?

Log in

No account? Create an account
The Daily Mustard

> recent entries
> calendar
> friends
> profile
> previous 20 entries

Friday, October 18th, 2019
6:22 am - Last morning of the I-Rep Conference
My patrol, the International Dragons, finished our project last night. It's a video promoting International Scouting to be presented this morning. I'll see if I can get it in a postable form for either LJ or FaceBook and share it with you.

20191017_204235

International Dragons Patrol

After the day's doin's were done, the Summit staff set up a branding station to put the Summit bear paw on various souvenirs. And the conference sang "Happy Birthday" to all of us with October birthdays and provided a cake. So, I did get a birthday cake, after all!

CIMG7480

Branding

CIMG7483

And there was cake, so you know the conference was a success

Appropriately enough, the bathrooms still had the signs in them installed for the World Jamboree, which concluded about six weeks ago. This may be merely amusing to some, but for those who have traveled a bit and know that bathroom procedures vary in different countries, this is important. I am in awe of the sophistication of this sign. It communicates exactly what needs to be said, without requiring much English, and without indelicacy.

CIMG7481

Roger, Wilco

My takeaways from this conference are many. First, I have made some good friends here. It's been fun and rewarding. If I learned nothing in the sessions, I would still leave richer than I came (and not just in swag).

Second, I am pleased that International Adventure has now been grouped with High Adventure in the org chart at National BSA. The overarching descriptor is "Outdoor Adventures." So BSA will promote Philmont, Sea Base, Northern Tier, the Summit, and International Scouting as all providing the same sort of once-in-a-lifetime, transformative experience for Scouts.

Third, we talked more than a little about the expense factor for these kinds of experiences. Especially when you start talking "World Jamboree" -- outside the USA -- you're talking serious money (the participant's fee for Korea 2023 will approach $7,000). Many of the conference participants go overseas frequently on vacation or for work, in addition to attending many international Scouting events. I felt a bit of a poor cousin on occasion. But all of us kept returning to the problem of how to organize and promote events so as to bring IN, rather than leave OUT, Scouts whose families can't just cut a check for the next extravaganza.

I am putting together some ideas for our Council. It will be a challenge. But we had several Scouters who served on the staff at the World Jamboree, and have seen a bigger vision. And I have some young adults who were globe-trotting Venturers of mine, who have long since caught the travel bug. I think we could put together a committee or sub-committee to make some things possible for Scouts in Hoosier Trails Council. Something more than just me doing my thing. There are some conversations I need to be having when I get back.

I leave this afternoon, and if everything goes well I will be home by 7:00 or 8:00. If I get too weary to make it all the way, I can always detour to Wilderstead and sleep in the cabin tonight. And now, breakfast. (They serve grits here about every other day with breakfast; finally, civilization!)

(comment on this)

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019
9:07 pm - Fun at the I-Rep Conference
We had a short session this morning. Our patrol was in charge of morale, so I led the group in "The Court of King Caractacus." We had lots of good discussion on a number of difficult topics. And then we were given the rest of the day off. It had been raining and threatened to continue, but we suited up in our rain gear and went off to seek the local fun.

Some did the Big Zip -- a 3/4 mile wire down the mountain and over a lake, where the rider's speed surpasses 60 mph. Given the air temp today, we were told that the air chill we would experience at that speed would qualify us for the Polar Zip patch (zipping at 32 degrees or below). Others went to the shotgun range. They then switched activities, except for eleven of us who took a field trip into town, of which more below.

CIMG7460

View from the top of the ridge where the Big Zip starts

CIMG7463

The brave Scouts mount the blocks

CIMG7468

And away!

CIMG7472

Coming in for a landing

After finishing the Big Zip, a group of us gathered to go to Maxwelton, a town about an hour away, near Lewisburg. There was a distillery there that did tastings. I'm not much for bourbon, but I went along and sampled various bourbons and even a rum. After that, we went out to eat in Lewisburg. I had an elk burger, which was very good.

CIMG7478

After hours

Coming back to the Pigott Center, there were s'mores and board games to mess about with.

(comment on this)

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
6:29 pm - Tying oneself in knots
This is a swag-heavy conference I'm attending at the Summit. The International Division gives out lots of promotional items. Today, we all got purple neckerchiefs. (The color of International Scouting is purple. I suggested we adopt Peanut -- Jeff Dunham's sassy dummy -- as our mascot, since as he says, "Once you do purple, you'll never go back.")

