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Fri, Aug 16, 2013

Academic Feedback

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.
Mon, Mar 18, 2013

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
Fri, May 11, 2012

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.
Thu, May 3, 2012

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.
Sun, Aug 28, 2011

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.
Mon, May 23, 2011

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.
Sun, May 15, 2011

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.
Sat, Apr 23, 2011

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.
Thu, Feb 24, 2011

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.
Fri, Feb 4, 2011

Sure in this country you'd be known as Micheál 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.
Tue, Jan 4, 2011

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]
Tue, Dec 28, 2010

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.
Sat, Jul 10, 2010

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.
Mon, Jun 28, 2010

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:
Sun, May 23, 2010

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.
Mon, Mar 29, 2010

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.
Thu, Mar 11, 2010

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.
Mon, Feb 1, 2010

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.
Mon, Feb 1, 2010

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.
Mon, Jan 11, 2010

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.
Wed, Nov 25, 2009

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.
Fri, Jun 5, 2009

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.
Fri, Mar 20, 2009

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.
Mon, Mar 16, 2009

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.
Thu, Jan 29, 2009

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”.
Mon, Dec 22, 2008

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.
Sat, Dec 20, 2008

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.
Mon, Dec 1, 2008

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.
Wed, Nov 19, 2008

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.
Wed, Nov 12, 2008

Also, You Have Not Been Exclusively Selected to Receive This Offer

“Classmates.com User Sues; Schoolmates Weren’t Really Looking for Him”, reports Wired: When Classmates.com told user Anthony Michaels last Christmas Eve that his former school chums were trying to contact him, he pulled out his wallet and upgraded to the premium membership that would let him contact long-lost fifth-grade dodge-ball buddies and see if his secret crush from high school had looked him up online. But once he’d parted with the $15, Michaels learned the shocking truth: No one he knew was trying to contact him at all.
Tue, Nov 4, 2008

The Anxiety of Influence

I’m at CASBS this year. The other day (for Halloween) I was given a list all of the occupants who have been in the office I now sit in. The list includes Jacob Marschak, Harold Wilensky, David Landes, Ernest Nagel, Philip Selznick, Alvin Gouldner, Robert Bellah, Ruth Barcan Marcus, Fred Dretske and Ron Breiger. Crikey. I need to get back to work. Other CASBS trivia: in 1957, Gabriel Almond, Ken Arrow, Kingsley Davis, Karl Deutsch, E.
Wed, Oct 1, 2008

Google 2001

Though it may have seemed impossibly far off in our hazy youth, these days we fondly look back at the turn of the 21st century and think that was when the world was new and fresh and everything seemed possible. Or searchable, anyway. For one month only, here is Google’s index, c. 2001. It shows that we were present individually though not collectively. Besides nostalgia for this distant past, consider
Sat, Aug 30, 2008

New York, New York

From Overheard in New York: (family stands facing the empire state building) Tourist son: Mom, which one is the Empire State Building? Tourist mom: I think it’s the one with the circley top. (points to the Chrysler Building) Tourist dad: No, honey, it’s the one way out there, on the water. Tourist son #2: That’s the Statue of Liberty. [To no one in particular:] I can’t believe I’m part of this fucking family.
Fri, Aug 8, 2008

Jumping off the Edge of the American West

Mild-mannered Professor of History by day, Eric Rauchway emerges at night other times of the day in an altogether different guise. He’s going to swim a mile for charity (presumably in just a few seconds, and while wholly underwater). You can go ahead and donate some money to his cause. Comments are open on the topic of the Rauchfish’s origin story, his unique powers, his faithful sidekick, and the special properties of his suit.
Tue, Jul 22, 2008

Seriously, Beware Finland

“Beware Finland” jokes Matt Yglesias in a post about education policy. But, frankly, this is good geopolitical advice. Just ask the Soviets. Or consider the following statistics. I’d watch out for them, if I were you.
Tue, Jul 22, 2008

24/7 Solar Madness

Via Jim Lindgren at Volokh, some article from the Rocky Mountain News about Al Gore’s recent call for the U.S. to be fully running on renewable energy within a decade. The piece itself is hackery (though it does deftly compare Gore to Chairman Mao) but contains the following gem: Stanley Lewandowski, the general manager of the Intermountain Rural Electric Association, is one of the few utility officials willing to suggest that the prophet of global warming is strutting about like an emperor without his clothes.
Fri, Jul 11, 2008

Elementary Particles

I am all in favor of further work at the intersection of sociology and emerging work in biology, cognitive science and neuroscience. There is surely much to be learned. But, let’s face it, this seems needlessly limiting. Particle physics has been in the doldrums a bit lately, so they could do with some interdisciplinary reinvigoration. Also, their research budgets remain quite large. Below we see a picture of the emerging Standard Model of sociophysics, with which you will no doubt be quite familiar.
Sun, Jun 29, 2008

No idea more obscure and uncertain

You only have to hang around the world of social science research- or policy-related blogging for a few hours before you come across someone willing to snottily inform you, or some other luckless interlocutor, that although the finding of this or that paper may appeal to you, nevertheless don’t you know that Correlation Is Not Causation. Often this seems to be the only thing they know about statistics. I grudgingly admit that it’s a plausible-sounding rule, and in the textbooks and stuff.
Sun, May 25, 2008


Animation on public walls in Buenos Aires. Via Jenn Lena.
Tue, May 13, 2008

Blind Reviewer Voodoo Doll

Via Tina at Scatterplot, you must buy Wicked Anomie’s terrific Blind Reviewer Voodoo Doll. Designed for those moments when you need more than just a brisk letter to the journal editor explaining that your reviewer is unclear on a few points. This 9-inch doll (without hair) is lovingly crafted within the anomie studio and arrives finished and ready to be put to good use. This doll comes unstuffed, so that you can enjoy the cathartic act of shredding your own offending documents and stuffing them inside the doll.
Wed, Apr 23, 2008

Quintili Vare, legiones redde!

Next month I’ll be attending a conference at the ZiF Center/ZIF/) at the University of Bielefeld. The conference is not OrgTheory related, but Bielefeld is near the Teutoburg Forest, which in A.D. 9 was host to one of the great Organizational Disasters in history, when P. Quinctilius Varus led three Roman legions into the dense forest in torrential rain, where they were annihilated by a force of Germanic tribes led by Hermann (or Arminius).
Wed, Apr 9, 2008

Gratuitous Sesame Street

Like Henry, I bought the Old School Sesame Street collection for, uh, my kids. Yeah, totally for them. There’s all kinds of good stuff in there, including the God of the Classroom, Roosevelt Franklin. The improvised interactions with children who don’t always do what they are supposed to are also great. For instance, here is a great moment where Paul Simon sings an short version of “Me and Julio Down by the School Yard.” Slightly sour as always, Simon takes the song quite fast, as if he wants to just get it over with.
Mon, Apr 7, 2008

What to Buy at the Airport: Something that makes a loud ringing noise

So that way, you can do something about this: The European Commision has opened the door for mobile phones on planes, introducing measures to harmonize the technical and licensing requirements for mobiles services in the sky. This means that 90 percent of European air passengers can remain contactable during flights, according to the Commission. … As a result of the introduction of the measures by the Commission, local regulators will be able to hand out licenses to make services a reality.
Sat, Apr 5, 2008

Skeptic Dudes

Found by chance on Flickr. If Laurie runs another Arizona Ontology Conference next year, this should absolutely be the conference t-shirt.
Fri, Apr 4, 2008


Via John Gruber comes news that the already somewhat odd augmenting of U.S. currency with larger typefaces and random bits of color has taken a horrible turn. Behold the new five dollar bill. The new additions to this bill, apparently intended to increase legibility and accessibility, were made by my daughter, who is four. Or possibly by Harold and His Purple Crayon. Actually, as the folks at Hoefler & Frere-Jones point out, this monstrosity is in fact “the work of a 147-year-old government agency called the United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
Wed, Mar 26, 2008


This picture is presently on the reddit front page under the byline, “The Coolest Guy Ever.” Some people in the comments thread are skeptical that such a person (and his parrot) could really exist, but I see him and the macaw pretty regularly as they drive around Tucson.
Mon, Mar 17, 2008

No Deletion for You

Further administrative processing has resulted in your previous identification being reidentified: You have been identified as having received an erroneous account deletion notification message. The problem that caused you to receive that message has been resolved and your account has been removed from the list of accounts that are scheduled to be deleted on 4/07/2008. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. Excellent. If you could hire a cash machine to write your email, this is what it would sound like.
Mon, Mar 17, 2008


I’m pretty sure I last saw one of these while playing Half-Life 2, but now it appears to be walking around New England somewhere. Just look at how it reacts about 40” in when the guy gives it a kick.
Mon, Mar 17, 2008

It was nice while it lasted

In my Inbox this morning, a message sent at 1:05am: ∗ Important Notice Concerning Your UA Email/Computer Accounts∗ Our records indicate that you may no longer be associated with the University of Arizona as a student or employee. Therefore, your UA Email, Computer Accounts, and/or Super computer account hosted by UITS is scheduled for deletion on April 7, 2008. Make sure to save any important email or data files to an alternative location, and notify those individuals with whom you communicate using this email address.
Mon, Mar 10, 2008

In the EEA, Tactical Nuclear Weapons Were Highly Fitness-Enhancing

For those of you who keep track of Satoshi Kanazawa—evolutionary psychologist, co-author of Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters, and the Fenimore Cooper of Sociobiology—is now blogging at Psychology Today Magazine. Let’s turn the mike over to him: Both World War I and World War II lasted for four years. We fought vast empires with organized armies and navies with tanks, airplanes, and submarines, yet it took us only four years to defeat them.
Fri, Feb 15, 2008

Another reason to use R

The wacky world of software licensing visits my inbox: The newest version of SPSS cannot leave the country according to our current licensing agreement and US Export laws. Additionally, graduate students are not legally allowed to work on laptops (regardless of ownership) that utilizes the university site license. As a result, we are imposing a hiatus on SPSS installations on laptops and on any system that will leave the country until this can be resolved.
Thu, Jan 24, 2008

National Histories

Ari at Edge of the West asks, … who’s the most important … [American] historical figure about whom most people know nothing? (I have edited the question slightly, because Ari is a historian and so writes 250-word blog posts that have five footnotes.) I don’t have many suggestions, because I am one of the “most people” in this case and ipso facto know nothing about potential contenders. But in the comments someone suggests Philo T.
Mon, Jan 14, 2008

Moral Hazard

Activated “Time Machine” backup feature on office Mac: Friday afternoon. First need to use Time Machine due to inadvertently deleted file: Monday morning.
Sun, Dec 9, 2007


“Neither snowmen nor reindeer nor blinking lights stays these couriers from swift completion of their appointed rounds …” (From the Parade of Lights this evening here in Tucson.)
Wed, Nov 28, 2007

A Switch in Time

This is awesome. For a year from September 2005, under the nose of the Panthéon’s unsuspecting security officials, a group of intrepid “illegal restorers” set up a secret workshop and lounge in a cavity under the building’s famous dome. Under the supervision of group member Jean-Baptiste Viot, a professional clockmaker, they pieced apart and repaired the antique clock that had been left to rust in the building since the 1960s. Only when their clandestine revamp of the elaborate timepiece had been completed did they reveal themselves.
Mon, Nov 26, 2007

English as she is Wrote

Via Matt Yglesias, a headline and subhead from a Newsweek profile of Giuliani: Growing Up Giuliani: Rudy Giuliani was raised to understand that fine, blurry line between saint and sinner. The making of his moral code. It seems to me that a line can be fine, or it can be blurry. I’m having a hard time visualizing a fine, blurry line.
Thu, Nov 22, 2007

