Info and Apologies

Good Morning.

I have a long critical article planned for the S.P.Q.R. project, but I won’t be able to post it for a while. The article itself challenges the educational status quo and suggests improvement, but at this time, keeping the system running is priority #1.

This morning I have a few links you might find useful. The first is to the donation page to the ACLU. They’re going to be busy for months to come trying to help legal residents, I expect, and will need support.

Donate to the ACLU

The second is a link that I’ve found useful in being able to contact my congressman, along with calls to action and scripts. I have been writing my own scripts in order to tailor the message to the political climate where I live, but if you need a ready-made script, they have them. There are so many it’s hard to prioritize.

The 65

Also, I have my eye on a budding movement in the science community. Resistance is happening through alt twitter accounts that seek to break through the barrier of silence, and also through a march that is being organized by the scientific community.

Alt US Forest Service

ALT EPA

Alt USDA

The Resistance

March for Science Twitter

March for Science Website

 

The Coven, Part XXV

Dear Lady Frey,

You’ll be glad to know that Miss Milton isnt a terrible dragin. She doesnt know much about maths, and she makes me practis music an hour and ½ every single day, but she never yells and she never uses the strap.

I still miss you. She can’t explane the realy hard books like you. Even thogh she’s nice, she’s still like other grown ups. She dosn’t always understand.

I’m glad Unkle Just is here, to. He takes me riding every day, just like Unkle Hope. Please write to Unkle Just and tell him that I’m not a soljer. Riding is always fun with Unkle Hope, but Unkle Just wants me to ride perfect.

Miss Chastity is always around. I don’t mind. She’s not as nice as Miss Mersy, but she’s always honest. I like that.

Tell me all about the palis when you rite. Is it grand? Is the Prince hansom?

Love,

Celeste

“Reading a letter on such a fine day? It must be from a beaux.”

I looked up from the letter to see Lady Innocence and Lady Purity, who were never far from each other’s company. They’d been catching butterflies in the garden, but had paused to take note of me.

“Not at all- this is a letter from Lord Frey’s ward,” I said. “I’ve been managing her education.”

“How kind of you,” Lady Purity said, absentmindedly toying with her net. She opened the net, and blue butterflies billowed up in a cloud around her before flying free.

“Oh yes, very kind,” Lady Innocence said. “I wouldn’t have any patience with a ward. I would have sent the girl away to school.”

“And there have been such rumors flying about. With Lord Frey being so handsome, well, you must worry about his past,” Lady Purity said in a harsh whisper, leaning forward conspiratorially.

“I don’t worry,” I said, folding the letter. “Lord Frey’s past is past.”

“You must love him a great deal, to trust him so,” Lady Innocence said.

“Don’t quiz poor Lady Frey,” Lady Fairfax said, sidling up to us with her fashionable, swaying walk. “She’s still a newlywed.”

The three of us curtsied to Lady Fairfax.

“Lord Ainsworth has been searching for you,” Lady Fairfax said to me. “Lord Fitzwilliam told him that you were in the gardens, so I took the short route to warn you.”

“I- I see.” Terror had risen into my throat and frozen there as a lump, but I tried to swallow it back.

“You might still avoid him, if you walk back with me by the fountains.”

Lady Innocence and Lady Purity were listening with keen expressions, and some of Hope’s advice came to me. “Never let them see your fears.

I straightened my back and shook my head. “I have no reason to avoid him. He is as welcome to speak to me as anyone.”

Lady Fairfax let out a great huff and fluttered her fan. “I should think that man’s tediousness enough reason to avoid him- but he is your father. Oh- here he comes. Away, ladies, before he bores us all with talk of exports and tariffs.”

Lady Fairfax swept the other Ladies up the garden path, and soon I could see my own father, limping on his gouty leg up the opposite path.

“Ah! Grace. There you are,” he said. “I’ve searched the whole palace for you. I wish to have a word with you, as soon as I can catch my breath. “

He plopped down on a wicker chair opposite me, and drew a handkerchief from his pocket. He wiped some sweat from under his wig, coughed a few times, and then leaned back to regard me through his spectacles.

“A word regarding what?” I asked.

“Regarding what? I miss my daughter. After all, I haven’t had a single letter from you since you left Willowbrook. Did you receive my letter?”

“Yes, I did.” Somehow, the courage the Ladies had left me with remained. My back stayed straight as I answered the red, panting man across from me. “I didn’t realize your concern for me was genuine.”

