TMI

Let’s do this like good poetry: start with the immediate, move to the universal, then bring it back home.

For the first time in several years, I seem to have caught a cold or maybe the flu. Or maybe the Dreaded Coof. Since I don’t have either of the only two distinguishing symptoms – no sudden acute respiratory issues, and sense of taste is as good as it’s ever been – I’m sticking with ‘flu’ on the ancient principle that distinctions that make no difference should be ignored.

My wife and son are also under the weather, although my wife has long been bulletproof as far as minor illnesses go, and so she’s acting as if she’s fine. If she ever really looked and acted sick, I’d be taking her to the emergency room. The son has a bit of asthma, which amplifies the effects of any sort of cold or flu, so he’s a little more out of it.

(Aside: could you imagine anything more tedious than people typing up and detailing their flu symptoms on a blog? For crying out loud, in the distant past of 2 whole years ago, such a one would be regaling anyone he could button hole over by the water cooler, and be avoided if at all possible. Now? It’s an art form. There will probably end up being a Pulitzer category for most epic description of a minor illness. The competition will be stiff.)

Day 3 – today – woke up at the usual time, took the traditional (for me) acetaminophen/ibuprofen + vitamin C and cough drops cocktail, and went back to bed. Now, a few hours later, I’m doing OK, much better than yesterday. Went from ‘eh’ on Monday morning to bouts of shivering in the evening (30 minutes in a hot bathtub works wonders on that). Slept half the day on Tuesday. I’m betting on ‘feeling tired’ as the outcome on Thursday.

Big whoop. I’ve now had two of my 4 living kids get the Coof with about this level of symptoms or less, and dozens of friends and acquaintances. A total of zero deaths and one hospitalization – an 87 year old who made a quick recovery.

I have sympathy for anyone who lost a loved one over the last two years. I don’t know anyone who has lost a reasonably healthy loved one to the Coof – anyone, that is, that they were emotionally and geographically close enough to to know first hand how healthy they were. (This long disclaimer is occasioned by friends who lost a relative living 10,000 miles away. Just no way to tell much of anything about such a situation.) What I don’t have too much sympathy for is people who put mom in a nursing home who then are sure the Coof killed her, who then try to guilt me for not caring. No, nursing homes are where people are warehoused until they die, mostly within 6 to 9 months. At worst, the Coof sped it up a little; more likely, the Coof showed up on the death cert because that way the nursing home gets government money for caring for a Kung Flu patient.

We had a wedding and reception last weekend. Under the soon to be tightened up rules from our self-appointed betters, such gatherings will be forbidden. Cost and benefits are not being weighed here.

(Now for the real TMI.) It should go without saying that such weddings and receptions are the stuff upon which any civilization worth having is built. My wife and I were married in 1987. We raised 5 kids with, essentially, no help from either of our families. I can make excuses for them, but the base reality is that neither family cared enough to make it happen. Both our families of origin are torn apart in various ways – geography, goals, beliefs – and by various hurts both petty and profound.

My wife and I were very aware of this, and decided to do whatever we can to not let it happen to our kids. First, we work together, and stay together. For reasons that I can’t say I understand, our kids have all become best friends for each other. One cute example: younger daughter drove older daughter to her wedding in my convertible, so older daughter insisted on driving younger daughter to her wedding in my car as well. It just seemed like the thing to do to them.

The kids stay in touch with each other constantly; they have made trips, sometimes cross country trips, to visit each other while they were in school. Now, 2 live close to each other, a third is talking about moving closer once he’s done with grad school, and the youngest is with us. And we’re planning to move much closer to both daughters ASAP.

This should be no big deal, it should be something anybody with kids would be hoping to do, anybody with beloved siblings would want. But is it? Instead, a marriage as traditionally understood, where the whole goal is 1) for the spouses to support and sustain each other; and 2) produce and raise children, is laughed off stage, replaced with ‘fulfillment’ or some other seductive ephemera. Over the last 30 years, marriage was first mocked (my wife and I, living in San Francisco, were personally so mocked by gay men) as something only stupid ‘breeders’ did. Then marriage was invaded, then destroyed.

Our little experience of non-support from our families is now the norm. Kids (if any) are expected to leave the nest – and never look back. Not that it would matter – people my age and maybe 10 to 20 years younger seem to be far too self-absorbed to even consider making changes, let alone sacrifices, for kids who probably hardly know them and don’t really like them.

Which brings us back to weddings and receptions, celebrations of exactly those family ties most hated by our current cockroach overlords. Such events held in the cold of winter (even here in California it gets cold-ish) are really good places to catch a cold, the flu, or even – gasp! – the Coof! So – do we stop doing it? Do refuse to live well so that we can ‘live’ wrapped in bubble wrap and terror?

So, I sincerely hope all the other guests are OK, if, indeed, the wedding festivities are where we picked this bug up. (Probably not, right? 2-day incubation seems pretty quick. More likely picked it up earlier in the week? But what do I know?). I, for one, would not have traded the wedding gatherings for any mere safety from a cold or flu – “It’s a dangerous business, walking out one’s front door”.

