Drumming

boy-32970I no longer cry when I listen to The Little Drummer Boy.  But no matter how silly the rendition, the family does shut up, because they know I’m listening.

Kind of like everything stops and we stand up for the anthem.

So, why cry?  And why have I stopped crying?

You could say I’ve stopped crying because I’ve gotten used to the idea.  Inured, maybe? though that’s a terrible word.

You see at some point in my twenties I realized what the whole thing was about talents, and about if you save your life, you will lose it.  I saw enough friends and relatives so afraid of not doing the one perfect thing they wanted to do that they never did anything.  Unwilling to engage themselves in doing or making anything imperfect, they saved their life/time so as to keep it free for that perfect thing: the perfect marriage, the perfect child, the perfect career.  And thereby, mostly, achieved none of these things.

Long before twenty, I realized I’d never be perfect.  Or “gifted.”

The effortless talent to do something and do it perfectly, I’ve seen it, and I don’t have it.  It’s most evident in adolescence because none of us has much training.  But some people can pick up a pencil and draw effortlessly, they can write movingly, they can solve the most difficult equations in their heads.  I’ve never seen anyone play an instrument first time they see it, though my parents were absolutely convinced this could happen. But I’ve seen people who teach themselves an instrument and learn to play it.  Older son did that at six.  Yeah, I don’t have that either.

Sure, I was always “best writer” in whatever class, particularly for fiction, but that’s a really tiny pond.

In the real world?

It took me 13 years of concerted effort and practice to sell my first short story.  In art, without the rendering computer (which should be fixed by tomorrow, hopefully) I am stuck at “talented amateur.”

So I had a perfect excuse to sit down and do nothing, right?

Well, no.  First because a lifetime is a long time to just waste waiting for it to end.  Second because I’d have become steeped in envy and malice, as I looked at everyone who accomplished SOMETHING while I did nothing.  You know I would.  It’s only natural.

So….

So I chose to use bullheadeness and vast amounts of work to make up for the lack of gifts.

How is it working?  I don’t know.  There’s a lot of things in the way of a trad career, and I’ve seen gifted people flounder and sink worse than I’ve ever done.

But now there’s indie, and lacking gifts I have an enormous amount of learning and experience.

Think about it: just because you weren’t given a strong voice, should you stay silent?

“I have no gift to bring that’s fit to give a king.”  But sometimes, rarely, for a moment, He smiles on me and my drum.  And that’s enough.

149 responses to “Drumming

  1. Not for the first time, Sarah, I wonder if you’re some kind of unknown relation; we strike so many of the same emotional chords.

    I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
    That’s fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum,

  2. There’s an element in some faiths that speaks of one’s job as a Vocation as well as a vocation. I wish it were emphasized more these days.

    You might not be the best, and it might take very hard work to reach the top of your field. You may never reach the heights, but if you do the best you can, you and those around you will be blessed. It might be laying tiles, it could be repairing roads, or writing books, or wiping noses in the toddler room at the church/temple nursery on Mothers’ Day Out. Take satisfaction in doing what you can do and improving it as best you can. And the king smiles.

  3. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    😀

  4. Christopher M Chupik

    All we need now is for the ox and lamb to keep time.

    Calling Orvan, calling Orvan . . .

    • If you think about it: the ox and lamb. Hard work and sacrifice kept time. About right.

      • Now that you’ve said it, it seems obvious. So why did I never notice that?

        • But isn’t “lamb” a modern change to appease ‘American’ distaste for that other name for “donkey”?

          Of course, I could be wrong.

          • It appears to be from’41, was originally called the Carol of the Drum, and I can’t find one with that lyrics. Maybe another carol?

            • Seems to be a matter of tweakage. It was “ox and ass” when I learned it in the ’50s and ’60s. Searching on “ox and ass kept time” brings up a few hits, but I found this short essay to the point:

              http://scriptoriumdaily.com/ox-and-ass-at-christs-manger/

              “O Come All Ye Faithful” also has seen some PC alteration. I learned it with “Sing all ye citizens of heaven above”, but there’s a fair number of versions that don’t invoke that terrible ‘c’ word.
              The furthest afield goes: “Sing all that hear in heaven God ‘s holy word.”

              The first time I ran into the PC version, I was thrown out of the song for a verse or two.

              • Latin! Doesn’t anyone learn Christmas songs in Latin anymore? That is how I first learned O Come All Ye Faithful, also O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

                The PC line cited is not at all elegant nor does it scan comfortably. I suspect that this doesn’t matter to some people who are most concerned that the message is correct and does not step on the toes of any of the presently protected classes.

