## Posts in “Misc”

##### Fri, Aug 16, 2013

As the Fall semester is about to begin, here again by popular demand are your invaluable, comprehensive, and wholly accurate twin guides to Interpreting Feedback. First—which, with the exception of a few lines, I didn’t write—is The American Grad Student’s Guide to Interpreting Feedback from Faculty Trained in Britain and Ireland: Click for a larger version. And second, its counterpart, The European Grad Student’s Guide to Interpreting Feedback from American Faculty: Click for a larger version.

## We have Changed the Wording in the Workflow Drop-down Box

We have changed the wording In the workflow drop-down box at the bottom of the Research Output entry screen Validation is carried out by Editors of Content They check the metadata fields in the Pure record Old, New Entry in progress Entry in progress Entry completed by User Validate The workflow statuses are visible The new wording has been chosen The actions behind the scenes are unchanged. (With thanks to

## No Respect these Days

This week on Hypercritical John Siracusa noted that a quote he had referred to about how kids have no respect for their elders these days—apparently often attributed to Socrates and allegedly found somewhere in Plato—in fact originates in a student essay from the early 1900s, summarizing such views in the ancient world. The context was John’s observation that a lot of cultural criticism purporting to be about real (and negative) social changes reduces to intergenerational grumbling about how the world used to be full of old people but increasingly seems to be full of young people.

## The Mornings of Kieran Healy, by Robert A Caro

We are pleased to present a short excerpt from the long-anticipated new work by the leading historical biographer of our time. The Path to the Kitchen When he was young—back on his family’s small homestead in Cork, Ireland—Kieran Healy came down the stairs for breakfast with his mother, who would light the tiny gas heater (this was the 1970s; Ireland had yet to convert fully to nuclear power) in the damp, early morning chill.

## Occupational Self-Selection

Here’s another–surely unsurpassable–data point for Andrew Gelman’s ongoing interest in the question of whether people’s names influence their choice of occupation. Via Bryan O’Sullivan, the CEO of the charity Food for the Poor is named Robin Mahfood.

## Humpgate, or, Presidential Super-Limo meets Irish Road

President Obama is in Ireland and thus so also is the presidential superlimo. The heavily-armored vehicle is an unholy hybrid of a Cadillac, a medium truck, and a small tank. According to the gearheads on Wikipedia, the vehicle is fitted with military grade armor at least five inches thick, and the wheels are fitted with run flat tires … The doors weigh as much as a Boeing 757 airplane cabin door.

## Going Viral

In case you were wondering who the go-to sources on l’affaire Strauss-Kahn are, at least according to Twitter: The consequences of getting retweeted all over the place mostly involve being introduced to the range and sophistication of twitter spam and followbots.

## Parents CAN rid campuses of Communists

These days the bow tie signifies the opposite, of course. Which only shows their disguises have improved.

## I Predict the Gifted will Foresee the Punchline

Here is a very old joke. A soldier is captured during a long-running war and thrown into the most stereotypical prison cell imaginable. Inside the cell is another solider. He has an enormous, disgusting-smelling beard and has clearly been there a long time. The young soldier immediately sets about trying to escape. He is resourceful and possessed of great willpower. He bribes a guard with his emergency supply of cash. The guard gets him into a supply truck and he makes it to the prison garage, but is found during a routine vehicle search while exiting the compound.

## Advice on Talks from Leslie Lamport

Speaking of LaTeX, its author Leslie Lamport provides a guide to How To Present A Talk. It was written in 1979, but modulo a couple of changes its advice applies equally well today. For instance: WHAT TO SAY 1. Describe simple examples rather than general results. Try to make the examples much too simple—you will not succeed. Don’t use formalism. If your results cannot be described simply and informally, then there is no reason why anyone should be interested in them.

## Sure in this country you'd be known as MicheÃ¡l Luas

Via Tyler Cowen comes a Michael Lewis thumbsucker about Ireland. Lewis is a great writer, but I do wonder whether he should have listened to his driver a bit less: When I went looking for some Irish person to drive me around, the result was a fellow I will call Ian McRory (he asked me not to use his real name in this article), who is Irish, and a driver, but pretty clearly a lot of other things, too.

