Tuesday, September 29, 2020

A Useful Reminder

 Noticed this evening in "Preface to an Unwritten Book", collected in Charles S. Peirce: The Essential Writings:

... there will remain over no relic of the good old tenth-century infallibilism, except that of the infallible scientists, under which head I include not merely the kind of characters that manufacture scientific catechisms and homilies, churches and creeds, and who are indeed "born missionaries," but all those respected and cultivated persons who, having acquired their notions of science from reading and not from research, have the idea that "science" means knowledge, while the truth is, it is a misnomer applied to the pursuit of those who are devoured by a desire to find things out.

 I presume that "misnomer applied" should be something like "misnomer for that, and properly applied".

Saturday, September 26, 2020


Of course, another observation cannot be suppressed at this point: the habit of considering the texts from an historical and text-critical perspective has somewhat impeded the spontaneity of the listening approach. I would not go as far as Rudolf Borchardt, who, in his letters to Hugo von Hofmannsthal, speaks --with regard to Pindar--of a certain kind of irreverence as of an "organic error committed even by subtle philological minds": "even the best philologist" believes in other ways of experiencing the divine, "for instance of shaking the divine by the hand and thanking it for its outstanding achievements."

Josef Pieper, "The Equitable Interpretation" (of Plato), collected in Tradition as Challenge.

"Susan, you can't possibly know that this is the second best Uruguayan novel," a challenge that [Susan Sontag] always rose to, hotly defending her choices. Her attitude reminds me of something Leon Wieseltier says of another top student, Harold Bloom. "Harold feels that all literature should pass before him and get a grade," Leon said.

Larry McMurtry, Literary Life: A Second Memoir.

The great business of Bostonians was to place values upon everything in the world, with conscientious accuracy. Professor Norton once said to me on the steps of Sanders Theatre, after a performance of Beethoven's "Eroica Symphony," that, after all, the "Sentiment" of the funeral march was a little "forced."

John Jay Chapman, "Mr. Brimmer", collected in The Selected Writings of John Jay Chapman.

Monday, September 21, 2020


 This morning, when I went to walk a little after seven, I wore a light jacket over a long-sleeved shirt, and found myself putting my hands in my jacket pockets. I remembered to have encountered the expression "finger-cold" in Thoreau's journals, and this evening located the entry for October 14, 1856, which begins

A sudden change in the weather after remarkably warm and pleasant weather. Rained in the night, and finger-cold to-day. Your hands instinctively find their way to your pockets.

 The Oxford English Dictionary includes "finger-cold" under "finger", and cites Thoreau, but from what the Gutenberg Projects lists as Excursions and Poems.

 It is getting to be finger-cold of mornings, something it certainly was not two weeks ago.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Back Downtown

 Yesterday I went south of P St. NW. for the first time in sixth months. The occasion was a visit to the dentist, scheduled right before the quarantine. A dentist's office sounds like the perfect place to spread airborne viruses, given that the patients have their mouths wide open, and often enough spraying out aerosols as high-speed tools clean, polish or drill. On the other hand, it is well to make a visit, and who can say that the winter will be a better time?

Downtown is relatively empty.  There are people on the sidewalks and parks, just not that many. Windows are boarded up on the two blocks that border 16th St. NW immediately north of Lafayette Square, but from 17th St. west I saw no more plywood. Some businesses that are in operation had closed early. After the appointment, I noticed that Second Story Books had closed much earlier also.

The receptionist at the dentist's office took my temperature with a sensor that operates from six inches or so. Given that it showed my temperature as 97 F, I wonder how accurately it detects fevers. She next had me clean my hands with hand-sanitizer, then put on latex gloves. I kept my mask on until I was in the hygienist's room.

The cleaning was different in three ways:

  • I declined the dark glasses, preferring to keep my own on.
  • The procedure did not end with polishing, something I can certainly understand.
  • Before the hygienist went to work with the high-speed tool, she brought in a device meant to capture aerosols. She warned me that it was loud, so I waited for the sound with some interest. I thought it about equivalent to sitting in a window seat near the wing when an airliner is taking off.
The streets seemed busier, though not that much so, north of M. I found that my mask diverts exhaled air onto my glasses, so that I walked home with a bit of mist on the lower lens. Most of the people I saw on the streets had on masks.

Friday, September 11, 2020

The Equitation Field

 In Rock Creek Park off Glover Road just off its intersection with Ross Road, there is an equitation ring, a loose oblong maybe sixty yards in the long direction. In years of running past it on the road, I have seen horses in it almost never. Thursday morning, I saw a horse and rider in it, but I don't know that I've seen a horse and rider before. Generally, I see families with small children playing in it. It is true that yesterday morning's rider was hard to see, owing to a rise in the ground.

By last week, the National Park Service had started to replace the fence around it. The old posts and rails were of weathered gray wood, the new ones are fresh, yellow-brown. The replacement is mostly completed on what I take to be the north and east sides: some stretches need a top rail yet.

 I don't remember to have seen the fence worked on before, in about forty years of passing it now and then. There have been large gaps in that passing by, when I lived out of easy running distance. Yet I know that a well-built fence can last many years.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Late Summer

 This morning, in passing through Carter-Barron, I noticed that last night's rains had brought down most of the flowers from the crape myrtles to the west of the tennis center. The asphalt pavement was patterned in tiny petals of pink. Crape myrtles resemble cherry trees in having small-petaled flowers that look elegant when fallen. Magnolias are splendid in bloom, but the fallen flowers turn brown while still conspicuous.

 Crape myrtles bloom after many flowering trees, then hold on to their flowers for most of the summer. The rain didn't wash off all the flowers in this neighborhood, for this afternoon I saw a number still blooming. The ones I saw were white, not pink, but I didn't go out of my way to search.