31 July 2010

About that mosque...

I was amused this morning, amid all the overheated hubbub about the proposed mosque and or Islamic center three or four blocks from ground zero in Manhattan, to read about efforts for the Boy Scouts of America to make their current jamboree Muslim friendly. Along with a lot of high tech gadgets an "inflatable mosque provides a place for Muslim scouts to worship."

Amazing. As a former Scout who actually earned three or four merit badges (and wished there had been one for reading large books about history) I have a certain amount of respect for the institution but am a bit bemused, particularly when the article describes the latest scouting styles.
Some boys sport lime-green hair to match the T-shirts of their non-dress uniforms, and most wear loose-fitting knee-length shorts, some surfer-dude cool with bright swirls.

What would Baden-Powell make of this?

And having almost finished the Baburnama, I wonder: wouldn't the first Moghul have loved to have had an inflatable mosque to take along on his raids? Not to mention his wine parties.

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29 July 2010

Word origins

If you have been reading this blog at all you know I like to play with words and to learn where they came from (I also like weird little cars). Today in my morning reading of Marco Polo I found the following among the translator's notes:

The same romance brings in the story of the Stone of Samarkand [used for the throne of Timur-i-lang), and accounts for its sanctity in Saracen eyes because it had long formed a pedestal for Mahound!

And this notion gave rise to the use of Mawmet for an idol in general; whilst from the Mahommerie or place of Islamite worship the name of mummery came to be applied to idolatrous or unmeaning rituals; both very unjust etymologies. Thus of mosques in Richard Coeur de Lion:

"Kyrkes they made of Crystene Lawe,
And her Mawmettes lete downe drawe." (Weber, II. 228.)

So Correa calls a golden idol, which was taken by Da Gama in a ship of Calicut, "an image of Mahomed" (372). Don Quixote too, who ought to have known better, cites with admiration the feat of Rinaldo in carrying off, in spite of forty Moors, a golden image of Mahomed.

I read Don Quixote once, and think the writer misses the point. Cervantes was nothing if not ironic, and sometimes downright sarcastic.

Mummery! A much neglected word. Now I know where it came from.


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Straight from the moldy oldies ben ... and I mean oldy! Top of the Medieval Hit list,

There is absolutely no point to this post other than I like this song.

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The Pontiace Aztek, a metaphor

If ever there was a car that illustrates the problems that nearly did in General Motors it was the Pontiac Aztek: a good idea wretchedly executed. Just to look at it left one asking, "What were they thinking?" It didn't help that for some strange reason most of them were painted baby-poop yellow.

Here's the assessment of an auto journalist from AOL who admits that it started off as a good idea, the first of the cross-over SUVs, but,
...when the production Aztek rolled into showrooms for the 2001 model year, it was markedly different than the concept GM had shown two years earlier. This vehicle shared a platform with the Pontiac Montana minivan, and it was boxy and unattractive, to say the least. Introduced in both front-wheel-drive and “Versatrak” all-wheel-drive versions -- both powered by a barely adequate V6 engine -- the Aztek was so poorly executed that it quickly became the butt of jokes.
I wasn’t crazy about the Aztek, either, but my complaints weren’t about its looks. “The inside reminds me of an economy hotel,” I wrote in the New York Daily News. “Everything is clean but ever-so-cheap; I half expected a mass-produced painting to be bolted to a door.”

So a nice little morality tale of misbegotten management, cost cutting, and poor execution. And yet... and yet... Some people loved it, and are still driving the damned thing.
“Let’s just say it can get out of its own way,” the Dutchess, New York resident says. “It thrives on neglect. The odometer just passed 200,000 and virtually nothing has gone wrong with it. I’d never intended to keep it this long, but it’s been so dependable and still runs fine and the stereo system sounds good. I just drive it. I figure I’ll let her come in for a smooth landing when she’s ready.”

And another happy owner:
“I’ve had my Red 2001 Aztek since ’03, and I drive it every single day,” says corporate project manager Ken Rhyno, who runs a 1,700-plus member Aztek Fan Club from his home in Port Elgin, Ontario, Canada. “I still get cracks from people, but the car runs great, gets up to 30 miles to the gallon and the amount of stuff you can haul in it is fantastic. People have got to understand it’s not a Corvette. Its looks are not the point.”

So perhaps it is a useful morality tale after all, just not the one I first thought. Ugly and dumb but practical may have its virtues.

Still- in its last year of production GM practically had to give them away to sell 5,000 copies.


