August 31, 2002
Better Late Than Never

Two old posts have attracted interesting comments in the last day or two:

1. In answer to my query of August 12th, an alumnus of Holt High School in Alabama reveals that the women's teams are the "Lady Ironmen". That's almost as bad as the University of Rhode Island, where the men's teams are the 'Rhode Island Rams' and the cheerleaders are the 'Ramettes'. Though 'embraceable Ewes' would be a little too cute, surely something better than 'Ramettes' could be found?

2. My post on the 'Million Pound March' of obese Canadians demanding free operations (August 2nd) has attracted a comment from Moira Barber, quoted in the story I linked as "founder of Weight Loss Surgery Advocacy Ontario". Her statement that "Obesity is the last acceptable prejudice" would be more convincing if she did not begin her comment like this (spelling and punctuation hers, not mine):

American's never ever cease to amaze me with your ignorant attitudes towards Canadian's. American's are more obese per capita than us Canadian's or have you not been listening to the National Institute of Health?

We also don't have a three tiered health system but give it time and Canada will be just like the USA a over populated self indulgent place where money is the only true god.

There's more, but I think it's obvious that Ms Barber needs to work on her own bigotry. Also her false imputations: I was certainly not a bully in high school, as she boldly assumes.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 12:30 AM
August 30, 2002
Firing The First Shot

DailyPundit and others have blogged an Independent story about the Japanese mini-sub recently found off Pearl Harbor, arguing that the U.S., in sinking the submarine, "fired the first shot" at the Japanese. There seems to be at least a small hint of criticism, implying that it was somehow wrong for the U.S. Navy to fire at an armed submarine attempting to enter an American naval base by stealth.

I can't find it on the web, but someone once said:

The aggressor is always a peace-lover: he wants to enter your country unopposed.

I don't know whether this was Orwell, Clausewitz, or someone else entirely, and my wording may be quite inaccurate, since I'm quoting from memory. But the thought is worth pondering: when one country attacks or invades another, it is generally utterly irrelevant who fired the first shot. The Polish army may well have fired the first shot at the invading Germans in 1939: it doesn't matter.

Can anyone help fix the text of the quotation, and identify its author?

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:54 PM
Another Pointy-Headed Intellectual

Both The Edge of England's Sword and WarbloggerWatch have linked to an article in Monday's Washington Post by Talbot Brewer, an assistant professor of Philosophy at the University of Virginia. Edge is quite right that his unexalted rank should not be held against him, but WBW's approval is ill-deserved. Here is the second sentence quoted by Igor Boog:

Large groups of ''we the people" now are insulated not only from the physical risks of injury or death in war but also from the moral risks that attend any active role in the initiation of war.

What's wrong with this statement? It is the exact opposite of the truth. In World Wars I and II, American civilians were in essentially no danger of death in war as long as they stayed in the U.S. As far as I can determine, the total number of civilians killed by enemy action in World War II in the 48 states that then constituted the union is six. They were killed by forest fires in Oregon started by Japanese balloon bombs that rode the jet stream all the way from Japan. If I recall correctly, the six included a family of four out for a picnic.

Even if we add Alaska and Hawaii, the total is still very low. This site lists 59 civilians killed by stray bombs and bullets at Pearl Harbor, the other 2300+ were sailors and soldiers. Japanese submarines occasionally shelled Hawaii and other targets, though I haven't been able to find any mention of civilian casualties. It's conceivable that the Japanese killed a few Aleutian fishermen when they occupied Attu and Kiska, though they can't have killed many, since the area was very sparsely populated. All in all, it appears that total civilian casualties from enemy action in what are now the 50 states for the entire war were fewer than 100. Of course, the numbers were even lower for World War I, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. In short, American civilians have traditionally been in little or no danger if they stayed home during a war.

That is no longer true. Just on September 11th, something like 2800 American civilians were killed where they worked -- along with dozens of military, of course (mostly at the Pentagon, but probably a few more who happened to be flying on one of the four hijacked planes or visiting the World Trade Center). Whether at home or abroad, we are all vulnerable in the war with Islamicist fanatics. This statement I have quoted is so astonishingly, and shamefully, wrongheaded as to call the rest of Prof. Brewer's article into serious question. The Washington Post's editors should not have let it pass uncorrected.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 02:30 PM
August 29, 2002
Never Trust Spellcheck

Steven Chapman (formerly Daddy Warblogs) links to an amusingly nasty Spiked Online review by Helene Guldberg of a book by some idiot environmentalist. The first paragraph caught my eye, partly for professional reasons:

According to Gray, we shouldn't be too concerned about whether humans have a future on Earth - it is the balance of the world's ecosystem that we should really be worried about: 'Homo rapines [what a clever play on words] is only one of very many species, and not obviously worth preserving. Later or sooner, it will become extinct. When it is gone the Earth will recover.' Charming...

Actually, "Homo rapines" is not particularly clever, and Gray surely wrote "Homo rapiens". That is clever, in a supercilious, academic, only-witty-if-you-know-Latin way. Since "rapiens" is not an English word, a spellchecker must have suggested "rapines" as a correction, and it appears that some editor, either at the book's publisher or at Spiked Online, was foolish enough to believe the stupid software. So much for the natural superiority of edited texts.

Both sapiens and rapiens are present participles. The first means "having sense; wise, prudent, sensible" (also "having a taste or flavor", but that meaning of Homo sapiens would only suit cannibals and animal predators), while the second means "seizing and carrying off, snatching, dragging away, carrying off by force, robbing, ravishing, plundering, ravaging, laying waste, taking by assault", and so on. That is clearly the meaning Professor Gray has in mind, and "rapines" doesn't quite suffice to bring it out. There is also an implication of rape in rapiens, since the English word is etymologically related, though rapiens would normally mean "abducting, carrying off" rather than forcing someone to have sex right on the spot.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 12:29 AM
August 28, 2002
Grate Minds Think Alike

Sasha "La Blogatrice" (that would be Sasha Blogatrix in Latin) writes:

BOY CUOMO WATCH: The Boy has decided that the best way to draw attention to the problem of the homeless in New York is to spend a night in a homeless shelter.

So, by thus highlighting the problem, he manages to exacerbate it at the same time. Nice going, Andy.

Fifteen years ago, a bunch of politicians and celebrities, including Cuomo's brother-in-law, then-congressman Joe Kennedy, staged the "Grate American Sleep-Out", in which they spent a night sleeping on heating grates near the U.S. Capitol to show their compassion for the poor homeless people who slept there every night. Or rather, every night but one: some of the real homeless had to go find new places to sleep on short notice, once they found the celebrities and their TV crews hogging all the best grates.