My father leaned forward, steepling his hands and smiling. “Ah- I see what has happened. You are truly under your husband’s control, now. Your obedience is to him, instead of me.”

“Believe what you like,” I said. I couldn’t help but smile at the memory of tearing up my father’s letter, and the look of shock on Hope’s face.

“I don’t mean to discourage you,” My father continued. “He is your husband now, and it is natural that he should be your master.”

“If that’s the case, then why did you ask me report on my husband?”

My father shrugged, and then shooed a butterfly away from his face. “I’d think that you would welcome any change to speak on your husband’s behalf. Malicious rumors are circulating, and I gave you the opportunity to contradict them.”

“Since I did not reply, you may assume there is nothing to report,” I said. “That should be contradiction enough.”

“And what about the rumors that aren’t so easily dismissed? I’ve heard about his little ward. They say that her mother was worse than a fallen women, and that your husband was intimately involved with her.”

“I’ve heard the rumors about Celeste’s mother, but rumors mean nothing. As to Lord Frey- his past is not my business.”

My father laughed out loud- a rough laugh that quickly devolved into coughs.

“Oh yes- I should have remembered.  Jealousy can’t touch an insensible girl like you. Don’t worry about the matter any further. As you said, none of this is your business. Obey your husband, occupy yourself with your books, and you’ll serve your purpose in time.”

My father brushed away the butterfly again, and it flew over to me, landing on my finger. It’s tiny feet clung to me with surprising strength, and I left it undisturbed.

“Well, I would be remiss in my filial duties if I didn’t look after you- husband or no. Is there anything that you need or want?” My father said, rising to his feet.

“I want-” my voice faltered, but I swallowed and stood to look him in the eye. The butterfly still clung to my finger as it fell to my side.

“Since my marriage, I’ve missed a mother’s help and advice. Might I have something that belonged to her? Anything small will suffice- her likeness, perhaps, or a personal item.”

Father’s jovial expression melted away, and his voice rang out like a crack of thunder.

Why would you ask a stupid thing like that?”

“It’s only natural-”

“There’s nothing natural about it. Your mother died when you were born, and you’ve never even seen her. You have no reason to think of her now.”

Father turned away and walked away swiftly. His gouty limp seemed to have vanished with his fury.

The butterfly let go of my finger, and flew up into the blue morning sky.

Thursday Link Party

Good Morning, USA. Here is a list of links you might find interesting in a purely academic sense. I invite people of all personal and political backgrounds to view the information below. 

 

US Forest Service Climate Page

 

EPA Climate Change Page

 

NASA Climate Science

 

USDA Climate Solutions

 

Also, here is a link for those who still feel a political gut reaction when seeing these posts.

Simple Proof of Man-Made Global Warming

 

Baloney Detection, 2.0

Carl Sagan once compiled a list of logical fallacies to help us detect baloney in the world around us. Here is a kit I’ve set up to detect baloney in myself. This isn’t meant to be an in-depth analysis of cognitive bias, but rather a handy list of methods to apply rational thinking.

Read more about these biases here.

 

  1. Confirmation Bias- Not only will you tend to notice evidence that supports beliefs you already hold, but you will also seek out that information and recall it more easily.

To counter confirmation bias, you must actively seek out evidence that contradicts what you believe from sources that you would normally avoid. Don’t flinch from updating your beliefs when confronted with sound evidence.

  1. The dunning-kruger effect- People with low ability in a certain field tend to overestimate their abilities, and people with higher abilities tend to underestimate theirs. It’s only when you reach the expert level that people begin to properly estimate their true abilities.

To counter the dunning-kruger effect, try to look beyond the surface of a task and realize that there are pieces of knowledge you don’t realize that you lack. Think to yourself, “what are the unknown unknowns?”

 

  1. Planning fallacy- Even when asked to give their worst-case estimate of how long a task will take, people tend to be far too optimistic.  

To counter the planning fallacy, add time to your worst-case estimate, and use that time as your average time estimate. Don’t assume everything will go smoothly.

 

  1. Fundamental attribution error- People explain the behavior of others with enduring personality traits, and people explain their own behavior with situational context.

To counter fundamental attribution error, withhold judgment of a person’s character, and instead consider what would have lead to their current behavior.

 

  1. Bystander effect- In an emergency situation, people are less likely to receive help when there are many people present. People in a group will wait for someone else to else to act first.

To counter the bystander effect, assume that you are the only one who can help, and do so. To get others to help you, single out a specific person and ask them for help.