## Testing MathJax

Suppose the true relationship is [y=f(x_1,…,x_k)] with (x_1,…,x_k) factors explaining the (y). Then the first order Taylor approximation of (f) around zero is: [f(x_1,…,x_k)=f(0,…,0)+sum_{i=1}^{k}frac{partial f(0)}{partial x_k}x_k+varepsilon,] where (varepsilon) is the approximation error. Now denote (alpha_0=f(0,…,0)) and (alpha_k=frac{partial{f}(0)}{partial x_k}) and you have a regression: [y=alpha_0+alpha_1 x_1+…+alpha_k x_k + varepsilon]

## Cognition and Comic Sans

Here’s a paper that will provoke a wave of denial in type nerds everywhere. Short version: setting information in hard-to-read fonts, including Comic Sans Italic, led to better retention amongst research subjects because of “disfluency”. When you have to work harder to read it, you remember it better. Abstract: Previous research has shown that disfluency – the subjective experience of difficulty associated with cognitive operations – leads to deeper processing. Two studies explore the extent to which this deeper processing engendered by disfluency interventions can lead to improved memory performance.

## Every Mixed Metaphor has its Fifteen Minutes in the Sun

So, the World Cup’s most famous precognitive German cephalopod, Paul, has predicted from his tank in Oberhausen that Spain will beat Holland on Sunday, leading to various death threats, offers of state protection from the Spanish government, and a proliferation of calamari recipes circulating amongst my Dutch friends on FaceBook. All of which means, surely, that it really is true that some people are hoping that the fascist octopus has sung its swan song.

## England's Finest

No, not that lot, obviously. (I hope Rooney put a downpayment on that caravan.) But even I have started to feel just very slightly bad about the recriminations and self-hatred engulfing English football writers at present. So here, as evidence of the sort of thing England is really quite good at, is The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. One more:

## The Case of the Disappearing Teaspoons

Morning and Afternoon Tea are the twin social hubs of Australian academia, so it’s only natural that a disturbing tearoom phenomenon would be noticed, investigated and subsequently published in the British Medical Journal: The case of the disappearing teaspoons: longitudinal cohort study of the displacement of teaspoons in an Australian research institute. Objectives To determine the overall rate of loss of workplace teaspoons and whether attrition and displacement are correlated with the relative value of the teaspoons or type of tearoom.

## To each according to his knees

New this season, shoes designed to make everyone two meters tall. As you may know, following the passage of the Health Care Reform bill these shoes are now mandatory for all Americans.

## I think I know what you mean ...

Seen on campus this morning:

## Carroll on Colbert

Cosmic Variance’s Sean Carroll doing a very good job indeed on The Colbert Report. That shit is hard. Along the way he makes deft use of a Dara O’Briain line (“Of course science doesn’t know everything — if science knew everything, it would stop”) that I believe I introduced him to, so therefore I take full credit for all the laughs he got and expect to receive a check for any royalties accruing from Colbert-related sales.

## On Knowing when to Stop

Bill Watterson gives an interview, his first in quite a while: Readers became friends with your characters, so understandably, they grieved—and are still grieving—when the strip ended. What would you like to tell them? This isn’t as hard to understand as people try to make it. By the end of 10 years, I’d said pretty much everything I had come there to say. It’s always better to leave the party early.

## On Knowing how to Start

Mark Pilgrim: I’m a three-time (soon to be four-time) published author. When aspiring authors learn this, they invariably ask what word processor I use. It doesn’t fucking matter! I happen to write in Emacs. I also code in Emacs, which is a nice bonus. Other people write and code in vi. Other people write in Microsoft Word and code in TextMate+ or TextEdit or some fancy web-based collaborative editor like EtherPad or Google Wave.

## Al Gore, Type Nerd

Al Gore asks for, and gets, a redesign of the Roman ‘1’ in Brioni, the typeface used to set his new book.

## The Visual Display of Stupid

I’d almost be happier if this turned out to be some kind of fake. But in the meantime, while you may think of it as a badly flawed and unfair pie chart, I prefer to see it as actually just an extreme version of a genuine pie chart.

## ASA Bingo 2009

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

## Unibody construction, now with added features

MacBook New Feature from COREANOMAC on Vimeo.

## Friday Night Frivolity: Finnish Edition

I had all my wisdom teeth removed earlier today and so I am perhaps not quite at the peak of my game. Although, if you ask me, there is quite a good argument to be made that the AMR is best read while high on a cocktail of extra-strength Advil, Vicodin, and Haagen Daz ice cream. Here instead, in honor of Teppo, is a clip from an episode of BBC car show Top Gear featuring one of the presenters, James May (aka “Captain Slow”), getting a lesson in rally car driving from Mikka Häkkinen, and subsequently entering a local Folk Rally.

## Wife Swap

Excerpts from an email forwarded from a philosopher of my acquaintance: Hello, I hope you are doing well! I am a casting producer for ABC Television’s hit reality show, Wife Swap. I am currently trying to cast families that promote philosophy as a discipline for a special episode of our show and thought perhaps you might know some scholars that would be interested in such an opportunity. An ideal family would have 2 parents that are both philosophers and children that also believe in the discipline.

