Monday, December 27, 2004
Thursday, December 23, 2004
characterWhen I was in the Army, I served in a regiment attached to the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia. The 29th Infantry was, at the time, commanded by a highly likeable, zero-bullshit colonel named Carter Ham. I frequently wonder what became of people I knew in the Army, and in this case I just got my answer: Colonel Ham is now a brigadier general, and he commands a task force in Mosul.
If you click on the link above, take a moment to note how this military officer explains the success of a suicide bomber in an attack against a facility he commands: "Clearly in this instance I failed to identify some shortcoming that allowed this to occur."
That's leadership. A lot of putative leaders could take a lesson from Carter Ham.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
just a guess...but it seems to me, speaking bravely for all three of us, that blogging will be very, very light for the next couple of weeks.
Sunday, December 19, 2004
bloggy bloggyHere is a rather great NYT article about blogs, by a Jeffrey Rosen (law professor)...
As Web logs proliferate -- Technorati, which tracks 5 million blogs, estimates that 15,000 are added each day -- the boundaries between public and private are being transformed. Unconstrained by journalistic conventions, bloggers are blurring the lines between public events and ordinary social interactions and changing the way we date, work, teach and live. And as blogs continue to proliferate, citizens will have to develop new understandings about what parts of our lives are on and off the record.
But unlike course-evaluation sites, many blawgs focus on far more than their teachers' public performances: they are essentially gossip sheets in which anonymous students transcribe conversations in and out of class with their professors and fellow students. For example, a blawg called Open and Notorious posted by students at a Washington law school was taken down after it posted graphic transcripts of conversations between professors and sycophantic students, as well as speculation about who was sleeping with whom.
At the law school where I teach, George Washington, I recently discovered that there are two anonymous student-run blawgs, Ambivalent Imbroglio and Life, Law, Libido. One includes photos and gossip items about student sex scandals, like the Capitol Hill intern (yes, another one) who broke up with one of his co-interns and then sent her a scathing e-mail message. The bloggers also include verbatim transcripts of their conversations with my colleagues not only in class but during office hours, augmented by unkind (if sometimes wickedly accurate) comments.
On other notes, some friends are visiting and we had the world's busiest and funnest day:
Went to the Swiss Pastry Shoppe, the post office, drove around Malibu looking at the ocean, went to the Getty Museum (and went on an architecture tour), gave a short short tour of UCLA, drove to the Abbey bar in West Hollywood and drank, went to the Grove to see "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou," ate In & Out Burger, and then watched 1/2 of an unfinished DVD we had rented. We accidentally fell asleep during our "nap" at 9pm and so we didn't get to make a night out of it. WOW. What a day. Phew.
Saturday, December 18, 2004
stanislav petrovThe man who saved the world.
Friday, December 17, 2004
if we brand eight million americans as an unassimilable enemy, we'll guarantee our safety against internal attacksIn U.S., 44 Percent Say Restrict Muslims
The Associated Press
Dec. 18, 2004 -
ITHACA, N.Y. Dec 17, 2004 — Nearly half of all Americans believe the U.S. government should restrict the civil liberties of Muslim Americans, according to a nationwide poll.
The survey conducted by Cornell University also found that Republicans and people who described themselves as highly religious were more apt to support curtailing Muslims' civil liberties than Democrats or people who are less religious.
Researchers also found that respondents who paid more attention to television news were more likely to fear terrorist attacks and support limiting the rights of Muslim Americans.
UPDATE: At the Volokh Conspiracy, Orin Kerr has closely examined this poll; there is, guess what, substantial imprecision in the reported descriptions of the results.
Yearning for YarnI've always wanted to learn to chrochet. Now I have an immediate reason to start.
Don't contact me for many days. My hands will be flying.
Deceptive StairsMr. Bray has inspired me to turn this into a literary forum, replete with our beat poets. I will resist the urge -- my friends -- after I post the first chapter of Richard Brautigan's "Trout Fishing in America", lifted directly from here.