 

  1. Positive bias- This is the tendency to test hypotheses in a way that would yield positive, rather than negative results. People tend to shy away from testing the null hypothesis.

To counter positive bias, imagine what would happen if your hypothesis were not true, and try to find other things that would explain your observations. Test situations that would give you a ‘no’ answer if your hypothesis were true.

 

  1. The Halo/Horns effect- One good quality (halo) or one bad quality (horns) can affect your judgement of a person’s overall character. You might see an attractive person as smarter, for example, or an unattractive person as less trustworthy. You might therefore judge a person’s ideas unfairly.

To counter the halo/horns effect, try to hold fast to the rule that every idea must fall or stand on its own merit. Also, don’t rely too heavily on your first impressions of people; analyze what you know of each of their character traits, instead.

 

Baloney Detection, 2.5

There are also a few items I would like to include that have no official name.

 

  1. The Curiosity Killer- I’ve noticed that sometimes, when I wish to know what something is, learning the name or title is enough to settle the issue in my mind. However, a name or a title isn’t what something is.

To counter the curiosity killer, try to define something without using its name. (This is also useful for when dealing with  phrases and buzzwords that carry baggage. Using definitions instead of words can help you avoid pitfall in argument- i.e. stating that you support gender equality to avoid the baggage behind the word feminism.)

 

  1. Giving up- It’s easy to look at a problem and declare that it is impossible to solve.

To counter this, spend at least five minutes thinking about the problem before proposing solutions.

The Coven- Part XXIV

My first evening at the Palace did not end until well after midnight.

Dinner began at 8:00 in a great hall that was almost as large as the sanctuary at Cathedral Lux. Long after everyone had finished their own repast, the Prince did not seem inclined to retire, and no one dare leave the great hall before him. My party sat over half-eaten jellies as the  Prince drank, told incoherent stories that were hardly audible in the front third of the hall, and sometimes called for music from the minstrel’s gallery.

The gallery was in a velvet-draped box at the back of the hall, and the musicians played with both talent and taste. The Prince, however, seemed a patron without any real appreciation for the art, because just after one or two verses, the Prince would begin another story, and the minstrels were forced to stop playing so as to not drown out his feeble voice.

After his second bottle of wine, the Prince stood, and the courtiers followed suit. I expected that we would be allowed to retire, but instead the Prince gestured toward my table.

“Our new High Priest has arrived at St. Blanc for his coronation,” the Prince said, raising his glass. “A toast to the man who will crown me King.”

The courtiers all raised the glasses and cheered. Hope raised his own glass a second behind the rest, gritting his teeth as he smiled.

Monsignor Pius, however, took the attention in stride. “You do me great honor, my prince. I am but a servant to the Gods’ will.”

 

#

 

“Unbelieveable!” Hope ejaculated as he paced our inner-court apartment. “‘The man who will crown me king?’ The Prince acts as though we have already declared war against his mother. We seemed so close to our goals- close enough to taste! I begin to think that we arrived here too late.”

I put my finger to my lips. I was searching the room- behind the heavy velvet curtains, behind the wall portraits, and in the closet. Hope paused in his pacing to watch me.

“I believe that I’ve made you paranoid,” he said.

“Miss Taris has an apartment in the outer court, and she’s the sole heir of Duke Taris. Our rank alone cannot explain us being quartered so close to the Prince.”

Hope started, and then rushed to examine every place in the room that I had, as well as a few I’d neglected.

“Damn my stupidity,” he said when he was done, sinking onto a sofa. “I didn’t question such an honored position, and I should have. Fortunately, there are no peepholes or trap-doors that I can see. Still, we should keep our voices low.”

“Perhaps we’re here because of my father,” I said. “He seemed surprisingly close to the Prince.”

“Yes- a Viscount has the Prince’s ear. I wondered what he’s given the prince to earn his favor.”

Hope and I silently thought this over, and then I said, “I wish I hadn’t been so cowed by my father when I lived at Willowbrook. I wish I’d paid attention to his business dealings, instead of hiding from him in my library nook.”

“Your curiosity has awakened, since then,” Hope said. “Even Miss Taris’s situation is not beneath your notice.”

“She’s not an unimportant woman. She’s the only heir to a Duke, after all. Besides, she interests me.”

Hope raised an eyebrow. “Indeed? Among all of the roses of the court, Miss Taris has captured your interest?”

I smiled a little to myself, and sat beside him. “It is precisely because she is not a flower of the court that she interests me. I suspect that, when I first arrived at Rowan Heights, I resembled Miss Taris very much.”

