End of Eras

Home stretch, as it were, of emptying our home. 27 years of stuff. Confusing thoughts and feelings about all this. But let’s not wallow in nostalgia! Or, at least, not just wallow in nostalgia…

First, the weather. As all 20 long-time readers may be aware, I’ve used this data set to track local rainfall for the last several years.

top of the page.

Our local flood control district has 32 automated rain gages set up across the county, and put up this web page with near real time automatic updates as shown. Over the past 4 or 5 years, I decided to use these numbers to get a more general idea of local rainfall, rather than just using the one local gage for Concord, CA, that seems to provide the go-to numbers for the press.

As discussed in previous posts, these numbers are both beautiful and flawed. Beautiful, in that they provide a real-world snapshot of rainfall over a couple of hundred square miles updated every 15 minutes. But, as a note on the page says:

The District does not warranty, guarantee, or certify the accuracy of the rainfall data. The data accuracy and availability can be compromised due to equipment failure, power loss, equipment defects, loss of calibration, or internet/radio communication equipment failure of equipment provided by others.

This disclaimer is on top of the inaccuracy built into the round numbers used as average annual rainfall totals per gage. Since accurate annual averages are of little use to the Flood Control District, it’s obvious they just took a guess and stuck with it. So, for example, the Ygnacio Valley Fire, Concord, station has an annual average of 17.00 inches. Exactly. They have been tracking rainfall at this station for 43 years; the annual average has not changed over the 5 or so years I have been watching it. And so on, for most of the gages.

Since the annual per gage averages are numbers I use in my fancy-pants spreadsheet to estimate total rainfall as a percentage of average, all my numbers have at least this built-in error. I also watch (this is all for my own weird obsessive amusement) how many stations hit or exceed their annual averages, and by how much. Thus, this year so far, as of this morning – and it happens to be raining at the moment, so this will change – 21 out of 32 stations have gotten at least 80% of their annual averages, while 16 have hit 90%, 7 reached 100% and 1 has even exceeded 125%.

This is where it gets stupid. Or stupider. The Mount Diablo Peak station has, in every year I’ve tracked it, had both the highest rainfall and the greatest amount and percentage over average. This year, it shows over 130% of annual average. There are several other stations that have, in terms of percentage of annual average, consistently run way ahead of the other stations. On the other hand, the Kregor Peak, Clayton, station shows under 50% of its annual average this year – and it is maybe a couple miles, and visible from, the Mount Diablo Peak station. And a number of other stations similarly have fallen ‘behind’ the overall averages each year I’ve watched them.

Such consistent inconsistencies call my whole project into doubt. I don’t blame the Flood Control District in the slightest – all they want to know is how much rain is falling how fast and where, so that they can warn people that the creek’s gonna rise. My whole project makes little sense in that context; the ‘errors’ I’m spotting, that throw my numbers into chaos, simply don’t matter much if at all to the Flood Control District.

Nail in the coffin: this year, 5 or 6 of the stations have failed more often than not to report any usable numbers. Either blank cells, or data that fails the sniff test. That Ygnacio Valley Fire, Concord, station mentioned above happens to be the one physically closest to our home. Today, it shows no rainfall at all for the last several days, while 4″ deep puddles have been forming on our patio. So, not believable.

In order to use the data in my fancy-pants spreadsheet, I have to clean it up by removing stations with bad data. Since not all stations are created equal – annual average rainfall varies from 11″ to 33.50″, in addition to the inconsistencies mentioned above – it matters which stations one removes. Removing any stations because you don’t like the data is bad science. I think we’ve reached a point where even I can’t convince myself my analysis proves anything.

That said, we’ve reached 92% of annual average rainfall! Woohoo!

Next, we had to tell our 94 year old neighbor of 27 years that we’re moving out. This old gentleman has watched our kids grow up, and has put up with our dumb former dog, and just been a great all-around neighbor. He’s the kind of guy who will keep an eye on the whole neighborhood in a friendly way, and even go have a talk with any neighbor who is maybe not being quite neighborly enough. Best neighbor we’ve ever had.

He was pretty emotional, as were we. In the last few years, his dearly beloved wife died, he had a fall and broke bones, and finally, after decades where he seemed to have hit about 60 and just stayed there, he is finally showing his age. He’s almost house-ridden these days, with trips to the doctor and daily walks with caregivers his only outside activates. This, for a man who was forever puttering in the garden and driving himself to church and so on. Please remember him in your prayers.

Next, had my pianos moved yesterday. The upright from the 1890s is sitting in storage; I bit the bullet and had my 1927 Steinway sent in for restringing. Too expensive! But now seemed the time. So, for the rest of my life, at least, there will be a truly fine piano to play in my home.

Finally, this same neighbor has 4 sons but no daughters. He fell hard for our younger daughter, who was born while we lived here. He got to see her grow up from infancy. She became, I think, the daughter he never had. Plus, she’s a cutie and the sweetest kid, and was always kind to him. Well, this daughter of ours, married just short of 4 months, is now expecting her first child. Due in November. Very hard to get my head around.

The gravitational shift of having one granddaughter living 60 miles away was huge; adding a second grandchild makes it totally irresistible. When we move, we plan to be much nearer to both.