26 July 2010

Continuing the beer theme

Also from the "Ugly" web site, a dog called Pabst. Don't know if it is a commentary on the brew or the dog but here it is.

It's so ugly blogger won't let me upload the picture!

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This beer's for you, Sr Sobrino

This was going to be a "Without Comment" post, but I had to get in the homage [pretentious French pronunciation] to Joey who I hear is moving to an apartment in Charlotte right around the corner from a beer bar with 100 beers. It's from a link on Daily Dish to a cite honoring really ugly animals.

Snout Stout? Rogue? Anyone ever hear of any of these?

We are planning our first visit even as I type.

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25 July 2010

Old English

Not really, but 19th century English. We are beginning to move so far beyond it that some of us find difficulty reading it. A member of our Episcopal book club once told me that he had trouble reading The Screwtape Letters by C S Lewis because the writing was so old-fashioned. Fifteen years ago I could force students to read a few chapters of Gibbons Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and after some adjustment they could appreciate his style, even enjoy it. Last year I did the same thing with a reasonably bright class of juniors and seniors and they simply found his prose impenetrable.

I was amused this morning to find a writing guide published in 1883 for writing English clearly. It is fascinating to see how things have changed, and how some things have not. Here are the first few rules:

1. Use words in their proper sense. [my favorite]

2. Avoid exaggerations.

3. Avoid useless circumlocution and "fine writing."

4. Be careful in the use of "not ... and," "any," "but," "only," "not ... or," "that."

4 a. Be careful in the use of ambiguous words, e.g. "certain."

Here are some rules specific to brevity.

46. Metaphor is briefer than literal statement.

47. General terms are briefer, though less forcible, than particular terms.

47 a. A phrase may sometimes be expressed by a word.

48. Participles may often be used as brief (though sometimes ambiguous) equivalents of phrases containing Conjunctions and Verbs.

49. Participles, Adjectives, Participial Adjectives, and Nouns may be used as equivalents for phrases containing the Relative.

50. A statement may sometimes be briefly implied instead of being expressed at length.

And as self-criticism, I pick this one:

51. Conjunctions may be omitted. Adverbs, e.g. "very," "so." Exaggerated epithets, e.g. "incalculable," "unprecedented."

I am going to have to dip into this some more. I am always interested in style. It is a mistake to assume that nineteenth century people were somehow less intelligent or less sophisticated than we.

and so, adieu, I am off to hunt me some metaphors quick as a bunny.

Unprecedentedly incalculable!


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REAL Grass Roots anger

The immediate reaction of a relatively modest, relatively Hispanic community on learning that their town manager was receiving $800,000 a year in compensation. He almost immediately had to resign. Of course, he may have been exceptionally willing to do so: he will receive $600,000 a year in pension benefits. Part time council members took home about $100,000 a year.

Now that is populist rage!

I wonder what the folks in Wilkesboro get paid? They certainly have screwed up the local budgets enough.


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24 July 2010

Nasty porcupines

I was reading Marco Polo on gutenberg.com and came across this little paragraph about a region in eastern Persia.
When you have ridden those three days, you find a town called CASEM, which is subject to a count. His other towns and villages are on the hills, but through this town there flows a river of some size. There are a great many porcupines hereabouts, and very large ones too. When hunted with dogs, several of them will get together and huddle close, shooting their quills at the dogs, which get many a serious wound thereby.

Nasty little beasts. I think this one must be of the same breed.

maybe not.

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High School

I went to HB Plant high school in the Palma Ceia part of Tampa. Don't worry - after about 15 years, some constructive drinking, and a move to Minnesota I recovered.

This guy apparently didn't.

But he does make much more money than I do.

though he had to sue his own brother to do it.



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22 July 2010

The Real Death Tax

It has always struck me as almost quaint that some conservatives get so worked up over what they call "the death tax". It will effect remarkably few of us (as in virtually none, unless academia pays a hell of a lot more than I have noticed, or books with Viking ships on the cover become best sellers). Here, on the other hand, is the real death tax that each and every person who reads this post has a good chance of paying. It's a real example from a reader asking Michelle Singleterry for advice at the Washington Post:
My mother has been at a wonderful nonprofit continuing care facility for almost 13 years. She is now 94 years old and although she had a mild stroke 10 years ago, she is in pretty good health and has all her marbles. First she lived in an independent apartment but two years ago, after a series of falls, we moved her into assisted living. She is now at Care Level 2 at a cost of roughly $84,000 per year. Here's the problem: she is running out of money. She will never hit zero because she has my father's pension and Social Security, totaling about $50,000/year. We have sold off most of her stocks (she was a very good investor when she was younger) to pay her bills and she has an annuity of about $240,000 she has held for many years. We will start tapping that but if she is raised to Care Level 3 or moves to the nursing home on the campus, that will be gone in as little as two or three years. The nursing home charges $12,000/month.

