The End of the Middle Ages

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.

Edward Peters, Britannica online

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:

A nice church. I’d take it, Buuuut….
Clearly better than this? I think not. And I’m not even going with the High Gothic stuff here, which is the greatest architecture the world has ever seen.

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.

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.

How to Lie with Data

It was Chesterton, I think, who said: No lie is more dangerous than when it is very nearly true. Propaganda is much more about very nearly telling the truth than about out and out lies. The big lies, the ones repeated over and over until they have beaten down the weak, are usually built upon small half truths. But even the most dedicated propagandist tells the truth much of the time – just not the whole truth.

So we hear that, finally, CDC officials have acknowledged that 43% Covid hospitalizations are *with* not *for* Covid; and that in 75% of Covid deaths the deceased had 4 or more ‘comorbidities’.

Statements such as these should cause a sane person not to trust anything the CDC says. Why is this being mentioned now, when those of us capable of looking at the data could have told- and did tell! – you the same thing back in March of 2020? So one is left playing Kremlinology, trying to suss out why we are being told this now, when one was labelled a terrorist for mentioning it a month ago?

Tedious but necessary background. Looking at any old actuarial mortality table for the US, we see the following pattern: almost everybody lives to be at least 50, then, between ages 50 and 100, almost everybody dies. Before about age 80, most Americans are dead. Between 50 and 80, a little less than half of all Americans die; the other little less than half die between 80 and 100. (Or so – only a comparatively tiny number make it past 100.)

From age 1 to 50, comparatively few people die. Leading causes of death in this age range are accidents, murders, suicides, plus some number of people who just drew a bad hand, and were sickly or caught some nasty disease. But taken all together, less than 8% of men and 4.5% of women don’t make it to 50. By comparison, a mere 15 years later, at age 65, 20% of all American males are dead – it took 50 years to kill off the first 8%, and only 15 to kill off the next 12%. The death rate accelerates from there. A 50 year old man runs only about a .5% chance of death that year; a 90 year old man has a 16% chance of death that year.

This should be common sense. Certainly, we are much more surprised and saddened when somebody under 50 dies; when somebody over 80 dies, it is, or should be, no shock at all.

Keeping this all in mind, let’s talk about ‘comorbidities’. I have 2 comorbidities – I’m fat, and have high blood pressure. Eventually – sooner rather than later, as I’m 63 years old – these health problems are likely to catch up with me and could even kill me. But short term, like over the next 5 to 10 years, probably not, but there’s certainly no guarantee. So my comorbidities are a cause for concern (and action! working on it!), but they are not, so far, interfering with my day to day life.

Now let’s talk about the population where most of the attributed Coved deaths take place: those in nursing homes and hospitals. Such people also have comorbidities, usually a lot of them. But here’s the difference, what is being lied about through omission: the comorbidities of nursing home prisoners HAS destroyed their ability to function. Their health is so poor that they are put in special places where others can care for their most basic needs.

Comorbidities among nursing home incarcerees typically include such things as cancer, renal failure, heart problems, severe respiratory problems. The CDC rules don’t allow ‘old age’ as a cause of death, so, when an old person whose body is failing in a hundred ways finally passes on, the doctor is forced to put something, or some short list of somethings, as the cause of death. Prior to the Covid panic, heart failure and pneumonia were top causes.

In this environment, where a large number of people are awaiting death, and where any old cold or flu is likely to push them over the edge, we add Covid. AND we put in very loose guidelines for a Covid diagnosis, AND we financially incent people to care for Covid patients, AND we remove all independent oversight (visitors) – well, it turns out an awful lot of people, with comorbiditeis like lung cancer and congestive heart failure are all the sudden showing up as Covid deaths.

While it is refreshing to see the CDC talking about comorbidities at all, it would be much more honest (yeah, like that’s gonna happen) to talk about where these people are dying – namely, nursing homes and hospitals. In a nursing home? You’re not long for this world,* Covid or not; not in a nursing home or otherwise very ill? Covid is no worry at all, no more than a cold or flu.

*with the usual caveat that those in dementia care sometimes live years until the decay of their bodies catches up with the decay of their minds. But those in for basic bodily sickness are unlikely to last for more than a year or so, usually much less.

Predictions from Last Year, and for This Year

William Briggs, Statistician to the Stars, asks every year for his readers to make predictions, then, early the next year, scores those predictions. I play along and then promptly forget them until reminded the following year when Briggs publishes the results.

His rules:

  1. Number your predictions, using numbers, like this.
  2. Limit your predictions to 5, a number less than 6 or more.
  3. No sports.
  4. Be specific and provide a way to verify your projections.
  5. Attach a probability word if you are less than certain.
  6. Verified predictions of our coming Doom will receive very little weight unless they are quite specific.