House is almost empty; the Insane Brick Project is about 50 bricks from completion; the house will look and be in better shape than it ever was while we lived here; POD in the front drive being loaded up; a storage unit packed to the roof. While a Friday departure date seems to have been a little optimistic, we should be gone gone by Monday. 30+ years in the area, 27 in the same parish. All over.

A Coof Post

Still need to look over the comments and reply – thanks for your patience, those who have inexplicably read my ramblings and even taken the time to comment on them, you’re the best – but, today, there’s a couple bits of covidiocy that need dissemination.

First off, the diligent William Briggs, who, like Socrates, deserves a pension from the polis for his ‘crimes’ rather than getting blacklisted for wrongthink, has analyzed a bit of nonsense masquerading as science – Science!, as we refer to such excretions around here. Chief points:

  • The study is obvious nonsense, if not fraud. (If it isn’t obvious to you, perhaps you don’t really get how science works. No shame in that, there are an infinite number of things worth learning and we are finite beings. The shame is when you can’t spot the obvious nonsense in the unlikely chance you even looked at it, yet claim to be ‘following the science’ or otherwise sneer at those who can and do understand it. Such behavior is loathsome.)
  • It’s from Harvard
  • it has been peer-reviewed
  • It presents no evidence. Instead, it presents model output as if it were evidence of anything beyond the existence of a model that produces output
  • It is, for now, politically useful

Let’s start with the title:

Model-Estimated Association Between Simulated US Elementary School–Related SARS-CoV-2 Transmission, Mitigation Interventions, and Vaccine Coverage Across Local Incidence Levels

Study from the JAMA Network

The first two words tell us we are not dealing with the real world. Instead, we’re dealing with abstractions – “Models” and “Estimates”. These models and estimates come from somewhere, and it is tempting if one knows nothing about models, to suppose they come from somewhere other than the fancies of the model builders. As a man who worked models professionally for 25 years, I can tell you it works like this: you look at the world, take a guess, build a model that embodies that guess, then – and you can’t skip this part – you compare your model output to what actually happens in the real world. Then, you iterate, and if you’re good at it, the newer models output matches ever more closely with what really happens. Then you very carefully say: over the range of real-world observations our latest model was tested against, our outputs have proven useful.

Failing to perform this step of comparing the model’s output to the real world means the model is nothing but an expression of your prejudices expressed in fancy math. The output of such models is only evidence of hubris and ignorance. Or, increasingly, fraud.

This study nowhere compares model output to the real world. It should be obvious that, if you had the required real-world evidence, you would not need the model. You need to claim the model produces evidence precisely because that evidence does not exist! Or, because the evidence contradicts what you’d like to say.

Then, to kick the fantasy into magic flying unicorn land, we add the word “Simulated”. So, “researchers” didn’t research anything, in the sense that they did not go out into the real world and observe, note, or measure anything real, like, in this case, the spread or lack thereof, of the Coof in masked versus unmasked schools. Instead, they created a model. This model includes a “simulated US elementary school” – pause for a moment, and relish the fact that, while thousands upon thousands of elementary schools exist across America, our intrepid researchers are studying NONE of them. Instead, they are studying a simulation – something, again, that they made up.

This is a key example of why I rarely got past the abstracts of the various studies proposed to support the Coof Panic: with few exceptions, these frauds reveal themselves within a few sentences. Here, they reveal themselves two words into the study’s title! If the title was something like: “COVID Spread in Masked and Unmasked Schoolchildren in 400 American Schools” and then the first sentence of the abstract was something like: “Over a 6 month period and using now-current antigen tests of symptomatic children, we discovered that X% more children caught the Coof in 178 American elementary schools where masking was not required than in 222 schools where masking was required.” THEN I would be inclined to read the study, because – follow carefully here – it’s at least possible to find out something real using the implied methodology. If kids show us sick, and you then test them for COVID using antigen tests, it’s at least possible to say something not absurd on its face about the spread of this disease.

But when the very title of the piece precludes even the possibility that any science is being done, you can stop. Why go on? Using the approach here, it’s not even possible that the “researchers” could have come up with remotely scientific, which is to say, anything remotely requiring an honest man’s consent. In fact, this, this, thing requires an honest man to hoist the Jolly Rodgers and put a knife between his teeth, and take immediate remedial action, as it were.

Briggs, with his stronger stomach, actually read the damn thing. He came across these nuggets:

Anyway, there it is, bold as e-girl asking for donations, in “eMethods 2. Sources for Mitigation Ranges” (my emphasis below).

“Interventions in A, plus universal masking (a policy of masking all students and educators/staff): 60-80% assumed effectiveness.”

The interventions in A are “Simple ventilation and handwashing (open windows if present, portable air filters, maintain existing HVAC systems, and regular handwashing): 20-40% assumed effectiveness”.

Did you see the word assumed? Did you see it was used twice?

And did you see the conclusion? “Mitigation measures [such as masking] or vaccinations for students substantially reduced these modeled risks” of “in-school SARS-CoV-2 transmission.”

In other words, our Harvardites began by assuming masks work. They then ran a model which assumed masks work. The model said, as it was told to, masks work.

The Briggs Article

Assume your conclusions, and your “proof” “proves” them. Handy, that, especially when there’s grant money to be had and jobs not to be lost.

