History and Milestones

Well, it’s 9 November and I’m reliably informed that we have a birthday to celebrate. I’m not supposed to tell you but it’s Jess’s birthday. How old she is, is protected by the Official Secrets Act, ;-) but my understanding is that it’s somewhere between 18 and 80, but if I knew more, I couldn’t tell you, since I don’t want her to kill me! She might show up here but why not jump over to AATW and wish her a happy birthday by giving her even more than her usual stupendous readership. I’ll see you there. [By the way, the link goes to a multi-part piece of fiction written by four of us over there, I'd say it's not bad for amateurs.]

Happy Birthday, Dearest friend!!!

In full disclosure, Jess also aimed me towards the rest of the things we will talk about today.

In other news, lets talk about history and it’s place in the world a bit. The other day I showed you a link to John Donne’s Gunpowder Day sermon. It’s here, if you missed it. That work was done by NC State and it’s most impressive. But other universities are doing some great work along the same lines. One of them is the Virtual Past which is a University of East Anglia Enterprise. Their website has some samples of their work, which is quite impressive.

Do go and have a look around. I assume some US institutions other than UNC are doing this as well, if you know of some, showcase them or tell me in comments because in a good many ways, this is one of the best ways to teach history in the 21st century.

While we’re hanging about in Norwich and the UAE, there’s another program I want to highlight. It’s called the ThoughtOut Project, and I really like their objectives. Here, I’ll let them tell you:

As the editorial assistant for Historythe journal of the Historical Association, I get the opportunity to look at cutting-edge research almost every day.  Proof-reading articles just before we publish them, I always get a bit excited because I know I am one of the first people to get access to that new information. It’s one of the most exciting parts of my job. Working for History,I feel like I am always learning. I get sent stuff like this every day! It’s glorious! History is a funny subject, like that. Even though it’s ‘old news’ there’s always something new to learn; Something you can relate to, or a situation one can superimpose onto your own. Putting yourself in the shoes of a character from history can be delicious escapism, or a humbling, thought-provoking experience.

As the managing editor for the ThoughtOut Project, I do exactly the same thing, but the packaging in terms of how we share the information we find is very different. ThoughtOut is an organisation aimed at sharing cutting-edge humanities research with the general public. I tend to use the phrase “curated by clever people, for clever people” although I get told that this is a little too self-congratulatory! That’s not really what I’m getting at when I say it, though. The most important aspect of that phrase is the second half. I am a genuine believer in the power of humanities subjects to inform and educate, not in a superficial learning-by-rote talking at people way, but also a in terms of a deep, self-motivated thirst for personal development. And this is not learning for people who have £9,000 to spend each year, and 3 or 4 years spare to dedicate to a full-time degree. This is everyday learning for your average-Joe, your housewife, your teacher, your estate agent, or newsagent. This is also where the events that I run for ThoughtOut are especially interesting, [...]

Continue reading History and the ThoughtOut Project

Obviously I, and you, are not going to agree with everything that British (mostly, anyway) academics write, but the articles I’ve read there I’ve found fascinating, and I think a good many of you will as well. And as an example, I have two years of college in Electrical Engineering Technology, and the humanities have made my life immeasurably richer. So what do they write about, you ask? Please do! Stuff like this By Heather Brooke


The humanities teach enlightenment; markets are blind.

In 1780, the American statesman John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail: “I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematicks and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, musick, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelaine.” A true student of the Enlightenment, Adams understood the difference between means and ends. Unfortunately for us, politicians, not statesmen, are determining current educational policy; with astonishing myopia they have decreed that the only subjects worth studying at university are those that can “forge links with business and industry.”

The study of the humanities in Britain today has lost a war that the people who teach humanities didn’t know they were fighting. Following the recommendations of the Browne report—overseen by a man whose career had nothing to do with education and everything to do with the corporate world of business and markets, commissioned by the Labour government and implemented by the Coalition—the funding of the teaching of the humanities in UK universities has been cut by 100%. The teaching of humanities will no longer be funded by the state at all: it will only be funded if students decide to pay to study the humanities, in a society urging them to think ever more instrumentally about education as a means to make money, rather than as a means to make better people.

According to the Browne report, “priority subjects” are science and technology courses, clinical medicine, nursing and other healthcare degrees, as well as “strategically important” language courses. Entitled “Securing a Sustainable Future for Higher Education,” the report made clear what the future of higher education would not include: the humanities were nowhere named in its 67 pages.

