Science: That Feynman Speech Again

There are plenty of good reasons to dismiss the Fauxvid hoax apart from the utter lack of good scientific evidence that it even exists, let alone that lockdowns, social distancing, and masks help at all. These include the constantly changing story, amazing timing, how it was used to force the inevitable fraud of vote-by-mail, how few of us know very many people, if any, that have died or even gotten seriously ill from the virus, a basic prudent distrust of absolutely anything the press tells us about anything – but here, because I’m the weirdo I am, it’s the abuse of science that sets me off. So:

While I’ve long noted that MDs are not scientists, it is only with the advent of this virus that it dawned on me that most people with science somewhere in their job description or on their diploma are also not scientists. What I mean: generally speaking, doctors become doctors not because they want to do science, but because they want to help people. They are just about as likely as your auto mechanic or a long-haul trucker to be a scientist. Like those honored professions, MDs use a lot of tech, and follow a lot of science-y sounding rules. But an MD is about as likely to understand any of the as the trucker is to understand how relativistic adjustments are needed to achieve the accuracy of his GPS, or a mechanic to be conversant in all the metallurgy and material science that goers into an internal combustion engine. They *might*, certainly – the MD might be all over the superconductors and rules of quantum dynamics that make his CAT scanner work, but what’s more likely, in fact, observable, is that doctors, even very high ranking doctors in research, really don’t even understand basic statistics or the concepts behind establishing appropriate sample populations.

This last part, that doctors don’t really understand the science they use in establishing treatment protocols, should be obvious even without reference to any science. Is a high fat or low fat diet good for you? Should you avoid red meat, or make sure you work some into your diet? Should you eat fewer eggs to reduce your cholesterol? Are ulcers caused by stress? Is the ideal blood pressure 120/80, or something else?

If you’ve paid attention over the decades, you know the answer to these sorts of questions are yes, no, maybe, and back around again, yet always presented as dogma. Doctors see some report or study, and the topic gets on some panel somewhere, and doctors, being trained as they are to be omniscient, then produce a protocol incorporating what they believe is the latest science. The likelihood that anyone along the line actually understood the limits that are a key feature of any study is small, or, rather, that if anyone did, he could make himself heard and understood by the bulk of the committee. I’ve looked into a few instances of this in some detail over the years. One that was particularly egregious was the universal dogma that family beds – letting little babies sleep next to their mother in the same bed – was dangerous. Turns out there were 2 studies that claimed to show that family beds caused some number of infant deaths every year. Neither used any controls at all – no effort was made to filter out or otherwise allow for alcoholic or drug addicted or insane parents. Thus, the obese alcoholic mom sleeping on the couch who, in a drunken stupor, suffocates her baby, is considered the same as sober, healthy parents who, in accord with a million years of evolutionary selection, will not smother their baby in their sleep. And, eventually, with no apology or even acknowledgement, pediatricians went from cajoling parents not to sleep with their babies, no matter how well it worked for them, to having no advise on the subject, when, after 50 years as the only nation on earth where this anti-family-bed protocol was promulgated, America’s pediatricians acknowledged the obvious.

But did they acknowledge anything? Did your typical kid doc ever have a moment when he went: I’ve been giving bad advise and layering on the guilt for decades on already insecure new parents, and now I’m doing a 180? Or, rather, did they believe that the science had somehow changed?

Which brings me back to Feynman’s 1974 Cal Tech address on Cargo Cult Science. * Something I missed, or at least didn’t fully grasp. First, the relevant selection:

Now it behooves me, of course, to tell you what they’re missing.  But it would he just about as difficult to explain to the South Sea Islanders how they have to arrange things so that they get some wealth in their system.  It is not something simple like telling them how to improve the shapes of the earphones.  But there is one feature I notice that is generally missing in Cargo Cult Science.  That is the idea that we all hope you have learned in studying science in school—we never explicitly say what this is, but just hope that you catch on by all the examples of scientific investigation.  It is interesting, therefore, to bring it out now and speak of it explicitly.  It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty—a kind of leaning over backwards.  For example, if you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid—not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you’ve eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked—to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.

Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them.  You must do the best you can—if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong—to explain it.  If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it.  There is also a more subtle problem.  When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition.

In summary, the idea is to try to give all of the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another.

From Cargo Cult Science, Richard Feynman’s 1974 Commencement Address at Cal Tech

The part I missed: after decades of teaching science to bright to brilliant students, Feynman sees the need to address what science *is*. Feynman is giving this speech to students graduating from Cal Tech – the elite, the best of the best, the very definition of ‘scientist’ in the minds of people who bother have a thought about it.

Feynman’s speech tells us that he thought 1974 graduates of Cal Tech needed to be told what science is. No one with two functioning braincells things things gotten anything but worse since then.

How could such a thing be possible? Several causes spring to mind. Recall Kuhn’s famous distinction between normal and revolutionary science. A ‘normal’ scientist spends his time trying to work out the implications of the currently accepted theory. If he runs across anomalies, results or appearances that defy that accepted theory, he sets them aside, since they only slow down his work. This working out of normal science is an important and worthy occupation. Think of all the work done filling in the Periodic Table. Dmitri Mendeleev comes up with a profound observation about how certain properties of elements reappear in a particular pattern, then predicts the properties of certain unknown elements based on where they would fall in his table. The numerous chemists who then spent countless hours filling in the table didn’t need, necessarily, that certain severe honesty that Feynman hoped those 1974 Cal Tech grads picked up along the line. They just needed to fill in the blanks, using the tools of the trade. And we’re all glad they did, lots of cool gadgets we use every day trace back to their work.