                • Sorry, my furrin’ language was German. Not sure I ever tried “Stille Nacht”, although my singing of “Joyful, Joyful we Adore Thee” tends to sound suspiciously like “Freude, Shoener Gotterfunken”.

                  • I don’t sing it much above a whisper, but every Christmas Eve Candlelight Service I sing the German lyrics while everyone else sings the English.
                    It seems appropriate.

                • I personally prefer the Latin versions. I’ve been running into PC alterations in the English versions and they are often clumsy, do not translate to song and offend in their attempts to be inoffensive to everyone.

                  • I confess a long-standing preference for the traditional English lyrics whenever possible.

                    Hark the Herald Angels sing,
                    Beecham’s Pills are just the thing!
                    Peace on Earth and Mercy mild,
                    Two for Man and one for Child!

                    • How about American:

                      Hark the Herald Tribune Sings,
                      Advertising wonderous things!

                      God rest ye merry merchants,
                      may ye make the Yuletide pay!
                      –T. Lehrer

                    • Hehehe! My husband sang a handful of words that were various medical conditions to the tune of ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ when I showed him the PCfication of the song. He said that it scanned better than the crap that was the line, and since the meaning of the song was being chucked out anyway…

                • Even this Congregationalist/Evangelical learned Adeste Fideles in Latin first in the 60’s. The line with citizens in english is the second of these in latin

                  Cantet nunc io, chorus angelorum;
                  Cantet nunc aula cælestium,

                  Which is basically “sing now something of heaven” Google translate gives nonsense for aula (class?) although turns
                  aula celestium into palace or palaces. My Latin is 35+ years gone so I’m not much help.

                  No clue why citizens triggers people. Both hymnals I have access to (“The Pilgrim Hymnal “copyright 1952, “The Worshipping Church” copyright 1990) have citizens of heaven on that line as do many online hymnals (LDS, Methodist Hymnal) so who knows who decided to change it.

                  Oddly this has a vague relationship to our hostess as the traditionally cited author for the original Latin lyrics of Adeste Fidelis is John IV of Portugal.

                  • “No clue why citizens triggers people. ”

                    You assume a degree of reason to the reason.

                  • Up until recently, I always heard it as “Denizens of heaven above.” IE, saints.

                  • “Aula” usually means “hall,” or “church” by extension. In this case, it’s talking about the heavenly court, or by poetic extension, its denizens.

                    Now let the chorus of angels sing, “Io!” *
                    Now let the heavenly court sing
                    “Glory, glory in the highest.”

                    [A pagan exclamation used to praise the gods, and particularly Bacchus.]

                    Cantet is 3rd person singular, present tense, subjunctive mood.

                    • It now occurs to me that “heavenly court” could be a reference to the angelic connection with stars, and especially Job 38:7 — “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.”

          • The typology works with either lyric; oxen were also sacrificial animals, and donkeys were beasts of burden.

        • Same reason so many folks (even trained ones!) don’t realize that when Christ said “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” in modern times He would’ve been saying “Psalms 22.”

          We just know it, it’s the way it is, so we don’t poke at it hardly ever.

          • The same with Lincoln’s 1858 speech A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand. Of those who are even aware of the speech most no longer recognize the reference to Mark 3:24.

      • Orvan, yep, but who would be the lamb? Well, as I was born in April my horoscope sign is ram, but I’m a bit old for a lamb. And don’t usually feel particularly ram like either. Not the leader type like they are supposed to be. 🙂

      • https://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/kipling/eddies_service.html

        “Eddi, priest of St. Wilfrid
        In his chapel at Manhood End,
        Ordered a midnight service
        For such as cared to attend.

        But the Saxons were keeping Christmas,
        And the night was stormy as well.
        Nobody came to service,
        Though Eddi rang the bell.

        “‘Wicked weather for walking,”
        Said Eddi of Manhood End.
        “But I must go on with the service
        For such as care to attend.”

        The altar-lamps were lighted, —
        An old marsh-donkey came,
        Bold as a guest invited,
        And stared at the guttering flame.

        The storm beat on at the windows,
        The water splashed on the floor,
        And a wet, yoke-weary bullock
        Pushed in through the open door.

        “How do I know what is greatest,
        How do I know what is least?
        That is My Father’s business,”
        Said Eddi, Wilfrid’s priest.

        “But — three are gathered together —
        Listen to me and attend.
        I bring good news, my brethren!”
        Said Eddi of Manhood End.

        And he told the Ox of a Manger
        And a Stall in Bethlehem,
        And he spoke to the Ass of a Rider,
        That rode to Jerusalem.

