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This is far from the usual remit of this blog, but that remit, indeed the blog in general, seem to be in abeyance, and I don’t have another outlet for such trivia.

Eliza Griswold writes, warming up to praise Gjertrud Schnackenberg as highly as she can:

Despite this atmosphere of youth and mirth, there were a small handful of things about which the editorial staff was deadly serious. Language, the rigor and talent to wield it, was tantamount.

But not, evidently, the rigor to look in a damn dictionary to check that words mean what you think. And indeed, Schnackenberg’s poetry, by the examples given, appears to measure up perfectly to such proud but fallible praise.

(Photo by Flickr user M.V. Jantzen used under Creative Commons license.)


It wasn’t two years ago, or on Thanksgiving, but this song is a Thansgiving song, so it makes sense to re-post it on Thanksgiving … anyway. Happy Thanksgiving, all.

Unfortunately, there have not been enough submissions for Military History Carnival #26, so I’ve cancelled it. Sorry!

At least a lot of people do.

I think there’s near-universal agreement among philosophers (!?) that the online job postings could be much, much better, e.g. easily searched by areas of specialization and competence. As Geoff Pynn snarks in comments: “But how ever could it be done? What great Secrets must Nature yield before we can harness her Powers to such wondrous ends?”

Does anyone have a lot of experience with teleconference-style interviews? Phone interviews are terrible, I think, but we’ve never done video interviews, and if it’s even close to as good, and if we do them uniformly (i.e., all candidates do their interviews this way, rather than only some), it could save everyone an undesired hassle. It really would be a great thing, especially for candidates, if the trip were no longer necessary.

Am I understanding this right? A teacher starts talking to a guy in a bar, tells him a story about how another teacher used the word “nigger,” and this results in the storyteller getting into trouble?

The intuitive sense of unfairness comes from the fact that we all understand the difference between genuinely asserting and using the same language in a way that doesn’t assert. You might overhear me utter the phrase “Ari is so handsome” as I’m in the midst of saying “Only Mrs. Kelman could think that Ari is so handsome,” for example. While the phrase itself retains its meaning in the two contexts, the sentences mean very different things.

As I recall, Frege’s general point about this is that there’s no operator that indicates what follows is being asserted. Phrases like “I’m genuinely asserting that….” are themselves subject to the same problem– they can be put in contexts where they aren’t asserted. Geach seizes on this to develop a really interesting objection to expressivism, the thesis that moral judgments are expressions of noncognitive states such as emotions, rather than statements of (moral) fact.

On the expressivist view, “lying is wrong” is doing the work of “boo lying!” But notice how “lying is wrong” appears in contexts where it’s genuinely asserted and in contexts where it isn’t. Canonical example:

1. Lying is wrong.
2. If lying is wrong, getting your little brother to lie is wrong.
3. Hence, getting your little brother to lie is wrong.

This argument looks good (by which I mean deductively valid). In order to be good, though, “lying is wrong” has to mean the same thing in (1) and (2). Wrinkle: in (1) it’s being asserted, in (2) it’s not. Even if (1) makes sense as the expression of a boo-attitude toward lying, (2) doesn’t. You’re not booing lying because you’re not saying lying is wrong, when you assert (2). So it looks like the expressivist is stuck. (Stuck in two related ways: first, it’s a problem that the expressivist hasn’t given us an account of (2), and second it’s a problem that, whatever an account of (2) would be, it won’t preserve the meaning of “lying is wrong,” and that’s needed to make sense of the validity of the argument.)

Simon Blackburn has a go at this by trying to understand (2) as something like “boo for the following conjunction of attitudes: booing lying while not booing getting little brother to lie.” Not really convincing, but a nice attempt.

There’s lots more to say, but now you’re equipped to utter “The latest O’Keefe shenanigans got me musing about old Gottlob Frege” and that will make you sound erudite.

The Chronicle has an interesting story about a guy who ghost-writes term papers.

You’ve never heard of me, but there’s a good chance that you’ve read some of my work. I’m a hired gun, a doctor of everything, an academic mercenary. My customers are your students. I promise you that. Somebody in your classroom uses a service that you can’t detect, that you can’t defend against, that you may not even know exists.

You know whose fault it is? The system, man. (I was hoping he’d turn out to make incredible money this way, but he says this is his best year yet and he’ll get about $66k.)

I’m sure most of you have seen this.  What’s curious is that Chambers wasn’t convicted of making terroristic threats; he wasn’t even charged with that.  Instead he’s a “menace”, convicted for roughly the equivalent of making prank telephone calls.   I’m not quite sure how that works, largely because he didn’t send the tweet to the airline. It looks like that first they overreacted to a tweet and then they punished him for causing their overreaction.  Stephen Fry has offered to pay the man’s legal bills, but the mark on his record is standing for now.

