Category Archives: mini-thought

February 3, 2014, 2:44 pm

Monday Readings & Comments

Why, yes, I’ll take your survey
Starfish Oregon coast

First, the perils of surveying people, especially teenagers:

So imagine the surprise and confusion when subsequent revisits to the same research subjects found more than 70 percent of the self-reported adolescent nonheterosexuals had somehow gone “straight” as older teens and young adults.

“We should have known something was amiss,” says Savin-Williams. “One clue was that most of the kids who first claimed to have artificial limbs (in the physical-health assessment) miraculously regrew arms and legs when researchers came back to interview them.”

Well, yes, unless you’re interviewing starfish, the regrowth of limbs would seem to throw a fair number of the survey responses into doubt.

Next up, James Fallows eloquently argues that the Cory Remsburg tribute in the State of the Union was misguided here and here:

But while that moment…

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September 21, 2012, 3:56 pm

Alfred von Tirpitz, Pwned

From Michael Epkenhans, “Imperial Germany and the Importance of Sea Power,” in N. A. M. Rodger, Naval Power in the Twentieth Century (Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1996), p. 27:

When writing his memoirs after the military and political collapse of the German Empire in November 1918, Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, who can rightly be called the builder of the Imperial German Navy, still remembered an encounter with an unknown English woman in Gibralter some fifty years earlier. Boarding one of the very few German warships, which lay in the harbor of this outpost of the British Empire, and seeing a number of ratings, this woman exclaimed astonishedly: ‘Don’t they look just like sailors?’ When Tirpitz, a young sub-lieutenant then, asked what else they should look like, she replied bluntly: ‘But you are not a sea-going nation.’

Tirpitz, whose memoirs were published the same…

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September 17, 2012, 6:34 pm

In A Giant Shock To Just About Everyone, Repealing DADT Does Not Seem To Have A Negative Effect.

From Politico comes a story on the first scholarly study of the effect of DADT. The study [Warning: PDF!] concluded:

Obviously, it’s one study, but were the negative effect overwhelming, one would suspect it would show up even then.

September 5, 2012, 12:44 am

The Madness and Stupor of History.

A serendipitous confluence: This week This American Life re-ran “Fear of Sleep,” which begins with Ira Glass meditating on the dangers of that altered state, in which we – whatever and whoever we are – vanish, perhaps to dream strange dreams, walk perilously, even die; from which we can wake to unexpected faces and changed places. The recent New Yorker includes Oliver Sacks’s “Altered States,” a memoir – maybe a confessional – of his youthful enthusiasm for mind-altering substances (it was, he says, the 1960s and for some of the time, for him, it was California: even so, he seems to have been an avid and various consumer). Sacks reports on the thin difference – a few chemical micrograms – between our ordinary selves and psychosis, schizophrenia, hallucination, or an insinuation of heaven. In an amphetamine haze he absorbed Liveing on Megrim and as a result wrote his own Migraine

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July 28, 2012, 3:12 pm

In the Archives

At the Library of Congress, researching World War I, I found “THE SAILORS’ PRAYER”:

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord to keep,
Grant no other sailor take,
My shoes and socks before I wake.

From AFC 2001/001/2387, Worth, Charles Edmond.

January 1, 2012, 1:39 pm

best New Year’s wishes

Schilderen, roken, eten

Best wishes to all for the new year. Among my resolutions: more postings.

Philip Guston, Painting, Smoking, Eating (1973; via the Guardian). I like the heap of his signature hobnailed boots behind him — I think they stand for the compulsive quality of his work. May we all contrive both to harness and indulge our compulsions, in due proportion!

September 23, 2010, 6:52 pm

A probably unfair post but some of us had to pay for college.

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. )

August 18, 2010, 9:55 am

A homework project.

I was reflecting this morning on the character of some of the responses to 9/11 back in 2001 and early 2002, specifically those that responded with defiance and naughty words to the idea that the attack could cow Americans.  Things like comedians joking that instead of the Twin Towers, we’ll put up three, with “Go. Fuck. Yourself.” emblazoned on the sides, or that instead of the Twin Towers, we’ll put up five, two short ones on the ends, two slightly taller ones in from that, and one big one in the middle, to give terrorists the finger.   I seem to recall a comic book with panels depicting a memorial that made no mention of the ideology of the attackers, because, it was clear, those ignorant assholes would not be worth the time of future Americans in their futuristic memorial.   The message was clear:  these clowns can knock down a building but they can’t knock down us.

We all…

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July 23, 2010, 1:47 pm

In conformity with the best and most complete…

I’ve been enjoying the NYT series The Stone, but not primarily for the quality of its articles, which both have been good introductory nibbles  and have in general satisfied my selfish requirement: if my mother reads this, will she be assured that it is still unlikely that my discipline requires hallucinogenic drugs?

Rather, I have enjoyed the comments to the articles, for amidst the gloaming where philosophy and philosophers are condemned as of little interest, reasons glimmer like fireflies.  But the writer didn’t think of… What about this?… You’ve overlooked…. Maybe this shows that instead we should…

It makes me smile.  Thou art the man, thou art the man.

July 22, 2010, 6:48 am

Consent by the dashboard light.

I had the same reaction that many did to the report of the Israeli rape-by-deception case, which is that even if the guy lied, he’s not guilty of rape.  Over at feministphilosophers, there has been some pushback on that, and I’ll formulate the pushback argument like this.  As enlightened folk, we believe that lack of consent characterizes rape.   Consent is a notorious pain in the patootie (forgive the technical term), because someone can fail to consent even when appearances suggest that they didn’t object.   A 12-year-old is too young to consent; someone who fails to resist out of fear of physical harm hasn’t consented; someone who is incapacitated by a date-rape drug hasn’t consented.

Another way that apparent consent can be invalid is if the person has been deceived.  If a prankster serves you a delicious brownie telling you that it’s made of chocolate, and neglects to tell…

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July 12, 2010, 8:40 am

There's An App For That

Mil-Dot Rangefinder (Warning: iTunes link!):

Mil-Dot Rangefinder for the iPhone takes the math out of ranging targets using a mil-dot scope. Real-time calculations provide instant range measurements in both yards and meters. The simple interface allows for one handed operation and eliminates any need to manually type any measurements to range a target.

Welcome to War 2.0.

Courtesy Kit-Up!

May 23, 2010, 6:54 am

All you need.

In comments andrew patiently reminds us he has previously pointed to Andrew Cayton’s lament that historians “leave the world of emotion to novelists, poets, and filmmakers.”1 While this is perhaps true, it is not only historians who have made this shift to bloodlessness. This discussion began with an example from the 1960s. Here are a few more, which I use in lectures.

May 22, 2010, 6:32 am

Three kings.

Yesterday I gave my Richard Nixon lecture, which I begin by talking about the tales of two other Richards, quoting this passage from Richard II:

April 10, 2010, 5:46 am

"Where Our Nation Reunited"

As a followup to this post, I randomly encountered a Google Ad from the Appomattox Court House tourist board:


Too perfect.

March 27, 2010, 5:39 pm

All About Eve

John McCain, throwing caution to the wind with a gambler’s recklessness, made Sarah Palin a national name by choosing her as his Vice-Presidential candidate. Now, she’s making him:

Senator John McCain and Sarah Palin embraced on stage here on Friday as they made their first joint campaign appearance since their presidential race, with Ms. Palin assuring Republicans in Arizona that Mr. McCain should not be dispatched from office by a conservative challenger.

Their rally drew “one of the largest crowds” McCain has had since the 2008 presidential run; a crowd McCain is apparently unable to draw by himself.