KNOCK ON WOOD (PART TWO)
One spring afternoon as a child in the strange town of Portland,
I walked down to a different street corner, and saw a row of old houses,
huddled together like seals on a rock. Then there was a long field that
came sloping down off a hill. The field was covered with green grass and
bushes. On top of the hill there was a grove of tall, dark trees. At a
distance I saw a waterfall come pouring down off the hill. It was long and
white and I could almost feel its cold spray.
There must be a creek there, I thought, and it probably has trout in it.
At last an opportunity to go trout fishing, to catch my first Trout,
to behold Pittsburgh.
It was growing dark. I didn't have time to go and look at the creek.
I walked home past the glass whiskers of the houses, reflecting the
downward rushing waterfalls of night.
The next day I would go trout fishing for the first time. I would get up
early and eat my breakfast and go.
I had heard that it was better to go trout fishing
early in the morning. The trout were better for it. They had something
extra in the morning. I went home to prepare for trout fishing in America.
I didn't have any fishing tackle, so I had to fall back on
corny fishing tackle. Like a joke.
Why did the chicken cross the road?
I bent a pin and tied it onto a piece of white string.
And slept. The next morning I got up
early and ate my breakfast. I took a slice of white bread to use for bait.
I planned on making dough balls from the soft center of the bread
and putting them on my vaudevillian hook. I left the place and walked
down to the different streetCorner. How beautiful the field looked and
the creek that came pouring down in a waterfall off the hill.
But as I got closer to the creek I could see that
something was wrong. The creek did not act right.
There was a strangeness to it. There was a thing about its motion
that was wrong. Finally I got close enough to see what the trouble was.
The waterfall was just a flight of white wooden stairs leading up
to a house in the trees.
I stood there for a long time, looking up and looking down,
following the stairs with my eyes, having trouble believing.
Then I knocked on my creek and heard the sound of wood
I ended up by being my own trout and eating the slice of bread myself.
The Reply of Trout Fishing in America:
There was nothing I could do. I couldn't change a flight of stairs
into a creek. The boy walked back to where he came from.
The same thing once happened to me. I remember
mistaking an old woman for a trout stream in Vermont,
and I had to beg her pardon.
"Excuse me, " I said. "I thought you were a trout stream. "
"I'm not, " she said.
A dynamic duoA neat article on Godel and Einstein here if you have access to the Chronicle.
Thursday, December 16, 2004
just in time for christmasAnd to buy it, you add it to your "trunk." Har!
(...and starring Peter Sellars as Dick Cheney!)
UPDATE: If anyone's looking to buy Dan Rather a retirement gift...
american technological sublimeAnyone familar with David Nye? These books look like they'd be pretty fascinating.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Empiricism and HegemonyI have been mulling this post over in my mind since August, and I still feel a bit tentative about it, but—bombs away!
In his brilliant article on Gramscian hegemony entitled “The Concept of Cultural Hegemony” T. J. Jackson Lears explores (among other things) the controversy over whether or not the concept of hegemony is falsifiable. When he does this I think he makes a minor error, but one that I think allows him to escape the question too quickly:
The whole debate over falsifiability often seems to rest on the empiricist fallacy that what cannot be precisely observed and measured does not exist. The empiricist tradition can check dogmatic assertion but also impoverish historical imagination.
Certainly if an empiricist were to claim that they know those things which cannot be observed to not exist they would be trading on a fallacy. But I am not convinced that this is actually the empiricist claim. An empiricist could easily make the same point using a narrower argument.
As I understand it the problem with non-falsifiable propositions has nothing to do with their utter falsehood. The problem is that it is trivial to construct thousands and thousands of possible and unfalsifiable claims. How then are we to distinguish between them? It is not at all obvious how one could answer this question.
The empiricist maintains that by sticking to falsifiable claims, we leave open the possibility that we could be wrong; we have some system to distinguish between claims. Without some system like empiricism, the actual process of doing history is meaningless. If we knew beforehand that no matter what the evidence we would conclude hegemony explains the time period, what was the point of wasting our time in the archives? They are irrelevant to the claim, and it may as well be stated upfront as a simple axiom, rather than as part of a historical explanation.
