Post Calorific Vision Update/Collected Wisdom

A. Back to back Thanksgiving feasts, Thursday with Elder Daughter & in-laws, Friday at soon to be Younger Daughter’s in-laws. (Should all that be hyphenated? “At the house of the family that will soon become our younger daughter’s in-laws” is what I’m saying. She’s already our younger daughter…)

It was very nice to hang out with friendly, descent people simply having a good time enjoying each other’s company. This is the antidote to the life of fear being rammed down our throats – which is why it is both critically important to do it, and why our self-appointed betters are trying so hard to keep us from doing it. People simply getting together with people without getting anyone else’s permission is the death of totalitarianism.

On to more pleasant aspects. Our new granddaughter was the star of the first gathering. One month old, and, sadly in one respect, a chip off the old block: sleep is strictly optional, and not to be indulged in when it would be most appreciated by mom. BUT: sleeping in the arms of granddad seems to work, so I got a bit of bonding in, sitting in quiet places, holding and patting the little angel as she slept. Prepping her for a sleepless night, no doubt. Sigh.

We finally got the 4-generations photo: great grandma, grandma (my wife) mom (my daughter) and baby.

On to Gathering: The Sequel. The soon-to-be in-laws raise pigs, so the highlight of the meal was a ham that had been part of a pig raised on the property not too long prior. Ham from a home-raised pig is a completely different thing: much redder, more tender, different texture altogether, and delicious. Not a huge ham fan in general, but this stuff was excellent. So daughter’s soon to be father in law (this is tiring!), a very generous man, weighed us down with frozen pork as we headed out the door. I’ve now got a couple pork chops the size of small dinner plates and nearly the color of beefsteak, a pound of bacon, sausage, thin-sliced ham, a nice hock, some dried meat sticks – very cool stuff. It’s probably going to stay in the freezer until Christmas, as we’ve got leftovers to last nearly until then!

But much more important: the house was full of children, I think I counted 6 who were 5 and under, and a handful of teenagers. Included were a set of 11 month old twins, crawling about.

And everyone was totally cool, herding the kids around when necessary, but otherwise just letting them be kids. I love that! In all the exactly 2 perfect and socially responsible children households among most of our acquaintances, the adults would not be able to simply let the kids do their thing without constant supervision. Here, all the adults – and the teenagers, including our youngest son – are perfectly fine at keeping one eye on the short people, doing a little minimal intervention if absolutely necessary, and otherwise acting like normal human beings. Exactly once, I corralled a crawling baby and redirected/redeposited him in the living room when he had headed out into the dining room – only because that’s where most of the older people were, and he seemed headed out of easy view.

I might have overreacted.

The baby took it completely in stride – big strange person he doesn’t know, scooping him up, making faces and yakking at him, moving him back to the room he’d just crawled out of, plopping him down next to his brother and a couple toddlers. He just got on with it.

One toddler had a wee bit of a poutfest because he’s a toddler. Otherwise, no fits or crying jags or acts of wanton destruction. Kids were absolutely having a blast playing with other kids, adults got to be adults. This went on for hours.

It might seem stupid to harp on people being normal and happy – but this -THIS – is what is our betters are trying to take away from us. THIS is what masks, lockdowns, mandates, anti-social distancing, fear, mind-numbingly STUPID propaganda, and getting the terrified to report on the sane, are trying to destroy.

So get out there and have fun with people you love!

Gratuitous picture of a back yard raised pork chop. Computer mouse for scale. None of that ‘the other white meat’ nonsense here!

B. Note: we didn’t host any Thanksgiving events ourselves. Yet, the total kitchen output leading up to Thursday and Friday:

The spousal unit: 14 pies, including the usual – pumpkin (both traditional and strudel), apple (both two-crust and strudel) – and specialties – hazelnut-pecan (to die for), mincemeat (the real deal) and carrot-ginger pie (which looks like a pumpkin pie, but tastes quite different)

The youngest son: whipped cream for pies, hard cream (whipped cream with brandy in it) for the mincemeat.