Appalling Vista

This ad has been playing on various PC websites, such as CNET’s Windows Vista Overview page. It’s a very clever use of sidebars and ad banners.
Thu, Oct 18, 2007

How the Edwardians Spoke

A (slightly ponderous) documentary on a set of rare sound recordings of British and Irish POWs from World War I. First recordings are just after 10 minutes in. I liked the way the speed of the shellac recording is calibrated by matching an A note on the last groove to the A from a tuning fork. At 23” or so there’s a recording of a man telling the parable of the Prodigal Son, where the difference between the ‘a’ in father and the ‘a’ in man is quite striking.
Sun, Oct 14, 2007

Blog Posts Mean Publishing is Dead, an occasional series

Further evidence that blogging has eclipsed the Traditional Publishing Model. Exhibit A. How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read, by Pierre Bayard (2007). “A witty and useful piece of literary sociology” (LRB), “funny, smart, and so true” (Clare Messud), “evidently much in need” (NYT), “The runaway French bestseller … that readers everywhere will be talking about—and despite themselves, reading—this holiday season.” Exhibit B. Books I Did Not Read This Year, by Kieran Healy (2003).
Wed, Sep 19, 2007

Atlas of Creation

So Laurie, the lucky duck, got a copy of the Atlas of Creation, the amazingly large-format, glossy-photo-laden, funtastic creationist slice of life, courtesy of whoever is bankrolling its author Adnan Oktar. It’s a fantastic educational resource for our three-year-old: she’s already excited about cutting out the photos of the bunnies and fishies, etc, and making them into collages, puppets and so on. Strongly recommended.
Sun, Sep 9, 2007

Grad Students, Prospective and Otherwise

Thinking about getting a Ph.D? Try lying down until the feeling goes away. Didn’t work? Try (1) Tim Burke on how to tell whether you really want a Ph.D. (Short answer: probably not.) If you persist anyway and find yourself starting a program somewhere at the moment, then (2) Total Drek provides 22 Unhelpful Hints about making the best of it. They’re very good. And so are (3) My co-blogger Fabio Rojas’s Grad Skool Rulz.
Wed, Sep 5, 2007

Doc Socc

Superhero blogging is the province of other members of this collective. But here—via Dan Myers, outgoing chair of the Notre Dame sociology department—is Rory McVeigh, incoming chair of said department, welcoming new grad students to the program. Dan explains the hat in coldly rational terms. But I prefer to think we’re witnessing the birth of a new Supervillain: Doc Socc, whose origin story begins with the mild-mannered but brilliant young Rory being continually passed over when it was time to choose teams in grade school, and who subsequently used his genius to develop the FootieTron (pictured), a prosthetic attachment that enhanced his football skills a millionfold.
Tue, Aug 21, 2007


New baby, new semester, no new posts. I’ll catch up eventually.
Mon, Jul 23, 2007

Monsoon Season

Top: View of the University of Arizona and the Santa Catalina mountains, summer day. (My office is on the top floor of the building in the lower right foreground.) Bottom: View of the University of Arizona and the Santa Catalina mountains, summer monsoon. It’s just finishing up now.
Sun, Jul 22, 2007

Simpsonize Me

Simpsonize yourself by uploading a headshot, providing a few variables, and (allegedly) having it automatically converted. You can tweak the image afterwards. JamesJoyner thinks it’s lame. Here I am—I’ll leave the veridicality of the representation for others to judge. The site is a bit finicky, perhaps because it’s overloaded with users. If you get it to work, post a link to yourself in the comments.
Sun, Jul 22, 2007

Rediscovering Intelligent Design

Here is a likely poorly-specified question for biologists, prompted by wanting to buy Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us and then reading a story about genetically modified mice. Weisman’s book asks how the world would change and what of us would survive if humans were all wiped out overnight or just disappeared by something (a virus, the Rapture). The premise is unlikely (something that kills people—all people—but leaves the rest of the world standing) but intriguing.
Tue, Jul 17, 2007


As Atrios points out the Pope is indeed a Primate as well as a primate. This reminds me of watching RTE news years ago reporting on the death of Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiach, Primate of Ireland. The newscaster asked some talking head whether he preferred to remember the Cardinal as a man or a primate. I know which PZ Myers would pick.
Thu, Jul 5, 2007


Via Engadget comes news that Steorn are back with an allegedly working demonstration of their magnetic “free energy” (i.e., perpetual motion) machine, the Orbo. You may remember them from last year. As before, the reading on the kookometer is over in the red, as the device is being pitched directly to the media, the demo is taking place as a show at an art museum, and some convoluted jury system “challenge” is in place to validate it.
Fri, Jun 29, 2007

Annals of Personal Responsibility

So checking the post today I found a letter addressed to my son, inviting him to apply for a Citibank Platinum Select Mastercard. Up to 40,000 American Airlines airmiles included! I’ve had a chat with the little guy about it (I still call him the little guy—corny, I know, but other Dads will understand), and he won’t be signing up, partly because it’s a bad deal (18.24 percent variable rate, annual fee after the first year), but mostly because he is six and a half weeks old.
Sun, Jun 24, 2007

The Triffid

Because I have no talent for or interest in it, I have been putting off dealing with my garden—or yard, as we say in America. Although the landscaping is now on the domestic agenda, it may have been a serious error to wait so long. Because, over the past few months, this … thing … has grown up with astonishing rapidity by the side of my house, next to the A/C unit.
Sun, Jun 17, 2007

Zeitgeiiiiist, la la lala la la la la

One way or the other you probably know Ary Barroso’s song Aquarela do Brasil, either because you’re all up on classic Brazilian music from the 1930s and 40s or, like me, you have watched Terry Gilliam’s masterpiece Brazil, for which it’s the main theme. I show a clip of Brazil in my Complex Organizations class, were we follow the paper trail through the mass of clerks up to Mr Kurtzmann’s office.
Fri, Jun 15, 2007

Canyon Hike

Alan, a former student and co-author of mine (and recent graduate, congrats Alan), goes hiking in Black Canyon National Park and reminds me how spectacular the American West is. Sheer canyon walls with crazy rock climbers, fly-fishing for rainbow trout and terrific views along the way.
Sun, Jun 3, 2007

The Original Atheists

One of the perks of refereeing books for university presses is that you get to pick some books in lieu of money. I try to get stuff that I can’t really justify buying, such as interesting but expensive scholarly books from well outside my field. Which explains why I’ve been reading G.E.M de Ste. Croix’s Christian Persecution, Martyrdom, and Orthodoxy, a posthumously edited collection of papers. (Ste. Croix’s Big Red Book, The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World, is terrific, by the way, and rather cheaper.) One of the essays is a classic paper from 1963 on Christian persecution under the Romans.
Sat, Jun 2, 2007

Productivity Pr0n

Individual productivity is the science of organization and management writ small. It is also a key internal component of the Grad Skool Rulz. Thus, for deskbound workers of all sorts, tools and systems to enhance one’s productivity and make one a better person abound. Or from a different point of view, techniques of self-disciplining and governmentality seep ever deeper into everyday life. At any rate, I can confidently say that having a new baby in the house increases my incentive to make and abide by to-do lists.
Tue, May 29, 2007

Basically it's a Massive Pisser for You

Kevin Drum has often complained about the terrible state of data protection laws and the related burden of dealing with identity theft. Over the weekend, I was listening to That Mitchell and Webb Sound on Radio 4 and heard this sketch and thought it summed up the issues pretty well.
Sat, May 26, 2007

Plus ca Change

Steven Pinker reviewing Natalie Angier’s The Canon: Though we live in an era of stunning scientific understanding, all too often the average educated person will have none of it. People who would sneer at the vulgarian who has never read Virginia Woolf will insouciantly boast of their ignorance of basic physics. C.P. Snow, 1959: A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists.
Thu, May 24, 2007

They're Faster than You

By all accounts not any sort of couch potato, Ogged is understandably distressed to look at the age-group records for his chosen event, the 50 meters freestyle, and find that he has to go all the way up to the 75-79 age group to find a time he would stand a chance of beating. I have the related experience of having family members who are irritatingly athletic. For instance, my brother was on the Irish cross-country team and won a bunch of stuff in college.
Tue, May 22, 2007

Brood XIII

The 17-year Cicadas are coming. The fact that subsets of them are named by Brood Year and the current batch is Brood XIII is just fantastic. Surely (where’s John Holbo when you need him?) there is a ‘50s Attack of the Giant Cicadas film called Brood Thirteen. Or an early comic book? Even better, according to National Geographic, “Each brood of 17-year cicadas actually consists of three different species … and each one has its own song.
Fri, May 4, 2007

Beware the Spellchecker

This month’s issue of Contemporary Sociology contains the following erratum notice: In the January issue … in the review written by Elizabeth Gorman of The Work and Family Handbook: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives and Approaches, edited by Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, Ellen Ernst Kossek, and Stephen Sweet, the contributors’ last names should have been spelled “Karen Gareis” instead of “Karen Agrees,” “Laura Beavais” instead of “Laura Beavers,” and “Gerstel and Sarkisian,” not “Gretel and Sardinian.” We regret the errors.
Sun, Apr 29, 2007

Into the West

New Yorker Matt Yglesias’s westward march, from Washington DC to Santa Fe and maybe beyond, has been attracting some attention. So far the highlight has been what you might call the Fashion Trail of Tears, pictured here. An iconic image, I think. Today he freely admits to never having heard of Kit Carson (knowledge of whom had even made it to the Ireland of my youth) and notices how sunny it is in New Mexico.
Sat, Apr 28, 2007

Maybe where the Hidden Imam lives?

Via 3QD, Ernest Lefever writes about Africa and irritates my inner copyeditor: BECAUSE OF AND in spite of Hollywood films like The African Queen and television shows like Tarzan, tropical Africa south of the Sahara and north of the Zambezi is terra incognito for most Americans. I imagine a giant moustache on top of the Central African Republic. The CIA engages in the war on terra incognito. Others accept the opposing myth promulgated by Thomas Hobbs that in a “State of Nature,” there are “no arts, no letters, no society, and which is worse of all, persistent fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Maybe he’s confusing him with Russell Hobbs.
Fri, Apr 27, 2007

Childhood Horrors

So, in a fit of nostalgia I picked up a DVD of Wanderly Wagon episodes. Although marketed as “Vol 1” it seems to be a slightly haphazard collection of episodes, as these were the days (the 1970s) when most programs were not preserved on videotape. The second scene in the first episode re-introduces us to the character shown here, Sneaky Snake. I had forgotten about his fez. But the tiny rush of adrenaline that I felt as he hoisted himself up on his bench (prehensile tail and all) next to Dr Astro reminded me how much he used to scare the bejaysus out of me when I was a kid.
Tue, Apr 24, 2007

You Kids Get Off My Lawn

Today while walking across campus I had the sobering realization that many people who were not yet born when I started college will themselves be starting college this autumn. In an effort to spread this sinking feeling around amongst readers older than me, I started college in 1990, when I was seventeen. Whenever I teach an undergraduate class, I ask the students what’s the earliest major news event they can remember.
Sat, Apr 21, 2007


