Education: Key To The Survival Of Our Society

Not hyperbole. Fact.

Education is key to the survival of our society.

Education's purpose is to replace a closed mind with an open one.

The education of our citizens is the most effective way to be certain that we all understand our place in global humanity and appreciate the world around us.

A well-rounded education is worth the investment.

Art and music help us appreciate the beauty around us and allow us alternative ways to express ourselves.

Studying spelling and grammar ensure that we will be taken more seriously when we present our opinions on matters in a clear and concise way.

World Religions class gives us insight into beliefs that are different from our own. This insight shows us that we are more alike than we are different. The highest goal is to be a good person and to be kind to others.

English class has us reading and reading and reading some more. Through books, we are exposed to new words, new ideas and new horizons.

Writing term papers teaches us how to research issues. We learn how to find sources and, more importantly, how to vet sources. What can we believe? What are the facts and what is embellished opinion?

Consumer Education and Life Skills classes teach us what we need to know to responsibly handle such real-life necessities as banking, mortgages, home buying, credit cards, insurance and all the other matters that are part of a grown-up’s life.

Math – think you don’t really need it? We should be thankful that some folks study math so that our buildings and bridges don’t fall down around us, the recipes we make turn out reasonably well and we can send spacecraft into the galaxy to study universe beyond our little planet. Just to name a few…

Science teaches us about the important balance between our actions and our environment and how our carelessness can threaten that balance.

Social Studies isn’t just learning about the currency and exports of countries around the world. It’s learning about what makes different societies tick. What are their people like? What is their place in the world economy? With knowledge comes understanding.

Geography helps us study the relationships between countries. Some neighbors get along, some don’t. It lets us know, quite literally, where we exist in relation to the rest of the world.

World History informs us about the development of nations around the world. We learn about their challenges and triumphs, their mistakes and the impact those mistakes have had on mankind, the ways in which their society has progressed and the warning signs that signal trouble.

Studying World History also highlights that education is something which has not been afforded to the people of all societies. Sadly, many countries still censor or simply don’t allow their citizens to be educated.

The right to an education is something we should never take for granted.

U.S. History tells the story of the birth and growth of our country. We learn about the fierce struggle for our independence and how our Founding Fathers created this beautiful republic out of nothing but the sheer will to have self-determination and be free from tyrants.

An education in U.S. History makes sure that we don’t forget our darkest period when a civil war – brother fighting against brother – threatened to destroy us.

We learn about the other wars in which brave men and women have fought to protect and defend our lives, our land, our freedom. And we accept the shame that these soldiers have not always been duly appreciated for their service.

It reminds us that, time and time again, courageous citizens have stepped up to risk their lives to right the societal wrongs of racism, sexism, xenophobia, religious discrimination, homophobia, and intolerance in any form.

It forces us to face the reality that it has taken us a very long time to begin to live up to the ideal upon which our country was built: that all men (and women) are created equal. We still have plenty of work to do on that.

We are not a perfect union but we need only remember that, for centuries, America has been seen as the land of opportunity and, most of all, freedom. Millions long to be citizens of our country for the blessings of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The study of U.S. Government teaches us intricacies of our republic – how we are governed, how laws are made, how the separation of powers guards against the tyranny of rogue leaders. Our system as spelled out in the Constitution has stood the test of time. While it doesn’t often run smoothly, its design encourages and even depends upon cooperation, conciliation and a desire to achieve the greater good.

Perhaps one of the most important things we learn from the study of U.S. Government is the importance of every individual in determining the course of progress for our country. Our right to vote is a privilege that many around the world lack and should be one of our most cherished freedoms.

Education is key to the survival of our society because it opens our minds and encourages us to understand our responsibilities as citizens of the world.

Above all, it reminds us how incredibly lucky we are to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

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Chicago Cubs Are World Champions…Finally

With a hard fought 8-7 victory in game 7, the Chicago Cubs are World Champions! The Cubs Clause has been activated.

Chicago Cubs World Champions

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Traditions And Prognostications – The McLuxies

I love traditions.

As some of you know, among our family’s traditions, my very favorite is

The McLuxies

Way back in 1992, our pal, Ellie, came up with the idea of a prognostication competition in which we would predict the outcome of a series of events during the year and whoever had the highest number of correct predictions at the end of the year would be declared the winner.

the first McLuxies

The very first McLuxies. The notation in the corner says “at Lux’s 1/1/92”.

As you can see on this very low-tech scoresheet, that first year we predicted only 4 categories: Super Bowl, World Series, Presidential election (ironically, the other “Clinton” was running that year) and the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Every year since 1992, Ellie and her husband, Archie, Peter and I, and our two children have made predictions and kept score. Along the way, our children have gotten married and their spouses joined in on the competition.

Like all good traditions, this one needed a name. Ellie, creating a mash-up of our surnames, coined the moniker “McLuxies”.

We even have hats.

McLuxies Hat

For many years the winner got nothing more that a feeling of moral and intellectually superiority.