Me: 8.5 lbs. of pot roast, beef gravy, three loaves of pumpkin bread (to give to one of the ladies who helps with grandma), 2.5 dozen pumpkin cream cheese muffins (To share with neighbors), an apple pie (for the other lady who helps with grandma).

Team effort. There’s a ton of overlap in there – youngest son and I peeled a lot of apples, for example, and I was assigned the task of mixing up some pumpkin filling for pies my wife was baking, and she supplied the mincemeat and instructions, and I made the crust and assembled the pie. And so on. Output listed by who was responsible, but the work was shared.

Totally fun. We did our best to clean as we went, so the kitchen is only sort of a disaster.

C. A downside: Despite what Heraclitus says, the road up and the road down are not the same. 1 hour, 16 minutes to get home from Elder Daughter’s house; 2 hours, 10 minutes to get there; 1 hour, 23 minutes to get home from future in-laws house; 2 hours, 10 minutes to get there. The 80 corridor from San Francisco to Sacramento (and beyond to Lake Tahoe) is prone to heavy traffic. Returning later in the evening, we hit none; going up in the early afternoon was not so good.

That’s why we need to move closer to people we love (and farther from people we loathe. Win-win.)

D. More reality from Clarissa’s blog. Do things to be normal. Do things to be yourself.

When I was a kid, the women I admired the most were the ones who put make-up on first thing in the morning on weekends and holidays. This meant they saw themselves more as women than as cooking-cleaning-disciplining-yelling machines. With the makeup they were signaling that they wanted to be liked by men. This meant they were likely to smile more, scream less, and be easier-going. Kids automatically veered towards the make-up wearing ladies in the house because they were more open to playing with the kids or at least not as likely to police their every move.

Obviously, make-up isn’t necessary to be a happy woman and not a screeching harpy. But in the USSR, everything was designed to crush both womanhood and manhood. You needed to work hard to not feel like a sexless cog in a gigantic production machine. Men had their own rituals of maleness, just like the women had the weekend makeup.

If only you knew how hard it was to get makeup in the USSR. The fact of being willing to use the precious, rare substances when nobody outside of your family would see you signaled that you valued the private space over the public. And that was. . .not in keeping with the ruling ideology, let’s put it that way.

Not sure what this really is, but it appears to be a Soviet-era ad for lipstick?

E. Got a bunch of way-cool Christmas presents to make, which – the best kind – require the use of power tools. Rain has not returned since the monsoons of October, and none are forecast before 2nd week of December. So, out come the table saw, router, sanders, and planers, in the nice sunny 60F weather expected for this afternoon.

Do something you like, with people you love. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

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!

All Saints Eve

Having dinner with younger daughter and her fiancé they came by to carve pumpkins, make caramel apples, and watch a movie. So we spent part of the afternoon carving these:

We choose pumpkins mostly for their future value as pies. Thus, weird shapes are a feature, not a big.
This and previous were my works. Kept it semi-basic this year.
This is daughter’s. It’s a fairly tale carriage, even if the picture doesn’t capture the details.
Future son in law’s. Should I be worried? It’s actually pretty cool.
Caboose went basic/classic

Four or five groups of kids have been by so far.

Freaky Saturday Update: The Weather

Everyone is gone except for my mother-in-law, the cat, and me, the spouse and Caboose are out performing various duties and acts of mercy. Mother-in-law is ensconced in her recliner, the cat asleep on her lap. I’m running a old John Wayne movie marathon for her – True Grit just came up – over YouTube. Thus, I am free to ponder this period between storms.

Right now, it’s puffy clouds and a light breeze. Over the last couple days, it rained an inch here – don’t laugh, that’s a pretty good storm by NoCal standards. Approaching from the north east, due in this part of California starting around 7 this evening as it works its way down the coast from Oregon and Washington, is an ‘atmospheric river‘ storm, or a ‘pineapple express‘. We are told to expect 3 to 5 inches of rain overnight, across Sunday, and into Monday.