Falsifiable claims are not better because they are true. They are better because we have some method of analyzing them. The burden then falls to the anti-empiricist (presumably the Gramscian) to find some way to argue that their particular idea is better than the thousands of contenders. It is not at all obvious how one would accomplish this without resorting to evidence.
Now, I am not going to make a claim one way or another about whether this problem kills Gramscian hegemony. I don’t think I understand it well enough to do that. But this particular intervention by Lears strikes me as a straw man.
"the plight of conservatives in academia"Hilarious!
that mass murderer really digs my mise-en-sceneWith U.S. troops at war, we often see anti-war statements premised on the idea that artists have a special responsibility, or a special moral sensibility, that requires them to offer dissent and criticism.
I've always been fascinated by the emptiness of that premise, and I was reminded while reading last night just how little I buy the argument that artists are somehow morally exceptional. My favorite paragraph from Leni Riefenstahl's memoir:
How often I have been asked about my impressions of Hitler. This question has always been the one that everybody asks, especially when I was interrogated by the Allies, but it is not easy to describe my reaction to Hitler in those days. On the one hand I was extremely grateful to him for protecting me against enemies like Goebbels and others, and for respecting me as an artist; but I was indignant and ashamed when I returned from the Dolomites in the autumn of 1942 and, for the first time, saw Jewish people forced to wear the yellow star. It was after the war before I learned from the Allies that they had been taken to concentration camps and exterminated.
So Hitler's documentarian first noticed that the Third Reich had a problem with Jews in 1942, and she was shocked -- shocked! -- to eventually learn that Germany was actually killing them. I mean, how could one know such a thing, with nothing more than direct access to Hitler himself? When she was filming those party rallies, earlier in life, she simply hadn't noticed the rhetoric of the regime -- she was busy, darling, with the cinematography and such. Who has time to listen to every word?
But the very best part is the collapsing of points: Hitler respected me as an artist, semi-colon; later, I discovered that he had ordered the murder of millions of Jews.
But enough about me, darling, did you hear that Europe is Juedenfrei? Anyway, I saw Jack the other day, and he's gained a frightful amount of weight, have you seen how poorly his clothes fit? I simply must get in some skiing before the end of the season.
Let's go ahead and not take political cues from show people, yeah? I mean, I'm really touched that Sean Penn and Martin Sheen are feeling defiant, but....
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
mars and venusAnn and I have now been together for nearly three years. So go ahead and ask:
How many times have I been compelled to watch the "we forgot the flowers" scene from Ice Castles on late-night cable?
hail maryJust turned in the form to the history department that indicates my intent to give up my otherwise-guaranteed funding for the next school year. Lost: $10,000 in funding for tuition and fees; $14,500 in stipend funding. Gained: time, glorious unencumbered time, to read and research during my third year of grad school, since I won't have to work as a (deleted word) teaching assistant.
Now I just have to figure out a way to come up with $25,000 to replace the funding I'm giving up.
This would be a good time for the Bray family to reveal the existence of any exciting trust funds that have been kept secret. I won't let it spoil me, I swear.
Or there's always the night shift at the 7-11.
Sunday, December 12, 2004
Sloppy ThinkingVictor Davis Hanson has this to say about Western Europe (quote taken from Jim Lindgren of Volokh):
Before you laugh at the silly comparison, remember that the Western military tradition is European. Today the continent is unarmed and weak, but deep within its collective mind and spirit still reside the ability to field technologically sophisticated and highly disciplined forces--if it were ever to really feel threatened.
Militaries don’t reside within the “mind” or “spirit” of a nation. That may be because nations don’t posses minds and spirits. Militaries exist in—well—material reality. They are built with people and manufactured goods. Western Europe’s geist is not about to gestate an army, if it is to produce one it will be from factories and people.