Meanwhile, the plan to starve the evil government goes forward. Hope you are feeling healthy as you age.

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20 July 2010

Our "Right of Center" country

Words about as meaningless as sand squiggles on the beach.

Here is a little factlet:
To put it bluntly, middle-class Americans of the right, left and center have come to expect a level of personal financial security that -- despite the stereotypes -- most people around the world would never demand from their governments. In a book review this month, Brink Lindsey, vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute -- a man who knows what he is up against -- reported some extraordinary statistics. The majority of Americans are wary of global trade, don't trust free markets and also think that "the benefits from . . . Social Security or Medicare are worth the costs of those programs." And when the sample is restricted to people who support the Tea Party movement? The share is still 62 percent.

So where do we find fiscal conservatives? Or is something else going on?

just as long as they don't cut Social Security, the university's budget, my 401(k), or anything else I depend on, I'm for fiscal sanity myself.

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Kindle News

I am still laughing about all those comments from computer geeks when the Kindle e-reader first came out insisting that it was a dumb machine that only did one thing and nobody would buy it. And indeed, no one bought it who thought just like them.

But the geeks kept deriding it, even as some pointed out that Amazon was selling every single one they could manufacture. Somehow, in geekdom, this did not amount to a success, because people who thought just like them would never buy one. It was still a dumb machine that only did one thing: read books. And how many people could there be out there who only wanted a machine that could read books?

Plenty. Amazon now says they sell more Kindle books than hardcover books. That's a lot of books. And the price, as friend Curtis my favorite computer geek warned me, has dropped, now to a mere $189. At this rate they will soon be like the old camera companies - they could practically give their cameras away since it locked you into to buying their film forever.

Meanwhile, I am getting closer and closer to buying one.

and for the record, analysts think that Amazon will sell 3.7 million Kindles this year.


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19 July 2010

Poetry Nook

A poem by Longfellow retelling Marco Polo's story of the destruction of the Caliph in Baghdad by Alau, better known as Hulagu Khan, grandson of Chinggis Khan. His brother was Kubla Khan who did "a stately pleasure-dome decree" in another pretty good poem.

"I said to the Kalif: 'Thou art old,
Thou hast no need of so much gold.
Thou shouldst not have heaped and hidden it here,
Till the breath of Battle was hot and near,
But have sown through the land these useless hoards
To spring into shining blades of swords,
And keep thine honour sweet and clear.
* * * * *
Then into his dungeon I locked the drone,
And left him to feed there all alone
In the honey-cells of his golden hive:
Never a prayer, nor a cry, nor a groan
Was heard from those massive walls of stone,
Nor again was the Kalif seen alive.'
This is the story, strange and true,
That the great Captain Alau
Told to his brother, the Tartar Khan,
When he rode that day into Cambalu.
By the road that leadeth to Ispahan."

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18 July 2010

Illegal Immigrants in the Tar Heel State

Last spring I had an overt, died in the wool, white supremacist in my class on Migration in World History. One day he went on one of his rants about how awful illegal immigrants were because they were causing our community college system to collapse by crowding into classes where they couldn't speak English. I told him I thought that was nonsense and I was in a position to know, being a professor within the higher education field. Students who get into community colleges speak English, and there are not that many of them. How could the people accused of being willing to work for sub-American wages be able to send their children to schools charging out of state tuition rates, as North Carolina does. He didn't buy it.

Providentially when I got home that night I found in the local paper this article by Scott Mooneyham (a columnist who covers state politics) which provided me with the hard numbers to make the point I wanted to make. So the next class I asked my class a few questions.

1. How many students go to NC community colleges?
Answer: about 300,000. Most of the students thought many times more.

2. What percentage of these are illegal residents?
Answer: community college officials say that in 2008 it was 112 students, which is considerably less than 1%. Actually it's about .00038. Most students thought it was as high as 20% and several thought as high as 50% (no, I don't know what planet they live on either).

3. How many times the instate tuition rate do out-of-state students pay?
Answer: It varies a bit, but Mooneyham gives the figure for out-of-state tuition as $7,700 per year. That seems to be about 5 times as much. Students were all over the map on this one, though one or two out-of-state students got it right.

