Farewell to the Glitterverse

Santa does not actually live and work at the North Pole.  Explorers have actually been there off and on since 1909* and the Jolly Old Elf is nowhere to be seen. 

Santa Claus is actually a trans-dimensional being who exists outside our space-time, in a reality known as the Glitterverse.

The sparkly Mylar particles that swirl in gusts around him every time he apparates / disapparates are evidence of the temporary connections he makes between our world and the Glitterverse.

By August, about 90% of the glitter should be gone from the premises of Casa Crowndot.  By Thanksgiving, another 90% of the remainder... The glitter is never really gone from the house,  even as the spirit of Christmas is never really absent from the generous heart. 

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[* Oh, I know the posh National Geographic worldview is that Peary never got to the pole -- something about the type of evidence he introduced -- but if you read the bloody book there is no doubt.  The Peary deniers have a kind of axe-grinding ring to their criticism.  A widespread European willingness to throw out Peary on technicalities does not negate the reality of the success of his polar expedition. Racism has much to do with it, since Peary gives so much credit to his native Eskimo partners and their dogs.]
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Great signs from heaven

In the gospel of St. Luke, chapter 21, Jesus is talking about the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world  (Luke 21:11).  Most of the scriptural "signs in the heavens" have more to do with guiding along the way than with recognizing the end. 

The Shekinah glory led the people of Israel in the desert, a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21).  The star led the magi to the Christ child at the time of His birth (Matthew 2:2).  The Glory of the Lord shone round about the shepherds as the angels announced His birth (Luke 2:9).  "The heavens were opened" when Jesus was baptized by John (Matthew 3:13-17).

I believe the beauty and wonder in the created world are also signs of the Creator's presence in the world.  Or can be -- for those who have eyes to see. 

Or it is mere sense-perception.  Optics.  Atmospheric phenomena. 

I would rather live in a world where there is beauty, truth, goodness.  I would rather live in a world where there is meaning in such terms.  I would much rather live in a world where, when I see something wonderful, I can echo the words of St. Peter (Mark 9:5), "Lord it is good that I am here."

Even when it is something as simple as a sunset seen behind the grocery store.  


Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science.

Ah.  From vectors to novels and back to vectors again.  This is what is known as dialectic.  


The time that is given to us

Frodo:  "I wish the Ring had never come to me.  I wish none of this had happened!"

Gandalf:  "So do all who live to see such times.  But that is not for them to decide.  All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.  There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides evil."
As the calendar year winds to a close, and during the darkest days of midwinter, the temptation to lose hope, wallow in nostalgia, or indulge in remorse, can become monstrous and real. 

As we think back on the past, and resolve toward the future, it is important to remember that the antidote to fear is not courage per se --  the remedy for fear is  faith.  Faith that the Good, the True, the Beautiful are also at work in the world.  This is a mystery.

Fix it firmly in the mind and heart. Practice it.  Drill it.  There are other forces at work in this world besides evil.  We win, they lose.  I read it in a book

The love endures

I'm old.  I'm way beyond the Sears Christmas Wish Book and its pages of expectations. 

Maybe I'm not so much old as I am of very low expectations.

I would miss the lighted tree if we couldn't have it.  I would miss the lighted garlands.  And I am so, so grateful that, for the most part, I don't have to put them up any more.  Number Two Son did most of the heavy lifting this year.  As last year. 

I would miss the cup of extra-strong coffee after Mass on Christmas Day, if I couldn't have it.  I suppose I would.  I would miss having a warm room in which to drink it while the presents are unwrapped. 

What's the best part of Christmas?  We go out of our way to give pleasant signs of our regard for each other, and sometimes those signs are "Christmas presents".  Life is hard, and it is good to be able to make a little happiness for each other.

I read an article once by a bible scholar who claimed  the birth of Jesus had to have been either around the winter solstice or around the spring equinox.  I forget the reasoning.  I think the scholar came down on the side of the vernal-birthers.  Today of course "experts say" there is no reason to believe the Virgin bore the Child "in the bleak midwinter".   Experts say. 

