 cups of cooked squash, which I will do next time.


1. Brown the hamburger meat and then add the green pepper and onion. Cook until onions are soft, then scoop meat into a 9x13 casserole dish, draining the fat.

2. Blend in the cream of chicken soup while the meat is hot, then add the black-eyed peas and rice (and squash if you decide to use it). Add all but 4 oz. of the cheese and mix well. Add just a little water from the pea pot or tap to make sure the mixture is barely soupy so the rice doesn’t get dried out.

3. Sprinkle the remaining four ounces of cheese over the top.

4. Cook at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until cheese starts to brown on top.

The black-eyed pea taste does get lost a little bit in this casserole, but it might be a great way to get kids to eat vegetables. Also, even though it only had one pound of hamburger meat, it tasted very meaty. Legumes and rice for a perfect protein, so this is a reasonably healthy dish even though it does have a good bit of fat from the cheese.

Friday, July 3, 2015

A Confederate letter home has not an ounce of hate, only a large measure of love

Maj. Fred. C. C. Karr
I haven't blogged much lately, but I found a copy of this letter home written by my great-great-grandfather, Maj. Frederick Christopher Columbus Karr, and I thought I would share it. The letter has lots of sentence fragments and uses few paragraphs, so I have broken it up for readability. I have included some of the original misspellings, while correcting others. In some cases I simply could not make out the letters that he used, so he may or may not have spelled the word correctly.

This letter has some very interesting historical information, but I will reserve comment for a later time. I only note that you will not find an ounce of hate. Only a large measure of love.

Hd Qr 32nd Miss Regt
Tullahoma Tenn March 18th 1863

Dear Lucy,

I siese on this oportunity of sending you a few lines knowing you will be glad to hear from me at any time I am very well at this time and do hope that these few lines will find you and my dear little children in good health and doing well. I Recvd your letter last night that you sent by Wm Karr I was glad to hear that you all were well and doing as well as what you were it is a great satisfaction to hear from those we love.

I wrote you a letter the other day. My horse has got here he looks bad. I have no news to importance to communicate to you. I got a letter from D Cannon they were all well your Pa’s family was all well they are still in Holly Springs the Enimy did not damage them very much date of the letter Feb.

Some Prospect of a fight here soon. I think if it does come off it will be the hardest contested of the war. Some thinks we will whip them at this place. I can no say not knowing. Our army is in good fighting condition at this time the health of the troop is good at this time all seem to Be hopefull and confident of Success, the war is not at an End yet, the conscrip law has past the federal congress they will put 1 ½ million more men in the field by that law. So you see that we will have fighting fighting yet if they continue to prey upon us as you say if the Lord is with us all will be well if not to the Reverse. My Prediction is that the war will continue during Lincoln administration at least. But I am no prophet. I hope it will cease soon. I am tired of war. I hope we may all get home soon. With our dear ones at home I prefer the quietence of a Peaceful home to that of the Buz of war. Lucy I have no news to interest you the news is scarce in the army at this time.

I want you to Buye any thing you can that you need, if you get short of money let me know and I will send what your need at any time that I have a chance if you could feed a horse you might Buye one But you must Be your own judge about those things. I have no advice to give you. You will do the Best you can under the circumstances bad at best but might be worse I think the worst is come yet so we must prepare to meet it.

My love to all the friends and Relations My Best Regards to Mr. Frensley tell him he shall loose nothing By his kindness toward my Family. Kiss the children for their Pa tell them to be good children. I want you to teach them at home to Read and write as you will have no school to send them to also learn them to work.

No more at this time. Remember me in your Devotions your ever True and Devoted Husband F.C. Karr

PS Lucy I send you Fifty Dollars United States money I thought you might get some one to Buye flour coffee & salt. I gave $62 ½ for it use it for such articles as you need. Buy your salt.