        They steamed and dripped in the chancel,
        They listened and never stirred,
        While, just as though they were Bishops,
        Eddi preached them The Word,

        Till the gale blew off on the marshes
        And the windows showed the day,
        And the Ox and the Ass together
        Wheeled and clattered away.

        And when the Saxons mocked him,
        Said Eddi of Manhood End,
        “I dare not shut His chapel
        On such as care to attend.””

    • I am not a metronome, but I can try.
      Or be trying.
      One of those.

  5. I just listened to the Bing Crosby and David Bowie duet Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth and it remains a auditory treat.  Sadly, on paying attention to the words of the latter song I was … unimpressed by the particular brand of warm fuzziness it invokes.

    Anyway a quote from the introduction to the duet: 

    ‘Right or wrong, I sing either way.’  Bing Crosby

    And a more straightforward Little Drummer Boy:

    Pa rump pa pa pum

  6. I saw a few people in art school who were gifted and talented. I also saw a few of them fall behind the rest of us because they thought that would carry them through while the rest of us worked our asses off to get better.

    Point is that yes, there are quite a few people in the world that are naturally gifted, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t as good as they are. You may very well be better because you worked for all that skill and maybe they didn’t work as hard.

  7. Raw talent is good, but hard work and dogged persistence count, too. Never neglect the power of old-fashioned grit.

    • Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
      — Calvin Coolidge

  8. Those who keep “doing their best”, get better.

  9. My Grandfather was one of those musicians. He was basically born blind (there is a long story about it, not needed here). At 3, he was playing piano. He supported himself, and a family with music. When my mother was in high school, he got a job teaching music/band/orchestra at a private school. The story goes, students would bring their instruments to him, many of which he had never “seen” before, and he would mess around with them for a few minutes, then he would play the piece they were working on and tell the student what he/she was doing wrong.

    Many years later, I got to see some of this in action as a kid although by that time, I can’t imagine there wasn’t an instrument that I could come up with that he hadn’t seen before. I even remember him playing “toy” instruments as if they were real instruments and making them sound good.

    I wish he was still around, I would love to hand him an Otamatone and see what he did with it.

    • My dad is like that. One Christmas a very good friend of his sent him a banjo with the note on it “Play this you SOB”

      A week later dad was playing Dueling Banjos.

  10. And since this is the Christmas Eve thread, I’m going to hijack it for a moment…

    The Bible tells us that Christ was born in a stable, because there was no room at the inn. And for all of my life, I’ve heard the poor innkeeper excoriated. How dare he! A stable!

    But think about it from the perspective of that innkeeper. Bethlehem is packed, his inn is full. There’s a knock at the door – it’s Joseph, with Mary in tow (and possibly in labor). Maybe a midwife. And he needs a room. Not merely a room, but one big enough to serve as a maternity ward.

    What to do? Turn another paying customer out into that cold night? That would merely move the problem from one person to another, not solve it. Tell Joseph he’s out of luck? That’s the easiest option, but that night is awfully cold…again, not a solution.

    So the innkeeper thought, and had an idea. The stables had room. They were warm. It wasn’t the best solution, but it WAS a solution. One that worked.

    Maybe that innkeeper wasn’t the villain he’s so often made out to be these days.

    • The other problem was that AirBNB had just cancelled all Jewish-owned rooms in Judea.

    • I don’t know how Joseph rated financially, but in most times inns were for rich people. If you were some ordinary schmuck, you slept in the barn with the livestock. Even in America up into the 20th century.

      And sheep and cows were warm, quiet, and didn’t try to steal your stuff.

      “Stable” meant they were at least paying customers and not indigent; Motel 6 vs. Holiday Inn, not “OMFG how horrible!”

      • Basically, Dolly Parton at Motel 6 turned up to 11, not “only beasts are there.”

        We ARE talking about the King of Kings, here.

      • I think Joseph was about as close to being middle-class as you got in those days.

        • Skilled tradesman.

          Which was really offensive to those strains of thought that held that labor was beneath the dignity of the REALLY high falutin’.

          • And equally offensive to those who thought that only unskilled labor was the mark of a REAL man.

            Everybody hates the middle class.

          • The minimal set of tools to be a carpenter probably exceeded the net worth of most of the population. You’re looking at the equivalent of the guy at the car dealership with the big Snap-On toolboxes worth more than your car. Not to mention the skill set involved… things were a little more difficult back then, with no power tools or local lumber mills.

          • Thinking about it, “skilled tradesman” described most of the Apostles as well.