Here are mine for 2021, with Brigg’s comments after the quotation, and my comments in bold italics after that:

My 2021 predictions:

1. “By year end, the state will begin to take away the children of those who fail to comply with ‘public health’ orders, for the kids protection.” This indeed happened, but in isolated cases, usually divorces. Will pick up this year.

2. “A cold war will grow between the schools and those parents who (finally) see what the schools teach.” This happened, you terrorists. Will get worse.

3. “The lockdown it simply too intoxicating to ever end. A new strain will be ‘discovered’, CHILDREN ARE DYING!!!” Yes, twice over. Bingo.

4. “Websites such as this will either be simply eliminated, or, if small enough, shadow-banned.” We are shadow-banned in at least several universities, as anons have written to say.

5. “The election fraud stands, but something else – the inevitable power struggle among the victors, the sudden, unexpected collapse of China, somebody key breaking ranks, enough people starting to actively resist…” Not quite. I don’t remember exactly what I was predicting here – more chaos than we got, something like that. Maybe this year.

Here are mine for 2022:

  1. 2022 is the year the Branch Covidians are phased out and the Greta Fan Club takes over: more and more controls are enforced and less and less freedoms allowed, but the alleged cause gradually switches from fauxvid to Climate Change ™.
  2. Similarly, our all but mandated social scores, currently based on ‘vax’ status, will come to include some sort of carbon score or suchlike.
  3. “The rich” discover that they are not homogenous. The unending power struggles among our betters increase as saner heads try to reign things in. The Soroses and Buffetts of the world may have enough wealth in enough areas to ride out almost anything, but some people who imagine they are wealthy are going to discover they aren’t. Some rich people, for example, have much of their wealth in shipping or airlines. They are not as happy with the direction of things as are the more satanic vermin like Soros, whose fortune is based on currency manipulation. This one is likely complicated to verify, but can be read between the lines when certain industries push back against the control mechanisms.
  4. Public school attendance falls sharply. Private schools boom even as laws and regulations are enforced against them. Conflicts move from school board meetings into the actual schools. (Again, could be hard to verify, as the only reporting will frame the parents as ‘terrorists’ if it gets reported at all.)
  5. Prayers that the pope speedily comes to enjoy his eternal reward will increase in frequency and fervor, but he will hang on for another year.

You heard it here first! Maybe.

Obsessing About Weather: Acting Normally (for me)

Let’s take ourselves on wings of nostalgia as it were and try to help ourselves forget, perhaps, for a while, our drab wretched lives: Let us return to a subject written about here before the world lost its mind. All 12 longtime readers might recall my neurotic obsession interest in California weather. My interest was at first piqued by the incessant harping on and doomsday predictions over what, when looked at objectively, was just typical California weather. Namely: precipitation varies a lot from year to year here in the Golden State. Most years, we get less than average rainfall. Some years, we get a lot more than average rainfall. That’s the pattern evident in the data since there has data to look at.

So, a few years in a row of below average rainfall is not a drought. In any decade, you might get 5, 6, 7 years of below average rainfall, sometimes in a row. Such a pattern seems to simply be the way weather works here on the West Coast, at least since the last glacial maximum ended 10,000 years ago. The existence of California’s extensive system of reservoirs and canals testifies that at some point, some Californians understood that this is the pattern – and built a lot of reservoirs in an attempt to even it out a bit. That these reservoirs are sometimes near empty is a feature, not a bug. If they were always full, that would mean that precipitation around the state was always orderly and consistent. If they were always full, we wouldn’t need them.

Similarly, the three major rivers in the L.A. basin have been turned into concrete lined storm channels. 100 years ago, Angelinos got tired of having their city washed away about every decade, and so made sure the water from the occasional epic storm had somewhere to go. Most years, there will be more skateboarders than water in those channels. But once in a while…

Calling ‘average’ ‘normal’, so that mundane variation become, not ‘below average’, but ‘abnormal’ simply adds to the atmosphere of panic.

So: for the last year, we’ve been hearing about how California had sunk into an unprecedented drought since the epic rain year of 2016/2017 when, you may recall, 200%+ of average rainfall and snowpack nearly washed out the Oroville Dam. the state’s largest reservoir. That ended the then current unprecedented ‘drought’. Before that, the 2005/2006 epic rain year ended another unprecedented drought. And so on, back through the decades. As one remarkably sane meteorologist put it. there are only a few storms between drought and plenty in California.

How are we doing this year? Glad you asked. According to my crazy spread sheet*:

The at a glance summary section of my spreadsheet. The “gages over %” numbers show how many of the 32 total gages have reached the various arbitrary milestones. I’m just amusing myself.

The real accuracy here is probably more in the range of 10 percentage points, rather than the displayed 1/100th of a percentage point -but where’s the fun in that? So, despite the faux accuracy above, we’re really more like something between 70 and 80% of the season average as of today.

