1 Just finished our first week of school. It was good.
2 California has more natural beauty in greater variety than any place else I’ve ever been. America is beautiful, yes, and every state I’ve ever been to (all but a handful) has places of great natural beauty. But no other state has as much variety: the Mendocino Coast, the redwood forests, the SoCal beaches, the high deserts, the low deserts, Yosemite, the Sierra foothills, Mt. Shasta, San Francisco Bay – all very beautiful, all very different.
Then there’s Lake Tahoe:
My pictures don’t do it justice, as from the ground or surface, one can only capture a very small part of the lake and landscape with any one picture. We spent a few days in Truckee, just east of Donner Summit of Donner party infamy, attending my wife’s family reunion. (She is oldest of 11, and so family reunions tend to run LARGE.) Several of her brothers kindly located and rented a couple cabins, so that everybody from Grandma down to my granddaughter – 4 generations! – could spend some time together. (The first such grand reunions happened 10 years ago, just a couple weeks after our eldest son’s death. This one was more fun.)
Driving from the Truckee at the north side of the lake to South Lake Tahoe, where the only real town on the lake is located, takes an hour – a beautiful hour, driving winding mountain roads through forests, with the lake popping in and out of view.
Tahoe is deceptively huge: 18 miles long, 12 miles wide may not sound that big, but it’s deep, with an average depth of 1,000 feet. People love to toss around Tahoe facts, like: there’s enough water in Tahoe to cover the entire state of California to a depth of 14″, and that the deepest parts of the lake, at over 1600 feet deep, are lower than the plains of Western Nevada just to the east.
So, if you get to visit Golden State, avoid the insanity of the cities and just see the natural wonders. For my top 3, I’d go Yosemite, Redwoods, Tahoe in order of preference, based on a combination of sheer beauty and you’re not going to see anything like it anywhere else. Then – the other stuff.
A. The rental house is proving quite comfortable, if a little tight (it’s about 2/3 the size of our last house). One oddity: the owners don’t want us messing with the landscaping, which, IMHO, could use a little messing with. But I get it: their typical renter is not likely to improve matters.
For me, this means there are not too many possible spots to plant some vegitables. One obvious spot: a 4′ x 4′ hole in the pavement along a side yard, which seems to have been paved at some point as RV parking, maybe. Don’t know why this hole exists, but:
We will have 4 months – August, September, October, and November – for tomatoes to grow. It’s been running about 100F during the day (but, thankfully, cools to around 60F at night) so good tomato weather. Shouldn’t be a frost before December… Anyway, worth a shot.
B. Took some cuttings from our favorite trees before we sold the Concord house – the lemon in the backyard, the fig and Mineola in the front. The figs are quite happy:
The citrus – not so much. This is the third round of cuttings. All but one of the first set of cuttings died (took me far too long to get them into soil – citrus seems far less tolerant than the figs). Maybe a couple of the second set survived. Maybe. But the third set, which has only been potted for a couple weeks, seems good so far.
I read that citrus must be grafted onto certified disease-free rootstock. I’ll look into that sometime early next year. For now, if I can just keep them alive until then, I will consider it a success.
All these little trees, or at least the best of them, get planted on the homestead – once we find and purchase one.
C. Attended the Chesterton Schools conference in Milwaukee. Great people, really fired up about education and especially Catholicism. Got to spend a little time with Dale Alquist, the world’s leading expert on Chesterton, founder of the American Chesterton Society and the Chesterton Schools Network. Very nice man. I gave him every opportunity to talk me out of writing a book about the history of American Catholic Education, but, alas! he simply refused. Rather, he even encouraged me. So now I guess I’m going to spend the summer trying to get that thing finished.
D. Now for something completely different. I’ve been thinking a lot about disreputable professions and Vo-Tech schooling. Traditionally, education, and especially higher education, was concerned chiefly with passing on a learned culture and all the skills needed to maintain it. It was a group effort: with the possible exception of the occasional Aquinas or Abelard, no one person could carry very much of that burden. Thus, while all scholars prior to modern times were expected to have a broad knowledge of the works of their fathers going back at least to the Greeks and Israelites – the Great Books part of the education – only the most brilliant and dogged became true masters of more than a tiny subset of All That. At least, that’s how the story looks to me.
