Year End(?) Update: Wedding, Writing, Stuff

I’m going to use the following feeble excuses for not writing here for over a week:

  1. Younger daughter is getting married in 3 weeks;
  2. I’m ‘working,’ mostly in the sense of worrying about and planning, the sale of our house in (we hope) March;
  3. It’s the week before Christmas.
  4. Volunteered to help the Caboose execute his Eagle Scout project, which tied up the better part of the last 2 weekends.
A local cemetery, managed by our parish, has suffered from neglect and vandals for many years. It is the resting place of many of the pioneers of our town, with graves dating back to the mid 1800s. The local historical society as well as the parish and some of the neighbors have been trying to fix it up. The Caboose’s Eagle project: put in two benches, replace the vandalized and missing cross from the central monument, and clean up. Above: one of the benches, concrete still wet.
An epoxy resin cross (getting granite was not in the budget) affixed atop the central monument, from which vandals had destroyed the original. It came out way better than anticipated – this angle distorts the scale and might make it appear too small, but it’s not.

Other than that, I got nothing. What I have been doing:

A. Making Christmas gifts for the family. They are coming out nice, but, since it’s possible some of the recipients might read this blog, I’ll have to skip the pictures and of course any further details until they have been delivered.

B. Finishing the Gloria I’ve been working on, and working on the Kyrie. I’m at the point where I need to let the Gloria sit – I can keep tweaking it forever, but I probably will just let it go.

I switched over completely to composing in Musescore. It – just works, and revisions are so, so, much easier. Sigh. All that time mastering buggy whip making writing fair score by hand is now useless. My son-in-law swears by Musescore as a composition tool, as you can get instant playback as you go and the fair copy is a print command away. Beats stomping stuff out on piano, which is my usual method.

Sheepish request: any musicians out there with Musescore who would like to hear it/offer feedback? It’s all of 4 minutes long. If so, send me an email at yardsale of the mind (without the gaps) at G-mail dot etc. and I will email you the file.

C. Watching a Youtube series on counterpoint and fugal writing, based on Fux’s Gradus ad Parnassus. On the one hand, I know some of this stuff; on the other, I’m largely an ignorant fool. As I think Nadia Boulanger once said: composition is not theory, but technique, and you get technique by practicing. Will I live long enough to work my way through all of Fux’s and Gran’s exercises? Writing in this style – counterpoint and fuges – is highly technical and mathematical – there is structural stuff you need to work out before you get very far . I’m very bad at that part. Don’t know how many times I’ve written myself into a corner…

D. Had this very vivid idea for a story. Of course, I’ve got half a dozen other writing projects I have not been working on, so now I get another idea. Saw a meme the other day, where this writer is musing something like: “Some people got to bed and *sleep*? They don’t toss and turn working out the plots for a 7-book series? And then they wake up *refreshed*?” I haven’t slept well in years anyway, seems I just need to get mor4e productive about it. I may throw up a chapter as semi-flash fiction when I get a minute.

F. 3 years into involuntary semi-retirement. I need to get a job. Don’t need the big bucks anymore, just something reasonable.

Aaaand – that’s all I have time for at the moment. Tomorrow and Friday begin the annual Great Christmas Cooking & Baking Event. With married kids, we have multiple Christmas/New Year’s/Epiphany parties to go to/host, my beloved is in demand as a pie maker, and I’m always making something, too. So, maybe catch y’all next year.

Have a happy, holy, and blessed Christmas season, not to end before Epiphany at the earliest!

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.

All Saints Eve

Having dinner with younger daughter and her fiancé they came by to carve pumpkins, make caramel apples, and watch a movie. So we spent part of the afternoon carving these:

We choose pumpkins mostly for their future value as pies. Thus, weird shapes are a feature, not a big.
This and previous were my works. Kept it semi-basic this year.
This is daughter’s. It’s a fairly tale carriage, even if the picture doesn’t capture the details.
Future son in law’s. Should I be worried? It’s actually pretty cool.
Caboose went basic/classic

Four or five groups of kids have been by so far.

Public Schooling Sucks: Some Thoughts on History

I’ve seen a couple of those viral videos of parents standing up to their local school boards and making a stink over the latest outrage – critical race theory, gender theory, the order not to watch what the school is teaching their kids, masks, vaccines, the whole load.