## Aigamemnon (A Fragment)

CLYTAEMNESTRA Citizens of Argos, you Elders present here, I shall not be ashamed to confess in your presence my fondness for my CEO, billions of dollars of losses notwithstanding. First and foremost, it is a terrible evil for a wife to sit forlorn at one of her several homes, severed from her husband, always hearing many malignant rumors, and for one messenger after another to come bearing tidings of disaster, each worse than the last, and cry them to the household.

## All You Zombies

To be honest, watching the anchors and reporters draaaaaaag out the joke and gnaw it to death makes it clear that the real zombies are holding down well-paying jobs presenting local news. I especially liked the vox pop with the caption “Jane Shin / Drove by sign”.

## The uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy (Suburban Line)

The Milky Way Transit Authority. (Via Elaine.)

## Uh oh. Somebody cut the cake. I told them to wait for you, but they cut it anyway. There is still some left, though, if you hurry back.

I missed this bit of DC think-tank inside-baseball yesterday. Matt Yglesias wrote something critical about Third Way: Third Way is a neat organization — I used to work across the hall from them. And they do a lot of clever messaging stuff that a lot of candidates find very useful. But their domestic policy agenda is hyper-timid incrementalist bullshit. Shortly thereafter, GlaDOS Jennifer Palmieri of the Center for American progress appeared from behind the scenes and posted to Matt’s blog: This is Jennifer Palmieri, acting CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

## A Nightmare from which I am trying to Awake

Signs that things are very bad: Emacs 23 from CVS + ESS + Auctex, + a custom color theme. Brought back from the dead because while TextMate has many virtues, Emacs still, unfortunately, beats all-comers for coding with R.

## Oppressed by Social Forces

Allow me a bit of a rant. Until a few volumes ago, Social Forces typeset its articles in Minion Pro, a modern serif face well-suited to lengthy stretches of text. Then, for no apparent reason, the journal was redesigned. (I speak loosely.) Minion was retained for the title, abstract and acknowledgment note, but the body text is now set in a light version of Zurich or Univers. OrgHeads will recognize the latter as the font that Administrative Science Quarterly is set in.

## You Little Bobby Dazzler

Soc Blogger Jeremy Freese won this year’s Interactive Fiction Competition, where the goal is to write a text-based puzzle game in the tradition of stuff like Infocom classics. The premise of Jeremy’s game, Violet, is summarized by the Chronicle of Higher Education: It’s noon and you’ve still got 1,000 words to type. That might not seem like much, but it’s been months since you’ve last worked on your dissertation and distractions are plentiful.

## One Short

Tomorrow, Max Sawicky is leaving DC and travelling to Tucson. I am leaving Tucson and travelling to Austin, for a conference. Therefore, by the law of conservation of bloggers, which I just made up, someone must be travelling from Austin to DC. Step forward, whoever you are.

## There are some things money can't buy

Large Hadron Collider: $350 billion. 2,800 Physicists and support personnel:$450 million. Lab Coats, Jolt and caffeinated mints: \$25,000. Accidentally annihilating everything within a couple of light years: Priceless. (Via Brad DeLong.)

## Chat-up lines

Obviously suffering from some sort of nervous exhaustion, Josh Chaftez is having a competition to find the best Political Theory Pick-up Lines. Here’s my entry: It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the queen of France, then the dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. Until now. Just call me an old-fashioned romantic. Kevin Drum, on the other hand, is taking a rather more crude approach.

## The Secret of My Success

John Quiggin is wishing for a custom menu in his wordprocessor with an option to “Convert Random Factoid and Sentence Fragments to Scintillating Prose.” He is not being nearly ambitious enough. Thanks to a handy extension I picked up a few years ago, I have all kinds of other productivity enhancements built into the applications I use. (I wish I knew who originally came up with this, by the way.

## A Nasty PowerBook Problem

David Adesnik has been taking some flak about his mistaken belief that Windows is somehow a better operating system than Mac OS X. Having been a confirmed Linux nerd for several years, I now divide my time equally between OS X and Linux. I bought a PowerBook late last year. Since getting it, I’ve found myself using it much more than Fiachra, my monster Linux workstation that looks like it fell out of a stealth bomber.

## Second Lowest Form of Wit

Jean Baudrillard (Apologetic): I’m sorry I’m so late for dinner, dear, I got stuck at the office. Have I missed everything? Mrs Baudrillard (Annoyed): Welcome to the dessert of the meal. I know there’s a genre of these jokes waiting to be born.

