Update: Reading, Writing, Life

I must have half a dozen books/magazines going right now, may be some kind of record for me. Plus a bunch of things I’ve finished that I ought to review. So, of course, started another book last night – I admit, a blurb yanked from a review did me in:

“It’s sort of like what might happen if one of Heinlein’s juvenile heroes (say Kip from Have Spacesuit Will Travel) was thrust into the modern era and was forced to use “SJWs Always Lie” as his freshman orientation guide while battling the Black Hats.”

I mean, c’mon. So I’m about 50% into The Hidden Truth: A Science Fiction Techno-Thriller by Hans G. Schantz, which is book 1 in the series book 2 of which earned the above comment. So far, yep. Dude is very good and inventive writer. If he keeps it up, I’m up for the series. Plus, it not too long.

About 25% into Okla Hannali by Lafferty. It started getting sad, and there are times I can’t read a lot of sad. This is one of those times. Brigg’s Uncertainty: The Soul of Modeling, Probability & Statistics got to the point where I needed to reread the opening chapters to sure I was getting it – and so, almost to the end, I started over. Good book. Needs more attention than I’ve been able to give it so far.

And a pile of books on mythology that I tend to read when nothing else appeals to me at the moment. Greek, Roman, Polynesian.

And the Phenomenology of Spirit, where I stopped half-way through the main text after having read Hegel’s interminable introduction. Read it in college, need to finish up the reread.

Read a bunch of superversive/pulp rev magazines that I’ve yet to review. Have a pile I haven’t started yet. Also, looking sternly down at me from the shelves, are some Flynn, Wright and Wolfe. *gulp* In addition, I have maybe half a dozen books and stories from the Essential Sci Fi Reading List I’ve yet to get to. There’s maybe 20 more I haven’t tracked down a copy of yet.

Aaaand – there’s the longer term projects. Half way through some education history and biographies of the major players, but set all that aside as I need to be sitting up at a desk taking notes, not drifting off to sleep, to read these. I want to write a book or two about my findings one of these years.

So much for the reading side. On the writing side, seems I’ve done nothing since about August of last year. This is not merely inertia or laziness – life got complicated. I have maybe 3 out of 4 Friday and 2 out of 4 Monday evenings free – weekdays all booked up otherwise; weekends are a crapshoot. I get up by 6:00, so pulling 10:30 – midnight writing jags really isn’t in the cards, at least not regularly. And, for spiritual/emotional reason (fancy way of saying it calms me down) I’ve taken to playing piano an hour or two a day. About halfway through learning Beethoven’s Sonata Pathetique, as well as continuing to plow through the Well Tempered Clavier (have about 6 down pretty well, and a few more sorta kinda). Also throwing in a little jazz and improv.

That said, for some reason I reread a bit of the Novel That Shall Not Be Named (except here’s a sample that has since been revised and may not even end up in the book) the other day, and started getting excited again, and wrote another few pages, and – I need more time, but I also need a job.

Very sad last few days at Thomas More College in New Hampshire, where my charming and beautiful younger daughter is a junior. The little brother, 11, of one of the students fell into a coma out of the blue, and died. No one knows why, totally unexpected. Please say a prayer for the repose of his soul and comfort for his family and for the College, which, being tiny, is taking this very hard. A number of other sad things have happened there as well – when there are only 125 students and everybody knows everybody, problems and tragedies are communal things. Tough Lent for them.

Me? Feeling better, love, love, love being involved in RCIA, the First Communion Parent’s class and my Feasts and Faith class at the local parish, even when it does burn up a huge chunk of time – but then, that’s what life is for. So that’s all good. Have almost completed the transition from worrying about raising our kids right to worrying about what they will do with their lives. Youngest just turned 14, the three others are in their early 20s. And worrying about how they take care of themselves. Fortunately, we were blessed with truly wonderful kids, so we don’t worry too much over things most modern parents worry about. But, still.

Enough.

 

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2018 West Coast Walk for Life

Let’s see: the walk came to a halt for a bit when we were 1.2 miles from the end. I could see solid people all the way to the to the Ferry Building. Did a quick estimate: the cross section, maybe a yard deep, where me and mine walked contained 20 people side to side. 1.2 miles contains about 2,100 such cross sections, so, if our piece was of typical density, looks like over 42,000 people at that moment stood between us and the end of the walk.