One wants to cheer them on, but, unfortunately, those brave, well-meaning parents just don’t get it. From Day 1, however you want to count Day 1, parents and families are the problem compulsory public schooling was invented to solve. By standing up and opposing the ‘educators’ on the school board, all these parents are doing is acting out the role those educators have already assigned them: the backward, ignorant, bigoted hicks from whom it is the school’s calling to ‘rescue’ their kids. Those educators are not trembling in fear, or trying to see how they can work with those parents. They are merely seeing confirmation of everything they already believe about those parents.

So, those educators might try to silence the parents, but, more probably, they’ll let them say whatever they want, then simply lie by omission and commission so that they can keep doing what they do. Go ahead and rant – behind the scenes, those ‘educators’ are working with their allies to simply criminalize your behaviors. Private schools? Home schooling? Those are merely trivial speed bumps, to be disposed of as the one room schools and classic liberal arts schools were disposed of, by the patient application of endless pressure until they conform or can be eliminated.

Boy, isn’t this picture all sorts of ironic and symbolic and all that!

Three moments: one, in which ‘the system’ formally collapses but the behaviors persist; one where the primacy of compliance over sanity is illustrated; and finally one where schooling stops but never ends.

  1. From Clarissa’s blog: the USSR has collapsed, but decades of training persist in both the bureaocrats and the students:

In 1996 I was a college student in Ukraine. One day, we were sitting in class, the professor was speaking, the students were taking notes. Suddenly, an irate secretary from the Dean’s Office burst in. Interrupting the professor in mid-sentence she screeched,

“Everybody, get up and go out. You will be sweeping the alley outside. Now! You, too!” pointing at the professor.

The professor, a youngish guy we thought was very cool because he had traveled the world and spoke an almost fluent English blushed and started stuffing papers into his bag. Everybody got up. Except me.

“What’s going to happen if we don’t?” I asked. “This isn’t the USSR any longer. You can’t make us.”

“Get up and go sweep now!” the secretary bellowed. “Do what you are told!”

“No,” I said. “I’m a student, not a street cleaner. I’m not going to sweep. What can you do to me?”

The secretary looked apoplectic. The other students started shooshing me down.

“It’s OK, we’ll go, we are going right now!” they piped up in mousy little voices.

“You will go because you want to volunteer,” the secretary said. “It’s the right thing to do. The alley needs sweeping. You will go now.”

College students! The professor! All trying to silence Clarissa and get her to comply with the demands of a toothless tiger. Their training is complete.

2. A 16 year old girl who refused to wear a mask was handcuffed and taken out of school by police. Note: the police aren’t masked up; the students take off their masks to eat lunch. The issues is not some farcical sense of safety, but rather that a *student* dared to defy *school officials*. This young woman and her family and lawyer had decided not to put up with the bullying, and the school officials did the only thing they could do: call the cops and have a child handcuffed and hauled away. The option would have been to ignore her – and that would show weakness in front of the kids and their parents.

3. Finally, a personal story: two retired public school teachers ran an annual trip to Mexico so that high school age students could help build houses for the poor. There were usually as nearly as many adults as kids. Many of the adults made the trip year after year, even when they no longer had any kids involved. For 5 or 6 years, when our kids were the right ages, I went along.

The two teachers simply expected to lay down rules and for people to obey them – kids, parents, didn’t matter. Teacher says it, it’s rule, you do it. As you might imagine, almost everyone, kids and adults alike, went along with this without a peep. Except one year, the teachers decided that stopping in Tijuana on our way out for lunch and a little sightseeing was too dangerous, and so was not to be done. Well, one older gentleman, a guy who had run businesses and been mayor of his little town out in the sticks, who had gone on and helped organize the trip for many years, who, not surprisingly, was one of the most capable builders, he wasn’t buying it. Since my kids were catching a ride back with him, and he wanted to stop in Tijuana, he asked ME if I minded, AND asked my kids if they minded, and I of course said I don’t mind, do what you want. I can’t imagine a more competent guy for my kids to hang out with, I trust my kids, and the ‘risks’ of Tijuana were overblown, to say the least.

Well, when this got back to the teachers, I had to deal with a weeping woman asking my how I could have been complicit in such an outrage. She had told people what the rules were! The very idea that one adult simply does not have to do what another adult tells them to do was simply inconceivable to her – she was in charge! She was the teacher.

