Home Improvement Projects as of 10/1

Thinking back, this whole brick insanity began maybe 5-6 years ago when I asked Cindy, our neighbor on the south, is she’d mind if I put in a little brick wall down the property line between our houses. She said sure, go for it. So, initially, I was thinking maybe a 40′ long, three brick high little wall, just to tidy up the transition from lawn to her white gravel around little low bushes look.

Then, I got to thinking. This is a bad as one might imagine. What if I put in a second little wall a foot from the first, and made a nice long planter? That would be cute.

Then, the old walnut tree in the front yard needed to be taken out – slowly dying, leaning slightly toward the house, was starting to get worrisome. So, out it went, and the truly hare-brained phase began: what if, instead of a worthless front lawn, we put in a little orchard? Hmmm…

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As of 10/1. Pomegranates in the still a mess front yard. 

Next, I’d long been annoyed with the inevitable tire tracks on the lawn where people pulling into the drive missed the driveway. So, what if I made a little maybe 3′ wide brick path along the driveway, throw a little concrete and steel right along the edge to support the inevitable errant car tires…

We started surfing Craig’s List for free bricks. They come up regularly. Soon, we had maybe a 2,000 bricks stacked in the front yard, most needing some clean up of old mortal. we’ve continued to collect more bricks, at least 4,000 by now. I’ve cleaned the mortar off of well over 2,000 bricks. We have a large unsightly pile of mortar chips that I’ve been using to fill in under concrete whenever we need to.

But we also had a couple little trees seriously outgrowing the barrel halves we’d stuck them in, a dwarf fig and a citrus tree andrew had grown from a seed when he was quite little. Why not build in a couple stylish planters out front, and put those trees there?

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Driveway walk & planters as of 2 years ago. 

THEN, looking at brickwork pictures, saw the adorable brick ovens people make. Well, I’ve got thousands of bricks up front, how hard could it be to build a brick oven? So add that to the list.

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Only took 16 months! 

Next next, looked like grandma was going to come live with us, which she did 2 years ago. The late walnut tree had made a mess out of the walk up to the front door, lifting and cracking it. A ramp would be better for grandma anyway, and I have all these bricks. So older son took a sledge to the walk, and younger son and I poured about 3/4 of a ton of concrete to bring the surface up enough so that the ramp would meet the porch slab…

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With ramp to front porch and little trees! About a year ago. 

And, what the heck, after I saw how nice the planters looked with the two little trees with a bench between them, why not just keep going, build a path and some planters along the front facing the street? Then somebody tsk tsk’d me, saying that the problem with the front yard orchard is that people are just going to steal your fruit. That had never occured to me, but, hey, a wrought iron style fence along the top of the front brick wall of the planters would look great. Of course, I’d need to build some columns on the ends to support the fence…

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Nearly finished north section of the walk, planter and fence along the street, looking south. 
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Little columns came out nice. Need to put a capping row of bricked beneath the fence, will need to layout and mark where the occasional through upright spike goes, and so some careful cutting. Front yard still a wreck. 

So, as we wrap up Year Three of the massive brick home improvement project, the one part I haven’t even started yet? The wall between our house and the neighbor to the south. But it looks OK! Maybe 2 more years, and I’ll wrap it up.

If I live that long.

 

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Education Reading: 9/25 Update

Still working my way through Parish School by Timothy Walch (1997) and The Catholic School System in the United States,  by James A. Burns, C.S.C. (1908), with an equal or greater amount of effort spent tracking down references and googling background information. Very enlightening.

Because it is a much shorter work, I’m up to rereading sections covering the late 1800s/early 1900s in Walch while still back in colonial times with Burns. Walch covers the controversies and appeals to the Pope over disagreements in the Catholic hierarchy in America. Archbishop John Ireland, classified by Walch as a liberal, dreams of a day when Catholics can just send their kids to public schools and be done with it. After all, Ireland says, (here reflecting late Brownson) Americanism is fully compatible with Catholicism in its respect for the individual and freedom. Catholics should not fear immersion in Americanism just so long as the overt anti-Catholicism is purged. He seemed confident that it had been purged by 1890, when he was writing. Other archbishops threw their arms up in despair – Ireland was throwing the entire Parish School movement under the bus in order to make nice to non-Catholic Americans. If the public schools were acceptable, what was the point of having had thousands of parishes and millions of immigrants sacrifice to build and send their kids to parish schools?