In-N-Out is opening a franchise in Tucson soon, not too far from where I live. This may well pose problems for my, uh, ruthless nutrition and fitness regime. I’m not a connoisseur of American fast food, but In-N-Out is pretty damn tasty. Sonic is apparently also worth a bypass. I mean detour. Two locations recently opened in Tucson, but I’ve never eaten there. I think the last really good fast food chain I ate at was a while ago in Auckland, where I got to try the frighteningly large burgers and dangerously tasty kumara fries at Burgerfuel, on Ponsonby Road.
Wed, Apr 11, 2007

The Paranoid Tendency in American Life

Driving home today I saw a guy standing by a busy downtown intersection holding a large sign that read, “9-11 Was An Inside Job.” It doesn’t quite rise to seeing a giant muppet-like creature holding the same sort of sign, but maybe he’s working on it.
Sun, Apr 1, 2007

Radio Tasty

After a moderately funny NPR April Fool’s piece on banning ringtones in New York, this sponsor announcement made me laugh out loud. On the news headlines that followed, the lead item was that the U.S. was scrambling to complete a huge free trade deal (“the biggest since NAFTA”) with North Korea.
Wed, Mar 28, 2007

The Sincerest form of Flottery

This is just too funny. John Lott, having had his lawsuit against Steven Levitt and Freakonomics thrown out, has gone and written a knock-off called—I’m not making this up—Freedomnomics: Why the Free Market Works and Freaky Theories Don’t. The jacket design is right out of the David Horowitz playbook, too. Presumably it’s blurbed by Mary Rosh. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to get back to the final chapters of my two forthcoming books, Greedonomics: A rogue trader shoots first and Fritonomics: Exploring the hidden side of snack foods.
Sun, Mar 25, 2007

St Kieran's Bones

I took a quick trip around Fantasy Island this morning, a series of fast, fun mountain-bike trails about twenty minutes from downtown Tucson. To get there, you drive past Davis Monthan AFB and AMARC, better known as the Boneyard. This is a huge complex of decommissioned, mothballed, cannibalized and just plain decaying U.S. military aircraft of all sorts. Here’s a Google Satellite Shot to give you a sense of the scale of the place.
Sun, Mar 11, 2007

It'ssss my birthday

And I got this cool present: These are Penguin 60s, the original (orange) series and the Classics, which Penguin brought out in 1995 for their 60th anniversary. (They recently issued a similar series for their 70th, though not in the United States.) When they came out I really wanted the Classics collection, but had no money. I remember there was a certain amount of snotty declensionist commentary on the sort of people who would only spend 60p for excerpts of Civilization rather than reading the originals entire.
Fri, Mar 2, 2007

Untruth in Nonadvertising

Via Gruber, comes a post about The Boring Store, which sells nothing of utility and definitely does NOT contain assorted spy equipment. Here’s a part of the awning:
Wed, Feb 7, 2007

Models of Bloggers

Henry remarks that “my mental model of Tyler [Cowen] often sit[s] on my shoulder while I blog, making polite and well reasoned libertarian criticisms of my arguments.” This follows on from Tyler’s own advice to his grad students: You have a model of me, a pretty good one, and you know what I will object to and what will delight me. The Phantom Tyler Cowen objects, in your head, before the real Tyler Cowen has much of a chance.
Thu, Jan 25, 2007

Toward a Catalog of Irish Public Service Ads

An under-appreciated genre, from the golden age of Irish television before the arrival of foreign channels in the early to mid 1980s. I was trying to remember these today because they came up in conversation for no very good reason. I’m sure I can’t have remembered them all. Help me out. The Safe Cross Code, with Judge. Obviously the most famous one. All Irish people between the ages of about twenty and forty can sing this.
Fri, Jan 19, 2007

Ah, Princeton

Exhibit A, Yale freshman Jian Li. He filed a civil rights complaint against Princeton for rejecting his early application, alleging bias against Asians in Princeton’s admissions process. Exhibit B, an Op-Ed by “Lian Ji” in the Daily Princetonian’s joke issue. An excerpt: Hi Princeton! Remember me? I so good at math and science. Perfect 2400 SAT score. Ring bells? … What is wrong with you no color people? Yellow people make the world go round.
Fri, Jan 12, 2007

Blogging avant la lettre

Analysis publishes a lot of relatively short papers, but this one26:6%3C208:ANOMB%3E2.0.CO;2-I)—by G.E.M. Anscombe—from 1966 seems close to the limiting case. The link goes to the JSTOR copy, which requires a subscription. No matter. I shall reproduce the paper in full here, including notes: A Note on Mr Bennett By G.E.M. Anscombe The nerve of Mr Bennett’s argument is that if A results from your not doing B, then A results from whatever you do instead of doing B.^1^ While there may be much to be said for this view, still it does not seem right on the face of it.
Wed, Dec 27, 2006

OrgTheory of a Kind

Here’s something I’d forgotten I’d written. An early, co-authored publication of mine in ASQ. Sadly, only the first page survives. In case you’re unfamiliar with the topic, I should say that the bibliographical references and quotations are all perfectly accurate. Any resemblance to this paper is wholly accidental.
Thu, Nov 30, 2006

Old Stalingrad -- I mean, Old Nassau

Just to piggyback on Henry’s post about Orson Scott Card’s new novel, I was pleased to learn from the excerpt Scott Lemiuex posted that, like me, the hero spent his grad student years at Princeton. Princeton University was just what Reuben expected it to be—hostile to everything he valued, smug and superior and utterly closed-minded. … Yes, a doctorate in history would be useful. But he was really getting a doctorate in self-doubt and skepticism, a Ph.D.
Mon, Nov 13, 2006

A Correspondent with a Future in Management

I just got an email from a stranger with a flair for delegation: Hello , I am a BSc student with the [X University] external program and a course that I am taking requires the reading of the book “ Sources of Social Power volume 1 by Michael Mann ” . Now while surfing i came across your email and i would like to know if you could give me a brief overview about this book and probably help me if i get stuck while going through it.
Sun, Oct 22, 2006

Nameless Horror

Via the common-as-dirt PZ Myers comes this site, which alleges it will tell you how many people in the U.S. share a name with you. The results are not encouraging. HowManyOfMe.com There are: 0 people with my name in the U.S.A. How many have your name? Now, I am in Australia at the moment, so technically this result might be true and the database technology underlying this website is disturbingly powerful.
Mon, Oct 16, 2006

More Burnham et al.

Here are some comments from Andrew Gelman on the Burnham et al. paper. People who’d like (or ought) to learn more about statistics could do worse than read Gelman and Nolan’s terrific Teaching Statistics: A Bag of Tricks. I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I am awaiting the publication of Gelman and Hill’s Data Analysis Using Regression and Multilevel/Hierarchical Models with a degree of anticipation that seems indecent (or unhealthy) to direct at a statistics textbook.
Thu, Oct 12, 2006

Statistics and the Scale of Societies

How many people are murdered in the U.S. every day? How many people die in car accidents every day? How many people die of heart disease in the U.S. in a year? What about the number who die for any reason at all? If you don’t know the answer to these questions, do you have immediate, confident intuitions about what the answers must be? The Lancet paper by Burnham et al.
Mon, Oct 9, 2006

Sometimes behaves so strangely

Just listen to at least the first few minutes of this radio show , which begins with the work of Diana Deustch, a psychologist who studies the psychology of music. The opening segment demonstrates a remarkable phenomenon, whereby a looped segment of ordinary speech appears—after a few repetitions—to become musical. Moreover, once you’ve perceived it as music, listening to the segment in context makes it sound like the speaker is in a Busby Berkeley musical and has just begun to segue into a solo number.
Thu, Oct 5, 2006

When boyhood's fire was in my blood, I read of ancient freemen

I just watched the trailer for 300, a film version of a Frank Miller graphic novel (which I haven’t read) about the battle of Thermopylae. Looks like the core of it is a good old relentless battle in the spirit of Zulu. There’s also some stuff on Sparta and its amazing toughness, Persia and its big golden thrones, and ambassadors to Sparta standing unwisely close to large open pits. The Spartan tradition of compulsory homosexuality was less in evidence in the trailer.
Sat, Sep 2, 2006


Via Dave Weeden, the latest moneyspinner to emerge from the labs at Scientology HQ in Clearwater, FL: Under wraps for decades, Super Power now is being prepped for its eventual rollout in Scientology’s massive building in downtown Clearwater. … A key aim of Super Power is to enhance one’s perceptions – and not just the five senses we all know – hearing, sight, touch, taste and smell. Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard taught that people have 57 “perceptics.” … Hubbard promised Super Power would improve perceptions and “put the person into a new realm of ability.” How much would you pay to receive this marvellous training?
Fri, Sep 1, 2006

Greece 101 -- USA 95

Somewhere in Athens, the Greek counterpart of Bjørge Lillelien is shouting into a radio mike, “Thomas Jefferson, William Hearst, Herbert Hoover, Warren Harding, Muhammad Ali, Paris Hilton—we have beaten them all! We have beaten them all! George Bush can you hear me? … Your boys took a hell of a beating!
Tue, Aug 22, 2006

Free Lunch and Irish Breakfast

A couple of chancers in Dublin calling themselves Steorn claim to have developed “a technology that produces free, clean and constant energy”—in other words, they say they have a perpetual motion machine. As they helpfully point out, this “appears to violate the ‘Principle of the Conservation of Energy’, considered by many to be the most fundamental principle in our current understanding of the universe.” On the other hand, Steorn’s actions thus far confirm some more sociological principles, including the first of the seven warning signs of bogus science, viz, “The discoverer pitches the claim directly to the media.” Steorn have published a “challenge” in the Economist seeking a “jury of twelve qualified experimental physicists.” All of this – and the media attention these guys are getting – makes me feel bad for some friends of mine at Science Foundation Ireland, who have worked very hard to build up Ireland’s scientific research infrastructure over the past few years.
Wed, Aug 16, 2006

Irish Pub in a Box

Soon after I moved to the United States in the autumn of 1995, I went to visit a friend in Boston. We went to a pub in Cambridge called—possibly—Grafton Street. It was an early example of the Irish Pub in a Box, sold as a unit and built to look like a slightly heightened version of the real thing back home. On the way I asked whether was like an Irish pub really, or just a poor imitation.
Sun, Jul 2, 2006

Reconciling Continental and Analytic Philosophy

Over at the Valve John Holbo has an epiphany upon reading the Author’s Note from Stephen Potter’s classic Lifemanship (a kind of joke English Bourdieu avant la lettre, or vice versa, but that is for another day). Here’s the author’s note: I have reprinted these lectures more or less as they were delivered. I have not thought it worth while making the small alterations deemed necessary. Any inaccuracies or repetitions must be put down to the exigencies of the platform – to the essential difference between the Written Word, which is inscribed, and the Spoken Word, which is, essentially, speech.
Sun, Jul 2, 2006

Count 'em

Is this some kind of record? France began this tournament saddled with worries about the ageing legs at the heart of their team, but they have changed their tune. We’re just missing a fascist octopus singing its swan-song.
Fri, Jun 30, 2006

Gender Trouble

Just before lunch, I had the following conversation on the phone: [Phone rings] KH: Kieran Healy. Woman: Oh, so you are a man. KH: Uh, yes, I am. Woman: This is [someone] at the editorial desk of the New York Times. We referred to you as a woman yesterday in a post on our Opinionator blog. We’ll change it now. KH: Oh, OK. Woman: Thank you. Goodbye. KH: Goodbye. The Opinionator is behind the Times Select Paywall, so I haven’t seen the original reference or the corrected one.
Fri, Jun 16, 2006