I know it was fifteen years ago because I still have on my hard drive a copy of the letter I sent to the Washington Post. (Not the same hard drive, of course: it's been copied from one to another at least three times. I'm a bit of an intellectual packrat.) Here is what I sent them, dated March 5, 1987:

Dear Sirs,

It appears to me that the movie stars, politicians, and other participants in the "Grate American Sleep-Out" were going about their self-appointed task of helping the homeless in exactly the wrong way.

Instead of sleeping on a grate himself, each participant should have invited a homeless person to spend the night at his house: a home-cooked dinner, a shave and a hot shower, a run through the washer and dryer of all the homeless person's clothes, a spare bed or couch to sleep on, a stack of waffles for breakfast, and a bag of ham sandwiches and apples for lunch the next day: all these would have cost the donor very little and helped the recipient a great deal. (As it is, all the celebrities accomplished was to hog some of the best heating grates for themselves and their goose-down sleeping bags, so the homeless were actually worse off than they would have been without the "Sleep-In".)

If this "Adopt-a-Bum" policy were extended to a week or more, it might even be enough to get the homeless person into physical, psychological, and sartorial condition to apply for an entry-level job. Even if it didn't, it would give him a nice break from the rigors of life on the streets.

The resources are available: although there are hundreds of homeless in D.C., there are tens of thousands of compassionate, caring liberals with high salaries and spare bedrooms: Congressman Kennedy, with his unusually large reservoirs of compassion and inherited wealth, could probably take in two or three.

Perhaps the best feature of my plan is that it would give the celebrities and other compassionate persons a chance to refute two vulgar conservative notions at once: the notion that most "street people" are winos, drug addicts, criminals, or dangerous psychopaths, who could not be safely admitted to any respectable home, and the notion that compassionate liberals are more interested in getting their pictures in the paper and forcing other people to pay to help the unfortunate than in actually helping anyone themselves.

(I haven't tried out my plan myself, but I make far less money than any of the compassionate persons, have no spare bed or couch, and never, never use the existence of the homeless as an argument to abuse my fellow citizens.)

Of course that was not what the Post printed: they left out all the best parts, about half the letter, and edited the rest to make it sound stupider. Unfortunately, the clipping is in a storeroom 600 miles away at the moment, so I can't do a line-by-line comparison, but I do recall that they cut out the mention of goose down in the second paragraph.

One huge advantage of blogging is that we can now write these things without the unpleasant feeling that we are most likely wasting our time, since no one but close friends will ever read them. We are no longer at the mercy of some supercilious subeditor and his scissors, prejudices, and (most often) wastebasket.

Tangential Note:

How the mighty have fallen! Joe Kennedy the former congressman isn't even the first "Joe Kennedy" on Google: a pitcher for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays beats him out for the top spot (of "approximately 566,000").

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:55 PM
Where Has 'Hesiod' Been?

In today's Counterspin (10:10 AM), the one who calls himself 'Hesiod' writes:

THE CASE FOR INVADING IRAN?: The Washington Post reports this morning, that Iran is harboring Al Qaeda fugitives, including some Bin Laden deputies. Given that Iran is also hostile to the United States [at least the hardline mullahs running the country] and are actively developing a nuclear weapons program, why aren't we talking about "regime change" in Iran? Lord knows the population of Iran would welcome it.

[Map of Iran omitted here.]

Note to the Chickenhawks: Iran also has Persian Gulf ports, Oil, and strategic borders with, among others, Iraq.

'Hesiod' seems to have forgotten that Iran was one of the three original members of the 'Axis of Evil'. He also fails to notice that quite a few bloggers have commented on this very subject. Though not one of the more prolific 'warbloggers', I've done so at least three times: March 25th, March 27th, and June 19th. The general consensus of the 'warbloggers' seems to be that the Iranian regime is near collapse, that that is a very good thing, that American military intervention would probably be counterproductive, and that the people of Iran are perfectly capable of overthrowing their evil masters without any help, and show every sign of planning to do so in the near future. As with Iraq, many of us are getting impatient, and think that the U.S. government could be doing a great deal more to encourage regime change sooner rather than later. PejmanPundit writes about Iran quite often, and Glenn "Mac" Frazier is something of an Iran specialist.

All in all, it looks like our 'Hesiod' was inspired by the immortal Muses who taught the original Hesiod. Here is what they told Proto-Hesiod 2700 years ago -- or at least what he said they told him:

"Shepherds of the wilderness, wretched things of shame, mere bellies, we know how to speak many false things as though they were true; but we know, when we will, to utter true things."

Our deutero-Hesiod might want to work a little harder on the second option.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 10:04 PM
Shropshire Lies Again

Philip Shropshire just can't seem to stop telling lies. Here's one from a comment on this post over on Gene Expression:

If you feel, like Dr. Weevil, that this a just war and to not fight it means a capitulation to tyranny--despite our Chinese dictator allies--then it seems consistent that you would take the next step and enlist.

I don't know why he picks me as a typical 'warblogger', but:

When have I, or any 'warblogger', said anything to imply that the Chinese are "allies" of the U.S.? What many of us fear is that China will take advantage of a war on Iraq to invade or blockade Taiwan. JunkYardBlog had an entry on this yesterday, and he was not the first to worry aloud. Recent reports that the Chinese were supplying the Taleban with weapons even after September 11th are all-too-plausible. The U.S. has polite relations with the Chinese government, and trade ties, but that does not make us any sort of allies.

Three further comments:

  1. Does Shropshire really think that the war against Al Qaeda and its allies is not a "just war"? Does he not know that they declared war on us a few years ago, and have since demonstrated more than once that their declaration was not merely rhetorical? I can see how some might think such a war impractical, or not worth the cost of fighting, just as any attempt to liberate Tibet would be doomed to failure and therefore well worth avoiding. But how can it be unjust to fight those who are trying to kill us? Only the purest of pacifists can argue that, and anyone who writes for a site with a picture of Comandante Marcos on the front page can hardly claim to be a pure pacifist.
  2. I notice that those who oppose war on Iraq, and abuse supporters for not enlisting to fight in person, never follow through the logic of their own arguments. Philip Shropshire could join Ramsey Clark or Louis Farrakhan on one of their frequent flights to Baghdad. He could even stay behind when they leave. Not that I expect someone of his exalted principles to take up an AK-47 and fight for Saddam Hussein against American agression, but surely the mere presence of American pacifists in Baghdad would make U.S. bombing that much less likely? Maybe the whole WarBloggerWatch gang could fly over together. I would be willing to contribute to their plane tickets and hotel bills, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.
  3. It's a minor point, but still significant, that I do not "feel" that this is a just war, I think it a just war. Shropshire might want to try that unfamiliar process himself some time.
Posted by Dr. Weevil at 09:13 PM
August 27, 2002
Mixed Feelings About Empowering Women

A brief note from Bo Cowgill's blog:

THE OTHER FEMINISM: If you are a feminist, then studying the underappreciated role of women in history is a good thing. And most likely, anything positive about the notion of women-as-homemakers is regarded as a bad thing, right?