Some people at the front had already made it through. There were people behind us. 60,000 is a probably a good conservative estimate. Difficult to get a view of everybody all at once. I got no good crowd shots this year.

IMG_4826
Milling around as the walk began to form. 
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Lovely day. 

The Mass before hand was lovely. Over 40 priests were in the procession, many more in the crowd, 9 bishops including Archbishop Cordileone. Incense, lots of Latin – they did several of the propers and commons. A fairly high percentage of the people joined in on the commons, even though they were not the simplest or (in my experience, at least) best known. Choir was quite good, did a fancy a cappella Gloria and an antiphonal offertory piece I didn’t recognize. They used that hymn tune from Holst’s Jupiter with appropriate words for a communion song.

(Aside: Holst was some sort of goofball astrological mystic,  so it amuses me to see his very beautiful tune used as a communion hymn. Baptized paganism, indeed.)

Even  St. Mary’s Cathedral with all its architectural weirdness was made holy and solemn.

The archbishop gave a no messing around, call a spade a spade homily. Refreshing.

One funny thing: Cordileone has a hard time in San Francisco, something any archbishop who made an honest effort to support Catholic teaching was bound to have in that hive of scum and villainy. He has aged quite a bit in the last 5 years. At Mass, he was deadly serious, no trace of a smile. Even in the closing procession, he looked grim. As the walk started, he was standing with a small group toward the back, where we happened to be as well (pushing grandma in the wheelchair cramps one’s jockey-for-position style). He still looked very serious.

My beloved spotted him, walked right up, dropped to her (left, of course) knee, kissed his ring and told him we love him and pray for him daily. Finally smiled! He has a good smile.

Anyway, another good walk. Lots of sane, happy people standing up for common sense in the face of insanity, for Truth in the face of the Father of Lies. Speaking of which, only maybe a couple dozen counter-protesters showed, which seemed down a bit from previous years.

I frankly take no joy in these walks (love the Mass, though). Just, I don’t know, a little too close to grandstanding. Objectively, I get it. Subjectively, it would have been better, for me at least, if, instead of an hour of speakers and a somewhat boisterous walk, we went to the Civic Center Plaza, fell to our knees and prayed and wept for an hour, then walked silently to the jeers of our enemies. Penance must be done, especially by me. Even thinking about abortion puts me in this frame of mind.

I’ll be back next year, God willing.

Happy New Year & Epiphany Update

First off, please pray for the repose of the soul of Mike Flynn’s father and for comfort his family and all who love him.

Been feeling weird. My wife offered ‘Painless Migraine’ as an amateur diagnosis of whatever it is that has slowed my brain to molasses. Description seems about right – dizzy, a little nauseated, can feel all the little biological mechanisms working that keep you from falling over and convert binocular vision into a seamless 3-D representation of the world. I’m an observer of some of the base biological underpinnings of my own human consciousness. A little unnerving.

Be that as it may, kicking off 2018 in a bit of a fog. Weirdly (seems weird to me, anyway) while writing and even reading are difficult, playing the piano is OK up to a point. So, when I’m up and about, tend to wander over to the ivories and tickle away. Gonna have some Bach and Beethoven down if this keeps up.

Twitter, as a low-attention-span medium, has risen to the top of my low attention over the last week. Odd snippets of thought.

Once you’ve thought of Keanu Reeves as Gilligan in the gritty reboot, there’s no going back.

Then, a thought over 3 tweets about how Hegel’s baleful influence manifests in the current mishegas:

1 Just had a thought: if being exists transiently in a world of becoming (Hegel) vs becoming existing in a world of being (Aristotle, Thomas), then it is meaningless to speak of defending a culture. There is no eternal good, true & beautiful for a culture to reflect. All is grass.

2 We who think the good, true & beautiful can be present in a culture, however imperfectly, might think the culture war is a battle over what culture we’ll have, when it’s really over whether there will be a culture at all.