“You?” Hope scoffed. “You did have many awkward and skittish manners when you arrived, I grant you, but Miss Taris lacks the beauty and intelligence you possess to compensate.”

“I wonder if we are speaking of the same Miss Taris. She is tall, and underneath her ill-fitting clothes I perceive a graceful figure. She doesn’t have someone clever to manage her wardrobe, as I did before I came to Rowan Heights. I am too short and fat to really be considered pretty.”

Hope seemed about to object, but I cut him off.

“She speaks so little that I doubt you’ve had the opportunity to judge her intelligence.” I laughed. “Perhaps her silence is why you think she is unintelligent. Once you told me that you couldn’t tell if I was shy or stupid.”

“I don’t recall ever saying such a thing.”

“I’m not surprised. You were drunk at the time.”

Hope groaned and put his head to his forehead. “Oh- yes. Well, perhaps what Miss Taris needs is a gentleman to provoke her anger. You’ve blossomed a good deal since our row.”

I felt a stab of resentment run through me. I wanted to tell Hope that my affection and love for Celeste, my freedom to stargaze and conduct research, and the terrifying secrets of my new home had all driven me to change myself. Before I could speak, however, Hope sighed deeply.

“We won’t have much opportunity to sleep, here,” he said. “There is much we must do, so we should rest while we can.

 

#

 

In daylight or lamplight, a room in the inner court seemed a great honor. My apartment was much bigger than would ever be necessary for the comfort of Hope and me alone. The carpets were thick and deep, and the bed was dressed in the finest silks. A chain of golden angels danced around the crown molding above the intricately printed wallpaper.

When the lamps were extinguished, however, all of these delights disappeared into darkness, and I was left in a vast empty cavern. Faint shadows flickered on the walls, cast by the light that leaked from under the distant door. The crystal mantle clock, that I had admired in the light, now seemed to tick so loudly that it echoed in my ears.

Beside me, Hope was still and silent, asleep for the first time since we stayed the night in the crossroads village. He clung to my hand as he slept, taking peace from my presence asn I lay sleepless beside him.

Try as I might, I could not keep my eyes shut for more than a few moments. They would always open, and my vision was drawn to the sliver of light under the door. After a while, the light seemed to flicker, as though a candle were disturbed, and behind the loud ticking of the clock, I thought I heard the sound of footsteps.

Then the footsteps quieted and the light grew steady. The room was filled with the strong scent of roses.

I sat up, determined to investigate further, but as soon as I slipped my hand from Hope’s  he began to toss in his sleep.

I took his hand again to prevent him from making any noise, and listened. The room remained silent, and soon the heavy scent of roses made me feel drowsy.

I lay back, and surrendered to the urge to sleep.

The Society for the Promotion of Qualitative Rationality

It is the mission of this society to promote equality, rationality, scientific understanding, and liberty for all people. We seek to engage in purpose-driven public discourse and better our communities through positive action. These actions may include, but are not limited to:

 

  1. Promotion of rational discourse through social and conventional media.
  2. Education projects available for local community members of all ages.
  3. Attempts at social improvement including endorsements, fundraising, and letter-writing campaigns.
  4. The promotion and exploration of technology for the betterment of all persons.
  5. The preservation and exploration of the natural world.

 

I intend to use this blog to promote education and document efforts to better the world. I will include anything and everything to this end- from ideas on how to improve yourself and your community to a broader look at the systems that exist in the world, and how they might work more efficiently.
I am probably the least-qualified person to solve such lofty problems, so I will be including many links to information assembled by the smart people. I may offer commentary, or suggestions on how one can follow up with the information. If anyone wants to submit suggestions or links, please do so in the comments.

The Coven- Part XXIII

The excited murmurs of the courtiers echoed around the salon as Lady Fairfax led Hope and I toward the Prince’s chamber. Lady Fairfax’s steps were quick and purposeful, so we had no time to greet any of the courtiers.

I sighed, remembering Hope’s insistence that we must greet certain courtiers when we arrived. If the courtiers were going to take offence, I thought, at least they would all feel the offence equally.

At the end of the Salon, two young pages opened the double doors to the Prince’s chamber, and Lady Fairfax stepped inside.

Remembering my training, I knelt at the threshold, and kept my eyes on the carpet.

“Your Royal Highness,” Lady Fairfax spoke in a resonant voice. “May I present Lady Grace Frey, Countess of Coteaux.”