Note that nobody had any issues with any of the rules about safety while we were encamped in Mexico. We get it. We’re a bunch of kids and adults in a foreign country, so we want to behave well and be safe. But for years, a fun part of the trip was a stop in Tijuana on our way out to grab a bite and maybe buy some trinkets for folks back home. But this year, without any discussion, it was simply decided that it was now ‘unsafe’ to do what we’d done every year before. So it wasn’t a matter of the situation being any different – it was a matter of unsupported feelings that things weren’t as safe as they used to be. So, being a teacher, she just changed the rules. The very idea that other adults might want to have a say and would not instantly go along with whatever she decided brought her to tears.

Teachers are the first victims of schooling. They must be brought to heel, or filtered out.

Getting way long here. Wanted to start a discussion on the beginnings of all this, the mindsets of the people involved. Will limit it to two very early examples, and add more later as time permits. I think both these examples were in the minds of the later champions of state control of education – Fichte, Barnard, Mann, von Humboldt, Harris, certainly Dewey.

Sparta: At least the Spartans made no bones about their intentions: the family had to go so that the ‘free’ men could best defend and serve the state. Spartan children, if they passed inspection, were allowed to be raised by their mothers until age 7, at which point the state took over. Mothers and fathers did not live together, but were more or less temporary breeding couples to produce more Spartans.

Spartan boys were assigned a cohort at age 7, trained to be soldiers until age 18, typically spent a year or two spying on and terrorizing the Helots. They then became full soldiers at 20. At 60, they got to retire. Women were basically breeders, who trained the girls to grow up into the next batch of breeders.

A boy’s whole loyalty and sense of belonging was to his military band. Training was in loyalty and conformity. A boy had essentially no opportunity to develop any independent personality – and that’s the way Sparta liked it.

Despite that whole 300 mythology, the first duty of a Spartan was not war – it was to keep to Helots down. Sparta had conquered and enslaved the surrounding territories. Since you need a minimum of 8 or 9 people producing food for each Spartan soldier and mother not producing food, your slaves are going to outnumber your Spartan citizens something like 10 to 1. The fully-trained young men were sent among the Helots to make sure they knew who was in charge. This reign of terror over their slaves is what enabled the Spartans to sustain the standing army, famous for its bravery and discipline.

I find it difficult to accept how admired Sparta was by many in ancient world, and many people throughout the subsequent ages – but there it is. Sparta remained intact for centuries, but at what cost? Outside their reputation for military prowess and unbending discipline, they left nothing of much worth. Is that enough?

We live in a Sparta-haunted world. The image of Lycurgus reforming Sparta by top-down fiat seems to be a dream of our betters (if a nightmare for us little people!) By, effectively, removing the family from its natural position as the building block of society, modern would-be Lycurguses believe they, in their wisdom, could bring about a utopia of some sort – for our own good, of course.

Martin Luther’s Germany: Not passing judgement on Luther’s theology here aside from his stand on schooling and his relationship with the state in general. I discussed here Luther’s very un-Pauline habit of addressing his epistles largely to secular powers, who he never fails to attempt to recruit for his purposes, explaining what their new freedom requires of them.

Viewed from a strictly practical perspective, to make the Reformation stick, Luther had to overcome opposition from two main camps: first, from those German Catholics not buying his teachings, and second and more serious, from those who accepted his teachings too literally. The first group simply rejected the very idea of the five Solas; the second accepted them too much, so that they thought they, themselves, were as fit as Luther to interpret Scripture as they, themselves, were moved by the Spirit.

That sort of individual freedom of conscience, which later came to be associated with Luther somehow, was not at all what he meant: everyone was free to interpret Scripture the same exact way Luther did. To Luther, his was the only reading that was possible in accord with the primitive Church and under the guidance of the Spirit. If you thought Scripture meant something else, you were wrong. Contradict Luther much, and you were dead – at least, if Luther got his way.

Catholics were, for the most part, merely benighted. They could be and often were converted to believe as Luther did, and a good bit of Luther’s writing and preaching was directed toward that end. Other Protestants who accepted the principles that Scripture could be read and understood by any man under the guidance of the Spirit and acted upon those principles, yet failed to agree with Luther, were a more existential threat. From the very first, Catholics had been pointing out that, without Tradition and the authority of the Church, Scripture can be read in an almost infinite variety of contradictory ways. The existence of Sola-professing Protestants who did not agree with Luther on every point was a problem – for Luther.

From the beginning, Luther saw the hand of God in the support he received from German princes. For their part, German princes had chaffed under the meddling and arrogance of the distant, non-German Pope since at least the 10th century. Throwing off the spiritual yoke of Rome also meant getting out from under the political yoke.

