Thursday, July 31, 2008

I'm raising my sons in the country.

More from The Art of Manliness:

But maybe the truest calling of man lies in the wilderness of life; in learning to thrive in the environments where complete control is not possible.

Think about every man you looked up to as a kid. Chances are they continually faced environments outside their complete control. Environments in which there was no guarantee of safety or success. Where one can only hope to influence rather than rule. Firefighters dueling with fire, soldiers battling the fog and friction of war, explorers traversing foreign territories, pilot’s pushing the boundaries of flight, or even the missionary working in inner-city New York. Each learning to thrive without being in control.

I know what you’re saying at this point. “Great, but I am a web designer and father of twins, not GI Joe or Vasco de Gama.” But, placing yourself in an environment outside your control does not necessarily mean changing jobs or even leaving the suburbs. It could be as simple as mentoring a troubled youth, working a few weekends each month at a homeless shelter, learning a hobby that has always seemed daunting to you, or starting the business you’ve been secretly planning during your work breaks for the past 6 years. Something that requires you to leave your comfort zone and step into unexplored territory. No guarantees of success. The hard way.

The suburbs convince us that the pinnacle of life consists of comfort, safety, and control. And the man that finally succumbs to this deadly logic is a miserable creature forced to live off the exhilaration of other men’s feats.

As George C. Scott so eloquently said it in the movie “Patton,” as he addressed an auditorium full of soldiers on the eve of their deployment to Europe, “Thirty years from now, when you’re sitting around your fireside with your grandson on your knee and he asks you, ‘What did you do in the great World War II,” you won’t have to say, “Well… I shoveled sh*% in Louisiana.’”

Full story

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Things that have made me smile today

Chesterton on babies and distributism.

But there is a third, reason for my contempt, much deeper and therefore much more difficult to express; in which is rooted all my reasons for being anything I am or attempt to be; and above all, for being a Distributist. Perhaps the nearest to a description of it is to say this: that my contempt boils over into bad behaviour when I hear the common suggestion that a birth is avoided because people want to be "free" to go to the cinema or buy a gramophone or a loud-speaker. What makes me want to walk over such people like doormats is that they use the word "free." By every act of that sort they chain themselves to the most servile and mechanical system yet tolerated by men. The cinema is a machine for unrolling certain regular patterns called pictures; expressing the most vulgar millionaires' notion of the taste of the most vulgar millions. The gramophone is a machine for recording such tunes as certain shops and other organisations choose to sell. The wireless is better; but even that is marked by the modern mark of all three; the impotence of the receptive party. The amateur cannot challenge the actor; the householder will find it vain to go and shout into the gramophone; the mob cannot pelt the modern speaker, especially when he is a loud-speaker. It is all a central mechanism giving out to men exactly what their masters think they should have.

Now a child is the very sign and sacrament of personal freedom. He is a fresh free will added to the wills of the world; he is something that his parents have freely chosen to produce and which they freely agree to protect. They can feel that any amusement he gives (which is often considerable) really comes from him and from them, and from nobody else. He has been born without the intervention of any master or lord. He is a creation and a contribution; he is their own creative contribution to creation. He is also a much more beautiful, wonderful, amusing and astonishing thing than any of the stale stories or ijingling jazz tunes turned out bv the machines. When men no longer feel that he is so, they have lost the appreciation of primary things, and therefore all sense of proportion about the world. People who prefer the mechanical pleasures, to such a miracle, are jaded and enslaved. They are preferring the very dregs of life to the first fountains of life. They are preferring the last, crooked, indirect, borrowed, repeated and exhausted things of our dying Capitalist civilisation, to the reality which is the only rejuvenation of all civilisation. It is they who are hugging the chains of their old slavery; it is the child who is ready for the new world.

Discovered at The Dawn Patrol

That most wonderful and fantastic page which every man of my acquaintance should read every single day, not because they're not manly enough but as affirmation of their splendid choices to reject the modern culture and be real men -- The Art of Manliness

"If you’re over 18 and you’re still using Facebook applications to let someone know you’re interested in them, you need to be punched in the face." Article here.

