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Make a joke about Nietzsche and the eternal recurrence.  Problem: surely it’s been done before.


Make list of possible farewell sayings.  “Better to burn out than it is to rust.” “So long, and thanks for all the fish.”  “Here’s looking at you, kid.”   “It’s been emotional.” “Thumpity thump thump look at Frosty go.” Problem: there’s too many.


Have another cup of coffee.


Play around with formal ends of letters like in days of yore.  “Remember, gentleman, as you hit refresh, that I am pleased to remain, Yours, &c.”  Problem: would have to compose the rest of the letter, too.


Go on mad hunt for fugitive Christmas cookies.


Search wildly for an appropriate poem to parody.  Candidates: Hyperion, A Funeral Elegy, the Aeneid, the Odyssey.  Problem: pretentious, also “blogga feminaeque cano.”


Plainly:  I’d rather take a break before it becomes a chore or I start posting pictures of cats.  Thanks for reading; see you around some time maybe.

On he flared….


this isn’t actually true.  The federal government requires lots of things to prove that a foreigner wishing to qualify for a spousal visa is in a legitimate marriage, but there is actually no requirement to prove that you’re having sex.  Shared finances, yes.  Shared residence, yes.  Tax returns, yes.  Proof of a commingled life, yes.  Letters of support that you present yourselves as a married couple, yes. Sex tape? No.

(It’s not cynical if you think about it.  It is compatible with a fraudulent marriage that the two people could be copulating like rabbits; but it’s less likely if the two are sharing their money.)

This is not a defense of DOMA; people arguing that gay people could always commit immigration fraud to get a green card are making an exceedingly stupid argument.  Any marriage would have to be entered into for bonafide reasons to qualify for a green card, i.e., excluding immigration benefits.  So the argument has to be that DOMA’s effect on immigration policy is fair, because gay people could always… commit fraud to get around the exclusion.

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.


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.

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.

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.


Unfortunately, I think the conclusion is that English PhDs aren’t as funny as lawyers.

You know, one of the benefits of a liberal education is that one can learn to think critically, and this article raises more questions than it answers:  317,000 waitresses with bachelor’s degrees!  Time to panic and lament like in Player Piano that one is expected to have a Ph.D. in Food Delivery and Note-Taking!

Or, maybe, the numbers don’t tell the whole story.  If you took a snapshot of me right after college, you’d see someone who was working two part-time jobs. Oh, that education, wasted folding clothes at Dick’s Sporting Goods!  Wasted entering check amounts in the bowels of the bank!   Prob’ly shoulda gone straight to McDonald’s.

Of course, I was doing that because I needed to earn money to buy business professional clothing, for my job that would start in the fall.  What I need to know in order to make sense of those statistics is how long those workers are at that job, and what they earn over a lifetime.

Look, I know as well as anyone that the time where one could get a B.A. and be set for the rest of one’s life is gone, if it ever existed.  Degree inflation is insane.  But I don’t really see any evidence here that supports Vedder’s thesis that we’re educating all the wrong sorts of people (wink-wink, nudge-nudge) when the jobs he points to are ones where the overwhelming majority of workers don’t have a higher degree.  Educated workers are doing vastly better in this recession. The recession hit recent college grads pretty hard, judging by the unemployment rate.  It hit those with no college over three times as hard.

I have a lot more to say on this, but briefly: discourse on the value of higher education dangerously conflates what one will do immediately after graduation, or in any single job, with one’s entire life prospects.  It conflates what one should major in with whether a department is worth funding and with whether coursework in them is worthwhile.  These are different questions. The smart money says that they have different answers.

Here’s an interesting piece on women’s hairstyles and aging, but I can’t get past the idea of calling someone who is fifty-five “middle-aged.”  Not that she should cut her hair!  But there’s an interesting tension between flouting traditional short hairstyles for “women of a certain age” and the headline, which moves middle-aged up with the  baby boomers.

On the other hand, this should make me a young woman for another ten years or so.