But pay attention to this mistake, it’s repeated throughout though more subtly:
The Netherlands was a litmus test for Europe. Unlike Spain or Greece, which had historical grievances against Islam, the Dutch were the avatars of the new liberal Europe, without historical baggage. They were eager to unshackle Europe from the Church, from its class and gender constraints, and from any whiff of its racist or colonialist past. True, for a variety of reasons, Amsterdam may be a case study of how wrong Rousseau was about natural man, but for a Muslim immigrant the country was about as hospitable a foreign host as one can imagine. Thus, it was far safer for radical Islamic fascists to damn the West openly from a mosque in Rotterdam than for a moderate Christian to quietly worship in a church in Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Algeria. And yet we learn not just that the Netherlands has fostered a radical sect of Muslims who will kill and bomb, but, far more importantly, that they will do so after years of residency among, and indeed in utter contempt of, their Western hosts…
Somehow westerners should feel that it’s hypocritical for one group of hateful radicals to plan terrorist attacks, while several other entirely different nations are intolerant.
And this hypocrisy, argues Hanson, should be a call to arms. It should be a call to build a giant military. But a giant military to do what? To squash the handful of rebellious Muslims already living in the West? One hardly needs a fighting force straight from the European geist to do that.
A more likely result of a giant European military would be a counterweight to America hegemony. But perhaps America and Europe possess the same “mind” and “spirit” for Hanson, just Algeria and Iran share one with Muslims living in the Netherlands.
call and responseSam Francis has given permission to post his response to my email regarding his views of interracial sexual relationships. You can read his response at the bottom of this post.
Saturday, December 11, 2004
It's not just usIt's not just me... It's not just me....
I am validated.
Friday, December 10, 2004
Cut and PasteTalk about a harsh punishment for plagiarism in the historical profession, read this and see the surprise ending, where God takes an active stance on the issue with his characteristic flair of irony.
No, but seriously, I need to find a good way to invoke the wrath of fear into my students about plagiarism so we don't have more academic "mishaps."
Speaking of students, I had my last Friday section TAing, and I got applause at the end. So I win.
today's exciting email to sam francisMr. Francis,
I was struck by your November 26 column, in which you described a televised depiction of an interracial sexual relationship as an act of "moral subversion" and attacked the message that "interracial sex is normal and legitimate."
As you put it, "Breaking down the sexual barriers between the races is a major weapon of cultural destruction because it means the dissolution of the cultural boundaries that define breeding and the family and, ultimately, the transmission and survival of the culture itself."
I notice that your columns are posted on VDARE, a site that also posts columns by Michelle Malkin. Ms. Malkin is a partner in an interracial marriage -- do you regard your fellow VDARE columnist as morally subversive? Do you have concerns about sharing a forum with her? I am very interested in the precise boundaries of your concern on the topic of interracial sexual relationships, and I am interested in the ideological premises that underlie Ms. Malkin's presence on VDARE.
UPDATE: Sam Francis has replied to my email -- if he gives permission, I'll post his reply.
MORE: With his permission, here is Sam Francis' reply:
I appreciate the courtesy of your questions, but have it tell you that most critical responses to my column have not been courteous at all but extremely rude and insulting. No, I have no concerns about "sharing a forum" with Michelle Malkin, nor do I regard her as "morally subversive" because of her marriage (I think you rather missed my point here) nor do I have any concerns about the interracial marriages of several of my friends nor about the highly integrated neighborhood in which I live nor about most other things that people imagine I am "concerned" about.
What I am concerned about is the disappearance of my own racial group and identity, white Europeans, due to declining fertility and non-white immigration, and the eventual cultural and political effects this will have. Interracial marriage of whites, though increasing, is not statistically significant as a threat to my race or any other at the present time, but in principle it is, because the more it happens, the fewer whites there will be. Is it OK with you if I do not want my race to become extinct, or does that transgress the "boundaries" you think I should observe?
temperance activist drinks a beerI have always, always, always maintained that Macs aren't real computers, and that I would never use anything but a PC. But my girlfriend just bought a new iBook G4, running Apple's OS 10-point-something, and it's sooooooooo enjoyable. The desktop is beautiful and elegant; the cool applications bar along the bottom of the screen is a pleasure to use. And she's using Safari as a web browser instead of Internet Explorer. And I love Safari, too -- it's way more elegant and cool than IE.
