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We had a discussion about ship naming in the thread on the USS Lyndon Baines Johnson and I thought I would post a link to this lovely article by the Naval Historical Center, which pulls in (among others) Alfred the Great:

As if to emphasize the ties that many Americans still felt to Britain, the first ship of the new Continental Navy was named Alfred in honor of Alfred the Great, the king of Wessex who is credited with building the first English naval force. Another ship was named Raleigh to commemorate the seagoing exploits of Sir Walter Raleigh. Some ships honored early patriots and heroes (Hancock and General Greene). Others commemorated the young nation’s ideals and institutions (Constitution, Independence, Congress). A 74-gun ship-of-the-line, launched in 1782 and donated to the French Navy on completion, was named America. A Revolutionary War frigate named Bourbon saluted the King of France, whose alliance would further the cause of American independence. Other ship names honored American places (Boston, Virginia). Small warships– brigs and schooners–bore a variety of names. Some were named for positive character traits (Enterprise, Diligent). Others had classical names (Syren, Argus) or names of small creatures with a potent sting (Hornet, Wasp).

Still hoping for a USS Ethelred the Unready.


– Hi, sorry to bother you, but could you please help me? I’m confused … the description of this collection says it has 44 boxes but then there are only 20 boxes listed.
– Hmm. Let me look at that for you … [clickety clickety clickety … pad pad pad … murmur murmur murmur … stride stride stride] Yes, that’s correct. There are 44 boxes, but 24 are uncatalogued.
– [heart sinking; the catalogued 20 are from a period completely irrelevant to your topic] Would it be possible for me still to see them please?
– [pad pad pad … murmur murmur murmur … stride stride stride] Yes, though you should know that once we catalogue them the box number may change.
– [calls boxes … boxes begin to arrive … begins looking]

On the one hand, this is terribly frustrating: you’ve no idea what you will get. On the other, it’s wonderful: you’ve no idea what you will get. There are papers in folders and papers in envelopes and loose papers, snapshots and certificates and invoices, family letters and official reports, all very much as if they were picked directly out of the subject’s garage on the day after his death and stuck in acid-free boxes and then left there for decades. There is nothing of real value, though of prudence and courtesy to the material you’ve taken a few notes and snapped a few photos. Boxes come and boxes go. Time ticks by. The archives will close in forty-five minutes. At which point, in the penultimate box – in the middle of the penultimate box – stuck in backward so the title tab is facing away from you and you might have missed it, there is a manila folder crammed about to a thickness of about an inch with onion-skin papers, labeled in unsharpened pencil with the title of your topic

Any conference report that includes “but the mere public showing of his erection from the podium was not sufficient” is worth an extended read. The presenter–one Professor Brindley–was experimenting with cures for erectile dysfunction. His strategy involved the wince-inducing method of direct penile injection. He was not content with merely showing slides:

He paused, and seemed to ponder his next move. The sense of drama in the room was palpable. He then said, with gravity, ‘I’d like to give some of the audience the opportunity to confirm the degree of tumescence’. With his pants at his knees, he waddled down the stairs, approaching (to their horror) the urologists and their partners in the front row. As he approached them, erection waggling before him, four or five of the women in the front rows threw their arms up in the air, seemingly in unison, and screamed loudly. The scientific merits of the presentation had been overwhelmed, for them, by the novel and unusual mode of demonstrating the results.

Suddenly, Powerpoint doesn’t seem that bad.

The latest round of Ron Paul excitement reminds me of this blog’s long and rich relationship with the mad doctor. Herewith a holiday selection of oldies.


Is there some name for the intellectual maneuver of waiting till an opponent is dead, then insisting he must really have agreed with you all along? “Respect,” I’m sure, is not it.

Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers majored in history (with, apparently, a 3.60 GPA) and thus was able to answer a Civil War question effectively (starting at 54 seconds in):

We like Aaron Rodgers.

(h/t to Of Battlefields and Bibliophiles)

Speaking of Charles Forsman as I was yesterday (he of the brilliant Raiders of the Lost Ark/Popeye mashup) I realized that the timing of the hiatus prevented my sharing with you my own Forsman original sketch.

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Spoiled for quadrangles by my past college experience, I could not help note on first study that the quad at UC Davis has no campanile or carillon; its clock chimes come from some hidden electronic facsimile. Its oldest buildings are the prosaically named North and South Hall, of 1908-12 vintage; most of what surrounds it are hunkering mid-century hit-or-miss structures.
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So I heard we might be starting blogging again. I kind of want to do a roundup of what’s happened since we stopped. But that seems like work. So I’ll note instead that today, I gave a lecture1 on 1968: Tet, Johnson surrendering the Alamo declining to run, MLK’s murder, RFK’s murder, Chicago (including Ribicoff v. Daley, Buckley v. Vidal, and selected truncheons v. a whole bunch of protesters) … is it the worst year in American history?