Three Quotations and a Link and an UPDATE

Off in a bit to begin the ceremonies – rehearsal, rehearsal dinner today, then wedding and reception tomorrow – demarking the handing off of Younger Daughter to her husband.

UPDATE: Logistics are a bit – interesting for this wedding. The church is a little over an hour away, near where Younger Daughter lives; the hall where the reception will be is about 20 minutes from there. BUT: the team doing the catering is my middle son (bride’s older brother) and his lovely wife of all of 6 months. They both have years of experience in food service, so it’s not as crazy as it seems. Issue: our nice kitchen has been volunteered for all the food prep – an hour and a half away from the hall. The hall also has a nice kitchen. The proprietors of the hall generously allowed us access starting at 3:00 today for a reception that start around noon tomorrow. But (almost) everybody involved is in the wedding itself, so we need to do as much set up between 3:00 and 4:40 (5:00 start of the rehearsal, a 20 minute drive away). Then, morning of, do the final cooking of the hot stuff so that it comes out warm around noon.

Future son-in-law knows a big Catholic family, the patriarch of which also knows my middle son and his wife – two of his daughters worked with them in the kitchens at Thomas Aquinas College. So, as we’re prepping here like mad, son gets a call from the matriarch of the above large family asking: how many of my kids do you want me to send over to help? So three daughters, two of whom have worked with and for my son, will be meeting the posse at the reception hall at 3:00 to help with set up and prep. Pretty darn cool. One friend of a friend also volunteered to get the cooking started morning of the wedding.

So, it’s working out. I rented a house for tonight in the neighborhood of the church, so we all can crash after the rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, and the finishing touches on the reception hall, and mom can support the bride without a 1:30 (at least – there’s snow on the mountains, skiers will be jamming the road Saturday morning) drive. Again, we are grateful and blessed.

So, quotations – first up: Eddie Burke, because why not?

Where trade and manufactures are wanting to a people, an the spirit of nobility and religion remains, sentiment supplies, and not always ill supplies their place; but if commerce and the arts should be lost in an experiment to try how well a state may stand without these old fundamental principles, what sort of a thing must be a nation of gross, stupid, ferocious, and at the same time, poor and sordid barbarians, destitute of religion, honor, or manly pride, possessing nothing at present, and hoping for nothing hereafter? I wish you may not be going fast, and by the shortest cut, to that horrible and disgustful situation. Already there appears a poverty of conception, a coarseness and vulgarity in all the proceedings of the assembly and of all their instructors. Their liberty is not liberal. Their science is presumptuous ignorance. Their humanity is savage and brutal.

Reflections on the Revolution in France

And

All circumstances taken together, the French revolution is the most astonishing that has hitherto happened in the world. The most wonderful things are brought about in many instances by means the most absurd and ridiculous; in the most ridiculous modes; and apparently, by the most contemptible instruments. Every thing seems out of nature in this strange chaos of levity and ferocity, and of all sorts of crimes jumbled together with all sorts of follies.
In viewing this tragi-comic scene, the most opposite passions necessarily succeed, and sometimes mix with each other in the mind; alternate contempt and indignation; alternate laughter and tears; alternate scorn and horror.

Ditto
Ready, Eddy?

The consistently incisive and depressingly accurate analysis of Clarissa, who grew up under the Soviet Union and teaches at Woke State someplace, commenting on the thought processes of the Supreme Court considered as a bunch of aging Boomers:

Sotomayor has already asked how “a human spewing virus is different from a machine spewing sparks.” As one’s brain ossifies with age, one begins to perceive the world through analogy. Everything gets referred back to one’s past experience. Everything is “just like.” Accepting that anything can be genuinely new means facing that one is outdated, possibly even mortal. And no, not every old person is like that. There are rare but important exceptions. For the most part, though, this is exactly how it works. If you don’t subject your brain to rigorous daily training in processing new information from new sources, you will become that sad old fart who “justlikes” every conversation into the ground.

And her further thoughts. Sigh. I’m so sick of her being right.

Finally, a slightly more amusing quotation:

“Let no one wear a mask, otherwise he will do ill; and if he has one, let him burn it.”

St. Philip Neri

Probably check in again next week. Until then, party hardy.

The Predicament & “Experts”

(Wow – that last Predicament post was all over the place. There’s a real idea in there someplace, at least I imagine there is. Here’s another crack at it.)

When I was 23? 24? I thought I’d like to go to grad school and get a masters in – Liturgy. No, really. The reasoning was as bass ackwards as it sounds: I had already learned a little about the Catholic Mass and traditions through a volunteer job I had after graduation, and wanted to share my (24 year old. Sheesh.) wisdom – but nobody’s going to listen to me! But if I had a *masters* in Liturgy, they’d have to! Right?

And then it dawned on me: that’s all supposed expertise is, in the ‘reality will not be allowed to disprove you’ world of most academics- I get the advanced degree so that I can push my own special brand of nonsense on the world, and they have to listen because I’m an *expert*! In the vastly less popular ‘put-up-or-shut-up’ fields such as engineering or even business, your degree might get you a job, but you run a real risk of losing that job if you fail to perform. Not so with ‘education’ or social work or the odd liberal arts degree. Those are ‘reputational’ fields, success at which consists of getting and maintaining a suitable reputation among others in that field.