Practically, any church independent of the state and making any spiritual claims at all upon the princes of that state is going to run afoul of those princes sooner rather than later, realpolitik being a thing. The solution since the beginning of history: states control religion. While they have been a spectacular failure through most of history, the Catholic Church’s attempts to stay free of state control is still one of the biggest outliers in history. The Great Schism – speaking simply historically here – lead to the creation of state-controlled Orthodox churches: Greek, Russian, Ukrainian, etc., all of which were firmly under the control of the local king or emperor, at least to the extent that the local patriarch was not likely to attempt to use his spiritual authority to dispose them- something Popes were known to try.

Luther ignored all this, and sided with the German princes, who happily supported him back.* Luther saw the support of the state as the hand of God, and so wrote to the princes and civic leaders under them to exhort them to continue to do God’s work.

Luther soon concluded that God’s work included compulsory state run schooling. He wanted every child to learn to read so that they could study Scripture; he wanted every child to learn to read in a state-controlled school so that they would reach the same conclusions from Scripture that Luther reached. The ‘risks’ of letting everyone read Scripture themselves and reach their own (Spirit-guided) conclusions were almost instantly apparent, once the Reformation got going.

Except for the few destined to be scholars, Luther and Melanchthon, who drafted up the original compulsory public school plan used by Luther, had little use for any schooling beyond the basics. Kids should learn to read, learn a little Latin, and then get on with making a living – all under the management and compulsion of the state. Clearly – and Luther talks about this – if you left such instruction to the discretion of parents, they would do it wrong!

When Fichte modernized Melanchthon’s and Luther’s plan 300 years later, he did away with anything recognizably Lutheran, and simply put the realization of the destiny of the state as the sole goal. To him, the distinction between the spiritual goals of individuals and the spiritual destiny of the (German) state was a misunderstanding, a lack of enlightenment. The value of the individual was the value that individual had to the state; the fulfillment of the state’s destiny was the personal fulfillment of the individual, insofar as personal fulfillment had any meaning.

And, of course, something this important could not be left up to parents. In fact, Fichte agrees with Luther that, left to parents, all the higher goals of education would get frustrated. Parents are the problem schooling is designed to solve. Fichte wanted to simply remove children from all family contact until their state schooling was complete. But more on that later.

* Today, the Lutheran and Catholic churches in Germany are tax-supported – the German Catholic hierarchy is the most likely to act independently from Rome on matters of morals and dogma. The German state has neutered religion – Catholic and Lutheran – in the public sphere, and has a choke collar on it financially.

Reading Interlude/Update

Still have the second half of Painter’s book on Luther’s role in education reform to review, and a few SciFi classics. Need a break.

A. One problem: I read slowly, in my dotage. This has something to do with reading a lot of philosophy and history, where speed kills, so to speak. It dawned on me- slow on the uptake – that I don’t really need to read SciFi or, mostly, these education books super carefully, as the points are generally not that subtle or evasive.

While I was never one of those blazing fast 3 novels a day type reader, as a kid, I was certainly a faster reader than I am now. So I consciously decided to read much faster.

It works. While there are definitely works that warrant a slow careful read, most of the stuff I’m reading now doesn’t. This one small trick has halved the scary pile of unread books (literally, I had to move stacks to the floor when cleaning up the other day) in terms of reading time.

Of course, the book on the top of the stack was Kreeft’s Socratic Logic which is one that needs to be read more carefully. But most of the pile can be read pulp speed.

B. Interesting times. We have 2 weeks to get the house ready for fumigation, as part of our efforts to sell it. Since we need to vacate the premises anyway, and a friend got us a couple tickets at no cost to us, we’ve decided to attend the Thomas Aquinas College 50th Anniversary Gala in Beverly Hills. Black tie. Not the usual shindig for the Moore family.

Fortunately, as a tenor who has sung in a number of choirs, I already own a tux. Bought it used 25+ years ago, haven’t worn it for years – but it fits. So I’m in with only a dry cleaning expense + I indulged in a new shirt. But my 17 year old son needed suiting up. I can recommend Dunhill, a seller of used tuxes. We ordered him one for under $100, found the coat was a little too large, they sent us a replacement no questions asked before I’d even returned the too large one. Good folks.

And it looks great. I was surprised at how nice it is, does not look used at all. A fit young man like our son looks awesome in a tux. Bond, James Bond.