So Ann's computer is, from top to bottom, a virtually Microsoft-free computer. And I am a longtime PC user, and I love it. I might actually buy a Mac the next time I buy a laptop, which needs to be pretty soon.
I'm reminded of this post: purported monopolies can be successfully challenged, knock on wood, in the marketplace. The latest Microsoft OS, whatever the hell it's called, has all the aesthetic verve of East German architecture.
Now for Apple to maybe get more than five percent of the computer market, I guess is the problem.
Thursday, December 09, 2004
shaking hands with the devilMichelle Malkin's columns appear on V-DARE, a website tellingly named after the first white child born in America. Another writer whose columns appear on V-DARE: Sam Francis, author of this fairly stunning recent column decrying interracial sexual relationships:
Breaking down the sexual barriers between the races is a major weapon of cultural destruction because it means the dissolution of the cultural boundaries that define breeding and the family and, ultimately, the transmission and survival of the culture itself.
I'm repeating myself, but it's worth repeating: Michelle Malkin chooses to live in an ideological neighborhood where she is necessarily and indisputably despised. I find it really baffling that Malkin publishes on V-DARE, and I'd love to hear her views on this Sam Francis column.
(Note: Also take a look at a post at the Volokh Conspiracy on this Francis column.)
UPDATE: For another remarkable look at what V-DARE is all about, take a look at this recent column.
Emails to studentsWriting emails to students at the midnight hour can be quite the experience:
I think I may have given out some misinformation to one
group last week -- Neal, Alex, and Julianne, I think. I'm
going to correct it. Let's see if this works.
An assiduous student to an assiduous TA: "Hey, listen up
buddy, because I have something to say regarding the 2nd law
and the engine picture with two reservoirs, and it ain't
gonna be nice.
How come this picture doesn't represent a violation of the
2nd law? If we look at this picture from a kinetic point of
view, we see we have a lot of motion in the particles in the
top heat reservoir, which Prof. Wise labeled T1.
After the heat moves to the bottom reservoir, because heat
moves from hot to cold, we have a lessening of the motion of
of the particles in the top reservoir.
So if we go from a lot of jiggly motion to a little jiggly
motion, does that take us from a lot of disorder to a little
You see, the second law of thermodynamics doesn't apply --
and I have saved the universe from a natural state of decay.
I am a hero."
I should have replied as followed, thus removing yet another
undeserved cape from another wanna-be-superhero:
"Let's consider the system as a whole. Initially, we have a
lot of motion in the top reservoir and a little motion in
the bottom reservoir. We should draw those as two different
normal curves with different centers/means.
Then we let the system run, and we watch how the curves
change. After a long time, the system will have come to a
constant temperature, and the two curves will have become
just a single horizontal line.
This is similar to the temperature of a metal bar, when it
is initially heated up in the center by a flame, and then
the flame is blown out. It goes from a very high normal
curve (order) to a horizontal line (disorder) after a long
period of time.
Another way to look at this is with a bottle of perfume.
Initially all the particles are concentrated in one space --
the bottle. In this analogy, that would be our very high
normal curve. Then we drop the bottle to the ground. The
perfume particles dissipate throughout the room until they
are on average evenly spread out. This would be our
horizontal curve. The concentrated perfume (order) went
everywhere (disorder) and it cannot ever get back to an
ordered state. Sigh.
And that's why my room smells so funny.
Does that make sense? If not, be sure to ask me in class,
and I'll explain it WITH PICTURES!"