Impressive-sounding degrees really help get that reputation going. There’s also a strong feedback loop: once you get that Master’s or PhD or law degree, you become part of the pool of people who set reputations. Since their reputations begin with the sort of official certification they have received – he’s a *doctor*! She’s a *lawyer*! – people in the field are very unlikely to disparage such degrees, at least to ‘laymen’. To take an extreme example: people who get a degree in Gender Studies will not get very far – build a solid reputation in the field – by disparaging Gender Studies degrees. Perhaps lawyers among themselves talk about law as the votech field it is, I don’t know. But just try having an opinion about law around a lawyer, and see how fast (however subtly) they will mount their defense upon the barbican of their degree. Since the whole law degree/bar exam thing was set up as a way to restrict supply (and raise prices/income) by what are effectively lawyer’s guilds, the magic of the law degree must first of all be defended against laymen. John Adams and Abraham Lincoln, who practiced law rather successfully without the benefit of formal academic training in law, are not the model here, regardless of their reputations.

Over time, the highest reputations in reputational fields will necessarily be held by the people who pay the most attention to reputations. Thus, when introduced to such people, we will often find out quickly their degrees, where their PhD was obtained and where they teach, maybe about some publication that enhanced their reputation in the field. Most important, these high-reputation people then become the gatekeepers of – reputation.

Such people then generalize their expertise. Reputation comes to equal brilliance – he teaches at Stanford or Harvard! He must be an expert! A genius, even! Such a one’s intellectual dogs are soon off the leash, so to speak, nosing about in every field that smells promising. Given the feedback loop of reputational fields described above, if I, the sort of glib poser who is the type-specimen here, hold a degree and agree with the experts in my field, I am likewise a genius and an expert! I of course will pay a certain reverence to my betters in my field, as a primitive worships the sun whose light is the source of his reflected glory. But to outsiders, I am a recognized expert! Bow to me!

First order of business for the expert class: keep the non-credentialed posers in line. In business school, I had to take a business ethics class. Can virtue be taught? Who cares, as long as there’s a paying gig to offer required classes in it. The prof was as bad as you might imagine, a procedure obsessed self-righteous prick. He’d explain his grading methodology in elaborate detail, so we’d all know how fair and transparent it was, and then ask us open ended moral questions for which there were no wrong answers unless he didn’t like them.

He didn’t like mine very much.

Seriously, how does one become an *expert* in business ethics? Is there this long noble tradition of business ethicists, experts in how to be virtuous at business, respected if not loved by their enlightened and now equally virtuous students? To ask the question is to laugh. Instead, a vita is constructed wherein degrees and studies and even experience are aligned in such a way as to make the claim of expertise in business ethics palatable – to the ‘experts’ on the hiring committee. Oh, he studied philosophy, and then worked in industry where he was on an ethical review committee? Then got a PhD in something? Good enough! Once you get that first job as a professor of business ethics, that becomes the star of your vita, and the battle is over.

Similarly, there is science, and there is policy. They are not the same thing, any more than the principles of business are morality. The charge of the electron is something scientists – Mikkelsen and his successors – figured out in a series of elegant experiments. Arsenic was isolated by Albertus Magnus, and, centuries earlier, a process to isolate it was described by Jabir ibn Hayyan (I had to look that one up – full disclosure). But knowing everything about the observable properties of electrons or arsenic tells us nothing about whether we should drive an electric car or poison somebody.

The Predicament rears its ugly head: we want to follow somebody, an expert seems like somebody good to follow, but we humans seem incapable of distinguishing what, exactly, an expert is an expert *in*, let alone only following the lead of experts insofar as what they are leading us through is what they are experts in.

We seem – I think, maybe not, the world is insane – to know that an auto mechanic fixes cars, but is not by that fact an expert on where or how you ought to drive the car he just fixed for you. Somehow, we shelve this simple, obvious truth when faced with more decorated and aggressive (and thin-skinned) experts.

Our predicament: most of us all of the time, and all of us some of the time, must rely on somebody else’s opinions. We have been taught to rely on the opinions of experts. We have not been taught to question the nature and limits of expertise. Therefore, most of us all of the time, and all of us some of the time, are made uncomfortable if not angry by the mere thought of pushing back or questioning the limits of expert opinion.

In the expert opinion of the founders of this nation and of centuries of English law, the most crucial, life and death decisions are too important to leave to experts. What else are trials by jury and elections than the manifestation of our long-standing distrust of experts?

Yet, as a people we are lost, terrified, and angered by anyone who questions the approved experts. This needs to stop. An expert worth respecting acknowledges the limits of his own expertise. Does he have special knowledge of proper policy? Really? How did he get it? If not, why is he attempting to dictate policy?

The Predicament

(4;30 a.m., wide awake, so let’s blog!)