Now we have a trophy.

McLuxies Champion

Please note the plaque on the front bearing our motto:

“Peritia, Fortuna, et Conjectura Temere”

Loosely translated: “Expertise, Luck, and Random Guesses”.

As we’ve gone along, our list of predictions has grown. We have permanently added:

  • NCAA Football Champions
  • NCAA Women’s and Men’s Basketball Champions
  • Master’s Golf Tournament Winner
  • Stanley Cup Champion
  • NBA Champion
  • Wimbledon Winner – Women’s and Men’s
  • Best TV Drama
  • Best TV Comedy
  • World Series Winner
  • People’s Sexiest Man Alive
  • Time Person of the Year

Heavy on sports and pop culture; light on anything really meaningful.

Over the years, however, the McLuxies have been a way to chronicle important, historic or iconic events.

In addition to the list of permanent categories, we have made random guesses about things like:

  • Gender of the Royal baby (more than once)
  • The O.J. Simpson verdict
  • The Clinton impeachment
  • Will Microsoft be in one piece? (I guess that was something about a monopoly???)
  • Major League Baseball teams to be eliminated
  • Combined weight of our twin grandsons, Chip and Dale at their final doctor’s appointment of the year
  • Dow Jones year ending number
  • What college will Malia Obama choose?
  • Number of Supreme Court vacancies at the end of the year
  • Post-election party in control of the House of Representatives
  • Married or not at the end of the year: Tom/Katie, Brad/Angelina, Britney/Kevin, Ben/Jen
  • “Number of countries that will have indicated their intent to withdraw the Euro as their official currency by year-end” (Nerd alert… Although you probably thought that the nerd ship sailed with the “number of Supreme Court vacancies” or “post-election party in control” questions.)

In Olympic, election and World Cup soccer years those are added to the list.

In 2012 we predicted whether the Mayan calendar was right or wrong.

“Will the world come to an end this year?” Spoiler alert: the correct prediction was “no”.

2016 McLuxies

Thanks to Annie our tradition has gone high-tech with our McLuxies google doc.

The 2016 McLuxies have some interesting aspects to them.

For years and years and years, we have had what we call “The Cubs Clause”.

The Cubs Clause states that if a person picks the Chicago Cubs to win the World Series and they actually do, that person automatically wins the McLuxies championship for the year. Game, set, match.

The Cubs Clause was created so that sentimental schmucks like me wouldn’t feel so bad about throwing away a point predicting a Cubs victory year after year after year.

Well, you might know that this year the curse has ended – the goat is gone – the Cubs are in the World Series.

We still have a long way to go but if by some wild chance, the Cubs pull this off and actually WIN the World Series, The Cubs Clause will kick in.

And, the six of us who predicted a Cubs victory will share the McLuxies trophy.

Go Cubs Go

Given that all predictions are locked in place during the first week of January, it’s quite remarkable that Jerry foresaw the Trump vs Clinton presidential matchup.

The Time Person of the Year is generally close to impossible to predict. But, this year six of us have guessed that, if she is elected as the first woman President in U.S. History, Hillary Clinton should find herself on the cover of Time Magazine.

Keeping in mind that Time Person of the Year is someone who has had the biggest impact on society – good or bad (past recipients include Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin(twice), Ayatollah Khomeini and Vladimir Putin), other strong contenders would be Donald Trump (son-in-law Jerry’s prediction) or Julian Assange/WikiLeaks.

My first choice would be, of course, that the Cubs emerge victorious and Time Person(s) of the Year are Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon.

But what do I know? It’s all just a bunch of conjectura temere, right?


“Who I Am” is a writing project hosted by Dana from Kiss My List and Bev from Linkouture.

Each month we are given a prompt regarding some aspect of our life. The goal is, at the end of the year, to have twelve chapters in the book titled Who I Am.

This month, Chapter 10, the theme is Traditions.

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Napa Wineries At Harvest Time

Our college gang had so much fun on our 2015 trip to Napa that we decided to return for a visit this fall. Napa wineries at harvest time!

Everyone was on board, quite excited to revisit some of our favorite wineries and discover some new ones.

We were even more excited when our pal, Ellen, decided to plan a private surprise birthday party for her husband at one of our favorite Napa wineries. More about that soon.

In planning our Napa 2016 adventure, we decided to take a slower pace and schedule only two tastings per day. It worked out very well and no one suffered from wine tasting fatigue.

Believe it or not, it’s a thing. The struggle is real.

We visited…

Chappellet Vineyards

Chappellet produces a variety of wines including, in my opinion, one of the best Napa Cabernet Sauvignons for the price. They also bottle Molly Chappellet’s favorite – Chenin Blanc – which is light and delicious.

Chappelet

Chappellet was such a hit on our last trip that several of us became wine club members. As wine club members we were able to get all of the tasting fees comped and we were able to use the gorgeous picnic area overlooking the entire valley.

view from Chappellet

Timing was on our side as we had the added treat of getting to see some of the harvesting machinery in progress.