Now, there’s your old-school Russian scientist!

Einstein, to take the poster boy as the example, was doing something different. He was doing science, properly so called. He collected those anomalies mentioned above, and, with that honesty Feynman describes, laid it all on the line: If I’m right, we should see light bend around the sun, and other predictions. There was no place to hide: his math covered all the usual cases, and proposed to account for those anomalies as well. And did. Kuhn (and Popper) would be proud. What Einstein did was different in kind, not just degree.

Nowadays, the vast bulk of what people think of as science is performed by technicians. To be good or even great at my job down at the gene-splicing or super-conductor plant, I need a very high level of technical expertise. But do I need to be a scientist? Do I need to understand the general philosophical and logical requirements of ‘real’ science? Maybe, certainly some people in the process need to, but everybody? Most scientists?

If Feynman felt the need to explain some basic science to graduates of Cal Tech back in its heyday, I’m guessing the answer is no. Most normal science can be performed without much if any appreciation of how science works on anything but a base mechanical level.

I’m not here to disparage in any way the very real accomplishments of the technical people upon whose work so much of the modern world depends. What I am doing is calling into question that such folks would necessarily apply the general principles of science to evaluating claims in general. If they even know them. I would expect normal science necessarily involves a lot of simple deference to authority for reasons of practical efficiency; this seems to carry over into real life more than a zeal for rigorous truth according to scientific principles.

Of course, I’m only referring here to those folks involved in real science, where rigor, adversarial review, replication, etc., are required.

I write this to try to account for the lack of response from such scientists (Michael Levitt being the most obvious exception). First, as discussed, there are probably a lot fewer than one would imagine. Beyond that, we have the the threat of retribution, which, if you have a job and family, are pretty scary. You’ll never work in this town again is pretty real.

Thus, the baton seems to be passed to those of us who are merely scientifically literate or have nothing to lose. I have none of the technical chops required for normal science, but I am fairly confident I could understand and appreciate whatever anyone is doing in any field in accord with the scientific method.

But none of this is subtle. None of the fraud is at all something you need a degree in biology or medicine to understand. About 2/3rds of the attributed deaths are nursing home patients. Those poor souls make up about 0.4% of the population. If you knew nothing else, you could see from these facts alone that your chances, if you are of the 99.6% not in a nursing home, are 1/3rd of whatever overall numbers are being bandied about. Then, if you had even the slightest logical capacity, you might wonder at one additional little fact: that most nursing home patients don’t have long to live.

These are issues it takes no scientific training or literacy to understand. The only slightly more complex ones include the inappropriateness of applying case fatality rates to a population; the fantasy of counting deaths ‘involving’ COVID as if they resulted from the disease; the impossibility of defining what a case even is; treating cases, however defined, as if they are this horror, when, for the vast majority of people, they do nothing much beside bringing herd immunity closer. And so on.

  • Funny thing: I searched for this address, something I’ve done many times over the years, always found multiple copies, but this time nothing but excerpts appeared on the first page of results. So I just searched my blog, found the last place I’d linked to, and – got a page from the Center for Theoretical Neuroscience at Columbia, with the speech nowhere in sight. Of course, theoretical neuroscience sounds about as cargo-cultish as one could get, so I can see why they’d not exactly want to feature Feynman’s speech. The Purge, it seems, continues apace.

Teaching History

So I, an enthusiastic amateur, have now taught one semester of history to 6 8th graders and 4 9th graders. These are homeschooled Catholic kids, so it’s a lot better than teaching Prussian-schooled kids. What I’m teaching them:

An important guy.
  1. Always ask: How would anybody know that? I put questions about this on every test. I don’t want them to be radically skeptical – that is the road to madness – but don’t want them to just swallow whatever the texts (or, indeed, I) tell them.
  2. Conversely, don’t reflexively dismiss myth. As often as not, myths are historically true at least in general outline. They found Troy right where it was supposed to be; they found mead halls right where the Poet of Beowulf said they should be. And the Scythians buried their kings exactly as it was described to Herodotus. Some myths are wacky, or contain wacky stuff, but all tell you something important about the cultures that passed them on.
  3. Great Men and Long Term Factors. An Alexander the Great, a Charlemagne, or even a Savonarola really can change things, currents of History be damned. Macedonia is and was a relatively poor backwater – that produced a conqueror who spread Greek culture everywhere he went. Anybody who says they saw that coming is a liar. Apart from his immediate ancestors, Pepin and Charles Martel, Charlemagne was preceded and followed by comparative mediocrities – yet he made something great out of Franks, who were way toward the ‘barbaric’ end of the pool. Chaos before, chaos after, and a century of Carolingian Renaissance in the middle. Yet Egypt is the gift of the Nile, and various little ice ages crushed any number of civilizations despite how good or bad their leaders were. It’s both/and.
  4. Until very recently, 80-90% of everybody in any civilization farmed or otherwise worked to produce food. I’ve introduced them to the idea that populations are usually ‘harvest sensitive’ (as one English historian put it).
  5. The guys that imagined and built Viking longboats were as important to history as any king. For example. In general, we overrate the kings and generals and underrate the craftsmen and traders. We remember Columbus and Henry the VIII, appropriately enough, but don’t know much about the endless streams of brave (and greedy) souls who opened and traveled all the trade routes that brought, for example, silk to England and Roman coins to Japan; or, more important still, spread Mesopotamian grasses such as barely and wheat to every corner of the temperate northern hemisphere. And a million other things through a million hands. Those were important people, much more important than a run of the mill king.