There is the best reason to believe the Child has a December birthday:  He knows we need it now.  He gave us the grace of a time of light.  (Sorry, southern-hemisphreaks, we Nordic types tend to be rather exclusive, I'm afraid.) 

On this the third day of Christmas, the presents have been unwrapped; they are joyful or humorous or useful; they are pleasant signs; they are memories.

The light remains.  The love remains.

Gifts from years ago, gifts perhaps from those now dead.  Gifts that illuminate and guide us by the power of the love by which they were given. 

The light remains.  The love remains.  Believe it. 

Love endures.  


They tried to ban Christmas. How did that work out?

Christmas might be a minor holy day for English speaking Christians, if a group of Puritans hadn't tried to squash it in the 17th century.

Oliver Cromwell & Co., circa 1644, banned celebration of Christmas by act of Parliament.  The result, of course, was spontaneous attention on the part of the general populace to what might otherwise have fizzled out.  Who knows?

The active enforcement of the Christmas ban only lasted till shortly after Cromwell's death in 1658.

The monarchy was restored, and Christmas returned.  Loudly and drunkenly and accompanied by bingo, I suspect.

Of course, in 1840 Queen Victoria married a German named Albert, who had this thing about cutting down a fir tree and dragging it into the house at Christmas ("O Tannenbaum", remember?).  By the time Dickens indie-published his A Christmas Carol in Prose, the first Christmas cards had been printed, and the holiday was secure. 

The twelve days of Christmas need a revival.  For the materialist (neo-Puritan?) populace, the holiday is pretty much done by noon on the 25th.  At casa Crowndot, we like to stretch it out all the way to Twelfth Night on 5 January, the traditional eve of Epiphany. 


Temporal elasticity

Some year I should take a week off in February.  And make no plans.  Then it might actually seem like a week away from work.  A nice lo-o-ong week.  But do I do that?  No.

I decide to take This Week off.  And it turns out that, so close to solstice and all, the astronomical and gravitational vectors are all pulling the time axis of our dimensionality out of whack.  There are severe time-compression forces acting right now.

Sometimes the atmospheric pressure changes so quickly my ears just about explode.  It's like that, but this week it's time that's coming down like crashing surf.  At this writing, it is Tuesday, 24 December.  Christmas Eve.  I am not sure I remember how I got here from Sunday afternoon.  Yes my memory is that poor, but also:  time compression.

In the long run, scientists are able to go on treating time as if it were a perfectly even number line.  That is because it all evens out.  You see, once I get back to work, time will be stre-e-etched out again.

It all evens out.  Just not the way you would wish.

Oh, merry Christmas. 
"There is a secret bond between slowness and memory, between speed and forgetting. Consider this utterly commonplace situation: a man is walking down the street. At a certain moment, he tries to recall something, but the recollection escapes him. Automatically he slows down. Meanwhile, a person who wants to forget a disagreeable incident he has just lived through starts unconsciously to speed up his pace, as if he were trying to distance himself from a thing still too close to him in time.
In existential mathematics, that experience takes the form of two basic equations: the degree of slowness is directly proportion to the intensity of memory; the degree of speed is directly proportional to the intensity of forgetting."

-- Milan Kundera, Slowness


Comfort Food

Seventeen years in schools.

It could have been worse.  I almost talked myself into grad school.  Halfway through taking the GRE, the clouds parted and a beam of light smote my desk.  A voice from heaven spoke inside my consciousness, clearly and distinctly: "You don't have to do this.  Just get a job and marry the girl."  After some bumps, I did.  And it's a good thing, too. 

Kindergarten wasn't so bad.  Half a day.  Baby boom, so the school was overcrowded, so they had half of us go in the morning and the other half in the afternoon.  We morning kids liked to think that the morning group were the smart ones.

First grade was the start of Gone All Day.

Even though the first day of first grade was a half day, Mom packed me a snack.  Just in case.  In a little brown paper bag was a banana and a Hershey's milk chocolate bar.  Eating that snack during morning break, I received a valuable blood-sugar adjustment, and felt a little more connected to Mom and home. 