Not that I know anybody who does that. It just amused me. It also made me ashamed of myself, though, not because I chase prospective mates on Facebook, but because I neglect friendships under the assumption that I can catch up with them on Facebook. And then of course I don't, except for the occasional peek at photo albums to see if anyone has recently taken an exciting trip. And I could finish up by apologizing en masse to all the friends I've neglected, but that's a cop-out. I think I'm just going to write a million emails instead. A million. Because that's how many people I love and want to keep up with, and don't because I'm too lazy.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Affirmed by Dr. Mercola!

My favorite healthy-living guru's take on sustainable agriculture

Sometimes I'm amazed at how much my interests have changed since I left college. But sometimes I do miss not caring where my food came from.

In other news, I'm planning to build an overhead trellis over my back patio and plant it with vines. Then I can drink coffee in its shade and feel nostalgic. Also, the kitchen won't get so bloody hot anymore.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

What I'm really excited about nowadays

Angora rabbits!

Seriously. Could you possibly resist these guys? I can't.

Besides, that wool's expensive! I could make a lot of money off them. All I need is a spinning wheel...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Sustainable Urban Living

Sustainable Urban Living

I don't live in the city anymore, but this site has a lot of really useful information for me (even with 10 acres, life's just better if you know how to conserve space) and I know it'll be REALLY interesting for anyone who lives in the city and would like to live more sustainably. Sustainable living is important for the environment, it's super important for the economy, and your family will benefit enormously.

Sarah, Leokadia, and Genevieve, I bet you'll find some ideas you'll like a lot. See? Everybody loves sustainable agriculture, especially when it can happen on a back patio.

Also? She keeps crested chickens, which are just about the most amusing birds on the planet.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

John Senior would approve

At Berea College, (NY Times story) low-income students go to school for free, and the college is funded by a government endowment. (I'm not sure if John Senior would approve of the government endowment entirely funding the college, though he might, but the part I think he'd approve of is coming.) To make up a bit of extra money (though the endowment is pretty huge) and to lower the cost of living for each student, the college runs a farm and workshops for traditional crafts! These are some students who learn wonder at college! None of these students would fail to laugh at the Chaucer's Chanticleer just because they had never seen a rooster strut.

Now my question is, why is it only destitute students who have the privilege to go to this college? Don't students from higher-income families deserve the chance to attend a college where they can balance their intellectual endeavors with old-fashioned hard work at old-fashioned practical tasks, and graduate with the ability to denounce deconstruction with the best of them AND build beautiful furniture for their home, grow their own food, and forge ... oh my gosh, who cares if they're even forging anything practical! Look how gorgeous it is! I mean, I loved UD just about as much as it is possible to love a school (tangent: I had a dream last night about sitting at a cafe in Nafplion and discussing New Criticism with a total stranger, and then I started talking about a Freudian interpretation of Brideshead Revisited, and Sarah E. from the class above me, who was magically there, was horrified, and I said, "well, how else do you explain Anthony Blanche?" And when I woke up, I realized I wrote my entire thesis on Anthony Blanche and wasn't Freudian at all. So: proof that my subconscious was trying to tell me that I miss UD, but it was pointless, because my conscious mind already knew it) but I would have LOVED SO MUCH to have the chance to learn these crafts of our grandparents, and especially to have it integrated into the curriculum in such a way that I didn't have to choose between taking ceramics and EVER having time for homework.

Like, these kids work in the craft shops for work study. Work study! Making furniture! Wow!

So who wants to pressure a *real* (that is, tuition-charging, not that Berea is fake) college to open up a craftsmanship branch, and use it as work-study opportunities, the way this one does? Encourage all students to learn to farm and hand-craft? Or perhaps, the answer is to start one, a Berea for students who are above the arbitrary line of sufficient poverty, and therefore just as excluded as low-income students are from attending Harvard. And it seems to me that the Ozarks are the perfect place for such a college. Jimmy, Jonathan, Eric, Lacy, I'm talking to you.

Oh, and Lodz: the Foxfire Book? Totally changing my gestalt. Thank you for ever and ever, and when you visit me and I feed you hog's head stew that I've canned myself, you'll know it's entirely your fault.