And some names and dates. I tell them you need enough names and dates to organize your thoughts about history, but that’s about it. There will always be more history than can be learned in any number of lifetimes, and they keep making more. Better to establish an apporach and get an outline than to memorize a bunch of names and dates that don’t mean anything to you.

Viking Longships: Trades and Raids - BaviPower Blog
This is a truly beautiful piece of technology, involving advanced ironwork, fancy lapstrake construction, and a ton of empirical engineering, With these, brave men can go anywhere the world’s oceans and seas can take them.

Your Top Christmas Music?

Saw some lists like this on YouTube, thought to myself, I did: the Loyal Readers here could certainly do better.

Here’s my stab. Which one I like best changes depending, any one of these can be number one at any moment. Deal. Also, I’m a singer and a choir rat, so I favor choirs. You needn’t. Onward:

Alison Kraus & Yo-Yo Ma, the Wexford Carol:

O Magnum Mysterium, Tomas Louis Victoria:

Lots of good versions out there.

Nova, Nova, Ave Fit Ex Eva- Williametta Spencer:

Tempo is a little slow to my taste, but still beautiful.

Personet Hodie, a medieval carol:

Coventry Carol:

I like the traditional setting very much, but this arrangement and performance are excellent, too:

I’ll add more as I think of them or as your killer suggestions roll in.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas: Feast of the True Presence

This post may be of interest to my Christian brothers and sisters who are not Catholic, as it may give some insight into what we crazy Papists are up to.

Sandro Botticelli, The Mystical Nativity (1500-1501). Go here to enlarge this to see the details.

This nativity has it all: Angel choirs dancing above the stable; Faith, Hope, and Charity perched on the roof. To the left, an angel directs the Wise Men to the Babe; an overwhelmed and elderly Joseph (the typical medieval way he was imagined) sits bowing near the Infant. Mary, on her knees with folded hands, worships her newborn Son while the ox and ass look on. To the right, another angel directs two shepherds.

Below, three people are being embraced or perhaps lifted up by angels, cheek to cheek. Seven little demons flee, several impaled on the instruments of torture they carry.

Except for Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, all the people are crowned or are being crowned with laurel – the crown of victory. The fat little Baby is reaching for his mother and sucking his fingers.

Subtler details: the stable is a cave, a part of the earth. Through the back of the cave one sees a beautiful forest – Eden-like, even. The scale of the forest seen through the cave doesn’t match the forest to the left, as if it’s not part of the same scene.

Although Botticelli was a Renaissance master, he still uses the medieval vocabulary of symbols. Christ was born not merely on the earth, but in the earth. He is not something added to the surface, but rather of the matter of our order of Creation. The ox and the ass in the same way are representatives of Creation itself worshipping the Son. Eden, which is the proper, intended order of Creation for Man, is visible through the cave, where Heaven and Earth meet in the Person of Christ. The veil is drawn back, so that angels rejoice and demons flee.

Ave fit ex Eva, as the medievals were known to say: the ‘Ave’ with which the angel greeted Mary is made from Eva, the pure and innocent Mary saying ‘yes’ replaces the pure and innocent Eve saying ‘no’. Through Mary, God restores, and then some, the proper order of Creation as remembered from Eden. The whole scene captures the wedding of Heaven and Earth, of angels and men, of earthly and heavenly creation.

There is a combination of general representatives and specific individuals. Mary, Joseph, Gabriel, the Wise Men, and Shepherds are particular individuals we know from the story; the angels and the three men at the bottom of the picture are representatives of Heaven and Earth; the men in particular invite us to read ourselves into the scene.

The people for whom this picture was painted would understand that intended part of their reading of themselves into the story is the acceptance of a God-given role – Thy Will be done. Mary is glorious because she perfectly accepted God’s Will for her – the glory is all God’s, but she is its perfect mirror. In the same way, Joseph’s humble, silent acceptance of God’s Will makes him glorious by reflected light. Even the ox and ass are glorious in a similar way, although they act only as extensions of the human beings who raised them and put them in the stable. But that’s what we do – glorify God by how we use the gifts He entrusts to us.

Or how about this one:

Adoration of the Shepherds, Georges de La Tour c. 1644.

Here, the artist uses a conceit – an unseen candle held by Joseph but shielded by his hand from us – so that he can show Mary, Joseph, and the Shepherds lit by the reflected light of the Christ Child, the actual source of light in this picture.

A thousand years later, these ideas, of a cave, of light, of God-with-us Emmanuel, of our place in God’s scheme, of the meeting of Heaven and Earth and the redemption of all Creation, found expression in a thousand church interiors all across Christendom.