Next, I’ve been reading a daily newsletter called Coffee and COVID, which covers the Coof news as it happens. Jeff Childers, who appears to be the chief writer, is witty and trenchant. Once, back in about June of 2020, when it became blindingly obvious that no facts would be allowed to interfere with the desired panic, and that stating the obvious got you labelled a ‘terrorist’, I simply stopped reading the ‘news’. Anything I found out was through links and quotes from the bloggers I follow. With Coffee and COVID, I get a digest I can endure and even, sometimes, enjoy.

C&C uses the terms Narrative 2.0 and the Great Pivot to describe the current attempts of the Weasel in Chief and his sycophants and nerdlings to get out of the bed they made, now that it’s on fire. Crandew, another fine source of information and opinion re the Coof, tends toward an understandably dark take, one I don’t entirely reject nor embrace. Things can and probably will get ugly. The only dispute is over how ugly? And can we do anything about it? C&C takes a more hopeful approach.

So, nobody asked for it, but here goes: my take.

The idea that there are a small number of very wealthy people who want to a) cull the herd, b) control everything and 3) reduce those of us who remain to serfs, is only some sort of wacky conspiracy theory if you don’t read or laugh off what these people SAY and DO. When members of the World Economic Forum write books and articles and give speeches outlining exactly this – what, you think they’re kidding? That it’s all a big misunderstanding? So, I take it as a given that, just as Stalin and Hitler and Mao and Pol Pot existed and did the things they did, with the help and cooperation of many, many people, these men are perfectly capable of wanting to do all that and more, and getting legions of courtiers to follow them. That they say they’re bringing about some sort of Brave New World utopia is the whole point – in their eyes, nothing they do is going too far with such a noble goal. And of course, most if not all of these folks are raging sociopaths, so – all leashes have been slipped. There is nothing such people won’t do.

So, granted that there’s a Team Evil that wishes people like me dead, and that they between them hold the reins to the bit in the world’s economy and in almost all nations, what’s next? The image I just used, where a rider a fraction of the size and strength of a horse can make it do what he wants by means of a small piece of metal strategically placed in its mouth, is the key: All they needed to do is control the gatekeepers. With patience, gaining such control is childishly simple. You don’t go for the takeover directly, you seek to control the committees – hiring, promoting, firing, PR, steering. In business, you will meet some resistance, as there is always going to be some nut who imagines the business is guided by the need to make money; in government and non-profits, almost everybody is willing to hand over the boring and thankless committee work to whoever wants to do it. This surrendering of committees is slow death.

The schools, and especially the teacher’s unions, were taken over this way, starting in the 1920s and completed before 1980 at the latest. The unions in general fell. Ever wonder why so many jobs require a college degree, when essentially the same job used to be performed well by high school dropouts? In one of my first jobs, the older VP was a high school grad who had worked his way up, while all the younger hires, hired into essentially the same jobs the VP had done well enough to get repeatedly promoted, had college degrees. Why?

Why are most government jobs reserved for people with often insane college degrees? Who is on the hiring committees in both academia and the government? College grads? And, since 1980 at least, a college degree means first and foremost that the product has processed by the system. The product, with his degree, has learned that to fail to go along is to fail completely. He is a certified sheep. A Front Row kid, untethered from family, place, or any trace of morality – yet, as a duly certified ‘success’ he is incapable of imagining he is a stooge, a fraud, and empty suit. Behind the smug exterior, an unquenchable rage most often burns. If he didn’t take it out on us, he might explode. We are the enemy simply by being the proof of his insanity – especially when we are happier than he is.

One by one, over and over, every organization with any real power has fallen to the tools, sycophants, and useful idiots of the power mad.

We’ve seen the propaganda. We’ve seen the intimidation. We’ve seen the crushing of dissent. We’ve heard the bleating of the sheep. It’s a done deal, which is what Crandew and his worthy sources and readers see.

Yet – there are cracks. Sociopaths are happy dealing with the ambitious, who will do anything. As Machiavelli said in the Prince, when it is time for dirty deeds, a prince will never lack for men willing to do them. All powerful people are surrounded by ambitious wannabes trying to suck at the teat of power – and they will do anything to get the chance. Thus is has always been.

The problem is Highlander: there can be only one. Eventually, there needs to be a purge. Contrary to what people might think, revolutionary purges are not of enemies, essentially, but of supporters. The H-man gained power partly with the aid of the Brown Shirts, who beat up the commies and anybody else who opposed the Nazi. So, of course, a year after the Enabling Act passed (with the help of the Brown Shirts), their leadership was executed during the Night of the Long Knives. Hitler needed the support of the military, while the Brown Shirt leadership thought they were going to take over the military. So, despite their years of support and help getting Hitler into the position of dictator, they had to go – and they did. As did anyone who was too ambitious and capable in the eyes of the top levels of the Nazi leadership.

Same sort of thing happened in French Revolution and under Lenin in Russia. If you make revolutionary changes, where you are not just becoming the new king but are aiming to change society at its roots, you’re going to need to get rid of anybody with any ideas about maybe leading, especially if they have real-world success in a revolution.

