I'm a big fan of "The Great Courses." Naturally, I enjoy writing reviews on their website and appreciate the helpful reviews that other TGC customers leave. TGC ranks reviewers according to some metric that includes the number of their reviews and the positive feedback from readers. Recently I stumbled on a review by the top-ranked contributor, then clicked on her name in order to read all of her reviews. Phenomenal. I quote here from a review of a course about the neuroscience of everyday life:
My father died of Alzheimer's. To stay in his beloved house and present a good front whenever I visited, he kept all his vital necessities (his peanut butter, bread and various clothing items) in a single location — the dishwater.
Eventually I was forced to use trickery. We "visited" an assisted-care facility. For a day or two he begged me to go back home. He cried like a child. I was overwhelmed with guilt.
Then it abruptly stopped. The house he shared with my mother for 40 years until she died, his castle and refuge, disappeared like everything else down a memory hole. He was serene again within a week of entering the facility. Perhaps drugs had something to do with it.
That was years ago. He now rests in peace.

Cathedral of May / Into the Wild

Welcome to the Cathedral of May, that fine time of year with no equal except October, and with the summer instead of the winter in front of us.

I am departing at once for the Wild. I will be gone for a week or thereabouts. Partly I will be on the Appalachian Trail, and partly in less well-traveled places.

Some appropriate music for the Maytide.

Increases Past 100%?

Extensive research shows that using harsh verbal discipline and physical hostility is counterproductive to good parenting. It increases the risk of delinquency, fighting, misbehavior and belligerence in teens.
First of all, fighting and belligerence aren't always bad things. Sometimes they are exactly the proper and just response, in which case the son you have raised with a capacity for them will be the person with the capacity to act virtuously in those circumstances. The one you've raised to shrink from conflict and physicality will be unable to defend the right when push comes to shove.

But, second, this particular teen was already physically present for the purpose of joining a riot. I don't think you need to worry about 'increasing the risk' of misbehavior on this occasion. Mom was just trying to keep her son from getting himself killed, as was not improbable under the circumstances. Not only is the author a pansy who should mind his own business, then, he's also got his head entirely in the wrong game.

Stone Tools

Archaeologists claim to have discovered tools that pre-date the genus homo.

Popping bubbles

"Safe places" are all the rage, as young people struggle to find a refuge from disturbing ideas on campus and enforce orthodoxy on the whole student body and faculty. Robert Tracinski argues that this strategy is a good way to lose the war of ideas:
The most powerful historical precedent for this is the totalitarian creed of the Soviet Union—a dogma imposed, not just by campus censors or a Twitter mob, but by gulags and secret police. Yet one of the lessons of the Soviet collapse is that the ideological uniformity of a dictatorship seems totally solid and impenetrable—right up to the moment it cracks apart. The imposition of dogma succeeds in getting everyone to mouth the right slogans, even as fewer and fewer of them understand or believe the ideology behind it.

Treaty Obligations

As long as the grass grows and the river runs...

I Hate Airports

So, is this flight delayed? Guess so, but they won't call it or let you know for how long. Will I make my connection? Who knows! It's part of how we keep travel exciting.

Civilzation: The Skin of Our Teeth

On the strength of my recent enjoyment of BBC documentary, a British friend recommends to me this 13-part series from the BBC on Western Civilization. I am told it is from 1969, twelve hours long, and one of the finest examples the BBC ever produced.

You may think you're having trouble committing to a 12-hour documentary. Don't. Give it three and half minutes, starting at 5:58 into this video.

Now that you've seen that, and since you're the sort of person who spends his or her time in the Hall, I expect you'll probably watch a bit more. Some of you will probably find time to watch it all.


Playing off the popularity of the BBC's excellent production of "Wolf Hall," about Henry VIII's break with the Catholic Church, the Catholic Herald website imagines what England would have looked like if the King's infant son by Catherine of Aragon had lived to become Henry IX.  Would England have avoided war with Spain? Would the North American colonies have been less Puritan and obstreperous?  There would have been no Elizabeth, no Stuarts, perhaps no beheading of a King, no frantic search for continental monarchs to bring reliable Protestantism.

Bach on boomwhackers


When you're a scientist, sometimes it's good to be the king, if it means you get to look under a different rock from the one that all the smart people agree is the right one to be looking under.

Selling Nuclear Material and International Affairs

So, the question that I am curious about in the wake of this latest Clinton scandal is about options for fixing things should we determine that it is actually undesirable to have the Russian government owning a significant amount of US uranium output. (How much output is that? 4.8 million pounds was the total figure in 2013.)

Let's say we decide that's a bad idea. However, the sale was approved by all the appropriate parties, including the Clinton State Department. The sale is presumably perfectly legal and settled, then. What happens if we determine that Russia is using energy resources to leverage its position in an attempt to dominate smaller neighbor nations? What if it should decide to sell uranium to Iran, or for that matter to a Saudi government bent on developing a bomb to counter Iran?

I don't know the answers to those questions. Do any of you know what might be done, were we to decide that something ought to be done? The only thing that occurs to me is nationalizing the mine via eminent domain, presumably paying Russia some fair market value for it.

Hurrah the Feast of Saint George

The image is a photo I took of a tile in Jerusalem last December. If I were to have a patron saint, I should think it would be St. George. Today is the Feast of St. George, patron saint of cavalrymen and horsemen generally, of Dragonslayers, and I trust of bikers.

There is an impressive list of 'Alternative Second Readings' today, for those of you who keep up with such things. They all have to do with being prepared for persecution for being a Christian.

Romans 5:1-5

Romans 8:31-39

2 Cor. 4:7-15

2 Cor. 6:4-10

2 Timothy 2:8-13,3:10-12

Hebrews 10:32-36

James 1:2-4,12

1 Peter 3:14-17

1 Peter 4:12-19

1 John 5:1-5

The Gospel reading, if you are still inclined after all of that, is John 15:18-21.