Watch and Learn

The other day Matt Yglesias said that the continuous flow of the game (and the fatuous American commentators) make it hard for him to learn what’s happening in a soccer match. Here’s a masterclass from Argentina, who beat Serbia & Montenegro 6-0 this morning. The clip doesn’t even show the first seven or eight passes that led to this astonishing goal. The nice thing about it is that it showcases the virtues of one-touch passing and elegant finishing.
Thu, Jun 15, 2006


Waiting for the England vs Trinidad & Tobago match to start (come on the Caribbean!), I came across this story about a giant ocean vortex spinning off the coast of Australia. The article notes in passing that the vortex is “visible from space.” I think this expression needs to be retired. These days, the hosereel in my back yard is visible from space, and conveniently catalogued in an NSA database somewhere.
Mon, Jun 12, 2006

Spam and Soccer

I just noticed via our Technorati Link Page that in the last few hours, CT has been linked to by dozens of (presumably) robo-generated blogspot blogs. Each one I’ve looked at is populated with a page of posts with content that looks like it was scraped from Wikipedia. All of them have names of the form AdjectiveNoun. My favorite name so far is TiredStation, which could be used by some pro-business content generators we know.
Mon, Jun 12, 2006

German Quagmire

The U.S. got schooled by the Czechs. The Times says that Dubya gave the team a call beforehand: Eager to prove they are among soccer’s elite after their surprising quarterfinal finish in South Korea four years ago, the Americans brought their most-talented team ever to this year’s tournament. They even got a pregame pep talk from President Bush, who called from Camp David before the game and wished them well. Today’s result shows diplomatic good wishes won’t do it, so that leaves the other two standard policy tools for strategic foreign intervention.
Thu, Jun 8, 2006

Meet the Press in Hell

A transcript from World O’Crap, with Tim Russert and panelists Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, Satan (“Call me Bob”) and Jesus Christ. A taste: Russert: Mr. Christ, what do you say to accusations that you’re opposed to fighting a battle to bring about the end of all life on Earth because you’re an Anti-Semite? Jesus: Well, first of all, I’d like to point out that I myself am Jewish— Ann Coulter: Yeah!
Wed, Jun 7, 2006

Ah, Tucson in June

From the weather forecast on the radio this morning: “Highs around 100 until Friday, warming up after that.” I’m looking forward to next month, when I’ll be in Palo Alto.
Sun, Jun 4, 2006

Allah! Allah! Dennis Bergkamp! Dennis Bergkamp!

The World Cup is only a week away, which means there is actually a reason to be in Tucson in June, if like me you (i) want to watch the games but (ii) are too cheap to buy the cable package and (iii) only have a useless old TV in the garage somewhere. (We’re close enough to the border to pick up the Mexican stations.) Here is a self-hating Englishman, deciding to support Germany because English footballers are oiks and English football fans are thugs.
Thu, May 18, 2006


I would like some Koranic Tuna with my BVM Toast, thanks. If I could talk Krishna into manifesting himself in some wasabi, lunch might get taken care of.
Thu, May 18, 2006

Dealing with Identity Theft

Wil Shipley, who writes the excellent Delicious Monster (BibTeX export and nice integration with LibraryThing in the next version, please please please) had his identity stolen recently. The story is the by-now standard one of frustration and anger, and is as yet unresolved. As Kevin Drum has been saying for some time, the law in this area is basically broken: the companies need to be responsible for fradulent accounts, just as banks and not customers are responsible if money gets robbed from the local branch’s safe.
Tue, May 9, 2006


Inside Higher Ed reports that some people got together and went through David Horowitz’s book The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America looking for errors. They found a bunch, of course, but by far the funniest one was the discovery that “While Horowitz’s book promises a list of the 101 most dangerous academics, he actually includes only 100.” The report says “that’s because he included at least two and possibly three professors in his introduction.” This stuff writes itself.
Tue, Apr 18, 2006

Name that Scheme

You sometimes see a rhetorical device were the author compares himself (or another) to some related group of people, real or fictional, and says that while one might have hoped to be x, it turns out one is actually y. So, for example, here’s one inspired by reading Untold Stories the other night. “When I was younger I hoped I might be Peter Cook, or even Jonathan Miller, but then I discovered I was really Alan Bennett.” As can be seen from this example, there is usually a strong element of faux-modest self-promotion in the apparent putdown, at least when the author is the subject of the comparison.
Sun, Apr 16, 2006


People speaking in some official capacity should always take care what they say, because they aren’t just speaking for themselves. The higher up the ladder you go, the more care you have to take. Most of the time inappropriate comments don’t even raise a laugh. So it’s hard not to feel a twinge of sympathy when someone is—rightly—made to apologize for having said something that’s actually funny. In this case it’s Police Chief Constable John Vine who, when speaking to the Perth Bar Association in Scotland, told a joke about Al Qaeda fathers chatting about their suicide-bomber sons.
Thu, Apr 13, 2006

Empirical Evidence for Distance Metrics in Counterpart Theory

Sorry to inflict kid-related anecdotes on you all. However. Scene: Two-year-old sitting in her cot with Teddy and Elmo. She has put a sippy-cup in front of Teddy. Me: “Oh, is Teddy drinking some water?” Pause. Kid: “No.” Me: “Why not?” Kid: “Teddy has no mouth.” Me: “Ah.” Kid: “Elmo has mouth. Elmo drink it.”
Wed, Apr 12, 2006

Exquisitely Mean

Kieran Setiya announces the results of his competition to find the best exquisitely mean review. The criteria were: The review must have a worthy target. Thus, I was forced to ignore, among other things, A. O. Scott’s review of Gigli. The review may be grossly unfair, but… It has to give good arguments, or memorable ones that contain a grain of truth. Finally, preference was given to reviews that made good use of sarcasm.
Wed, Apr 5, 2006

The Irish Person Thing

For some reason someone thought this clip from Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes was something Henry and I should read. I can’t imagine why. And although we didn’t want to … we traipsed over behind him. Where we had to do the Irish person meets other Irish person abroad thing. Which involved first of all pretending that we hadn’t realized the other was Irish. Then we had to discover that we had been brought up two minutes’ walk from each other, or that we’d gone to the same school, or that we’d met on our summer holidays in Tramore when we were eleven, or that our mothers were each other’s bridesmaids, or that his older brother had gone our with my older sister, or that when our dog got lost his family found it and brought it back.
Tue, Apr 4, 2006

Reaching into the Past

David Bernstein has been taking a few pot-shots at Oliver Wendell Holmes, suggesting that his reputation has declined. (This is part of David’s role as a footsoldier in the battle to rehabilitate Lochner vs New York as one of the Great Supreme Court Decisions.) I have no view one way or the other about Holmes, though I’m surprised that David didn’t throw in the fact that one of Holmes’ last clerks was Alger Hiss.
Wed, Mar 29, 2006

Kiddy Operetta

The NYT has a piece about a new Nickelodeon show called Wonder Pets, which follows the adventures of guinea pig, a turtle and a duckling, three schoolroom pets. The show’s main innovation is its music. The program is “a series of operettas.” “We wanted to find a way to have the music drive the show,” Mr. Selig said … “we found that kids responded well to having music at the center of everything,” with characters singing rather than simply speaking their parts.
Sat, Mar 18, 2006


“Whatte the swyve?” you say? Anothere of myne servauntes hath just dyede of the blacke death. This other useful acronyms from Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog. (Via Making Light.)
Fri, Mar 17, 2006

A Poem for Patrick's Day

As always, the choices are limited to maudlin, drunk, and maudlin drunk. I choose drunk. Rounds Carol Ann Duffy Eight pints of lager, please, and, of draught Guinness, nine; two glasses of pale ale—a squeeze of lemon in that port—a dry white wine, four rums, three G-and-T’s, a vodka—that’s the lot. On second thoughts, you’d better give me one more double scotch. A half of scrumpy here, and over there a stout.
Sun, Mar 12, 2006

Further Muppet Resistance

A while back I noted the disquieting resemblance between the Emperor Gorg (of Fraggle Rock) and L. Ron Hubbard (present whereabouts unknown). Now my sources have alerted me to this clip from the short-lived Muppets Tonight. The premise of the clip is a look back at “The Kermit Frog Club,” like the Mickey Mouse Club but with Kermit as the object of devotion and guest Cindy Crawford in the Annette Funicello role.
Sat, Mar 4, 2006

The Simpsons

The opening sequence of The Simpsons, only with real people. (English people, apparently.) Clever. Is it an amateur effort, or some marketing thing? Pretty damn impressive, if the former. A third, highly likely option is that it’s something that’s been floating around for a year or five which I only now have discovered.
Tue, Feb 28, 2006

Why Design Matters

Microsoft redesigns the iPod package. Hey, it’s funny, so it must be true, right? (Actually in this case that’s correct.) Via John Gruber.
Sun, Feb 26, 2006

Well Thank Christ for That

You Passed 8th Grade Math Congratulations, you got 10/10 correct! Could You Pass 8th Grade Math? Via Pharyngula. I have to say that having “None of the Above” as the second option out of four on Q7 caused me some concern.
Fri, Feb 17, 2006

An Unlikely Peon

Observed in the wild, from a book I was reading this morning: Adam Smith … opens The Wealth of Nations with an unlikely peon to a pin factory. Sounds like the first few scenes in a Dickensian novel—the unlikely peon (because, as will be revealed later, he is really the heir to a large fortune) is sent by his bitter guardian to work cutting, drawing and polishing pins. Or, seeing as it’s Smith, doing only one of these things.
Thu, Feb 16, 2006

Oh Yeah, Except for Them, Obviously

Alan Schussman reads the letters to our school newspaper, the Daily Wildcat, so I don’t have to. The context is an effort by Republican state legislators to require that a U.S. flag be displayed in every public school and university classroom. Tucson Democrat Ted Downing responded that “This is not the proper way to bestow patriotism. If we want we should spend more on teaching American history.” Today in the letters to the editor a number of University of Arizona students provide evidence that he might be right.
Sun, Feb 5, 2006


I hope next year Burger King Corporation just make a pile of 2 million dollar bills and set it on fire, rather than taking the roundabout method of pointlessly wasting money they opted for this year. I am at a loss to understand commercials like the Diet Pepsi one, where the can of Pepsi gets a record contract from P. Diddy, etc, etc. How do those even make it out of a creative’s sketchbook?
Tue, Jan 31, 2006

God in his Heavens

I learned yesterday via a local newspaper report of the existence of the Vatican Observatory which, surprising as it may seem, is exactly what it sounds like: the astrophysics research division of the Catholic Church. While its headquarters are at Castel Gandolfo (the Pope’s Summer home) in Italy, it’s based here in Arizona at the Mount Graham Observatory. There, a bunch of Jesuits operate the VATT, the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope.
Mon, Jan 9, 2006


A few years ago, way back in the days before Crooked Timber, I wrote a post about Princeton’s old library-borrowing cards. A snippet: When I was a grad student at Princeton, someone told me that (just like most libraries before computers) the books in Firestone library used to have a pocket inside the cover where the book’s borrowing record was kept on a card. When someone wanted the book from the library, the card would be removed and stamped with the date.
Sat, Jan 7, 2006


Microsoft showcased the new features of Windows Vista (due for release late 2006) at CES. Some people got a sense of deja vu, so they took the Microsoft keynote speech and matched the audio demoing the new features to video from elsewhere. So now Windows users can see what exciting, innovative, ground-breaking features are coming in the areas of the user interface, and smart search technologies.
Wed, Jan 4, 2006