As for the womenfolk, grandma owns a number of nice formal dresses. My beloved did the classic thrift store route, where she ran into another shopper who was totally into helping her get the right dress. Women are different. I can’t imagine a male stranger deciding he needed to help me, for example, get just the right suit, nor that I would not be weirded out by such attention. But this nice woman saw my wife shopping, and just sort of jumped right in, offering suggestions and reviews, looking for shawls that would look good with the dresses – and she and my wife seemed to have a good time doing this.

So my wife came away with two thrift store gowns, both of which passed muster with our daughters, who have picky good taste in such things. Huh.

C. The history class I’m teaching just completed week 4. Things are sticking a lot better the second time around for me, which is nice, plus I don’t have nearly the amount of prep to do, I can mostly just use what I did last year. So it’s a lot less exhausting and more fun.

The kids are great. The two oldest have spearheaded efforts to bring tea and snacks for the Thursday seminar. We’ve had shortbread, some sort of custard tort, and cucumber sandwiches so far. Homeschool kids for the win!

D. Whatever creative energies I have left after the above activities I have been directing at getting this mass setting I’ve been writing done. I don’t know why, exactly, but I got a (long-suppressed) jones for composing out of nowhere, and ran with it. The Gloria is maybe half a dozen measures from done, and the Kyrie and Agnus are started. I only have an hour or two a day to work on this, tops. I need to get back to the novels and non-fiction projects, but for some reason this mass seems urgent. Huh.

Education Reading Update

I’m constructively working through my anxiety by reading. So far, got 3-4 books off John C Wright’s Essential SciFi Library list read or reading, and a good start on my collection of Thomas Shields and Edward Pace writings. Reviewed Shields’ First Book here. Am halfway through his Making and Unmaking of a Dullard, an autobiography of sorts, framed as a Platonic dialogue. Think Symposium, but with early 20th century Progressives instead of Alcibiades and Socrates. In other words, much less fun.

Also, found The Catholic Educational Review, VOLUME XI January- May 1916 on Arhive.org. This is a periodical founded by Pace & Shields which ran for decades. Sigh. I’m going to slog through at least this volume, just to get a feel for it. Finally, have a dead tree copy of Shields’ The Philosophy of Education (1917) in the stacks here, got to fish it out and read it next. Then, I must return to Burn’s The Catholic School System in the United States, which I never finished reviewing. Burns got his PhD from Catholic University in 1906 under Shields and Pace, wrote the definitive history of American Catholic schools, and went on to be president of Notre Dame.

Shields, Pace, and Burns are the big dogs when it comes to Catholic education in America. Until they came along, parochial schooling and Catholic colleges were a bit of a free-for-all. For better and worse, they put some order onto Catholic schooling.

All three appear to me to be American Catholic Millennialists, believing that by application of scientific psychology to Catholic education, America can lead the Church to a perfect, or at least a better without limit, world. They are the foremost representatives of Americanism after the manner of Hecker and Brownson. It is fascinating that Pace and Shields were responsible for the article in the 1914 Catholic Encyclopedia discussing the heresy of Americanism, where the pope’s and many Americans’ concerns that the American Church was being lead into Modernism by its some of its leadership were dismissed as a mere baseless misunderstanding.

Right.

The optimism and faith in progress of these men is all but unbelievable. They are just sure that, by applying modern scientific thinking to education, they can create perfect little American Catholics, who are of course without question the model for Catholics world-wide. Their late 19th century psychology and ideas about science are not an advance on phrenology. Seriously. We’ll get to that in a moment.

A couple notes:

The Catholic Educational Review, VOLUME XI January- May 1916

– A large portion of this volume is devoted to an attack on the Carnegie Foundation’s views of education, as expressed in a recent report the Foundation had issued. The gloves are totally off. I have no real understanding of what the issues are, but I can guess. I’ll write this up when I’m done reading it.

– This raises the endless issue: now, I’ll need to find and read that Carnegie report, right? Sheesh. Everything I read points to multiple other sources that seem essential.

Making and Unmaking of a Dullard

– This dialogue seems to be little more than a gripe session about the interlocutors’ childhoods, in order to provide Shields with the opportunity of expostulating on his frankly silly psychological theories.