What I’m here calling the Predicament is something with a thousand faces, touched on in a million ways; Pournelle’s Iron Law, Gell-Mann Amnesia Affect, herd mentality, group think, mass psychosis, class distinctions, compulsory schooling, ‘news’, ‘political campaigns’, sports fandom, and I’ll think of more.

Call it human nature, if you want. Or, better, canine nature. Even allowing for the irresistible tendency of people to project human motivations onto the behaviors of dogs (itself yet another example of the Predicament), dogs and people have a lot in common. When we say dogs are pack animals, what we mean is that the typical dog just wants to know who’s in charge. Dogs are easy to train, because, once the trainer establishes that he is in charge, the dog becomes eager to do what he wants. A skillful trainer first never lets the dog wonder who is in charge, and second is good at communicating what he wants the dog to do.* A happy dog is one that knows exactly where he stands in the pack hierarchy.

In feral packs, some dog becomes the alpha. Sometimes, there are battles between the alpha and wanna be alphas, but most often, the lead dog can just stare down any pretenders. The important part here: almost all the dogs just want to know who is in charge. They really don’t care which dog leads, they just want a leader. The average dog just wants to follow, and is really unhappy when he doesn’t know who to follow.

Once read a blogger’s story about being drummed out of the army. Turns out he was naturally immune to the intimidation techniques used by drill sergeants to break down the recruits.** When his would yell at and bully him, he just laughed, and couldn’t control himself. They had to get him out of there, fast, before he destroyed the whole process for the other recruits.

So: the Predicament. Whatever we may think, whatever we may pledge ourselves to, even when we are most rebellious – hell, sometimes *especially* when we’re most rebellious – what’s really going on is that we’re just looking to see who is the big dog, who it is that we’re supposed to follow.

(Agent Smith voice:) I had a little revelation, in my old age here: without ever trying, without ever even desiring it, I won almost every alpha male battle I was ever in. Now, while I may look a little like an alpha – 6’2″ tall and, as a young man at least, strapping – I’m about as intimidating as a puppy. BUT – by a combination of cluelessness and not having any f’s to give, I was simply immune to a lot of the gamesmanship and intimidation used to establish pecking orders. So, on sports teams, in social groups, in groups of volunteers, at work, when the subtle little games got played by which people are put in their places, I ignored them (if i were even aware of them) – and so I won. I got voted team captain, head of the crew, head of the department, the guy people looked to for ideas. People would see that I was not backing down and not being intimidated in any way, and assumed I was the alpha – and so I was.

Huh? Me? But the facts stand. I tell this story only to illustrate how desperately and reflexively people want a leader to follow.

So here is our predicament: wanting to belong -which, in practice, means wanting to know who to follow – is a need so dramatically and powerfully prior to any desire for the truth that the truth simply doesn’t enter into it. The truth will be sacrificed; hell, the truth will never be acknowledged. It is so dreadfully uncomfortable, so terrifying, really, to not know who you are following, that 2+2 really does equal 5, as far as you are concerned, for all of us most of the time, and for most of us all of the time.

The drumbeat of lies we’re being subjected to doesn’t even register with most people. They just want to know who is in charge, and find some relief in belonging to the vast herd of followers. The level of trauma needed to disabuse most of us probably exceeds death – many of us would rather die than to fall out with our group. We won’t even notice the inconsistencies, the hypocrisy, the insanity of our beliefs. When Goebbels said he could make a Brown from a Red in a couple weeks – turn a fanatical Communist into a fanatical Brownshirt – he meant that he, a master propogandist, could leave the fundamental fanaticism intact while changing the object of allegiance. He could take advantage of the fanatic’s overwhelming desire to belong to swap out the much less real object of his fanaticism.

And we, ourselves, we habitually skeptical few, will fall for some of it some of the time. We are only human, after all. The price of sanity is eternal vigilance, it seems.

*A little twist worth thinking about: dogs who are best at doing what the humans want get to breed; dogs who defy their humans don’t. Over time, only sports defy their humans.

** Militaries have learned over time that the more human instincts of the recruits need to be broken down and replaced with those that promote obedience and unit cohesion. That’s what basic training is all about. In the Civil War, all sorts of untrained volunteers quickly assembled into regiments and divisions and headed straight off into battle. When the guy next to him got blown apart, that volunteer turned out to be unimpressed by orders from his commanding officers – Ohio farm boys and New England shopkeeper’s sons tended to drop their arms and walk away after a few hours of battle, tops. So – boot camp, to minimize that sort of thing. They minimize it largely through – you guessed it, right? – peer pressure. The deserter is the outcast.

Post Calorific Vision Update/Collected Wisdom

A. Back to back Thanksgiving feasts, Thursday with Elder Daughter & in-laws, Friday at soon to be Younger Daughter’s in-laws. (Should all that be hyphenated? “At the house of the family that will soon become our younger daughter’s in-laws” is what I’m saying. She’s already our younger daughter…)

It was very nice to hang out with friendly, descent people simply having a good time enjoying each other’s company. This is the antidote to the life of fear being rammed down our throats – which is why it is both critically important to do it, and why our self-appointed betters are trying so hard to keep us from doing it. People simply getting together with people without getting anyone else’s permission is the death of totalitarianism.