And then, they taught us all how to tie the friendship knot in our neckerchief ends. You see this among Scouts all over the world. Slides and woggles can slip off and get lost, but a necker that's tied stays in place and looks snazzy.

CIMG7456

Looking snazzy

I wish I didn't look so grumpy in this picture, but sitting all day in a classroom is a wearying exercise. I'd look brighter if we got out more. That said, we're going to quit early tomorrow to ride the Big Zip, a wire stretched over a lake. Then, we're shooting shotguns. And then some of us are touring a distillery in the area.

Rougher! Tougher! Buffer!

(comment on this)

Monday, October 14th, 2019
12:29 pm - Almost heaven
It was a beautiful morning in West Virginia at the Summit. The International Representatives Conference is proceeding well, the food is good, and the weather is beautiful. We had the first frost of the season last night. The trees are beginning to turn.

CIMG7451

The sun begins to burn away the morning fog

CIMG7454

The view from Pigott HQ

I noted on a drive-around yesterday that the Summit looks like an enlarged version of some of the campgrounds in Indiana reclaimed from spoil banks. It turns out that the Summit was, originally, a gigantic strip mine. Yep, feels like home.

(comment on this)

Monday, October 7th, 2019
10:25 am - Questions of Order
I was reading an article that analyzed the administrative disorder in The UMC these days, and which made some suggestions about how to do administration in a new expression of Methodism (whether a renewed denomination or a simply new org entirely). While I agreed with the writer’s analysis, I disagreed with his solutions. Herewith, then, are seven points I want to raise.Collapse )

(comment on this)

Sunday, October 6th, 2019
12:30 pm - A weekend in the woods with God
We had a beautiful weekend in the woods for our RC-UM Retreat at Maumee Scout Reservation. We had two or three who couldn't make it, but then we had a couple who showed up without telling us. In all, about nineteen people took part. There were Catholics and Methodists, of course, but also a Quaker and a Lutheran. The VP of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting came. It was relaxing and fun.

The Scouts loved the orienteering course. Even better, they all completed it. I was impressed. They also got into the pioneering challenge, "Lift High the Cross." In that activity, each group was given the same number and size of staves and as much rope or twine as they wanted and told to put together a free-standing cross. The tallest won.

CIMG7432

Daniel's cross
Not the usual way to do a square lashing, but it worked

CIMG7435

Tied for second

CIMG7436

Tied for second

CIMG7438

The winnah!
Even leaning over, it was the tallest

We did crafts, like hand-tied rosaries and nail crosses. We sang lots of songs. We ate great food. There was Catholic mass on Saturday afternoon, then Methodist communion Saturday evening. The group put on a great campfire program. And then this morning, the youth led a Scout's Own service.

CIMG7439

Clergifyin', Part One
Father Ted instructs his servers before mass

71669874_10162258828435468_6008948736489684992_n

Clergifyin', Part Two
Yours Truly preaching on holiness

I spent my 66th birthday in camp yesterday. N.B.: this wasn't the first birthday I've celebrated on a Scouting weekend. They sang the Russian Happy Birthday Song to me at the campfire:
Happy birthday! Oh, happy birthday!
Pain and sorrow and despair,
People dying everywhere,
Happy birthday! Oh, happy birthday!
One step closer to the grave,
Think of all the food you'll save,
Happy birthday! Oh, happy birthday!
And what did I get for my birthday? I got a perfect fall weekend camping. I was surrounded by friends, new and old, as well as family (Anna and the boys were also participating). I got to see Anna practicing her leadership with increasing confidence. I got to see Daniel help lead worship. I did ministry. I'll count this one of my best birthdays ever. I am very blessed.

Before I left camp today, I dropped off a couple of things I'm donating to the camp. I've been toting around some of my father's professional gear for twenty years now. These are valuable tools, but there's no market for such stuff, so they wind up being expensive doorstops. One piece is a small blacklight box, which Dad used to look for petroleum in sand samples. They can use it in the Eco Lodge to look at butterfly wings and trees, that also flouresce under blacklight. I also donated his electronic microscope. Ranger Ed says he can get it working, and it will make a good contribution to the Eco Lodge's equipment. My garage is less cluttered now, and my Dad's tools will be used to teach kids about the natural world; I think he would be pleased.

