DogBlog: Today I am Two

In the chaos of deadlines and New Book Planning, I’ve forgotten many things.  But this, I did not forget. Today is Max’s second birthday.

While her “present” will be a long hike this weekend, tonight a small gathering will be raising a glass (and handing out a new Hedgie) to celebrate. Over on Twitter, I asked if I should get her a pupcake, or if that was gilding the already-spoiled puppy.

The overwhelming response was “yes, get her a pupcake!”

For those of you unfamiliar with this trend, a pupcake is…exactly what it sounds like.  A dog-tummy-safe cupcake, made with things like bananas, pumpkin, and peanut butter flour. You can make them at home (there are mixes!) or you can go to a hoity-toity pet shop or specialty baker. Yes, there are actual dog-treat bakeries.

Dog people, we need a reality check.  Dogs eat dirt.  They eat raw carcasses they find by the side of the trail. They will eat shit, some of them. They are not impressed by a fancy pupcakes with dog-safe frosting and a candle.  Admit it, you’re doing it for the insta.

(Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

But this is a milestone birthday. We did it, we got through her puppyhood and her adolescence mostly intact, if a lot poorer (most recent expense: $80 for meds to get her through another bout of Giardia, ouch).  She’s reached her adult size and weight, and her personality is, if not set, then firmly established.  85% sugar, 10% vinegar, and 5% hellion.  I love her to bits, and I wouldn’t trade her for anything.  Although I might downsize her just a bit.

Are there things I’d do differently over the past two years, given the chance?  Absolutely. “No dogs on the bed” would have been a hard rule from the start, for one.  Getting her better-socialized with under-ten humans. Figured out her particular quirks and needs faster than I did.  It’s probably impossible to raise any living creature and not have regrets along the way. 

There are some things I just have to accept were always going to be, raising a pandemic puppy.  But I think we did okay. 

People tell me she will start to settle down, energy-wise, around three.  Or four.  Or maybe five.

Please god, by five.  Momma’s tired, and the cat needs a break.

And this brings us to the end of my regular dogblogging.  I hope you enjoyed growing up with us.

Then,

and now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and did I get her a pupcake?  You’ll have to check my instagram to find out.

What’s in a Title?

I was raised informally; the teachers at my (progressive) grade school were addressed by there first names; I called my parents’ friends by the first names as well–no Aunt or Uncle unless they insisted (only one person–my father’s accountant’s wife–insisted). This doesn’t mean I didn’t treat them respectfully, but it does mean that I grew up expecting a certain amount of reciprocal respect. When we moved and I went to a more traditional school, I called the teachers Miss/Mrs/Mr. I did ask once why we didn’t call all the female teachers Ms, and was told without irony it was because they didn’t have that many young unmarried women on staff. Okay then.

I believe people should be called what they want to be called (within reason: if you want to be styled Grand Panjandrum, okay, but don’t expect me to do it without an eyeroll). And until invited to do otherwise I still call doctors “Doctor,” regardless of whether they are MDs, DDS, PhDs, or any of the other long list of doctorate degrees. My father-in-law had a doctorate in Education, and while he didn’t do it often, he occasionally would insist on being “Doctor Caccavo.” Because he By God worked for that degree, and the prerequisite degrees, all while supporting a family.

For what it’s worth, in the UK, up until very recently, some medical doctors were Dr. and some were Miss or Mrs. or Mr.  Allow me to put my Medical History Geek Glasses on: in the Middle Ages there were three classes of medical practitioners: doctors, surgeons, and apothecaries. Doctors were the ones who had studied medicine; they’d gone to school and learned all the theories. They did not lay hands upon the patient except in the most basic way–that was for assistants, or for surgeons. Surgeons were tradesmen: they used their hands, they apprenticed, learned the skills required, and practiced (some cut hair and pulled teeth as well; Sweeney Todd may have been a Demon barber, but he was also expected to be a dentist as well). Even up to the beginning of the 21st century, aspiring surgeons were plain Mister or Ms. until they finished medical school–then were briefly Doctors, until they finished surgical training and passed their exams, at which point they returned to Mister/Ms. again.

Don’t get your knickers in a twist about doctor.  Continue reading “What’s in a Title?”

The Importance of Folklore

Tonight I’m reading Simon J Bronner’s The Practice of Folklore. Essays toward a Theory of Tradition. I want to rant about the importance of folklore and folkways to our lives. They help us reach out to people and share. They are also magically important in novels, which is why I’m researching the theory right now.