One TA sad to be done with this class,
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Histori-blogographyShould I be worried? Guess where my laptop is right now? Nah, I don't think I like children anyway.
my first blegSay that a certain grad student were to pack up his squalid little bachelor hovel and U-Haul some stuff across town to move in with his Cherkis -- on, say, Wednesday, December 22. Would anyone be able to help him?
(Hopwood? You out there, buddy? Little help?)
FrustrationYou wanna know what's frustrating? The fact that there are so many sexy history of science research topics, and the knowledge that I have no access to them.
What was I thinking going into this field when I only have a degree in math? I would LOVE to work on, say, the history of string theory (what triggered this was a recent article in the NYT) or on complexity theory infiltrating all these other fields (e.g. economics, genetics). I mean REALLY work on these topics -- on the intellectual history of these topics -- rather than always working "inwards-out", focusing on sociological or institutional histories.
Yargh. Actually I just realized I'm getting frustrated with this exact problem in my current research paper, where I picked a rather difficult character who did some rather difficult physics. How the heck did all the authors I have read deal with this? Or were they all ex-physicists-turned-historians. Gosh I wish I were an ex-physicist-turned-historian. I just feel inadequate discussing a subject I know very little about.
infinite human creativityIt is possible to invent any task -- any task -- to avoid facing a stack of ungraded undergraduate essays.
Now well after midnight. Pile of essays looming nearby.
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
MicrobesSo I only have 4 more essays to grade! That makes me happy. Sometimes I feel that I spend too long on grading these papers. Its too long.
I have this weirdly runny nose -- I didn't know my body had as much globly fluid that seems to flow out of my nose -- though I don't think I'm sick. I don't feel sick. I better not be sick. If I am, I better not be sick with one of these.
Could someone make me this?
A book I think I would tremendously enjoy.
Monday, December 06, 2004
i will now engage in a hegemonic maneuver aimed at controlling the massesLast week, I brought excerpts from George Kennan's long telegram to one of my discussion sections for a course on twentieth-century history. I had students read three carefully selected pages, then opened discussion. We went through, paragraph by paragraph, and pulled out the interesting language in the document: the characterization of the Soviet Union as a society hostile to fact, incapable of reason, immune to truth, but capable of responding to the language of force.
So, I said. What does the world look like to American policymakers in 1946? What kind of policy choices would this document suggest? Why does Kennan see the Soviets this way?
And so a student promptly answers that "the elites" knew that they had to keep "the people" scared, so they could control them. The Soviets were a convenient threat. Another student jumps in to agree, and then another. And I ask: Does anyone want to dispute this? Would anyone like to suggest another explanation?
Crickets. No one -- no one -- could think of any explanation other than the much-favored "the elites were making it all up so they could control the people" argument.
And I can't really blame them, since I see historians making this argument all the time. Last week at the UCLA history department's American history colloquium, a historian presented a paper arguing that Jewish "cultural elites" in New York City objected to early moviegoing among Jewish immigrants because those elites were trying to control the masses, asserting class hegemony in opposition to a cultural form that challenged their social status. Several of us in attendance asked questions in an attempt to probe for an alternative interpretation or a more complicated narrative, and failed: It was really all just binary, hegemonic maneuvering by a single, unified, fully conscious "elite" -- against the undifferentiated, uncomplicated urban immigrant masses, natch. Social control explains all.
What's remarkable about all of this is that a historical profession that has purportedly moved beyond the narrow history of dead white male elites now elevates the same dead white male elites to the status of gods: omniscient, omnipotent, endlessly rational and unrelentingly calculating. Elites are never afraid, never weak, never confused, never irrational, never wrong about their interests, and above all never intent on anything but self-advancement.
George Kennan was coldy rational, in 1946 -- untraumatized by war and mass slaughter, with a cold and complete understanding of Soviet power and Soviet structure. He knew, man, and he totally, like, pretended that he thought the Soviets were a threat. So he could manipulate the masses into being all, like, capitalistic and shit.
These are our two explanations for all known historical events: 1) People were very racist back then, and 2) The Man was manipulating The People with his Big Lies.