So how do you respond to two female scholars combine the two themes -- the underappreciated historical role of women as mothers? The title of their seminar is "Motherhood and the Nation-State in Western Societies." Do you cheer or hiss?

That reminded me of an even more spectacular example of mixed feelings. I was once present when a professor, a serious but not fanatical feminist, first read the blurb for a book arguing that women were surprisingly numerous and influential in the top ranks of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, particularly considering the status of women in the South at that time. I'll never forgot the look on her face, and her inability to decide whether that might possibly be at least partly a good thing. (I think the book was entitled Women of the Klan, and such a book does exist, but I may be wrong.)

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:22 PM
Questions For The Happy Couple

Someone named 'truecrystal' in Spoons' comments section beat me to the first part of this joke, but I won't let that stop me:

If Christopher Kanis is 'Spoons', should we call Laura, his new fiancee, 'Forks'? If she joins him in posting, will their blog become the 'Spoons and Forks Experience'? Once they marry, will they rename it the 'SporkBlog'? Will Sekimori provide them with a new, and much tackier, illustration? Just wondering.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 10:14 PM
A Business Model?

For months -- ever since there has been a Blogosphere -- the Blogosphere has wondered whether it would be possible to make money from blogging. Is there a valid business model? All I can say is that Sekimori seems to have figured it out: judging from the elegance and variety of their designs, I think they probably charge a fair amount. I wouldn't know, since I'm happy with my current design, and too cheap and too lazy to ask for a price quote. But if they charged only, say, $20 for a complete redesign, surely everyone but me would have paid by now? The question remains: is there a way to make money from blogging other than redesigning other people's blogs?

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 07:59 PM
August 26, 2002
Yet Another Unfortunate Name

The second-to-last post before this one just reminded me of a story a friend told me about a middle school girl named Jean. She objected to being addressed with "Hi, Jean" because of the unfortunate aural associations. Apparently her habit of glaring at people who said that and replying "It's Hello, Jean" was entirely counterproductive.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 08:51 PM
Weird Search Strings

In checking my logs this morning, I found that someone was searching for "the stupid questions department" and that Google ranks me number #1 of "about 199,000" for that particular assortment of words. I'm flattered. See this entry for what put me atop the list.

What I find interesting about these search strings is that every day someone is looking for information on Snowflake, the albino gorilla in the Barcelona zoo. It's almost always one and only one search in roughly the same words ("Snowflake white gorilla", "Snowflake albino gorilla", or "albino gorilla Barcelona"). Is there one obsessive Snowflake fanatic in the world who checks the web every day for new posts? Or are there a bunch of semifanatics whose searches just happen to average out to one per day? I suppose a close look at my raw logs would tell me, but I'm not sure I want to know.

Another perennial favorite is "Jefferson two dollar bill" or "American two dollar bill" or similar strings. Again there is always at least one, rarely two, and almost never more than two. Are these searches from numismatists, or from people checking out the erroneous phrase "queer as a two dollar bill"? (Two dollar bills are perfectly normal, so the correct -- well, not politically correct -- phrase is "queer as a three dollar bill".)

Tangential Note:

I've noticed that many otherwise literate citizens of the Blogosphere can't spell 'weird'. I had the same problem until one of my students kindly pointed out in class a few years ago that it is an exception to the usual rules on IE vs. EI. (Thank you, Jay C.) He had learned a longer version of the usual mnemonic device in school:

"I before E except after C, and when sounded like AY, as in NEIGHBOR and WEIGH, . . . and except when it's WEIRD."

I trust some of my readers will find this handy.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 10:35 AM
Another Unfortunate Name

A few days ago, National Review Online had a box in the margin advertising a book by Florence King, whom the advertisement called 'Flo'. It's not there now, either because they rotate their ads or because it didn't sound quite right. I lean towards the latter. After all, if 'Max Power' sounds like a porn star (who said that?), and adding 'Combustible Boy' to his site makes it sound like either a superhero comic or a gay porno movie, surely 'Flo King' could only be a brand name for plumbing supplies.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 12:12 AM
August 25, 2002
No Escape

Do you think reading old novels is a good way to escape from the horrors of the contemporary world? Do you think that a historical novel would be an even better bet? If so, don't try George Eliot's Romola. I was leafing through it in Border's a few days ago and ran across this passage, from Chapter 49, "The Pyramid of the Vanities" (the title character is taking a walk through Savonarola's Florence in, I think, 1499):

She chose to go through the great Piazza that she might take a first survey of the unparalleled sight there while she was still alone. Entering it from the south, she saw something monstrous and many-coloured in the shape of a pyramid, or, rather, like a huge fir-tree, sixty feet high, with shelves on the branches, widening and widening towards the base till they reached a circumference of eighty yards. The Piazza was full of life: slight young figures, in white garments, with olive wreaths on their heads, were moving to and fro about the base of the pyramidal tree, carrying baskets full of bright-coloured things; and maturer forms, some in the monastic frock, some in the loose tunics and dark-red caps of artists, were helping and examining, or else retreating to various points in the distance to survey the wondrous whole: while a considerable group, amongst whom Romola recognised Piero di Cosimo, standing on the marble steps of Orcagna's Loggia, seemed to be keeping aloof in discontent and scorn.

Approaching nearer, she paused to look at the multifarious objects ranged in gradation from the base to the summit of the pyramid. There were tapestries and brocades of immodest design, pictures and sculptures held too likely to incite to vice; there were boards and tables for all sorts of games, playing-cards along with the blocks for printing them, dice, and other apparatus for gambling; there were worldly music-books, and musical instruments in all the pretty varieties of lute, drum, cymbal, and trumpet; there were masks and masquerading-dresses used in the old Carnival shows; there were handsome copies of Ovid, Boccaccio, Petrarca, Pulci, and other books of a vain or impure sort; there were all the implements of feminine vanity-rouge-pots, false hair, mirrors, perfumes, powders, and transparent veils intended to provoke inquisitive glances: lastly, at the very summit, there was the unflattering effigy of a probably mythical Venetian merchant, who was understood to have offered a heavy sum for this collection of marketable abominations, and, soaring above him in surpassing ugliness, the symbolic figure of the old debauched Carnival.

This was the preparation for a new sort of bonfire - the Burning of Vanities. Hidden in the interior of the pyramid was a plentiful store of dry fuel and gunpowder; and on this last day of the festival, at evening, the pile of vanities was to be set ablaze to the sound of trumpets, and the ugly old Carnival was to tumble into the flames amid the songs of reforming triumph.