(comment on this)

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019
7:05 pm - A Tolkienian pattern
Reading through the supplementary material to The Lord of the Rings, we come upon an interesting statement: that there were three tribal groups of Hobbits, originally -- the Fallohides, Harfoots, and Stoors. Further mucking about in Hobbit history informs us that the Shire was settled by a group of Hobbits from Bree, led by the brothers Marcho and Blanco. For those who are paying attention, both those names mean some kind of "horse" in Old English. Just like the brothers Hengest and Horsa, who traditionally started the 5th Century invasion of Britain by the tribes of Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. Okay, so Hobbit history is modeled upon Old English history. That goes along with all the other cultural material which is so very Old English, including the names of their weekdays and months.

Meanwhile, when you read the Silmarillion (and go back and read The Hobbit in its light), you discover that there were three great kindreds of Elves who made the great journey from their place of origin to the Blessed Realm in the West: the Vanyar, the Noldor, and the Lindar (or Teleri). In going into all the tribes of Elves, Tolkien seems to be straightening out the confusion of old Jacob Grimm, whose inquiry into the nature of elves in Germanic legend could not find a satisfying conclusion. At least, so says Tom Shippey, and he publishes the evidence for us. So that makes sense.

But what, then, shall we make of the three Houses of the Edain, the Men called "Elf-friends" in the First Age, who became the Numenoreans, and created the realms of Arnor and Gondor after Numenor's Downfall? Does no one else not notice this motif re-occuring? Three tribes of Hobbits. Three kindreds of Eldar. Three houses of the Edain. The pattern is certainly there, it's not a mirage. "Three times is a threat," said Gollum, but there is no threat here. But is there a lack of imagination? Does the evidence run that way on its own, or is this the only pattern Tolkien knew? Is this a defect or a mere duplification (or triplification, as it were)?

We wonders, aye, we wonders.

(comment on this)

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019
5:03 pm - Finding their way
Kermit (in passenger seat): Bear left.
Fozzie (driving): Frog, right.


Scouts are supposed to be handy at following map and compass, but I have not always found them to be so. The last time I designed an orienteering course for a Scouting event, the controls read:
IF YOU THE WAY

SHOULD LOSE, I'M FEARED,

YOU'LL TAKE ALL DAY

AND GROW A BEARD.

BURMA SHAVE

The Scoutmasters loved it. None of the youth got the joke. And none of them could finish the course, either -- a course that two adults took a whopping 15 minutes to walk in a leisurely fashion.

Well.

I was charged with designing a Scripture Orienteering Course for this weekend's joint Catholic-Methodist Scout Retreat at Maumee. A SCRIPTURE orienteering course, mind you. So I have finished the basic workup.

It covers about a mile around our Council camp, from one place to another. They will start at one well-known point, and then follow the clues given from there. Clues for each leg are compass bearing, distance, and a Scriptural quotation which ought to make it obvious where they're going. (Whaddya wanna bet nobody gets the heavy hints from Holy Writ, either?)

Besides giving the clues for the next leg in the course, each control will have a letter which they will have to record. At the end of the course, these letters will spell out a word, which allows me to see that they have, in fact, covered the whole course, in the right order, leaving nothing out. (I play dirty: the word is in an ancient language unknown to them. So they are not likely to recognize it and guess how to complete it without -- you know -- completing it.)

And they will be timed. Missing controls yields time penalties. Fastest time wins.

Excelsior!

(comment on this)

Monday, September 30th, 2019
6:35 pm - Long day
I didn't sleep worth a hoot last night, but I still got up at 5:00 and scooted on over to Wilderstead. I spent four hours building a set of beams. I need to spend my next several visits raising them.

CIMG7424

I like big beams and I cannot lie

Actually, this is three beams. In order for them to fit together properly with their ginormous tongue-and-groove joints, you have to build them as a set, then separate them for handling.

I was just finishing up the set when the guy from REMC drove up. We had a 1:00 p.m. appointment. I've now got a local electrician working on my project. I've had the County building inspector out twice. And now REMC. Working toward a plan to get service out in the holler; hopefully, in October. But once I've got all three of those guys on the same page, I have to get my neighbor with the excavation business to dig me some ditches for conduit.

Festina lente!

(comment on this)

Sunday, September 29th, 2019
11:23 am - Some online thoughts
Someone -- probably Richard Attenborough -- called the human species, "The Compulsive Communicators" in order to describe what is special about us vs. the rest of the life forms on earth. Our use of symbols allows us to share our thoughts.