By Bay Area standards, that’s a LOT of rain. We usually have a season total rainfall through October of about an inch – this one storm is supposed to be several times that. Our ‘drought’ – a couple of below average rainfall years, such as we have had EVERY FEW YEARS THROUGHOUT THE RECORDED HISTORY OF CALIFORNIA was due to global warming climate change, our betters assure us. I’m sure this unusually large, but by no means unprecedented, storm ‘ending’ the ‘drought’ will also be caused by global warming climate change. There’s nothing that thing can’t do!

Weather.com’s dramatic illustration.

More seriously, because of decades of mismanagement, we have had a lot of wildfires over the last couple years. A whole bunch of rain all at once is going to cause mudslides. This could get ugly.

California gets about 75% of its rainfall over December, January, and February. If this storm comes through as advertised, we’ll have 1/3 of our seasonal average before the rainy season really gets going. Could be interesting.

And there’s always the possibility of an ARkstorm. We’re high enough up that flooding would not be an immediate problem. It’s just the utter destruction of California’s entire drinking water infrastructure and a good chunk of the power grid, while major parts of the highway system are under water, that could be – inconvenient.

Many other distracting thing are happening at the moment. Further details as events warrant.

The Weekend That Was

I type invigorated by our weekend trip, partly taken in order to begin the preparation of our house for sale – needed to get out of Dodge so that the termite tenters could rain their chemical Death upon any little creatures that might be eating the place. But mostly, we attended Thomas Aquinas College’s 50th Anniversary gala.

“Black tie.”

Black tie. Every time I saw or heard that, I heard it in the voice from ZZ Topps’s “Sharp Dressed Man.” Suffice it to say, the Moores are not the kind of people who attend a lot of black tie galas. But we were able to put together a credible showing: I own an ancient tux from my days singing in large choir Christmas concerts (it still fit, 25 years later – I was a shapeless blob even back then!), we found a used tux for cheap for the Caboose, grandma had a very nice dress she’s gotten as a gift from one of her sons, and Mrs. Yard Sale of the Mind made an elegant thrift store find.

The Caboose, a fit 17 year old, looks fine in a tux, like it was designed for him. . Me? I can report that, as is befitting a garment designed to be worn to daily dinner, my tux was comfortable. The ladies looked very nice. We didn’t stand out – mission accomplished.

Gala was at the Beverly Wilshire. Nice.

The Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills, CA. I grew up a block off Beverly Blvd – 20 miles east of here, *slightly* less ritzy.

The people of Thomas Aquinas College have reason to be grateful, and are. Two beautiful campuses, solid Board, thousands of alums, full enrollment. But of course, the whole point of this exercise is to send young people out into the world prepared to do good, to do God’s will. And in this they also succeed wildly. All the graduates and students I know think first of the Kingdom of God as they make their life choices. Not only is TAC a pipeline to religious life – Mother Teresa’s order, embracing poverty in the service of the poor, might top the list – but the many, many students who choose truly Christian marriage in defiance of the world, and even those who choose a virtuous single life focus it on God.

Of course, a side benefit of this: well-educated, moral people make great employees and workers. Many have done quite well, financially – which is largely how the College comes to have all those nice buildings and great board, and gets to throw galas at the Beverly Wilshire.

Supreme Court Justice Alito gave the keynote, and it was wonderful. He is a witty, self-deprecating man. His opening bit was to point out that, while the college had progressed wonderfully in almost every way, it had regressed in its choice of keynote speakers. This is funny, because the speaker at the very first kickoff gala 50 years ago was Fulton Sheen! (And speakers at college events include Mother Teresa and other future saints – so, yeah.) So, he, a Supreme Court Justice is a good as they can do.

Totally fun. Visiting SoCal – Santa Monica, even, and in October! -reminded me why I both miss it and don’t miss the Southland. Temps in the 80s, endless blue skies, the awesome Pacific in, well, pacific mode. Yep, this is why 20 million people have moved to SoCal: only about 300 to 350 days like this a year. But then, had drive around some, and – 20 million people live there. We only had to drive much on Sunday, the lightest traffic day of the week, and still had to deal with several slow-downs and stops on the freeways. And then there’s the hedonism, which we weren’t there long enough to encounter much.