In a chat somewhere online a few days ago, someone stated very firmly that they had invented a fantasy world and that what we knew of this world didn’t apply. In theory, this is true. In practice, however, we (human beings) have things that connect us to the world., In novels, storylines that kinda reflect what we think we know are easier to read. If we think that very green grass means much rain and wonderful grazing (I’ve been dreaming of Ireland) then if we have a wet climate with much grass and a character walks out onto it and it’s hard and dry and fractured, like the Australian outback during a drought, it will be really hard to envisage the world. If we talk about living in houses and how deep the foundations are and then show those houses floating, foundationless, in mid air, we will be fretted and want to find easier reading. One way that some of the bets writers hold worlds together while still challenging what we think we know is to use folklore, popular culture, and folkways. Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union does this rather wonderfully from one direction and his The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay does it just as wonderfully from another.

And yet… most folklore studies are descriptions of folklore. I have a pile of photocopied jokes from my father and I used it when someone asked me for a piece on folklore, twentysomething years ago. I described the collection and gave some examples of the jokes. That was my father’s folk collection. My own is food and foodways. I have a rather nice little collection of community cookbooks.

These descriptions and studies are tremendous for writers. They are such vast resources. Nevertheless, it’s studies such as Bonner’s that teach us how to use folklore most effectively. I’m reading Bronner’s book now in order to better analyse fiction, but I own the book as much for my own writing as for my analysis of others.

The more we understand the role folklore, folkways and all their related subjects play in our lives, the more fuel there is for writing and the more joy there is in reading. And now you know what I’m working on for the next three months. Folklore and folkways in just one writer’s work. It’s part of my big project, the sequel to my Story Matrices work. And it’s so much fun. If I can understand theories of tradition, just think of what it does for my own novels, how enriched my worldbuilding will be.

There’s one single extra big and very important component. Nancy Jane Moore reminded me that I promised a post today and told me that it was Juneteenth. Juneteenth is very alien to me, culturally, because I’m Jewish Australian. Australia’s colonial heritage is very different from that of the US. When the US was enmeshed in civil war, we were still a bunch of British colonies. We have our own history and our own days that are equally difficult, but none of them are Juneteenth.

When I find something that foreign and that interesting and that holds that much historical importance, one very good way to explore it is by understanding the folkways and folklore associated with it. It’s a part of cultural respect.

I can’t tell you what to do or think about Juneteenth, but I can tell you that if you want to understand it, you look at the words and the traditions of those whose day it is. That’s step one in learning to tell stories about people from different backgrounds to ourselves. It’s not a matter of learning a date and noting that it’s important, it’s a matter of finding out why it’s important, how it’s important and what cultural fabric surrounds it. Bronner’s book doesn’t talk about Juneteenth at all, but his chapters on other subjects help give me a path to follow as I respectfully start learning.

City Hiking

I took a class last month through East Bay Regional Parks and learned how to use hiking poles effectively. The class impressed me so much that I put my old hiking poles (which weren’t very good) out on the curb, where they were quickly snatched up. My sweetheart got me some much better ones for my birthday.

Nancy with hiking poles

That gave us an excuse to go hiking, but since we had lots of other things to do, we didn’t want to go far. So we went hiking in the city of Oakland. Our first outing was to Dimond Park (which is pronounced as if it was spelled “diamond”) to hike along Sausal Creek.

Sausal Creek

The trail has not been as well-maintained as it should have been and it was difficult in spots. The poles made a huge difference. Continue reading “City Hiking”

Shall-Be-Nameless Magazine Review

Every once in a while, I post a review of a magazine. Usually, it’s done something to tick me off and I want to vent. Unreadable print ranks high on my list of no-nos.

For many years, I was a fan of a healthy cooking magazine. It provided me with wonderful recipes and articles about the chemistry of cooking. It changed its name, and I faithfully followed it into new territory. If there were fewer recipes that appealed to me, there were more articles on how food is grown, as well as other aspects of health. A few months ago, that incarnation went belly-up. I received a notification that the remainder of my subscription – all 3 months of it – was being transferred to a general “good living” magazine. I was assured of many healthful, delicious recipes.

The first issue had one, exactly one, article I was interested in (the varieties of lavender bushes).

The current issue is as follows:

The cover features a grinning man wearing huge beads, nail polish, and a tattoo of a cross. He is grinning widely, showing unnaturally white teeth. I’ve never heard of him.