We’re used to well-lit interiors, thanks to Edison, but, as designed and used, the interiors of churches necessarily share much with the cave of the stable. In Gothic churches, during the day, at least, light enters filtered by stained glass; at night, only candles and lamps provided light, which would seem very dark to us.

But it is through that cave that we see the new Eden, lit by the Light of Christ.

The cave is also the Tabernacle of the New Covenant, the Holy of Holies, containing Jesus. Yet it is the only the second tabernacle. Mary, greeted by Elizabeth as ‘the mother of my Lord’ – the queen, in the usage of the time – is the first and primary tabernacle, the Holy of Holies as a person. Her humility is perfect, meaning she accepts the role God has given to her with complete abandonment of herself – full of grace.

Yet, because she holds nothing back and gives all to God, she is more perfectly herself than any other purely human person. But doing God’s Will is not passive. We are made in the image and likeness of the Creator and the Savior. Thus, Mary’s surrender – be it done unto me according to Thy Will – results in *activity*, creative, redemptive activity. Always, Mary’s actions in accord with God’s Will are reflections of that Will and activated by it. Yet God choose her and filled her with grace so that she could eternally serve Him, as the Mother of His Son.

The most common name given to Catholic Churches is some form of Notre Dame – Our Lady. You’ll find parish churches and cathedrals named Queen of the Angels, Mother of God, Queen of All Saints, Star of the Sea, Our Lady of Solitude, Our Lady of Victory, Visitation, Mother of Sorrows, and a hundred other names and references to Mary.

Catholics do this because each church is a tabernacle of the New Covenant, a place where the Incarnation continues through the priest when he, acting as Jesus commanded the Apostles, incarnates Him in the bread and wine. By the Divine Will, Mary’s perfect yes brought that Will into this world, uniting Heaven and Earth, making each of us members of a Royal Priesthood, made worthy to enter the Holy of Holies where Christ is present on His altar, the Lamb of God. We then become, each of us, that Tabernacle when we receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

Christmas means all these things. We honor God by honoring Mary, Queen and Holy of Holies by His Will. The Child in her womb, the Babe in the manger, the Lamb of God on the Cross, the risen Lord, the Pantocrator – Mary was there for all of that. Her work of bringing Jesus into the world, in the image of God and reflecting and embodying His Will, continues eternally.

She always reflects His glory, always points to the Son, always does His Will. We, honoring her, always follow her lead and give worship and glory only to Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit.

Have a Happy, Holy, and Blessed Christmas Season! (which runs from sundown today through the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6. Party hard till then!)

You Guys Are Lovely

In the midst of the despondency and despair tempting the children of light in this land of darkness, my Faithful Readers took an active, in terms of comments to the last post, interest in what I’m making for the family for Christmas Dinner. I’m touched, you guys are great. Therefore, instead of my usual doom and gloom:

Merry Christmas! And a Happy New Year!

Since you’re dying to know: First off, even more than usual, there will be several feasts over the holidays. I may be able to work some of the generous suggestions into the future dinners, but the Christmas Day one is now pretty much set. This year, our beloved elder daughter and her husband just moved into a house they bought in Sacramento. Yes, crazy kids these days, in their mid-20’s, have saved up enough to buy a freaking house in CALIFORNIA 5 months into their new life of wedded bliss. Our daughter has always been preternaturally responsible; if my new son in law were any more responsible, I’d have a dadgasm and die. Anyway: since they are living amidst dust and boxes at the moment, we all agreed that we’d cook up a dinner and show up on Christmas afternoon, to kick off the new digs proper-like.

Then, a few days later, Middle Son and HIS NEW, AS OF YESTERDAY, FIANCE arrive from New England by way of Alabama. So, we’ll do something again. Then, we try to do Epiphany as big as Christmas, because it is. Three pending feasts and counting.

So, for feast #1 at Elder Daughter’s house: Got a nice 5 lbs lamb roast AND about 3 lbs of wild-caught salmon at Costco. Menu will include The Usual: mashed potatoes, gravy, peas, homegrown sweet potatoes in some form, salad, homemade bread. Dessert will include cheesecake – my specialty – as well as assorted pies – wife’s specialties. I suspect son-in-law’s Napa connections (his home town) will supply the libations.

We have a local produce market that caters to ethnic cooking – ideal. I was there to grab a variety of apples – a very nice lady I knew back in New Mexico made the best apple pies, so I asked her what she did. Her rules:

  1. Make the crust from the recipe off the Crisco can
  2. use fresh cinnamon and nutmeg
  3. use a variety of apples

And that works. Classic straight up apple pie. So I always get a collection of apple varieties, favoring old school varieties like Braeburn and Granny Smith, and avoiding ‘delicious’ varieties, Gala, and Fuji on principle.

For reasons unknown, this produce market has a fishmonger attached. After (of course) buying the on sale but still dear salmon at Costco, I spot huge farmed salmon at this market at $7 lbs. Picked up a 5 lbs roast, threw it in the freezer. So, that will be featured at some point.

More updates as events warrant. Meanwhile,

Song of Angels Bouguereau - /holiday/Christmas/religious ...
My man Bouguereau comes through again.
Georges de La Tour - Oblates of St. Joseph
De la Tour. An early master of lighting effects.
Floaty Glowy Baby Jesus
The Nativity Painting by El Greco Domenico Theotocopuli
El Greco. Love Mary as a Spanish lady.
More El Greco. He paints souls.

