Other things worth jotting down have just been a nice stretch of social times over the last few weeks. The regular Friday nights at the Lloyds started up again with the beginning of the last series of BSG episodes, and so the Harrises and I have found ourselves hosted over there, with dinner and chatter before putting down the kids and settling in for a 9pm showing. The first night, in the midst of that awful cold snap we had, had us all sleeping over so that we didn't have to try to take the Harris kids home in such brutal weather. Barnes has been over for the meals and talk with Rae, who has become a favourite guest star among the other kids, and who seems to enjoy it despite being two years older than four-year-olds Renée and Anna. Predictably, the conversation is fairly unpredictable, he wrote lamely. For instance, conversation between Dan and Mike on the way home from the library on Friday about sending the girls to the German language school here in Milwaukee turned into a long conversation between me and Mike on the rise of Hochdeutsch, "High German," the standard German we learn in school here and is used in national media in Germany. Mike's experiences in visiting family over there, and what he remembers from his Mom's accounts of growing up over there were set against what I supposed must have been a national drive for language uniformity that would have been advantageous during the war by the Third Reich. There was quite a bit of debate about the necessity in combat for full language compatability for small group tactics. Some Wikipedia-hunting then occurred, with me being surprised that more of the push for the propagation of Hochdeutsch actually came in the post-war generation. When Barnes arrived we caught him up on the general thrust of the conversation, but then we drifted pretty quickly into some of his youthful adventures when – speaking of language – Mike mentioned Barnes's Mom as being born in Hanoi, and Barnes took this to mean that I had been recounting some other conversation.
This was a bit of a throwback to conversation from Sunday the 18th, when I went out with Barnes and several of the newer generation of Barnes students – Alex, Rebecca, Katy, and Martha – to the cheap theatre's showing of Quantum of Solace, which I'd seen with Barnes in the fall. On the way over to Genesis, the 24-hour diner out there in Greenfield way, I had mentioned Barnes's high school career as a dangerous underground high school newspaper publisher on whom the FBI kept tabs. (It was the late 1960s.) Since the others had never heard of this stuff, there was some demand for these stories, which are pretty funny-sounding now, and so Barnes went through some of this with them, explaining that the fact that his Dad had a sensitive job at a missile-building plant, and that his French mother had been born in Hanoi, had some bearing on why the teenage Barnes had been deemed a person of interest to the FBI. There are some pretty funny stories in that lot, and other than a few brief side-conversations of a catch-up sort with Martha that I had, Barnes pretty much held center stage. We moved on to more Augustinian and Patristic concerns after a while, talking theological shop, and especially dwelling on the flaws in contemporary Systematic Theology education. Naturally, since I was the Systematics student there, I was particularly sensitive to having become aware of these deficiencies, which center on the lack of an attentive examination of the core philosophical texts that inform or situate Modern theology, such as Descartes's Third Meditation, Kant's Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone, some Hegel, and Heidegger's Onto-theology. The final question in light of such a hole is whether or not contemporary systematicians were, in Barnes's words, simply being trained to be hacks. Yay.
Julie came through town the other week, and we got together on the afternoon of the 16th for some hot chocolate at the Pfister, which had been outrageously good when I had been there New Year's Eve with Erynn. Unfortunately, now it was depressingly average, but that was the only bad thing. We just sat in a corner of the lobby lounge with an occasional ear on the pianist and caught up, talking about some of her feelings after having finished a semester of her doctorate, both about the program and the people she had met, as well as just her read of the location in general. Any romance of being in the New York area had seemed to have faded, and the weight of the comparative social isolation of graduate school had seemed to set in, particularly since the bulk of her classmates were married or involved in serious relationships that seemed to cut down on the opportunity of making significant friendships in her program, much less outside it. I hated to hear that, though I wasn't at all surprised by it, having seen that sort of thing myself. I shared my interview experiences thus far, and that sort of speculation about the different places I might find myself living within the next year.