A couple of issues are touched upon lightly that seem to need further expansion, and one critical point is ignored.  Walch repeats throughout the text the idea that Catholics in general were envious of the comparatively well-funded and appointed public schools, with their trained and certified teachers, and that everybody knew attending a public school gave kids a leg up on getting ahead. Haven’t tracked down or even read through all his notes – there are many – but the quotations in the text that might support these views have so far invariably been from partisans in the disagreement, or at least clerics. We don’t hear from Paddy the cop or Hanz the baker or Gianni the line worker in the shoe factory on their views of pubic versus parish schools. They were probably too busy. But based on their works, the churches and schools they did build with their own money and sweat, one might imagine they would beg to differ.

We do know that certain *clerics* envied the public schools. Fr. Pace, Fr. Shields, Fr. Burns, Archbishop Ireland and other priests and bishops thought ‘modern’ ‘scientific’ schooling embodying the latest advances in ‘scientific’ psychology and ‘scientific’ pedagogy were marvels, and that the dedicated but untrained and uncertified sisters doing most of the teaching in Catholic schools were a bit of an embarassment.

Walch also asserts that non-Catolic Americans were consistently baffled by the Church’s resistance to public schools. Hadn’t the schools (eventually, after some bloodshed) removed the Protestant King James Bible from the curriculum? Sure, there was some dispute over history, where the influence of the likes of Francis Parkman made the Catholics in the New World buffoons on a good day and evil, conniving anti-Americans on most days. But hey, the morality presented in the readers and copybooks was almost identical! So, come on, Catholics, we’ve met you more than half way!

In other words, there was nothing but acceptance, nay, affection among Protestants for American Catholics, who wouldn’t dream of ramming their views down the throats of Catholic kids via the public schools. Too bad Al Smith was not able to tap into all this good will.

I think there might be more to it than that.

A far greater and less excusable omission is Walch’s total failure to include any *reasons* why Catholics in 1890 might be suspicious of the good intentions of those then in charge of public education. It is implied that their fears were largely anachronistic, based on an earlier time. But as readers of this blog are aware, such contemporary luminaries in education as William Torey Harris were pushing Hegelianism as the official view of the US Office of Education – you know, that Modernism stuff the popes kept going on about. Harris, who was in office as US Commissioner of Education at the time Ireland address the (secular) National Education Association with his pro-public schooling remarks, said:

“Ninety-nine [students] out of a hundred are automata, careful to walk in prescribed paths, careful to follow the prescribed custom. This is not an accident but the result of substantial education, which, scientifically defined, is the subsumption of the individual.”

Anything there a Catholic might object to, in principle? Harris also sought to make schools sensory deprivation tanks (“The great purpose of school can be realized better in dark, airless, ugly places … It is to master the physical self, to transcend the beauty of nature. School should develop the power to withdraw from the external world.”). Maybe somebody attending Mass in any one of the thousands of beautiful churches built by immigrants might object to this approach as being fairly explicitly anti-Catholic? No catechism in stone, just abstract thought?

So while the public schools were being lead by people dedicated to turning them into factories producing docile robots immune to beauty, the ‘liberal’ leaders of the Catholic Church were desperate to send Catholic kids to those schools, in the name of Progress and being Good Americans, and to the obviation of parish schools. In Walch’s telling, the opposition of the bishops he calls ‘conservatives’ is just this mystery, or at most them being fuddy-duddies stuck in the past.

Trying to stop getting sidelined and just finish these two books. Instead, I pulled down a short biography of Barnard, a contemporary and co-conspirator with Mann, because something Walch or Burns said made me think of Barnard…

Next up:

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Seaton is an obvious choice. Thoroughly expect the book on the right is another cheerleading job, but true believers tend to slip up and say what they really mean from time to time. I’ve read and briefly reviewed the Holy See’s Teachings on Catholic Schoolsbut want to reread it now, as I suspect there was more than a little judicious cherry picking going on. I remember nothing in these writings that Archbishop Ireland wouldn’t be completely down with. (He wanted the State’s role in education to be on a par with the parents and the Church. No, really, he thought that was a good idea.)

I really need to get that Educational Resources page going here…

Thursday Update: Modernism & Education & Science!