Continue reading THE CASE FOR THE HUMANITIES(A hint, all you have to do is scroll down for the article, at least in my browsers.) :-)

OK, you all know that I’m a huge proponent of the so-called STEM curricula, nothing changes that, we desperately need engineers and math majors and such but, if we allow the humanities to languish we will lose so very much of our heritage, and our knowledge base. I’m sure you’ve noticed how nearly all of us quote our founding fathers at the drop of a hat, even as she quoted John Adams above. The heritage of the English-speaking world is a treasure that must not be wasted, whatever the needs (real or imagined) of trade. I would remind you all that Andrew Carnegie, himself, after he built the largest steel company in the world, after starting as a telegrapher on the Pennsylvania Railroad, devoted the rest of his life to founding libraries all over the United States.

As I said above, do tell me about other institutions doing these types of things.



A note about Jess


One of the things that I love about you, my readers, is that you have accepted my dearest friend, Jessica as my co-author here so readily. I’ve often told her that I think she gets better readership here than I do, and that it pleases me greatly.

Jess has had an eventful year, and has decided to go to a retreat for the next couple of weeks. So we will all have to get through it without her wise counsel.

Her co-author, Chalcedon451, posted this notice this morning that she had made safe passage to her retreat, and offered a prayer he had given her, for us to share.

I’ll note in passing here that I’m going to also try to take a day or so off in the next few weeks, and do some reflecting on things myself.

Originally posted on All Along the Watchtower:

20121115-180317.jpgJess phoned last night to say she had arrived at her destination and was looking forward to her period of retreat. She asked me to thank all of you who have wished her well for your kindness, and told me that she will be praying, daily, for all of us.

I assured her that between us, we would endeavour not to wreck her good work here, and that we should leave the place as tidy as it was when we found it. She needs the break, and I am sure we all need her prayers.  The nature of her retreat is that we shan’t hear from her again until she emerges from it.

For those of you who want, I offer here a short prayer I have given her:

Lord Jesus Christ, you told the apostles to retire to a desert place and rest a while.  I am taking this…

View original 50 more words

Happy Birthday Neo!

p1040510Well here’s a surprise for Neo when he logs in.

Yes, folks, it is a special person’s birthday today, and whilst he’d never tell you and he’d want no fuss, I think as friends we’d just want to tip our hates to the man from Nebraska and to say, in an understated, Jimmy Stewart sort of way, ‘Happy Birthday Pilgrim’.

I’d like to say thank you to Neo for this blog and the range of stuff he covers (how does one guy know all this?), for his generosity to the rest of us, and for his friendship. He’s just there when you need him – and you can’t actually want more in a friend. No fuss, no bother – indeed if there ever was a guy who is really ‘no drama’ you don’t need to look beyond our host here.

Knowing he wouldn’t mention it, and fearing that he might feel a bit like ‘another year older’ sort of thing, I thought I’d get in early and say thank you to my dearest friend – and give the rest of you the chance to make him blush (for a change).

And yes, folks, it’s five o’clock somewhere – so lets head for Margaritaville


Approaches to life

tumblr_m2qaxvmgvF1rpyyq4o1_500It is very kind of Neo to say such nice things about me, although as with that picture from my niece, I don’t recognise the person; but you should never decline compliments, or the fruits of a good friendship. Like so many of us, I just do my best.

That last is an interesting observation, as when I made it recently to a colleague it was in the context of her wondering why I had been answering work emails at 8 in the evening when I am paid to do 9 to 5. She clearly thought I was not wholly sane. When I was born my Daddy was already in his late fifties, and so I was brought up with the values and expectations of his world. They were pretty straightforward, as he put it: “You do your best, Jess, you keep your nose and hands clean, and remember no one owes you a living.” Some of my friends thought he was my grandfather, and his views and attitudes were not those of their fathers, all of whom were old enough to have been his sons. I was taught you gave it your best, and not to count the time.

It still seems to me that this is a good way to approach life, but I am told by friends that it is very ‘conservative’ and ‘old fashioned’; where, they ask me, is the place for ‘fun’? I wasn’t brought up to see life as being primarily a matter of having ‘fun’. That wasn’t to say that you didn’t have fun, but that it was something you earned. It was also something you got from living. I used to love sitting on Daddy’s knee and being told stories, or lying in bed being read to; I used to love going for walks on the farm; I loved being shown how to use the shot-gun when I was old enough to do it, and I took pleasure in beating the boys (when I could) at the local fair once a year in the shooting contests; I adored working with Daddy’s collies on the farm. All of that was ‘fun’ – and it didn’t cost much either.