The room was silent for a time, and then a thin, dry voice spoke in reply. “We are most pleased that you’ve come. You may approach, Lady Frey.”

I stood to curtsy again and saw at the end of a vast, empty chamber, a pale, thin man seated on a golden throne. The man was clothed in swaths of silk, ermine, and jewels that seemed to engulf his small frame. He wore a jeweled crown that looked heavy enough to snap his neck. Just behind the throne was an elaborate fresco of the sun, which seemed to halo him in yellow light.

As I curtsied, my eyes were drawn slightly to the side. To my surprise, my own father stood in attendance. He was dressed as a courtier, in a powdered wig and embroidered waistcoat, but his face looked the same as it always had. He smirked at me, as though I had already made some error.

For one terrible moment I felt as though he could see through the rouge- which he’d always forbidden me to wear- to see my sins written on my very face. However, Hope coughed behind me, and the sound of his voice reminded me that I was no longer dependent on my father.

I lifted my chin and approached the throne, kneeling again to kiss the hem of the Prince’s robes.

“Stand. Let me look at you,” the Prince wheezed.

I stood and curtsied again. The prince lifted a jeweled monocle to his eye and examined me.  

“She seems to be a very fine girl,” the Prince finally announced, leaning somewhat toward my father. “She has a good figure, and her cheeks are round and healthy. Yes, she will do nicely. And Lord Frey, how do you like her?”

“Your Royal Highness, Grace has been a valuable addition to my household, and she has brought joy to me, as well. I thank you.”

“Good. I look forward to more joyful tidings from the two of you in the near future regarding the expansion of your household.”

Then the Prince waved his thin arm, dismissing us.

 

#

 

Lady Fairfax, Hope, and I returned to the salon, now free to fulfill our obligations to the lower ranks of the nobility. Hope was unable to keep his promise to introduce me; Lady Fairfax took me in hand and swept me away from Hope, insisting that we mingle with the ladies alone.

‘You must assert your independence from your husband,” Lady Fairfax said, “or the gentlemen will see you as a mere piece of furniture. We women must climb a higher ladder to power.”

She took me to the western side of the salon, where a group of ladies stood in the sunlight that streamed through the windows. Their gowns shone and their jewelry sparkled in the sunlight, and their laughter sounded like the ringing of bells.

The ladies curtsied to Lady Fairfax as she approached, but their eyes stayed on me as we were introduced. I thought they must be sizing me up, and I was surprised to see no disappointment or derision in their glances.

“I must confess I am quite in awe,” the smallest young lady, Lady Purity St Croix, said while fluttering her fan. “Not only are you quite beautiful, but so refined! Of course, I’d expected nothing less from Lord Frey’s wife.”

“Oh yes,” added Lady Innocence Dupuy, who was nearly a head taller than her companion. “Many hearts were broken when Lord Frey married, but he couldn’t have found a more worthy bride.”

The ladies curtsied to me again, though I caught Lady Innocence cast a significant glance at Lady Purity.

Lady Fairfax nodded to the two ladies, and then took my arm to lead me to her next target.

“Don’t let the names ‘Innocence and Purity’ fool you; there are few gentlemen at court who are safe from those two. Guard your husband. Now- there is Lord Taris’s daughter hiding behind that marble angel. Her father is a tyrant, and she barely speaks a word to anyone, but she is the only heir to a Duke. If anyone can gain her trust, they will have a great deal of influence once her father dies. “

A thin, awkward-looking girl in spectacles and an ill-fitting but expensive gown caught Lady Fairfax’s eye, and she ducked further behind the statue.

Miss Taris,” Lady Fairfax said in a commanding tone, causing the girl to freeze in place. “Lady Frey, may I present Miss Constance Taris of Lancaster.”

“How do you do?” I said.

“How- how do you do,” the girl said, bobbing an awkward curtsy. Then she looked off to the side, as though looking for an escape.

“Have you been at court long?” I asked.

The girl blushed, and made a reply in a low voice.

“I beg your pardon?”

“I- I’ve been here three months,” she said in an even lower voice that I had to strain to hear in the room’s din.

“Miss Taris, do be a sweet girl and give Lady Russe my regards,” Lady Fairfax said. She nodded to Miss Taris once again, and then we walked away.

“Poor Miss Taris- Lord Taris has fairly ruined her with his brutish ways. Ah- now here is Viscount Russel’s wife.”

Lady Fairfax kept me occupied in the salon until evening, but no matter how many great people I met, my eyes were always drawn back to the corner of the room, where Miss Taris stood alone.