Article 1: A list of “summer fun” events sure to be Covid super-spreaders.

Article 2: “For the dad who has it all”: a collection of gender-stereotyped merchandise I’d never buy for anyone.

Article 3: “Pool party” features blow-up pools large enough to accommodate several adults. In my area, water restrictions forbid filling ordinary, below-ground pools. Don’t the magazine folks realize that some of us are living in drought zones?

A bunch of articles on makeup, with or without SPF. Yawn.

Article 4. A remodeled porch, with many pages of interior decoration porn.

Articles too-many, more interior decoration that would be way beyond my budget even if I could stand to look at it. Chairs designed to give you crippling back pain. Fabric upholstery my cats would love as scratching posts. Wall paint so dark as to create instant depression. Kids’ rooms no self-respecting child would enter.

Article 5. Ah, gardening. Planters with trellises. Nope, nope, nope. Well, maybe, if I wanted to grow only 2 bean plants. Nope, nope, nope.

Articles more-too-many. You’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me style decor, complete with a plaque that says, “You’re a mess.” Yep, you are.

More sure-to-drive-kids-insane decor. More gloom-inspiring wall paint.

Article 6: “Egg bites”???

Article 7: Ah, some actual recipes, beginning with hearty salads. I think maybe I can work with this…until I look at the nutrition information and see sodium levels that start at 500 mg/serving and go upwards of 1,500 mg/serving. In what universe is this healthy??? (The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 mg a day and moving toward an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg.) You could get your entire day’s allowance of sodium in just one salad!

Article 8: Cover guy in “Finding Home.” Wearing pajamas, then wearing 1890s-style onesies. Wearing…what is that thing? I’m so uninterested in this person I don’t recognize and who seems bent on warping his spine that I’m anti-interested.

Article 9: Drinks, all of them containing alcohol. Many pages’ worth.

Article 10: Summer gatherings in this family’s garden. Same back-pain-inducing furniture, but the garden looks nice. They have a cute dog. Maybe an outdoor meal might be safe…oh no, now they’re indoors. Still, they look like a nice family.

Article 11: More decor, described as “exuberant patterns and joyful color.” Too busy, too impersonal, too aggressive on the eyeballs. Does anyone actually spend time in these rooms?

Article 12: More salads, these arranged on large platters that look pretty but are designed to make sure (a) ingredients are distributed unequally; (b) there will be unusable leftovers. But I’ll take a look. I like salads. I see 654 mg sodium…1.064 mg sodium…wow, here’s one with only 470 mg. sodium but 42 grams of fat...at least most of it’s unsaturated, but depending on your caloric intake, that could be an entire day’s fat allowance. (See the above-recommended limits on sodium.)

I’ll pass.

After I toss the issue in recycle bin.

There, I feel much better.

Exploration and early science fiction

It’s Monday. (I feel very witty when I say things that appear obvious.) There are twists and turns every Monday and this week the small twist is that I’m actually writing this on Monday. Normally I write my Monday blog post very early Tuesday morning, and still post it on US Monday but today… I have nine minutes now and no time then for two hours and then a full hour before midnight, so I’m writing my Monday post on Monday.

The second twist (the big one) is that I’ve only read a bit of the book I’m introducing you to. I don’t have time to finish it right now, and I’m too excited by it to wait to write about it.

There’s a story behind why it’s open on my machine. Of course there’s a story. Someone very proudly told me that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein wasn’t the first work of science fiction. They claimed something from the eighteenth century as the first. I instantly wanted to argue, because the eighteenth century is too early and too late. Approaches matter, and there are at least half a dozen different arguments for this work or that work to be considered science fiction.

It all rests on definitions. What is science fiction? What is fantasy? Are we only talking about modern novels, or are we talking about other types of narrative? There’s a terrific Medieval life of Alexander, where Alexander explores underwater in a bathysphere and loses to the Amazons when he invades and is fed dinner by them and… I talked about it just the other day at a science fiction convention. It’s not one book. It’s many different types of stories in many different books. It’s also very well studied, even though it’s not known nearly well enough in some science fiction circles. Here’s a bibliography prepared by people who know more about it than me (I’ve read two versions, only.)

One can go back further than that, much further, or go forward. There are stories in many languages and from several continents. The trick is to start looking.