          • I have heard that Joseph wasn’t a carpenter in the sense of a guy who builds house since houses were basically mud walled. Instead, he made furniture—-so not Carpenter, but Joyner.

            • I’ve seen arguments that there were frequently no divisions between “guy who works on houses” and “guy who makes furniture,” which goes well with the “guy who makes Stuff out of wood” meaning for carpenter.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                I’ve heard that the word translated as “carpenter” may have included men who worked with stone. IE Stone masons.

                • *considers buildings at the time*

                  Makes sense, the same way that “carpenter” for construction means they do brick-work and such.

                • Ok I had to look it was killing me.The word in Koine greek is τέκτων (tekton roughly with that O long). It’s used twice in the Greek new testament once in Mark, once in Matthew. Treating it as carpenter (vs mason or craftsman) is based I think on usage from the Septuagint a greek translation of the Torah and the rest of the Hebrew Old Testament from 200-300 BCE. We don’t have a heck of a lot of first century koine greek (other than the scriptures) to compare with. The Vulgate (early latin translation) uses faber (maker?) so craftsman (non specific) seems better. Joseph makes stuff but whether with wood, stone or even adobe the text is silent. I suspect carpenter is somewhere from the various traditions about Joseph.

        • In one respect, Herod and Augustus Caesar were not middle-class, in that you couldn’t run their homes as a homeless shelter nowadays. . . .

          Relative position, yeah.

    • Christopher M Chupik

      A stable is hardly the worst place to stay for the night, as long as you do some, uh, tidying beforehand.

    • I hate to rain on everyone’s conceptions of the inn and the stable, but when you go back to the original Greek and the culture of the area at the time, a very different interpretation emerges:

      https://www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/jesus-wasnt-born-in-a-stable/

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      1) The word translated “Inn” was more likely a “large house” where travelers could stay in a strange city. Likely, it was a “large house” associated with the House Of David.

      2) Thanks to the Roman Emperor, every member of the House of David living outside of Bethlehem was likely needing to stay there.

      3) The “stable” was likely a part of the “large house” where animals were normally kept.

      4) Whoever was in charge of the “large house” likely had problems “fitting” everybody who had the right to be there in. It is very likely that Joseph & Mary weren’t the only people staying in the stable area.

      5) It is extremely likely that the “inn-keeper” made sure the local midwives knew about Mary’s condition.

      Minor note, we’ve all seen the pictures of Mary & Joseph traveling to Bethlehem. Just the two of them with Mary on a donkey. It is very likely that they were the only people traveling to Bethlehem at that time. So they likely weren’t traveling alone. 😀

      • Given that the family reunion type trips were busy enough that Joseph and Mary had a “Home Alone” setup with Jesus staying back at the Temple, you’re quite right.

      • I want to tell all those who are using the Nativity story to push their agenda regarding unwed mothers, the poor and/or refugees I want to tell them:

        The reason for Mary and Joseph’s trip to Bethlehem at that time was to comply with a government order that required everyone to register in the territory of their family.  Joseph, being a descendant of David, had to register in Bethlehem.  There were very likely a lot of people traveling, more than usual.  This would overload the available hospitality space.
        Something of which the officials should have been aware, if they had cared to be.

        The the problem of displaced persons and insufficient housing were both the fault of a government mandate. Could it be that less, not more, government is the answer?

        (YES!)

        • Could it be that less, not more, government is the answer?

          Nawwwww, that’s just crazy talk. Everybody knows that more* government is always the answer.

          *More precisely, more of my government, less of yours.

        • As you noted Joseph (and perhaps Mary ?) was a descendant of King David of the tribe of Judah. He was returning to his ancestral home as Cacs noted to comply with the occupying powers requirements for taxation. Not refugees (yet). Fleeing Herod the Great’s Slaughter of the innocents to Egypt THEN they were refugees (and legitimate ones). Stupid press/demoncrats are so ignorant of the New Testament that the story they want isn’t one they have a clue exists.

          • Or perhaps his current home — having being in Nazareth for some reason. albeit prolonged, giving a chance for the betrothal and marriage — they were, after all, easily able to stick around Bethlehem for two years after the birth.

            • Some people think from contextual clues that it was their house and they went to the stable to leave the house to guests. At least one scholar who was a friend of my childhood priest explained it to us at length. Eh.

              • I’ve previously seen (and it seems to make sense) that the “inn” is more accurately “upper/guest rooms” and they wound up in the main downstairs room, like sleeping on the couch in the den if the den also had the family livestock in it. I actually only ran into the idea that it was their actual house this year.

                …Either one raises a weirdly adorable albeit wildly noncanonical vision in which the little drummer boy is a poor cousin whose family arrived earlier and wasn’t necessarily supposed to be wandering downstairs.