There’s been some debate over whether the term “illegal immigrant” should be retired.  I think it should, largely because the bare “illegal” is used as a slur and the longer “illegal immigrant” doesn’t reliably pick out a specific class of people or what’s wrong with their legal status.  The U.S. government treats people very differently depending on the specifics of how they got here.

This isn’t just fun with intensions and extensions; it’s significant to the debate.  Around four million people who are here unlawfully entered legally; they’re people who could get visas and later violated the terms of them.   They are people with slightly more options, because in some cases having overstayed a visa isn’t a bar to becoming a permanent resident from within the country.  Some estimated number (anywhere from about two to about 30 million, depending on who you ask; having entered without inspection  means no one counted you coming in) are people who came in by sneaking in.  Every legal option for them that’s in place now requires them to leave the country first, and usually wait out a ban of ten years.

So, yeah, ditch “illegal” in favor of using words that actually have some meaning.  And some cases are heartwarming (and, I’ll admit, odd, in that impersonating an American citizen is about the quickest way to get a lifetime, non-waiverable ban; but there’s about a zillion exceptions in immigration law and she may have very well fallen into one of them.)

Ten years?  I don’t care how much traffic you throw my way now and then (nice of a vet to acknowledge a mere newb), o bearded* one, you need about six months off and a good stiff drink or twenty.

*Still laughing at the Bluto post.  Dude, it is okay to be grizzled.  That makes you a Bloggy Bear. *runs and hides*

Scott Lemieux says don’t pin the misogyny of The Social Network on Sorkin, because the film takes a critical stance towards Zuckerberg’s contempt for women.  I haven’t seen the movie yet, but it strikes me as relevant that in real life, Zuckerberg had a long-term girlfriend,worked with women when he created Facebook, etc.  I think even if we take it as given that Sorkin rewrites Zuckerberg to make him a misogynist and added all the details about Asian girls so mad for geeks they give blowjobs in bathroom stalls and Harvard parties where girls lose their tops all the time, and then critiqued it successfully, there’s something… off about erasing the creative role of women in the creation of Facebook completely in order to make that critique.

Whether that’s an aesthetic failure is a different question, and one that would have to wait until I get around to seeing the film (check back in 2011), but my initial impression from the reviews is that this is a middle-aged man’s idea of what it must have been like to create Facebook, and he finds it hard to believe both that a guy could be geeked out enough to invent Facebook and socially well-adjusted enough to have a girlfriend, and that a woman around a geek could be anything but inspiration.

A neat project at the behest of the Women in Philosophy Task Force: stories of what it’s like to be a woman in philosophy.  If you’re a woman and you have a story to share, you can submit it here.

What’s interesting is that while some of the stories are overtly horrid, some are cases where there are good intentions that don’t lead to good results.  Maybe this should go under Neddy’s request for “facts about human nature that explain a lot”, but I think there’s a strong tendency for people to imagine discrimination as something that goes on not only overtly, but with lots of bells and whistles and an identifiable villain snarling on screen, so that if there is discrimination occurring, it will be obvious to the casual (male) observer.   Thus, if he doesn’t see the problem, it must not exist.

On Facebook, you can hide friends so that their status updates won’t show in your feed.  Rob Walker is worried:  what kind of friend are you if you decide that your friend’s half of the conversation isn’t valuable?  Wouldn’t it be better just not to friend them? I am less concerned, for two reasons, one serious, and one legendary:

  1. “Friending” someone on Facebook is acknowledging a weak tie.  Yes, you sat behind me in concert band in high school.  You emptied your spit valve. I therefore acknowledge you as an acquaintance and accept your request to be a friend.  I will look at your pictures.  I will look at the pictures of your child in a bumblebee costume.  I will see that you finished college.  I will see that you have a new car.  I will see that you crashed your bicycle.  I will see that you need a sheep, cow, and pig for your Farmville.  I will see that you like your vampire teevee shows. (I will carry your lip balm.)  Hiding someone’s status updates is less like refusing to listen to an ongoing conversation and more like failing to seek out a former acquaintance to chat even though one is genuinely if momentarily happy to hear through the grapevine that the person is doing well.
  2. If someone posts LOLcats several times a day in 2010, it is morally obligatory to hide them.  This is for their own good.