Two days ago I decided to look for French books from the seventeenth century. I already know the work where Cyrano goes to the Moon, and it’s fun, but where one book like that is written, there must be others. I used to know several others, but my brain sometimes forgets everything (I think it does it on purpose, to annoy me) so I looked again. I found several things I once had known, and one single book that’s new to me and that’s surprisingly close to home in a number of ways. It’s the one I want to read when I do not have time.

It’s the story of a voyage to Australia. It was published in 1732. Australia was known to many people by then, not least of all the people who had already been living here for the last tens of thousands of years, but Europe, for the most part, thought of it as unknown and exotic. Bits of it had appeared on European maps, and the region now known as South East Asia had contacts, especially up north. So did all the region north of Australia (Papua and PNG in modern parlance), and quite possibly New Zealand and maybe even China. But Europe didn’t pay much attention to what most of these places thought of the southern continent and was only just in the throes of making its own discoveries.

When I was at school, I was taught that there was no knowledge of Australia in Europe until the eighteenth century. Since then, however, the maps from the Dutch and Portuguese have demonstrated very much otherwise. Parts of Australia have been known to parts of Europe since at least the fifteenth century. Here is a map that reflects stuff from an earlier map, to show what was known to those Europeans who had access to this very specialised knowledge.

Of course, contact with Australia from nearby places dates back long before then. One of my students a few years ago was Indonesian and her family had stories about contact with Australia. We visited an exhibition at the National Museum and she was able to point to her island and then to where people from her island travelled to, for trade. How long has that trade been happening? I need to check out archaeological studies, her island began regular contact with northern Australia a long time before Europeans even thought to come to the Great Southern Land.

Before those early maps from Europe, there was talk about Australia. In fact, Europeans have been talking about Australia since at least the time of Cicero. Cicero wrote about it in his science fictional “Somnium Scipionis (“The Dream of Scipio”), which was part of his De Re Publica where Scipio Africanus went to Mars and saw the world laid out. Australians were there as antipodeans, people who walked on the opposite side of the earth. Macrobius took that dream in the fifth century and wrote commentaries on it and those commentaries were used as geographical explanations throughout the Middle Ages.

A fictional account of someone voyaging to Australia in the seventeenth century has, therefore, a really solid background. It was a story based on things other people knew and accepted. That’s why I want to read it. I want to know what people thought about this country at a time when most Europeans saw it as an intellectual conceit or a place only specialist traders knew about.

The preface explains that the writer knew a fair amount about modern (for that time) geography. He makes it very clear that he’s not talking about Java, nor about the Americas. He even names explorers to demarcate their routes and interests. To me, this is the stuff that science fiction is made of. Take current knowledge (proving one’s cutting edge understanding) and then extrapolate and write fiction inspired by it. The extrapolation is invention, and it says more about Europe than about Australia, but it’s no less interesting for that. It describes an invented Australia in the year 1610. The land, the writer says, is more fertile and more populated than Europe.

Now you know why I want to read it. I wish I had time. It’s on my computer, however, and if ever an excuse arises (if someone tells me “I want a talk about this book” or “Give me an article”) then I shall be very grateful to Professor Ron Ridley who gave me the capacity to read seventeenth century French. Let me tell you about that, and then sign off, because it’s heading for midnight here and I do like the thought of finishing my Monday post on Monday itself.

I was doing third year History, as an undergraduate, and I’d been allowed into a fourth year class on Roman historiography, because it wasn’t going to be offered the following year. Ridley noted that I was doing historical French as another subject, and set me an essay that used it. I had to read and analyse 22 volumes of seventeenth century French in a collection of rare books, with only one article about them (in modern French) to help me. It was a lot of work. So much work… By the end of it, I could read seventeenth century French perfectly well. Even if I have no other skills to my name, I have this one. And now that these early novels are available on the web, I have a reason to rediscover that odd little skill of mine. All I need is someone to give me an excuse…

Maturity

On the day after my birthday — a day when I was moving slowly and late getting around to eating — I contemplated the idea of chocolate cake for breakfast.

I had a lovely rum ganache cake for my birthday, from the local Oakland bakery Taste of Denmark (which is owned by its employees). It is a very rich, very tasty, very chocolatey cake and I like it very much.

rum ganache cake
The cake in question.

But I didn’t eat it for breakfast, because I realized that I didn’t really want cake. I wanted real breakfast: fresh fruit, homemade granola, good yogurt, some almonds.