Tastes, like aromas, can be powerfully evocative of memories.  

Banana and chocolate.  The most powerful comfort food in my comfort food arsenal.

Banana and dark chocolate, with coffee in my penguin mug.

Mom was born on Christmas Eve.  Christmas Eve dinner was always Chinese take-out so she wouldn't have to cook, and the kitchen was incongruously decorated with Japanese parasols after the paper lanterns disintegrated.

That's why I am thinking about banana and chocolate today.

My mother died suddenly during the summer of the year 2000.


Reading, Writing, and... Music?

I miss my stringed instruments.  I really need to shut the words off and make more music.  Not just whistling while doing chores. 

A story.  Christmas of... must have been 1969.  Everybody's opening presents, one thing after another, and I had only gotten like two things, maybe new socks and a new sweater.  The flurry of paper and ribbon dies down, and I looked around at the piles of stuff my siblings got, and at my socks... and wondered what I had done wrong.  My mother was looking at the younger kids and smiling, and then she looked at me.  I saw Mom's smile disappear, and she said, "Oh my God, honey, wait just a minute!"  She left the room for a few minutes, and came back.  With a guitar case.  With a classical guitar in it.  My guitar.  Because it was expensive, I didn't get so many Christmas gifts.  But I got the best.  But they they almost forgot to give it to me. 

At first I tried to play the way I thought I ought to play.  That didn't work.  Eventually I learned enough chords to be able to strum and sing along.  Like the writing, my music may not be done well, but there is a satisfaction in the making of it. 

Anyway.  Need to do more of that.  Break out the Christmas music before the Christmas season is all gone. 


Reading, writing, ...

There are gaps in the chronicle. 

I pay for a vanity URL and don't even put up a post on a regular basis.  Why is that?

Writing is hard.  Thought must be formed into writing in a way very different from the way it becomes informal speech.  That in itself can exercise the mind beyond its comfort level. 

Writing is long.  Anything worth spending any time on seems to double and double into something that may not be worth spending a very long time on.  In the daily triage of energies applied to possible tasks, writing seems to be a thing that gets set aside "until I have time for it" -- and then there never is. 

Writing demands content.  Not Great Ideas, perhaps, but some subject to be fleshed out.  Writers who have been paid to produce daily or weekly content for the legacy media (newspapers, magazines) revert to tricks to get their column inches.  If three paragraphs complete the thought, but fifteen complete the space, fill the intervening dozen with screeds, peeves, or irrelevant entertaining asides (cough - Chesterton - cough). 

Jane Austen's writing desk

To hammer the content-thought into written words, the writer must be able to recall, when he sits down to his little writing desk or laptop, what the matter was -- what was that thought this morning that so begged to become a blog post this afternoon? 

Alas, gentle reader, the Crowndot brain seems to get as completely reset as the onboard memory of a 1980s PC encountering a power failure.  You may have experienced "portal amnesia" -- you get up from the comfortable chair and walk into another room to get something, only to have that feeling of pondering the hereafter:  "What on earth did I come in here after?"  Well, I have Rôle amnesia.  This is a condition in which the memory banks are wiped clean when switching from work to home, or from husband to father, or from coworker to sibling.  "What on earth could it have been, what was that thing that seemed to cry out to be turned into written words?"

Writing is long and hard and demands the capture and taming of elusive thoughts.  No wonder it is so seldom started, so rarely completed.

Never. The. Less.

There is a consolation in the thing.  There is a balm in answering, however poorly, that entreaty by the author, critic, or poet in the soul. 

That is why I am bumping the blog thing up on the triage list  (I hope).  For the good of the thing.  (My good.) Even if the product turns out -- meh -- not so good. 


This year in reading

One of the decisions I took as 2011 drew to a close was to do some non-internet reading every day. Little did I know that Christmas of 2011 would bring to me the gift of a Kindle e-reader! My Amazon Kindle Keyboard has made it easier for me to read without fatigue.  The ability to read narrow columns of large text takes me past the disability of my binocular dysfunction. As a result I might justly be accused of spending too much time with my nose buried in an e-book. (Witness the countless number of "home improvements" left undone.)