Apply this to our cockroach overlords. At some point, they are going to need to sort out who is in charge for real. You look at obvious tools such as Biden, Newsom, and Trudeau, and it’s impossible to imagine they are anywhere near the inner circle of power. There are hard men, somewhere, within the structure; and for each of those probably 100 men who think they are hard men. There are people who are not nearly paranoid enough. Then there are the useful idiots by their thousands and tens of thousands.

It’s impossible these people can cooperate much longer. The lowlifes running states and health departments, who issue the orders under which people chaff, need to be assured they will survive politically if they keep doing idiot things. Can they be assured? The shift from propaganda to raw power will need to accelerate, because enough people are getting fed up with the propaganda to start making trouble. It’s important to remember that trouble to our cockroach middle management means only things that threaten them. We little people can get as mad as we want, just so long as management is assured nothing will come of it – for them.

The real fun begins when middle managers start getting hung out to dry. Say that reptile Trudeau gets driven from office, that enough people start making the connection between what’s going on in Ottawa and Nazis, such that his betters decide Little Castro is no longer worth protecting. (Not saying this is likely, but bear with me.) If this were to happen, every other tinhorn dictator wannabe – Newsom, Fauci, on down the line – starts taking notes: when (not if) will our cockroach overlords decide I’m expendable?

The psychology of courtiers is such that they can’t give up. Every one of them dreams of being king, works to make himself indispensable, and imagines Sir Richard Rich* is the goal. They don’t think they’ll end up like Wolsey, say, or any one of the French revolutionaries who were calling the shots one day, and having their heads suddenly removed the next. Or the endless stream of Russian revolutionaries marched off and shot if they made a single false move, or merely seemed in the way to someone above them. Nope, not them! They will be the one in one hundred that succeeds! Add in that these are the sort of people who enjoy the failure and sufferings of others – hell, that’s the major perk of the job – and watching the losers suffer and die not only doesn’t cause them to reexamine their life decisions, but gets them off.

Thus, when they see their peers going down, the only option is to try to position themselves to be the one in 100 who survives. History shows that strategy requires a lot of (sometimes literal) backstabbing and betrayal. Our cockroach overlords are playing a game, where they are trying to stay ahead of the next level of management, who would gladly knife them to get ahead themselves. And so on, down the line.

All this gets worse as our cockroach overlords succeed. Once the shift from propaganda to raw power gets far enough, they need less middle management and more Gestapo. The wannabes become at best a useless distraction. The cycle intensifies: as my peers get knifed, how do I stay alive? Who do I need to knife?

Now expand this to a world-wide situation. What seems to be happening is that the worst repression is in the richest countries, and especially in the outlying provinces. It’s brilliantly evil: a New Zealand, an Australia, a Canada are far, emotionally and geographically, from the centers of power, and have long traditions of doing things their own way. These are the kinds of places where real resistance might have the best chance of working. Therefore, they are the most brutally repressed. Control the colonies, as it were, and the homelands are secure.

But the risk to the takeover is very real: lose control anywhere in the First World, and there’s a real risk of resistance snowballing. Then things get ugly for our cockroach overlords, if people get the idea that insects can be crushed.

So are Canadians Saxons, a la Kipling? It appears some have been marched off to the gulags already, after the usual polite way of our neighbors to the north. But is that real? Solzhenitsyn has no kind words for those who allow themselves to be swept up without a fight, and even says they get what they deserve. Well? How is this going to work out?

Yet – I still imagine that the cockroaches in charge have overplayed their hands. Somewhere, hard men, many of them part of middle management, many more not, are piecing things together. Some are realizing their best options are to try to seize power or at least stop the current leaders; many more are seeing that the only light at the end of this tunnel is an oncoming train. The cockroach overlords have to keep all these people in line – while they purge them!

It could get really ugly, and I expect it to. But I can’t see how they can pull this off. Too many centrifugal forces are trying to pull it apart.

Those not into prayer can skip this.

Heavenly Father, hallowed be Your Name! All praise and glory be yours!

Please, we beg You, remember your promise of mercy, the promise You made to Abraham and his descendants forever. Do not judge us as our sins deserve; rather, for Your Name’s sake, for the sake of the Blood shed by your Son, and in the glory and power of Your Holy Spirit:

Forgive us yet again.

Send your angels to drive Satan and his minions from our midst, to bind them and cast them into Hell;

Grant us the grace to endure what we must, and to die to ourselves to live only for You.

Your will be done, in this and in all things.

*Rich clawed his way to very near the top by betraying Sir Thomas More to his death, then proceeded to serve both the Protestant royalty and Queen Mary, for example both destroying and restoring monasteries, torturing and executing both the slightly too Protestant and slightly too obviously Catholic trouble makers, until he, one of the richest men in Britain, died an old man. He was universally despised, but his heirs lived on in luxury for more than a century. THAT’S what middle management dreams of.

**

Prayers, Please (If That’s Your Thing)

As long-term readers know, I rarely do this, but here goes:

Please say a prayer for my wife and her mom. My mother in law has lived with us for the last 4.5 years, after ending up in a nursing home after a series of health problems. She is 84. This morning at breakfast she had a stroke – sat there unresponsive, staring straight ahead for maybe 10 minutes while we called 911. Then she slowly began to speak and move. The medical techs who arrived minutes later did take her in to ER after looking her over – nice guys.