What I didn't ask them, but should have, was how much this costs the state of North Carolina to educate this horde of illegals in community colleges.

Answer: it doesn't - in 2008 the state made about $185,000 off of them. Also, since the state requires that they have graduated from an American high school, it is difficult to believe very many of those 112 were unable to speak English. Most of the ones I know personally speak English exactly like the locals, sadly. As to how overcrowded this makes our community colleges? Not at all. They go to the back of the line and are only admitted if space is then available.

just my luck, the day I did all this the class white supremacist was absent. Oh well.


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15 July 2010

Moma Grizzlies, journallist mode

Yes. Moms can be ferocious in protecting their young. And sometimes in simply protecting something they hold dear. Here is one young, three time mom doing just that by tearing David Weigel several new ones, all with a certain calm, je ne sais quoi.*

It is hilarious. Unless, of course, you are a fan of the great Moma Grizzly herself.

[NB: One of Weigel's fellow commentators at the Daily Dish linked to this, which bespeaks a certain honesty we should see more of.]

in honor of his majesty, the Louis XIV wannabe, the incomparable Roushbauex, I am using French.


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Ancient!! Like, reallly, really old

The term ancient, which to me means something pre-AD 1000 at least, ain't what it used to be. Aside from the fact that young Clovis calls me 'ancient' - among other things - it now seems the official policy of AOL News, a reliable source, that anything from the 18th century is ANCIENT!

Imagine my surprise then when I read the headline "Ancient buried ship found at Ground Zero". I was expecting something Roman, if not Phoenician. Alas, it was from the 1700s apparently.

Reminded me that when Maire and I were upset that the new curriculum in history here at App U did not have a category for "medieval history" I was told by the anthropologist in charge of the committee that came up with the new curriculum that the existing category "ancient history" was intended to stand for "anything old" as in anything before the early modern (c. 1500).

I'm going to lay down now for a nap now... I'm feeling ancient and decrepit.


13 July 2010

So what did they have against Louis XVI?

The palace of the Rushbo .. The Wall Street Journal has the details. (please please please click on the picture)

which just sold for $11.5 million. That's a lot of radio ads.

but don't you think this is a bit ... oh ... I don't know ... Gallic? Maybe it should be spelled Roushbauex.

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12 July 2010

History as Cinema

Doesn't really work. Plots are too unbelievable. Matt Yglesias cites Robert Farley who cites ... this guy named Scott [this is similar to the manuscript tradition beloved among medieval historians].
So Doctor Who is not a complete loss. But then there are some shows that go completely beyond the pale of enjoyability, until they become nothing more than overwritten collections of tropes impossible to watch without groaning.

I think the worst offender here is the History Channel and all their programs on the so-called "World War II".

Let's start with the bad guys. Battalions of stormtroopers dressed in all black, check. Show allSecret police, check. Determination to brutally kill everyone who doesn't look like them, check. Leader with a tiny villain mustache and a tendency to go into apoplectic rage when he doesn't get his way, check. All this from a country that was ordinary, believable, and dare I say it sometimes even sympathetic in previous seasons.

I wouldn't even mind the lack of originality if they weren't so heavy-handed about it. Apparently we're supposed to believe that in the middle of the war the Germans attacked their allies the Russians, starting an unwinnable conflict on two fronts, just to show how sneaky and untrustworthy they could be? And that they diverted all their resources to use in making ever bigger and scarier death camps, even in the middle of a huge war? Real people just aren't that evil. And that's not even counting the part where as soon as the plot requires it, they instantly forget about all the racism nonsense and become best buddies with the definitely non-Aryan Japanese.

Not that the good guys are much better. Their leader, Churchill, appeared in a grand total of one episode before, where he was a bumbling general who suffered an embarrassing defeat to the Ottomans of all people in the Battle of Gallipoli. Now, all of a sudden, he's not only Prime Minister, he's not only a brilliant military commander, he's not only the greatest orator of the twentieth century who can convince the British to keep going against all odds, he's also a natural wit who is able to pull out hilarious one-liners practically on demand. I know he's supposed to be the hero, but it's not realistic unless you keep the guy at least vaguely human.

And this goes on and on, managing to be both hilarious and instructive. Never dismiss an historical story on the grounds of plausibility. There are usually other reasons.