A. Ran into some very interesting stuff around the whole excommunicate Catholics who refused to send their kids to Catholic schools even when such were available and affordable. Walch tells the story differently than I’d read it before (where, I can’t remember and didn’t take notes! Never again will I not take notes! No, really, this time – for sure! It’s got to be in either the books on the shelf in front of me or in one of the myriad of links I’ve collected…)

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Walch ascribes the incident to the machinations of one layman, a James McMaster, a convert who, with typical convert zeal, thought Catholics should send their kids to parish schools no matter what, to keep them out of the evil clutches of the state schools. On his own, he sent damning articles showing the evil of public schools to Rome, along with a memorandum asking if Catholics could justifiably send their kids to such schools.

This got the attention of people in Rome, who responded by sending a questionnaire to the American bishops. They responded and, at least according to Walch, were a bit put out. The pope got involved, and issued the Instruction of 1875, which favored McMaster’s take, but left things vague enough to provide leeway in the bishop’s actions. The bishops chose to ignore the instructions.

Walch’s sympathies are clearly with Progress, and he repeatedly states in this section of the book how Catholics thought their schools were often inferior to the public schools and parents concerned for their children’s futures would choose them for that reason. Besides, many if not most parishes did not have a desk in the parish schools for anything like all the Catholic children in the area. The bishops’ disregard for the rulings of Rome is seen as an inevitable and good thing. He quotes, of all people, Orestes Brownson as someone favoring having Catholic students attend public schools.

(Aside: Can’t resist talking Brownson! There’s a somewhat famous Brownson quotation deriding the very idea that the state should control education – “Where the whole tendency of education is to create obedience, all teachers must be pliant tools of government. Such a system of education is not inconsistent with the theory of Prussian society but the thing is wholly inadmissible here… According to our theory the people are wiser than the government. Here the people do not look to the government for light, for instruction, but the government looks to the people. The people give law to the government….to entrust government with the power of determining education which our children shall receive is entrusting our servant with the power of the master. The fundamental difference between the United States and Prussia has been overlooked by the board of education and its supporters.” However, this quotation is from around 1840. By 1865, Brownson was championing the idea that the US would both become Catholic by nature and necessity, and that the rest of the Western Hemisphere would convert (if necessary) and petition to join the Union. If one thinks the nation will become Catholic, then one might stop objecting to state run schools.)

The other view I’d come across was rather that some of what would now be called conservative Catholic bishops wanted the power to withhold the sacraments from anyone who could send their kids to a Catholic school and didn’t, and were disappointed with the vague answers the pope gave in the Instruction of 1875, but, obedient as they were, they let it go. By either take, this ended up encouraging people like Shields, Pace and Barns to view the public schools as some sort of ideal that the Catholic schools were to strive to achieve.

Yikes.

B. I have mentioned in passing that Fr. Thomas Shields, a scientific psychologist and pedagogue and, according to the meager sources I’ve found so far, a somewhat obscure Catholic Progressive educator, and Fr.  James A. Burns, a prolific writer and fundraiser and one time president of Notre Dame, espouse and promote ideas concurrently being condemned by popes, namely, Modernism.

Here’s somebody’s summary of Pascendi dominici gregis subtitled on the Vatican website  “Encyclical of Pope Pius X on the doctrines of the Modernists.” It’s well worth reading. This summary seems about right.

Burns first published in 1908, the year after the encyclical was proclaimed; Shields was active both before and after.  One thing I read and didn’t makes notes on (a mistake I’m trying to avoid now!) quoted some late 19th century letters among American Catholic prelates on how backwards and hidebound the European Churches were, and how we Americans had to lead them into the glorious future. That attitude would seem congruent with the writings of Shields and Barns, and would explain their (so far – have lots more to read) silence on the teachings of this and previous encyclicals.