On to more pleasant aspects. Our new granddaughter was the star of the first gathering. One month old, and, sadly in one respect, a chip off the old block: sleep is strictly optional, and not to be indulged in when it would be most appreciated by mom. BUT: sleeping in the arms of granddad seems to work, so I got a bit of bonding in, sitting in quiet places, holding and patting the little angel as she slept. Prepping her for a sleepless night, no doubt. Sigh.

We finally got the 4-generations photo: great grandma, grandma (my wife) mom (my daughter) and baby.

On to Gathering: The Sequel. The soon-to-be in-laws raise pigs, so the highlight of the meal was a ham that had been part of a pig raised on the property not too long prior. Ham from a home-raised pig is a completely different thing: much redder, more tender, different texture altogether, and delicious. Not a huge ham fan in general, but this stuff was excellent. So daughter’s soon to be father in law (this is tiring!), a very generous man, weighed us down with frozen pork as we headed out the door. I’ve now got a couple pork chops the size of small dinner plates and nearly the color of beefsteak, a pound of bacon, sausage, thin-sliced ham, a nice hock, some dried meat sticks – very cool stuff. It’s probably going to stay in the freezer until Christmas, as we’ve got leftovers to last nearly until then!

But much more important: the house was full of children, I think I counted 6 who were 5 and under, and a handful of teenagers. Included were a set of 11 month old twins, crawling about.

And everyone was totally cool, herding the kids around when necessary, but otherwise just letting them be kids. I love that! In all the exactly 2 perfect and socially responsible children households among most of our acquaintances, the adults would not be able to simply let the kids do their thing without constant supervision. Here, all the adults – and the teenagers, including our youngest son – are perfectly fine at keeping one eye on the short people, doing a little minimal intervention if absolutely necessary, and otherwise acting like normal human beings. Exactly once, I corralled a crawling baby and redirected/redeposited him in the living room when he had headed out into the dining room – only because that’s where most of the older people were, and he seemed headed out of easy view.

I might have overreacted.

The baby took it completely in stride – big strange person he doesn’t know, scooping him up, making faces and yakking at him, moving him back to the room he’d just crawled out of, plopping him down next to his brother and a couple toddlers. He just got on with it.

One toddler had a wee bit of a poutfest because he’s a toddler. Otherwise, no fits or crying jags or acts of wanton destruction. Kids were absolutely having a blast playing with other kids, adults got to be adults. This went on for hours.

It might seem stupid to harp on people being normal and happy – but this -THIS – is what is our betters are trying to take away from us. THIS is what masks, lockdowns, mandates, anti-social distancing, fear, mind-numbingly STUPID propaganda, and getting the terrified to report on the sane, are trying to destroy.

So get out there and have fun with people you love!

Gratuitous picture of a back yard raised pork chop. Computer mouse for scale. None of that ‘the other white meat’ nonsense here!

B. Note: we didn’t host any Thanksgiving events ourselves. Yet, the total kitchen output leading up to Thursday and Friday:

The spousal unit: 14 pies, including the usual – pumpkin (both traditional and strudel), apple (both two-crust and strudel) – and specialties – hazelnut-pecan (to die for), mincemeat (the real deal) and carrot-ginger pie (which looks like a pumpkin pie, but tastes quite different)

The youngest son: whipped cream for pies, hard cream (whipped cream with brandy in it) for the mincemeat.

Me: 8.5 lbs. of pot roast, beef gravy, three loaves of pumpkin bread (to give to one of the ladies who helps with grandma), 2.5 dozen pumpkin cream cheese muffins (To share with neighbors), an apple pie (for the other lady who helps with grandma).

Team effort. There’s a ton of overlap in there – youngest son and I peeled a lot of apples, for example, and I was assigned the task of mixing up some pumpkin filling for pies my wife was baking, and she supplied the mincemeat and instructions, and I made the crust and assembled the pie. And so on. Output listed by who was responsible, but the work was shared.

Totally fun. We did our best to clean as we went, so the kitchen is only sort of a disaster.

C. A downside: Despite what Heraclitus says, the road up and the road down are not the same. 1 hour, 16 minutes to get home from Elder Daughter’s house; 2 hours, 10 minutes to get there; 1 hour, 23 minutes to get home from future in-laws house; 2 hours, 10 minutes to get there. The 80 corridor from San Francisco to Sacramento (and beyond to Lake Tahoe) is prone to heavy traffic. Returning later in the evening, we hit none; going up in the early afternoon was not so good.

That’s why we need to move closer to people we love (and farther from people we loathe. Win-win.)

D. More reality from Clarissa’s blog. Do things to be normal. Do things to be yourself.

When I was a kid, the women I admired the most were the ones who put make-up on first thing in the morning on weekends and holidays. This meant they saw themselves more as women than as cooking-cleaning-disciplining-yelling machines. With the makeup they were signaling that they wanted to be liked by men. This meant they were likely to smile more, scream less, and be easier-going. Kids automatically veered towards the make-up wearing ladies in the house because they were more open to playing with the kids or at least not as likely to police their every move.