That, I think, is being a mature adult: recognizing that you actually don’t want things that sound like indulgences because they really wouldn’t be all that enjoyable. Another piece of cake after dinner is very pleasurable, but treats are really more fun when they’re treats, not a substitute for the basics.

Continue reading “Maturity”

An Angry Librarian

Certain shows (I’ll spare you the list) lodge deep under my skin–The Music Man, which I saw last week on Broadway, being one. I grew up with the cast album (Robert Preston and Barbara Cook) and the film (Robert Preston and Shirley Jones). I had never seen it staged, however, so when the opportunity arose to see a revival with Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster, I leapt at it, credit card in hand. I want first to say that I liked it a lot. That being said…

It would be very easy for me to go one of two ways with this new production–uncritically adore it because it’s The Music Man, fer chrissakes, or worry away at it because it’s not the Music Man I grew up with. Short of exhuming Robert Preston and Barbara Cook, or flying Shirley Jones in (at 88, dancing the Shapoopi might not be on her to do list), you’re not going to give me the Music Man I grew up with. And anyway, times have changed and certain things are creaky–even when they might have been “accurate” for the time in which the story is set. I have, however, seen essays basically tearing this production down because Jackman isn’t Preston and–even worse, in one writer’s mind–Foster isn’t Cook.*

I have a couple of bones to pick, sure. The show’s tempo was fast–here and there they could have slowed the tempo down a titch, to useful effect. I loved the woman who played Mrs. Paroo, but wish they’d cast someone younger. Hugh Jackman, who was clearly enjoying himself, wasn’t quite the Harold Hill I wanted him to be (not Preston, but maybe a magnified version of himself?). But none of those quibbles got in the way of the things I liked–nay, loved.

You know the story, right? Continue reading “An Angry Librarian”

Much wittering followed by some recipes

Today I have written a great deal. That great deal added up to a very short story and a few hundred words of non-fiction. It just felt like a great deal. I suspect this was because I am surrounded by autumn storms. Everything feels like a great deal when one is surrounded by storms.

Normally I walk my bookshelves to find you an interesting book to talk about. Because I have met two whole deadlines today (two!) I thought I’d take the easy way out and write about the nearest book to me. I forgot that I had six of my own books in reach because I was talking about them to someone. And yet, the weather is about to break (I have a very handy weather sense) and I need to finish writing this before then because when there is a storm literally overhead, I doubt I’ll be writing to you about interesting reading.

I’m taking the interesting route. On my computer I have – like so many of us, these days – an elibrary. I’m going to open a folder at random. The folder are labelled with the alphabet, except the historical food one, which is labelled ‘Cooking.’ Just typing about that particular heading led me straight into the Cooking folder, so let me find you a cookbook or historical food book of particular interest.

I opened the folder and was curious about one that wasn’t properly labelled at all. It proved to be a transcription of the 1596 The Good Huswifes Jewell. Just the opening is delightful, and if I find it delightful then you’re stuck with it. Let me give you that opening, in all its gorgeousness.

The Good Huswifes Jewell “Wherein is to be found most excellend and rare Deuises for conceites in
Cookery, found out by the practise of Thomas Dawson.
Wherevnto is adioyned sundry approued receits for many soueraine oyles, and the way to distill many precious waters, with diuers approued medicines for many diseases.
G.STEEVENS
Also certain approued points of husbandry, very necessary for all Husbandmen to know.
Newly set foorth with additions. 1596.
Imprinted at London for Edward White, dwelling at the litle North Doore of Paules at the signe of the Gun.”

If ‘Paules’ is St Paul’s Cathedral, then Edward White, the publisher, was in a part of London that had been book and scribe central since the Middle Ages. If you were in London in the thirteenth century and needed a notary in a hurry, the back of St Paul’s was the place.

I’m so tempted to simply let my mind rove in that district in the Middle Ages, and contemplate where I would buy parchment or commission illuminations, but this is a cookbook and my mind must remain resolute (the impending storm insists). Let me give you a recipe from the book, then. Everyone needs boiled chicken once in a while, and I’ve not made this recipe, so it’s a useful one all round:

To boile Chickins.
Straune your broth into a pipkin, & put in your Chickins, and skumme them as cleane as you can, and put in a peece of butter, and a good deale of Sorell, and so let them boyle, and put in all manner of spices, and a lyttle veriuyce pycke, and a fewe Barberies, and cutte a Lemman in pecces, and scrape a little Suger uppon them, and laye them vppon the Chickins when you serue them vp, and lay soppes vpon the dish.