All Creatures Great and Small

Technorati’s List of Popular Books introduces me to There is Eternal Life for Animals, which argues that All animals go to heaven. How do we know? We look in the book that God left us, the Bible. This book takes you through the Bible and proves through the scriptures that there is life after death for all the animals. It covers:—God’s relationship with the animals;—The current life of the animal kingdom;—The future life of the animals and its restoration;—What animals are currently in heaven;—Whether animals have souls and spirits;—Praying for animals.
Tue, Jan 3, 2006

Separated at Birth

After viewing an episode of Fraggle Rock with my daughter, I am led to wonder whether the Emperor Gorg (shown here on the left) bears rather more than a passing resemblance to L. Ron Hubbard (on the right). In the matter of bearing, demeanor and possession of the notion that they rule the universe, they are of course indistinguishable.
Sat, Dec 24, 2005

Merry Christmas

Best wishes this Christmas to all our readers. Here’s a little bit from Alexander McCall Smith’s At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances that I like to think about at this time of year. Plenty of time for shouting at one another in the New Year, but for the moment: The Master then rose to give a short address. ‘Dear guests of the College,’ he began, ‘dear Fellows, dear undergraduate members of this Foundation: William de Courcey was cruelly beheaded by those who could not understand that it is quite permissible for rational men to differ on important points of belief or doctrine.
Fri, Dec 23, 2005

A Great Miracle Happened There

It’s that time of the year again: the King William College General Knowledge Paper has arrived. It’s the kind of quiz that exists at a point just (or far) beyond the production possibility frontier of a space defined by your fondness for crossword-puzzles and your stock of cultural capital. If previous years are anything to go by it’s designed to be google-proof, but you’re in with a shot if you can guess the theme that unites all the questions in each section.
Fri, Nov 25, 2005

The Golden Boy

George Best has died in hospital, aged 59. It’s no surprise, of course: he drank himself to death over a long period. The Guardian has a nice obituary and some photos. For those who don’t know, Best was born in Belfast and was one of the most gifted players ever to play football. He was also an archetypal wastrel genius, spending just four or five years at the peak of his form in the late 1960s and then careening downhill.
Wed, Nov 23, 2005

To that Cross my Sins have Nailed Him

David Kopel has a post about the origins of the Thanksgiving hymn We Gather Together. (Originally Dutch: a “Nederlandtsch Gedenckclanck,” which is a phrase I could say all day.) It put me in mind of the stuff I learned when growing up in Ireland. Much of it was pretty thin gruel, like the execrable Christ be beside me. But there were a few standouts—mostly leftovers from the pre-Vactican II fire-and-brimstone era.
Thu, Nov 17, 2005

That took a lot of balls

So there’s this ad for Guinn—never mind. Check out this ad for Sony TVs, filmed last July in San Francisco. It consists of an awful lot of bouncy balls—about a quarter of a million, in fact—bouncing their way down a hilly street. It looks great and is much more soothing than high-speed drives through the streets of Paris. There’s a sixty-second version for high- or low- speed connections, and a three minute version, also for high- or low- speed connections.
Fri, Nov 11, 2005

Sacré Bleu!

Via Jamie Zawinski comes C’était un Rendezvous. A short and very fast film: On an August morning in 1978, French filmmaker Claude Lelouch mounted a gyro-stabilized camera to the bumper of a Ferrari 275 GTB and had a friend, a professional Formula 1 racer, drive at breakneck speed through the heart of Paris. The film was limited for technical reasons to 10 minutes; the course was from Porte Dauphine, through the Louvre, to the Basilica of Sacre Coeur.
Mon, Oct 10, 2005

Economics Nobel for Schelling and Aumann

Tom Schelling and Robert Aumann have been awarded this year’s Bank of Sweden Memorial Prize. Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution provides some information about both of them (Schelling, Aumann). Schelling’s work is probably the better known of the two outside of economics, because in addition to being excellent it’s very readable. I use a chunk of his classic Micromotives and Macrobehavior in my undergraduate social theory class, for instance. We read a bit of The Wealth of Nations and then we read some Schelling, partly in order to get across the idea that co-ordination can be disaggregated and bottom-up process, and partly to see that markets are also a special case of a bigger class of co-ordination problems.
Fri, Sep 30, 2005

Left vs Right vs Cactus

As the Left vs Right infighting continues, I wanted to mention that my department is hiring this year, and also point out that Arizona is the ideal location for all your Left vs Right needs. We got libertarian cowboys and new age crystal-and-vortex types, cranky Michigan republicans and Minnesota democrats (also cranky) down for the winter, patio men and mountain bike people, property developers and mariachi bands, chollas and chilis, religion and science, warthogs and javelinas.
Tue, Sep 27, 2005

Making a Success of Grad School

Let’s say you’ve already read Tim Burke’s “Should I Go to Grad School?” and pushed on past the short answer. (“No.”) Then it’s time to read Fontana Labs’ Twelve-Step Guide to life while you’re there. Your experience of a graduate program will depend in part on each of (1) The field you’re in, (2) The quality of the program, (3) Your own attributes, (4) The strategy you pursue. Once you go down the chute and find yourself in a particular setting, (1) and (2) are exogenous in the short run, and at the beginning you have no real sense of the social structure of the field anyway.
Wed, Sep 14, 2005

Academic Nutjobs

A column by Mikita Brottman in the Chronicle contends that It has often been observed that the more prodigious the intellect, the more it can compromise other aspects of the personality, such as self-awareness and social grace … All vocations attract certain personality types; academe appeals particularly to introspective, narcissistic, obsessive characters who occasionally suffer from mood disorders or other psychological problems. The piece is pretty bad, and in places is a bit stupid—John Nash is cited as an example of a “forgetful genius,” when in fact he has been mentally ill for much of his life.
Mon, Sep 12, 2005

God Loves Flags

I went to watch the Arizona Wildcats beat Northern Arizona University in the first home game of the season last night in front of a happy home crowd. I’ve only been to one other American Football game in my life, so there was a whole novelty dimension. During the halftime show, as the marching band played Led Zeppelin favorites and marched in complex, quasi-aesthetic formations (it looked and sounded like you might imagine), the color guard drew a disproportionate amount of attention.
Fri, Aug 19, 2005

Flaming the Left

Flaming the Left is a difficult matter, It isn’t just one of your holiday games; You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter When I tell you, you’re going to need THREE DIFFERENT FLAMES. First of all, are the flames that the bloggers use daily, Such as Ignorant, Jerk-in-the-Box, Leftist or Lame, Such as Asshat or Poopy-head, Liberal or Crazy—All comprehensible, everyday flames. There are fancier claims if you think they sound neater, Some for the heated times, some for the tame: Such as Clintonite, Keynesian, New Deal, Single-Payer—But all of them regular, everyday flames.
Wed, Jun 8, 2005

Summer Vertigo

Summer Vertigo is the counterpart to Winter Regret, the Christmastime feeling that produces lists of Books I Did Not Read This Year. At the beginning of the Summer break, teaching is done and it seems like there’s a bunch of free time open for you to tackle, oh, well just about any number of projects. Projects fall into three categories: Stuff you should be finished with already. Stuff that’s been on the back-burner for a while, but is doable now you have some time.
Tue, Jun 7, 2005

Apple Switches

Steve Jobs announced that Apple will ditch the IBM PowerPC processor and begin using Intel chips in its computers as of next year. We pause for a moment to allow Mac users to digest that sentence. It looks like IBM was unable or unwilling to make the kind of investment in the G5 chip that Apple needs. IBM is moving out of the commodity PC market anyway, and supplying Apple with chips accounts for only a tiny percentage (I think about 2 percent) of its total chip sales, most of which are in embedded systems and the like.
Sun, May 22, 2005


So I picked up the original Star Wars trilogy—or, at least, the re-masticated DVD version, Greedo shoots first and all that—mostly out of curiosity. I hadn’t watched the first two in years and I’d never seen Return of the Jedi. I watched most of The Empire Strikes Back, which was pretty good, and ended up fast-forwarding through most of ROTJ. My God. Whole chunks of it were simply unwatchable. Just appalling.
Mon, May 9, 2005

Revenge of the Sith

Tyler Cowen is excitedly looking forward to Revenge of the Sith, and is encouraged by positive review in Variety: The Force returns with most of its original power regained in “Star Wars: Episode III —Revenge of the Sith.” Concluding entry in George Lucas second three-pack of space epics teems with action, drama and spectacle, and even supplies the odd surge of emotion … Whatever one thought of the previous two installments, this dynamic picture irons out most of the problems, and emerges as the best in the overall series since “The Empire Strikes Back.” Stratospheric B.O.
Wed, Apr 27, 2005

Fetishizing the Text

A post over at the Valve asks, inter alia, “Do you compose on the computer? Why or why not? … Do you have a stationary and/or a pen fetish?” Scott McLemee at Inside Higher Ed chimes in with a column about his own writing habits: The reading notes, the rough outline, the first draft or two … all will be written there, in longhand. … My friends and colleagues are occasionally nonplussed to learn that someone trying to make a living as a writer actually spends the better part of his workday with pen in hand.
Thu, Apr 21, 2005

Annals of Academic Putdowns

An article about new books on Robert Oppenheimer quotes the following zinger: “American Prometheus” does capture the world in which Oppenheimer established his credentials: thick with future Nobelists, bristling with innovation, cattily competitive. (As one of his fellow scholars remarked about another: “So young and already so unknown.”) That one’s up there with “This book fills a needed gap in the literature.”
Mon, Apr 11, 2005

The Frontier is not Out There

Via Slashdot, a commentary by Michael Huang on The Top Three Reasons for Humans in Space: Humans are in space: 3. To work 2. To live 1. To survive The idea is that we should be out there exploring and colonizing because people are better than robots at doing a lot of things, because more life is better than less and so we should “establish habitats beyond Earth,” and because life on earth is increasingly under threat and so “If we were [living] throughout the solar system, at multiple locations, a disaster at one location would not end everything.” These all seem like pretty weak reasons to me.
Fri, Apr 8, 2005

Press Clippings

Via Pandagon, the Rev. Terry Fox of Wichita, KS: Fox helped turn defeat of the amendment in the Legislature in 2004 to victory for his side at the polls Tuesday night. The amendment passed by 70 percent to 30 percent. “We never dreamed we would have this margin of victory,” he said. Next in his sights, he said, is “keeping an eye on evolution and abortion clinics.” Evolution clinics? Hey, that’s not such a bad idea.
Sun, Feb 27, 2005

Not the kind of bottle I need

Inside the top of the Jones Soda I just opened it says “Take Charge of Your Life and Decisions.” I’m wondering whether doing this is compatible with accepting advice from a soft-drink bottle.
Tue, Feb 1, 2005

High-School Autocrats

This report of a survey of more than 110,000 (!) students at 544 high schools has been getting a lot of play. The survey found that one in three high schoolers think the First Amendment “goes too far”; that three quarters believe that flag-burning is illegal; and that 36% of them thought newspapers should get “government approval” before publishing stories in the newspaper. The White House issued a statement congratulating American students not just for their views on constitutional law, but also for their “accurate characterization of the relationship between the Executive branch and the White House Press Corps.” OK, I just made that up about the White House.
Fri, Jan 14, 2005

And this is Jesus's skull when he was a little boy

The True Cross is coming to Tucson! The [“Relics of the Passion”] exhibit is part of a six-state tour that will take place during Lent. The eight relics include what are believed to be remains from Jesus’ crown of thorns, a piece of exterior wrapping from the Shroud of Turin that some say was Jesus’ burial sheet, and a sliver from the cross used to crucify him. A replica of one of the nails used to hang Christ on the cross also will be part of the display.
Wed, Dec 1, 2004