Some people become weak-kneed in the presence of a Maserati. My grandsons go crazy over road construction vehicles. Show me a de-stemming machine that is separating the precious grapes from the leaves and stems and my heart just sings.

Chappellet harvest

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

Have you heard of the 1976 Judgement of Paris? It’s the story told in the movie “Bottle Shock” – American wines beat French wines in a blind tasting competition shocking the French and putting Napa on the map.

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars  holds the proud distinction of producing the 1st place Cabernet Sauvignon at the Judgement of Paris.

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars (not to be confused with Stags Leap Winery) describes its wines as “Iron fist in a velvet glove.” I think this is quite accurate.

The Cask 23, Fay and S.L.V. Cabernets we tasted are big, bold and need to be cellared for a while. Because we know and love the Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon, we asked our guide if he would pour some for us. He did and, as a result, he sold a bunch of bottles.

My advice to you, if you want to taste something – ask. It usually works out well for both sides.

Lewis Cellars

We scheduled an open day to allow everyone to relax or do whatever they wanted to do.

About half the group chose to stay home and watch the Notre Dame football game. The rest of us chose to “Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame” by raising a glass while wine tasting.

Lewis Cellars is owned by former Indy car racer, Randy Lewis, his wife Debbie and son Dennis. A real family affair.

Lewis Cellars

Lewis makes a variety of wines including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and blends. And, they do it all very, very well.

This tasting experience is small and intimate (limited to 6 people) and truly is all about the wine. It’s a great opportunity to ask questions and learn. Oh, and to taste some killer wines.

Andretti Winery

Carrying on our race car theme and, because our pal Elizabeth has a family connection to Mr. Mario Andretti, we added this winery to our unscheduled day.

Andretti Winery

If the folks at Disney were to add a Tuscany section to Epcot’s Italy, I believe it would look a lot like the Andretti Winery. The grounds are beautiful and very true to the theme.

Although the wines were not my favorite of the trip and we had an unusually cranky guide, it was well worth the stop.

Silver Oak Cellars

Silver Oak Cellars makes two wines: a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and an Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  If you are a fan of Cabernet, you should definitely put Silver Oak on your list of Napa wineries to visit,

Silver Oak Cellars

Three fun facts about Silver Oak:

Unlike most wineries who use French Oak barrels, Silver Oak ages their wine in American Oak barrels. Silver Oak is so dedicated to this that they bought the Missouri cooperage from which they have been sourcing barrels so that they can be guaranteed a steady supply.

Silver Oak barrel

Silver Oak worked with their cork supplier to develop a process which results in better corks. The industry average for “cork taint” is 4%. Silver Oak’s average is a mere one-half percent. This saves them money and gives us more reliably excellent wine.

Silver Oak ages their wine in bottles MUCH longer than everyone else. Look at the Napa Cabernets on the shelves of your wine store today. You will see lots of the 2014 vintage and maybe even some from the 2015 vintage. Silver Oak won’t start selling their 2012 vintage until February of 2017.

Who needs a wine cellar when Silver Oak stores the wine so long for you.

Just kidding…. Let’s not get crazy. We still need a wine cellar.

Cliff Lede Vineyards

Peter and I had previously tasted their wine but we had never visited Cliff Lede Vineyards in Napa.

About 15 minutes into our tour, I turned to another member of our group and said, “I see a new wine club in our future.”

And I was right.

Cliff Lede (pronounced Cliff Lady) produces a variety of wines under their named label and their secondary label “Fel”.

Cliff Lede High FidelityI know that wine scores shouldn’t be considered the only basis on which to determine the quality of a wine but when an expert like Robert Parker tells you that a wine (2013 Cliff Lede Poetry Cabernet Sauvignon) is PERFECT…as in 100 points… you take notice.

And when you see that the rest of their library of wines sports scores like 96, 97, 98 and 99,  you think, “Maybe these folks know what they are doing.”

And, you join the wine club.

Three fun facts about Cliff Lede:

The winery uses an optical scanning machine for sorting the grapes. The machine takes countless pictures per second, analyzes the pictures for size, blemishes, wrinkles, etc., rejecting the losers and letting only the most beautiful and perfect grapes pass.

Cliff Lede optical sorter

(Thankfully, Cliff Lede does not optically judge their visitors based on size, blemishes or wrinkles. All are welcome – no one gets rejected.)

As an homage to the owner’s love of music (heavily weighted on classic rock) each vineyard block is named after a favorite song or album.

Cliff Lede Abbey Road

Aren’t we clever? I bet we were the first to think of posing this way.

And, the winery owns The Poetry Inn, a spectacular hotel comprised of only three rooms and two suites. Sandy at You May Be Wandering wrote a great post about her stay at the Poetry Inn. Check it out.

Napa 2016 was a big success. We revisited some of our old, favorite Napa wineries and discovered some new ones.

Who has suggestions for us for Napa 2017?

Do not drink and drive!

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