– Shields lists 7 ways a dullard, or idiot, or atypical child can be created, but focuses on one, the one to which he attributes his own difficulties in school: Alternating Phases of Development. Here’s how Shields puts it, in answer to the Judge’s request for an explanation:

“A full explanation of this physiological phenomenon, Judge, would involve a treatise on the physiology of the nervous system, but stripped of technicalities the important facts in the case are these. All vital functions are controlled by nerve currents….

“On the other hand, the process of mental development, as indeed all the phenomena of consciousness, rest upon high tension nerve currents in the cerebral cortex. Now, it frequently happens that a boy or girl grows very rapidly for a few years, during which period the physical organism makes such demands upon the nerve energy that the cortical tension is lowered and there is not sufficient nerve energy left to carry on the work of rapid mental development.

“We all know how injurious it is, for example, to indulge in mental work immediately after eating a hearty meal. When food enters the stomach it originates nerve impulses that draw the blood away from the brain for use in the processes of digestion. If brain activity be indulged in at this time, the blood is withdrawn from the viscera and forced into the brain under an increased pressure to furnish the required nerve energy and thus the digestive process is delayed and sometimes the digestive apparatus itself is injured.

“Now, we have a similar conflict going on between mental and physical development. It seldom happens that during childhood and youth the balance is preserved between the growth and development of the body and the growth and development of the mental processes. The extent to which this balance is disturbed and the length of time that each phase continues varies within wide limits.”

“If you exclude the children who have become dullards through any one of the six causes just enumerated, and arrange the children in any third or fourth grade room in accordance with their physical development, you will find them fairly well classified inversely as their mental capacity, that is, the brightest children will be the smallest and the largest children will be the dullest. Here and there puzzling exceptions to this rule will be found, but these are not sufficient to obscure the general truth.

“The eagerness and ambition of the smaller children, coupled with their quickness of movement, indicate high cortical tension. If these children are constantly over stimulated, as frequently happens, their physical development may be retarded for some years. In extreme cases they are to be found among those children whom over-fond mothers are in the habit of regarding as too bright or too good for this world. Less aggravated cases not infrequently result in permanent invalidism. This is particularly true of girls when the period of over stimulation is carried beyond the twelfth or the fourteenth year. If these precocious little ones escape disease and death from over stimulation they will finally reach a time in which the balance swings in the opposite direction and physical development, so long retarded, sets in with unusual rapidity. The ensuing mental phase is characterized by lack of energy which to the uninstructed is pure laziness.

CH V, Alternating Phases of Development

So, quick children need to be slowed down by the expert educationist, so as not to overdo their nerve energy or their cortical tension and thus damage their minds and become invalids. You can see the beginnings of No Child Left Behind here: the solution is to dumb down the bright kids – for their own good – and make sure the slower kids get to catch up. All very scientifiliciously described.

That a kid might grow and learn well if encouraged to follow his own interests is not to be considered. Instead, the bright child is to be frustrated in his desire for learning, on the basis of a half-backed theory that is buzzword-compliant, circa 1910, but has little else to recommend it. As Lewis (I think) put it: say you are going to experiment on children, and everybody is up in arms. But say you’re putting them in an experimental school, and all is good.

– Again, Shields has his interlocutors refer to or quote from contemporary sources that I’ll have to at least look up.

Got a lot more reading to do. Further bulletins are events warrant.

Movin’ On Out – Update

More Classic SciFi Book Reviews to follow soon, as I am retreating into comfort reading as I deal poorly with the stress of living in insane times. But for now:

Met with a realtor today. Walking around the property, it finally became real that we’ll be moving out. Going through rooms and talking over features and issues, I relived some of the 25 years we’ve lived here, and the childhoods of the 5 children we’ve raised here.

Not as bad as it looks – the roof is the only thing really sad, but that’s enough to condemn it.

I found myself getting quieter and more introspective as the tour went on. I’m going to tear down the three story playhouse above that my two younger sons and I built – it’s not in too good a shape, and it would be simpler to destroy than to repair. The trampoline stays, I guess, since the realtor thinks the dedicated trampoline spot would look funny without it. The pizza oven is a feature, I hope. Need to make the front garden look less unfinished, but I don’t think I can bring myself to finish it as originally planned.

Had this for about 20 years. Kids used to sleep on it with their friends. Is it the same trampoline if I’ve replaced the springs once, the bed twice and the netting three times?