To take it point by point – modernist?:

  • Classic philosophy does not get discussed as a basis for education; the latest ‘advances’ are touted – yes;
  • Not directly, but see catechesis  below – push;
  • Not directly, but that we are surfing the leading edge of Progress is merely assumed, with regular comments about how we used to do it poorly in the past, but now we’re doing it obviously better and scientific mow – qualified yes;
  • So far, there’s both these writers are pretty firm on dogma – no;
  • They both want to reform catechesis. On one paper I read, Shields is commended for his opposition to the Baltimore Catechism and in trying to implement the ‘findings’ of ‘scientific’ psychology to make sure children are not taught stuff too hard for them and are taught in ways that appeal to their feelings. This same author thinks Shields was vindicated in the 1960s when we *finally* ditched the Baltimore Catechism and started doing catechesis right. So that would be a – yes;
  • Burns, at least, is big on sacramentals and devotions, so – no;
  • One way to weaken the Church’s power to discipline would be to always step a little over the line and dare the proper ecclesiastical authories to react. That’s pretty much Shield’s M.O., don’t know about Burns, so – qualified yes
  • Both lead by example: Shields ignored the bishops whenever he felt like it, pushed for the professionalization of Catholic school teachers and for them to run the schools as they saw fit – moving authority from bishops to clergy and lay people. Burns is big on the Catholic National Education Association, by which Shields’ goals were pursued. This isn’t even looking at Notre Dame. This would be a big – yes;
  • See above;
  • See above;
  • N/A
  • Burns:  “In the teaching of the purely secular branches she (the Church) has had no direct interest. She took the curriculum of secular studies such as she found it, and left its development to the operation of the ordinary laws of educational growth. Outside of the matter of religion, there has been no attempt to differentiate Catholic parish schools from other denominational schools or from the public schools.” This sounds OK on the surface, but what it means in practice, and what actually happened, was that Catholic schools accepted uncritically whatever methods and content is developed for the public schools provided it can be framed up as ‘secular’ knowledge. This is not good, when the public schools first goal is to promote control and a harmony, let us say, of ideas – modernist ideas. Think psychology, history and sociology. I’ll talk about this further in another post. So – yes. 
  • This, and the next two points, are quite evident in current ‘catholic’ schools, but not yet evident in the writings of Shields and Burns – Incomplete
  • Incomplete
  • Incomplete

I think it’s safe to tentatively conclude, while leaving room for counter evidence, that since the early 20th century at the latest, our Catholic parish schools have been steered toward exactly the modernism that Pope St. Pius X specifically condemned.

I know you’re shocked.

C. Then there’s this nonsense: Bad science! Bad!.When feminists and other anti-science, anti-reason, anti-reality loonies get to decide what it is permissible to find, Orwell’s dystopia is already upon us. What the paper says and how strong its arguments are is irreverent to this point – we won’t know, because it’s not published! – merely that it can be memory-holed because of bad think.

The time to be nice has long passed. We must make a stink whenever the opportunity arises.

Final Thoughts on Lewis’s Inner Rings & Update

The previous 2 posts are concerned with C. S. Lewis’s 1944 address “Inner Rings“, Fr. Longenecker’s commentary on it, and my commentary on both and examples from That Hideous Strength. I also added a few thoughts on some ways in which fans, both of sports and celebrities in general, can fall into the trap of enforced conformity merely by being such fans.

Politics has become largely such a fan club. The utterly irrational enthusiasm for Obama, Bernie, and to a lesser but still troubling degree, Trump(1) is exactly the sort of behavior we expect from sports fans.

Fans consider a team or celebrity or politician ‘ours’ even though fans in no way own or control or even influence those teams, celebrities or politicians. In sports, it may be more or less harmless for fans to consider a team ‘theirs’ even though they don’t own it, don’t influence coaching or management or personnel decisions, and even though the real owners can take the team to some other city, or sell it or even disband it without a second thought to what the loyal fans might want.

But in politics, here’s what happens: ‘fans’ of socialism, for example, get their hero put in charge, with the belief that, unlike previous leaders, he is going to hold their feelings close to his heart. He will take care of them! Policy details are necessarily vague to non-existent, as the fans are most definitely not fans of all the little detailed steps needed to get to the Worker’s Paradise – that why they hope to elect the Bern or that Ocasio-Cortez woman. It is much more important to the fans that their heroes’ hearts be in the right place than that they have any idea what they’re doing.

The incoherence and impatience with which these two politicians respond to practical, even slightly detailed questions reflects the attitude of their fans. Their resumes – “politician, educator, and political activist” – are completely without any objective, measurable achievements. And the fans don’t care.