                • People back then often brought their livestock into the house during winter, especially at night. Protected the animals from the cold and helped warm the house far more cheaply than keeping a fire.

                  • Just ’cause half the family lives out in Nazareth, doesn’t mean you don’t have a homeplace in Bethlehem. And maybe they need a lot of carpenters in Bethlehem, so you end up staying at the homeplace longer than you expected, hanging out with the aunts and cousins who live in Bethlehem and are happy to help with the baby.

                    Once everybody else left, there was probably plenty of room.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Even there, they weren’t Illegal refugees.

            They left the area controlled by a Roman “ally” to another area controlled by Rome.

            Rome didn’t care if somebody left an area controlled by one of their allies to move to an area directly controlled by Rome (Egypt).

            Since there was a Jewish community in Egypt, Joseph would likely be able to find work there.

            • IIRC, neither the Egyptians nor Romans had Welfare nor government-provided universal healthcare, so why would they care where a skilled worker chose to sell his labor? Judea to Egypt is akin to moving from Louisiana to Texas.

      • “katalymati” is the word in Luke 2:7. It literally means something like “guest room” or “rented room”. The Last Supper was also held in a “katalyma,” (Lk. 22:11, Mk. 14:14) which would be more like “rented banquet room” in context.

        This stuff can get kinda complicated, because sometimes you paid money, sometimes you were family, and sometimes families had reciprocating guest friend arrangements. (Whenever I go to Athens, I stay with Grampa Bob’s friend’s family, and they stay with my family whenever one of them travels to Corinth. A big thing in the Mediterranean; relationships could last centuries.)

        In Bethlehem, there might have been a katalyma for visiting members of the House of David, or for certain branches. But not everybody in the clan could fit there at once, I’m sure!

        The Good Samaritan in Lk. 10:34 takes the wounded Jew to a “pandocheion,” which was a roadside hotel for business travelers, or at least for those who didn’t have a reciprocation relationship with anybody in town. It means something like “takes everybody.” They were a lot more convenient and useful to more people, so they pretty much took over the hospitality market in the Roman Empire.

        • I never actually specified that “katalyma” and “katalymati” are just different grammatical forms of “katalyma.”

          Oh, and in the Vulgate, St. Jerome uses “diversorium” for both the Nativity and the Last Supper passages, and “stabulum” for the Good Samaritan one.

          “Diversorium” or “deversorium” was a place that sold lodgings or a tavern, and really the Western Romans tended to assume drinking, gambling, eating, and a brothel were more important activities than renting a place to stay. There isn’t really a city of Rome version of “katalyma,” so let’s not be harsh on Jerome here. But yeah, he’s probably why we think of the place as an inn.

          “Stabulum” was the stable attached to an inn, and the Samaritan paid the “stabularius” to take care of the wounded Jew. This makes sense, because the stablekeeper was also the horse doctor, whereas a nasty Roman roadside tavern run by a glorified pimp was no place for a sick guy to receive care.

          • The Greek has the Good Samaritan making arrangements with the “pandochei,” so he really was a hotelier in the modern sense.

            It also occurs to me that Jerome having the wounded Jew in the “stabulum” at an inn, might be part of why we think of the Holy Family as also staying in a stable, instead of in the animal feeding area of a private house.

            I don’t know what the Peshitta has, or the Old Latin versions.

        • “took over the hospitality market in the Roman Empire” in the East. Different road setup than in the West.

          Of course, the other way to go was staying at a “statio,” a Roman waystation for troops or the Imperial mail. A lot of people seem to gotten some kind of authorization or invitation to stay at a statio, like Egeria/Etheria on her pilgrimage through Egypt and the Holy Land and out to Constantinople.If you were rich and had Imperial connections like Etheria, it could be a very nice and safe option.

        • There was a scene in the Iliad where two warriors realized their ancestors had been host and guest, so they not only did not fight, they exchanged armor so that they could be sure of not accidentally coming to fight to the other.

        • If you are going to insist on referring to the original texts rather than employing the Classic Illustrated versions familiar to everybody, there’s no point trying to reason with you!

    • Hmm.. guess it’s different perspectives from different places. The way I always remember it being told/talked about growing up was that the Inn keeper didn’t have to give them anywhere to stay, and let them use the stable out of kindness and pity for a so obviously pregnant woman.