Personal Impedimenta, etc.

A. What a great word. Buried in the idea of things that hinder your journey is the idea of stuff you need for that journey, maybe, even, things essential for the purpose of the journey in the first place. Dictionaries consistently give the example of the baggage an army carries. But wouldn’t weapons, say, constitute a large part of that baggage? Weapons both hinder your travels AND allow you to do what you’re traveling to do: wage war. The examples I came across were in Manalive, where Innocent Smith carries a large bag full of items essential to his being Innocent Smith, and in The Metal Monster, where Dr. Goodwin’s scientific equipment are so described.

I seem to have accumulated a lot of impedimenta over the years. I hope it’s of the essential kind. Speaking of which –

Two years ago, several of you were kind enough to do a little beta reading on a couple of my stories, which I do deeply appreciate. For a number of reasons, I set aside almost all fiction writing then. Now, I’m jonesing to get back to it.

Rocky And Bullwinkle Moose And Squirrel GIF ...

In another context, someone (Severian?) was describing the nature of personal change, where one is doomed to failure if one simply tries to muscle through a particular activity – dieting, say, or writing books. Instead, to succeed in loosing weight or writing books, one must, cognitive-therapy style, become the sort of person who weighs an appropriate amount and writes books.

Easier said than done, of course, but at least it’s possible. In the great Catholic tradition of both/and, I will remind myself, as I diet and write, that I’m exactly the sort of guy to weigh around 210 and publish stuff. Do and believe.

And ignore that Bullwinkle never did pull a rabbit out of that hat of his, IIRC.

B. On the Covidiocy front, we’ve reached the point where we are plumbing the depths of the psychological damage done to our rootless, abandoned, manipulated population, children of all ages deprived of all normal human relationships, ‘raised’ by equally damaged parents, taught to worship the abstracted individual and, above all, that their personal worth derives from doing as they are told and saying what they are told to say. The family, village, and church being destroyed or abandoned, and the idea that purpose and satisfaction derive from duties we mostly don’t get to choose having been reduced to incomprehensibility, school becomes an oasis of order – do as you are told, and get a gold star! Get a degree, a job, a life! Get the only affirmation, the only sense of belonging, you may ever get. Woe to any who kick at this goad!

I wonder: is there anything at all that would convince the rabbits they’ve been had? What would it take for your typical Front Row Kid to admit: wow, I’ve been royally played. What can be stricken from the list, at least insofar as they are considered individually:

  • Evidence. It’s no so much that the rabbits don’t care about evidence, it’s that years of training have both 1) rendered them incapable of looking at or even knowing what evidence, as opposed to hearsay and bald unsupported statements, is, and 2) convinced them that parroting whatever the approved authority figure says IS considering the evidence. They don’t know what they don’t know, but are convinced they do.
  • The examples of our betters. Brix, it appears, is travelling to one her vacation homes and Christmassing with 3 generations of her family. So much for lockdowns, social distancing, etc. – for her, Pelosi, Newsom, and many others. Not that the rabbits have heard of this contempt, because the hairdos with journalism degrees are unlikely to mention it.
  • Their own lying eyes. How many rabbits personally know even 1 otherwise healthy person who died of COVID? Of course, this would require acknowledgement that the people, if any, they know whose deaths, in CDC terminology, *involved* COVID were well on their way to assuming their places in the Choir Invisible with or without the help of a respiratory virus. Which is a thought not allowed to enter their minds.
  • Basic logic. E.g., if masks work, then they are trapping billions of live, dangerous viruses. If so, handling used masks without a hazmat suit, gloves, a hazardous waste disposal containers, incineration, etc. would be SUICIDE! OH MY GOD!!! Yet, they are treated with less care and caution than a used Kleenex. Stuffed into and dragged out of pockets, fiddled with, thrown any old place, used for hours, days, weeks at a time. I find them on the street whenever I go walking. Same logical problems with social distancing: if 6 feet is good, why is there still a pandemic? If we’re not safe to meet indoors, why are stores still open? why are there lockdowns, when it’s safer outside? And so on.

Would some combination of these factors finally burst the bubble? The constantly evolving story, where it’s 15 days to flatten the curve to as long as it takes to create a vaccine (but not properly test it – what, don’t you trust Big Pharma and the billions in criminal fines they’ve paid for exaggerated claims and falsifying data?) to – I dunno, what are they claiming today?

These are all rhetorical questions, of course. Nothing so trivial as loss of liberty and sanity will cause the properly educated Front Row Kids to reevaluate their self-image as the smartest, best educated, most moral people in history. Such wunderkind couldn’t possibly be clueless rubes, ignorant of even the most basic principles of science and logic, mindless parrots of whatever they hear, easily-frightened, historically illiterate rabbits about as likely to think or act independently as the gears in a pocket watch. What would you rather be, the smart kid with membership in the circle of smart kids, or the kid suddenly alone, cut adrift from the only society he’s every really known?

Good thing I believe in miracles. Otherwise, I’d have to start throwing punches, and I’m too old for that.

C. Still have hardly decorated for Christmas. Stuff came up, and the available slots for family-time activity sort of vanished. Decorating by one’s self seems kinda sad. But we will get it done.

