Operational Definitions and Ghosts

What is a ghost? Sounds like a simple enough question right? Ask ten strangers in a room to describe what they think a ghost is for you and see how many different descriptions you get. Without an operational definition, you are likely to get a wide spectrum of ghostly descriptions. These could include everything as harmless and presumably peaceful as the souls of deceased loved ones now “watching over you” in your daily life and intervening in your favor from time to time, to the good old-fashioned vicious and violent Paranormal Activity variety found in good horror fiction. I don’t have any data to support this, but I imagine there are far more people who believe in the former “guardian angel” version of ghosts than who believe in the latter spooky kind, but already you might see how this conversation could get a bit convoluted without first agreeing on what we mean by the word, “ghost.”

So what is a ghost exactly?

I know it sounds a bit circular, but the answer to this question will most likely inform whether or not a person actually believes in ghosts. Therefore, before we even start talking about whether or not ghosts are real, we first have to agree on precisely what it is we’re talking about by defining our terms. This agreed to definition has now been “operationally defined.” For the most part, agreeing on the definitions of words as they appear in a dictionary will suffice but sometimes the nuances of a definition muddy the water. And whether they intend it or not, people love to shelter their beliefs in that mud. Clarity is important if we’re looking for the truth.

In addition, a word of warning. Clever, and some might rightfully say duplicitous, conversationalists and debaters will sometimes bend the meanings of words, or even hijack them, in a way that fits their agenda. Rather than recognize the meaning of words as the rest of us commonly use them, they change them to suit their position. The result? You end up playing a game of tennis on adjacent courts. If your interlocutor (this is the other party in a dialogue) is unwilling to agree on the definition, then you may have stumbled upon someone who is more interested in “winning” than they are having a conversation.

My D&D Story

Sometimes you just need to mix it up a bit.

And after the 2016 election I, yes even I who loves politics and who has a degree in Political Science, became sick of the spectacle. I didn’t publish anything on this page because I didn’t want to link my name with the political shenanigans I was seeing unfold. So I let the page go dark.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, my new creative outlet had been taking shape.

Perhaps it was sparked by my first visit to Dragon Con in 2016. Perhaps this is my latent nerd finally emerging from its nerdy little cocoon. Perhaps this is just my midlife crises! Whatever the spark, I rediscovered after about a 30-year hiatus, the game of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D).

I played D&D when I was in middle school but then high school happened and I became too busy, too cool, too whatever, and so I stopped. Let’s face it, the quarterback of the football team was probably not playing D&D. You know who was playing? The nerds.

Fast forward 30 years and do you know what people are calling those same nerds? The boss!

The world has changed. The richest most influential people on the planet are nerds. Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg, Musk. These are the movers, shakers, and innovators. But to be honest, I’m not playing D&D again because geek is chic (which it is); I’m playing because it’s an absolute blast!

I’ll post more updates as we go, but believe it or not, I’ve started a YouTube channel exploring  my new hobby (D&D)! I expect it will have a VERY niche audience, but that’s fine too. Happy gaming.

Letter to the Editor: Marietta Daily Journal – After Sutherland Springs, nothing will change

Originally published on November 14, 2017, about one month after the Las Vegas massacre

DEAR EDITOR:

I would like to say that enough is enough, but I know better. As I write this letter, on the heels of a letter I wrote a few weeks ago after 59 lives were cut short by a maniac in Las Vegas, 26 lives were just cut short by a maniac at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. This maniac, like the previous one, had both the desire and the means to pull off yet another mind-boggling massacre. Many of these victims were young children just released from Sunday school to join the main service. The rest of my letter is unchanged since last month’s mass shooting.

We can’t restrict desire, but we can restrict means. But we won’t. If the little bodies of first-graders in Newtown, Connecticut, aren’t enough to motivate action on keeping weapons of mass destruction — yes, mass destruction — out of the hands of those hellbent on destroying people, then nothing will.

Sure, our politicians will look somber. They will look sad. They will tweet their condolences. They will offer their thoughts. They will offer their prayers. And they will do nothing — absolutely nothing. Nothing will change. We will just wait for the next massacre. And the one after that. And the one after that. And the one after that. And we will hope that our faces, or our loved one’s faces, don’t become the faces that flash before a TV screen as the latest quickly forgotten victim of a massacre made accessible by our American gun lust and the unwillingness to exercise reasonable self government.

We as a society can’t restrict desire. But as a society, we can restrict means. I imagine the responses this letter inspires will illustrate why we won’t. Remember this when the next massacre happens. As it surely will.

Letter to the Editor: Marietta Daily Journal – After Las Vegas, nothing will change

Originally published on October 12, 2017

DEAR EDITOR:

I would like to say that enough is enough, but I know better. As I write this letter, 59 lives have been cut short by a maniac in Las Vegas with both the desire and the means to pull off a mind-boggling massacre. Hundreds lay in hospitals, ripped apart by a madman’s bullets, clinging to life. The body count will surely grow.

We can’t restrict desire, but we can restrict means. But we won’t. If the little bodies of first-graders in Newtown, Connecticut, aren’t enough to motivate action on keeping weapons of mass destruction, yes mass destruction, out of the hands of those hell-bent on destroying people, then nothing will.

 Sure, our politicians will look somber. They will look sad. They will tweet their condolences. They will offer their thoughts. They will offer their prayers. And they will do nothing — absolutely nothing. Nothing will change. We will just wait for the next massacre. And the one after that. And the one after that. And the one after that. And we will hope that our faces, or our loved one’s faces, don’t become the faces that flash before a TV screen as the latest quickly forgotten victim of a massacre made accessible by our American gun lust and the unwillingness to exercise reasonable self government.

We as a society can’t restrict desire. But as a society, we can restrict means. I imagine the responses this letter inspires will illustrate why we won’t. Remember this when the next massacre happens. As it surely will.

Letter to the Editor: With hurricanes, we see climate science confirmed

NOTE: This letter was originally published in September, when storms and hurricanes were decimating many parts of the Caribbean and the southern United States. Sadly, it inspired several climate science denying responses in the newspaper.

DEAR EDITOR:

Climate scientists have been warning us for decades: human-caused global warming is going to lead to more intense storms. We all saw that it took Hurricane Harvey only four hours to go from a Category 2 storm to a Category 4 storm. We all see the devastation it brought to Texas in both lives and property.

Now all eyes are on Hurricane Irma. As I write this, Irma is the strongest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. I shudder to imagine the devastation in lives and property it will bring if it hits Florida square on.

 It is a sad irony that the governors of both of those two states deny the reality of human-caused climate change. It is also a sad state of affairs that our president as well as many of the so-called leaders in Congress, including the 11th and 6th District’s own representatives, deny the reality of human-caused climate change.

As they deny reality, the effects of storms boosted by a warming ocean are unleashing catastrophic damage. It’s past time to wake up. We have to elect people who understand science.