beloved pumpkin

A year ago tonight, I wrote this:

Monday, October 31, 2005

afraid of the dark

Calvin and Hobbes both speak for me. I love autumn, but there is an unavoidable melancholy in the fall.

It’s been cold and very rainy in this part of the world. Hard to hike on the weekends when the weekends have all been so miserable out. Then yesterday was gorgeous — shorts and sandals in the last few days of October, clear blue skies — but the missus is neck deep in paperwork, so I ended up heading out by myself.

I took the iPod, of course. Mises University 2005 lectures for the drive to and from the state park, but I listened to The Map that Changed the World while hiking.

Other than missing my beloved hiking partner, I found it perfect.

Except that it’s late October and it was already getting dark earlier — AND we set the clocks back this weekend, so the 6pm darkness came around 5pm and I finished the loop in pitch black. It’s amazing the things that look like monsters and bad guys in total darkness. I’m glad I decided at the last minute to stick to the paved trail instead of taking our usual meander through the woods.

Tonight is Halloween, but I got a fair spooking a day early this year.

But what I didn’t know when I posted that, was that a few hours later, my beloved missus would suggest that we go to CVS and buy a home pregnancy kit, and that shortly after that we’d be standing together in the bathroom of our Swarthmore apartment, Halloween night, looking down at the word etched in liquid crystal:
Sunday night I went walking in the woods again, first time without my wife in 364 days. Once again, I was listening to a history audiobook, this time on Ancient Greece. Unlike last time, however, I had a baby boy on my chest. We made it back well before dark.

Here’s our beloved pumpkin, giving us his best Halloween face:

And here I’m trying out a new recipe for pumpkin soup:

In the House of Sorrows

In response to the passage I posted from The Man Who Folded Himself, Kevin Carson offers this recommendation:

If you want a really interesting picture of a non-Judaeo-Christian world, you ought to check out Poul Anderson’s “In the House of Sorrows.” Jerusalem fell to the Assyrians at the same time as Samaria.

History went pretty much the same until what would have been the first century CE. The Roman Empire was never Christianized, and when it collapsed its successor kingdoms were pagan. And without the role of the Church as preserver of classical culture, the Greco-Roman heritage was mostly lost.

In what would have been the 20th century, the Levant is part of a decaying Turkish empire whose rulers worship the Warrior Buddha. The Turkish empire is a protectorate of Ispania, but is menaced by an acendant Zoroastrian Persia.

The royal dynasties of Europe still pay lip service to the old national gods, Jupiter and Wotan and all that, but most serious religious devotion is tied to membership in Persian mystery cults.

The endless layers of conquest, without any unifying civilization is reflected in the difficulty a learned mercenary in Palestine has in deciding whether an eroded statue is Herakles and the hydra or Thor and the Midgard Worm.

It seems the story is included in this collection: All One Universe.

former fiction maven runs out of–

Ender draws our attention to this Wired piece:

Very Short Stories

33 writers. 5 designers. 6-word science fiction.
Page 1 of 1

We’ll be brief: Hemingway once wrote a story in just six words (“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”) and is said to have called it his best work. So we asked sci-fi, fantasy, and horror writers from the realms of books, TV, movies, and games to take a shot themselves.

Dozens of our favorite auteurs put their words to paper, and five master graphic designers took them to the drawing board. Sure, Arthur C. Clarke refused to trim his (“God said, ‘Cancel Program GENESIS.’ The universe ceased to exist.”), but the rest are concise masterpieces.

And here are my favotires (not that you asked):

Gown removed carelessly. Head, less so.
– Joss Whedon

Machine. Unexpectedly, I’d invented a time
– Alan Moore

Longed for him. Got him. Shit.
– Margaret Atwood

Internet “wakes up?” Ridicu –
no carrier.
– Charles Stross

Lie detector eyeglasses perfected: Civilization collapses.
– Richard Powers

I’m dead. I’ve missed you. Kiss … ?
– Neil Gaiman

The baby’s blood type? Human, mostly.
– Orson Scott Card

Kirby had never eaten toes before.
– Kevin Smith

We went solar; sun went nova.
– Ken MacLeod

Mind of its own. Damn lawnmower.
– David Brin

Finally, he had no more words.
– Gregory Maguire

He read his obituary with confusion.
– Steven Meretzky

And here is my most-hated political 6-word short:

Osama’s time machine: President Gore concerned.
– Charles Stross

And here is my absolute favorite 6-word short:

Your house is mine: soft revolution.
– Howard Waldrop

Go Long!

While I think it’s questionable for libertarians to celebrate the Nobel Peace Prize going to Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank, we have Roderick Long to thank for reminding us of a Peace Prize Laureat we can get behind.