We have passed the point of her family/my family scrambling over holidays. Except for my MIL, who lives with us, parents are dead; brothers and sisters are far away or cowering rabbits or both. So no plans at that level of family. BUT: now we have a married daughter! Her in-laws, to their credit and with our approval, want to be friends. This daughter and her husband just bought a house, appropriately about 1 hr 15 min from each set of in-laws – just far enough for a little separation, but close enough for regular visitations and family activities.

So now we get to coordinate among our children’s families (well, 1 so far, but I’d bet 2 or even 3 extended family branches within the next few years). I’m digging it.

On the home-home front, failing to get commitment on what people want for Christmas dinner(s). The fam is not big on turkey – fine by me, a lot of work for something not really all that popular. Tried to ask after lamb – ambivalence. Then, partly in jest, suggested: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and gravy – probably the most popular thing I make around here (1) (I do make d*mn fine fried chicken). I got the ‘not special enough’ response.

Seriously considering getting some ribeye steaks. That’s what I’d like to do. Maybe for Epiphany, when Middle Son and his girl will be in town. Or maybe a slab of salmon?

Merry Christmas to all!

  1. I love to cook. Things I regularly make for dinner, in order of family popularity: fried chicken; hamburgers; Napa cabbage tacos (fish, chicken, beef, or pork, using cabbage leaves instead of tortillas – makes for a much lighter meal), pork chops, various curries and rice. Make a lot of other things, too, but these are staples.

Late Advent Update

A. Since a certain number of my beloved readers come here for the Covidiocy bashing, we’ll start there before moving on to the more mundane stuff. One note on Fauxvid: no disease in history has ever been tracked like this. If we followed the same exact instructions for reporting deaths ‘involving’ COVID, except we substitute ‘stress’ for the kung flu, fairly confident we’d show 300K-400K deaths ‘involving’ stress since the lockdown.

I’m not kidding or exaggerating in the slightest. More on this later.

B. Not saying anyone in particular may or may not do this, but it would sure be a nice tidy little protest if a group of people more or less spontaneously gathered in the town plaza one of these Christmas Season evenings and sang some carols for the joy and enlightenment of passers-by, who, if they were following orders, most certainly wouldn’t be out on a public plaza on a Christmas Season evening in the first place. Lockdown! Curfew!

A certain prominent sociopathic toddler, who does as he’s told to keep us filthy little people in line, has been pasted in here by somebody. Marionette strings photoshopped out.

Would have a bit of that ‘show me the coin with which you pay the tax’ gotcha to it.

C. Will be decorating today, tree & house. Typically wait to the last minute because a) Christmas starts AFTER Advent, and b) historically, that’s when the strapping young college age people return home to do the roof-clambering part of the festivities, which I, an old guy, would rather not do anymore.

But nobody is coming in from college this year. Our three older surviving children are married off, living on the East Coast, or already live with us, as does the 16 year old. So, it ain’t getting any better.

And, I am happy to report, the Christmas lights in our neighborhood came out earlier and with more vigor this year than any previous year I remember. I think people are trying to find a way to express their unhappiness with the lockdown, even if they don’t know that’s what they’re doing.

We will of course leave ours up through Epiphany.

D. Piano hack – as in, I’m a hack piano player -alert! I’ve been working on the Sonata Pathetique for maybe 2 and half or 3 years now. Started out as a burn off frustration from work thing when I wasn’t inspired to throw bricks out front. So I took on what is, for me, a very difficult but beloved piece.

I spent 18 months just getting the notes, so I could stomp and stumble my way through it. Since then, have whiled away many hours trying to master the many ‘hard’ parts, so that they sound like music and doesn’t sound so much like a poorly-trained monkey working out his frustrations (however accurate that last image may be).

What I’d like it to sound like (in my dreams):

Three or four weeks ago, I started looking for something else to play, some Beethoven maybe not quite so hard, and much shorter so that I could conceivably play it decently in my remaining lifetime. I chose the 2nd movement of the Moonlight Sonata:

2 minutes long, and only maybe 2-3 sections that push my feeble chops. So I now have that one down to the point where I wouldn’t be too embarrassed to play it when other people were listening. Now I need to find some more.

Searching around, found this site, which lists a boatload of classical piano music and ranks them by difficulty. This sort of thing is probably common knowledge among real piano players, but I’ve only had a couple years of lessons spread out over the years from age 15 to maybe 25, so I’ve no doubt missed a lot of details (for example, how to actually play the piano).

So now I know that the Bach preludes and fugues that have been killing me since college are rated 3.5 on a scale of 1 to 5 – on the hard side of the scale, but not really hard. So are the 1st and 3rd movements of the Sonata Pathetique. You evidently have to be able to play arpeggios, scales, chromatic rifts and such to pull these off – who would have thunk it?

So it seems the hardest things I’m likely to able to play in a reasonable amount of time are in the 2.5 range – provided they are not too long. Thus, settled on this little ditty, the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s Sonata 13:

There are a number of not too easy features here. Syncopations abound; there’s that one trill that needs to be played with conviction if it is not to sound lame, and that finish, with the hand 1/2 beat off from each other, ought to be fun.