After an hour or so, the ER says she seems ok enough to go home, so my wife goes to get her. While they are getting her ready to leave, she has another similar episode. (Even though my wife ran into full-blown covidiocy with the gatekeepers – Unvaxxed! Unclean! Even though she’s had the damn Coof – the doctors called her in to talk. Some sanity and humanity remain.) The suspicion is post-stroke seizure. So it’s anti-seizure meds and a trip to the MRI. The first go-around this morning may also have been a seizure – she has had strokes in the past.

Anyway, we’ll see. In your prayers, please remember my wife and her siblings as well as her mom.

Thanks.

UPDATE: While giving her some anti-seizure meds, she had another one. Three incidents over maybe 4 hours.

MORE UPDATES: 4:27 p.m. – She’s had a total now of 4 seizures, and has been admitted to the hospital.

Interlude

For the past month, almost, I’ve been ill. Timing is very bad. First, I want to dump this house before the bubble bursts, then get something with land so I can grow food. I like growing things, and I like independence, and I like not starving. So: now the rush. Find a rental house in the area we want to live, sell this house, and then see what happens over the next year.

Stress levels are high, yet, except for the last couple days, my energy level has been low. Vicious cycle.

Yet, I’m not too worried. Here we go with the mysticism: When it comes right down to it, I’m not a believer, really, or a man of faith. I don’t ‘believe’ in God any more than I ‘believe’ in my wife and children, because I’ve had direct experience of Him. Not claiming any virtue here, far from it. Three or four things have happened to me in my life that might be called miracles or visions or, perhaps best, mystical experiences. I could sooner believe my wife is an illusion and that I live in the Matrix than doubt the existence and love of God.

Note the irony: I’d like to think myself as about as clear-headed a skeptic as you’re likely to come across. I’m the guy who reflexively doubts the study, the findings, the ‘evidence’ because I know, partly through bitter personal experience, how easy it is to fool people. To fool myself. Therefore, the first thing that comes to mind whenever I here anything surprising, let alone miraculous, is the million ways it could be wrong.

And to very clear, I don’t expect (and I don’t think God expects) anyone besides me to be convinced by my experiences. That’s just not the way it works. Further, I most emphatically reject any notion that having had these experiences makes me good or holy or any better than anyone else – far from it. Others can sin much more innocently, so to speak, than I. I have no excuse anymore, and haven’t for a decade or more now. May God have mercy on my soul!

Long preface. Here’s the thing: once in a while, I really pray. Not mumbling the words or going through the motions, which, if I’m honest, makes up 99.9%+ of my so-called prayer life. Once in a great while, the reality of my nothingness hits me, the overwhelming obligations I’m under as husband, father, grandfather, father-in-law, and friend. And my sinfulness – not checking items off on the ‘not-to-do-list’ (although there’s plenty of checkmarks on that list!) but feeling some small fraction of the weight of my lack of love and gratitude to God.

And I pray. Sometimes only for a few seconds before the world crowds in on me again and I lose focus. But in those moments, the clear, repeated message I get is: God has got this. He is working his will out right now. He will make everything come out gloriously well. Please note that there’s not the slightest hint that we – I, my loved ones, everyone – won’t have to suffer and be brave, maybe even die. Rather, that, apart from doing our best to surrender to God’s will, there’s nothing else to be done here, and forces much, much greater than us pitiful humans are fighting it out.

And we win, in the sense that the water boy on the victorious side in the battle can be said to have won. The important part is for us – for me – to remember we’re just water boys. What victory will look like is simply unimaginable for us.

I’ve come to suspect that what we’re seeing now IS God’s mercy. That, without His mercy – and the legions of angles who even now are surrounding and protecting us – things would be much, much worse.

In the mean time, some quotes and thoughts. Starting off with some Lewis, as this passage about a religious experience of Jane Studduck suggests to me that Lewis himself had had a similar experience. I don’t expect any two are exactly alike, but the experience itself is probably as well-captured as is possible:

Jane had gone into the garden to think…. Then, at one particular corner of the gooseberry patch, the change came.

What awaited her there was serious to the degree of sorrow and beyond. There was no form nor sound. The mould under the bushes, the moss on the path, and the little brick border were not visibly changed. But they were changed. A boundary had been crossed. She had come into a world, or into a Person, or into the presence of a Person. Something expectant, patient, inexorable, met her with no veil or protection between…

Words take too long. To be aware of all this and to know that it had already gone made one single experience. It was revealed only in its departure. The largest thing that had ever happened to her had, apparently, found room for itself in a moment of time too short to be called time at all. Her hand closed on nothing but a memory, and as it closed, without an instant’s pause, the voices of those who have not joy rose howling and chattering from every corner of her being.

But her defenses had been captured, and these counterattacks were unsuccessful.

Lewis, That Hideous Strength, CH XIV

(And now for something completely different…)

A trial lawyer never calls a witness to the stand unless he is sure what that witness will say. Similarly, no large funders fund a study unless they are sure what that study will say.