Eugene Volokh complains that a recent draft of one his papers is missing something: Verve. “Energy and enthusiasm in the expression of ideas … . Vitality; liveliness.” My writing was the usual lawyerese, flabby and clausy. The substance was getting there (though it still needs a lot of work), but it was missing vigor, concreteness, punch. So I’ve been doing Vervification Edits as part of my substantive editing passes. “Verve” is a good word for the quality he’s after, but I think “brio” is better, if only because its roots are mostly Italian and those people know how to live it up.
Thu, Nov 25, 2004

The Wrong Pie

Thanksgiving is one of America’s best ideas. Appropriately it is intimately associated with one of America’s worst inventions, the Pumpkin Pie. I say “appropriately” because such antinomies are common in American life. North and South, Red States and Blue States, expensive gourmet coffee and never a spoonful of real cream to put in it what do you mean you only have the kind that sprays out of a can never mind no that’s fine.
Thu, Nov 4, 2004

No Child Left Behind ... Alive

A National Guard F-16 strafed an elementary school in New Jersey last night with 25 rounds from its M61-A1 Vulcan Cannon: A National Guard F-16 fighter jet on a nighttime training mission strafed an elementary school with 25 rounds of ammunition, authorities said Thursday. No one was injured. The military is investigating the incident that damaged Little Egg Harbor Intermediate School shortly after 11 p.m. Police were called when a custodian who was the only person in the school at the time heard what sounded like someone running across the roof.
Sun, Oct 31, 2004

Trick or Treat

Or, “Anything for Halloween?” as we used to chant at doorways when we went around in the Days Before Television. Other differences between Halloween in Ireland then and the U.S. now include the absence of pumpkins and the stricter dress code—we had to dress up as something frightening, whereas in the U.S. it’s more like a fancy dress party. A final difference: the apartment across the way from us has a pumpkin carved with “W ‘04”.
Fri, Oct 29, 2004

Acknowledging Your Limitations

While looking up something else, I came across one of the Top 10 Best Things in a Preface ever written by an academic. It’s from Garry Runicman’s A Treatise on Social Theory, Vol II: I have also been faced with a dilemma about the use and transliteration of sociological terms from languages other than English … I have compromised as best I can, and where the language in question is Greek, Latin, French, German, Italian or Spanish I am reasonably confident of my judgement about the nuances carried by vernacular terms for institutions, practices and roles.
Wed, Oct 13, 2004

Statistical Methods

Maria’s post about required statistics courses reminds me of a possibly apocryphal story. I think it concerns one of the very early British social surveys of urban poverty by Charles Booth, or Mackintosh or one of those guys. The results were resisted by many for political reasons, and one strategy was to discredit the new-fangled methods they relied on. Thus, one critic in (I believe) the House of Commons asserted that he could not find the results credible because the report “only relied on a sample of the population—and a mere random sample, at that.” If anyone can confirm the source of this (doubtless mangled) story, let me know.
Tue, Sep 28, 2004

All Things Depressing

Three stories I heard on NPR on the way to Daycare which made me want to drop myself off there and play for the day while sending my baby daughter off to the office instead: This kid whose doctor and parents are reluctant to take her off the Zoloft they suggested she start taking, even though she’s been asking to stop for a year. Some of the doctors quoted in the report are a bit frightening.
Sat, Sep 25, 2004

Advice to Authors

Here is one of the many footnotes from Susanna Clarke’s novel, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which Henry reviewed recently: Horace Tott spent an uneventful life in Cheshire always intending to write a large book on English magic, but never quite beginning. And so he died at seventy-four, still imagining he might begin next week, or perhaps the week after that. “Publish-or-perish” is hardly the best motto for good scholarship, but if the alternative is to perish without publishing at all then perhaps it might not be so bad.
Wed, Sep 22, 2004

Business Opportunity

For various reasons we needed to locate some Kosher dairy products today, which proved to be more difficult on short notice than I imagined. However, if anyone wants to set up a shop selling such things, it’s obvious that it should be called “Jews for Cheeses.”
Sun, Sep 12, 2004

Synergistic Annoyance Convergence

I recently got a new cell phone after being out of the U.S. for a year, and now I routinely have a problem with telemarketers. The odd part, though, is that the people who call me, whoever they are,[1] seem to have fused the two most irritating aspects of dealing with companies on the phone. Telemarketers are annoying because they phone you up unannounced and try to sell you stuff. Customer service departments are annoying because when you phone them up you get put on hold right away.
Thu, Sep 9, 2004

Theory and Practice

Dan Drezner reports on a small tiff= between Paul Samuelson and Jagdish Bhagwati over outsourcing. It contains a good line that tells you a lot about neoclassical economics: But Mr. Bhagwati … says he doubts whether the Samuelson model applies broadly to the economy. “Paul and I disagree only on the realistic aspects of this,” he said. In contrast, Marxists tend to agree fully on the realistic aspects of things but disagree about the unrealistic ones, such as when exactly the revolution is coming, who will be in charge, and whether people or robots will clean the toilets afterwards.
Wed, Sep 8, 2004

IEM Analysis Spit'n'Polish Dept

As a spin-off from Daniel’s discussion of whether the DEM04 contract is overvalued on the Iowa Electronic Markets, here’s a version of the trend surface he calculated that shows differences between the Black-Scholes valuation and the observed market price over time (you can look at it in smaller PNG format or better-quality PDF). I created it using R, the free[1] statistics package because I didn’t like Excel’s default effort and I hadn’t had a reason to use R’s wireframe() function before.
Mon, Sep 6, 2004

The Cane Mutiny

Some contributors in the discussion thread on crutches (if you see what I mean) bring up other ambulatory aids by-the-by, and Bad Jim says: Can anyone who remembers the 19th century think of canes as anything but a weapon? The 19th century? What about the 1970s? I remember being caned at school. On the palm of the hand, though, rather than the backside. I think I was about six or seven.
Sun, Sep 5, 2004


Seeing as Kevin is wondering whether M&Ms have gotten smaller since the last time he looked[1], my imponderable for the day is this: Why is it that in Europe (at least in my experience) patients with a sprained ankle or whatever are typically issued with forearm crutches whereas in the U.S. you get underarm crutches. It seems clear to me that the underarm kind is inferior in every important respect. So why does it survive in the U.S.?
Tue, Aug 24, 2004

Back to School Week at the University of Arizona

First week of the Fall semester in sunny Tucson. New classes, new students—including the undersocialized ones who come into your office asking to use the phone—and an uptick of amusing activity in the Police Blotter. The Blotter is kind of a litany (“reports stated”) of the joys of being young, engaged in illegal activity, and perhaps a little slow off the mark: A student was referred to the diversion program for possession of marijuana in the courtyard between Coronado and La Aldea, 822 E.
Fri, Aug 20, 2004

iPods in the Classroom

Alan reports that Students in the incoming Class of 2008 at Duke University each get a brand-new iPod, to be used, says the university’s IT wonks, as part of a project exploring innovative classroom technologies. I’m thinking of using an iPod in my graduate seminar this semester. The idea is that the students divide into groups and then buy me an iPod and, um, that’s it. Perhaps also items from my Amazon wish list, for the advanced ones.
Sun, Aug 8, 2004

Testing Positive

The Irish athlete Cathal Lombard has tested positive for EPO, the now commonly-abused drug that radically boosts red blood cell production. Lombard’s path seems to have been a standard one. Nothing special for most of his career, his 5,000 and 10,000 meter times started improving radically when he changed coaches a couple of years ago. In interviews he put it all down to training smarter and overhauling his approach to running.
Fri, Aug 6, 2004

Flying the Friendly Skies

I’m nearly at the end of my few weeks of dashing around various countries by various means. Here’s an incident I witnessed this afternoon on a flight from Salt Lake City to Tucson, on a small commuter jet. I was sitting in the first row. The flight attendant was standing next to me, by the door. A tall, casually-dressed woman got on and presented a little yellow piece of paper to the flight attendant.
Mon, Jul 19, 2004

Faux Pas

Guest-blogging over at Volokh, Cathy Seipp tells us why we should learn French rather than Spanish: Last year, when she took French at Pasadena Community College, we got the same reaction: “Why French? Why not Spanish? Isn’t that more useful around here?” Well, no. What’s useful in Los Angeles, just like everywhere else in the country, is English. I suppose if I were a contractor rounding up day laborers every morning, and wanted my daughter to learn the family business, Spanish would be invaluable.
Tue, Jul 6, 2004


Just thought I’d let everyone know that the Great Barrier Reef really deserves its name.
Mon, Jun 14, 2004

Fair Warning

When I am President, those people who think they are so clever and such savvy travelers for using the parents’ room instead of the regular bathroom—because it’s quieter and cleaner and they read about this handy trick in a “Travel Tips” column once, even though they do not have, say, an unhappy five-month-old in their arms who needs a change and a feed—had better watch out. I will have the Justice Department and a team of Military Lawyers by my side, together with a bag of bamboo splinters, a Leatherman Crunch, a Camping Stove and a copy of the Constitution of the United States for kindling.
Tue, Jun 8, 2004

On a Wing and a Prayer

A couple of people have emailed me about this story. In 2001, the Journal of Reproductive Medicine published a study in which a group of women who wanted to become pregnant by in vitro fertilization were prayed for, without their knowledge, by others. Astonishingly, the paper found that being prayed for doubled your chances of getting pregnant. We all know that praying for oneself can have positive medical consequences if it makes you happy, relaxed and gives you a positive outlook on life.
Mon, Jun 7, 2004

Alan Turing

It’s fifty years since the death of mathematician, code-breaker and computer pioneer Alan Turing. Turing committed suicide after being forced to take estrogen for a year to “cure” him of his homosexuality. I read Andrew Hodges’ excellent biography of Turing when I was in College. I remember Hodges noting that from about 1935 to his death he had a new and basically unprecedented idea about every five or six years. A remarkable character.
Sun, Jun 6, 2004

Down in Cork he'd be known as a Langer

The best-selling song in Ireland at the moment is a strike for local terms of abuse over international ones. A group from Cork—Ireland’s second-largest city, its real capital, and my home town—is dominating the charts with “The Langer,” outselling such international cursers as Eamon and Frankee. “Langer” is a Cork term meaning—well, it can mean a lot of things, but this clip from the song gives you the primary meaning. The song itself isn’t destined to be a classic of contemporary folk music, but seeing as recent political events have caused me to use the word myself a few times to uncomprehending Americans, I can now point them towards this.
Fri, Jun 4, 2004

Don't Upgrade

As a devotee of structured procrastination I am constantly on the lookout for things to be doing instead of whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing. As long as what you’re doing has some value (even if it has less value than what you’re supposed to be doing) then you can end up accomplishing a reasonable amount, except for that thing you avoided doing. But I’ve learned the hard way that installing and, especially, upgrading software does not fall into the category of Inadvertently Productive Activity.
Wed, Jun 2, 2004

Geek Moment

Cribbed from Dirk Eddelbuettel’s email signature on the R-help List … FEATURE: VW Beetle license plate seen in California Well I thought it was funny.
Wed, May 26, 2004

Your Commencement Speaker Roster

Successful commencement speakers are notoriously difficult to find. If you’re not boring people to death you are likely to be ticking someone off. With this in mind, the Crooked Timber Talent Agency is pleased to announce its list of 2004-2005 Commencement Speakers to the Administrations of all interested degree-granting institutions of higher learning, high schools, kindergartens, day-care centers and also right-wing think-tanks posing as any of the above. A brief selection of our speakers follows.
Tue, May 18, 2004