Be that as it may. 

Here's what happened in 2013.  The books are in reverse chronological order.  I'm not going to bother to put the titles in italics.

In progress and due to be done by end of year:
The Wouldbegoods - E. Nesbit
Soldiers Three Part Two - Rudyard Kipling
A Christmas Carol (with historical annotations) - Charles Dickens (Kathleen Helal)

These are done:
Much Ado About Nothing - Shakespeare
The Story of the Treasure Seekers - E. Nesbit
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
Through the Looking-Glass - Lewis Carroll
Darkness Rising: Book One of the Catmage Chronicles - Meryl Yourish
Soldiers Three - Rudyard Kipling
Draw One In The Dark - Sarah Hoyt
Actions and Reactions - Rudyard Kipling
Christian Science - Mark Twain
Martin Chuzzlewit - Charles Dickens
Home Economics: The Consequences of Changing Family Stucture - Nick Schulz
Hard Magic: Book I of the Grimnoir Chronicles - Larry Correia
Cricket Learns to Sing - Michael A. Hooten
The Buffalo Runners A Tale of the Red River Plains - R. M. Ballantyne
The Scent of Metal - Sabrina Chase
The Gorilla Hunters - R. M. Ballantyne
Terms of Enlistment - Marko Kloos
The North Pole, Its Discovery in 1909 Under the Auspices of the Peary Arctic Club - Robert E. Peary
A Few Good Men - Sarah Hoyt
Norsemen in the West - R. M. Ballantyne
Five Children and It - E. Nesbit
Personal Reminiscences in Book Making - R. M. Ballantyne
Darkship Renegades - Sarah Hoyt
The Categories - Aristotle
Darkship Thieves - Sarah Hoyt
St. Winifred's (or, The World of School) - Frederic Farrar*
Hukata - Mike Weatherford
Puck of Pook's Hill - Rudyard Kipling
Heroes of Asgard / Tales from Scandinavian Mythology - A. & E. Keary
Erling the Bold - R. M. Ballantyne

Yes, there are a lot of "young reader" books in the list.  So? 

- - -
*WARNING:  Do not read St. Winifred's except as a penitential or academic endeavor! What a dreadful "improving" book.  In my case, the undertaking was academic, as it is mentioned in Stalky & Co.
- - -

What is in store for 2014?  War and Peace, Plato's Republic, Mao's little treatise On Guerrilla Warfare, and more Kipling and more Kipling!  And probably Erling again.  And I'm hoping Sabrina Chase will finish another book!


No apparent motive

Another guy went into a victim-disarmament zone 17 December 2013 and shot some people.  This time, in a Reno hospital.

The editorial perspective evident in the language of the New York Daily News is typical of the journalist genre: 

"The bloodthirsty madman terrified patients and medical workers alike when he shot five rounds just after 2 p.m. in the urology department of the Center for Advanced Medicine building of Renown Regional Medical Center.  The investigation will be complicated: Cops have already interviewed 29 witnesses to the frightening shooting spree, but have not yet uncovered a motive or pieced together a clear time line of events."

The emphasis is added. Some (is it red-flag or is it yellow-journalism) terms of art are underlined.  The bold-and-italic is the crux of this blog entry.

In the first place, let me make it clear that the ability to plan and carry out a detailed course of action is not a mark of madness in the criminal law sense.  The decisions that the shooter brought into action were certainly not normal, but the actions themselves are no indication that the perpetrator was not in control of his wits and actions during the crime.

In the second place, the news always makes it sound like "motive" is a very narrow term of art from the more Agatha Christie form of police detective stories.  In detective novels, the gumshoe looks for someone who stands to gain materially, or sought revenge to a harm inflicted by a particular individual.  For example.  But in real life, motive is pretty open and obscure.  What is tonight's motive for eating Chinese instead of Mexican? 

