An uncommon cornerstone

I visited St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Waterloo, NY, yesterday to take some pictures. It really has a most unusual cornerstone – the inscription stretches around the corner! This is a single piece of stone – what might look like a seam is actually a drafted margin, a line indicating where the joint would be. The stone above shows the same technique – many (if not all) the corners on the building have this minor masonry refinement.

My graduate professor of things Greek always explained drafted margin masonry as a way of either emphasizing the blocky nature of the blocks by giving the roughened (rusticated) blocks a smooth edge or a way of making brick or smaller stones look like larger ones by drafting the fictitious margins of larger units. Either way, drafted margin masonry is an elegant touch here.

A Nice professorial Saturday morning

The Hobart Crew coach had the clever idea of reaching out to faculty by offering a morning of rowing instruction to faculty recommended by members of the crew – so 8 of us rolled out this morning to the scenic Seneca-Cayuga Canal-side Hellstrom Boathouse for rowing! We had some explanation first from the coaches, then spent a quarter of an hour on rowing machines learning a little technique and getting pointers from the rowers.
Then we helped lug a second rowing shell down to the water and put it in. They divided us and (luckily!) 4 experienced rowers rowed with the 4 professors in each boat. The students did all the instruction – and they were quite good at it! We practiced strokes while still at dockside, then eventually pushed off and rowed around a bit, eventually building up some speed!
We got down as far as the Marina, then turned and came back, racing (and crushing!) the other boat on the way).
It was heaps of fun! I spent a little time (6 months or so) rowing single sculls in high school, but this was quite different.
Maybe there will be pictures later.

Catholic Nomenclature

Fr. Z at What Does the Prayer Really Say? is running a poll – what to call things?
What should we call Holy Mass according to the 1962 Missal?
* Tridentine Mass
* classical Mass
* Latin Mass
* pre-Conciliar Mass
* Mass of all time
* the true Mass
* extraordinary form/use (forma extraodinaria)
* usus antiquior
* vetus ordo
* older form of Mass
* Mass of Bl. John XXIII
* immemorial Mass
* Mass of St. Pius V
* traditional Mass
* Johannine Mass
* Traditional Latin Mass or TLM
Me, I’m going with vetus ordo.

Those kids today!

Seriously: why on earth would the definition of a “conservative” court in 1980 be some sort of lodestar by which all future courts should be judged. By the standards of 1880, the current court would be a bunch of wild-eyed socialist libertine radicals bent on undermining everything that made America great. Does that entitle me to re-nominate Oliver Wendell Holmes, or his modern day equivalent?
Cass Sunstein (who graduated from law school in 1978) seems to be under the delusion that the conditions of his youth are the golden mean by which all future events are to be judged and found wanting. I mean, we all feel the same way, but most of us don’t expect anyone younger to take us seriously when we drone on about how much better The Pogues were than any of this modern noise.

Megan McArdle on the world and change.

The Rhetorical Weirdness of “Endangered Languages”

I find the rhetoric of folks talking about “endangered languages” very annoying – almost as annoying as Historical Preservation Fundamentalists (save our collapsing Historic Gas Station!) and always end up wondering about motives. It’s the same annoyance as my general distaste for use of the biological model to describe inanimate objects. Art doesn’t evolve, folks. Only things that can reproduce evolve. People make art. Art doesn’t develop – artists change the things they do.
Here’s a splashy article on language extinction, complete with video, from National Geographic News.
O.K. – about the rhetoric. Languages are not living or dead – they’re languages. People are living or dead. People die. Species flourish or go extinct.
Members of the Language Preservation Community, or whatever they want to call themselves, have interesting goals – preserving human knowledge that is encoded in particular languages – that seems to ignore what many of us (most of us?) think languages are for – communication per se. You see, knowledge about specific remedies (their marketing point for making us care about vanishing languages) is there, it could be shared in the languages other people speak. If we’re just talking about new and linguistically exciting names for things, then there’s only interest to people who like many languages.
It seems to me that their suggestion, that with the “extinction” of a language the knowledge is no longer accessible because the nomenclature would no longer be used and shared, isn’t much use. Now if the knowledge of natural cures for ancient ills is no longer shared because contemporary children prefer watching Australian television to learning respectfully from their bilingual elders, then the Language Conservationists may be right but they’re also completely incapable of offering a solution. I feel the same way about Western Civilization myself, after all, and that has little to do with language.
But then people like me have always been thinking that the world was going to Hell in a hand basket. Surely Sumerian scribes thought so. Dressing up your plaint in fashionable extinction rhetoric doesn’t make the position much stronger.

Grading! Grading! Grading!

Nothing like 8 or 9 days of continuous academic obligations (including Sunday afternoon – what WAS I thinking scheduling presentations on a Sunday afternoon?) to make me need a little Psychokiller in my life. So here it is – music of my youth:

Or the version I saw live:

Or if you’re in a Hugo Ball kind of mood (yes, 38 homeworks about Colleges’ signage can reduce one to a Dadaist polysyllabic mess):