Although we did go, with and on the recommendation of acquaintances, to an establishment called the Elephante Bar, on the third floor with a view of the beach.

Elephante Dining Room

As we were getting ready to leave, a clutch of young women entered and sat at a nearby table. Dressed to kill, plenty of skin, done up like opening night. On a Saturday afternoon. Yep, SoCal.

One the house front, I should even now be arranging for painters, plumbers, electricians and so on to do much needed fix-up. I also have to grade papers and tests for the History class I’m giving. And make a fair copy of the Gloria, and then get back to writing. Also also, I need to start applying for teaching positions at some of the many Chesterton Academies that are springing up like mushrooms these days. Seems like the thing to do.

Energy level: high. For an old guy.

Pens & Music: Update

In case anyone wants to know…

On the way back from teaching my 8th/9th grade history & lit class (today’s reading was Book II, CH 6 of Thucydides Peloponnesian War, and selections from Strunk & White, as I will be assigning essays next week), stopped by Hobby Lobby to see what they had, calligraphy-supply-wise.

Didn’t expect to find staff nibs, and didn’t, but got a nice fresh eraser – 40-year old erasers don’t work so well – fresh ink, and what they sell nowadays instead of architectural/technical pens, super fine felt-tips used, evidently, for drawing cartoons. On the plus side, these kiddie toys do work, and, even at $3.50 a pop, cost under 25% of what the nice architectural pens are going for. It’s just not as satisfying to use them. And get off of my lawn!

Per the suggestion of Piper in the comments to the last post, the working parts of the real pens are soaking now in rubbing alcohol:

Some parts float, some sink.

I’m going to let them soak a while. A bit afraid to try them – the plumbing, so to speak, in the nib itself is all but microscopic, so any dried ink in there is impossible to get at mechanically and all but impossible to even see. Once I load it up with ink to try it out, cleaning it up again will be a mess. So – letting it soak a good while. Unlikely to work, but, if it did, how cool would that be?

Tried out the freshly scrubbed little racoon hands this morning. Results were – not good. Out of 12 staves on my test page, 4 came out clean and complete. The other 8 had skips and, worse, messy ink blotches. The trickiest part is laying the nib down on the paper cleanly to start a set of lines – that’s where things tend to go wrong. Even though I tested each ‘load’ of ink on scrap paper before starting a new set, still got big ol’ blotches a number of times. Because I’m getting tired of this and just want it done, resorted to white out and using my new cartooning pen to freehand in the missing lines. Not ideal.

Youngest son scrounged up some ink only about 10 year old, that our late oldest son had bought – he did a little calligraphy himself, because of course he did. (I don’t know if I’ve gotten across just how freakishly talented that kid was.) ‘New’ 10 year old ink was smoother. Better all in all than yesterday. Result are usable for at least the initial layout of the final fair copy.

This is about the fifth try. Hoping the splotchiness of the white-out will not be evident in the copies. We’ll see.

Tomorrow, take it down to Kinkos/Fed Ex and get some copies. Then finish the Gloria and the rest of the Mass. Then see if I can find people to perform it….

Leaving for SoCal and the black tie gala in a week, meaning we also have a week to prep the house for tenting for termites – step 1 in the ‘sell-the-house’ process required to get the hell out of here. L.A. just passed more restrictive vax passport regulation. One must present proof of the jab to get into most venues except grocery and drug stores. Not at all totalitarian! At least it missed by one vote becoming instantly effective – we’ll be in and out of LA before it goes into effect.

To recap: all the Coof restrictions are based on one assumption: that there is serious risk of asymptomatic transfer of the virus, such that a person showing no symptoms is a serious threat to infect others by simply breathing the air others breath or touching surfaces others touch. So far, no evidence, as in none, showing this is true – but it might be true, as in, it’s not logically impossible that it’s true. It would sure behoove those taking away rights to prove it – but we’ve reached the point where even asking to see the evidence is conclusive proof the person asking is a terrorist.