Put the last two points together: political fans have no control and vanishingly little input into what their heroes will do once they have power, and they are uninterested in how these results are to be achieved, and even uninterested to an amazing degree if anything at all is achieved. Just as supporters swooned over the ACA, they will swoon over whatever the next nice-sounding power grab is. The Economic Fairness Act, if supported by the Bern or Ocasio-Cortez will garner unquestioning support from their fans, who will not investigate or even care how or if it will work. The American Dreamer Immigration Reform Act, or the Oligarchy Control Act, the Income Equalization Act – any and all of these made-up bills will receive the support of the fans provided their heroes support them. (2) No amount of pointing out how they will really work will even register. The Bern wants economic fairness! Miss Ocasio-Cortez wants to help immigrants! That’s all that will register in the typical fan’s mind.

In the extreme case, you get apologists for Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Che and Chavez. Because, despite what they did in reality – purges (3), murder, mayhem, complete economic destruction, all while personally living high on the hog – because, darn it all, their hearts are in the right place! Look at the Soviet constitution! More and better guarantees of rights than even the US Constitution! Never mind that all those rights didn’t help the Kulaks much, because I’m not a Kulak. They were asking for it anyway.

But, boy, isn’t their rhetoric lovely! My failures and unhappiness are not my own, I am a victim of oppression by vast historical forces. We must defeat those forces by killing all that are under their sway! Then we will all be happy.

I wish I were exaggerating, but I’m merely stating the core beliefs in plain English.

Well before it finally goes too far, fans may start to realize that they have no say and no effective way to oppose any course of action their heroes chose to pursue, up to and including killing off the fans themselves.

I wish there were a way to help people ask, always, will that plan work? How? At what cost? But there doesn’t seem to be any.

On a lighter note:

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This little dwarf fig tree grew in a pot, then a barrel, for over 10 years. Two springs ago, we transplanted it in this spot by the front door.

It really likes being in the ground. Last year, we got an early and late fig crop, and the tree was trying for a third before the weather turned cold; I trimmed it back over the winter. Now, it’s twice the size and yields a few cups of figs per day, and has been for a couple weeks, and is still loaded with maturing figs:

(Don’t know if you can see them in there, but lots of little figs)

Now, I’m not a huge fig fan. I make a very lightly sweetened fig jam which a couple of the kids like. That’s about it. But I’m a huge fan of beautiful plants and trees, and this is a beautiful little tree. That biblical image of a man content beneath his own fig tree comes to mind every time I pass it.

Further, while we are following the best practice of not letting our other fruit trees bear much fruit until Year 3 – next year – in order to make sure the trees get properly rooted, my lack of thoroughness allowed a couple dozen peaches and pomegranates to grow. We let a handful of apricots come in for testing – they were good – but I failed to dig around in the lower, more hidden reaches of the very thick foliage of our dwarf peach tree and missed a bunch. They were really good, and the little tree is so vigorous I’m figuring its roots are doing fine anyway.

Pomegranates don’t ripen until November or later. This little tree I have trimmed and trimmed again – can’t let them get much over 7′ tall or our front yard orchard will be unmanageable – there’s just no stopping it! Must have pinched off hundreds of blossoms and little fruit and – well, like the dwarf peach, I’m figuring it’s so vigorous the roots must be doing OK. So, in a couple months, we’ll have a 2-3 dozen beautiful pomegranates to deal with.

Really looking forward to next season!

Finally, Tool Time! I’ve never had a workshop or even adequately large garage to work in, so my tool collection, though not insubstantial, is not very big for somebody as into home improvement projects as I am. Things I really wish I had, but have no place to keep: planer, drill press, good size workbench with some bench clamps, masonry saw,  welding equipment, cutting torch and probably a bunch more I’m not thinking of at the moment.

I’m always happy when I find some small tool or gadget that does exactly what I need but doesn’t take up much space. Previous additions include little angle grinder – how did I ever do without one? – a hammer drill and various router bits. The latest add: a step drill bit. Little tiny thing that is making putting in the wrought iron style fence and gate I’m working on much easier. I need to cut all these 1/2″ holes through some fairly soft iron, but I was chewing up drill bits and time doing it. Now? Cordless drill in one hand, can of WD-40 in the other, and I’m a hole-drillin’ fool!

It’s the little things….

For both my readers who care, I’ll have pics of the Endless Brick and Faux Wrought Iron Fence Front Yard Project of Death soon. It’s coming along.