    • John C. Wright has a story about this. Republished a few days ago on his blog:

      http://www.scifiwright.com/2018/12/nativity-2/

  11. I am reminded that we are instructed to make a joyful noise, not necessarily a beautiful one.

    • The instructions in the United Methodist Hymnal (dates back to the late 1700s) say that it doesn’t matter how well you sing, but all are to join their voices, none greater than the others: “do not bawl immodestly.”

      • Even really bad singers can sound good if they’re trying to sing together; even really good singers sound bad if they’re trying to be soloists all at once.

        • Years ago, in my group of friends was a woman who just plain couldn’t sing. Then one night, we were singing something (can’t remember what or why, but singing wasn’t uncommon for that group) and she got stuck on the perfectly right note, and it worked! She didn’t change pitch an entire song, but with the rest of us singing, she was like the perfect steady pitch right there where it needed to be (in music, that’s called a Drone).

  12. “I saw enough friends and relatives so afraid of not doing the one perfect thing they wanted to do that they never did anything.” This is a very important point.

    A relevant story:

    “The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot -albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”

    (link no longer available)

    • We used to have a couple of high-end auto paint and body shops. You could take your car in, pay several thousand dollars, and they’d prep your car and the shop artiste would wave his magic spray gun and paint it.

      Meanwhile, there was the place that would paint your car for $125. No, you didn’t get the level of prep work the fancy shops did, but the paint part was always perfect. The artiste might paint four or five cars a week. Elmer at Jiffy Paint shot paint forty hours a week, every week.

      Practice doesn’t always make perfect, but if you’re willing to learn from your mistakes, it can make you a whole lot better…

  13. Sarah, darling girl, we certainly are related in spirit.
    Both sickly children. I required several operations before a year old. You, often confined to your bedroom for extended periods.
    Both more often than not found ourselves the smartest person in the room. Not a brag as we are both former Mensans, but then so are several other of the regulars here.
    Being that smart is a very mixed blessing as it typically allows one to see both sides of an argument, thus letting your mind weaken its own convictions.
    In any case, wishing all here a very merry Christmas eve and remainder of the Holiday season.

    • Not bragging, but when I first heard of Mensa I determined that I qualified and started looking up some of the local members to see what I thought about the organization. I quickly determined that I’d rather hang out with a bunch of farmers at the feed store than at a Mensa gathering. Man, maybe my experience was atypical, but those folks were both arrogant and boring, perhaps from the over-inflated self opinions so many of them had. It seemed to me that you had to check your sense of humor at the door if you wanted to be part of their self-selected high intelligence club. No thanks.

      • Smart folks are more fun to be around if they have something to define themselves by besides being smart– same as folks with any other extreme quality, that’s where the “pretty but evil” stereotype comes from, along with “jocks are evil.”

        The farmers are defining themselves by what they do, so you’re more likely to get a good selection of folks, and thus have more fun.

        (Theory based in part on folks’ reaction to me “being smart” and how it changed after exposure to me being me, when in my head I’m not smart at all. I just sometimes see stuff that other people didn’t, same way they see stuff I don’t. I’m not smart, I’m a different height and not standing on their feet!)

        • I’m right there with you on that. Hanging with folks who do interesting stuff and are good at it is always more fun than hanging with folks who are good at scoring high on some tests. Besides, “intelligence” isn’t really defined by “ability to get high scores on standardized tests.” And it isn’t even a unitary thing–there are many different types of intelligence, only a very few of which are measured by those tests.

          I’ve always said that everyone is interesting if you can get them talking about something they’re passionate about and are willing to listen to them non-judgmentally. I must admit though, it what they’re passionate about is how smart they are, moreso than everyone else, this hypothesis can be very difficult not to discard.

          • “intelligence” isn’t really defined by “ability to get high scores on standardized tests.”

            No kidding. My brother and I are (mostly) opposites. I’m supposed to be the “smart” one. BUT, he kicks my ass when it comes to actually DOING things all the time. I’m often too caught up in what I don’t know, while he doesn’t bother thinking about stuff and just DOES things. I’m left with “You can’t do…. wait… you did what?”

          • Love is contagious.

            But it’s got to be love, with the joy that goes with that.

          • > they’re passionate about

            The BBC found a guy named Fred Dibnah, who was a steam engine fanatic. He eventually wound up doing at least four different steam technology series for them.

            Short fat little guy with a sweater and Coke-bottle glasses, with some oddball accent so thick even the British could barely understand him. But he was *seriously* into steam engines and the early Industrial Revolution, and he was having the freakin’ time of his life telling people about them.

            Even if you can’t understand what he’s talking about half the time, it’s fun watching him having fun. Some of his BBC episodes are on the place of tubes if you’re so inclined.

      • Huh. Sounds like the local bunch.