But then the Research University was invented and realized at the University of Berlin in 1811 with Fichte as its first Rector. The purpose of higher education was shifted with dizzying rapidity from passing on and possibly contributing to a rich and awesome patrimony to ‘moving the world forward’ through focused research. By the end of the 19th century, every American university declared itself a Research University. The pathetic little colleges that tried to keep to the more ancient tradition were eventually staffed entirely by products of the research universities, and thus wouldn’t be able to tell you the difference except by sneering at our primitive and long-obviated ancestors.
But research doesn’t train up much of anything except future ‘researchers’. So where are your professions coming from? The original answer was generally some sort of apprenticeship. A wannabe lawyer ‘read’ law with an existing lawyer, and hung out his shingle once he became convinced he could do it on his own. (Abraham Lincoln famously declined to do this. Instead, he read the lawbooks on his own, then took half a year off to learn the first 6 books of Euclid so that he would know what ‘demonstrated’ meant. He seemed to do OK.)
Soon, what we now call vo-tech arose to help fill this need. For manual trades, vo-tech seems mostly to formalize and layer on some theory to the apprenticeship model. A would-be welder or diesel repair mechanic goes to school, where experts show him how to do it, and then certify him. This all helps him get that first job, after which he’s on his own.
Here’s where things get interesting. The more white-collar trades are also, you may have noticed, the most generally mistrusted and despised. When Dick the Butcher says “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers,” the groundlings laughed. If any lawyers were present, they were in better seats, and could immediately start in on doing what they do best: explaining away the clear implications of that line. While Dick was a murderer and scoundrel, he was saying what a lot of people were thinking: lawyers exist to protect their wealthy patrons and enrich themselves. The whole legal system was rotten; it is not for nothing that Bolt calls Thomas More the only honest judge in England in A Man For All Seasons, a play set only a couple generations before Shakespeare wrote Henry VI.
A century and a half of white collar Vo-Tech – teacher’s colleges, law schools, medical schools, business schools – have had as their chief mission to get people to forget how despised the guild members they anointed were. Read any early American accounts of schools – for every one where the teacher was beloved, you’ll find 10 where he was despised by the students, and the feeling was mutual. Doctors were used as a last resort, as the chances he would help were slimmer than the chances he would take your money and speed your death. Madame Bouverie contains one of many accounts of medical hubris.
And lawyers? Do we need to even go there? The institutions that were created to smooth over the public’s distrust gave themselves fancy names, established tests and certifications, and resolved to pretend that, no, it was not the professions themselves that were the problem, but the lack of exactly that oversight and certification that they, the high-end vo-tech schools provided.
Right. It is similar to the creation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – what a grand name! – as an attempt to gloss over the crude fact that the people involved in making movies are known to be panderers and prostitutes. Not ALL of them, of course! No no no! It’s not the profession that’s the problem! Really! Look at our shiny statues and grand parties! And definitely don’t look at the personal lives of the powerful.
So business people built grand bank buildings, temples to the solidity of the money trades, because people know it’s all a game. Teachers are processed and certified and join a guild, insulated from the products of their teaching. Rarely is the failure of the schools allowed to be laid at the feet of the people whose job it is to make them succeed. Lawyers and judges dress funny and insist on their dignity, like porn stars who let it be known that they might go through all sorts of motions for the camera, but they draw the line someplace. Beyond that line lies shame, but it is art on their side of the line, no matter where they draw it. Doctors create gauntlets for future doctors to run through, so that they can remain proud of their 20 hour shifts during residency and downplay that all they do, in the end, is follow protocols created by somebody else, without the agency to even acknowledge their lack of agency.
And yet in that very class (the powerful – ed.) there may arise good men, and worthy of all admiration they are, for where there is great power to do wrong, to live and to die justly is a hard thing, and greatly to be praised, and few there are who attain to this. Such good and true men, however, there have been, and will be again, at Athens and in other states, who have fulfilled their trust righteously; and there is one who is quite famous all over Hellas, Aristeides, the son of Lysimachus. But, in general, great men are also bad, my friend.
Plato, Gorgias, near the end.
Without education we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.