3 With no external referent, culture can only be the arena within which the will to power plays out. Battle is over whether we get to have any culture at all, or are merely pawns in somebody’s power trip. (Twitter is a poor place for this sort of ramble!)

And…. That’s about as deep and coherent as I’ve managed. You know, same old.

Distant kids save one have returned to distance. The one, younger daughter, will be with us for another week until heading back to frigid New Hampshire and Thomas More College.

I miss them already.

Vacation was hardly. Had plans to write a bunch, finish some stories, but with 30+ relations in town for grandmother Brilliant’s 80th and a couple events happening at our house, ended up prepping and cooking for days at a stretch. Then, this lingering ‘I don’t feel exactly right’ thing made writing pretty much impossible.

So, hoping things pull together. I could use some prayers about my job and other issues I need to address. Stress level is high.

But, hey, Happy, Holy & Blessed Epiphany! It is a beautiful and moving time, when the veil is near and sheer.

 

Prayers, Thanks & Updates

1. Start it off with GKC:

The Americans have established a Thanksgiving Day to celebrate the fact that the Pilgrim Fathers reached America. The English might very well establish another Thanksgiving Day; to celebrate the happy fact that the Pilgrim Fathers left England.

Chesterton had a pure and white hot hatred of Puritanism. He granted that at least the old Puritanism encouraged reading the Bible, thereby populating young heads with heroes and warriors, feminine woman and masculine men – something new improved Puritanism has eliminated.

2. 5 years ago, our son Andrew’s death was a means of grace for a conversion. Here is Nadia Mitchell, convert from evangelicalism, being interviewed on the Journey Home:

3. Just yesterday, Mrs Yard Sale of the Mind and I were talking about Pat Bravo, a childhood friend of hers with whom she’d stayed in touch since they’d graduated high school and went their separate ways. She had not heard from Pat in months, even though Pat is the sort of friend to remember every birthday and holiday and unfailingly send cards at the very least.

Anne-Martine had left messages on the phone and had not gotten a call back. Finally, yesterday after our discussion, she tracked down Pat’s father’s number, and left him a message. He called back this morning.

Pat suffered a massive brain aneurysm on August 18th and died the next day. She had had brain cancer many years ago, went into remission after treatment, then had a recurrence, went into remission again, but I guess it finally caught up with her. She was 55, I think. She also had a rough personal life, with a husband who left her and strained relations with her family. She had moved a couple hours away, to Orville, where she’d bought an old house and spent her time fixing it up.

Now Anne-Martine is beating herself up for not having gone to see her this summer. This summer was super-busy around here, and the last conversations she and Pat had were looking at calendars and not being able to work something out.

Eternal Rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May her soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Pat’s death is the third among the small cohort of my wife’s friends from high school or before. Historically, I know having lost a large percentage of childhood friends by your early 50s isn’t all that odd. But it sure seems like a lot.

4. From the profound to the ridiculous: the cat, who spent 10 days in a vet hospital after having eaten a bunch of Nerf darts (stupid cat!) is now sleeping on my bed as I type. He smells like shampoo, which, given his condition and the laxatives they were treating it with, is a huge improvement. Huge. Improvement.

It’s almost like cats know what to do to reestablish bonds with their humans – humans who, in this case, are more than a little grossed out and lighter in the wallet as a result of said cat’s decision to eat toys. He’s been wanting to be carried around or lie on laps purring since he got back.

It’s working. Stupid humans. Remaining issue: he was in no condition to groom himself and neither were we there to brush his super-fine and long hair. So now he has mats, several in locations where brushing (or cutting – don’t tell the vet!) them out will be difficult. We’ll see how tolerant he is of people tugging on his fur in awkward ways and places. Did I mention he’s a very large cat with serious claws and a high 0 to shred them! time? Sigh.

5. Grateful for my family, faith and health. Grateful God has seen fit to make us not poor by any stretch – learning magnanimity sounds like a better draw than learning poverty. Grateful I live in a beautiful place in a time of peace and plenty. It would be small of me to regret having to share it with those Californians who give us the reputation we, unfortunately, deserve. Right? Give me a second to unclench my jaws. There, much better. The weather is really, really, nice – about 70 and sunny today, for example.