This crowning act of the new festivities could hardly have been prepared but for a peculiar organisation which had been started by Savonarola two years before. The mass of the Florentine boyhood and youth was no longer left to its own genial promptings towards street mischief and crude dissoluteness. Under the training of Fra Domenico, a sort of lieutenant to Savonarola, lads and striplings, the hope of Florence, were to have none but pure words on their lips, were to have a zeal for Unseen Good that should put to shame the luke-warmness of their elders, and were to know no pleasures save of an angelic sort - singing divine praises and walking in white robes. It was for them that the ranges of seats had been raised high against the walls of the Duomo; and they had been used to hear Savonarola appeal to them as the future glory of a city specially appointed to do the work of God.

These fresh-cheeked troops were the chief agents in the regenerated merriment of the new Carnival, which was a sort of sacred parody of the old. Had there been bonfires in the old time? There was to be a bonfire now, consuming impurity from off the earth. Had there been symbolic processions? There were to be processions now, but the symbols were to be white robes and red crosses and olive wreaths - emblems of peace and innocent gladness - and the banners and images held aloft were to tell the triumphs of goodness. Had there been dancing in a ring under the open sky of the Piazza, to the sound of choral voices chanting loose songs? There was to be dancing in a ring now, but dancing of monks and laity in fraternal love and divine joy, and the music was to be the music of hymns. As for the collections from street passengers, they were to be greater than ever - not for gross and superfluous suppers, but - for the benefit of the hungry and needy; and, besides, there was the collecting of the Anathema, or the Vanities to be laid on the great pyramidal bonfire.

Troops of young inquisitors went from house to house on this exciting business of asking that the Anathema should be given up to them. Perhaps, after the more avowed vanities had been surrendered, Madonna, at the head of the household had still certain little reddened balls brought from the Levant, intended to produce on a sallow cheek a sudden bloom of the most ingenuous falsity? If so, let her bring them down and cast them into the basket of doom. Or perhaps, she had ringlets and coils of 'dead hair?' - if so, let her bring them to the street-door, not on her head, but in her hands, and publicly renounce the Anathema which hid the respectable signs of age under a ghastly mockery of youth. And, in reward, she would hear fresh young voices pronounce a blessing on her and her house.

The beardless inquisitors, organised into little regiments, doubtless took to their work very willingly. To coerce people by shame, or other spiritual pelting, into the giving up of things it will probably vex them to part with, is a form of piety to which the boyish mind is most readily converted and if some obstinately wicked men got enraged and threatened the whip or the cudgel, this also was exciting. Savonarola himself evidently felt about the training of these boys the difficulty weighing on all minds with noble yearnings towards great ends, yet with that imperfect perception of means which forces a resort to some supernatural constraining influence as the only sure hope. The Florentine youth had had very evil habits and foul tongues: it seemed at first an unmixed blessing when they were got to shout 'Viva Gesu!' But Savonarola was forced at last to say from the pulpit, 'There is a little too much shouting of "Viva Gesu!" This constant utterance of sacred words brings them into contempt. Let me have no more of that shouting till the next Festa.'

Nevertheless, as the long stream of white-robed youthfulness, with its little red crosses and olive wreaths, had gone to the Duomo at dawn this morning to receive the communion from the hands of Savonarola, it was a sight of beauty; and, doubtless, many of those young souls were laying up memories of hope and awe that might save them from ever resting in a merely vulgar view of their work as men and citizens. There is no kind of conscious obedience that is not an advance on lawlessness, and these boys became the generation of men who fought greatly and endured greatly in the last struggle of their Republic. Now, in the intermediate hours between the early communion and dinner-time, they were making their last perambulations to collect alms and vanities, and this was why Romola saw the slim white figures moving to and fro about the base of the great pyramid.

Some desultory comments:

  1. The chapter provides a good Christian parallel for the various Muslim Committees for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. As today, Savonarola recruits the young and easily-led for his Christian Taliban.
  2. Unlike pre-liberation Afghanistan, contributions to the bonfire seem to be voluntary, and there are some who stand aloof "in discontent and scorn" (end of first paragraph quoted).
  3. Does anyone really think there is any danger of similar scenes being enacted in the U.S. any time soon? Yes, preachers in the South sometimes stage bonfires of Black Sabbath and Eminem tapes, but not with the full force (or any force) of the government behind them. Do leftists really fear that John Ashcroft is going to send regiments of beardless youths -- perhaps Boy Scouts -- on house-to-house searches for subversive literature, porn, and video games?
  4. Did Tom Wolfe get the title for The Bonfire of the Vanities from Romola, or from some other source? His title does seem to allude to Savonarola's Florence.
  5. I had never gotten around to reading George Eliot, mostly because her best books are all quite long. I was thinking of tackling Middlemarch first. Should I read Romola instead? According to the blurb on the jacket of one edition, she thought it her best work, though it doesn't seem nearly as popular as several others.

    Actually, I hadn't realized that she wrote short stories, mostly because she wrote only two. I read "The Lifted Veil" yesterday -- very grim -- and will read "Brother Jacob" today. After that, I plan to tackle something more substantial: Middlemarch, Romola, Daniel Deronda, and Silas Marner are the obvious choices.
Posted by Dr. Weevil at 10:29 AM
August 24, 2002
Animal Analogy Needed

The insufferable 'Hesiod' of Counterspin (no link for him) has a bad habit of referring to those who support war on Iraq as "chickenbloggers". He seems to thinks this is witty, as witty as calling me "Dr. [E]vil". (Hint: my assumed name is an obvious variation on 'Dr. Evil'. Restoring the original isn't witty. Calling Steven Chapman (formerly 'Daddy Warblogs') "Daddy Warbucks" would be equally stupid.)

Speaking hypothetically, if we were to descend to Hesiod's level and use similarly offensive language to refer to him, the boys (and they are all boys) at WarbloggerWatch, and their various friends and allies, what would be the most appropriate single-word description involving an animal analogy? Here are the possibilities that occur to me just now:

  • The most obvious choice, 'turkeybloggers', can be ruled out, since there is already a TurkeyBlog, and it's quite a good one. No need to insult Geoffrey Barto, or defame the good name of the wild turkey, admired by patriotic Americans from Ben Franklin (who proposed it as the national bird) to R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. (who has one on the masthead of The American Prowler).
  • Along the same lines, 'goosebloggers' or 'duckbloggers' (if it talks like a duckblogger, . . .) might do.
  • Given the artfulness (to put it politely) of their argumentation, I lean towards 'weaselbloggers', at least until I can think of something better.
  • Perhaps 'jackalbloggers' or 'hyenabloggers'? They do very little but pick over the leftovers from the intellectual feasts provided by bloggers.
  • Something could probably be done with a reptilian metaphor, though nothing springs (slithers?) to mind.
  • Perhaps something could be done with a toad or other amphibian? Not a newt, obviously: that would be way too confusing.
  • Then there are arthropods and molluscs: fleas, flies, ticks, slugs -- the possibilities are nearly endless. (Weevils are already taken.)