The foundation, of course, is language. One human being can tell another more things than, say, one elephant (to take an example of an animal with a very complex brain) can tell another. But the communication dies when the speakers all die, and memory cannot recover what was said. Then came art: carvings in wood or antler or ivory, paintings on cave walls. We externalized what was in our minds so that others could see them. Not only that, but the images we made outlived their creators, so that communication could happen between persons far separated in time.

Then came writing, and with it books. Tales needed no longer to be simply memorized; now, they could be written down. And not just tales, but laws, directions, inventories. Eventually, somebody invented the library, the most famous of which was the great Library of Alexandria, an attempt to gather all the literature of the whole world in one spot. Medieval monasteries continued the collection and transmission of manuscripts. The library is like a collective brain for all of humanity. In our world today, no one person can know everything that can be known, but any person can access whatever has been known by anyone, anywhere (as long as it has been published and preserved).

Then came printing, and the costs of publication dropped dramatically. Now, more people were reading than ever, and not only books: the periodical soon appeared. Then came film, then sound recording, and radio, and finally television. The sum total of everything that could be said multiplied dramatically.

And then came the internet. Our collective mind has expanded like the early universe after the Big Bang. And since we have figured out how to keep its ever-transmitting contents from being destroyed, nothing posted online (that has been shared, anyhow) can ever really go away. We are getting into the fulfillment of what Jesus threatened, when he said, "every idle word" we spoke would be brought into judgment.

For with the internet, the collective Ego and Id of humanity were set free to share all kinds of things. Previous to the internet, most published work represented, shall we say, our collective Superego. It was a finished work, considered worthy of sharing, with the author/artist/producer adopting an auctorial mask which might be other than what he or she thought about to amuse oneself in the off-hours. Publication was expensive and complicated. It took a lot of capital to produce a physical book or a broadcast or a film. It took a ponderous distribution system to bring it to those who might pay to read or hear or see it. And if it were considered offensive, the collective Adults in the community might interfere with its publishing or restrict its availability to certain seedy sections of town. The Ego, which writes diaries and shopping lists, would lack sufficient customers who knew the author to pay for the costs of production and distribution. The Id, in which the dark trolls of our collective mind roll and frolic in all their polymorphous perversity, wasn't considered worthy of full production (though there was always a market for it, so it could never be entirely excluded from the mix).

Humanity's collective Superego is still well represented on the internet. News sites, opinion sites, blogs, and encyclopedia-like pages of information are all booming. But the internet also plumbs the Ego, with people publishing their diaries, their hobbies, even their shopping lists to share with their friends. "Meet you at Starbucks at 10:00" is now considered as worthy of universal publication as The Canterbury Tales. Oh, but the Id. The Id. The collective basement of our universal soul has been thrown open for all to explore on the internet.

Pornography of every description abounds. (As the song goes, "the internet is for porn.") But not just pornography. Hate speech and conspiracy theories and slander and altered photos/bios/fake news do, too. I'm surprised we haven't seen the rise of a dozen new, crankified religions since the internet took off in the 1990s. Maybe that would be too "meta," since the internet constantly invites the breaking of the fourth wall; it's very open to sly, sideways looks. But what religious stuff I do read often promotes the incredible. Too many heartwarming stories are just a little too pat to be believable. A disturbing thought creeps into my brain: is this how some of the formulaic saints' lives were written? What does the internet have to tell us about the invention of Tradition?

One thing is for sure: humanity only rarely un-invents a new form of communication, and then only for a time. What can be known, will be known, and what will be known, will be shared. So the real problem with what you find online isn't found in the pixels and bits of data we are consuming: it's found in Us. We only find out there what already existed within us, and the internet, like publishing, like art, like language itself, only reveals our Self to ourselves.

When you stare into the Abyss, the face that stares back at you is your own.

(comment on this)

9:45 am - The Tramp
I was twelve years old, home alone, when the tramp came to our back door. I didn't let him in the house, nor did he try to enter. He and I talked through the screen door. He asked if we had any food.

He was a gentle-sounding man. Probably not as old as I am now, but he seemed ancient to me then. He petted our outdoor cat while I figured out what to do. I was flustered. I had never handled such a request before.

We were low on anything portable, but I made him a cheese sandwich (we were out of lunchmeat), and got him some instant coffee. I don't remember if I found anything else. I should have added the leftover angel food cake in its wrapper, but I didn't know what my mother would think. The man was grateful for whatever we had to spare.