Anyone know anything about British law and why this conviction  isn’t obviously insane?

Not that I’d want to rain on the parade of the little tin god, but don’t most children’s sports have a league for the competitive types and a recreation league for learning to play, getting exercise, and having fun?  If the fate of western civilization hangs in the balance, perhaps he should encourage his son to try out for the competitive league.

It wouldn’t excuse his behavior, of course, but at least he’d be around his peers. I mean the dad.


Tom Levenson:

Those final six hours of the war were surreal. The news of the cease-fire order passed swiftly down the line, but the fighting did not stop. U.S. Army captain Harry Truman, commanding an artillery battery, fired under orders until 10:45 a.m. British troops were ordered forward, with instructions to achieve their objectives by eleven. German fire persisted too. Among those killed were British soldiers wearing the Mons star, veterans of the first battle of the war. Within the German lines, troops waited for news of the negotiations in the midst of preparations for a last battle. Early that morning Georg Bucher went to his company commander to beg for more machine gun ammunition. At 7:15, an attack came; Bucher’s machine guns broke it up before the Americans facing him reached his barbed wire. His company’s casualties were light. One new recruit went down with a chemical burn. Bucher comforted him by telling him how much worse it could have been, how he could have lost his leg. “The youngster seemed, God knew why, to find comfort in my words,” Bucher wrote. At that moment, Bucher’s company commander returned, leaping along like a mad man, shouting “Cease fire at eleven a.m.. Pass the word along, cease fire at eleven.” ….

There was one incident that captured the essence of war on the western front, the distillation of its arbitrary violence. At two minutes to eleven in the vicinity of Mons a Canadian private named George Price was hit by a sniper’s bullet. He died instantly. The man who killed him remains unknown. That man made a choice. He was a marksman, a skilled soldier. He had just moments remaining in which it was legal for him to kill. There was no need to fire, no purpose, and some risk at least to himself and any comrades near him. If he waited until eleven, and then put his gun down, the only consequence would be that a young stranger would go home. Instead, the shot rang out. Two minutes ticked past. The war ended. George Price lay dead.

(More on Price.)

Look, not my bag, but none of the professionals were talking.

Glad this clown is gone.  Is it new to claim that stalking and harassment is protected by the First Amendment?  Sneaky penumbrellas.


I can see the benefits of online learning, especially for certain kinds of introductory level information dump courses and for students who aren’t able to make regular class times.   But I can’t see how someone can learn to pronounce a foreign language without an instructor encouraging you to speak the language in class, and what’s strange about the push for online education is that it comes as elite places eschew traditional lecturing in favor of other methods that are supposed to be better for learning.   Things to keep an eye on:  what’s the attrition rate?   Does it lead to better or worse class performance?

This isn’t really about the technology itself.  It’s just a tool. But… look.  When boomers were graduating from college, a majority of their courses were taught by tenured faculty, even at state schools.  (If you have a tenured researcher lecture, do you get to say that your 1500 person lecture course is taught by a tenured researcher?  Hmm.  Watch those numbers.)  Why did this change?

We’re doing to higher education what we already did to secondary education; private schools, and public schools barely scraping by with lower standards, with smart people knowing that that’s not where you send your kids if you value education, except that we’ll want those public university students to take out lots of loans.

The charming Bidwell Bowl amphitheater on the campus of Chico State University. A creek separates the stage from the seating. I would love to perform there.

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I am not teaching Hume on miracles for the foreseeable future, but if you are, here is a doozy of a toy example to make you with it and hip:

Time travel may be possible, but epistemology is a bitch.

The nominations are now open for this year’s Cliopatria Awards:

Bloggers, blogs and posts may be nominated in multiple categories. Individuals may nominate any number of specific blogs, bloggers or posts, even in a single category, as long as the nominations include all the necessary information (names, titles, URLs, etc).

The categories are Best Group Blog, Best Individual Blog, Best New Blog, Best Post, Best Series of Posts, and Best Writer.

I think perhaps more plausibly the reason that you don’t see straight cruising sites  analogous to gay cruising sites is not due to straight women’s alleged distaste for sex (except for whores? erm. Yikes.), but that a straight woman who wants to get laid can go to a thing called a “bar”, where there might be “dollar kamikaze shots” and “men ripe for the plucking” and “music to which to wiggle.”  O the peculiar mating rituals!  There aren’t straight cruising sites because there isn’t a straight closet.


This is officially an award-winning blog

HNN, Best group blog: "Witty and insightful, the Edge of the American West puts the group in group blog, with frequent contributions from an irreverent band.... Always entertaining, often enlightening, the blog features snazzy visuals—graphs, photos, videos—and zippy writing...."