Monday, July 21, 2008

In my Inbox

"Allie named you 'Daedalus Diggle' in the group 'Screw it... I'm Transferring to Hogwarts!' on Facebook."

Allie, you made my day.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

More teaching advice, pleeeeeeeeeease!

I've made the heroic resolution to post every day because I have this idea that it's something people with blogs ought to do if they want anybody to read, and also because it will keep me from taking any one post too seriously, since it's just going to get buried in a bunch of other posts anyway. Of course, considering that it's only going to last until I get bored, I can't guarantee any long stretch of posts. But I can guarantee at least ... two days. Including yesterday.

And today I'm going to talk about my kids. Not my biological kids, though maybe tomorrow I'll post about my biological kids and how they're all going to be protegies and perfectly behaved, but today I'm going to post about the kids I teach. Who are also protegies, and sometimes they're perfectly behaved too.

Thus, this post is mostly for people who know something about teaching. If you don't know anything about teaching, you have my permission to get on with your life. If you do know something about teaching, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD tell me what to do! (actually it's really not all that serious, but I would like to know if you read one of my ideas and think "yeah. THAT'S going to work. with two five year olds in the class??)

So. Tomorrow, that is, not really tomorrow, but the next time we have school, we're introducing the letter A, which is our very first vowel. Big excitement. The textbook has them learning A AND learning to read 3 letter words all in the same day. Georgie, who's been through this part of the book already, told me that he cried on this lesson. So my goal is to make stepping stones instead of a quantum leap.

We've already been finding words that begin with letters that we've had already had, and listening exercises where they say whether the word begins or ends (or neither!) with the letter we're studying. You know, "clap your hands if the word I read ends in S. House, door, pony, walrus." Walrus and pony aren't really on the list - they're all monosyllabic words so far.

So here's my idea: (1) Introduce the letter. Hi, A. Practice writing it, find words that start with A. Apple, And, Antenna. Kidding about Antenna, unless one of them thinks of it. Art project in which we draw an apple with a worm crawling out of it, conveniently placed to resemble lowercase a. Construction paper, because they like construction paper.
(2) Introduce words that have only A and another letter that we've had so far. At, An, As, Am, Add (which has two ds, but that shouldn't be too hard to explain. It's just that way, accept it, kids.). Give them 3 words, see if they can find the others. End first day's lesson here, to give them time to sleep on the idea of two letters they already know making a word.
(3) The next day, put letters in front of the words we found yesterday. At - Cat, Bat, Mat, Sat. Again, give them three, see if they can come up with others. If they don't get it, I guess, just keep throwin' the words at them until they see the pattern.

My goal is for this series of steps to take some of the stress out of the leap from identifying letters to reading words. Does anyone have any advice, warnings about how my plan won't work, tips for more stepping stones?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A blossoming love for poultry

I never realized how incomplete a yard is without chickens, until I got some. My chickens roam all the way up to the house, peacefully clucking and pecking at bugs all day, and during the hottest part of the day they hide under the big plants that Dad hasn't cut down yet or in the shade of the trees and sleep it off. I know they're looking forward to the cool weather, and so am I, because in September they should start laying. Mom says she's seen the random white one crowing and that therefore he must be a rooster, but as far as I've observed, only the little bantam rooster is a rooster. His name is Edward, and his sweet little mate is named Elinor. She sits on my shoulder and chatters, and pecks at my earrings or the neck of my shirt. Every once in a while she pecks at the corner of my eye because she doesn't know better, but I always blink in time. She hasn't pooped on me yet, because she's a good bird. She sits still while I fill up the feed and water, and I've learned to walk slower when she's on my shoulder, because she's not very aerodynamic, and when I walk at my normal pace she gets blown off. My Rhode Island Reds aren't quite as well socialized, but when they're hungry they follow me around and stand on my feet and peck at my toenails and let me pick them up. Only when they're hungry.

My guineas are unfortunately still alive, and every time I see them I tell them that they're going to taste really good one of these days. They're neurotic and stupid and ferocious, and my hands have sustained many cuts because of them. But I hear they're very tasty, and I'm holding out hope. I've also heard that they're supposed to be tick eaters extraordinaires, but mine are defective and laze around all day in the chicken coop.