Again, the comments are open.

Extra Credit: When asked to answer a hypothetical question, who said "Sorry, I don't speak Hypothetical"?

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 09:20 PM
What Should Simon Say?

Perhaps it is true that William Simon has no chance of beating Gray Davis in November's gubernatorial election in California, given his legal problems, continuing questions about his career in business, and a generally lackluster campaign so far. But it's a little early for Republicans to give up on the largest state of the union, particularly when the incumbent is so thoroughly and deservedly despised by so many. I have an idea for a campaign theme. Simon should admit all his faults and then point out that they are exactly the same as Davis', but not nearly as bad. Here's how I would run the campaign:

Mention the lawsuit Simon just lost, but then list half a dozen of the sleazier instances of corruption in the Davis administration, and end with this slogan:

Simon: not half so crooked as Gray Davis.

Briefly mention Simon's business failures, then outline Davis' incredibly inept handling of the power crisis, emphasize how much it has cost and will continue to cost the taxpayers, and end with this slogan:

Simon: not half so incompetent as Gray Davis.

Admit that Simon is not the most exciting speaker, but turn that one around, too:

Simon: not half so boring as Gray Davis.

After all of the above, sum up with this slogan:

Simon: clearly the lesser of two evils.

Others may be able to come up with snappier formulations, but the general argument seems sound: with all his faults, Simon is surely the lesser of two evils. Everything he can do, David can do (and has done) worse. (The wording of this one needs a little work.)

As always, my comment section is open: any suggestions?

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 08:05 PM
August 22, 2002
Who's The Propagandist?

In the comments to Tuesday's post, 'Hesiod' calls me a "propagandist". He obviously intends this as an insult, but then adds "We all do it", which tends to cancel the force of the epithet. Of course, we do not all do it.

He seems to think I made fun of his bad German to further the noble cause of warbloggery. I made fun of it because it was funny. I have mocked bad Latin (and bad Pig Latin) on Kausfiles, bad French on Lucianne.Com, bad spelling in the Weekly Standard, and bad history in National Review Online. Three months ago, my mockery of InstaPundit's new logo caused him to change it (not what I intended). Of course, I spend more time mocking lefties than righties, but that's mostly because there is so much more to mock: when it comes to satire and invective, today's left is a 'target-rich environment'.

'Hesiod' describes his own site this way (idiosyncratic spelling and punctuation are original):

A Web Log dedicated to the pRoposition that no dishonest right-wing, propaganda will go unpunished, or unrefuted

Apparently 'Hesiod' has no problem with dishonest propaganda, as long as it is left-wing: he says so himself. So who precisely is the propagandist here?

One more thing: I don't just correct mistakes in language, which would be tedious and pedantic, but generally try to use the mistake as a jumping-off point for something broader and more interesting, often an anecdote or quotation. See the post just before this one for an example: I'm more interested in the wit of the anonymous Deutero-Scott than the ineptitudes of Amir Butler.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 12:30 AM
August 21, 2002
Another Watch Botch

Amir Butler, now of WarbloggerWatch, quotes this bit of good, if hackneyed, advice:

Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when we practice to deceive.

Of course, what Sir Walter Scott actually wrote was (emphasis added):

Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practice to deceive!

It doesn't actually scan as misquoted. I hope Butler checked his other references more carefully. Checking this one took me all of 30 seconds on Google.

Of course, I only mention this relatively trivial error as an excuse to quote the anonymous sequel:

But when we've practiced for a while,
How vastly we improve our style.

That could also be applied to quite a few bloggers and anti-bloggers.

It's possible that the error has already been pointed out in WBW's comments. I can't tell, because comments have been down damned near all the time for the last several days. Enetation seems to be in near-total collapse. Time to move the site to something more reliable like Movable Type? That would involve spending money -- as much as $2.00 per month per WBWatcher. And renting a domain name would also force 'Eric A. Blair' to come up with a name and address to register it.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 10:59 PM
August 19, 2002
Teeny Weeny Warbloggerwatchers

Philip Shropshire of WarbloggerWatch tells us more than we really wanted to know:

Just for the record, . . . I'm 6 5, weigh 280, can bench 300 and dead lift 400 pounds. I'm not afraid of any ten warbloggers physically.

An interesting self-portrait: assuming that he's not exaggerating, he's huge, muscular, and aggressive, with a violent temper -- at least when he's at a safe distance from marauding Rottweilers. Interestingly, those are all symptoms of steroid abuse. Others include severe acne, premature balding, abnormal breast development, a lowered sperm count, and shrinkage of the testicles. It's not worth it, Philip.

Note: If this post seems a little rude, please note that the same Philip Shropshire has addressed 'warbloggers' generally with such epithets as "pinheads", "Nazis", "fucking morons" and a couple of others hardly different from these. Since he does so on a site called 'WarbloggerWatch', and that site includes a list of 'The Watched' that includes my name, I tend to take his epithets personally.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:28 PM
August 18, 2002
Bad German Alert

The one who calls himself 'Hesiod' provides a textbook case of a rhetorical own goal (if the link doesn't work, it's the topmost entry on August 16th):

"BARF ALERT": A thread about "Future Freepers of America," or as I like to call them, "Peeper Jugen."

CORRECTION: "Juden," has been changed to "Jugen." Thanks to an astute reader.

In short, he tried to call Freepers ('Peepers') Nazis ('Peeper Youth' as in 'Hitler Youth'), but accidentally called them Jews ("Juden"). Oops! I hope that's just ignorance and coincidence rather than subconscious antisemitism.

What's particularly amusing is that he and his "astute reader", working together, can't get it right even on the second try. If you want to compare young Freepers to Hitler Youth and you're pretentious enough to want to do it in German, the phrase would be 'Peeper Jugend', with a D on the end. As far as I know, 'Jugen' is as meaningless in German as in English. (No, it doesn't mean "jugs".)

Of course, if you want to compare young Freepers to Hitler Youth, you're also a total swine (I'm trying to keep my language clean), but that's another question. No, I'm not recommending Free Republic, just observing that even they do not deserve such wholesale abuse as 'Hesiod' aims their way -- however bad his aim. All in all, I feel a little bit like the Roman soldier in Life of Brian, when he catches Brian painting ROMANES EUNT DOMUS on the wall. And the comedown from Hesiod the ancient Greek poet to 'Hesiod' the blogger is even steeper than the drop from Engelbert Humperdinck the composer of Hänsel und Gretel (1893) to Engelbert Humperdinck the contemporary crooner. Too bad copyright on names doesn't extend to 2750 years.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 02:47 PM
What's In A Name?