Damage Projection

For a couple decades, I straddled two very different worlds. On the one hand, my wife and I helped found and run a very alternative school. On the other, we are involved in a number of parish and other Catholic organizations. While there was always a certain number of people at the school who were there just because they wanted something different for their children, over time, it turned out, the bulk of the students and families were there because they were desperate or simply too antisocial or damaged – parents and children – to fit in anywhere else.

Eventually, the lunatics took over that particular asylum, and we were forced out by a cadre of gender theory dogmatists and their naïve dupes. All but the last of our 5 kids graduated from that school, and the last was already 15. Not a great loss, for us, at least.

Meanwhile, we were getting to know a bunch of people at church. While of course simply showing up at Mass doesn’t magically solve all your problems, so there remains plenty of suffering and craziness to go around among our friends from church, there is a spine of very basic and almost earthy sanity there.

Most bluntly, it’s not unthinkable among our church friends that a man and a woman could get married, stay faithfully married, raise a bunch of kids together, and still love and even like each other over the whole process. It’s not unheard of that children could love their parents and siblings and get along with them just fine. In short, what would have been considered normal human relationships in many places and times are not only possible, but an achievable norm for mast people. Indeed, numerous examples of this mythical monster, the happy family, walk among us.

Among the school crowd? There were only 2 other married couples in anything like a normal married relationship; almost all the kids came from broken, blended, or single-mother households. Kids raised by grandmothers; kids raised by a mother and this week’s boyfriend. Kids manipulated by divorced adults and forced, on pain of withheld affections or even contact, to mouth the party line, whatever it is today: that daddy or mommy is the bad guy, that sometimes people just stop loving each other, that – most damaging, perhaps – that the emotional and social problems that ended up bringing that kid to our school have nothing to do with the chaos of their home lives – if where they are living can even be called a home.

These poor folks cannot accept, and can only barely imagine, that two adults could suck it up and persevere for the sake of their own children and their own souls. They will not entertain the idea that people should choose and commit to mates who will be there for them and their kids, just as they, themselves, commit to be there for them. Either the reality of happily married life is seen as an oppressive fairytale or a simply unattainable goal.

Nope. They are looking for a soul mate, a Prince Charming, the perfect woman, or the one night stand who allows them to forget for a moment their own weightlessness. The want and find only someone who will never challenge them to grow out of their problems into an adult, a mother or father, an actual functioning human being.

The key: these poor folks very possibly don’t even know any happy, functioning families. Their own families, going back 2 or 3 generation now, very possibly do not contain a single happy, or even intact, family. These broken children of broken children might acknowledge the existence of happy marriages and families on an intellectual level, I suspect such relationships remain emotionally incomprehensible.

To such people, it cannot be that society is – or was, at least – built on exactly such marriages and families, let alone that the (only?) legitimate function of government is to secure the safety and provide the liberty needed for just such relationships to thrive. An amorphous, Orwellian idea – ‘social justice’ – is substituted for the the concrete and primary and radical reality of family.

This is bad enough, but I fear this sort of divorce from reality, where people deny the very existence of the practical if imperfect realization of ideals because they have not experienced such realizations in their lives, extends even further. Two examples: learning and politics.

Learning I’ve beaten to death here. Because almost everybody has been processed by the schools, we tend to think (insert bitter laugh here) that schooling equals learning. Slavish conformists, almost definitionally and certainly in practice intellectual mediocrities, have persevered through the higher levels of schooling and been awarded jobs as professors. Such are held up as the apex of erudition. Our star students, as likely to have met a unicorn as a truly educated person in the schools, are presented with these jokers as if they are the goal, the measure, of education.

Thus we have a generation of people so unfamiliar with what an educated person looks like that they mistake a mediocrity like Obama as a genius. He stands at the apex of the conformist mediocrity pyramid; they know no other standard.

Again, such ‘well-educated’ people cannot imagine that the government’s (possibly) legitimate interest in education means anything other than schooling as they know it. We will have our legions of B.O.; the idea that we might instead create an environment favorable to the rise of more Edisons or Faradays is simply incomprehensible. In fact, suggesting such a thing makes one the enemy. Listen to the rhetoric of the anti-homeschooling crowd.

Final example: if you grew up in Chicago, you must on some level resolve the cognitive dissonance of ‘democratically elected leaders’ and ‘haven’t had an honest, open election in 200 years.’ From what I can tell, this reality is simply ignored. I don’t suspect students are taught about the mob ties, murders, graft, bribery, and election fixing that make up Chicago’s political history.

If they even allow these thoughts to enter into their heads, they will consider such behavior normal and unavoidable. Isn’t that just politics? Your team has to steal elections because, if they don’t, the much worse other guys will! The idea that one might try to have fair elections and honest government seems like fantasy. Rather than holding up good government as a worthy, if rarely realized, goal, one toward which law, law enforcement, and public honor should be directed, people praise ‘honest graft’ and write paens to all the good Tammany Hall did,

This is, perhaps, the functional divide between blue and red: the governments in corrupt big cities – but I repeat myself – have created a world where trying to do anything different is seen as naïve and hopeless – having things run by Fred Roti or Billy Bulger or Kamala Harris (to pick three egregiously obvious examples of corruption) is just the way it is. Taking steps to change this falls into the same realm as taking steps to support families or learning – simply unimaginable.