Pop quiz: what would such evidence look like? You’d need to present cases where someone got sick from COVID after having had no contact with someone with an active infection for the preceding several weeks, AND then show that such cases make up a meaningful percentage of all infections. Then, and only then, could lockdowns, masks, and social distancing, let alone vax passports, be justified. And even this is based on the unsupported assertion that the Coof is a particularly deadly disease – which, according to the CDC’s own damn statistics, it only is to the sickly elderly. People under 50 who aren’t already dying of something else are at ‘eaten by a bear’ level risk.

Since the virus is still here, all the restrictions taken so far have been failures, ‘Just So’ stories to the contrary notwithstanding. The reasonable assumption at this point is that virtually everyone has been exposed, meaning a large percentage of people are immune to at least some degree. The virus will mutate into less and less virulent forms over time. It ain’t going away, and the steps have proved worthless. Declare victory and stop already, will you?

Reading Interlude/Update

Still have the second half of Painter’s book on Luther’s role in education reform to review, and a few SciFi classics. Need a break.

A. One problem: I read slowly, in my dotage. This has something to do with reading a lot of philosophy and history, where speed kills, so to speak. It dawned on me- slow on the uptake – that I don’t really need to read SciFi or, mostly, these education books super carefully, as the points are generally not that subtle or evasive.

While I was never one of those blazing fast 3 novels a day type reader, as a kid, I was certainly a faster reader than I am now. So I consciously decided to read much faster.

It works. While there are definitely works that warrant a slow careful read, most of the stuff I’m reading now doesn’t. This one small trick has halved the scary pile of unread books (literally, I had to move stacks to the floor when cleaning up the other day) in terms of reading time.

Of course, the book on the top of the stack was Kreeft’s Socratic Logic which is one that needs to be read more carefully. But most of the pile can be read pulp speed.

B. Interesting times. We have 2 weeks to get the house ready for fumigation, as part of our efforts to sell it. Since we need to vacate the premises anyway, and a friend got us a couple tickets at no cost to us, we’ve decided to attend the Thomas Aquinas College 50th Anniversary Gala in Beverly Hills. Black tie. Not the usual shindig for the Moore family.

Fortunately, as a tenor who has sung in a number of choirs, I already own a tux. Bought it used 25+ years ago, haven’t worn it for years – but it fits. So I’m in with only a dry cleaning expense + I indulged in a new shirt. But my 17 year old son needed suiting up. I can recommend Dunhill, a seller of used tuxes. We ordered him one for under $100, found the coat was a little too large, they sent us a replacement no questions asked before I’d even returned the too large one. Good folks.

And it looks great. I was surprised at how nice it is, does not look used at all. A fit young man like our son looks awesome in a tux. Bond, James Bond.

As for the womenfolk, grandma owns a number of nice formal dresses. My beloved did the classic thrift store route, where she ran into another shopper who was totally into helping her get the right dress. Women are different. I can’t imagine a male stranger deciding he needed to help me, for example, get just the right suit, nor that I would not be weirded out by such attention. But this nice woman saw my wife shopping, and just sort of jumped right in, offering suggestions and reviews, looking for shawls that would look good with the dresses – and she and my wife seemed to have a good time doing this.

So my wife came away with two thrift store gowns, both of which passed muster with our daughters, who have picky good taste in such things. Huh.

C. The history class I’m teaching just completed week 4. Things are sticking a lot better the second time around for me, which is nice, plus I don’t have nearly the amount of prep to do, I can mostly just use what I did last year. So it’s a lot less exhausting and more fun.

The kids are great. The two oldest have spearheaded efforts to bring tea and snacks for the Thursday seminar. We’ve had shortbread, some sort of custard tort, and cucumber sandwiches so far. Homeschool kids for the win!

D. Whatever creative energies I have left after the above activities I have been directing at getting this mass setting I’ve been writing done. I don’t know why, exactly, but I got a (long-suppressed) jones for composing out of nowhere, and ran with it. The Gloria is maybe half a dozen measures from done, and the Kyrie and Agnus are started. I only have an hour or two a day to work on this, tops. I need to get back to the novels and non-fiction projects, but for some reason this mass seems urgent. Huh.