Andrea Harris of Spleenville links to a Washington Times story that quotes "Gallus Cadonau, the managing director of the Swiss Greina Foundation for the preservation of Alpine rivers and streams". I want to know what Mr. Cadonau's parents were thinking when they named him 'Gallus'. It's a good Latin name, with several meanings, none of which seems entirely appropriate:

  1. Cornelius Gallus was an ancient Roman poet, the first to write whole books of love elegies. (Catullus had written individual love elegies, but Gallus turned them into a genre.) These were addressed to his mistress Volumnia (Lycoris in the poems), who had previously been mistress of Mark Antony. Gallus was also one of Octavian's generals, and captured Egypt from Antony and Cleopatra. Octavian, the future emperor Augustus, made him first governor of the new province (previously an independent kingdom), but ordered him to commit suicide after he put up too many statues of himself with laudatory inscriptions. Despite his ancient fame, Cornelius Gallus seems an unlikely source for a modern name. Unlike the other three Roman love elegists (Propertius, Tibullus, and Ovid), his works do not survive, except for one line quoted in another ancient author and nine lines that turned up in a trash heap in Egypt in 1979.
  2. The Latin word Gallus also means 'Frenchman', but Gallus Codonau is apparently Swiss. Of course, French is one of the official languages of Switzerland: perhaps he has an identical twin named Germanus? (At least one French Mediaevalist and editor of Crusade epics has named his son 'Christian'. I always thought the boy ought to have had an evil twin named 'Infidel'.)
  3. Latin Gallus also means 'cock' (the poultry kind: get your mind out of the gutter) or 'rooster' -- surely not a likely source for a personal name. (Lt. Col. Tim Chicken is a British commando leader in Afghanistan, but it's harder to avoid giving your child an embarrassing last name.)
  4. Finally, the versatile word Gallus also means a eunuch priest of Cybele, the Great Mother Goddess (Magna Mater) of Asia Minor, or of Bellona, Roman goddess of war. Ancient Galli castrated themselves with a piece of broken pottery to show their submission to the Great Mother, and then went from town to town playing flutes and tambourines, dancing orgiastically, begging, and slashing their arms with knives. (Catullus 63 tells the sad story of a Gallus: it's a great poem, but men tend to cross their legs when they read it.) I hope Mr. Codonau's parents weren't thinking of this kind of Gallus when they named him -- though Gallus would make an excellent name for a EUnuch.
Posted by Dr. Weevil at 12:47 AM
August 17, 2002
Stranger Than Fiction

Joanne Jacobs links to a bizarre story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about "designer kidnapping", in which people pay to be mock-kidnapped. (The permalink may not work: the title is 'Thrills' and it's the third item from the top in yesterday's posts.)

In Jacobs' comment section, Roger Sweeny writes:

In college in the late '60s I remember seeing a double bill of "underground films" "Greetings" and "Hi, Mom." Starring, as I remember, a very young Robert DeNiro. I think it was "Hi, Mom" that involved a group of people getting kidnapped. Fairly far along in the movie, the kidnappers reveal to the group that the "play" is over and we hear one of the victims say, "Clive Barnes [or whoever the NYT theater critic was then] was right. This is an exceptional evening of theater."

There is a very similar idea, though not restricted to kidnapping, even earlier in G. K. Chesterton's collection of short stories, The Club of Queer Trades (1905). It is Chapter 1, "The Tremendous Adventures of Major Brown", and is available on the web here.

Here is a slice to give the flavor. Mr. Northover, the organizer, is explaining the game to Major Brown, who has been involved by mistake, confused with the actual target, a Mr. Gurney-Brown -- Rupert Grant is a detective:

"Major," said he, "did you ever, as you walked along the empty street upon some idle afternoon, feel the utter hunger for something to happen--something, in the splendid words of Walt Whitman: `Something pernicious and dread; something far removed from a puny and pious life; something unproved; something in a trance; something loosed from its anchorage, and driving free.' Did you ever feel that?"

"Certainly not," said the Major shortly.

"Then I must explain with more elaboration," said Mr Northover, with a sigh. "The Adventure and Romance Agency has been started to meet a great modern desire. On every side, in conversation and in literature, we hear of the desire for a larger theatre of events for something to waylay us and lead us splendidly astray. Now the man who feels this desire for a varied life pays a yearly or a quarterly sum to the Adventure and Romance Agency; in return, the Adventure and Romance Agency undertakes to surround him with startling and weird events. As a man is leaving his front door, an excited sweep approaches him and assures him of a plot against his life; he gets into a cab, and is driven to an opium den; he receives a mysterious telegram or a dramatic visit, and is immediately in a vortex of incidents. A very picturesque and moving story is first written by one of the staff of distinguished novelists who are at present hard at work in the adjoining room. Yours, Major Brown (designed by our Mr Grigsby), I consider peculiarly forcible and pointed; it is almost a pity you did not see the end of it. I need scarcely explain further the monstrous mistake. Your predecessor in your present house, Mr Gurney-Brown, was a subscriber to our agency, and our foolish clerks, ignoring alike the dignity of the hyphen and the glory of military rank, positively imagined that Major Brown and Mr Gurney-Brown were the same person. Thus you were suddenly hurled into the middle of another man's story."

"How on earth does the thing work?" asked Rupert Grant, with bright and fascinated eyes.

"We believe that we are doing a noble work," said Northover warmly. "It has continually struck us that there is no element in modern life that is more lamentable than the fact that the modern man has to seek all artistic existence in a sedentary state. If he wishes to float into fairyland, he reads a book; if he wishes to dash into the thick of battle, he reads a book; if he wishes to soar into heaven, he reads a book; if he wishes to slide down the banisters, he reads a book. We give him these visions, but we give him exercise at the same time, the necessity of leaping from wall to wall, of fighting strange gentlemen, of running down long streets from pursuers--all healthy and pleasant exercises. We give him a glimpse of that great morning world of Robin Hood or the Knights Errant, when one great game was played under the splendid sky. We give him back his childhood, that godlike time when we can act stories, be our own heroes, and at the same instant dance and dream."

Now go read the whole thing. (I also thought of titling this post 'Nothing New Under The Sun'.)