God is there for me all the time. My time is given to me by God and I have to account to Him for what I do with it. I wish I were the paragon Neo portrays, as I could do more for His greater glory. But I do try to remember that everything I do is for God and that I am accountable at the Last to Him for what I did with this life He gave me. It was Daddy who used to say: “Remember Jess, we pass here only once, so if you can’t help others on the way, why should they help you; you get out what you put in.” It was a creed which coheres more readily with the conservative world-view in some ways, as it is about self-reliance and hard work. But it is also one which requires us to give things back in God’s name, and not to count the cost.

Competence, Personified.

Some background for you today about the two of us here at Nebraska Energy Observer. Jess and I ran across each other the end of June last year, and quickly found that we are a good bit alike, in our views, in our faith, even in our family structure. We built on that a very wonderful friendship, and built it both very solidly and very quickly. Like most friends, we talk to each other quite a lot, about nearly everything, and sometimes it even bleeds over into our blogs, although we do try not to do too much of that. Today being an exception.

Incidentally, that picture, which is a good likeness, was drawn by her niece, who is obviously a very talented artist.

Anyway, last summer we were chatting and Jess mentioned that she was thinking about applying for a PA job at the local university. If you didn’t happen to know, Jess trained as a teacher, specializing in early elementary, and by all accounts was very good at it. When she moved back to England from Wales, to be near her family, she of course had to quit and hadn’t found another job yet.

I encouraged her to go after the job, my thinking being that it would be good for her to get out more and meet some new people. She did, and didn’t get the job but, they offered her a different part-time one which she took. Jess, being Jess, did a superlative job and soon she was telling me that she had been asked to fill in with a senior university official while his PA was on maternity leave.

While all this was going on she was maintaining her blog (if you don’t read All along the Watchtower you’re missing one of the great Christian blogs) and writing at least one post a day herself. We all know how hard that can be, so we understand that it’s more than it sounds like. She also as we kept conversing became my dearest friend, the one that I take all my problems to. And yes, behind the scenes, she’s exactly like she is on the blogs.

This was pretty close to the time when I was having some internet problems, and I asked Jess to cover me here, which she did wonderfully well. Which she did again while I was gone at Christmas, and last month when I was gone for my sister’s funeral. As she took on some other authors, we hoped that she would be able to write more here, which has not been possible, but not through any fault of hers.

You see the PA job was made permanent for her, as near as I can tell her boss has told her several times that she is the best PA he ever had, which surprised her, I think, although it didn’t me. One thing that I envy greatly is that when she publishes here, I, of course, see the corrections and edits. Well that would be true if there were any, apparently she sits down and writes perfectly. Wish I did!

And so, we get to this week, and the Saga of Jessica continues, she had told me a bit ago that she had an evaluation coming up, she, in fact was slightly worried, as we all tend to be, and I told her that I thought she had nothing to worry about.

Boy, was I right.

She had her evaluation this week and I think they like her. She got promoted to an administrative position, with a raise that is a multiple of the salary I started my working life with.

And so, Jessica is a modest girl, who doesn’t like to blow her own horn, so I’m blowing it for her, as she sets off on a new phase of her great adventure. I keep telling her that I’m soon going to be saying, “I knew her when.” But, you know, one of the charming things about her is that she is as loyal as the day is long, and time permitting she will be contributing here as long as this blog (which we have come to call “our blog”) exists.

And I’m not sure how long I would last either without her help here, either.

In case, you haven’t figured it out, I am very, very proud of her, and very proud that she is my friend.

In fact, she reminds me a good bit of Kate Hepburn in our Saturday feature, Beautiful, Brainy, Educated, Godly, and talks with a funny Akzent, :-)

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find True Grit, Jess, so this will have to do.

 Love you, dearest friend, and partner

FYI: Nebraska Tech Site

I just thought I’d mention in passing that I just took my company site live. It’s not done, much to do yet but I would appreciate it, if you took a look around and tell me either there or here what you think. You will find that the store is a truncated Amazon catalog, it will get better, as I have time.

I intend it to be a more focused (on electrical and energy) than this. Maybe I have the discipline to do that. :-)

For the moment, the articles are some appropriate ones that I have crossposted from here. Enjoy.

Here is the link: Nebraska Tech. Blogspot.com

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