Damage – psychological, economic, spiritual, political – is then projected onto reality. The idea that life is improved by pursuit of approachable ideals – here, of family, of learning, and of government – is simply incomprehensible. It has no recognized presence in the lives of so many people that they can’t or won’t even acknowledge it.

And we have to live with the results. There is no way to talk or vote our way out of this. Live well, and don’t give in or give up.

Family Life

Beloved younger daughter got up today at maybe 5:00 a.m. to make conchas in honor of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. (Happy, holy, and blessed feast day, BTW.)

Mexican Conchas: The Cookie-Topped Bread With a Mysterious ...
Conchas. Traditional Mexican treat.

When I got up just before 6:00, she was rolling out dough on the table, and explained that something had gone wrong with the dough. She couldn’t fix it fast enough before work, and would I please bake the cinnamon bread she was winging from the dough she was rolling out?

Sure. Now, she’s a fabulous baker, I have no idea what made the dough unacceptable to her, but – I let the cinnamon bread rise, popped it in the oven, and it is delicious. Her mistakes are better than what most people, me most definitely included, can pull off when we do it right.

So this information is being relayed to the family as we come in from Mass to a delicious smelling house. Some minor confusion over the story arises; I attempt a quip along the lines: best not to try to think about it too hard, as the cinnamon bread is un-conchas. Unlike the bread, the joke fell flat.

16 year old son deadpans: that joke had a lot of potential.

Put in my place by the Caboose.


Another obvious thing, but I haven’t heard anyone say it simply, so here goes: What a positive COVID test results means varies widely from person to person. If a younger, healthy person tests positive, that would pose effectively no added risk to that person BUT add to herd immunity. Draw-Win! If they have no or past symptoms, super green! Thus, if the age bands and percentage of people showing no or past symptoms were included in the “exploding” positive test results, we might discover *comforting* news: all these people with no or past symptoms, or at microscopic risk, testing positive? COOL! We can forget about the lockdowns and throw away the masks, as herd immunity is here! Hurrah!


Now to the random updates & thoughts:

A. Had little to say about the election. Been looking for the right metaphor. This one isn’t quite there, but it’s the best I’ve come up with:

Imagine you’re taking a test. When it’s almost time to hand it in, the guy next to you takes your test from you, looks it over for a minute, gives it back, and then finishes his test.

He then says he didn’t actually copy any of your answers, he was just looking.

I mean, you can’t PROVE he was cheating, right?

Things were different in different states, of course. The sequence of events here in CA: We locked down in March, back when 15 days to flatted the curve was ‘the Science!’ Almost immediately, as in within days, our dictator-for-life toddler of a governor declares that mail-in voting will be mandatory* – 6+ MONTHS before the election, ignoring the 15 days idea, ignoring the ENTIRE KNOWN HISTORY of airborne respiratory viruses (they die out after a couple months, always have. Did this time, too.).

So, for California, for the vast majority of the vote, there is no chain of custody, no ID, no realistic way to validate any of it. A million extra ballots could be introduced into the system, and it would be next to impossible to discover them and single them out. But this was done for our safety from a virus, not to make us safe from electing the wrong people.

He was just looking, he didn’t cheat – you can’t prove it.

B. We can now lock down 36 million Californians because tests are revealing more positive results, so that maybe, some day, this time, actual objective Bad Things will happen to people at levels meaningfully worse than usual! As long as we can be lied to and bullied into imagining they *might* this time, any steps may be mandated to prevent what has never yet happened. And you’ll like it.

Now, of course, with all popular technology-based channels of communication under control, our self-proclaimed betters must make sure people, who, being people, want to talk to each other, get no chance to do so. They might spread the wrong ideas. Thus, the activities and businesses hardest hit are those where people, often even strangers, talk to each other – restaurants, churches, concerts. This, on top of promoting, with the tender mercies of the government’s monopoly on force, the dogma that people are disease vectors above all else and must be managed as such.

Thus, the official story becomes the only story. If the president actually succeeds in his efforts to have the courts throw out all the bogus ballots and root out the other patent fraud, the country will be largely blindsided.

Which was the fallback position from the start: delegitimatize.

C. Low Background Steel. I didn’t know that.

D. Just spent 10 minutes looking for the cup of coffee I made this morning – a nice big cup in an effective heat-retaining vessel. There are about a half dozen places I routinely set down a coffee and then walk off – near the piano, on one of two desk, kitchen table. Not there. Finally found it – I had taken a brief morning recon walk around the back yard, noticed some out-of-place items, put the cup down in a planter, tidied up, and walked off without it.

It’s been hours. It’s cold outside. The coffee was still well above room temperature.

Not sure I can say as much about my short-term memory.

E. Back to the election. When, back in 1886, the immediate ancestors of the Chicago Outfit threw the ballot boxes from the working class districts in the river, such that the voters for the opposition candidates would see them float away, I’ll bet the people in the better neighborhoods didn’t hear about it for some time. By the time they did, the claims had already been dismissed as sour grapes at best, but probably just more machinations by the hated Anarchists behind the 8-hour work day.

I mean, why would a sane person believe anything that deplorable immigrant rabble said?

*He actually didn’t say it was mandatory, but good luck finding instructions on any official site for voting in person – I tried. The rabbits all thought it was mandatory, so it, effectively, was.