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

Upton Sinclair

Paul says that we honor and dignify the less presentable parts of the body by clothing them. Those who insist on the dignity and deference they assume due them by virtue of their PhD or JD or M.Ed and so on are identifying thereby with certain parts of the body. Thus, it is understandable that we peons often call them by the vernacular terms for those body parts.

The king told him that for some years, ever since his queen’s death, he had been losing heart over the wickedness of his people. He had tried hard to make them good, but they got worse and worse. Evil teachers, unknown to him, had crept into the schools; there was a general decay of truth and right principle at least in the city; and as that set the example to the nation, it must spread.

George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie – published in 1883!

Give G.K. the second-to-last word:

Now, when society is in a rather futile fuss about the subjection of women, will no one say how much every man owes to the tyranny and privilege of women, to the fact that they alone rule education until education becomes futile: for a boy is only sent to be taught at school when it is too late to teach him anything. The real thing has been done already, and thank God it is nearly always done by women. 

G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, CH 9

Is the world is small? Large? when Koreans yodel and play jazz piano like bosses on YouTube.

Merry Christmas! Links, Music & Good Wishes

May the blessings and happiness of this holy season come to you and yours!

First: my favorite carol:

Love everything about this – the lyrics, the song, the performance. Wonderful.

Next, this had me weeping like a baby – in a good way. Via Caroline Furlong’s blog:

The culture our enemies want to kill.

Foxfier shared this metal version of Angels We Have Heard on High. This singer actually sounds like he’s seen some angels – after recovering from being terrified out of your wits, you’d not be singing about the vision like some whimpy kid’s choir. You’d be belting it out like you mean it!

Finally, at Midnight Mass the choir sang Victoria’s O Magnum Mysterium, which I have written about before. This polished gem of a work may be the most perfect motet ever written. It’s certainly among the most beautiful and profound:

Merry Christmas!

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!

Year-End Update (a little early)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Silly me.

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

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

Time frame: Once we’re moved and settled.

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

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

#magnus pyke from Old School Science Fiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Otherwise, who can stand?

Have a happy and holy Thanksgiving!

Night of the Long Knives?

If the difference between science, and, indeed, logic, and everyday judgements had to be summed up in one phrase, I’d pick Confirmation Bias. Viewed from the place where we understand that we humans tend to believe what we want to believe, the whole rigmarole of theory => tests => data => conclusions can be seen as an attempt to short circuit our passion for leaping to conclusions. To get to the starting line, we need clear definitions, well-thought-out tests, careful collection of data, and rigorous reasoning. And even that’s not enough, as the history of science shows: we need, desperately, CRITICISM. We will miss something, guaranteed, unless we, the logician, the scientist, at least keep that Good Angel of Criticism in mind, that voice speaking for our opponents and reminding us to think how this is going to look to them. Then, and only then, would the prudent soul throw it out for public criticism.

And put it out there they must! The hallmark of anti-science, of Lysenkoism, is attacks on critics, claims of special esoteric knowledge that magically immunizes your theory from all attacks. Nobody needs to silence their critics if their evidence is strong. Nobody needs official government backing of their position if they’ve made a strong case.

All this came to mind as I read today’s post by Severian. I, in my dark little heart, really, really want there to be a Night of the Long Knives – far from me and mine, of course. This is not only profoundly uncharitable, but raises the issue of confirmation bias: every time I see any of the former golden boys or girls in trouble, such as Cuomo is facing now, I start thinking and – forgive me! – hoping that a whole bunch of people who deserve it are going to get it at the hands of their former ‘friends’. Then, as long as I’ve decided to go there anyway, that the tables then turn, French Revolution style, and that same Committee for Public Safety set for Step One falls into the hands of people who see that its only a matter of time until they’re next in line for the guillotine, and therefor decide that the Cult of Reason wasn’t such a hot idea after all, and anyone associate with that sent to the front of the line. A feeding frenzy results, in which, like the fall of Belbury in That Hideous Strength, Our Betters are murdering each other because they know if they don’t, they’re next. And then they’re next anyway.

Alas! Lewis pens an ending where the only thing left of Our Betters are two smoldering craters where the University and Government Institute used to stand. I’m not sure I can see things working out so neatly here in the real world. Perhaps the most real thing in that whole fairy tale is that Curry, the officious and manipulative don at Edgestow, whose machinations were instrumental in assembling the Progressive Element at the college and welcoming the N.I.C.E to the neighborhood, survives. He puts on a good face, mourning the loss of the College (and the many people there who died!) while imagining his statue standing the the new college quadrangle, as he, the lone survivor, rebuilds Edgestow and is remembered as its second founder. History is full of Richard Richs.

And we should pray for these people and ourselves! Lord, remember your promise of mercy! Do not judge us as our sins deserve. Rather, for Your Name’s sake, forgive us all, especially those most in need of Thy mercy! Send Michael and the Heavenly Host to cast Satan and his minions out of our country, and bind them and cast them into Hell. Grant us the strength to suffer what we must, to Your glory. Your will be done.

Amen.

