08 May 2015

The Historian

"There is an authenticity to lived experience on which historians must insist if they wish to remain historians."

John Laurence Tone, War and Genocide in Cuba: 1895-1898.

(an excellent book, btw, well worth reading for any number of reasons)

29 December 2014

Handwriting, need of

After Katrina hit New Orleans most places were without electricity. Think about small result of that simple fact. No computers. No word processors. No way to write anything except by hand. It was a mini-disaster inside the great disaster.

Local hospitals, in addition to lighting operating rooms with flashlights, had to resort to actual pens and paper for keeping records - records that ended up being largely unreadable. She also told me an amusing (sort of) story about checking into a hotel in an area suffering under a prolonged power outage. The staff suddenly had to hand-write the names of guests, addresses, credit card numbers - and the only employee with handwriting anyone could read was a man on the verge of retirement.
as told to Kitty Burns Florey in Script and Scribble
Thank God this only happens when we have hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters. I mean, how often does that happen. After all, it's not like some foreign power has the skill to mess with our computer systems or anything. 

On second thought, I'm buying stock in the last company to manufacture manual typewriters.

28 November 2014

Clemens' Notebook: The Uses of Philosophy

Peter Green, The Hellenistic Age (p.118) speaks of the intellectual changes in the Hellenistic Age, a time of troubles, defeat, and social change.

"... to a remarkable degree all Hellenistic creeds, from Stoicism to the counterculture of the Cynics, were agreed that, as Xenocrates (head of the Academy 339-315) put it, in the immediate aftermath of Chaeronea and the collapse of the Achaemenid empire, '[the] reason for discovering philosophy is to allay that which causes disturbance in life.' The full implications of this attitude are not always appreciated. What such statements - and they came to be a commonplace - imply is a kind of intellectual tsunami, a universal disaster from which philosophy must attempt to salvage what it can, and for the survivors of which it sets out to provide some kind of makeshift comfort."

It was certainly needed, as new creeds would be needed in the Late Antique, but could this not also be seen as a fellow traveler to the Buddhist goal of overcoming 'suffering', dukkha? Or is it speaking on a scale larger than an individual's suffering?

09 November 2014

Clemen's bookshelf

Too often my bookshelf includes every flat surface in the house, including desks, tables, and floor. Too much that I want to read.

I have read a great many books as part of my job in the last few months. Probably the best was Robin Fleming's Britain After Rome. It tells us what it can soley from material remains about the disappearance of the urban lifestyle, the coming of the Anglo Saxons, the Vikings, and the Normans. Excellent, though I missed a discussion of DNA and language.

Then there ere several books for my History of Spain til 1492 class. Right now I am reading The Poem of the Cid for the seventh or eighth time. It's still fun, especially trying to puzzle out the medieval Castilian text. It is always better than The Song of Roland which is proof that even in the twelfth century the French were already French.

Best new book I have, and am almost finished with, is The Race for Paradise by Paul Cobb , the Islamic view of the Crusades, a concept they did not have btw. For them the First Crusade was just part of a broader counter attack by the Christians that had started in Spain and Sicily.

Halfway through The Oxford Handbook of Iranian History, and nearly done with Europe Before Rome by T. Douglas Price. Both excellent and worth reading.

On my Kindle I am finishing up Prescott's classic on Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. It is still hard to believe that a half blind Bostonian who had to learn Spanish and never went to Spain could have written this in the 1830s. As dated as it is, I am not sure it has been totally replaced, at least in English. And I keep chipping away at the Bible - after what seems like months if not years, I have reached the 50% marker. As far as I can tell, despite many difficulties, it has never been replaced either.

As for what I have been listening to, I can't even remember, though right now I am working on Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fisher. It is a fascinating look at where "American" culture came from and why it is so varied region by region.  Just finished Furies: War in Europe 1450-1700. It is one depressing read. Apparently war in those years was as destructive of the civil population as World War II, they just did it the old fashioned way, helped out by plague, starvation, and general all around human beastliness.

So you might say I have a few things to keep me occupied.

Morning conversation

Carmen: Your brother is turning into a real movie star.

Me (struggling to wake up): What's he in now?

Carmen: Something called "Purgatory."

Me: That figures.

03 November 2014

Mindfulness practice

With me, I think it will always be just that, practice, hoping to gain the skill to start the journey. I am the type who wants a road map, but I am getting over that. Each time it is something worth doing only for its own sake, that time. The future never gets here.

Saturday I was physically ill, it was an exceptionally dreary day, and both factors were depressing me. For no particular reason I decided to search out Bohdipaksa videos on You Tube. Found one that looked good and decided to try formal meditation, since all I have been doing little snippets of informal mindfulness here and there during the day.

And it all worked. For nearly a half hour I sat cross legged on the floor and listened and focused. When it was done, I felt fine. All the nausea was gone, all the aches and pains, even the lassitude. I did not even need a nap that afternoon.

So why did it work so well that time, when my meditation practice before, as useful and even necessary as it was, had never even come close to being this remarkable? Possibly all those little informal practices cleared the ground and prepared to way. More likely, I simply like Bohdipaksa voice and his take on meditation. Most likely, I believe, is that he talked about joy and instructed his class to smile.

Perhaps that is all it takes.

(the next day Critter came in to help me and Bohdipaksa in our practice - not sure if it was a help)

Headlines you don't want to read first thing in the morning...

... especially if you are a college professor.


from the AOL newsfeed.

13 July 2014


"But Oxford is a strange place, and dons are strange people. Brilliance in a colleague is quite as likely to excite their envy as their esteem, and, where mediocrity is the norm, it is not long before mediocrity becomes the ideal."

A. N. Wilson, himself an Oxford grad, in C. S. Lewis.

12 January 2014

Re-booting the blog etc

Purely for selfish and personal reasons I may try to return to blogging, either here or at some new blog. I checked through a number of other blogs a few minutes ago and it was a bit depressing. Almost all of them made their last post over a year ago. Claw of the Conciliator about four years ago.

Supposedly Facebook has decimated the world of blogs, leaving only the elderly and reclusive to keep on blogging.

A shame.

Update for all of 2013

I'm rather glad to see last year come to an end. I soldiered on in my job while stricken with serious depression and occasional anxiety attacks. Then needed sinus surgery to clear out what was a permanent sinus infection. Ended up the year with surgery to remove a kidney stone.

Either because of clearing up the physical problems, my new practice of meditation, a 150mg a day happy pill, or my sabbatical (i.e. no teaching until August), I now feel great, in fact better than I have for what seems like the last five years. I don't even need my daily naps, at least not every day.

So let's see what 2014 brings.

Post is toast

Testing. Testing. One, two, three. etc.

Blogger has not been letting me post.

Post is toast

Testing. Testing. One, two, three. etc.

Blogger has not been letting me post.