We’ll take cuttings from the little fig tree that has become such a delight to us – delicious figs, and the tree is so peaceful. We must see if we can take grafts from the citrus tree grown from a seed by out late son Andrew, that now sits planted in the front orchard. Have to research how to do this. The dead-looking tree below is actually very alive – another Andrew project, he found a buckeye out walking and asked what it was and what would happen if he planted it. It’s been in pots and now a half wine barrel ever since. We must figure out how to take it with us, and then plant it wherever we end up. It loses its leaves very early every year – it wants to be in the ground!

The native chestnut tree, grown from a buckeye Andrew found. This thing is like 20+ years old!
This Mineola tree is likewise 20+ years old, Started in a plastic cup, IIRC, then moved to a succession of larger pots, until we finally stuck it in the ground 5 years ago. Just trimmed it severely yesterday – it has long aspired to be 30′ tall; I insist on about 8′.
My beloved bought this dwarf fig from a neighbor, it lived in a half wine barrel for many years, likewise planted it 5 years ago. It’s been yielding 20-30 nice figs a day for weeks now.

25 years. A lot of water under this bridge. We never planned to live here this long, it was supposed to be our starter home. But that’s how it worked out.

Thursday Updates, Including Interaction with the Medical Community

A. Another first for me: replaced two dishwashers. No, I’m not hiring manager for a restaurant. Going on 16 years ago now, we went with two dishwashers in our remodeled kitchen – a good choice, very handy, especially with 5 kids at home at the time. But 16 years is like 90 appliance years – these things were failing in their final cause.

Old units awaiting their fate.

On Monday, I made the drive down to the former Sears Outlet in San Leandro to pick up 2 out of box display models of a couple cheapish but well-rated Whirlpool dishwashers, thus saving about $250 over the best retail prices I could find. Bonus: Worked in a side trip to a TLM in Oakland on the way back. Of course, this means I, at 63 years old, am hauling dishwashers in and out of my minivan. Fortunately, these modern units are very light.

Next up: watch a bunch of YouTube videos on how to install dishwashers. Then, spend a couple hours on my knees and back turning water off, unscrewing, unhooking, unwiring, and sliding old units out, then screwing in, hooking up, plugging in, turning water on, and shoving new units in. Only needed 1 (one) trip to Ace for parts! Ickiest part: a lot of gross stuff, including stuff mysteriously glued to the floor, had accumulated under the old dishwashers over the years. Cleaned it all up, so that, in a decade or so, when the next guy replaces the dishwashers, he’ll have a cleaner floor to look at.

Much better. Need to clean those smudges off the front. The important thing: it cleans dishes real good, and doesn’t leak!

Only difficult part: the drain hose hook up for the unit next to the main sink (the 2nd unit is connected to the rinse sink on the kitchen island) is to an air vent located way to the back behind our oversized sink. No way you can even see it; had to lie on my back and disconnect and reconnect the hoses by feel. Let us pray I did a good job – it will be a pain in the back most literally to fix it if it leaks.

Now to load the old units in the minivan and take them to the appliance disposal center, where, last time, it was about $25 a pop for them to take the junkers off my hands. My dad fu is strong. 😉

B. School starts again in a couple weeks. I will be teaching a combined History/Lit class to nine 8th and 9th graders this year. From Greece through the Middle Ages. Should be fun, especially since I will not be creating the class plans and assignments from scratch this year, and also since it’s a combined class, not two classes like last year. Maybe 3 total hours of classroom time per week.

C. Pizza! This Saturday, when it is predicted to be 100F outside, we will be holding a pizza party for the third consecutive weekend – younger daughter’s birthday, little brother’s family visit, and now kickoff for the new school year. I invited the Board, students, and their families – at least 25-30 people, could be much higher.

From the top: Margarita, some Frankenstein abomination, and the house special: smoked salmon, goat cheese, and capers on an Alfredo sauce. These were the last 3 coming out of the oven last Friday.

Should be fun. A pizza party ends up taking about 3-4 hours of prep, then 3-4 hours of standing in front of a blazing hot oven. I enjoy it, but it leaves me pretty worn out by the end.

D. Had to go see my doctor, where we eventually got around to discussing my non-vaccinated status. The discussion went nowhere. He was getting pissed by the end. I kept asking for numbers, he’d show me gross numbers, I’d try to explain what they meant, round and round. He’s convinced 600K+ people have died of the Coof; I point out that 2/3rds of that number don’t show up in the total deaths; I’d say his chance of dying if he caught it is about 1 in 50,000 (young healthy male) while he thinks it’s 1.7% – the gross number you get from the John Hopkins report, which includes all the sick, old people – of which he is not.