        When I went to my only meeting, lo and long ago, they had already decided to buy printed T-shirts. The meeting I attended, they were trying to decide what they would have printed on them.

        My suggestion was, “If we’re all so smart, why aren’t we all rich?”

        Their reaction indicated they were yet another group that was a bad fit…

        • One of the Sunday papers had an article on Mensa. I figured I qualified, but at that time I was almost terminally shy, and the article didn’t make the participants all that attractive to me. (Not sure if it was deliberately slanted, or just Silicon Valley/San Francisco oddness in the 1970s.)

          • I figured it would be full of nerds and Odds. But from that meeting (I only attended one; I worked nights, and that was the only one where I was able to) and the newsletter i got for a year, their main problem was that they didn’t *do* anything. They might as well have created a club for people with blond hair or freckles. There are lodges and orders and clubs for drinking, supporting charities, knitting, or flying model airplanes; they at least have a purpose.

            [limited local sample size, didn’t make an extended effort, Your Mileage May Vary]

        • Ha! I would have busted a gut if you had suggested something like that!

          I agree that Mensa is a group that tends to encourage one to leave it. There are some good chapters out there, mostly focusing on puzzle fans.

  14. Words of the Ancient Sage: “There is no talent, only practice.”

    Words of Bubba The Younger: “Jesus loves you, but He ain’t gonna come and fix your car.”

    Words of Nammu Chen, the cranky ten-thousand-year-old AI: “Monkeys!” [with full eye-roll and despairing tone]

    Merry Christmas all. Cheer up, it’ll be Boxing Day soon. ~:D

    • And we might get rain! (Don’t laugh, we’re seven inches below average for the calendar year, worse for the water year.)

      • Here in the North Carolina Triad we’ve “enjoyed” record rain. Although we oughtn’t brag about it as pretty much ALL of NC has seen rainfall records set. Wilmington, at the mouth of the Cape Fear river basin, has seen a hundred inches fall, making all that we elsewhere in the state have shipped downstream seem superfluous.

        As for being seven inches shy, how is that in percentage rainfall? Seven under the customary hundred is no biggie, whereas seven under the usual twelve is mighty dry indeed.

        • Seven under a nineteen-inch average yearly rainfall. We got good rains in early October, so things are “uncomfortably dry” but not “watch plants wither and critters die as we stand here” desiccated. Yet.

          • Seven shy of nineteen? That means you’re only getting sixty-three percent of an already sparse drizzle? Ouch. That could drive a body straight to drink.

          • Average rainfall is supposedly 50 inches here. But the local water table is less than five feet down, and the back yard is still squelchy from the rain las week.

      • I’ll drink to that! It’d be nice to have a non-drought year.

    • Well, of course not. Fixing your car falls under putting the Lord your God to the test.

  15. From whom much has been given, much is expected. Few burdens are heavier than those of high expectations.

    Being recognized as “gifted” can be crippling. It begets unrealistically high expectations, it discourages working hard to develop one’s skills and perfect one’s craft. And one’s admirers often take one’s achievements for granted, not recognizing how much work has gone into developing that talent. As Mr. Monk was wont to say, “It’s a blessing, and a curse.”

    Too often we see the intellectually “gifted” fall into the trap of facile thinking, of shallow thought, becoming enamoured of bright shiny ideas and failing to think as profoundly as they believe themselves to be doing. Capable of taking a quick grasp of ideas and to make connections with glittering speed they too often fail to think things through to their ultimate conclusion. When one can spin a web of words one often neglects to build sound foundations.

    • > Capable of taking a quick grasp of ideas and to make connections with glittering speed they too often fail to think things through to their ultimate conclusion.

      [waves hand and dances in seat] I used to have a really bad case of that… fortunately, that’s one of the few things age and cynicism have been a cure for.

  16. Not classified as a brilliant programmer, but recognized, every place I worked, as a programmer who got things done, that work, & are what the end user needed (beyond what they asked for, because they didn’t know they needed it in the context of their request) … I’ll take that.

    Yes. I worked at it. Programming, not so much. Learning to L I S T E N to what was needed definitely.

    • Programming, not so much. Learning to L I S T E N to what was needed definitely.

      That’s ridiculous. If everybody did that we’d all be in danger of getting what we want rather than what we need.

      BTW: this is one of the primary criticisms of Regulators and Courts taking it into their hands to “fix” laws. Apply the laws as written; if the results are “unfortunate” that ought encourage lawmakers to be more careful about what they enact. If that means fewer laws and less regulatory power ceded to bureaucrats and courts then that is a cross burden we will simply have to bear. I know, I know: people with power to enact laws also bearing the responsibility for them? What if such a thing became standard!!!