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 09:46 PM
Pseudonymic Fallout

Some interesting developments since the flurry of arguments on pseudonymous and anonymous bloggers began earlier this week (my contribution here):

  1. Porphyrogenitus has revealed his name and life story. Does anyone find his arguments more (or less) convincing now than before? If so, why and how?
  2. Media Minded has told us a great deal about his life, in fact just about everything except his name, address, telephone number, and employer. Again, are his arguments more convincing? Would knowing his name tell us more? And did we really need to know about his three arrests and his wide and varied use of controlled substances?
  3. 'Edward Boyd' of Zonitics has apparently given up blogging, unwilling either to reveal his real name or to continue using a pseudonym. Is this a good thing? I don't see how it can be.
Posted by Dr. Weevil at 12:27 AM
August 16, 2002
Bad Latin Alert

So much for the vaunted superior accuracy of edited web-sites run by major corporations. Mickey Kaus heads today's Kausfiles post on Paul Krugman (1:06 AM) Krugman Errata Est. That is apparently intended to mean "Krugman is wrong" or "Krugman has made a mistake", but the form of the verb is perfect passive. The correct Latin form would be the perfect active: Krugman Erravit. Errata est is not even good Latin, since intransitive verbs like errare normally have no passive forms. If the phrase had any meaning at all, it could only be something like "Krugman has been made a mistake" or "Krugman has been erred", which is unintelligible in both languages. With errata instead of erratus, the phrase also makes Krugman feminine. Ancient Roman satirists and orators sometimes did that sort of thing to defame their targets by questioning their masculinity. I hope Kaus isn't doing that here: it would be in very poor taste.

(Modern Romance languages form their perfect actives with a participle plus a form of "to be", just the way Latin forms its perfect passive. It's probably safe to conclude that Kaus knows much more French, Spanish, and/or Italian than Latin.)

The phrase at the end of Kaus' 12:36 AM post is just as bad: "welfare" in Pig Latin is "elfare-way", not "elfare-wray". Time to send Mickey back to school? Whether that should be high school to work on his Latin or middle school to work on his Pig Latin is a difficult decision: the two are equally important in today's economy.

Just to keep this post from being entirely negative, here's a little story from British colonial history involving a Latin verb in the perfect active. When General Clive conquered the Indian province of Sind, he supposedly sent the Foreign Office a one-word telegram to announce his deed. The message was PECCAVI, which is Latin for "I have sinned". The story has been refuted, since the Foreign Office records for that time survive, but it's still a good one.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 08:42 AM
August 15, 2002
You Can't Handle The Quiz

Taking a leaf from IsntaPundit, here are some literary and linguistic puzzles to chew over:

  1. What was Doctor Faustus' first name?
  2. What was Don Juan's last name?
  3. What was Odysseus' sister's name?
  4. What U.S. president coauthored (with his wife) the standard translation of a Renaissance Latin classic? The book is still in print: only $29.95 in paperback.
  5. What is the only three-syllable word in English that does not contain any A, E, I, O, or U? (At least I assume it's the only one.)
  6. I have read that the only English word that is pronounced differently depending on whether it is capitalized is "polish/Polish". I can think of two more possibilities, though one may not be pronounced differently in all forms of English, and the other requires making a noun plural in a rather artificial way. Hint: One is a food, an island, and a battle, the other a plant, a drug, and a personal name.
  7. Assignment: Make up a new English word that combines three stems, one Greek, one Latin, and one English (not necessarily in that order). The three stems must all be pronounced the same, but spelled differently. Hint: The only word I can come up with fitting these rules describes a passion shared by many animal-lovers, including many bloggers. It really needs a name. Further hint: It's nice to feel kneaded.

Sorry: no monetary prize for correct answers, just whatever glory a laudatory mention on this site can provide.

Update: (8/16, 10:30 AM)
Don't peek at the comments until you come up with your own answers. The first five and a half have been solved.

Update: (8/17, 12:10 AM)
All questions except the last have now been answered. Perhaps I should explain a bit better what I mean by 'stems': if it comes from Latin, ped- means 'foot' as in 'pedal' and 'pedometer', but if it comes from Greek, it means 'child' as in 'pediatrician' and 'pedophile'. Similarly, Greek card- means 'heart' as in 'cardiologist' and 'electrocardiogram', while Latin card- means 'hinge' as in 'cardinal', and English card has a variety of means having nothing to do with hearts or hinges. Other sets of stems like these could theoretically be combined into words of repetitious form and complex meaning. Does that make things clear? Or do I need to give further hints?

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:57 PM
August 14, 2002
It's Nice To Feel Needed

It appears that I've gotten a mini-Instalanche (an Insta-flurry?) and some other bunches of referrals without actually writing anything to deserve it. InstaPundit and Joanne Jacobs both want to know what I think of Neal Stephenson's distinction between two kinds of warmaking, assigned to Athena and Ares, and Megan McArdle wants to know the correct plural of "virus". Over the last couple of days, I've gotten several hundred hits from the three combined, so I guess I'd better write something -- better late than never.

Unfortunately, at the moment my books are all in Toledo and I'm in Baltimore, but I won't let that stop me. (By the way, the web has a long way to go before it can replace a decent personal library. Perhaps I'll blog more about that later.)