## Matrix Algebra

I went to see Matrix Reloaded last night and thought it was pretty piss-poor stuff. Here is the basic plot structure: Overly-long, self-involved, opaque speech from Character X. Overly-long action sequence. Lather, rinse, repeat. That’s about it. Car chases, kung-fu and the endless speechifying of Morpheus, the Council Member, the Oracle, Agent Smith, the Merovingian and finally the Architect: it was a bit like channel surfing between a Monster Truck rally, Drunken Master and a C-SPAN Senate Finance Subcommittee hearing.

## The Eurovision

Our American readers may think their culture has a lock on kitschy television events. Between American Idol and the innumerable reality shows, they have a good case. Indeed, it’s because of such awfulness that some segments of American society pine for Yerp (as I believe Clive James called it), a semi-mythical land of culture, sophistication and heritage which many Americans believe they visit each year when in fact they are in Italy, or France or some other actual country.

## Friday Lunchtime Ideas...

… are usually not the best ideas, especially when you have some kind of horrible sinus/allergy thing going on. However, I think the world is ready for Blogger DeathMatch Matt Yglesias vs Matt Welch. Daniel Davies vs Daniel Drezner. Iain Coleman vs Iain Murray. Josh Chafetz vs Josh Marshall. Invisible Adjunct vs Cranky Professor. Steven Den Beste vs Shorter Steven Den Beste. People would pay good money, I’m telling you. Feel free to suggest others.

## Get out of California, Kid

So I’m working away here by the pool of the Hotel Del Sol here in San Franciso, and this couple drive up next to me and go to check in. Their three-year-old wanders around, and looks at the pool. His Dad comes out with the keys and says “Hey, isn’t that a nice pool?” The kid looks at it. “Where’s the hot tub?” he says. “Well, not all pools have hot tubs,” Dad replies.

## Krispy Kraziness

I went into a Krispy Kreme for the first time the other day. Every time I go by the place there’s a long line of cars at the drive-in window, and I’ve heard all about the company’s phenomenal growth rate. I wondered what all the fuss was about. So I went in. “I’ll just buy one doughnut,” I said to myself. I was lucky to get out alive. The air was full of the sickly smell of warm syrup.

## Variations on a Theme

We all know “Dog Bites Man” is not news, though it can be poetry. The recent, widely-covered Man Bites Dog incident is the classic antithesis. In this case a drunken guy bit a police dog outside a bar. But what about the other permutations? Bite Dogs Man: Human-interest follow-up on the previous story: Man cannot shake bad reputation following the dog-biting incident and now has trouble finding work. Man Dogs Bite: Sympathetic profile of local postal worker.

## Nina Simone

Nina Simone has died at the age of 70. Here’s a collection of hers that has some of her best recordings, including “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, “Mississippi Goddamn” and the astonishing I Put a Spell on You. The clip doesn’t do it justice: In particular, you don’t get to hear her sing And I don’t care if you don’t want me, I’m yours right now. Brrr.

## New GMOs

Over dinner with my vegan wife, conversation turned to GMOs. (After close observation over a period of years, I can say the benefits of being vegan are manifold. The main downside seems to be endless conversations about it with defensive and/or offensive carnivores. The carnivores always start these conversations.) I started thinking about hypothetical GMOs that would do well on the Irish food market and came up with the Pigtato. Main benefits: (1) Contains most of the ingredients for a full Irish breakfast.

## Tax Day

Tax Day is a good day to remember the late Jeff MacNelly classic 1040 Form cartoon. The online version is just a little too low-resolution to fully appreciate, but I can’t scan a better one because my copy is at home in Ireland, in a book called The Gang of Eight. I remember buying it in the late 1980s, but it took me till well after I got to the U.S.

## Three Quarks

Dean Allen, of the incomparable Textism, has an entertaining rant up about the evils of Quark Express and its 90% market share. I hesitate to ask what he thinks of LaTeX, the typesetting system I use to produce everything I write and one of the three applications I can’t live without. (The other two are Emacs and R.) LaTeX is very powerful, quite old, rather unfriendly and completely free. That about sums it up.

## Betrayed by Consumerism

I went to Borders yesterday and bought a DVD. I took it home, planning to watch it. I spent the usual 15 minutes struggling with the absurd multi-layered, hermetic packaging system that has somehow been instituted for CDs and DVDs. This combines the worst qualities of the packaging of medical waste and high-quality shirts. Like medical waste, the DVD is sealed inside several layers of plastic, some of which are thin enough to be almost invisible yet tough enough to be difficult to cut.

## Mixing it Up

A reflective post from Mark Kleiman about the war that also, in passing, wins the Mixed Metaphor of the Month Award: The other was the Richard Perle “paper tiger” scenario, where the regime turned out to have a glass jaw. “The Iraqi leaders were supposed to go down like a house of ninepins,” he did not add. I’m not picking on Mark’s excellent blog, by the way. It’s just that, thanks to an English teacher in my past, mixed metaphors tend to jump out at me like a house on fire.