  1. I make this distinction because, in general, fans of Trump express their love based on stuff Trump actually did, e.g., reducing regulation & stimulating economic growth, or is measurably making some progress on, e.g., reducing illegal immigration and building the wall, while fans of Bernie and Barry base their fandom entirely on what they believe their heroes stand for. Bernie and Barry share a track record of having done very, very little except for grand symbolic gestures. Consider: Obama’s greatest achievement is considered getting the Affordable Care Act passed. Note that getting this law passed did not in practice provide affordable care, it merely shifted burdens around, compelled people who might not have wanted insurance to get it anyway, and created a vast, unworkable bureaucratic structure all while providing no workable cost control. But – it’s called the Affordable Care Act, so he’s credited as if affordable care was actually provided. And he’s a positive Edison compared to the Bern.
  2. Again, I’m not a Trump lover, but his support seems fundamentally different (which is why his opponents can’t begin to understand it) – if he somehow tried to get bills passed which restricted gun ownership or opened the boarders or increased taxes, a large section of his base would rebel, no matter how charming the name such bills were given. Compare & contrast Clinton getting NAFTA passed over the objections of the unions – which unions continued to support him.
  3. Fans never think they’ll get purged, because they are True Believers. Wake-up call: fans are often at the top of the culling list.

Update: Reading, Writing & The Deathless Home Improvement Project

So, here we are again!

Reading: Reading Lord of the World aloud to the family intermittently. Around 40% of the way through. This will mark the third or maybe fourth time I’ve read it, it keeps getting better, in the sense of more terrifyingly accurate. (my emphasis)

But what was chiefly to be feared was the positive influence of Humanitarianism: it was coming, like the kingdom of God, with power; it was crushing the imaginative and the romantic, it was assuming rather than asserting its own truth;it was smothering with bolsters instead of wounding and stimulating with steel or controversy. It seemed to be forcing its way, almost objectively, into the inner world. Persons who had scarcely heard its name were professing its tenets; priests absorbed it, as they absorbed God in Communion—he mentioned the names of the recent apostates—children drank it in like Christianity itself. The soul “naturally Christian” seemed to be becoming “the soul naturally infidel.”

Persecution, cried the priest, was to be welcomed like salvation, prayed for, and grasped; but he feared that the authorities were too shrewd, and knew the antidote and the poison apart. There might be individual martyrdoms—in fact there would be, and very many—but they would be in spite of secular government, not because of it. Finally, he expected, Humanitarianism would presently put on the dress of liturgy and sacrifice, and when that was done, the Church’s cause, unless God intervened, would be over.

One is not allowed to question the assumptions of modernity; one’s character is up for assassination; if one is important enough, one is shouted down, de-platformed, shadow-banned. For now.

Also for now, we little fish are safe, we are only slandered in general as part of a general mob of untouchables who are not to be heard. We will see what tomorrow will bring. Could go either way, with either enough high profile celebrities defecting from the hate mobs to reveal the emperor’s nakedness, or perhaps those driving the mobs manage to put the hammer down and punish all badthink. We will see.

Also still reading Polanyi’s The Great Transformation. With these Marxists (and, despite protestation to the contrary, he uses utterly Marxist reasoning, so, quacks like a duck) you must read to the end, in my experience. Even the more mainstream Marxists usually can’t resist the call for blood, but follow a standard propaganda method format. Lead with pity and woe at all the injustice, followed by telling us how we get past the current oppressive regimes (spoiler: by radicalizing everything and everyone), how great it will be once we’re in charge, and save the wrong have no rights and will need to be exterminated part for the end.  Polanyi did lead with woe and oppression, and followed with how it’s all the capitalist’s fault – so, again, we’ll see.

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A photograph intended to enhance your blog reading experience. All symbolical and everything.

Writing: Last week was bad. Only got in about 10 hours of writing. The middle of the week was completely unproductive. Wednesday, had a phone job interview. It was also our late son Andrew’s 27th birthday. He died just short of his 21st. Good intentions weren’t enough to get me through.

On the positive side, just sent out the draft of The White Handled Blade to a couple beta readers, and am waiting to hear back from a couple more before shipping it off. Here’s your chance to read a YA Arthurian story set in modern day Wales. If that’s your thing. It really isn’t mine – at least, I thought it wasn’t – but ended having a lot of fun writing it. Mostly because I threw in the small but not light kitchen sink of everything I found out about Arthurian Wales. Lots of hard to pronounce words.