Let’s Go There: Traditionis Custodes

More specifically, reactions to it. For my beloved non-Catholic readers, this is a little inside baseball. The pope just issued a letter – that’s what the Latin above refers to – that reverses the permissions and guidelines of the last 2 popes regarding the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM). Pope St. John Paul had permitted the TLM with the permission of the local bishop, which he encouraged them to grant; Pope Benedict had essentially ruled that such permission is presumed granted, and encouraged the TLM as an important spiritual practice. There was great joy among many Catholics, and the TLM, while still a tiny fraction of the masses being celebrated world-wide, enjoyed a resurgence such that you could fairly easily find one in most dioceses in America, at least. Francis latest letter is trying to crush this movement in favor of the ‘Ordinary Form’, or the Mass in the vernacular according to the practices developed after Vatican II.

You’ve been warned!

Bunch of background, trying to keep it simple here.

To us Catholics, the mass is THE prayer, the source and summit of all Christian life. It is the closest thing to Heaven on earth, with the Body of Christ manifested in the gathered faithful, the proclamation of the Scripture, and most especially in the Eucharist. Over the course of 2,000 years, this prayer has taken on many forms. Today, within the Catholic Church, there are dozens of forms of the Mass, from different cultures and times – the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is used in a variety of forms by some Eastern Rite Catholics; there is a Dominican rite from the 13th century Dominican order, a Syriac Rite from the earliest centuries in Syria, and so on.

The Roman part of the Catholic Church, as distinct from the Syriac, Eastern Rite, Coptic Catholics, and so on, is by far the largest. This Latin Church includes Catholics in areas that were once part of the Western Roman Empire, their descendants scattered around the globe, but most especially the peoples proselytized and converted over the centuries by missionaries who trace back to these areas – Latin America, the Philippines, much of Africa. Most people think the Catholic Church only refers to this collection of people, but in reality it includes many smaller groups who are, in the language of the Church, “in communion with Rome” – who accept the teachings of the Church and recognize the primacy of the Pope in matters of faith and morals. These groups each have their own forms of the mass, generally passed down for centuries and often tracing back to the Apostles themselves.

For the Latin Church, the dominant form over the last 1,000 years has been by far (with relatively minor variations) what is called the Latin Mass. For over 400 years, from the Council of Trent until Vatican II, what is called the Pius V Mass was the one canonically required form to be celebrated in all Roman Catholic parishes worldwide. This uniformity was instituted as part of the Church’s efforts to address the laxity and corruption that had greatly contributed to the Reformation and the resulting fragmentation of Christianity.

It is this Pius V Mass, again with relatively minor updates, that is now referred to as the TLM. If you grew up Catholic in America before 1970, the mass to you and almost all Catholics worldwide meant the Pius V Mass. Note that despite the numerical dominance of the Roman part of the Catholic Church, and despite the recognition of the primacy of the Pope by all Catholics, the Church has always allowed for various forms of the Mass to accommodate the ancient and varied traditions of Catholics with roots outside Western Europe.

One way I like to think about the Mass is by thinking about this:

The high altar in the cathedral in Rouen

Once Christianity was legalized by Constantine in 313, Catholics started building big, beautiful churches. In the West, the relative chaos of Late Antiquity slowed things down until Charlemagne kicked things back into gear, having built hundreds of churches, monasteries (each with a church) and palaces (each with a chapel) by the time he died in 814. Another relative low followed, until in 1137, Abbot Suger decided to remodel the great abbey church of St. Denis, kicking off the Gothic building boom.

Looking toward the main altar from high in the nave, the cathedral in Siena.

Why do Catholics build and love their churches so much? Because that is where the Mass is celebrated, where Heaven and earth meet, where we receive the Body of Christ. We all want to do the best we can, so we build the finest buildings, adorn them with the greatest art, and fill them with the most beautiful music.

This has much less to do with wealth than one might imagine, An emperor could get Hagia Sophia built in 5 years; an important city could get a major Gothic church built in 50; a lesser town might take 100 years or more. But no matter what the resources, Catholics have done whatever we can do to have as beautiful a church as possible. Consider:

This is the interior of St. Mary’s Church in Newport, RI, the third parish church built for and largely by the Irish laborers imported to do the work of building Fort Adams . The men of the parish volunteered 1 day’s labor to “dig the trenches”. When they decided to build this church in 1846, the parish had 586 people in it, almost all of them poor Irish immigrants. Or:

Saints Cyril and Methodius Church in Dubina, TX
St. Cyril & Methodius Catholic Church, Dubina, TX, 1912

My ancestors on my mother’s side were Czech immigrants to East Texas. Like the Irish laborers above, among the first things they wanted to do once they got settled was build suitable churches. The Czech rural tradition was to paint the inside of parish churches, something the locals could do without having to spend money they didn’t have. Thus, the exteriors of the these “painted churches” are built of the stone you can get from neighborhood, the interiors tend to be wood and plaster painted to look like heaven. These parishes had maybe 500 – 700 souls in total, yet they built these beauties.

Slide 4
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church in Praha, TX. 1895

(While poking around for pictures, found this video on the Painted Churches of East Texas. In the Czech Republic, rural churches are often painted like this. It’s what you do to make your church as beautiful as possible when you can’t afford Carrara marble and carved stone statues.)

And over and over again, all around the world. The engine driving all this building and beautification is the Mass. To Catholics, a church is not just a gathering place, or even just a place of prayer. It is holy ground, made holy by God, who is especially present and with us and in us at Mass.