6. Heading off to Uncle John’s for family Thanksgiving in a couple hours. 3 out of 4 extant children are here. Anna-Kate, the younger daughter attending school in New Hampshire, is staying with her Uncle Patrick in Massachusetts with other family. She baked them pies – she’s very, very good at baking pies, or, indeed, baking pretty much anything. Lucky them.

However, Mrs. Yard Sale of the Mind, from whom Anna Kate learned to bake, is baking *us* pies. Lucky us!

Have a happy and holy Thanksgiving!

Prayer

Prayer. Always prayer. Perhaps, today, these:

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May their souls, and the souls of the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Amen.

and:

Lord, look upon your servants
laboring under bodily weakness.
Cherish and revive the souls
which you have created
so that, purified by their suffering
they may soon find themselves healed by your mercy.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sts. Joseph & Michael are the patrons of a Holy Death & a merciful final judgement (Michael, in his role as defender of humanity, is sometimes conceived as protecting the souls of the newly deceased and bringing them safely before the judgement seat), so it would be well to ask their aid. And of course the Blessed Mother, whose prayers we always ask for ‘now and at the hour of our death.’

Thursday Links

Got a week on-site with a customer next week doing new product roll-out, Diablo Valley School’s graduation and year-end party (20th anniversary!) on Saturday, while my beloved and overworked wife is getting grandma settled and providing huge amounts of care (grandma needs help to stand, sit, get dressed, etc. – prayers for both of them appreciated)  so I have no excuse to be blogging – here are some links:

A: Climate Science here and here via TOF’s blog. The comments are enlightening.

B. Dear to my heart, an explanation of how a non-scientist can nontheless tell that the current climate change panic is bogus, by the estimable John C. Wright. His explanation is from the perspective of a lawyer (although I strongly suspect his experience as a newsman plays a part as well). My perspective is similar, but, since I’m not a lawyer, flavored more strongly by my life-long love of science. This love includes the realization early on that the claims of science are conditional, limited, and only as strong as the challenges they are able to survive. Planck’s quip – that science advances one funeral at a time – reveals a deep truth about people: that we are not likely to give up beliefs, especially those upon which our careers and livelihoods are built, just because somebody poses a question or provides evidence that doesn’t fit. Since facts can always be understood in more than one way, even, often, contradictory ways, our default behavior as human beings is to choose a way to understand the facts that doesn’t require us to abandon what we hold dear.

The foregoing is how I account for the true believers who are actual scientists. There really don’t seem to be many of those – real scientists preaching unfettered panic and insisting on the institutions of global controls that can only be called totalitarian. Instead, we have scientists in love with their babies – oops, models – who can’t accept the reality of the failure of those models. The existence of multiple models is, in itself, a nearly definitive proof that the science is not settled – what it would settle on, if it were settled, would be one basic model reflecting one nearly complete and useful theory. This, I should think, is blindingly obvious.

What the truth about human nature expressed in Planck’s quip does not account for are the easily-impressed rabble (scientifically speaking – I trust these folks are decent enough where it matters, are kind to their pets and call their mothers often)  who, in the words Robert Bolt places in Henry VIII’s mouth, will follow anything that moves. They do not understand science well enough to notice that Sagan, deGrasse Tyson, or even Bill Freakin’ Nye (1) are cheerleaders, whose pronouncements are not science and as often as not, could not be science in principle. As Belloc said:

…it is the mark of modern insufficiency that it can conceive of no other form of certitude save certitude through demonstration, and therefore does not, as a rule, appreciate even its own unproved first principles.

Finally, we have a few (I sincerely hope) of the fine moral specimens exemplified by Rahm Emmanuel: those who not only won’t let a good crisis go to waste, but will eagerly foment one when it serves their purposes. These Machiavellians find the previous two groups useful, and therefore fan the flames. Our obligations as lovers of truth are to fight these last, seek to inform the vast crowd in the middle, and, I suppose, mourn appropriately at the funerals of the first.

C. An Open Letter to the Author. This is amusing.

D. And Then I Popped Him One is interesting, and reflects what I once read somewhere that Raymond Chandler said: a fight scene can’t go by too quickly in a story, or it will disappoint the reader. If you’ve spent 50 pages working up to it, it can’t go by in a paragraph. This brought to mind the wonderful opening to Farewell, My Lovely, which is one of the most perfect noir detective opening I’ve ever read.  The bar scene, while not the climactic fight scene, it sets the stage for all that follows.