So you’ve seen the Pew survey, that shows that, among other things, atheists and agnostics tend to know a lot about religious doctrines and practices.  Of particular interest to me in the ensuing discussions was Larison’s distinction between academic religious knowledge and lived religious experience.  It’s simply not all that surprising that a religious believer who grew up with her faith culturally would not have high-level academic knowledge of the particulars of it.  High-level academic knowledge is for Jesuits and converts.  (Mutatis mutandis, natch.)

But it also speaks to a broader puzzle, especially regarding the recent games in the press and in blogs concerning Islam.  Any fool can Google up a copy of a religious text and pull out verses to prove almost anything; the connection between disinterested academic discourse about the interpretation of a passage, breezy bloggy interpretations, and the experiences and beliefs of the average believer will wildly diverge (and may be indistinguishable from other cultural practices.)

In any case, it’s unfair to talk about the Pew results without offering an explanation of why atheists and agnostics tend to be well-informed about religion.  My ex recto position: atheists tend to be highly educated; highly educated people tend to run into courses on world religions; and, it is also, in my experience, a common trait among the highly educated to have extraordinarily good memories for trivia.  My knowledge of the Noble Eightfold Path is tucked somewhere between the book of Daniel and the Star Trek episode where Picard has to communicate in literary metaphors.   And indeed, the results mention educational attainment as one thing that correlates with better academic religious knowledge; but apparently with that held constant, atheists still retain more religious knowledge.

Revised theory: the trivia gene eats God.

As much as I like Colbert, I am pretty sure that this means we are probably about due for some Visigoths to sack Washington.

But at least it’s funny.

It would be really nice if this topic were discussed by someone who had paid for her degree. Sorry, this talk of cutting funding for BAs because some people wind up with lots of loans burns me up.  They ain’t in better shape with *more* loans, pretend economist, and whatever merits the critique of mindless credentialism has it doesn’t go away by paying only for engineers.  (And to think that engineers don’t benefit from social signaling of degree-granting institutions is unbelievably  naive. )

It’s striking, when one reads female philosophers from the early modern period, how little the arguments that a given trait belongs solely to women or to men have changed over the years.  In the 17th and 18th centuries, no one used the term “genetic” or “evolutionary” or “long end of the tail” or “back on Ye Olde Veldte”, but instead argued in terms of “natural” or “innate” differences.  What particular traits belong in the set “innate to women” or “innate to men” have changed according to social fashion, but what’s curious is that the form of the argument hasn’t:

Girls are from their earliest infancy fond of dress.  Not content with being pretty, they are desirous of being thought so; we see, by all their little airs, that this thought engages their attention; and they are hardly capable of understanding what is said to them, before they are to be governed by talking to them of what people will think of their behavior.

That’s Mary Wollstonecraft quoting Rousseau in her A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.  If you insert “princess dresses” and update the language, it would not be out of place in the mouth of someone blathering on today about how natural it is that little girls play with dolls rather than trucks.

Of course, she has a response to Rousseau and all the other writers who gave advice to young ladies!  Here’s a hint from the chapter title. The Effect Which An Early Association of Ideas Has Upon the Character:

Every thing that they see or hear serves to fix impressions, call forth emotions, and associate ideas, that give a sexual character to the mind.

And of course, as girls are cherished for being fearful, and delicate, and forbidden to run around and play, later:

..when all their ingenuity is called forth to adjust their dress, ‘a passion for a scarlet coat’, is so natural, that it never surprised me…

I am proposing a new maxim: those who wish to argue from personal anecdote that a certain character trait is dictated by evolution should endeavor to advance the argument beyond 1792.

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