The Day After Tomorrow

In the wake of the insta-criticism of the film The Day After Tomorrow>; because it is a silly big-budget action movie and not a policy briefing paid for by the coal industry, CT will be providing further movie criticism along these lines. Reel in shock at The Fast and the Furious for its inaccurate picture of driving conditions in Los Angeles! Be outraged at The Pricess Bride for its whitewashing of the reality of aristocratic forms of government!
Tue, Apr 13, 2004

Great! But Avoid Open-Top Cars

I’m in Ireland at the moment, on leg #4 of a round-the-world trip. Lead item on the news tonight, and lead story on the news analysis program afterwards, is Corkman and folk-hero Roy Keane’s decision to end the civil war in Irish football and make himself available again for selection to the international team. After reaching the agreement, Keane’s solicitor issued the following statement: Following discussions with Brian Kerr and Alex Ferguson, Roy Keane has agreed to make himself available for selection international games in the future.
Thu, Mar 25, 2004

Bloggers incarnate

Laurie and I had dinner last night with Kevin Drum and his wife Marian. Kevin’s as engaging as you’d expect from his blog, only taller. Thanks to this dinner, Kevin has now met as many Crooked Timberites (Timberoids? Timberteers?) as I have. I have this image of all the CT members finally gathered around a table for dinner somewhere someday, staring at their starters and sipping their drinks in awkward silence.
Mon, Mar 22, 2004

BoBo Brutalism in Pasadena

I arrived in Pasadena (from Sydney) yesterday. Or possibly today. I’m still adjusting to jetlag, driving on the right and Los Angeles in general. The view of the mountains from the hotel is beautiful, at least in the photo in the hotel guidebook. Right now the smog makes them invisible. The area around the hotel has the usual collection of dull office blocks and carpark-like structures that turn out also to be office blocks.
Fri, Mar 19, 2004

Men from Mars, Women from Venus, Ph.Ds from Uranus

Via Kevin ‘the Animal’ Drum we learn that John Gray, author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus is pretty touchy. He’s threatening to sue a blogger who pointed out last November that Gray’s Ph.D was of dubious provenance. I thought this was pretty well known—I mean, I knew it, and it’s not like I keep up with the news. He got it from Columbia Pacific University, an unaccredited diploma mill somewhere in California.
Mon, Mar 15, 2004

Science in Action

People inclined to make sweeping judgments about the nature of the natural and social sciences based on a glancing acquaintance with the idea of falsification and a collection of popular books about quantum mechanics should read ‘Electron Band Structure in Germanium, My Ass’. (Via Electrolite.)
Sun, Mar 14, 2004

Moria, I'm lost in a mine named Moria

News today that a musical version of The Lord of the Rings is in the works. Suggest songs and plot-points here. Potential titles include: ‘I’m gonna wash that orc right out of my hair’ (Legolas), ‘You’re the One Ring that I want’ (Sauron in Act I, then Gollum in Act II, and Frodo, Gollum and Sauron in Act III), ‘People will say we’re in love’ (Frodo/Sam duet, Act II, theme echoed by Gimli and Legolas during Battle of Pelennor Fields), ‘City with the Tree on Top’ (Gandalf’s arrival at Minas Tirith), ‘How do I solve this problem, my dear Grima?’ (Theoden introduction), and Gollum’s Act III showstopper, ‘Memorieses’.
Tue, Mar 9, 2004

On Being Put Off Wagner Forever

Chris’s post about the ENO production of Rheingold reminded me of why I don’t know anything about Wagner’s music. When I was a graduate student, I invested a substantial chunk of my income in a pair of season tickets to the Met, with half-decent seating. You got a set program of opera over the course of the year. We had a great time. Then came the Wagner week. I forget which opera it was.
Sat, Feb 28, 2004

Memo to Peter Jackson, Eugene Volokh, et al.

High Concept for a Horror movie: The Constitution really is a living document. Key scenes: Night. CONSTITUTION escapes from display case in Library of Congress. Seen lurking in alleyway off of Mass Ave. Shadows. Attacks and eats Cato Institute INTERN. Day. The NATIONAL GUARD attempt to capture the Constitution on the Mall. Suddenly, ARTICLE III is invoked in a novel way. The GUARDSMEN find themselves guilty of treason and are forced to arrest themselves.
Sat, Feb 28, 2004

He wishes for the cloths of Heaven

There wasn’t much light pollution when I was growing up in Ireland, but it was cloudy way too often. It wasn’t until I moved to Arizona and got out into the desert at night that I fully appreciated the Milky Way as a celestial object you could look up and see. I remain appallingly ignorant about the constellations, but via Escadabelle comes a superb photograph of the Arizona night sky (see also a larger version.[1)] If you’re ever in Tucson, make time to get out to the Kitt Peak National Observatory which runs a terrific Nightly Observing Program.
Thu, Feb 19, 2004

Awards are their own Reward

To my chagrin, it was Laurie and not I who received this letter yesterday: Dear Mr [sic] Paul, 2000 OUTSTANDING ACADEMICS OF THE 21st CENTURY The International Biographical Center of Cambridge, England, has published more than 1,000,000 biographies of people of note from all over the world in more than 200 editions of its reference works. Housed in libraries and research institutions in every country of the globe, these books provide vital information for academia, industry and private use.
Tue, Feb 10, 2004


Eugene Volokh notices an error in a transcript. My friend Bethany had a bunch of interviews transcribed professionally for her dissertation and now offers Transcription Bloopers: 29 Reasons Not to Waste Your Money. Choice examples include: table(fig). {font-weight:bold;center}_|As Spoken|As Transcribed| |(. 20th century |((. Planting some tree | |(. Class oppression |((. Fast depression | |(. Enrich each other |((. Rate each other | |(. Serbian oral epic |((. Servient oral ethic | Errors of this sort in transcripts are at the intersection of Mondegreens and the strange phenomenon of the media always happening to desperately misreport stories you know something about personally.
Sat, Jan 31, 2004

For All Suitably Restricted Definitions of 'World'

Tim Dunlop encounters U.S. sports commentators at their most excitable: Over the last few days I’ve heard four radio commentators refer to the Superbowl as the “most important sporting event in the world”. Those exact words. This is especially true this year with the eagerly-awaited Lingerie Bowl at half-time. Depending on your outlook, the Lingerie Bowl is either (1) A measure of how deeply the Title IX revolution in women’s athletics has penetrated into the football industry, (2) A high-end version of the noble American tradition of powder puff football; or (3) Sadly available only on Pay-Per-View.
Sat, Jan 31, 2004

ID Rebutted c.1805

An episode of Blackadder I just watched makes a point relevant to recent discussion on the plausibility of alternatives to the theory of evolution: Blackadder [to Baldrick]: If I don’t come up with an idea soon, in the morning we’ll both go to meet our maker. In my case, God; in your case, God knows—but I doubt he’s won any design awards.
Tue, Jan 27, 2004

Testing Ecto

This is a test of ecto, a Mac OSX desktop client for writing blog entries. I haven’t used these tools much before, but this looks quite good.
Thu, Jan 15, 2004

Irregular Verb Watch

This New York Times Report about a fight in a firehouse defines a new irregular verb in its first three sentences. The conjugation appears to be “I tease playfully; You make abusive taunts; He is asking for a broken nose.” (Via En Banc.)
Thu, Jan 15, 2004

Vocab Words

Ted asks: O’Reilly has repeatedly lied about the interview in which he told Jeremy Glick to “shut up” and cut off his microphone. As it turns out, transcripts can be checked on this intergummy thing. Someone should make up a phrase about that. I propose that Bill is here speaking a dialect we shall call reverse transcriptese.
Sun, Jan 4, 2004

Illocutionary Vegas Act

If Britney Spears were gay, I suppose this would be an excellent example of the kind of thing that’s ruining the institution of marriage.
Sat, Dec 27, 2003

Return of the King

I went to see The Return of the King on Stephen’s Day, which was opening day in Australia. As the Nazgul were dive-bombing the crap out of everything during the battle of the Pelennor Fields, I found myself wondering whether there was a deputy assistant undersecretary from Gondor’s Defence of the Realm Department hiding under his kitchen table somewhere on the fifth level of Minas Tirith thinking, “I must have written dozens of memos about Mordor’s air superiority, but would they listen, oh noooo!
Sun, Dec 21, 2003

The Dead of Winter

I got an email this morning with some photos of the crowd waiting for the Winter solstice sunrise at Newgrange. I think Newgrange is one of the wonders of the world, so here’s a post of mine about it from this time last year. Newgrange is a megalithic tomb in County Meath’s Boyne Valley, in Ireland. It is more than five thousand years old. Built around 3200 BC, it is five hundred years older than the Great Pyramid of Giza and about a thousand years older than Stonehenge.
Wed, Dec 17, 2003


Architects like to think of their work as social theory made real. Conversely, paging through the examples in James Howard Kunstler’s Eyesore of the Month is like reading a stack of freshman essays on Smith and Marx written by students who didn’t do any reading and were too drunk to come to lectures. Incidentally, I had no idea that the Dark Tower of Barad-Dur—eye of Sauron and all—is now located in Nashville.
Mon, Dec 8, 2003

The Poetry of Sadness

Mark Kleiman has a nomination, from ancient Greece, for “the saddest poem ever written.” There are likely a lot of contenders for this title, and even a quick survey would reveal the emotion’s many different varieties (and do wonders for our readership), so it’s probably not the right thing to start a ranking. In any event, Mark’s post caught my eye because I happened to read the following lines just yesterday evening: Andromache led the lamentation of the women, while she held in her hands the head of Hector, her great warrior: “Husband, you are gone so young from life, and leave me in your home a widow.
Sat, Dec 6, 2003

Love is a Many-Legged Thing

Via my former RA Brayden King comes news that you can now Marry Your Pet if you feel that it’s, you know, the one. Matilda, who has been a “Pet and Partners Priest for longer than she’d care to remember” will marry you and your chosen pet in one of three sizes of wedding. Many happily married interspecies couples testify that it brought added depth and meaning to their lives. It was the disclaimer that convinced me the site was on the level.
Fri, Oct 31, 2003


That would be the fifth Rugby World Cup of course, which is being played down here in Australia and has, I’ve noticed, generally escaped commentary in the blogosphere. But any game where France walk all over the U.S. can’t expect much love in the strongholds of blogging. At Crooked Timber we have a strong representation from the Six Nations, though I don’t know how many of them (if any) are rugby fans.
Thu, Oct 30, 2003

Dept of Fair and Balanced

David Bernstein, who has been relentlessly flogging his book via his Volokh posts over the last few weeks, complains about NPR: Typical NPR ‘Balance’: I listened to part of the “Kojo Namdi Show” on WAMU, Washington, D.C. today. The promos said there would be three women Jerusalem residents on the phone, one Christian, one Moslem, and one Jew, talking about their daily lives. … [T]he Christian and Moslem weren’t typical Jerusalem residents, but Palestinian spokespeople who had clearly undergone extensive media training … And the Jew?
Wed, Oct 29, 2003

Number Crunching

Kevin Drum is keeping score in an argument about data on global warming. “M&M” (don’t ask me, I’m only reporting this) re-analyzed data for a famous graph and claimed to find serious errors. Now, Kevin says Somebody it’s not entirely clear who exported the original raw data to Excel but somehow exported 159 columns of data into a 112-column spreadsheet. M&M failed to compare the spreadsheet to the original data and thus produced a “correction” that was riddled with errors.
Mon, Oct 27, 2003