Image result for Farewell, My LovelyA man, described by Chandler as “…a big man but not more than six feet five inches tall and not wider than a beer truck” recently released from prison stops by the bar where his girl, Velma, worked when he was put away 5 years ago.  In the intervening years, the bar had become a ‘colored’ bar, an obvious fact which nonetheless escapes his notice. He asks after Velma, who of course no one there has heard of, and encounters the bouncer:

The bouncer frowned. He was not used to being talked to like that. He took his hand off the shirt and doubled it into a fist about the size and color of a large eggplant. He had his job, his reputation for toughness, his public esteem to consider. He considered them for a second and made a mistake. He swung the fist very hard and short with a sudden outward jerk of the elbow and hit the big man on the side of the jaw. A soft sigh went around the room.

It was a good punch. The shoulder dropped and the body swung behind it. There was a lot of weight in that punch and the man who landed it had had plenty of practice.

The big man didn’t move his head more than an inch. He didn’t try to block the punch. He took it, shook himself lightly, made a quiet sound in his throat and took hold of the bouncer by the throat.

The bouncer tried to knee him in the groin. The big man turned him in the air and slid his gaudy shoes apart on the scaly linoleum that covered the floor. He bent the bouncer backwards and shifted his right hand to the bouncer’s belt. The belt broke like a piece of butcher’s string. The big man put his enormous hands flat against the bouncer’s spine and heaved; He threw him clear across the room, spinning and staggering and flailing with his arms. Three men jumped out of the way. The bouncer went over with a table and smacked into the baseboard with a crash that must have been heard in Denver. His legs twitched. Then he lay still.

“Some guys,” the big man said, “has got wrong ideas about when to get tough.”

Makes we want to go reread a bunch of Chandler.

  1. Of the three, NdGT is at least a prominent scientist in real life, meaning I’d pay rapt attention to what he has to say – about the science of which he is a prominent practitioner. Sagan was a work-a-day college professor whose ambitions are better measured in Q-rating than in scientific achievement, and Nye holds less of a claim to being a scientist than I do. Failure to parrot whatever these clowns have to say about anything at all is, nonetheless, seen as being anti-science.

30 Years and Running

The only 2 pictures I carry in my wallet:

Anne-Martine 8th Grade
Miss Anne-Martine Brilliant, around 8th grade. I love this picture, and have carried it in my wallet for over 30 years. I just like to be reminded of the sweet, bookish girl who grew up to be my wife. 
Kids
Our 4 oldest, taken about 16 years ago. The personalities of these kids hinted at in this picture absolutely held true as they got older. I don’t carry a picture of our youngest son – must remedy that!  The photo paper has not held up so well, but we have other copies. 

30 years ago, right around this hour, the lovely Anne-Martine Terese Brilliant stood in front of God and church full of people  and vowed to be my wife. I, with much less trepidation than would have been called for in her case, likewise vowed to be her husband. And, thus, we confected a sacrament together. It was pretty fun. It keeps getting better.

Three decades, two trips to England and one to Italy, 5 children born and 2 miscarried, the founding of a very weird school, the loss of a son at age 20,  the loss of 3 parents and two sisters and one grandmother, a college graduation, a household that’s gone from 2 residents to 7 to 3, endless birthdays and holidays and holy days later – I’d do it all over, no questions.

Now we face more of the troubles life presents if you embrace it, more relatives getting old, sick or both, more growing pains with kids and friends and relatives, more concerns with what it means to be a mother and fathers, a wife and a husband to and in the world, more questions about God’s will and whether we are surrendering to it.

Accepting all this, with any luck, Anne-Martine and I get to grow old ourselves, together. If God so wills, then we, in the fullness of our lives and surrounded by our children and children’s children, will join our son and our parents and siblings in the places He has prepared for us, and await the family we leave briefly behind.

Thank you, Anne-Martine. Thank You, my Lord and my God. Have mercy on us, and let Your Light shine on us!