## English as she is Wrote

Kevin Drum’s liberal optimism comes out in interesting ways. For instance: Still, the basic idea is sound: given that most of our misspellings are now corrected for us by computers, the only thing standing between us and perfect spelling is homonyms. Alas, the main thing standing between us and better writing may be Microsoft Word. This is probably just sheer prejudice on my part, however. Kevin’s list of usage rules for homonyms is very useful—just the kind of thing that my students need stapled to their monitors.

## Things I Can't be Wrong About

Since Descartes’ cogito ergo sum, philosophers have thought that the content of our own conscious experience is the most indubitable thing each of us knows. Based on some recent experiences, however, I am willing to risk adding at least two more more things to the list. Whether the Taxi is outside my house. My house is hard to find. I have had several conversations that go like this: Dispatcher: The driver says he’s outside your house now.

## Busy

Looks like blogging is going to be pretty light this week, and probably non-existent next week, for a mix of work and personal reasons. I’m sure you’ll all cope. All you need to remember are four things: 1 It’s a good cause, but the guys in charge are going to screw it up. Incidentally, although the U.S. state is the most powerful organization in the world, it’s not some kind of omnipotent godlike force.

## Dept of Dangling Modifiers

A minor classic from a recent New Yorker article about the Augusta National golf club: Burk is headquartered in a small room on the tenth floor of an aging Washington office building; she is not paid by the council, and her only full-time paid employee is a pleasant young woman with a nose ring named Rebecca, who sits at the front desk. Never mind about the nose ring—- what’s the young woman’s name?

## Spiffy Tech II

Further messing with Movable Type plugins, designed to widen the distance between myself and the great unwashed masses trapped on BlogSpot. I installed SmartyPants and MT-Textile. SmartyPants gives typographically correct quotes “like this” (or ‘like this’) and also—hurray!—correct em-dashes as well as … wait for it … proper ellipses. MT-Textile implements Dean Allen’s excellent Textile markup system, which makes entering formatted text much easier. You don’t have to worry about all the HTML tags, so you can concentrate on your writing more, but you still get the benefit of nicely-formatted text.

## Bite-size Items

Business intrudes on blogging. For shame. In the meantime, some random thoughts: When someone raises the “meme” meme I am “tempted” meme to “reach” meme for my “crap” meme. Why has the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy, widely linked to by warbloggers, adopted this logo? Surely it stinks of the cheese-stained streets where it was made and should be returned to them forthwith, along with a huffy note. Democracy in Iraq—- great idea.
##### Wed, Feb 19, 2003

Matt Yglesias wonders whether being made to read small amounts of material very, very carefully “is a fact about philosophy departments in general, or the Harvard philosophy department in particular”. It’s a fact about analytic philosophy. Especially the M&E people. Every clause counts with them, because there’s no data, only argument. So there aren’t any casual arguments. A related phenomenon is that philosophy papers will often have only six or seven citations, which would be unheard of in many other fields.

## Speak, Memory

Kevin Drum talks about research on memory and memory distortion by Elizabeth Loftus. She looks at how false memories can be created with a bit of suggestion. My good friend Mara Mather at U.C. Santa Cruz also studies memory distortion. Her work is interesting because it focuses on how people remember the details of their own choices and decisions. She suggests that there’s a tradeoff between accurate remembering and current well-being.

## How you Play the Game

Chris Bertram muses about metaphors, specifically about machine metaphors for the mind (clockwork, hydraulic, computer) and gaming metaphors for society (bowls, billiards, football). Whether a society’s basic outlook is reflected in or by its games is one of those interesting problems that’s more tractable over a few beers than it is actually researchable. Two axes that immediately suggest themselves are national preferences for team vs individual games, and games of skill vs games of chance.

## Problems

Some people seem to be having problems viewing this site. I can’t reproduce them myself, it’s hard for me to fix. If the page layout looks weird to you, drop me an email about it, and tell me what browser and operating system you’re using.

## Sharing Birthdays

David Post notes that Lincoln shares a birthday with Darwin and wonders whether there are two other people who has as big an impact on things and who also share a birthday. Couldn’t tell ya, myself. But I do know that Keynes was born on the day that Marx died.

## First New Post

This is a test post to see if everything is working with the new website. It’s all just too exciting.

## Reverse Tinkerbell Example

David Post over at the Volokh Conspiracy has discovered the concept of self-defeating or ‘suicidal’ prophecies. The modern locus classicus of this idea (to coin a phrase) is Robert K. Merton’s essay “The Unanticipated Consequences of Purposive Social Action”, published in the American Sociological Review in 1936 (J-Stor Link1:6%3C894:TUCOPS%3E2.0.CO;2-O)). Here’s an essay by Rob Norton on the topic. David also wants to coin a phrase and eventually settles on the “Reverse Tinkerbell Effect” to describe the phenomenon.