Almost. Current business is finding a place to live for the next maybe 6 months while house hunting. While I fervently hope…
Our house in Bay Area sells promptly and at a good price
A suitable property here in the Auburn area can be found at a reasonable price
No more unforeseen roadblocks appear
…it would not be prudent to assume any of these. I won’t bore you with details, but, as it is, our house has still not hit the market (current plan: next week) and so we’re in our third expensive stop-gap housing since we moved out of Concord in late April. I didn’t want to go through the process of finding a typical rental house when we didn’t know how long this all would take. Landlords in general aren’t interested in a 3 month rental, and I fervently want to avoid moving all our stuff in and moving all our stuff out in such a short period.
But – now it looks more and more likely that we won’t be able to turn something around in, say, 60 days, but more likely are looking at something more like 6 months. Maybe. High risk/low information decision making – as a finance guy, I’m familiar with the concept.
For the next 30 days, we’re all in a very nice (and very dear) Airb&b in Auburn, the better to house hunt from, which process begins in earnest once this post is done. So far, just knowing we have a nice place to stay for the next month has been a relief (as long as I don’t think about money.) Then, it’s back to the Current Thing and books and stuff. This house has a nice office I just took right over, and I brought stuff to work on….
But let’s not bicker about who killed who! This is a happy occasion! At least, the last 10 days certainly were. As mentioned in a previous post, the entire Moore clan and their spouses and children (where applicable) gathered in the beautiful California Sierra mountain town of Arnold. Very beautiful area. One of these days, I’ll post on the Gold Rush, the near total clear-cutting of the forests of the Sierra and the foothills, and the way those things shaped the way the landscape looks now. Very interesting stuff. For now, let’s have some picture!
We also went to Big Trees State Park, but I left my phone in the car, so no pictures. Sequoias are freaking huge. The branches shed by the older trees are bigger than most trees. Again, very beautiful.
Checking in, from beautiful Arnold, CA. (pop 3,288; elevation 3,999′) where the entire family is meeting up. But am working on a few things, as follows.
I’ve been working on the pulp-style space adventure from 28 years ago that I found 50 pages of when packing up to move. ‘Working on’ here means taking pictures with my iPhone, offloading them to my laptop, then using Googledocs’ OCR function to open them up as text. It kind of works! I will need another hour or two to clean up the formatting and obvious mistakes, and still need to find the penultimate chapter that somehow got separated from the other draft chapters and read it in. Still faster than retyping it, for me, anyway.
While the writing is obvious amateur first draft level, I love the ideas. I’ve got Dante in there – one of the bad guys is named Smarrita, as in:
Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
ché la diritta via era smarrita.
In the middle of the journey of our life
I found myself in a dark wood
Where the straight way was lost
And the deal gone bad is with a race I call Selvans – our hero finds himself in a dark spot in the ‘woods’. And so on, I was being cute.
Funny: Brian Niemeier’s Soul Cycle (reviewed beginning here) is all about Dante in Space, and here I was, 28 years ago, writing a very different Dante in Space book. I would be happy to be half as good as Niemeier. Along the same lines, found a short story from back then where the premise is that explorers crash land on an Eden-like planet, only to slowly starve to death, as their bodies can’t break down the available nutrition – a variation on a theme from Michael Flynn’s Eifelheim. I’ve been obsessed with this thought for decades: that the chemistry of LAWKI is so weird and unique, with seemingly arbitrary ‘choices’ among chemicals and stereoisomers, with crazy things life-threatening prions, it would be amazing if encounters with alien life, no matter how superficially benign, didn’t kill us. I would think that the first step toward terraforming would be to nuke the planet from space, just to be sure. This is a theme in several short stories and two novels I’ve started drafting over the last 30 years or so.
Also, is anyone else bothered by the ‘enhanced’ pictures we get from the Hubble, and will no doubt soon get from the Webb? I look, and see nothing; I look, and see nothing even using fantastical modern tech. BUT – I don’t look, let that tech feed its input into spectrographs, computer algorithms, and other fancy stuff, and they produce:
This is also a ‘picture’ of the Pillars:
In what sense are either of those pictures real? Certainly, no naked eye look at the Pillars is going to look anything like either of these, even ‘naked’ eye through a powerful telescope. The question becomes: what information do we want to convey? In the old pulp draft, I have passages like these:
The small circular viewports on either side of the module cabin dimmed automatically for a moment, to protect the delicate eyes of the occupants from the brilliant flash of the cruiser disintegrating into plasma and dust. On the front viewer, a computer processed image revealed the details of the explosion, all extraneous light and radiation filtered away. On that screen, the ship neatly vanished into a gradually thinning aura. Neither man was watching,
The star cruiser appeared quickly, a sudden point of light, then a highly distorted image of a ship, trailed by a thousand house of mirrors reflections strung back into space-time. Then, just as suddenly, and with no apparent logic, a perfect little star cruiser was visible alone against the field of stars. Despite his predicament, Warner couldn’t help wondering how much of what he just saw was the result of the viewsys’s inadequate attempts to create a sensible image out of unknown inputs, and how much was “really” taking place. The question was nonsense, he reminded himself.