Now, okay: Racism is real. Elites engage in social manipulation. Yes. But as structured, the historical narratives we've built around these realities are bone-jarringly reductive and reflexive.
And so we have an alternative narrative, as represented by Victor Davis Hanson, Michelle Malkin, and other exciting historical minds, in which we challenge the lame academic orthodoxy by inverting the structure and letting the sand run into the other side of the glass: America is just like the golden age of Athens, our leaders are never stupid or racist, we are the shining light of freedom. Hallelujah, amen. (Pat self on back.)
Are these really the choices?
I read all kinds of magnificent, subtle, complicated scholarship...and then I go to discussions, in class or in colloquium, and none of it seems to be getting through. What will it take to drag some worthwhile historical scholarship into the light of day? What will it take to develop a widely read and discussed alternative that isn't Malkinistically idiotic?
living in her own private idahoYou know, I was just kidding about all the bunker stuff.
Sunday, December 05, 2004
probably let 'em ring through to voice mailGrading undergrad papers again this weekend. My favorite revelation is that, during the Red Summer of 1919, African-Americans responded to mob violence by asking the authorities to intervene...
But the police refused to answer their 911 calls.
FootballThere are a number of ways that college football is stupid. Let's focus on one of the stupidities.
In college football teams that have never played each other, are ranked against each other by a popularity contest and a (apparently magical) computer ranking system. This year five teams in the top 25 are unbeaten. They have never played each other, and have played almost none of the same teams. Yet a "national champion" will be picked based on two of these teams playing each other. But don't worry, it's objective because they put lots of numbers in the rankings.
What's more Cal (10-1), currently ranked number 6 after losing only one game to the team ranked number 1 will be playing number 22 Texas Tech (7-4) in the holiday bowl. The selection process was rumored to involve a ouija board, a graphing calculator, and uncle jeb's bumb knee. I'm sure it will be a great game.
But then, given that I think we should banish college sports as we know it, I guess I'm not one of the elite geniuses the figured this idiotic spectacle out.
Friday, December 03, 2004
Preaching to the QuireA debate has been raging recently on the h-net discussion h-west regarding the Western History Association and its practices. Given that I'm not a member of the WHA, and haven't seen the events which have stirred up the controversy I'll refrain from commenting on it. But one response to a particular issue, by Patricia Nelson Limerick caught my attention as being especially good. The issue is the WHA's relation to the general public, and various schemes for integration many of which seem to focus primarily around trying to bring in audiences likely to agree with the politics of the proponents.
Regarding dealing with the public at large Limerick writes:
You do have another option [besides speaking to audiences likely to frustrate you]. You can only speak to public audiences that already agree with you. This does have the advantage of enhanced comfort, but boredom and pointlessness rise right along with the comfort.
Sometimes we are too eager to seek out audiences of like minded individuals rather than engage in debate with our opponents. I agree with Limerick that such an attitude is self-defeating. Sending out the message to all those who already agree doesn't really send out any message at all.
If the WHA is interested in being relevant to a wider audience, that audience is going to need to include not only critics from the left, but those likely to disagree with historians from the right.
those small but glorious moments of almost radiant clarityTremendously enjoyable post at Eric Muller's blog this morning.
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
Origin of speciesAt the moment, after spending 4 hours preparing a class on Darwinian evolution, I am disparaged to learn the truth about it.
The good news is, I might go to heaven now. And now I know that gluons are silly. I should have deduced this fact a long time ago simply from their name. Quarks and gluons.
heavy sighMy December teaching assistant paycheck was direct-deposited into my checking account precisely at midnight, at which point I signed off at the credit union website, then walked a stack of envelopes out to the mailbox and paid my bills. Then I went to amazon.com and bought some books that I need kind of desperately -- all used copies, I assure you. Then I put a whopping twenty bucks on my Bruin Card, so I can drink coffee at school and therefore continue to not fall over dead.
It is now 1:05 a.m., and -- one hour and a few minutes after receiving my monthly pay -- I have sixty (expletive) dollars to my name.