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Writing in 2020

I managed to get web-published a number of times in 2020. Check it out:

The 18th Century and Social Networking on AdamSmithWorks – a discussion of networking with a particular focus on the Scottish Enlightenment.

Joseph Banks – A review of Patrick O’Brian’s biography of Joseph Banks: traveler, naturalist, botanist, courtier.

Review of Jesse Norman’s biography of Edmund Burke, Part 1 and Part 2 – Come for the life of Edmund Burke, stay for Norman’s strained defense post-Thatcher political Conservatism.

And while you are at AdamSmithWorks, please check out my wife’s discussion of fashion production in the Age of Smith.

Salieri, Commerce and COVID

In Amadeus, Antonio Salieri rejects his father’s bourgeois commercial life and offers himself (?) in exchange for art and fame.

While my father prayed earnestly to God to protect commerce, I would offer up secretly the proudest prayer a boy could think of: Lord, make me a great composer. Let me celebrate Your glory through music and be celebrated myself. Make me famous through the world. Dear God make me immortal. After I die let people speak my name forever with love for what I wrote. In return I will give You my chastity, my industry, my deepest humility, every hour of my life, Amen.

After a month of quarantine and economic lockdown, I offer that Antonio was wrong about the relative diginity, fame, and importance of mere commerce. Commerce is what in fact makes the flourishing of art possible to the degree that 18th century Vienna experienced.

Three cheers for Old Man Salieri and his trade. And while Antonio may be the patron saint of mediocrities everywhere, he may also be the blessed patron of those who cannot see upon whose shoulders they stand.

COVID-19 Journal, April 1, 2020

Here are my general rules now that we are about a month in:

  • Consume only enough news to get the big picture. This takes less than five minutes. I’m not kidding.
  • Get outside.
  • Shades, curtains open. More light is better.
  • Keep working.
  • Do not descend down any rabbit holes, especially COVID related. Most are wrong and you don’t know which are right. You just don’t.
  • You don’t know.
  • Reduce the number of variables you care about because the number that you can’t control have gone up. Stop caring about things you don’t control.
  • COVID-19 Journal, March 26, 2020

    Minnesota goes into full shelter-in-place at midnight tomorrow (Friday night). We’ve already been socked away for about a week so I don’t think we’ll see much of a difference. I’ll need to run to the store tomorrow or Saturday which I imagine will be a bit of an ordeal. Mostly just for fresh things. Dry goods are in good supply.

    Still plenty of work to do. Belt tightening is on the mind at my various places of work, but no action yet. Money is already being saved with the dramatic reduction in travel expenditures.

    The full two week experiment is now on, from the President on down, across the country. Not much will be revisited until that period is over. In the meantime, we’ve spent an obscene amount of money on what we aren’t sure. And for what, isn’t clear.

    Everyone will be poorer (or dead) when this is over. There’s no disputing that. We’re just arguing about degree now.

    COVID-19 Journal, Days 7 & 8

    Up and down. Was able to get a hike in at Afton State Park on Saturday. A pleasant diversion especially with shelter in place hovering over of us all now. I expect it any day now.

    We were also able to have a virtual cocktail with friends in Atlanta last night. Good fun that made me wonder why we had not done it before.

    Today (Sunday) has been less successful. Some reading, some cleaning, some cooking. Blueberry sour cream bread coming up! And my Adam Smith Works article is finally wrapping up. But social media and news distracts me. Right now, I would say I am doing a terrible job if being a Stoic. Thinking a lot about things I can’t change. Ever forward.

    COVID-19 Journal, Day 6

    A few more active bits today: was off of work and shelter-in-place seemed to creep closer to Minnesota so Caren and I hit the grocery store for a big run. We’re set for a while now. Then to the Rice Creek Dog Park for a run with Ginny and back home to pack away all of our food. Made steak tacos, drank some cava, and made a cherry pie. Probably as good a day as you can have on lock down.

    Also: I am working 4 simultaneous games over at http://www.playdiplomacy.com, while Caren and I watched most of La Fille du Regiment at http://www.metopera.org/season/on-demand. Time for bed. Some more cooking tomorrow.

    There are so many projections out there, all so wildly different. I have neither the patience nor the mental strength to sort through it all. We are in, staying healthy, awaiting what comes. My actions at this point would not change that drastically regardless of which of those extant projections were correct, anyway.

    COVID-19 Journal, Days 4 & 5

    Things get repetitive fast. Work, food, walk the dog, some sort of evening activity, etc. Last night we skipped the Met Opera stream (Il Trovatore, meh) and listened to the Hit Parade podcast on Whitney Houston. It’s a surprisingly nerdy music podcast with particular reference to the charts, making for an awful lot of numbers actually. But very entertaining.

    Speaking of free, you can now watch all of the Live at 9:30 episodes for free here.

    Tonight, back to working-out (I really tore up my legs that second day by overdoing it), having a pleasant dinner and probably watching an opera or a movie. Taking tomorrow off (previously scheduled for something else, but I am doing it anyway, despite the event being cancelled), even though I have no idea what “time off” means in this environment.