1Lecturing is for professors who should be writing their books what writing letters was for Hemingway:2 empty calories, an excursion that makes you feel as if you’ve done something really productive when kind of you haven’t.3
2I should probably have a link for that quotation but I can’t find one. Anyway I’m not sure we’re really starting blogging again, so I don’t know if I feel committed to looking for stuff like that, you know?
3Hey, html footnotes again! I can’t remember if we thought those were funny, or not.

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.

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.

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.


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.


…because something stupid is surely heading my way. First, Williams is probably right to say that NPR was looking for a reason to fire him, though he is wrong about why; it’s not so much that he appears on Fox as it is that he says inane things, e.g. Michelle Obama is like Stokely Carmichael in a dress. (The halfway serious point here is that it’s a mistake to take Williams’ firing out of the context of his general lousiness.)

Second, the people in “muslim dress” on your flight are probably the least likely to be jihadists, unless their nefarious plot involves making everyone very aware of, and suspicious of, their presence.

Third, the phrase “muslim dress” annoys me because it conflates religion and culture. There’s no religious reason to wear salwar kameez instead of a suit. Everyone knows what he meant and it’s not a big thing, but still, irritating. Oh look, someone made tthe point in funny.

Fourth, this is amusing:

I think what I’m reacting to so strongly here is the Inquisition-like state of journalism today, in which speech deemed offensive to Jews and Muslims in particular is considered immediate grounds for firing.

Goldberg, plz. If you think there are equal social sanctions for anti-muslim and anti-semitic speech in media…oy.

Finally, I need to start praying more in airports to make you nervous.

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.

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.


It may seem incredible to suggest that the anticolonial ideology of Barack Obama Sr. is espoused by his son, the President of the United States. That is what I am saying….For Obama, the solutions are simple. He must work to wring the neocolonialism out of America and the West. And here is where our anticolonial understanding of Obama really takes off, because it provides a vital key to explaining not only his major policy actions but also the little details that no other theory can adequately account for.


Gingrich says that D’Souza has made a “stunning insight” into Obama’s behavior — the “most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama.”

“What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?” Gingrich asks. “That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”

Please account for D’Souza’s beliefs by appeal to his origins in Mumbai. Contenders: many Indians consider bathing in the sewage-filled Ganges to be purifying, and only after realizing this can you see why D’Souza tries to make the national conversation better by taking huge dumps in it; only a man raised on ghee could provide such concentrated, rarified idiocy.

God help you when Ramesh Ponnuru is the sensible one in the room.

A couple days ago I alluded to Henry Morgenthau’s premature departure from Cornell after some study of agriculture. I tried to find information about Morgenthau in The 100 Most Notable Cornellians, but discovered that the authors had instituted stringent criteria: you had to have completed an undergraduate degree. No famous faculty (no Richard Feynman or Vladimir Nabokov), nobody who got only a graduate degree (no William Gass), and no flunkouts. So no notability as a Cornellian for FDR’s Treasury Secretary and the President of the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference. Or for Kurt Vonnegut either.

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1.  I think The Last Psychiatrist is reading my blog.  If I start explaining everything in terms of narcissism, send help.
2. Interesting article suggesting that biological differences do not explain cognitive and intellectual differences in boys and girls; the differences are too small, and brains are too plastic, for differences in the brain to explain large differences in achievement or preference.

What does explain it?  Culture, specifically parents’ expectations, which is why I thought this was interesting.  Often in informal discussions people assume that the culture must affect the child’s expectations directly, and so there’s a type of argument that points to a child’s preference for princess costumes or trucks, notes that the child is too young (and too well-parented) to know that those toys are gendered, and concludes therefore that preferences for princess costumes or trucks must be hardwired somehow.  What is often overlooked is that while the young child may be sheltered from the media, her parents aren’t, and neither are her parents’ friends.   If Suzy develops an interest in cars and princesses and her parents’ friends respond by teasing her parents by wondering where Suzy got this strange interest in cars, it reinforces the message to her parents that loving princesses is normal for a girl, and loving cars is not.  Thus, “Suzy loved princesses and cars as a little girl” becomes “Suzy loved princesses like all little girls do, but she also liked cars.”   Not a huge problem for cars and princesses, of course, but risky if the proposition is “Suzy is struggling with math” or “Joey seems to be lagging behind verbally.”

3. Did anyone else watch Zombieland and think that the lead role had been written for Michael Cera, and then went to someone else?

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...."