Obviously, make-up isn’t necessary to be a happy woman and not a screeching harpy. But in the USSR, everything was designed to crush both womanhood and manhood. You needed to work hard to not feel like a sexless cog in a gigantic production machine. Men had their own rituals of maleness, just like the women had the weekend makeup.

If only you knew how hard it was to get makeup in the USSR. The fact of being willing to use the precious, rare substances when nobody outside of your family would see you signaled that you valued the private space over the public. And that was. . .not in keeping with the ruling ideology, let’s put it that way.

Not sure what this really is, but it appears to be a Soviet-era ad for lipstick?

E. Got a bunch of way-cool Christmas presents to make, which – the best kind – require the use of power tools. Rain has not returned since the monsoons of October, and none are forecast before 2nd week of December. So, out come the table saw, router, sanders, and planers, in the nice sunny 60F weather expected for this afternoon.

Do something you like, with people you love. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Year-End Update (a little early)

A. First of all, gratitude to all the readers of this blog. Not sure why the beloved 100 readers (on a very good day) come back for more, but thanks. Just know that you’re only encouraging me.

The writing here has come out even more unfocused than my original intent, which was pretty broad. “Culture. Religion. Politics. Science. Philosophy.  Music. Art.” was the original charter 11 years ago. We do do that here, but also a lot of Home Improvement Projects and blithering about the books I intend to write. Which brings us to:

B: The ‘I should write a book about that’ books I’ve worked on here on the blog, ones where I might be qualified to have an opinion, are:

  • A book on the origins of the Catholic schools here in America, and how they have arrived at their current sorry (with very few exceptions) state
  • A more general book about the origins of schooling in America, circa roughly 1700 – 1940. An expose of the clowns and poseurs involved, and the paper-thin fantasy world that constitutes the foundation of all modern ‘scientific’ education.
  • The How to Think About Science book.

Starting with the last one first: as the Crazy Years progress, it’s painfully clear that ignorance of how science works is so far downstream from the real problems as to be all but irrelevant. The best case scenario, where someone reads my book, reexamines his world view, and changes how he thinks about things – sigh. Not happening in the real world.

And it’s not even the rejection of logic, which you have to have at least some grasp of in order to begin to understand how science works. Underlying both logic and the science is the notion that the world makes sense. That the world IS. Our well-schooled contemporaries specifically reject the very idea of shared objective reality in favor of a world willed into being by their own narcissistic selves. That any such world is definitionally inconsistent, and conflicts necessarily with anyone else’s similarly constructed world is not a problem for the dedicated narcissist. That they hold both to the sacredness of people’s self-constructed reality AND bow and scrap before the altar of social and political conformity isn’t a problem – they never expected the world to make sense. It’s Will all the way down.

When my teeth are set on edge by patently anti-science claims of ‘settled science’ and ‘scientific consensus’ or people doing as they are told claiming they are ‘following the science’ which they haven’t read and wouldn’t understand if they did, I imagined the problem was the general lack of scientific literacy, and thought I might be able to help a little by writing a book about basic science.

Silly me.

Therefore, I’ve reconsidered the point of this proposed book, why I would write it and who it is for. I’m reading Kreeft’s Socratic Logic now, and perhaps will write this book as a sort of follow-on with a focus on the specific application of Aristotelian logic used by modern science, insofar as it has any legitimate claim to our acceptance of its conclusions.

So, basically, a high-school level book. (Kreeft’s book is also supposed to be a high school level book, but it’s pretty tough. He, an expert, isn’t leaving much out, and there’s just a lot of logic that’s not obvious or simple. Good, but tough.)

Time frame: Once we’re moved and settled.

The other two books I get bugged by my kids to complete. They’ve heard some of the points I make about schooling from the cradle, and have found them to be true in the world. They’d like there to be a book (or two) summarizing these things. These works have been in the works for years now. It is time.

Time frame: Once we’re moved and settled. I’ve recommenced reading source materials. as evidenced by the last post.

#magnus pyke from Old School Science Fiction

C. Then there are the fun books I’m supposedly writing. Well, I set a goal for this past June for the first of several speculative fiction books I hope to write, and got thousands and thousands of words into them…

But I didn’t finish. May 2021 was when the insanity finally began to get me down. It started taking work to just get on with it, whatever ‘it’ happened to be at the moment. As it became clear I wasn’t going to get any of the spec fic done by June, I got distracted by a musical composition. Why? I have no idea. Writing music and writing stories really are very similar: you get an idea, you pound it into some sort of shape, you write the next part and the next part and so on, sometimes skipping ahead to more fun/clearer ideas, and then backtracking to write the connecting scenes. Then read it out loud/play or sing it, rewrite as needed, then get other people to read/listen, and take their feedback…

And I’ve gotten maybe 5 minutes of a 6-part Gloria written, with a minute or so more to write, plus outlines/sections for a Kyrie and Agnus, and a idea or two for the Sanctus. Haven’t even thought about a Credo yet.