He took my meager offering and went on his way. He said he would be camping down by White River that evening. He had no gear that I saw (though he said he could boil water), so I imagine he would be sleeping rough. At age twelve, that seemed as normal to me as any other part of the world I was growing up in. People do what they do, and kids work it into their picture of the world. When my mother came home, I told her about the encounter. She looked concerned -- nobody wants their children dealing with strangers alone -- but she seemed proud of me, nevertheless.

The tramp came unbidden into my thoughts again this morning, more than fifty years later. I have kicked myself ever since that night that I didn't give him the leftover cake. But at least, when Jesus came to my door, I didn't send him away with nothing.

(comment on this)

Wednesday, September 25th, 2019
6:07 pm - Making haste slowly
I lost my camera for about ten days or so. Turns out I left it in Deanne's car when we went to the Pleasantville Homecoming. But I had it today, and I recorded my progress out at Wilderstead.

I built two new beams (now curing on the ground), and raised the first one to spring from the undercroft to the piers. It's beginning to look like something!

CIMG7419

View from uphill, somewhere around the bedroom window location-to-be

CIMG7423

View from downhill on the path to the creek

It takes me about 3 1/2 hours to build a pair of 16-foot beams. Spreading glue takes the most time. It takes about two hours per beam to raise them and fit them into place. That doesn't mean two hours of hauling on ropes and shoving great baulks of timber around -- that only takes a few minutes. The most of one's time in raising these pigs is spent fiddling. Getting the hoist in place and balanced just right. Tying off correctly. Going up and down ladders, making adjustments. And so on. But slow or not, progress is being made.

(comment on this)

Tuesday, September 24th, 2019
10:31 am - Winter Rendezvous Menu (tentative)
Winter Rendezvous is still four months away, but the Mad Chef is close to finalizing the menu. Here's what I have so far.

Friday Staff Supper
Pizza in quant. suff.

FRIDAY NIGHT CRACKERBARREL: Roman theme
Libum Bread (ancient Roman recipe for the holidays)
Vindicta Lupi Magnimali ("Big Bad Wolf's Revenge": three boar's heads)
Olive and relish tray

Saturday Staff Breakfast
Toad in the Hole
Instant Oatmeal
Fresh Fruit

Saturday Staff Lunch
Coddle
Soda Bread
Bread and Butter Pudding

THE FEAST
Mamma Dee's Church Dinner Lasagne (last year's sleeper hit)
Grandbear's German Meatballs and Spätzle (new this year!)
Roast Raccoon (this year's mystery meat!)
Shish Kebab (goat, chicken, and veggie skewers as last year)
Pinto Beans and/or Rice
Italian Green Salad
Green Beans
Sweet Potato Fries (gotta have sweet taters with the raccoon!)
Nanner Puddin
Dark Chocolate Brownies

SATURDAY NIGHT CRACKERBARREL
Leftovers

Sunday Morning Staff Breakfast
Scrounge

HOSPITALITY
Coffee, Tea, and Hot Chocolate available throughout the weekend

We budget for 500 campers, but the last several years, the Feast has edged up toward 550. It's our most popular Scout event of the year! Winter fun and food! What's not to like?

(2 comments | comment on this)

Monday, September 16th, 2019
4:20 pm - Good Queen Bess
I am a great admirer of that eminent English politique, Queen Elizabeth I. The lessons from her leadership deserve thoughtful study.

She inherited a State with an empty Treasury and a debased coinage. Slowly, painfully, she withdrew the bad coins. She paid off the debts of her father, and her brother, and her sister. By the time England and Spain were headed into the Armada conflict, Elizabeth could borrow emergency cash from the Netherlands bankers at eight percent – while Philip II of Spain had to pay sixteen percent.

But what about all those costly gowns and court spectacles? Oh, yes, Elizabeth could spend money when she had to. But she didn’t spend money for her pleasure; the gowns and spectacles were so that she could present herself to her people. She had to look like what a queen should look like. She had to be seen governing. If she wanted to bring her people along with her in the way that she was going, she couldn’t withdraw to her tower and commune only with palace bureaucrats. In making herself available, she also made her security people tear their hair. But she had to show that she didn’t fear her people. And she used words – she was one of the greatest orators of an age stuffed with great speakers and writers – to move her people, high and low.

