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Posts in “Obiter Dicta”

Sat, Jun 22, 2013

Monsters University: the Aftermath

Monsters University, the prequel to Monsters, Inc, opened this weekend. I brought the kids to see it. As a faculty member at what is generally regarded as America’s most monstrous university, I was naturally interested in seeing how higher education worked in Monstropolis. What sort of pedagogical techniques are in vogue there? Is the flipped classroom all the rage? What’s the structure of the curriculum? These are natural questions to ask of a children’s movie about imaginary creatures.
Fri, Aug 24, 2012

Bottom Feeders

Honestly, this sort of thing is best ignored: But I like $100 as much as the next guy, so here is my video.
Tue, Aug 21, 2012

This Year's Theory Syllabus Leaves Out More Than Ever

I’m teaching our required Graduate Social Theory course again this semester. This year I decided I’d snub not just monomanical German system-builders but French Weberians as well. No Foucault for you! I should have started a “What, no x?” sidebet before posting it. In the syllabus, I present a justification for my sins. An excerpt: Like many programs in our field, Duke’s Sociology department requires its graduate students complete a one-semester survey course in social (or “sociological” theory).
Sat, Jul 28, 2012

Olympics Trolling

It’s that happy time when I whine about American television coverage of the Olympics. This year’s whining has a new twist—beyond the usual complaints about sentimental crap and tape-delay—because there are no decent streaming options absent a pre-existing subscription to some cable channels. But it’s also the time when I am reminded of my existing personal prejudices about sports, when I may discover new ones (as new events are added), and when I try to figure out whether there’s any defensible rationale to my preferences.
Thu, Dec 8, 2011

Books I Did Not Read This Year: An Ebook

I’ve been using the Readmill ebook reader on-and-off. I like it quite a bit. Using it prompted me to make an ebook of my own. Because I moved this entire blog over to Octopress a little while ago, everything I’ve ever written on it going back to 2002 is now in Markdown format. So over lunch today I took advantage of John MacFarlane’s amazingly useful Pandoc, which can make EUPB format ebooks out of markdown files, selected thirteen posts from the Archives and made a little anthology called Books I Did Not Read This Year.
Mon, Aug 8, 2011

Markets for Organs

Here’s a short inverview/profile thing I did recently for the “Good Question” series that the Kenan Institute for Ethics has been doing. There was a high-concept photo-shoot and everything, so if you’ve ever wanted to see me hanging around in a junkyard warehouse surrounded by various spare parts (I’m sure you see the connection here), then now’s your chance.
Sun, Oct 17, 2010


I have an interview over at The Setup, for those of you who are interested in cursor-gazing.
Wed, Sep 22, 2010


The application you’ve been looking for: While some so-called environments that are less free of distraction may display one, three, or even more lines of text—all at the same time—we understand that if you could only achieve the theoretical removal of all theoretical distractions, you would finally be able to write something. And we want Å«— to help you almost do that. I think what makes Merlin Mann compelling is that he knows he has something important to get across about work and creativity, but what he has to convey is a kind of non-demonstrative non-formula, and trying to say it more than once puts him in the same business niche as a legion of people he rightfully despises.
Mon, May 3, 2010

Room for Debate on Presumed Consent

I have a short contribution up about presumed consent and organ donation over at the New York Times’s Room for Debate Section. If you are interested in following up some of the ideas, see this blog post or this law review article.
Sat, Mar 20, 2010

Ten Influential Books

Influential upon myself, I mean. Everyone else is doing it. I suck at lists like this. It’s hard to give an honest answer, in part because I’m not prone to conscious conversion experiences, but mostly because I’m good at repressing things and so really find it hard to remember things I read that really hooked me at the time. In any event, and in roughly chronological order: Clive James, Visions Before Midnight or The Crystal Bucket.
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.
Sat, Jan 4, 2003

Empty Questions

Why is the right more prone to tendentious dichotomies than the left? I ask this question in the spirit of Daniel Drezner, who asks “Why is the left more sensitive than the right?” I have one less data point than Daniel, but that data point is Daniel himself, so I shall follow his fine example and plough on regardless. Like Daniel, I’ll admit that it might not be possible to answer my question, since measurement is next to impossible and I can think up of at least as many counterexamples as positive cases.
Wed, Jan 1, 2003

The Best of Me

Welcome to Kieran Healy’s Weblog In Review for 2002. The first half of 2002 wasn’t so good for this blog, given that it didn’t exist. But that means it wasn’t so bad for it, either, seeing as things that don’t exist don’t have interests or feelings. After being born on May 21st, the blog began its long climb towards the fringes of blogtopia. I don’t think you can climb to the fringe of something, but never mind—- it’s sharp writing like this that has put this blog on the edges of the map.
Tue, Aug 13, 2002

Purchasing the Right Personality for College

Via Eszter, I came across Ivy Success, self-described “Admissions Strategists” whose job is to get you (or your darling child) into an elite university. For a modest fee you get the “complete strategy” which translates the essence of the candidate, his or her accomplishments and future potential into a succinct profile in a way that differentiates the applicant from the competition. We scrutinize what each individual school emphasizes and custom tailor each application and essay in order to present our client in the best way possible.
Wed, Jul 10, 2002

Dick Cheney Shilling for Andersen

So a promotional video for Andersen Consulting dating from 1996 has popped up. It shows Dick Cheney extolling his close relationship with the firm. Best quote: “I get good advice, if you will, from their people, based upon how we are doing business and how we are operating, over and above the normal, by-the-books auditing arrangement.” You have to laugh. Otherwise, you’d have to cry.
Tue, Jul 2, 2002

Eternal Ambition, Single Goal, er, Ryan and Jacob

Have you gotten the Ryan and Jacob email yet? It begins “There is something extremely wrong with every single person in this world. They seem to be part of a pointless simulation.” Then it continues to explain (ad nauseam) how 99.999999% of people in the world are fakes, except (coincidentally) the authors and a few others who will be clever enough to find their homepage. Well, here it is. Also here.
Sun, Jun 30, 2002

Minority Report's Vision of the Future

The high concept of Minority Report is that gifted “pre-cogs” can see into the future and predict murders, thereby allowing the police to pre-emptively arrest the not-yet-perpetrators. The question is whether we would sacrifice civil liberties in order to prevent crime. But I’m more interested in the film’s own effort to see into the future. Minority Report gives us a detailed vision of Washington, D.C. in 2054. Is it plausible? Futurology and Social Change To develop the look of the film, Steven Spielberg consulted with a number of futurologists—- people who make a living telling us what life is going to be like soon.
Thu, Jun 27, 2002

I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag...

Reading the newspapers this morning, I’m struck by the fascinating reaction to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that the phrase ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional. The response from legal commentators is that the decision will be overturned quickly, and rightly so. The reasoning is that the Supreme Court has ruled before that references to God of this kind are constitutional because rote repetition has made them meaningless.
Thu, Jun 6, 2002

Jumping into the abyss

The Irish Times quotes a senior Indian military officer today: “They (the governing Bharatiya Janata Party) are fully aware that if they try backing down or blinking (in front of Pakistan) this time round, they face political oblivion,” said an officer, declining to be identified. I’m wondering what sort of mind reasons like this, to the conclusion that avoiding political oblivion is preferable to avoiding actual oblivion. It’s reminiscent of the worst years of the cold war, and all that talk of limited exchanges and survivability.