Any still here and not drifting into a coma may be interested in the overall pattern of rainfall over time in Contra Costa County, which I’ve determined from other datasets:

Again, while it would be easy (I do it all the time) to come up with a bunch of reasons why it’s wrong to do the math this way, and wrong to mix data from different sets, and so on, it’s also reciprocally hard to come up with any reasons the number would be very off – a bunch of different people calculating rainfall over many years and over a fairly contained and consistent area are not likely to get significantly different results.

The rain season here stretches from July through the following June. The seasonal pattern is something like this: On average, about 16% of total rainfall falls from July through November; about 10% falls in April, May, and June. The other 74% falls in December, January, February, and March.

Using the above as a baseline, as of the end of December, we get on average about 35% of our season total rainfall. This year, we’re at over 200% of expected average rainfall to date so far, and about 75% of the average seasonal total – with the bulk of the rainy season still to come. The Sierra snowpack, the melting of which following summer replenishes many reservoirs, is in a similar state: about 150% of average to date, about 50% of seasonal average.

So, we can stop worrying about the drought for now? Well – no. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for the rain and snow to just – stop. A near or completely dry month or two or three, even the peak months, happens regularly. It would be a little unusual if, after a very rainy first half of the season, we got a very dry second half – but hardly unprecedented.

Isn’t this all fascinating? No?

The table is set for a nice 200% year, which would shut up the drought doomsayers for a while, at least. Yet, alas, even only 100% isn’t a sure bet at this point. I’ll keep y’all posted.

*The Contra Costa County Flood Control District maintains a set of 32 rain gages spread across the county. These gages are meant to track current rainfall against a set of “critical antecedent conditions” so as to allow predictions of flooding. The tables on the web page are automatically updated every 15 minutes, allowing the obsessive attentive observer to watch the rainfall spread out across the county in almost real time. These gages are situated at various altitudes and terrain, so that the experts at the CCC Flood Control District can see where the water is piling up and where it will go. I misuse these gages to measure broad rainfall totals, doing a series of logically and mathematically dubious sums and calculations in order to arrive at the magic number you see above – EXACTLY 76.93% of expected seasonal rainfall has, well, fallen so far. Riiiight. Summing up rainfall and averages across a range of gages and then dividing to get percentages – not strictly scientific. I also do averages of averages, which also has its shortcomings. BUT – I tell myself – the situation is such that these iffy methods are probably roughly right. I’m not applying for grant money are trying to whip up some panic here – I just like taking a stab at a broader measure of rainfall.

The Predicament & “Experts”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He didn’t like mine very much.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Predicament

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Above and Beyond

During the Covidiocy, it’s not enough to do the stupid, pointless, unscientific crap officially demanded. We can’t just mask, double mask, social distance, get jabbed, get jabbed again, and then get jabbed yet again. Nope, we need, it seems, to prove our loyalty and obedience by thinking up yet more stupid, pointless, unscientific crap.

This evening, I attended an event where not only was masking up mandatory, not only were the folding chairs placed a couple feet apart, but the doors were left wide open. Temperatures were in the high 40s – cold, by California standards – and there was a light breeze. So, sitting still, not dressed for outdoors in winter, we were freezing our patooties off.

Because…? The masking up is mandated by the state and county. Putting chairs a couple feet apart? Maybe, but I think not. Leaving the doors wide open? I think this is just proving that ‘we’ are eager beavers, that ‘we’ are doing more than is required to defeat the virus! Because the virus, being both genius and magic, is warded off by masks (but only if they cover your nose), cannot travel more than 2 feet (except when it can), and hates a good cold breeze. Covid can sense true believer’s faith, like the Angel of Death sensed lamb’s blood on the lintels, and will pass them by.

Or something. The terrified rabbits running this get-together have to do more than the minimum, even if, or perhaps because, that extra step is uncomfortable, at least, and an invitation for some old lady to catch her death of cold at worst. That way, the virus knows you’re serious!

We see this everywhere. I went to mass (once) at a local parish where not only was every other pew roped off to enforce social distancing, but we were forbidden to use the kneelers – because? Well, because that way, the virus knows we’re serious! Sure, knee-to-knee transfer via lingering pants-based virus particles is just a theory, but it could happen! Prove that it can’t! What are you, crazy!?!?

In general, we don’t take obvious steps based on official premises – masks, if they work, should be disposed of as hazardous waste, changed every hour, and only touched by gloved up hands. One should scrub up after touching them, and then put the gloves in hazardous waste, and then glove up again and scrub one’s face and anything that mask might have touched – every time! Unless you don’t really believe those masks are capturing deadly virus particles – in other words, unless you don’t really believe they work.

Actions speak louder than words. No one really believes masks work. BUT! We still need to keep the doors open and refrain from kneeling! THAT will show the virus we mean business!

The world is insane.

A disease vector.

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!

An Intrusion of Cockroaches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clarity versus noise.

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

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