I read this as using broth – I’d use chicken bouillon, because I always do when things are otherwise not clear. Boiling chicken in a broth sounds rather good, actually. Different broths would infuse it with different flavours. Butter and sorrel combined give a very smooth texture and flavour, and the verjuice might be to make it be not too unctuous. Barberries I love and have some on hand: they would add a fruitiness and also cut that unctuousness. In fact, I have most of the ingredients on hand. I’m just missing the chicken, the sorrel and the verjuice. Also, I’m missing bread. Without bread I can’t make sops. It’s just as well, really, because it’s 11.30 pm here and not the time to be making a chicken recipe.

In fact, it was a really bad idea to open that file and find you a recipe. I want to cook! Instead of cooking, let me find you another recipe from 1596. If you’re inspired to make either of these, I’d love to know how it went and, if you take pictures, it would make me very happy to see them.

Because most of you are heading for summer and the fruit is just beginning to arrive (we’re heading for winter and I’m eating persimmon and pomegranate and papaya while I can) how about a recipe that requires summer fruit? This one has fewer terms that need explaining, which is a bonus. I never know how much to translate, because it’s perfectly modern (Early Modern – I was making a bad joke) English. It all depends on how much cooking you’ve done and what kind of cooking. Stoves as we know them weren’t around in the late sixteenth century. A great deal of cooking was done over an open fire with a wonderful set of cooking equipment. This preserved fruit recipe, for example, uses the head of a pot covered by a plate, which is a very nice way of making sure the fruit stays whole.

To preserue all kinde of fruites, that they shall not breake in the preseruing of them.
Take a platter that is playne in the bottome, and laye suger in the bottome, then cherries or any other fruite, and so between euerie rowe you lay, throw suger and set it vpon a pots heade, and couer it with a dish, and so let it boyle.

Now I’m dreaming of apricots cooked this way and eaten with clotted cream.

I need to sign off before I start cooking. I so often do this I open an historical cookbook and then end up making something and not finishing my work. I shall leave you with one last recipe and no explanation whatsoever, and then I’ll finish all that must be done before this impending storm ceases to impend. Then I shall sleep and dream of preserved apricots served with clotted cream.

This last recipe is not quite a trifle as we know it today, but it is, nevertheless, kind of an ancestor to the Queen’s Jubilee dish that so many of my British friends have been making. Only kind of. I know its 18th century descendants and they’re all drinks. I am only missing the cream for this trifling dish. I would turn into something strange if I eat this at midnight, which is the precise time it would be ready, so I’m lucky I’m missing that cream (when you make it yourself, remember than thick cream has no gelatine or other thickener – it should dollop when you spoon it into the dish and must be at least 45% fat):

To make a Trifle.
Take a pinte of thicke Creame, and season it with Suger and Ginger, and Rosewater, so stirre it as you would then haue it, and make it luke warme in a dish on a Chafingdishe and coales, and after put it into a siluer peece or a bowle, and so serue it to the boorde.

 

PS While there is a place called West Wittering in the UK, and also one called East Wittering, alas, there does not appear to be one called Much Wittering. I might have to invent a fictional town, in Australia but with English tendencies.

Some Thoughts on Education

I went through 19 years of formal education, not counting the one-semester half-day of kindergarten I got – the price of hitting the age of five at the height of the post World War II baby boom.

That’s 12 years of public school, four years of college, and three years of law school.

The only part of that I remember fondly is college. I got my degree in Plan II, which was (and is) the liberal arts honors program at the University of Texas (of course I mean the one in Austin). I was not required to have a major, so I didn’t.

There were classes and teachers I didn’t like, but on the whole my undergraduate education was a wonderful experience of being exposed to things I hadn’t thought about before.

It was a welcome change from high school. It occurs to me that the essay I wrote for my application to Plan II was a very negative critique of my high school experience. For my senior thesis, I also wrote on education, having been influenced by the thinking of my most excellent political science professor, Elliot Zashin, about whom I have written before.

I got to thinking about all this because I read an essay Rebecca Solnit posted on Facebook about how she skipped most of high school. She took the GED at 15, headed off to community college, and then ended up at a four-year school where she at last found the kind of educational experience she was looking for.

It never occurred to me that I could do something like that.

Continue reading “Some Thoughts on Education”