Sheldon Richman writes:

Last week, with the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank, I underscored the historical-philosophical link between freedom of commerce and peace in classical liberalism. (The article is here.) What I did not know at the time, and what I have since learned thanks to Auburn University philosopher Roderick T. Long, is that one of the first winners of the Nobel Peace Prize was a man who consciously placed himself in the liberal tradition of Frederic Bastiat and Richard Cobden.

He was Frederic Passy of Paris (1822-1912). The first year the Peace Prize was awarded, Passy shared the honor with Henry Dunant, founder of the International Committee of the Red Cross and originator of the Geneva Convention (which gives him a special relevance today). Passy must have been highly esteemed indeed for the Nobel committee to have awarded him and Dunant the Prize.

Here’s how the Nobel Foundation’s website describes Passy’s prize-winning achievements.

Educated as a lawyer, Frederic Passy entered the civil service at the age of twenty-two as an accountant in the State Council, but left after three years to devote himself to systematic study of economics. He emerged as a theoretical economist in 1857 with his . . . collection of essays he had published in the course of his research, and he secured his scholarly reputation with a series of lectures delivered in 1860-1861 at the University of Montpellier and later published in two volumes. . . . An admirer of Richard Cobden, he became an ardent free trader, believing that free trade would draw nations together as partners in a common enterprise, result in disarmament, and lead to the abandonment of war. Passy lectured on economic subjects in virtually every city and university of any consequence in France and continued a stream of publications on economic subjects. . . . For these contributions, among others, he was elected in 1877 to membership in the Academie de sciences morales et politiques, a unit of the Institut de France.


Passy was a friend of the libertarian writer Gustave de Molinari, and in 1904 wrote a “prefatory letter” to the English edition of Molinari’s book The Society of the Future (sometimes translated as The Society of To-morrow, first published in French in 1899). Passy praised Molinari as

the doyen of our economists — I should say of our liberal economists — of the men with whom, though, alas! few in number, I have been happy to stand side by side during more than half a century. Their principles were proclaimed and defended in England through the mouths of Adam Smith, Fox, Cobden, Gladstone, and Bright. In France they were championed by Quesnay, Turgot, Say, Michel Chevalier, Laboulaye, and Bastiat. And my belief grows yearly stronger that, but for these principles, the societies of the present would be without wealth, peace, material greatness, or moral dignity.


From the Columbia History of the World:

Before 650 [BCE], the poet Archilochus of Paros sang of his escape from battle at the cost of abandoning his shield — by traditional standards the ultimate disgrace. His poems set a fashion among poets, if not soldiers. The Greeks are the first people to produce individuals who are not afraid of going counter to common opinion not because of some supposed revelation, but just because they want to, and of celebrating the fact.

Here is the poem, according to Wikipedia:

Some Saian mountaineer
Struts today with my shield.
I threw it down by a bush and ran
When the fighting got hot.
Life seemed somehow more precious.
It was a beautiful shield.
I know where I can buy another
Exactly like it, just as round.

superfluous freedom

If a regime of complete economic freedom be established, social and political freedom will follow automatically; and until it is established neither social nor political freedom can exist. Here one comes in sight of the reason why the State will never tolerate the establishment of economic freedom. In a spirit of sheer conscious fraud, the State will at any time offer its people ‘four freedoms,’ or six, or any number; but it will never let them have economic freedom. If it did, it would be signing its own death-warrant, for as Lenin pointed out, “it is nonsense to make any pretense of reconciling the State and liberty.” Our economic system being what it is, and the State being what it is, all the mass verbiage about ‘the free peoples’ and ‘the free democracies’ is merely so much obscene buffoonery.

Albert Jay Nock (1870-1945),
Memoirs of a Superfluous Man (1943),
ebook now available in PDF
as a free download from

PS See Jeffrey Tucker’s “Albert Jay Nock, Forgotten Man of the Right” at LRC.

PPS According to Wikipedia, “The Superfluous Man is a 19th Century Russian literary concept. It relates to an individual, possibly of talent and capability, who does not fit into the state-centered pattern of employment. The consequence may be a man who apparently is lazy and ineffectual.”

who whom when

My weekend reading these days has been on ancient history, a subject I vaguely recall studying in 9th-grade “Civilization” class, but which I really barely remember. I’m enjoying the remedial education and I look forward to this part of homechooling (“grades” 1, 5, and 9, according to the Trivium curriculum we’re currently considering).

I keep pulling up Wikipedia and Google Earth to help make sense of what I’m reading. I never had gradeschool geography, and barely know where anything is.

Yesterday, Stephan Kinsella posted to LRB a link to this incredible educational aid:

I think my boy’s education will be superior.

Certainly superior to mine.