Education Reading Update

I’m constructively working through my anxiety by reading. So far, got 3-4 books off John C Wright’s Essential SciFi Library list read or reading, and a good start on my collection of Thomas Shields and Edward Pace writings. Reviewed Shields’ First Book here. Am halfway through his Making and Unmaking of a Dullard, an autobiography of sorts, framed as a Platonic dialogue. Think Symposium, but with early 20th century Progressives instead of Alcibiades and Socrates. In other words, much less fun.

Also, found The Catholic Educational Review, VOLUME XI January- May 1916 on Arhive.org. This is a periodical founded by Pace & Shields which ran for decades. Sigh. I’m going to slog through at least this volume, just to get a feel for it. Finally, have a dead tree copy of Shields’ The Philosophy of Education (1917) in the stacks here, got to fish it out and read it next. Then, I must return to Burn’s The Catholic School System in the United States, which I never finished reviewing. Burns got his PhD from Catholic University in 1906 under Shields and Pace, wrote the definitive history of American Catholic schools, and went on to be president of Notre Dame.

Shields, Pace, and Burns are the big dogs when it comes to Catholic education in America. Until they came along, parochial schooling and Catholic colleges were a bit of a free-for-all. For better and worse, they put some order onto Catholic schooling.

All three appear to me to be American Catholic Millennialists, believing that by application of scientific psychology to Catholic education, America can lead the Church to a perfect, or at least a better without limit, world. They are the foremost representatives of Americanism after the manner of Hecker and Brownson. It is fascinating that Pace and Shields were responsible for the article in the 1914 Catholic Encyclopedia discussing the heresy of Americanism, where the pope’s and many Americans’ concerns that the American Church was being lead into Modernism by its some of its leadership were dismissed as a mere baseless misunderstanding.

Right.

The optimism and faith in progress of these men is all but unbelievable. They are just sure that, by applying modern scientific thinking to education, they can create perfect little American Catholics, who are of course without question the model for Catholics world-wide. Their late 19th century psychology and ideas about science are not an advance on phrenology. Seriously. We’ll get to that in a moment.

A couple notes:

The Catholic Educational Review, VOLUME XI January- May 1916

– A large portion of this volume is devoted to an attack on the Carnegie Foundation’s views of education, as expressed in a recent report the Foundation had issued. The gloves are totally off. I have no real understanding of what the issues are, but I can guess. I’ll write this up when I’m done reading it.

– This raises the endless issue: now, I’ll need to find and read that Carnegie report, right? Sheesh. Everything I read points to multiple other sources that seem essential.

Making and Unmaking of a Dullard

– This dialogue seems to be little more than a gripe session about the interlocutors’ childhoods, in order to provide Shields with the opportunity of expostulating on his frankly silly psychological theories.

– Shields lists 7 ways a dullard, or idiot, or atypical child can be created, but focuses on one, the one to which he attributes his own difficulties in school: Alternating Phases of Development. Here’s how Shields puts it, in answer to the Judge’s request for an explanation:

“A full explanation of this physiological phenomenon, Judge, would involve a treatise on the physiology of the nervous system, but stripped of technicalities the important facts in the case are these. All vital functions are controlled by nerve currents….

“On the other hand, the process of mental development, as indeed all the phenomena of consciousness, rest upon high tension nerve currents in the cerebral cortex. Now, it frequently happens that a boy or girl grows very rapidly for a few years, during which period the physical organism makes such demands upon the nerve energy that the cortical tension is lowered and there is not sufficient nerve energy left to carry on the work of rapid mental development.

“We all know how injurious it is, for example, to indulge in mental work immediately after eating a hearty meal. When food enters the stomach it originates nerve impulses that draw the blood away from the brain for use in the processes of digestion. If brain activity be indulged in at this time, the blood is withdrawn from the viscera and forced into the brain under an increased pressure to furnish the required nerve energy and thus the digestive process is delayed and sometimes the digestive apparatus itself is injured.