BUT, this brings up a SERIOUS QUESTION for all you Sci-Fi fans out there! In the late 60s or early 70s I remember reading a story in either IF or ANALOG magazines (I think) written as if it were a scholarly paper by an historian completely debunking the 'myth' of Hitler and World War II as entirely too implausible and clearly contrived.

Does anyone remember such a story? Do you remember who wrote it or where I can find it?


ps: who is Amy Pond?

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Those Catalans and World Cup Fever

My favorite ... uh, inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula.

"Even the Catalan papers revelled in the victory, perhaps won over by the fact the victorious side featured seven Barcelona players."

[from CBS Sports]

You know something exciting is happening if the Catalans go wild over the Spanish team.

some Hispanics are more Hispanic than others.

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Emotional Effects of the Great Recession

Apparently it has made Republicans feel worse than Democrats. Really.

According to Robert Samuelson in today's Washington Post anyway.

One paradox identified by Pew is that some groups that "have been hardest hit by this recession (including blacks, young adults and Democrats) are significantly more upbeat than their more sheltered counterparts (including whites, older adults and Republicans) about a recovery." For instance: Blacks suffer higher unemployment than whites (15.4 vs. 8.6 percent in June) but believe more strongly that the recovery has begun (47 to 38 percent). Pew's explanation is politics. With a Democratic administration, Democrats are more upbeat and Republicans more glum.

Another theory -- more powerful, I think -- is that the Great Recession, though jarring to almost everyone, has been most disruptive and disillusioning to those who were previously the most protected. It punctured their cocoons so unexpectedly that they became more cautious and fearful, whereas those who even in good times faced job loss and income shifts (many blacks, the young and the poor) were less surprised.

Not sure this is true but it certainly punches most of my buttons.

so it might as well be true. Or nearly so.

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11 July 2010

David Frum goes historical

On the Chinese Song Dynasty no less. He is reading several books about the period and is highly impressed. The Song were the Dynasty before the Mongols and is generally agreed to be the period when Chinese civilization reached its heights (except for personal hygiene according to Frum).

It's worth reading. Though I have to laugh at his last paragraph:
Premodern history is a story of cruelty. If half the world’s people lived in China in the year 1000, at least half the world’s cruelty took place there too – and probably much more than half, since the Chinese were so much better organized than anyone else.

Aside from not daring to try to calculate the proportion of cruelty that was actually Chinese, I would have thought that the 20th Century had pretty much retired the competition in cruelty.

and Early Modern? Wars of Religion anyone?


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10 July 2010

Without Comment

(from Andrew Sullivan)

The rich are not like you and me ...

... they're idiots.

Here is an article from Forbes.com by someone named Dirk Smillie sneering at the notion that Sarah Palin made over $12 million last year.

Instead, as Dirk tells us, she only made $10 million at best.

He then goes on to list all of her sources of income and how meager they really are. Only 5 or 6 speeches at $250,000 a pop, only $2.5 million as an advance on her book, and a smaller advance for her next book which has a smaller run, etc.

So, for the rich folks out there, this is apparently contemptible small change only a parvenu should be satisfied with. Dirk is certainly contemptuous of those wildly exaggerated claims that she is getting rich off her fame. A piddling $10 million in her first year. HA!

But as Carmen pointed out, that would pay the whole budget including salaries of the county library she just got laid off from for ten years, including inflation.

do they pay journalists for this?


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08 July 2010

Interesting quote

"The only person who’s actually been doing anything for the battle against teen pregnancy is Levi Johnston. Don’t have unprotected sex with your boyfriend, girls. Look what he might turn into."

Gail Collins
New York Times

we'll file this under humor ... for lack of a better word



They still need us! They really really need us!

Teachers that is. Especially ones that demand that you read.

David Frum notices that as manufacturers start to rehire, there is a serious problem with the population they are expecting to hire from.

As manufacturing work gets more taxing, manufacturers are looking at a work force that is actually becoming less literate and less skilled.

In 2007, ETS — the people who run the country’s standardized tests — compiled a battery of scores of basic literacy conducted over the previous 15 years and arrived at a startling warning: On present trends, the country’s average score on basic literacy tests will drop by 5 percent by 2030 as compared to 1992.

That’s a disturbing headline. Behind the headline is even worse news.

His explanation is not convincing (the vast majority of potential hires are natives and the products of American schools), but at least it's a start for a discussion of just what we are doing about education. In this state, that would be cutting budgets massively at both the state and local level and stagnating teachers' salaries along with a few unpaid leave days.