## That Blissful Hour

Kevin Drum has a post up about the dangers of nostalgia. It reminds me of a poem by Billy Collins, which I happen to have right here in a text file, so I don’t have to type it all out: NOSTALGIA Billy Collins Remember the 1340’s? We were doing a dance called the Catapult. You always wore brown, the color craze of the decade, and I was draped in one of those capes that were popular, the ones with unicorns and pomegranates in needlework.

## Two Religious Items

Via The Rittenhouse Review comes The Infant of Pague Blog. Brrrr. I (along with most Irish people, I think) know the guy as the Child of Prague. The Child of Prague could be very small (a few centimeters) or positively enormous. My grandfather had one I swear was about two feet tall. The thing about Child of Pragues was that the statue was so cheaply made that the head would inevitably break off, the neck being the weak point in the design.

## The Golden Apples of the Sun

Here is something I think about around this time each year. Newgrange is a megalithic tomb in County Meath’s Boyne Valley, in Ireland. It is more than five thousand years old. It was built around 3200BC. It is five hundred years older than the Great Pyramid of Giza and about a thousand years older than Stonehenge. When it was rediscovered in 1699, it looked like an ordinary hill. It was properly excavated beginning in 1962, when archaeologists thought it was a particularly fine example of a passage grave, but nothing more.

## Qualia

Brad DeLong has a post worrying about color perception, and in the comments thread, D-Squared correctly points out that you can’t boil problems in the phenomenology of perception down to physics or biology. This gives me a chance to link to Dave Chalmers, friend, philosopher, blog-reader and all-round qualia expert. Dave’s book, The Conscious Mind, will tell you about consciousness and qualia of all kinds (absent, fading, dancing, inverted, others). On the specific topic of color, Alex Byrne and David Hilbert’s anthologies on the Philosophy of Color and the Science of Color might be a good place to start.

## To Boldly Go

Yesterday was grammar day, and I’m reluctant to turn it into grammar week. But a comment in this post on How Appealing just seems designed to provoke: Received an email from Fifth Circuit Judge Jerry E. Smith this morning entitled “Units of time or value and the genitive possessive.” The email states: Getting this one wrong is as bad as splitting an infinitive. There should be no legitimate split of authority on this plain rule of grammar (as there is, for example, on whether “none” is singular or plural).

## Bach

I’m listening to Bach’s Christmas Oratorio at the moment, and I’m reminded of a story about the Pioneer 10 spacecraft, which was sent out into the universe with its famous gold plaque and gold record containing samples of the Earth’s sounds and music. The idea was that, should some advanced alien beings come across Pioneer 10 in the distant future and listen to the record, they would think that its makers must have been a bit civilized.

## Opposites Intact

“Oversight Blamed in Alaska Crash” says Yahoo news. Oversight is one of those odd words that can be its own antonym. “Federal Oversight” means someone from the government is keeping an eye on things. But “That was an oversight on my part” means that I wasn’t keeping an eye on things. I can think of a few other words that fall into this category. Sanction can mean both “to permit” and “to forbid”.

## I Switched

This post is embarrassingly long, and full of geeky crap. Cut to the chase and just look at the screenshot. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and I finally switched to a TiBook. My old laptop—- a dedicated GNU/Linux machine from a dot-bomb casualty called Tuxtops—- was on its last legs. It’s pretty beat up and slow, and doesn’t have a lot of RAM. I could have lived with that for a while longer, but recently it developed a disturbing tendency to turn itself on while closed and in its case.

## Scribble, Scribble, Scribble

Amidst the tributes to John Rawls (see Jacob Levy and Chris Bertram for a catalog), I was struck by a comment from Thomas Nagel’s essay on Rawls from 1999: It is striking how slowly and deliberately he began. Rawls was born in 1921, and his first article was published in 1951, his second in 1955, and his third in 1958. The latter publication, “Justice as Fairness,” presents the basic idea of his contractualist theory; in the next decade there came six more essays that worked out the conception that would finally appear in 1971 as A Theory of Justice.

## When He Was Funny

On my way back from Chicago last night, I was listening to some of Woody Allen’s old nightclub standup routines. (Hurray for Bose Noise-Cancelling headphones, iPods, and other halves who own both of these items.) Random bit from the end: I wish there was some kind of positive message I could leave you with. Would you take … two negative messages? Well I thought it was funny.