“Now, we have a similar conflict going on between mental and physical development. It seldom happens that during childhood and youth the balance is preserved between the growth and development of the body and the growth and development of the mental processes. The extent to which this balance is disturbed and the length of time that each phase continues varies within wide limits.”

“If you exclude the children who have become dullards through any one of the six causes just enumerated, and arrange the children in any third or fourth grade room in accordance with their physical development, you will find them fairly well classified inversely as their mental capacity, that is, the brightest children will be the smallest and the largest children will be the dullest. Here and there puzzling exceptions to this rule will be found, but these are not sufficient to obscure the general truth.

“The eagerness and ambition of the smaller children, coupled with their quickness of movement, indicate high cortical tension. If these children are constantly over stimulated, as frequently happens, their physical development may be retarded for some years. In extreme cases they are to be found among those children whom over-fond mothers are in the habit of regarding as too bright or too good for this world. Less aggravated cases not infrequently result in permanent invalidism. This is particularly true of girls when the period of over stimulation is carried beyond the twelfth or the fourteenth year. If these precocious little ones escape disease and death from over stimulation they will finally reach a time in which the balance swings in the opposite direction and physical development, so long retarded, sets in with unusual rapidity. The ensuing mental phase is characterized by lack of energy which to the uninstructed is pure laziness.

CH V, Alternating Phases of Development

So, quick children need to be slowed down by the expert educationist, so as not to overdo their nerve energy or their cortical tension and thus damage their minds and become invalids. You can see the beginnings of No Child Left Behind here: the solution is to dumb down the bright kids – for their own good – and make sure the slower kids get to catch up. All very scientifiliciously described.

That a kid might grow and learn well if encouraged to follow his own interests is not to be considered. Instead, the bright child is to be frustrated in his desire for learning, on the basis of a half-backed theory that is buzzword-compliant, circa 1910, but has little else to recommend it. As Lewis (I think) put it: say you are going to experiment on children, and everybody is up in arms. But say you’re putting them in an experimental school, and all is good.

– Again, Shields has his interlocutors refer to or quote from contemporary sources that I’ll have to at least look up.

Got a lot more reading to do. Further bulletins are events warrant.

Smorgas-bored

Got all these posts to write, from serious – more analysis of the current panic – to fun – review of Galactic Patrol the latest book I’ve read off John C. Wright’s essential scifi list. But that gets to be work, sometimes. So, instead, let’s fire up the flotsam randomizer, and see what floats by:

A. If anyone says ‘the world has too many people’ anywhere other than on their own suicide note, such a one is a murderous bigot.

B. Space Alien Footstep? Look at this:

The dappled lighting made this hard to see, so I put a red border around it.

This (hard to see in the picture, not hard in real life) is a near-perfect rectangle of dead grass in the backyard. It appeared a week or so ago. It’s about the size and shape of a cooler, maybe slightly bigger.

So – what? I can’t remember puttying anything on the lawn, let alone anything that would kill the grass. Nobody else here can, either. The unnaturally exact rectangular-ness makes natural explanations seem far-fetched….

Weird.

C. This deserves at least a dedicated post – Edward Feser’s latest, Ioannidis on the politicization of science, which begins with a link to a 2005 Ioannidis paper, Why Most Published Research Findings Are False Regular readers here know I’m saying ‘duh’ right about now. It seems that Ioannidis’ paper was well-received, back in 2005, in the sense that many scientists acknowledged its obvious truth. I trust you see what’s coming next: Ioannidis recently published another paper, applying his logic from the 2005 paper to COVID studies. As Feser says: ” In a new essay at The Tablet, Ioannidis reflects on the damage that has been done to the norms of scientific research as politics has corrupted it during the pandemic.”

These observations were not as well received.

I started a long response to Dr. Feser, which I may still complete, simply noting the observation that was the genesis of this blog – that, for the most part, one does not need to be a scientist to spot the errors in most papers, that logic, a basic knowledge of the history of science, and, most important, a fairly basic understanding of how science really works – what science can and cannot do – is sufficient to judge most claims made in the name of science. It’s not like it takes genius or a PhD to note, for example, that ‘cases’ are a moving target over time and space, with definitions and data gathering protocols being wildly inconsistent, such that any comparisons of one time with another, or one place or another, needs A LOT of ‘splaining – just assuming a change in the reported numbers reflects increases of infection purely is irresponsible, to say the least.