Yours as Ever   F.C.Karr

ADDENDUM: I suspect, but do not know, that the large battle that Karr says is imminent is Chickamauga, which took place six months after this letter was written. Maj. Karr was wounded on the Chickamauga Battlefield and died Sept. 27, 1863, and is buried in a mass grave at the Confederate Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia.

ADDENDUM 2: Lucy must have been, by necessity, a strong woman. The name continues to be quite popular in our family.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

New washers save $19 a year and result in hundreds of dollars in extra work, ruined clothes

    Jinny and I went shopping for a washer and dryer the other day and discovered that the Obama administration had very quietly banned washing machines.
    Oh, there are still machines that you can put soap and water in that will wiggle your clothes around a little. But these machines are not washing machines in that they don't really wash clothes.
    Household appliances have been getting worse every few years for about 30 years, and the government issues new regulations constantly demanding that appliances use less and less energy. Yet if you study it, the energy savings are quite small, and the expense to the consumer is great.
    Toilets don't flush anymore. Dishwashers don't get the dishes clean. A three-minute shower now takes 15 minutes, saving no water but using up a lot of valuable time.
    And now liberals are going after our washing machines.
    The new washers are designed to use substantially less water. The consumer is no longer allowed to set the water level. The government mandates that cold water be mixed in with the hot, so clothes can no longer be washed in hot water. And of course phosphates, which do minimal harm if any to the environment, were removed from washing detergents years ago.
    The result is a highly complex washer that is subject to break. And even when it's working, it isn't working very well. In most models the agitator has been removed. The consumer no longer has the ability to set water levels, since they are set by weighing the laundry load. So a super-dirty set of laundry is just going to stay dirty and smelly.
    Front-load washers simply do not work; I've owned them. They become moldy and smelly, and the unclean clothes end up smelling really bad when they come out of the wash. The new high-efficiency top-loaders don't work either; the clothes remain dirty. And to provide these unimpressive results many of the new washers have a cycle time of almost two hours.
    Faced with the prospect of not being able to buy a decent washer Jinny and I started to do some research, and soon stumbled onto reviews of Speed Queen top-load washers, particularly the old mechanical model. Since these are commercial-grade washers they aren't subject to quite as many regulations as home models.
    The hot water is not diluted with cold. It uses plenty of water, and although it won't fill up more than 75 percent of the drum with water, there is a manual override that will allow you to have as much water as you wish. The lid doesn't lock during the wash cycle, so you can add items that might have dropped on the floor. Satisfied customers report that their clothes are much cleaner with a shorter cycle time of only 30 minutes. That's right, it does twice the job in much less than half the time.
    We could have ordered our Speed Queen from Amazon, but they are for sale at Rebel Appliance in Oxford. I try to make a point of shopping at businesses with "Rebel" in the name, so that's where we went. Our new washer and dryer arrive on Friday, and they are going to install and set them up for us.
    We ordered the mechanical model that hasn't changed much in the past 30 years. They do offer an electronic model, but that's just something else to break, and the electronic models apparently takes away some of the freedoms that we have with the old mechanical model.
    You might find it odd that I'm singing the praises of a product that hasn't arrived at my house yet. Well, I'm confident based on the experiences of many others that this washing machine will serve our needs. Just read the reviews on Amazon for yourself!
    It's not always easy, but we can fight back against liberal control freaks, and the Speed Queen mechanical washer is one way of doing so. Although it's a good washer, you should still add a big scoop of laundry phosphate with every load. Add a half-scoop of phosphate to every dishwasher load as well.
    While the leftists prattle on about how they saved $19 in operating costs with their "modern" washing machine, we can point out that we are happy to spend $19 in order to save dozens of hours of time and to prevent countless clothes from being ruined.
    If you are in the market for a washer, or think you may be in the future, now is the time to buy. Liberals can't stand for people to be happy, and soon the Eye of Sauron will latch onto the Speed Queen and find a way to make it as crappy as all of the other washers on the market right now.