The TLM was not just a part of the efforts of typical Catholics to have a nice church. For 1,000 years, it was the reason we wanted a nice church.

The greatest work of art in history, the deepest, most moving, human creation, is a high mass celebrated in a great cathedral. Imagine: a long procession of gorgeously attired figures walks solemnly up the columned nave, candles and incense burning, choirs filling the air with the greatest music ever written. For the next hour and a half, a carefully choreographed ritual is performed, culminating in the dramatic proclamation: “this is My Body; this is My Blood” while bells ring a choirs sing. We respond in words inspired by the centurion: “Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof; only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.”

Even considered only as human art, it is magnificent; considered as God’s ultimate sacrament, His ultimate Presence among us, the mass is ineffable.

The TLM is one with that experience, as the liturgy, buildings, art, and music developed together for more than 1,000 years! Certainly, a typical parish mass over the last 2,000 years has rarely approached this sublime level artistically, but has approached it spiritually more often than one might imagine. Many Catholics have been to an Easter Vigil or Christmas Midnight Mass that was profoundly, spiritually moving, that shared in the nature of a great high mass in a great building even if falling short in material magnificence.

Now, I am not a hater of the New Mass. I have been blessed to attend many that were beautiful and spiritually fulfilling. I attend a TLM maybe 4-5 times a year, tops. But only a dedicated partisan could claim that the Ordinary Form is not extraordinarily prone to abuse. I go way out of my way to avoid particularly egregious parishes. Despite my efforts, I’ve been a part of way too many liturgies that make a mockery of the beauty and joy that is by nature present in the Mass.

Also, I was 12 in 1970, and saw first hand how brutally and arbitrarily the New Mass was imposed. The fantasy world where lovers of the TLM are just grouchy fuddy-duddies is an evil, evil lie. Anyone who dared question the sudden and dictatorial suppression of the old mass and imposition of the new were verbally abused, called names, ignored, humiliated, and mocked FOR DECADES. Sure, some were jerks – in a church with over a billion members, your going to get millions of jerks. But I knew some people, not all little old ladies or cranky old men, many were almost as young as I was, who were devastated. They read all the documents, to see if they could understand what was happening and why. When they discovered that virtually NOTHING in the documents required or even supported what they were told was required, they were abused some more, for not getting the ‘spirit of Vatican II’. All the sudden, some hippy ‘liturgist’ or goofball priest was the local pope. If they said rock band in the sanctuary, jackhammer out the communion rail, throw a cheap table up as an altar, no more kneeling, communion only in the hand, sing stupid, infantile, unsingable songs instead of the classic hymns everybody knows, and on and on – and you objected on the grounds that none of that was required, and much of it was diametrically opposed to the express wishes of the Council – well, YOU are the problem!

And those aren’t even the most appalling examples of things done in the Spirit of Vatican II. The final insult: defend Catholic teaching a bit too far, in the eyes of the hierarchy? Expect a ruthless and prompt smackdown. Deny the Real Presence while doing a little modern dance number during your clown mass (and this is a real thing, don’t be gaslighted about it!)? The hierarchy can’t be bothered by such minor problems. One sort of ‘abuse’ calls for prompt action; other kinds get a shrug, if they even get a reaction at all.

But even allowing for the bitterness of some of the older crowd, the TLM is taking off because *young people* love it! Anyone under 55 simply cannot have had the TLM experience in the regular parish growing up. They missed the worst part of the abuse, in fact, until this letter, they’d possibly only heard about the mistreatment of their older TLM loving friends. Now they know. Since my children and their friends are among the younger lovers of the TLM, I know that what they yearn for is beauty and reverence. They are not naturally trying to divide anyone from anything – they just want to worship worthily.

So, yes, there is a yearning for something beautiful, profound, and worthy – which the TLM provides in spades. Is the TLM perfect in practice? Of course not. Can it be abused? Here’s the funny part – not really. Every word and motion is constrained by the letter of the ritual in a way the Ordinary Form is not. You can only mess up the TLM by willfully or carelessly not doing what you are supposed to do, while the Ordinary Form invites improv.

So the pope thinks the problem is the divisiveness of people who love the TLM, so much so that the TLM needs to be suppressed? That simply does not fly.

Power and Glory

Trying hard to stay positive this Independence Day.

Happened to be reading Maccabees recently. 2 Maccabees especially emphasizes the divine nature and reality of come-from-behind upset victories. Good to remember. On a practical level, guys fighting on their home turf in defense of their wives, kids, and God fight a lot harder than mercenaries and bureaucrats.

Finally, after a lot of bloodshed, Simon, who saw his brothers Judas, Jonathan, Eleazar, and John all die for the cause:

He brought peace to the land,

and Israel was filled with great joy.

Every one sat under his vine and fig tree,

with no one to disturb them.

1 Maccabees 14: 11-12

So, you know, it can happen.

Then, if I’m not careful, I’ll think of all the prayers said by, for example, the people during the Black Death, the Christians besieged in Constantinople in 1453, the people on ships lost at sea, and so on, a million times – these people were certainly not less deserving or sincere than we Americans. Yet they died in the disasters they prayed to be spared from.

I guess the take-away for this July 4th: the Maccabees prayed, then fought like hell. No guarantees, but a sound plan.