Blogs for the boys

Jacob Levy asks an interesting question about group blogs staffed by academics: For purposes of academic conflict-of-interest norms, what sort of relationship do co-bloggers have to one another? He wonders whether people who post on the same blog should do things like review one another’s papers or write tenure letters and so on. I have a picture of a rapidly branching tree of hypothetical cases that needs to be pruned near the base.
Sun, Oct 26, 2003

Geras on Copyeditors (revised)

Norman Geras writes: I do not generally [consider deleting, or move to beginning of sentence] hold people in contempt because of for their profession, their job, or their calling. But copy editors editing! That is something [Make consistent with either ‘editors’ or ‘editing’ in previous two sentences.] different. Not as bad, I will grant, as war criminals or child molesters, they nevertheless belong in one of the very lowest categories of human intelligence, and indeed morality.
Thu, Oct 23, 2003

Plus 25% for Yourself

Patrick Belton at OxBlog disapproves of the “Pope Death Watch” but can’t resist linking to the betting on JPII’s successor, together with an analysis of the contenders. The main candidates are an Italian, a Cuban and a Nigerian, which sounds like the beginning of a pretty bad joke, the punchline to which is left as an exercise for the reader. I want the Nigerian to win, mainly because of the expanded possibilities for spam: REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE —STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL.
Tue, Oct 21, 2003

Bumper Stickers

David Bernstein at Volokh posts about his favorite bumper stickers. The central mystery about bumper stickers in the U.S., by the way, is why they are called “bumper stickers” in the first place seeing as Americans call bumpers “fenders.” But I digress. David’s favorite stickers are determined wholly by his politics. One of his “all-time favorites” is “If you can’t read this, thank the public schools,” which doesn’t seem that interesting to me.
Sat, Oct 4, 2003

L. Ron at Ground Zero

The New York Times reports that a number of firefighters have been receiving treatment for stress at a clinic located near the site of the World Trade Center and run along lines prescribed by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. The “detoxification program” has the Firefighters “take saunas, engage in physical workouts and swallow pills.” The precise composition of the pills is unclear. Tom Cruise has paid for many of the treatments.
Sun, Sep 28, 2003

Even Further Down Under

In case you’re wondering why I haven’t been posting, it’s because I’m in the mountains of New Zealand’s spectactular South Island. Back soon.
Mon, Sep 15, 2003

Word Salad

Originating from who-knows-where (Uncle Jazzbeau is looking) but spreading fast comes the following: Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe.
Fri, Sep 5, 2003

Euphony in Language

Tim Dunlop and Jonathon Delacour wonder if whether some languages are more pleasant to listen to than others, whether you understand them or not. This is certainly true from person to person. When I moved to the U.S., I sometimes found that things I complacently thought were due to my natural wit and charm were in fact explained by my speaking in a pleasant Irish accent. Conversely, these days I am routinely berated by almost everyone for having lost that accent after a mere six or seven years in America.
Thu, Aug 14, 2003

Power Outages

Just catching the news about the power outage in New York and—reportedly—also in a number of major cities along the east coast, up into Canada and even into the midwest. I wonder why this is happening, especially if the early reports of outages in other major cities are accurate. Apart from the obvious (but I imagine unlikely) explanation that we all don’t want to jump to because we’re responsible people, the other thing that springs to mind is the network structure of the national grid.
Mon, Aug 11, 2003

Bad Movie

Amitai Etzioni has an odd post about the supposedly pernicious effects of The Matrix on impressionable young minds. It of four fans of the movie (and presumably its atrocious sequel) who committed violent crimes and talked afterwards about their obsession with the film. One guy shot his parents to death with a 12-gauge shotgun. “[Josh] Cooke’s lawyer characterized his client as “obsessed” with the Matrix, and supported the appointment of a psychiatrist to determine whether Cooke was sane when he committed the murders.” The post doesn’t have anything in the way of analysis, it just invites you to blame the film for the crimes.
Mon, Aug 11, 2003

Comings and Goings

So I’m working away this afternoon (not blogging, no sir), getting ready to make a quick trip to Atlanta for the American Sociological Association’s annual meetings and this guy comes in the door… I know this sounds like the start of a bad joke, but in fact it was Tim Dunlop, who happens to be in Canberra at the moment. This was a pleasant surprise, not least because he managed to find my office, thereby proving himself to be a very clever man indeed.
Fri, Aug 8, 2003

Scenes from Canberra Traffic

We pull up behind a 1970s-vintage Holden something or other. A youngish guy is driving. There is a sticker on the back window: If its’ got tits or tyres your going to have trouble. There is a pause. “You know, that’s very satisfying,” says Laurie.
Wed, Aug 6, 2003

Great Headlines of the World

It’s not quite “McArthur Flies Back to Front,” but it shares something with “Headless Body in Topless Bar” and I just read it in the current issue of the ANU’s “On Campus” newsletter [pdf]: Former Head of John XXIII Remembered The headline writer had room to clarify the meaning by inserting the word “College” between “XXIII” and “Remembered” but clearly did not want to spoil her chance to enliven one of the world’s duller publications.
Tue, Jul 15, 2003

Take My Money, Please

Well, here I am as predicted in the previous post, hanging around in Los Angeles International Airport and looking for love. No wait, I mean, looking for wireless access. LAX —or Terminal 4 at any rate—doesn’t have ubiquitous wireless service. Only the lucky few granted access to the Admiral’s Club are entitled to pay money to the T-Mobile network for the privilege of checking their email, downloading Marketing’s latest PowerPoint Disaster, updating their blog’s etc.
Wed, Jul 2, 2003

The Cliche Kid, Part XI, Redux

Apologies for the recent lack of posts. It’s good to be back from my hiatus. The question everyone is asking is, where are the WMDs? But the real issue is whether the comparison of Israel’s actions to recent comments by Howard Dean about fiscal reform is yet another example of moral equivalence at its worst. In the meantime, I just ran across a characteristically thoughtful post by Eugene Volokh on a related topic.
Tue, Jul 1, 2003

British Sporting Heroes

Kevin Drum spots the Guardian asking various people whether Tim Henman can win Wimbledon. Responses are generally negative. Kevin says “The Brits sure are hard on their sports icons, aren’t they?” They are. Virginia Wade used to face this problem in the 1970s and ‘80s. As Britain’s only decent tennis player, commentators would routinely say “Britain’s hopes are pinned on Virginia.” But as Clive James observed, having Britain’s hopes pinned on you only slows you down.
Mon, Jun 30, 2003


Posts about the academic labor market by the Invisible Adjunct and D-squared have focused my attention on my need for a better business card. In some academic fields, business cards are a taken-for-granted item of clothing. In others, they are a gauche acknowledgment that one is involved in paid labor of some sort. Sociology is somewhere in between. But what to put on the card, apart from the usual boring contact details?
Sun, Jun 22, 2003

As any fule kno

In an aside to a post, John Quiggin asks, I know the spelling of my name is not obvious from its pronunciation, and I always take care to spell it out when I’m talking to someone. But how can people get it so consistently wrong when they’re taking it from a printed source? Believe me, I sympathize. At least they don’t get your last and your first name wrong, John. Nor are they likely to think you are a woman.
Tue, Jun 17, 2003

Pomes Penyeach

D-Squared attacks the westernized haiku, the stinger missile of bad poetry. But not all haikus in English are so bad (though they may all not be haikus). Exhibit A is by John Cooper Clarke and runs as follows: To-Con-vey one’s mood In sev-en-teen syll-able-s is ve-ry dif-fic. My only foray into verse, written the Summer before last during a period of great personal stress and crisis, can be found here. It also abuses a too-easily imitated metre.
Sat, Jun 14, 2003

Gilding the Lily

It’s worth reading Josh Marshall’s assessment of “Washington’s newfound appreciation of the ‘subtleties’ of truth-telling” with regard to Iraq’s apparent non-arsenal of non-weapons of non-mass destruction. Along the way, he quotes Bill Keller who says “What the Bush administration did was gild the lily”. The phrase is corrupted from from Shakespeare (can’t remember what play), where the original line is “To gild refined gold, to paint the lily…” This makes more sense as an image.
Sat, Jun 7, 2003

Money-Making Opportunity

I’m still in Austin at this conference. A sign on my hotel-room desk says that the bottle of Evian on top of my minibar will cost me $3.50 if I open it. My plan is to drink the water, go to the nearest convenience store, buy a replacement bottle for $1.25 and put it on the minibar. That way I make a profit of $1.75 on the deal, thereby maximizing value to this blog’s shareholders.
Wed, Jun 4, 2003

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.
Tue, Jun 3, 2003

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.)
Mon, Jun 2, 2003

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.
Sat, May 31, 2003

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.
Thu, May 29, 2003

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.
Mon, May 26, 2003

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.
Sun, May 25, 2003

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.
Sat, May 24, 2003

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.
Fri, May 23, 2003

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.
Sat, May 17, 2003

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.
Sun, May 11, 2003

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.
Wed, Apr 23, 2003

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.
Mon, Apr 21, 2003

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.
Wed, Apr 16, 2003

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.
Tue, Apr 15, 2003

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.
Thu, Apr 10, 2003

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.
Sun, Apr 6, 2003

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.
Mon, Mar 31, 2003

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.
Sun, Mar 30, 2003

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.
Thu, Mar 27, 2003

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.
Sun, Mar 9, 2003


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.
Mon, Mar 3, 2003

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?
Sun, Feb 23, 2003

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.
Wed, Feb 19, 2003

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

Close Reading

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.
Mon, Feb 17, 2003

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.
Thu, Feb 13, 2003

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.
Wed, Feb 12, 2003


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.
Wed, Feb 12, 2003

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.
Sat, Feb 8, 2003

First New Post

This is a test post to see if everything is working with the new website. It’s all just too exciting.
Wed, Jan 29, 2003

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.
Wed, Jan 22, 2003

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.
Wed, Jan 15, 2003

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.
Sun, Dec 22, 2002

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.
Wed, Dec 18, 2002


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.
Wed, Dec 18, 2002

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).
Sat, Dec 14, 2002


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.
Wed, Dec 11, 2002

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”.
Fri, Nov 29, 2002

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.
Wed, Nov 27, 2002

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.
Fri, Nov 22, 2002

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.
Mon, Nov 18, 2002


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.
Thu, Nov 14, 2002

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”.
Sat, Nov 9, 2002

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.
Wed, Nov 6, 2002

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).
Fri, Nov 1, 2002

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.
Tue, Oct 29, 2002

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

Well, here's my Answer

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.
Thu, Oct 17, 2002

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.
Tue, Oct 1, 2002


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.
Tue, Oct 1, 2002

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.
Thu, Sep 26, 2002

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.
Wed, Sep 25, 2002

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.
Fri, Sep 13, 2002

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.
Sat, Sep 7, 2002

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.
Sat, Aug 31, 2002

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.
Thu, Aug 29, 2002

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.
Sat, Aug 24, 2002

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?
Fri, Aug 23, 2002

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.
Mon, Jul 22, 2002

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.
Thu, Jul 11, 2002

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.
Thu, Jul 11, 2002

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?)
Sun, Jun 2, 2002

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.
Sat, Jun 1, 2002

Poetic Headline Justice

I just finished watching Ireland vs Cameroon. (What a second half! We should have won!) Well, not so much watching as endlessly updating a webpage: when you don’t have cable and you live in Tucson, live football coverage is hard to come by. I couldn’t even listen to a radio broadcast streamed online, because neither RTE nor the BBC have the rights to do this. Anyway, more important: Immediately after the game I went to Ireland.com for some match reports.