The plan for this week includes:

  • Finishing up It Will Work, a sort of comedy of manners with nanotech, space aliens and explosions. I kid. A little. About 85% done, I reckon.
  • Final pass revisions on Rock, and starting the rejection letter collection process.
  • Working more on either The Measure of Our Days, a story that’s either close to being done or in drastic need of extensive rewrite, I can’t yet tell which, or Line of Sight, a new story from my ideas list I wrote a few hundred words on, or – something else. Questions with Line of Sight is: can I live up to the setup? Can Flannery O’Conner’s basic approach be applied to Military SciFi? Stay tuned!

Finally, the current Home Improvement Project has inched forward. Running into more engineering issues than anticipated attaching a wrought iron (style) fence to a brick wall. But I’ve at least gotten to the point where that’s an issue!

Update: Week 2 of the Writing/Job Hunt Project.

(I’ll ease up on these updates, which it’s hard to imagine many people find very interesting except, perhaps, as cautionary tales, once I get it more in a grove and whatever feeble novelty wears off. Do have a couple book reviews to do…) 

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Not remotely like this. 
  • First week of The Plan: got one story – the White Handled Blade – finished, read it aloud to the family, revised in response to their criticisms, now need to contact existing/find some additional beta readers. So: if you’ve already said you’ll beta read additional stories for me, expect emails; if you haven’t and want to read this (YA Arthurian fantasy), please contact me using the email under the ‘About’ page here.
  • Also, as mentioned before, did revisions to Rock based on beta reader’s feedback, for which I will always be grateful. I’ve decided to let it sit for a bit, maybe until the end of this week, and take one more pass at tightening it up in response to some recommended changes/clarifications I couldn’t quite figure out how to work in the first pass. After that, it’s done. Next will be finding possible markets, which is proving to be a daunting task – I only know maybe three SF&F magazines personally – Asimov’s, Analog, Sci Fi & Fantasy – and that largely from the distant past when I used to read the dead tree editions. Rock doesn’t seem right for them to me (I have other stories/ideas that would be better fits IMO, but I got to write them/finish them first).  People have helpfully compiled lists of markets on the internet. You want a time sink? Try checking out SF&F/YA markets you’ve never heard of. The only real way to get a feel is to read the stuff they publish. That can take a while.
  • Now working on It Will Work, the flash fiction exercise that grew into a 6-7,000 word short story. Because it began as flash fiction in seven parts, I was shooting for a shocking twist and cliffhanger in each section. Do that seven times, and you got yourself a whole lot of plot to tie together. Lots of fun. Will end up about twice as long as the sum of the sections that have appeared here.
  • Phone interview for London job Wednesday morning 7:00 a.m. Should be interesting.
  • Getting so close on finishing the next phase of brickwork out front. Will post pictures.
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More like this.

Here’s one amateur’s experience trying to be disciplined, writing every day for at least a few hours. It’s fun, so far, since I’m not on a deadline nor needing to sell stuff to put bread on the table. I’m aware that makes me the worst kind of dilettante.  But that’s where I’m at for now.

Over 6 writing days, only had to really force myself to work on stuff a couple times. Mostly, the 4-5 hours fly by. Of course, at this point, there’s a lot of just finding and organizing stuff accumulated over the years in various formats and on google drives under various email addresses. It’s writing time, sort of, since I need to find what I’ve got in order to work on it. That should be over soon. So I might get a job offer I like and that will push me back into having a couple hours a day, tops. Or I might not. We’ll see.

Rock has gotten to the point where I’m thoroughly bored with it (it will pass, I think). It only really has two characters and it’s short, so there’s not a lot thickness to them. It’s a piece of fluff, frankly. Shooting for making it at least a good piece of fluff. But, hey, at the very least it was a good exercise. Now to collect some rejection slips for it! Woohoo!

The White Handled Blade I like a lot, much more fun with the characters and their arcs. The main character is, I think, likable and sympathetic. There’s a clown car’s worth of secondary characters, which it was fun to try to make interesting and different in a few lines. Seems OK. Let’s see how much I like it once some readers have beat it up a little…

It Will Work is likewise a blast so far, despite having only two maybe three characters with much screen time. While I try to keep the action coming, I’ve also laid and set off a number of emotional landmines. This is important practice, at the very least, as the Nameless Novel will need a lot of that action – I’ve outlined a lot of  very complex and emotion-charged relationships that need to unspool satisfactorily over time for the novel to work. So, as of this morning, I’m loving It Will Work. Beats the alternatives.