She decided that torture – then a routine practice of law enforcement and State security – wasn’t something she wanted to be part of. Not only that, but in the overheated times she lived through, when the Pope was literally calling for her to be murdered, she made a vital distinction between the Roman Catholic hierarchy and English Catholics. Instead of a conflict of religions, she saw a straightforward conflict between States. That made Catholic plotters traitors, but not heretics: ordinary criminals, not the Antichrist. And it meant that the plotters’ hopes that English Catholics would rise against her saw failure every time.

In her religious policy, she wanted her church to be broadly popular. She avoided extremists on both sides. Yet, she could be steely when people presumed upon her support. There were principles she would not cross, even though prudence and all the best people advised her to do so.

Whether we are talking about the government of the USA, or just the governance of The UMC, I see many comparisons to be made with the Virgin Queen in which she shows up the venality, the ineptitude, and the lack of principles of our modern leaders.

(comment on this)

Saturday, September 14th, 2019
10:01 pm - Beam me up, Scotty
It took an unconscionably long time to get this rascal up on the wall, but I finally did it.

CIMG7414

First, I was missing a vital piece for my tripod. Then, I found that manipulating 4x4s while up in the air was a lot more difficult than I thought. Then I tried raising the beam and had it unbalanced, which caused the tripod to tip over. I finally got this up on the wall, but it's still not seated correctly. So next time I go out, I've got to turn it over, analyze what's wrong, fix it, and then put it back in place -- without taking it down. And at that point, I should be past the learning curve and ready to slap these babies up. I've got three on the ground waiting for the upward call, now.

In other news, something died out in the bushes between the cabin and the building site. Here's hoping the scavengers clean it up before my next trip out yonder. Pe-yew!

I went to Richmond to help Anna yesterday. I also helped Daniel with his schoolwork. Then I drove down to Wilderstead and stayed overnight in the cabin. The Harvest Moon kept my skylights lit up all night. And the weather today was just gorgeous!

(comment on this)

Saturday, September 7th, 2019
9:35 pm - A little philology
I read two scholarly papers on Germanic linguistics this evening. They were both very well-written, well-argued, and with a mass of corroborating detail. Yet, I remain unconvinced by either of them.

The first paper called Jakob Grimm's assertion that Germanic speakers reckoned in twelves "a myth." Yes, Germanic languages often have special words for eleven and twelve that are formed differently from words for thirteen and beyond. Yes, we have special concepts like the Long Hundred (120 of something), the dozen, the score, and the gross. Many of these, the author sniffs, were late creations referring to trade (i.e., how things were packaged). But all available evidence shows that Germanic speakers always counted in tens.

Ah, but counting is one thing; reckoning is another. I don't doubt that ancient Germanic speakers always counted in tens. But though they were smart people, they didn't know any higher math. And they probably hadn't yet gotten used to the idea of talking about numbers as "real" things. If you asked a speaker of Proto-Germanic, "how much is one and one?" he might very well have replied, "one and one what?"

For if you are manipulating things rather than mental concepts, grouping things in twelves is easier for sharing them out than grouping them in ten. If you have ten apples or ten coins or ten cows, you can only divide them evenly between two people or five people. But if you have twelve of something, you can divide them evenly among two people, three people, four people, or six people. Consider a similar problem: dividing something circular, like a pie. Dividing a pie into more or less equal wedges of halves, thirds, fourths, sixths, eighths, or twelfths is easy; you can just eyeball it. Dividing a pie equally into fifths or tenths is a complex geometrical problem.

For very large numbers, the score is the natural way of grouping things. You can count to twenty in your head, but beyond that, you risk losing count, and starting over is not something you want to do. So you count twenty sheep or twenty barrels or twenty bundles and then scratch a mark -- a score, literally -- on a piece of wood. Every fifth score is crossed in our familiar "five-barred gate" tally mark pattern. Five scores is a hundred.

This isn't really math, it's proto-math. It's mostly sorting and sharing and handling large quantities of stuff. So while I agree with the author that the Germanic speakers always counted in tens, I kind of think he missed the point.


The other treatise claims that Middle English -- of which Modern English is the natural continuation -- was descended not from Old English (a West Germanic speech), but Old Norse (a North Germanic speech). Briefly, the argument is that in the Danelaw, Norse and Old English fused into a new language (nobody much disputes this) based upon Norse morphology and syntax, not Old English morphology and syntax. After the Norman Conquest obliterated literary Old English, the Middle English that emerged was that of the Danelaw, which was operatively Norse.

A quick read through was not enough for me to digest the masses of data contained in this monograph. There is a lot of stuff here to back up the authors' assertions. That said, I learned long ago that you have to listen to what is not being said as well as to what is being said. And the way the authors refer to Old English makes me think they are making it a bit of a strawman.