Why I found it possible to write music and not possible to write fiction is anybody’s guess.

Time frame: I’ll keep working on the Mass while we pack up and prep the house; the books I’ll take up again once we’re moved and settled.

D. We gotta get out of this place. We had the house tented a month ago; getting quotes for painters. Spoke with the Pods people, looking to start loading out in January.

Yesterday, picked up 10 bags of ready mix; today used 8 of them to put in what I intend to be the last segment of the vast, endless front yard home improvement brick project. Scaled it well down from the original plans – no grotto, less fancy brickwork. Sigh. Need it simply not to look ugly and unfinished. So, simple wall topped by some redwood lattice.

Aaaaand – a million other things need to be done. Not to mention the final pack what’s left up and get out of Dodge push in a couple months. Then finding a new place to live….

E. In a somewhat round-about way, I’m looking for a job, specifically, seeing if a new Chesterton Academy that is to open near where I’d like to live might hire me to corrupt the minds of our youth, after the fashion of Socrates and Aristotle. And quote a lot of Chesterton. It would be nice to teach, and have a little income.

F. All in all, I’m very grateful, and have gotten past letting myself get too down about the current insanity. For the most part. I used to pray in thanksgiving for getting to live in a land of plenty in a time of peace. Now? I pray that God will remember His promise of mercy, and, for the sake of His Name, for the sake of the Blood shed by His Son, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, He will not judge us as our sins deserve, but rather forgive us yet again. That He will send Mary, who crushes the head of the serpent, Joseph, the terror of demons, and Michael the Archangel to lead the heavenly host down to cast Satan and his minion out of our lives, our nation, and our world, bind them and cast them back into Hell where they belong. Then, that He may grant us the strength to endure whatever we must and the grace to die to ourselves and live only for His Will.

Otherwise, who can stand?

Have a happy and holy Thanksgiving!

The Visitation of Mars

From That Hideous Strength:

Down in the kitchen MacPhee sharply drew back his chair so that it grated on the tiled floor like a pencil squeaking on a slate. “Man!” he exclaimed, ” it’s a shame for us to be sitting here looking at the fire. If the Director hadn’t got a game leg himself, I’ll bet you he’d have found some other way for us to go to work.”

Camilla’s eyes flashed towards him. “Go on!” she said, ” go on!”

“What do you mean, MacPhee?” said Dimble.

“He means fighting,” said Camilla.

“They’d be too many for us, I’m afraid,” said Arthur Denniston.

“Maybe so!” said MacPhee. “But maybe they’ll be too many for us this way, too. But it would be grand to have one go at them before the end. To tell you the truth, I sometimes feel I don’t greatly care what happens. But I wouldn’t be easy in my grave if I knew they’d won and I’d never had my hands on them.”

“Oh,” said Camilla, ” if one could have a charge in the old style. I don’t mind anything once I’m on a horse.”

“I can’t understand it,” said Dimble. “I’m not like you, MacPhee. I’m not brave. But I was just thinking as you spoke that I don’t feel afraid of being killed and hurt as I used to do. Not to-night.”

“We may be, I suppose,” said Jane.

“As long as we’re all together,” said Mother Dimble. “It might be … no, I don’t mean anything heroic … it might be a nice way to die.” And suddenly all their faces and voices were changed. They were laughing again, but it was a different kind of laughter. Their love for one another became intense. Each, looking on all the rest, thought, “I’m lucky to be here. I could die with these. “But MacPhee was humming to himself:” King William said. Be not dismayed, for the loss of one commander.”

Chapter 15

Be not afraid.

An Intrusion of Cockroaches

(Note: not judging people who have been forced, on pain of the loss of their jobs, to get the jab themselves. Rather, asking: where is the line? What will our betters have to demand of us to make us say ‘No.’? We all had better figure that out, and soon! And then say no and take the consequences. There is no elegant and peaceful out.)

There is nothing so horrible, brutal, and cruel that most people will not go along with it, so long as they think their peers are going along with it.

For centuries, at sites all around the Mediterranean, it was customary for infants and children to be sacrificed to the gods. One does not read of the Punic mothers of the infants ‘passed through fire’ to Moloch fighting to the death on the steps of the local tophet trying to save their babies. Instead, one reads of drums being pounded and priest shouting to drown out the screams of the infants being burned alive, lest their fathers go soft and regret their decision.

The parents, being good, loyal citizens and pious worshippers of the gods, did their duty. Life was cheap, even or perhaps especially the lives of helpless babies. Phoenician society – their families, friends, and neighbors – supported them in their decision. There are too many things so much more important than the lives of babies. Think what will happen to us all if the gods are not appeased? You want all that evil to befall us, simply because you are too soft to do the right thing? How selfish!

I hear an echo of this sense of duty in a story told about the Hatfields and McCoys: a son, having been shot and mortally wounded in a retaliation raid on the other family, was carried, screaming in agony, past his mother. She says: “Shut up, and die like a man.” – which he did. Obedient to the last. Motherly love.