It’s a little bit like MiniTrue: somebody had to decide what is the important information, and arrange to have the ‘unimportant’ information filtered out.
Next, my beloved and I married 35 years ago on May 30; our older daughter married 2 years ago on May 30; our middle son married May 29th last year. Younger daughter married Jan 8 this year – but we let her and her husband come anyway. Joint anniversary celebration. Because 3 of our kids married over an 18 month period, it is now a running joke to remind our 18 year old son that he doesn’t need to get married anytime soon, it’s OK.
We, our 18 year old son, and our older daughter, her husband, and their 7 month old daughter are already here; the others are due in Friday morning and staying through Sunday. A rip-roaring anniversary hoedown! Elder son-in-law found a nice big cabin for us all.
It’s nice to have a family where everyone gets along. Anyway, we had lunch and a walk yesterday at White Pine Lake, a reservoir in Arnold. I walked to the dam and back:
And here’s the view from the back porch, where I sit typing this.
Temperature is sensory-deprivation-tank perfect: I was falling asleep earlier, sitting on the back porch, in shorts. Ideal.
Next next, our house is scheduled to hit the market tomorrow, if all things go well., with open houses this weekend. St. Joseph, please pray for us, that the Father may prosper the work of our hands to His glory! Meaning, of course, that we get a good offer soon, and find a good place to buy.
Starting next Tuesday, we will be staying in another very dear furnished rental in Auburn, and spending our time house hunting like mad. Not gonna look at the markets, no siree, not me, not one bit… AAAGH!
Prepping for the last lecture class before we start reviews and head into finals. Looking at the stuff I prepared last year, I can barely remember doing it. Probably something to do with the physical and emotional exhaustion from moving, and the continued attention demanded by the endless steps needed to get our house finally on the market. (target date: 5/26.)
Here’s a brief snippet.
This, from Britannica, a source I use cautiously if at all. Here, the writer, describes the triumphal revisionism of the Renaissance writers, who so badly wanted to tout themselves as the best and the brightest that they ignored reality when needed. I’ve long wondered how scholars writing sometimes literally in the shadows of the great medieval churches, could not see how preposterous their claims of *obvious* superiority were. Example:
Reports of the death of the Middle Ages have been somewhat exaggerated. What’s really been overblown are the achievements of the Renaissance:
The next (and, as it proved, final), steps taken in this direction (physics of motion – ed) were the accomplishments of the last and greatest of the medieval scientists, Nicole Oresme (1325 – 1382). …devoted much of his effort to science and mathematics. He invented graphs, one of the few mathematical discoveries since antiquity which are familiar to every reader of the newspapers. He was the first to perform calculations involving probability. He had a good grasp of the relativity of motion, and argued correctly that there was no way to distinguish by observation between the theory then held that the heavens revolve around the earth once a day, and the theory that the heavens are at rest and the earth spins once a day.
Then everything came to a stop. Given the scientific and mathematical works of Descartes and Galileo, but no chronological information, one might suppose the authors were students of Oresme. Galileo’s work on moving bodies is the next step after Oresme’s physics; Cartesian geometry follows immediately on Oresme’s work on graphs. But we know that the actual chronological gap was 250 years, during which nothing whatever happened in these fields. Nor did any thing of importance occur in any other branches of science in the two centuries between Oresme and Copernicus.
James Franklin, Honorary Professor, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of New South Wales
Then, yea, there’s that.
There’s a bunch more, but now I’ve gotta go do class. Yes, I inflict this stuff on 15 year olds. Toughens them up.