      • And that’s why I have issue about those passing laws that do not apply to themselves. Laws should be laws, not “Laws, but…” Any exception would be to have the lawmaking body subject to such laws first, as a test-run — although that might risk creative abuses.

      • “Apply the laws as written; if the results are “unfortunate” that ought encourage lawmakers to be more careful about what they enact. ”
        Constitutional Amendment: Congress members shall never be exempt from any law they make applying to the populace in genera.

    • > didn’t know what they needed

      Ah, yes. They don’t know what they want, but they instantly know what they *don’t* want when you show it to them.

      A very good reason as any for decoupling the user interface from the functional innards of a program…

      Still, not the worst type of programming. A couple of iterations, and you can nail down a spec, fill it, and declare victory.

      The bad ones are when management keeps moving the goalposts before you get done, then complains because you’re not progressing fast enough. “All we wanted was click a button to compare inventory from three different warehouses using different product codes, automatically order replacement stock from forty different vendors, except when prices vary X amount or Janice in Purchasing doesn’t like Vendor Y this week. It’s just one button, what’s taking so long?”

      • “The customer never knows what he wants until sees what he gets.”

        And they don’t understand that that “one button” is on elevator that now has to go the middle three floors of the two-story building originally specified – with the original top floor still being on top.

      • Not saying in my career I didn’t run into unreasonable exceptions on delivery timing, because I did. Just not in the context specified. First & last full time jobs, there were no delivery deadlines, period; except those I put on myself. Which were a WAG * 3 or 4 😉 with a warning that if XYZ & ABC came up, then it was going to be delayed. AND got away with it. Still delivered.

        Second full time job had deadlines, but in concert with a hardware release. Not a specific software tweak to in isolation. Only release where beat the Marketing deadline was the last one because I’d finally gotten the product so I could do that*. Notice “Marketing” deadline. Not “Engineering” deadline … You know the true deadline that was reasonable. I even had to figure out how to support 3 variants of Chinese & Japanese double byte character sets, along with standard English, French, German, & Spanish, without the user being forced to change their PC code page (this was early ’00). Took me a week to code it. Took me 6 weeks to dig through the Microsoft library to find the not documented foundation functions that the OS actually uses when the OS code page is changed.

        *I was not the original programmer on the product, but was brought in to take over weeks before the first release. It took 2 more releases before I could force a major rewrite to fix code organization issues. Essentially marketing said they wanted X & I said no, they can’t have X without me doing Y first. Paid dividends later releases. Unfortunately also made me redundant & more expendable once the bankruptcy/breakup started occurring … darn it. Should have learned my lesson then, but nooooo. Had to keep doing the right thing 😉 … write code so that anyone coming behind me could understand it …

        • Old joke we used to tell: software is what makes the hardware do what the marketers sold.

          • Another old joke:
            Q: What’s the difference between a car salesman and a computer salesman?
            A: The car salesman knows when he’s lying…

            • Not exactly. Computer software developers just know that “shit-if-I-know-I-just-know-you-want-it-faster-than-it-can-be-done” isn’t an acceptable answer that you will hear no matter how often it is repeated.

          • Wait! What! That was a joke? 😉 😉 😉 😉

  17. “Think about it: just because you weren’t given a strong voice, should you stay silent?”

    God gave you a voice to sign with. So stand up and SING! Either he’ll be pleased with the sound, or you’ll give him the opportunity to change his mind.

    If you cover up your light, nobody will ever see it; and you’ll be left in darkness, unable to see your way. Even a flickering, guttering candle is better than no light at all.

  18. Burying one’s talent in the dirt is contraindicated. In the parable of the talents, the one who did so was cast out.

  19. Thomas Monaghan

    Merry Christmas!

  20. Another wonderful song about how Christ doesn’t look at our gifts the same way we do.


    (Turtle Creek Chorale men’s choir)

    The Jesus Gift by Gilbert Martin
    “Shall we gather emeralds? Shall we bring Him gold?
    Shall we shower diamonds white-hard, bright-cold?
    Shall we spangle jewels like stars above?
    Give Him laughter, bring peace-filled laughter
    Offer Him warm laughter and love

    Simplest of gifts, gentlest of hearts
    Kindness He’ll use as He leads
    So, give Him these gifts, hand Him your hearts
    Honour His birth and you’ll need no…

    Emeralds nor rubies, silver nor gold
    Neither bring diamonds white-hard, bright-cold
    Spangle not rich jewels like stars above
    You’ll have laughter, simple warm laughter
    And love”