## Varia

Various pieces of food for thought this morning. CalPundit makes a sharp observation about life in academia (where I live—- you know, the place controlled by evil postmodern relativist feminazis). Junius points to a great post by Eve Tushnet about how to properly argue with your opponents. In essence, her point is to try arguing against actual people rather than labels. Although it’s fun to write hectoring essays demolishing straw men, people have quotable views, whereas labels don’t.

## Ta Rax Rum

I’ve just discovered AtlanticBlog. It’s by William Sjostrom, who describes himself as “an American economist living and working in Ireland.” Working, in fact, at University College, Cork, my alma mater. So AtlanticBlog counts as another UCC blog, the only other one I know of. Though seeing as it’s written by a Chicago-trained economist, it’s composed of fundamentally different elementary particles from this one. William’s research page says he’s working, amongst other things, on “rationality and the Irish voter”.

## Moral Luck

I blogged recently about causal and moral respobsibility, and mentioned in passing the disturbing phenomenon of moral luck. Moral luck was identified by Thomas Nagel and Bernard Willams, who point out that contingent circumstances—- birth, geographical location, being in the right place at the right time—- can make a difference to our evaluation of a person’s moral worth. Imagine someone, for instance, whose personality and beliefs would have led him to participate cheerfully in genocide in Bosnia, were it not for the fact that he was living a quiet life in Kansas at the time.

## Busy Busy

Very busy these last few days, despite not even having a vote. Meanwhile, all you Irish-Americans out there should read Mark Kleiman’s passing mention of NORAID. NORAID’s website mentions its charitable efforts helping “ex-POWs and their families with personal, family and career counseling, job training and support in fighting the social and economic discrimination they face because of their status as veterans.” Veterans, that is, of political acts like this one, or this one, or perhaps this one (though those would be the “Real” vets).

## If I were You

Eugene Volokh blogs today about counterfactuals, complaining that Exhibit A, “If men had babies they would not create bombs” is about as reasonable as Exhibit B, “If my grandmother had wheels she’d be a trolley car.” I don’t disagree with him, but it’s interesting to see this objection coming from a lawyer. I can’t think of any other field where the use of counterfactuals—- or “hypos” as the law people call them—- is so pervasive.

## Philosophical Gourmet

All though they are in principle calm and clear-headed people, and not at all prone to the irrationalities that afflict the rest of us, analytic philosophers nevertheless get as anxious as a bad child at Christmas when The Philosophical Gourmet Report gets published. The Report is a ranking of Graduate Programs in Philosophy in the English-speaking world, with the main focus being on analytic rather than continental philosophy. It’s the creation of Brian Leiter, of the University of Texas at Austin.
##### Mon, Oct 28, 2002

In my post about the shootings this morning at my University, I asked “What am I supposed to do, buy a gun myself or something?” Well, Clayton Cramer thinks I should do just that: Unfortunately, mass murderers don’t pay attention to those signs [The U of A is supposed to be a “Weapon Free Zone“—KH] Only their victims do. I’m not saying that for sure repealing this policy would have prevented this crime.

## KH's Weblog Reveals Secret WRD Program

Despite recent refusals to be drawn into escalating blogger rhetoric about “fisking” and “idiotarianism,” and its professed distaste for snide cheap shots, high ranking officials at Kieran Healy’s Weblog today admitted to secretly maintaining a Weapons of Rhetorical Destruction (WRD) program of their own. Prompted by questions from opposition groups, Weblog officials affirmed that their posture of neutrality was a sham and that they now followed the Sawicky Doctrine. “Though we will not strike first, empty rhetorical attacks will henceforth be retailiated against with all necessary force” a diplomat said.

## Holes

AP reports that the Ozone hole over Antarctica has shrunk, and split in two. Now, it seems OK so say a hole is shrinking. How a hole splits in two is harder for me to see. What exactly is doing the splitting? Or maybe splitting (extra matter coming in one particular way) is just a special case of shrinking (extra matter coming in all around, more or less). But that seems weird, because by adding matter you get more holes.

## Vive le diff-- no, wait

CalPundit notes: There is, in fact, one European country that shares most of America’s attitudes and values: Uniquely for western Europe, they value independent military action and have a strong martial culture. They generally speak only their own language, and when they do speak other languages they do it badly. They believe in the superiority of their culture and aggressively try to export it abroad though with minimal success these days.

## Beyond the Pale

Todd Zywicki of The Volokh Conspiracy is wondering about the origins of the term “Beyond the Pale”. He notes that a Pale is a collection of boundary sticks, so its origins lie in the marking of territory. As every Irish schoolboy knows (this former Irish schoolboy, at any rate), the Pale was the area of English influence in Ireland prior to the Elizabethan plantations. Though widely settled by the Normans in the early part of the milennium, by the Tudor period the force of English rule in Ireland did not stretch reliably outside an area around Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow.