My brain, I mean. On Thursday evening last, at around 9:15 p.m., our youngest son and I pulled away from our home of 27 years for the last time. Three solid weeks of packing up and moving out, as in 8-10 hours a day, me, my wife, and our son, with occasional and much appreciated help from friends. We will need to swing by to pick up the inevitable forgotten items (the router! Oops!) but as we locked up the storage unit after emptying the house, it was no longer our home. This is the only home our 5 kids likely remember from growing up, as the oldest was 5 when we moved there.
Today, Son-in-law the Younger borrowed his dad’s truck so that we could fetch the half-wine-barrel with the California chestnut tree in it. Took that opportunity to take pictures, documenting the end of the Eternal Brick Project of Dooooom! I’m posting a lot of pictures so that this blog may document the entire insane project. I think it took 7 years to complete.
For some reason, I also built a brick pizza oven in the middle of doing all this stuff:
Thus ends an era. As soon as we find our new hobby farm/homestead, I’ll start planning the Insane Brick Project of Doooom II: Backyard Boogaloo. I need a bigger pizza oven.
Move out day is now set: April 22. Therefore, we have exactly 2 weeks to finish getting a 2900 sq’ house, 6 bedroom house we’ve lived in for for 27 years packed up and moved out.
Resources include me, an overweight 64 year old man who used to be a moving commando, of the ‘just grab the couch, pick it up, take it down the stairs, and put it in the microbus’ type. Not so, anymore, but I’m still somewhat useful. My poor, longsuffering wife and our 18 year old son complete the core; our daughters and their husbands, and some friends and volunteers drop by when they can.
We’re doing well. The occasional time capsule, especially where it concerns our late son, can slow things down. Wednesday, we took his old chest of drawers and put it into storage. It was still full of his clothes. Neither my wife nor I was up to going through it when he died, and so there it is. Probably be there when we die.
Put 4 guitars, two amps, a drum kit, and some mic stands into storage. The reality is that I’ll pick up an old nylon string sitting on a stand in the living room put there for just such occasions and pick out some chords once in a while, and that’s it – the semi-hollow body, the old Strat knock-off, and a cheap steel string just haven’t got much use over the last decade or so.
Now for the pianos: my 1920s Steinway M, my baby, is going into storage soon; I also have a nice old huge heavy upright from around 1900 I had fixed up 25 years ago. It’s a good piano, my daughter wants to put it in her apartment. Then there’s the old Rhodes Suitcase I bough new in 1977. Still got it. Sounds good, looks terrible, and is just a freaking boat anchor. 1977 me, a strapping 19 year old, could just pick it up one section at a time, and just move it. Those days are long gone. I’ll throw it up on Craigslist, hope somebody wants it. My vintage 2000 Alesis synth was trying to die over a decade ago – cutting out, navigation lights dead – so it’s going into recycling.
I have a lot more musical toys to deal with. About 50 year’s worth. Anybody want a cassette 4-track recorder? Still works, last I checked, about 20 years ago…
Further update as events warrant.
Wait! Finished the largest remaining part of the Soon-to-be-ended Endless Brick Project:
And the fruit trees are setting fruit, the irises are blooming:
I’m going to use the following feeble excuses for not writing here for over a week:
Younger daughter is getting married in 3 weeks;
I’m ‘working,’ mostly in the sense of worrying about and planning, the sale of our house in (we hope) March;
It’s the week before Christmas.
Volunteered to help the Caboose execute his Eagle Scout project, which tied up the better part of the last 2 weekends.
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!
As part of ongoing attempts to remain sane, was doing a little woodworking, using the walnut from the old tree in front yard that we’d had cut down years age. As some long term readers may recall, a local urban lumber guy made it into planks, 11 of which I got. These have been drying in the garage for something like 7 or 8 years.
Maybe a year ago, I brought out several of these boards to see what I could do with them. They had not dried well. Heavily figured and beautiful, but all kinds of warped and twisted, despite being stickered and weighted. I had to chop them up to get straight and flat enough pieces to plane them. So, no large dressers or anything like that is coming from this wood, unless the 6 or 7 pieces on the bottom of the stack I haven’t looked at yet are much better.
Silver lining? I ended up with a collection of little pieces I’d trimmed off in order to get to the flatter, straighter parts. These small pieces tended to be highly figured and knotty. So – I said to myself, I did – what if I were to glue them up into a little board? Call it a cheese board?
Five scraps glued together, planed, cut to size, sanded, edged, and oiled. Full of cracks and knots, and places where the glue spread in ways I couldn’t sand out.