But we must do everything we can not to raise taxes back to the level of, say, the 90s.

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07 July 2010

Without Comment

[from Yahoo's new Upshot site]

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06 July 2010

About immigration

Another out of touch elitist progressive wants to lay out the welcome mat for foreigners ...

... uh, wait. That's JEB BUSH!

Never mind.

(Actually, I am surprised this wasn't published in the Wall Street Journal).

we elected the wrong Bush

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Ominous turn of phrase (and pop quiz)

In an article touting the new Kindle while reading St Augustine of all things, B. G. ends with this sentence regarding a copy of a book he 'liberated' by leaving it on a park bench.
(Miami reader of my liberated copy of "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle": did you enjoy it? I'm pretty sure I didn't understand it. Do you? I recommend from experience that you not read it on your honeymoon.)

Doesn't exactly make me want to go out and buy either a Kindle or "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" but I am interested in the back story of this sentence.

This comes from a column in The Economist called 'Babbage.' Here's a pop quiz (no points given for checking the web for the answer): What does the title 'Babbage' refer to?

and furthermore, what about Lady Ada Lovelace?

quadruple points if you get that last remark and can explain its significance

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The collapse of the elites

It is always a bad bet to count out the elites of any society, especially ours, where the elites simply put on jeans and a plaid shirt and pretend to be just one of us (George Bush comes to mind: a millionaire son of a millionaire's son who was famously regarded as a 'common man'). But if Sententiae ever concentrated enough to have a theme, it must be this: no one's reputation survived the Double Zeros. Not the business elites (Wall Street? Bankers?), not the industrial elite (Detroit? BP?), not the political elite (do I even need an example?). Not the military elite (Pat Tillman fiasco, Jessica Lynch lies, etc) though the common soldier looks golden.

What is the final upshot of this? Perhaps the Tea Party Movement, though the elites are working hard to co-opt whatever it really is. Perhaps this, as discovered by Richard Cohen in today's Washington Post after watching a superbly qualified political candidate present himself as an anti-Washington jerk on TV:
Bennet's reticence about his stellar qualifications represents something sad: the collapse of the elite. People who should know better -- who, in fact, do know better -- slum with political primitives, thinking they can be wallflowers at the tea party and still go home with their integrity intact. The elite -- often wrong, often unwise -- are scorned not for their mistakes but for their very credentials. It is somehow better to know a little than a lot. In this way, the average person gets a government in his own image -- a standard no one would seek in a dentist.

As for me, so far historians researching the North Iranian peoples have not yet covered themselves in disgrace. So that is the way I am going to self-identify until they do.

it will prevent me from recognizing I am part of an elite.

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04 July 2010

A common problem

Well, at least for me.

Carmen brought this cartoon back from her three week trip in that pestilential swamp-hole to our south. It reminded her of me.

OK - I see her point.

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01 July 2010

Update on the linguist post

That last post, about the bogus linguist?

Apparently Andrew Sullivan got to it to, linking to an article by A REAL LINGUIST who finds that Kathleen Parker and the pseudo-analysis of Obama's language she relies on are both ... well, bunk. Parker finds it "feminine" that Obama used the passive voice so much. Based on this she wrote a column claiming Obama as our first female president (coming from a female, this is hilarious on more levels than you might suppose)..
But I did just make a quick analysis of president George W. Bush's post-Katrina address to the nation. I count 142 sentences, 25 of which contained one or more passive-voice tensed verb constructions. That's 17.6%. Doing the same thing with Barack Obama's post-oil-spill address, I count 135 sentences, 15 of which contain one or more passive-voice tensed verb constructions. That's 11.1%.

Which would make George a .... woman? Well, I have to admit, that is one thing I never supposed he was.

where is a world analyst when we need one?

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Bogus linguist but a nice job title

Do you remember the story that Obama's speech on the oil spill was written at a 10th grade level, and thus an example of elitist contempt for the average American, who was not able to follow it?

If only.

The "linguist" who did this analysis is not really a professional linguist. In fact, he simply passes himself off as an expert on something or other based on having a Harvard degree. Which he did not really get, though he did take some courses in comparative literature from the Harvard extension program.

But what the heck. That's good enough for CNN. Read about it here. I thought that was supposed to be a liberal media network. Oh well.

To be fair, the guy swears he has never claimed to be a linguist. He is the "chief word analyst" for his company." Honest.

now Kathleen Parker is relying on him. A shame. She's so much cuter than Maureen Dowd.


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