## Font Junkie

Loyal readers (a big shout-out to my cat) ask, What have I been doing for the last two days? Have I been writing papers? Gathering data? Teaching classes? Somewhat. But mainly, I have been getting Adobe Caslon to install properly under TeX on Linux, so that I can use a beautiful typeface (with old-style figures) for my notional book draft. This was made more difficult by the fact that I bought the cheap package rather than the base font and expert set.

## Another Essay Service

I discovered another site offering to polish your persona for application to college. This one is called Edit Strategies, and promises “Yale-Educated Editors At Your Service”. It seems a little less egregious (and a little more downmarket) than Ivy Success, which I wrote about last month in Purchasing the Right Personality For College. At least the people at Edit Strategies say up front they won’t actually write your essay for you.

## The Ideal Transport Situation

Laurie and I own a 1988 Volkswagen Quantum Syncro (just like this one, only not as nice). During a rainstorm this weekend, water got into the left-side headlight assembly and blew the bulb. Looking online for some information about fixing it, I discovered that the repair manual for our car was co-authored by none other than Jurgen Habermas, sociologist, philosopher and (until now) unacknowledged car mechanic extraordinaire. Several reviews of the book on Amazon confirm that this is a superb “application of the theory of communicative action to issues of automobile maintenance” and argue that it is “Habermas’s answer to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” How fantastically appropriate that he should have written the manual for a car jointly owned and driven by a sociologist and a philosopher.

## MapBlast's Linedrive

Via Karlo.org, I found out about MapBlast’s new way of mapping driving directions. If you’ve ever used MapQuest or some similar service, you’ll know the software spits out a street map with your route highlighted together with a table telling you where to turn and how far to drive along each segment of the route. MapBlast effectively combines these pieces of information by creating a vector diagram of the route. The relative scale of each leg is not built into the map scale, but is provided as a number on each segment.

## Hidden in Plain Sight

I know I link too much to Brad DeLong’s weblog, but this story from the memoirs of Sandy Woodward, who commanded the Falklands Battle Group in 1982, is just too good to pass by. It reminds me that I’ve been meaning to read Edwin Hutchins’ Cognition in the Wild for ages.

## Monster Truck

Leaving a restaurant last night, I saw a Cadillac Escalade EXT for the first time. It was taking up most of the parking lot. The EXT is Cadillac’s pick-up truck. If you’re surprised that Cadillac makes a pick-up, you’re not alone. In a review by Car and Driver magazine, John Phillips writes: Cadillac’s brand manager says, “Cadillac research showed that there was a real need for the EXT.” A real need for a Cadillac pickup?

## How to Run an Auction (in 1660)

When I was on holidays in Washington last month I bought the first volume of The Diary of Samuel Pepys at the Colophon bookstore in Fairhaven. Pepys’ diary is one of those “in the library of every civilized blah blah blah” books. Normally, I’m the worst kind of consumer of those. I feel morally obliged to buy them but then don’t open them afterwards. Knowing this, I only bought volume one.

## That Photo Doesn't Look Like You

I was at the DMV (or “MVD” as they say here) all morning, getting a new Driver’s License. Laurie came and got one, too. Because I am a worthless foreigner, my license is good only for the length of my current visa. But Laurie got a regular one (her being a bona fide citizen and all). It turns out that Arizona basically lets you have the same license forever! Laurie’s expires in 2041 or something.

## A Primer on Irish Political Scandal

The Ansbacher Report was published this week in Dublin, detailing an intricate web of tax evasion by Ireland’s business and political elite from the 1970s to the 1990s. (I looked in vain for any mention of relatives of mine in it.) It’s the latest nail in the coffin of a whole generation of Irish leaders—- religious, business and political—- born after the foundation of the state but before the end of World War Two.

## Grammar Pop Quiz

Here’s a snapshot of a New York Times article I was just reading. It happens to be about a drop in reading scores in New York Schools. (Ah, the irony.) Now look at the banner ad for NYU. Correct that second sentence as appropriate. (Also: Isn’t “Anemona Hartocollis” a superb name?)

## Photographs by David Krewinghaus

I wonder whether David Krewinghaus is ever going to start selling prints of the photographs he takes. He has a terrific eye for color and especially texture.

## National Football Strategies

It’s a well-established fact that a country plays football in a manner consistent with its national character. The strategies of major footballing nations for the World Cup show this is still true. Here’s a run down on some World Cup plans that I got via email the other day. (Sorry I can’t attribute the source: I don’t know who came up with this.) The English Plan. Depending on the wind, the striker’s position may vary.