For they always compare the language of the Danelaw to West Saxon OE. And though they cite John of Trevisa's ME essay on the languages (pl.) of Britain, they don't have much to say about Old English prior to the Danish conquest of Eastern and Northern Britain. Yet such scraps of Old Northumbrian or Old Mercian as we have show that the Anglian dialects of Old English were very different from the West Saxon dialect. They already feel more like "English" to us than the stiffer, more diphthongized OE of later WS literature.

The fact is, Old English was never a single dialect, but a cluster of mutually intelligible dialects transplanted from across the North Sea and then undergoing further development in Britain. To show that Middle English (and thus, Modern English) is more North Germanic than West Germanic in origin, I'd like to see more comparisons between Norse and Mercian/Northumbrian, rather than Norse and West Saxon.

In any case, I found it fairly easy to read Old English with minimal introduction, recognizing many words and feeling at home in the grammar from the beginning (my having studied German helped here). But when I have tried to read Old Norse, I have no easy connections therewith. I can puzzle it out with the aid of others, but it seems to come from much farther away.

Likewise, I would like to have seen more discussion of remaining dialectal forms in English. The authors point out that the verbal prefix ge- died out; Middle English verb forms are more like Norse verb forms. But Middle English retained similar prefixes for a long time, as in "y-bounden." And southern American English retains the same thing, as when we say, "He's a-huntin'." For that matter, the authors make a big deal out of the -ing form as somehow more akin to North Germanic than West Germanic, but again, southern American dialect typically "drops the -g"; actually, they never got around to putting it on.

Many morphosyntactical features piled up together make a strong case. But we haven't heard the rebuttal yet, and I'm sure there is one to be made.


The papers I just read are, "How myths persist: Jacob Grimm, the Long Hundred and duodecimal counting," by Ferdinand von Mengden, and "English: the language of the Vikings," by Joseph Embley Emonds and Jan Terje Faarlund. Both are found on Academia.edu.

(comment on this)

Friday, September 6th, 2019
11:02 am - Keeping up with the Grandcubs
It's not even 11:00 a.m.. I'm bushed. And there's a lot of daylight left to go before bed-time. I think Granny's going to be on duty tomorrow while I nap!

CIMG7403

Some men just want to watch the world burn.
And most boys: Daniel plays in the fire.

CIMG7407

Teaching an old cat new tricks
Hera is learning to tolerate affection from James

(comment on this)

Sunday, September 1st, 2019
4:41 pm - On the beam
Last night, Zach called us at 10:00 p.m. from the hospital. He had gone in with a kidney stone. They were releasing him, and he needed someone to pick him up. Deanne was in her jammies already, so I went and fetched him and brought him back here. He is still waiting to pass this rock. Prayers would be appreciated.

I went over to Wilderstead this morning. I met with a contractor about some utilities work, and that looks encouraging. But my main project was to start constructing the beams that the house will ultimately rest upon. I decided I would be happy if I got just the first one built. After all, this is something new; I've never built laminated beams before.

While it's a basic process, there is a lot of cutting of boards so they overlap, and my generator decided to be cranky. I wound up cutting boards with a chain saw instead of a circular saw. Spreading glue turned out to take more time than I thought. And my brand-new nail gun had dead batteries, so I wound up making this first beam with my old trusty framing hammer.

CIMG7400

What a monster

This first beam is 5 3/8" thick and 48' long. It weighs about 650 lb. It contains nine 16' 2x12s, four sheets of 1/4" plywood, almost two gallons of wood glue, and several fistfuls of nails. It took me about four hours to create it. I'll be going over yonder again in a couple of days to try to get it maneuvered into position. It's too heavy to pick up (not to mention long and awkward). I will have block and tackle, rope, my little log dolly, and maybe my tractor available to me. Then I'll have to rig some kind of hoist to raise it to the top of the undercroft wall.

I got home a little after 4:00 p.m. and found Zach asleep on the couch. Deanne has gone in to her office to get some work done. She said she took him over to his apartment to fetch his laundry so he could do it here. I hope they picked up his prescriptions, too.

(comment on this)

Thursday, August 29th, 2019
10:26 am - Beam me up
I spent yesterday doing chores in the holler. I mowed (hopefully, for the last time this season), I went into town to hand in a couple of old pallets for credit. And I finally got all the lumber stacked for building my beams. Each beam will be composed of three 2x12s, with 1/4" plywood sandwiched between. The first beam (from the building corner all along one side) will be 48' long.