It was too rushed. That a doctor would confuse the risk of a population for his personal risk is not inspiring. Let’s say 50,000 Americans die of breast cancer each year (making it up) – his chance of dying of breast cancer remains zero (almost) – because he’s not a woman. I assume he understands that. But then to turn around and accept a ridiculous 1.7% fatality rate as applicable to him, when by far the major risk is to elderly, sickly people? I also asked him if 5 to 10 years of children hospitalization data was available, so that we can rationally judge if COVID has in fact measurably increased juvenile hospitalization rates. He ignored it.

Really nice guy, good doctor and all – but, like 99.9% of everybody, doesn’t understand numbers nor science. Facts do not speak for themselves – they require understanding of the factors that fed into them before they can be understood.

42.

ADDENDUM: Another family ‘tradition’: losing the can opener. Sure, we’ve had plenty of standard manual can openers over the years, but is seems we inevitably lose them until we have only one – and then lose that one, until ut turns up someplace we all swear we already looked for it. Most common use: to open cans of evaporated milk, which several of us prefer in our tea.

So, years ago, when one of our can openers broke, we fixed it. Broke again, fixed it again. Finally, the handle was unsalvageable, but the business end was still good, if unuseable. So we threw it in a drawer, because the next time I had the woodworking tools out, I would just make it another handle, and then we’d have *2* openers to lose.

That was years ago. This morning, I noticed the forlorn opener fragment, and said to myself, I did: why not now? So, I found a suitable scrap of walnut, grabbed a saw, a rasp, drills, sander, clamps, and got to work.

At first, it was going to be strictly functional – just get a handle on it that won’t give anybody splinters, through some tung oil on it, call it a day. Buuuuut…

It started looking good. Walnut is beautiful. So, by the time I had got it all fitted up, it was looking pretty cool. So, last step before oiling: glue in the metal part.

After 15 seconds of looking around, I opted for Super Glue – because, you know, there was a tube in the junk drawer. Checked the fit and alignment one more time, then shot some glue into the cavity, applied a little to the plastic sleeve, and started twisting it in…

And the glue instantly set up about halfway in, with the business end at an odd angle. The amount of force it would take to move it would have broken the wood:

Oh, well. We’ll just lose it anyway.

More Family Humor

We were sitting around discussing the possibility of buying some land and building houses for us and the kids on it. I used the term ‘compound’ which didn’t go over well with younger daughter. “That is what it would be called,” I replied, “I won’t be writing a manifesto or anything “ She suggested ‘homestead’ which I objected to because it’s wrong – we’re not going to be homesteading.

Youngest son suggested we call our fantasy future digs a “fun size gated community.”

Touché.

More Family Sayings:

Continuing one of the items in the last post. Thanks for all the comments about your family sayings, keep ’em coming. Here’s a few more from Casa de Moore:

  1. “Nice haunches he’s gettin’. Beautiful.” From Babe, used whenever something is turning out nicely.
  2. “Anyone else want to negotiate?” From Fifth Element, used whenever the discussion has reached a conclusion, especially if that conclusion was reached via some physical action.
  3. “Right again guys! Group hug.” Galaxy Quest.
  4. “But who cares?” Ruby Rod, Fifth Element. Needs to be said in the insane Ruby Rod voice.
  5. “That’s a good rule. But this is bigger than rules!” Babe.
  6. “Phasers on stun!” Sometimes I will harken back to Bloom County and say “Phasers on deep fat fry!”
  7. “The trees are really quite lovely” Princess Bride. Trying to find the good in a bad situation.
  8. “I shall be very put out.” Princess Bride. Whenever expectations are not likely to be met.
  9. From the distant past: every time I’d change a diaper, I’d say, in my most serious voice, “I can change you. But you have to want to change.” The wide eyed look on the baby’s face always cracked me up.

This is pretty endless. I’m sure I could come up with dozens more if my daughters were still around – they were into musicals (and my eldest has a freakishly-good memory for dialogue) so we’d have a constant stream of bits from Oklahoma and Singing in the Rain and Hairspray.

One of my weirder habits I passed on to them: just breaking out in song at the drop of a hat, most commonly in an over-the-top showtune belting style. Showtunes and jazz standards, for the most part. I bet my kids were looking for a place to hide when their weirdo dad started in singing in the kitchen….