(Aside: you can separate out the posers at this point – they are the people who will say I’m nit-picking here. To such people, all technical criticism of methodology will appear as nit-picking, yet any knowledge of science history will show that such ‘nit-picking’ is how science works, when it does work.)

Good stuff.

D. Just one thing about E. E. Smith’s Galactic Patrol prior to the full write-up: you can spot a dozen Star Trek episodes and most of Star Wars right there, in a book written in the 1930s. Jedis, way cool mind powers, Hero’s Journey, evil empire, fight to the death. It might be faster to list what’s missing: Dark Father doesn’t get redeemed or even exist; the love interest is not the hero’s sister, and Chewbacca is played by a dragon and Yoda by a disembodied brain. With way-cool Jedi mind powers. Stay tuned.

Update to the Update: Moving Plans, etc.

A. Thanks for all the kind thoughts about our upcoming move. We’re not planning on being out of the house before March, 2022 – our youngest needs to get his Eagle Scout stuff done, and I agreed to teach another year of history/literature. The meeting with the realtor was just to help me establish priorities and a to do list. First order of business: get the house tented for termites (minimal damage, but they’re here) – and that’s not until mid-October. Then, exterior paint, some tree trimming, lots of relatively minor repairs, etc. By end of March, we hope to be out of here. Probably rent a house near Sacramento, to get to know the area. Or, if the insanity escalates, go check out Iowa/Midwest.

We’ve got +/- 6 months to pack up the house. Sigh.

B. Have tons to do to prep for classes starting Tuesday, so of course I did a quick but utterly unnecessary woodworking project instead. Behold! A charcuterie board!

I readily admit I had no idea what charcuterie was maybe 2 years ago. But – it’s good!
Made from walnut form the tree we cut down in our front yard maybe 8 years ago. Chose heavily figured pieces. The wood is too warped to make big things out of, but one can wrestle it into small projects like this.

Walnut is not usually used for food tools – cutting boards, rolling pins, that sort of thing – because the grain is too open. But I figure, one, we’ll call it a board, not a cutting board, to reduce the usage and wear, and, two, I don’t care. Still needs last coat of butcher block oil and good buffing. Looks pretty good now.

C. The writing projects ground to a halt this past month and a half. Sigh. BUT! Hope springs eternal! I again find myself thinking about them – the SciFi work and the Science Essentials book – when doing other things. So:

Rather than just being me venting on our rampant scientific illiteracy, I think I’ll rework the science book into something more like Essentials of Science, and aim it at high school and college age people. Tone it down, introduce a bunch of history, focus on the basics that apply to all sciences worthy of our respect. Then maybe pitch it to the homeschooling/ catholic schooling crowd.

The other book just needs work. Have to ram it through.

But, hey, my life is shaping up to be: teach class, pack up the house, get items off the punchlist, read every day, and – write. I’ll need the change of pace. We’ll see how it goes.

D. Weirdly, out of nowhere, I started writing an a capella mass in Latin about 6 weeks ago. When I was in my 20s, I wanted to be a composer. What I liked to compose was a capella pieces, the market for which is small, to say the least. By my late 20s, I also wanted to get married and raise a family, so I consciously set the music aside. Now, after a nearly 40 year gap, I find myself, sitting at the piano pencil in hand, writing out 6-part vocal works in a dead language.

About 2/3rds of the way through the Agnus, maybe half way through the Gloria. My style (I laugh to myself) is basically a poor man’s John Williams meets a homeless man’s Faure, and has an ugly child. This is a pretty intensely inside joke: Williams loves mediant and sub-mediant modulations and horn-call like melodies, and Faure loves odd modes and half-step changes, and intense dissonances within his voice leading. I love all those things, too! I just don’t have anything near the training and talent of either of those guys. To put it very mildly.

Trying to live well, stay sane, and enjoy life. It’s the only way out.