CIMG7395

Board meeting


When I got home, I found my lumber dolly had arrived. I ordered this to better haul boards and beams around the building site. When I'm not doing that, it can handle medium-sized logs. I just need to secure the back end to the dolly and the front end of whatever I'm hauling to my little tractor.

CIMG7397

Hello, Dolly

(comment on this)

Friday, August 23rd, 2019
4:15 pm - Home Truths for the Home Room
I keep seeing memes posted by friends who are teachers (or who have teachers in their family) to the effect that it’s horrible that teachers spend so much of their personal money buying stuff to use in their classrooms. Sometimes, they seem to be making the point that the government spends too little on schools; sometimes, they seem to be making the point that they themselves are underpaid. Other memes gripe that teachers spend lots of hours on weekends and vacations grading papers or preparing for the next term. Behind the protests, however, there is an old question about teaching that has never been finally answered: is teaching a profession, or something else?

To give you some perspective, I am a retired minister. I spent over forty years pastoring churches, leading trips and retreats, and doing the grunt work of an elder in The United Methodist Church. I had to acquire a lot of fancy degrees and I was, by many people’s standards, underpaid – though I left any sense of grievance behind me years ago. I went into the ministry because it was what I felt called to do. And without taking away anything from my sense of a holy calling, I was also a professional.

I spent thousands of dollars a year out of my own pocket to do my ministry. I started back when we weren’t reimbursed for travel. And it was only my last charge where I finally wound up in an appointment where they reimbursed me for other ministry expenses and for Continuing Education. And still, I had unreimbursed mileage and expenses and CE over and above what I billed to that congregation. In 2016, my last full year in the pastorate, I spent more than $3500 over and above what I was reimbursed for mileage, routine business expenses, and CE. I never begrudged it. You see, I was a professional, and that’s what professionals do. They invest in gear and resources in order to do their work better. Doctors, lawyers, clergy, accountants – to be a professional is to invest in your work.

Another model of work is the craftsman or tradesman. This person may work for others or may hire oneself out directly, but either way, the craftsman owns his own tools and typically takes them from job to job. The cook brings his own knives, the musician owns her own instrument, the potter owns his own wheel and kiln, the mechanic puts a lock on his tool chest that is left behind at the employer’s site. These folks don’t have the fancy degrees that the learned professions do, but they are the medieval equivalent of professionals. The skilled tradesmen own their own tools (though they may also use those provided by an employer) and invest in their own work.

The laborer is different. The laborer (skilled or unskilled) just shows up. All tools are provided. The laborer only does the task, and only so long as one is paid. The professional and the craftsman will work unpaid hours to make themselves better at their work; the laborer must be paid even for his training. Historically, there is a huge difference in status between those who own their own tools and those who do not. The labor movement in America is made up of both craft unions (the old AFL) and labor unions (the CIO). And though “labor” has covered both kinds of work-for-wages, it hasn’t always been an easy amalgamation.

In any case, teachers (basically, public school teachers) have never figured out which kind of worker they are. Are they professionals? Then why are they unionized? And if they are union labor, are they craftsmen or laborers? Teachers want the high status that goes with the learned professions, but then gripe about what is expected of them, as if they were common laborers. I’m not trying to be snippy about it, but I have a hard time engaging my sympathy when I can’t figure out what teachers want to be.

My wife is a therapist. The new, Obama-era labor rules made her agency switch all the counselors to hourly employees. I told her she should leave upon the end of each work day and refuse to put in unpaid overtime. When everybody did that, the agency couldn’t get their paperwork (without which they don’t get paid) done, because there was more to do than could be accomplished in eight hours’ labor. So, they put my wife back on salary, because a professional assumes she will work until the task is done, even if that goes past the time notionally allotted for it.

So which is it? Is teaching a profession, a craft, or a job? Whichever it is, there are certain advantages and certain disadvantages that will accrue to it. But until you tell me what kind of work it is, I can’t know whether you’re getting a raw deal or crying for the moon. And when you’ve decided which it is, I’d like to see more posts about the things that you like about your profession/craft/job, rather than just what you don’t. Because if there are more things to complain about than to celebrate in your line of work, I’d suggest looking for a different way to make a living.

(comment on this)

> previous 20 entries
> top of page
LiveJournal.com