Hope to finish it this week. Then will be faced with the choice of trying to knock off a couple more half-finished and half-baked stories, picking a new one to try off the Story Ideas list,  working on the novel, or starting in on the education history book.

We’ll see how that goes.

 

Update: Day 3. Writing, Home Improvement, Hatch Green Chile

(A bit of thinking out loud here. Sure when/if I get better at this, there won’t be so much. One hopes.)

Day Three of The Plan:

  • Phone interview for job in London set for next Wednesday. Question is really just how wildly overqualified they want to go here, and how much are they willing to pay? If they are in the ballpark, then the next question is the big one: does the family – me, my wife, 14 yr old son, and grandma + an obnoxious cat – want to move to the U.K. for a decade? Stay tuned.
  • Finished the rewrites of Rock based on beta readers’ input. Thanks again, everybody! Now, must let it sit for a few days, reread with fresher eyes. A couple beta readers made points I couldn’t figure how to address, so might be just a tad more work involved. (All this for a 3,000 word story that’s pretty light weight. Normal?) I have really no idea who, if anyone, would be interested in publishing this – that’s the next hurdle.
  • Finishing up The White-Handled Blade, the YA Arthurian story I set aside a year plus ago, with the battle scene and wrap-up to go. Added net about 2,000 words. Drafted the battle, seems OK; have pretty good idea how to wrap it up. One problem: I use a ton of unpronounceable Welsh words in the course of the story. Sometimes, I’ll have one character mention, say, a cyhyraeth, and then later have another character refer to it as a wraith – I’m hoping to have people get the gist without either having to spell out what each kind of eldritch creature in Welsh mythology corresponds to in more common language or eliminating the colorful names. (That they don’t exactly correspond I was planning to gloss over, as in how Juno and Hera aren’t actually the same goddess but who cares?) Don’t want to talk down to younger readers (I hated that, quick end to anything I started to read as a kid) but between place names and boogeymen,  that’s a lot of Ll and Cwn and Gwr for a reader to deal with… Coming in at 10-11K words. Oh, yea – beta readers? 
  • Haven’t begun the education history book. Mostly clean up of dangling incomplete tasks at this point. I think I need to get some sense of accomplishment/yes, I can do this by finishing stuff before I take on a much larger and what is sure to be more frustrating task.
  • Also barely looked at The Novel Soon to Have a Working Title. May want to work on that first, dunno – key is that I’m writing *something* every day.
  • On the maintenance/repairs/cleaning front, trying to finish up the section of brickwork out front, got almost all the path done (ran out of sand, of all things!):

Hope it’s becoming clear how this will look: 2′ wide walk along the curb; 16″ tall brick planter topped by a 3′ iron fence. There will necessarily be a gap to allow access to the in-ground water meter, then an identical planter & fence on the other side. Should be cute, and keep those darn kids out of the fruit trees! (very few darn kids in the neighborhood, but still…)

  • Hatch green chile! August is when they harvest the chile grown in the Rio Grande valley south of Albuquerque. Hatch is a town right in the middle of the chile growing region, and so lends its name to the produce. This is the good stuff, why people who’ve come to love New Mexican cuisine are never completely happy with green chile from elsewhere. Some fresh Hatch green chiles showed up at the local Safeway. This morning, we all had  huevos rancheros, which is over easy eggs on top of a dollop of beans on top of corn tortillas, smothered in red or green or both (“Christmas”) chile sauce and topped with cheese. Whipped up some green chile sauce (roast, peel, de-seed and chop the chiles, simmer in some chicken stock, dash salt). There was much rejoicing. Alas! Fresh Hatch green chiles disappeared from Safeway after just a week!
  • Wednesday was the first day in a week or so where I didn’t feel completely well. Too muddle-headed for much of the day to write. But it may be something that’s just going around, as several other family members seemed to have similar headache/tired/ not quite right days. But, hey, soooo much better than the last 10 months, I’m not complaining. Still got almost 4 hours of writing in.