Real Science

From Stanford, July/August 2010, “Facing the Heat,” an interview with climatologist Stephen Schneider.  Professor Schneider, on the subject of people wanting “scientific proof” about climate change:

Well, there will be objective data — it’s called wait till 2050 and measure it.  And that is not a zero-risk experiment.  That’s why there are so many physicists and meteorologists who don’t like climate science: ‘Oh, it’s not real science because you can’t do controlled experiments.’  You can’t do controlled experiments on the future.  What are we going to do, wait for it then apologize to posterity that we did nothing to slow it down?

Which, of course, will never satisfy people like my neighbors.


Three more weeks, and the new school year begins.  The Kid is an 8th grader — more than that, she is an 8th grader with ambitions.  She has a reputation to maintain, if not enhance; she will be taking algebra this year.  Over the summer, she has been working on-and-off — and not all that successfully– on mastering the basic concepts of pre-algebra.  Stuff like constants and variables:  “What is 0.5x + x ?”  “0.5x. “What happened to the other x?”  “Oh, it canceled out.”  Then there were the occasional forays into the recent past, like percentages, or even further into the more distant past, like addition and subtraction.  If she were not my child, I would have been entertained by the instances of brain infarcts: “If a woodchuck chucked wood for 8 hours a day, how many hours did the woodchuck chuck wood over 3 days?”  “84 hours.”  Her academic brain is something of a mystery to me.

That she might fail used to haunt me; I thought her failure would be my failure, and surely that was  something I must not let happen.  More recently, I began to realize that by her school’s standards, she most likely will not ever come anywhere near failing, and that is actually a much more appalling possibility.  When the Kid was 5 years old, she was part of a skit put on by the children (ages 5-10) attending a weekend “camp” at the Environmental Learning Center.  It was a very informal affair, and the children read their lines from a cheat sheet.  The Kid was the youngest one there and did not, of course, know how to read — yet there she was, sheet in hand, “reading” her lines, just another kid.  Even then she understood what it was to belong, and that sometimes, it is all pretense.  DH wonders whether the concept of variables will “do” her in.  I think not.  After all, even an honours class has a lowest common denominator.

The Inner Bibliophile

It started because I wanted to expand my territory — isn’t that the aspiration of all despots?  From my desk (in the former dining room) to the now beautifully plantation-shuttered front windows (of the former living room), the space is all mine, defined by the eight bookcases that line the walls.  It is the “sitting room” extension of my office, the borders neatly delineated by the change from hickory to oak floors.

Despite my best efforts, DH and The Kid tend to ignore border signs.  Perhaps they are not obvious enough.  So there I was, contemplating the construction of a fortress of books, Michael Ball playing in the background — because Michael Ball, hitting all his high notes, can be amazingly inspirational.  I found Michael Ball ten years ago and bought — actually bought! — several of his CDs.  He does pop, he does Broadway, he does a bit of blues . . . .  but a constant of his recordings is his signature song  “Love Changes Everything,” from the musical Aspects of Love. And until a week or so ago, I did not know that Aspects of Love was based on the book of same title by David Garnett.  I did, however, know who David Garnett was — all courtesy of my current interest in Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

What can one say about a man nicknamed “Bunny”?  That he was the son of Constance Garnett, that he was a conscientious objector during WWI, that he lived with Vanessa Bell and her ex-lover Duncan Grant, that he was also Duncan Grant’s lover, that he was present when Vanessa Bell gave birth to Angelica Bell (her daughter by Duncan Grant) and that he thought it would be interesting to marry Angelica when she grew up — and that he did in fact marry Angelica when she grew up . . . .

It was a pretty incestuous crowd; modern soap writers could learn a thing or two from their collective history.

I chose not to read Aspects of Love, but did find The Old Dovecote. Imagine my surprise when DH brought the book home from the library — a skinny little board book with just 27 pages:

It is a hand-made book, published as part of the 18 volume limited-edition Woburn Books (other writers include D.H. Lawrence, E. F. Benson, Algernon Blackwood, G.K. Chesterton, Sylvia Townsend Warner, and Robert Graves), published by Elkin Mathews & Marrot in 1928-1929.  Another surprise: that David Garnett was a decent writer!  Now I am ashamed that I could recall only the salacious details of his life.