Or the story told about how the Nazis “recruited” female prison camp guards. They would round up likely women – farm girls, shopkeepers, the sort of people the Third Reich could spare a few of – and, in large groups, place a Jewish woman in front of them. The candidates were then instructed to strike the Jew as hard as they could. Typically, something like 95 out of 100 would promptly do it. Four would need some cheering on, but would do it eventually. Only about 1 out of 100 would refuse – and get put in the same cattle cars to the same final destination as the Jews.

Women, supposedly the tender sex, would comply with orders to behave bestially toward another helpless woman. The about 3 to 5 out of every 100 who were already sociopaths (those are the numbers ‘experts’ throw around for the incidences of sociopathy) would find their true calling. The rest simply made accommodations in their hearts and minds, noting, first, that the state, the Fatherland, was telling them to do this, and they had been trained from the cradle in good Prussian-style schools that their entire worth lay in their service to the state; second, they did not want to endure the scorn of their betters and peers; and finally, that they didn’t want to die just yet. I think, given the innumerable examples from history, that that last cause is overrated. Fear of being ostracized in enough to turn most people into animals.

It is prudent to boil the frog slowly. The people in charge of the staffing the prison camps were perhaps in a hurry. They weren’t exactly trying to toss frogs into boiling water – they could rely on the decades of schooling by which the prison guard candidates had been softened up. Therefore, they could settle for a 99% success rate, and simple dispose of the occasional unsuccessful candidate.

The one thing they could not allow was for those who refused to comply to live. They must be isolated, at least, lest they, themselves, form a alternate community where not obeying the state is supported.

We, to our credit, needed more care: it took all of 19 months to move from ‘flatten the curve’ to ‘show your papers if you want to work or buy.’ To the cheering of throngs. 19 whole months. And, to our credit, there are still a significant number who have not yielded. But it’s terrifying how many reject plain English and move directly to the Just So stories:

Plain English: the ‘vaccines’ don’t work. They don’t keep you from catching, spreading, or dying from the disease. Therefore, because they don’t work, everybody must be forced to get them.

Just So story: but, but – jumble of words and terms very few who use them can explain or understand! Herd Immunity! Reduced risk! Asymptomatic transfer! Variants! If ALL these things, and a dozen more, are *exactly* as they are said to be, then, maybe – recall this is all theory, there is no history or evidence behind any of it – it would ‘reduce overall risk’ (something nobody using the term understands!) if *everybody* got the jab – that doesn’t work.

Clarity versus noise.

Now days, it seems maybe something like 80%? 85%? of us can be counted on to do exactly as we’re told, and to perform 2-minute hates on command against those who don’t. As anyone who has tried to reason with Normie knows, the reasoning that underlies this behavior is the language of compliance, not of evidence. *What* we are to comply with is not important, merely that we comply. They use the language of authority, which is the antithesis of the language of evidence and science.

The open question here: how much of that 80% is made up of true believers? How many have just slapped the Jewess because the price of not slapping her is too high, but don’t really believe she and her kind are responsible for the growing failure of the war effort? How many have, or soon will, offer up their own children to Moloch, because failure to do so puts you on team Emmanuel Goldstein, cast out of the company of the *good* people, and gets the two-minute hate directed at them – and what is the life of a child compared to that?

This Afternoon, at the Mandate Protest

Protestors at an intersection across from the police station, near city hall. This is just one of four corners, each with a similar sized crowd – 200+ total, is my guess, and we got there towards the end.

Via posters and text messages, word got out that there was going to be an anti-mandate protest downtown at a one of the sleepy little suburbs adjacent to where we live. It was scheduled to run from 2 to 4. We didn’t get there until 3:20, and when we left at about 4:10, it was still going strong.

I was struck by how normal the protestors were. Just a typical crowd of Californians like you’d run into anywhere. Contrast this to any media pictures you’re likely to see of any approved protests, where the participants look like angry freaks. Here, we found people unmasked, smiling, milling around, chatting like people.

Had an number of pleasant discussions. One gentleman said he never protested anything before, he hated doing it, but felt compelled for his children’s sake.

And that’s the thing. There are some people who love them some protesting. Normal people don’t. The idea of making a spectacle of yourself is appalling to normal people, but is the drug of choice to the angry, miserable people in the woke set.

In general, we got a lot of drive-by honking and waving support. The funniest: a big old fire truck drove up, sirens blazing, turned left at the intersection, firemen waving at the protestors, then, about a block down the street, turned sirens and flashing lights off. Then, maybe 15 minutes later, did it again. Ha.

Only one angry incident: a car made a left turn right in front of us, and a masked old man made the driver stop, jumps out and starts a profanity-laced tirade – at a man holding a “My kids will know I was not silent” poster. Huh? “Deranged” was comment someone near me made. Buddy, if you truly believed the jab was protecting anybody from a deadly disease, and that other people not getting jabbed put YOU at risk, why in the world would you GET OUT OF YOUR CAR TO GET WITHIN INCHES OF THE UNJABBBED? Wouldn’t you, like, stay away from such smiling disease vectors?

It was encouraging to see normal people acting normally – and not putting up with obvious tyranny.