Let's stop looking for an Agatha Christie motive for these shooters.

You know the motive.  He was pissed off.  Angry.  And weak.

Sarcasm is the protest of people who are weak. But what if nobody is listening to your snark?  I didn't say it was a rational motive, just that it was a motive.  I didn't promise that the act motivated by this motive would be proportional to the harm, just that it would be a motive.

These shooters are royally pissed off.

They seem as a rule to be fatherless weaklings whose fantasy world grows as a defense against the "real" world that punishes them for being defective girls.  Until they decide to do something manly.  Only it isn't, really, but they have no idea how a man should act.  They know it has something to do with autonomy, though, something to do with being the master of you own destiny.  So they move in a fatal direction.  Masters not of their lives, but masters of death -- their own and a few others. 

The whole scenario sucks so bad.  And is so rare.  Another failed child tried to prove he was grown up, all at once.  And failed at that. 

Maybe if these things were accompanied by less fanfare and limelight, we could go a longer time before the next failed man-child tries to do the same thing.


Bill of Rights Day

Let's celebrate Bill of Rights Day!

The Bill of Rights was ratified on December 15, 1791.

These first ten amendments to the United States Constitution formally recognize our innate freedoms.  We have rights because we are human beings.  Rights are not things that are bestowed by a government.

Amendment I - Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Government can neither impose a state religion upon you nor punish you for exercising the religion of your choice. You may express your opinions, write and publish what you wish, gather peacefully with others, and formally ask government to correct injustices.
Amendment II - A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Individuals ("the people") have the right to own and use weapons without interference from the government.
Amendment III - No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
The government cannot force you to house its agents.
Amendment IV - The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
You may not be arrested or "detained" arbitrarily. No agency of government may inspect or seize your property or possessions without first obtaining a warrant. To obtain a warrant, they must show specific cause for the search or seizure and swear under oath that they are telling the truth about these reasons. Furthermore, the warrant itself must state specifically and in detail the place, things, or people it covers. Warrants that are too general or vague are not valid; searches or seizures that exceed the terms of the warrant are not valid.
Amendment V - No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
No one outside the military may be tried for a serious crime without first being indicted by a grand jury (of citizens). Once found not guilty, a person may not be tried again for the same deed. You can’t be forced to be a witness or provide evidence against yourself in a criminal case. You can’t be sent to prison or have your assets seized without due process. The government can’t take your property without paying market value for it.
Amendment VI - In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
Trials cannot be unreasonably postponed or held in secret. In any criminal case against you, you have a right to public trial by a jury of unbiased citizens (thus ensuring that the state can’t use a "party-line" judge to railroad you). The trial must be held in the state or region where the crime was committed. You cannot be held without charges. You cannot be held on charges that are kept secret from you. You have a right to know who is making accusations against you and to confront those witnesses in court. You have the right to subpoena witnesses to testify in your favor and a right to the services of an attorney.
Amendment VII - In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
The right to trial by jury extends to civil, as well as criminal, cases. Once a jury has made its decision, no court can overturn or otherwise change that decision except via accepted legal processes (for instance, granting of a new trial when an appeals court determines that your rights were violated in the original proceeding).
Amendment VIII - Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Bail, fines, and punishments must all fit the crime and punishments must not be designed for cruelty.
Amendment IX - The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
You have more rights than are specifically listed in the Bill of Rights.
Amendment X - The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
The U.S. federal government has only those specific powers granted to it by the Constitution. All other powers belong either to the states or to individuals.
"The Ninth and Tenth Amendments, taken together, mean that the federal government has only the authority granted to it, while the people are presumed to have any right or power not specifically forbidden to them. The Bill of Rights as a whole is dedicated to describing certain key rights of the people that the government is categorically forbidden to remove, abridge, or infringe. The Bill of Rights clearly places the people in charge of their own lives, and the government within strict limits - the very opposite of the situation we have allowed to develop today." [from  Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership ]
There is really no such thing as "States' Rights".  The Individual (the sum of Individuals is The People) has Rights.  States have Powers. The State is established by the People.