  1. Taking the easy one first, the Latin word virus has no plural, and it's impossible to say what it would be if it had one. In general, if a second declension noun is masculine or (rarely) feminine, it ends with US in the singular and I in the plural, like English alumnus/alumni and focus/foci. If it is neuter, it ends with UM in the singular and A in the plural, like English referendum/referenda and datum/data. (Not that anyone other than Latin teachers remembers that data are plural.) But there are two second-declension nouns in Latin that end in US and are nevertheless neuter. One is virus, the other vulgus, "the common people" (as a collective). Neither has a plural. If they did, would it end in I, because the singulars end in US, or in A because the words are neuter? The question is unanswerable, and the only available plural in English is therefore "viruses".
    Of course, Classical Latin virus does not mean "virus", since microbes had not been discovered. (Are viruses microbes? Ask a biologist.) Lewis and Short's old but still useful dictionary is on-line at Tufts' wonderful Perseus site. Here are its various definitions for virus: "a slimy liquid, slime", sometimes used "of animal sperm or semen", "A poisonous liquid, poison, venom, virus" (the last obviously not in the modern sense), "An offensive odor, stench", "A sharp, saline taste". Sorry you asked, Megan?
    In her comment section, 'Charlie' (comment 2) says "'Viruses' is the accepted English plural of 'virus.' The Latin word vîrus, meaning slime or poison, is indeclinable and provides no guide for a plural form (such as your helpful suggestions 'virii' or 'vira')." This is just about right, but the word does have other singular forms (e.g. genitive viri, "of slime") so it's not quite indeclinable. I don't recall whether that makes virus a 'defective' noun, or there is some other grammatical term for the phenomenon. Defective verbs are those that don't have a complete set of forms. In English, "can" meaning "be able" is defective, since it has no forms other than the present ("can") and past ("could"). ("Can" as in canning vegetables is a normal verb with a complete set of forms: "have canned", "had canned", "will can", and so on.) For the rest, we have to use "had been able", "will be able", "could be able", and so on -- except in the South, where "might could" is acceptable.
  2. What can I say about Athena and Ares, which is pretty much the same as the distinction between soldiers and warriors? It's a very big subject, and much more up Victor Davis Hanson's alley than mine. But here are a few thoughts:
    • Achilles does indeed go berserk in the Iliad after the death of Patroclus. But Homeric warriors on both sides are not usually so maniacal.
    • There is a hint of the warrior/soldier distinction at the beginning of Book III, when the troops first go into battle, with the Greeks (= Achaeans) as soldiers, the Trojans as warriors. Here are the first nine lines, again from Perseus "Now when they were marshalled, the several companies with their captains, the Trojans came on with clamour and with a cry like birds, even as the clamour of cranes ariseth before the face of heaven, when they flee from wintry storms and measureless rain, and with clamour fly toward the streams of Ocean, bearing slaughter and death to Pigmy men, and in the early dawn they offer evil battle. But the Achaeans came on in silence, breathing fury, eager at heart to bear aid each man to his fellow."
    • Even in the Iliad, warriors fight for a wide variety of reasons, not just loot (most of the Greeks) or to avenge a dead friend (Achilles after Patroclus' death), but to defend their city and family (Hector), to avoid the shame of running away (Paris, who has to be pushed into battle), to retrieve a lost wife (Menelaus), or out of loyalty to a superior (most of the second-string heroes). Not to sound like a French intellectual, but lining up all the Homeric warriors with Ares and all the phalanx warriors with Athena is terribly simplistic.
    • Ares is surprisingly unimportant in Greek myth, especially considering he is the only non-crippled son of Zeus and Hera. Several of Zeus' numerous illegitimate children are more important. Of course, Athena may look more important to us than she would have seemed to most ancient Greeks, since so many surviving authors were from Athens, which was named after her. (Or was she named after it? Hard to say.)
    • Mars is much more central to Roman mythology, at least until poets finished conflating them into a single bicultural god with two names. Mars is a patron god of Rome, father of Romulus and Remus, and his month (March) was originally the first month. (We know this because September, October, November, and December obviously mean 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th, and Quintilis and Sextilis, the names of July and August before they were renamed after Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar, mean 5th and 6th.) Unlike Ares, Mars was originally a god of agriculture as well as war, and March marked the beginning of the farming and campaigning seasons. (The two tended to coincide because invading enemy territory is much more effective if you can burn their crops while you're there.)

That's about all I can come up with off the top of my head. If I only had my books, I could write so much more. (Is that a threat or a promise? You be the judge.)

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:58 PM
Pseudonymity And Anonymity

A lively discussion on pseudonymous websites started at USS Clueless and has since spread to at least a dozen other sites. Den Beste lists most of these at the end of his entry, but 'Robert Musil', The Man Without Qualities, reminds us of some pertinent older posts.

I already said most of what I want to say on the subject in a post on July 5th, but here are some further thoughts:

  1. I'm not entirely comfortable with pseudonymity myself, but whenever I think of 'coming out of the closet', like Paul Palubicki ('Sgt. Stryker') and Porphyrogenitus, something happens to deter me. As I've mentioned more than once, I'm a high school teacher. Ten days ago, an anonymous creep posted a couple of pornographic pictures in the comments on my site, and it was 4-5 hours before I noticed and deleted them. These were not mere cheesecake: they were full frontal pictures of naked men with erections (and stupid grins). If any of my students had visited my site, knowing that it was my site, and seen those pictures, I think that would have been grounds for immediate firing. (The pictures may in fact have been posted to get me in trouble. I still have hopes of identifying the sender, though the AOL abuse people seem to be in no hurry to answer my e-mail.)
  2. I have not told my employers and colleagues about my blog, since I don't consider it any of their business. So far as I know, none has noticed. I use a nearly identical weevil symbol as a kind of trademark on my 'professional' real-name website. So far, and so far as I know, only one of the 1000+ members of the internet Classics list has noticed the connection, though I've told a few others.
  3. My pseudonym is easily penetrable. Try a 'whois', as the nasty little boys at WarbloggerWatch did a few weeks ago. There is also more than one obvious Google search that would lead directly to my real name. I always sign my real name when e-mailing other bloggers, so writing me a non-offensive note would do the trick. After the first month or two, I added "(but call me 'Dr. Weevil' in public)" to my signature, since some people had already printed my real name on their blogs. Pictures from two different NYC blogger bashes are up on the web, some of them on my own site.
  4. I agree that pseudonymity is something likely to lessen the average reader's interest in what is said, all other things being equal. But so are several other factors. A silly name doesn't help: more on this below. A light-on-dark color scheme alienates more readers than it attracts, but it doesn't seem to have hurt PejmanPundit. Other things are rarely equal: if the content is good enough, readers will come. And even an elegant redesign has not made WarbloggerWatch worth reading, except by those of us who hope to derive a low enjoyment from observing the intellectual pathologies on display.
  5. It may be true that real-name ('onymous'?) bloggers are, on the average, more trusted, and more trustworthy, than pseudonymous and anonymous bloggers. But there is a great deal of overlap between the two categories. Though I won't name any, there are plenty of 'real-name' bloggers I find useless. There are also plenty of pseudonymous bloggers I find well worth reading. In some cases I have met them and know their real names: Asparagirl, Orchid (Daily Dose). At least one I have met twice and still only know her first name: Ravenwolf. Others I would not have known were using pseudonyms if they hadn't said so more than once on their blogs: Juan Gato, Edward Boyd (Zonitics). On the other hand, I think 'Diane E. Moon' is the real name of the author of Letter from Gotham, but it sounds a bit like a pseudonym (since the goddess Diana was often identified with Luna, the Moon). Brendan O'Neill has rudely suggested that Sasha Castel is a pseudonym, but it's not. In some cases real names have been published, but only because some asshole 'outed' them: besides myself, this category includes 'the Timekeeper' at Horologium. Many pseudonymous bloggers use obviously fake names, which is a nice way of letting people know what they're dealing with: those I link to include N. Z. Bear (The Truth Laid Bear), Mindles H. Dreck (More Than Zero), Robert Musil (The Man Without Qualities), Max Power (Sound and the Fury), and Silflay Hraka. In short, it seems plausible that pseudonymous bloggers would not be worth reading, but actually looking at them shows that this is not always the case.
  6. A "silly" title or pseudonym will annoy the likes of Brendan O’Neill, though some of us consider that a plus. I can't find the reference, but somewhere A. E. Housman compares two scholars, one of whom "wore his frivolity on the outside", the other "on the inside". The first was often underestimated because of the witty language he used in making his arguments, though his scholarship was quite sound. The second was overestimated by those who thought a grave manner a guarantee of quality, though his actual arguments were often arbitrary and shoddily constructed. Much the same might be said of some bloggers and legacy journalists.
Posted by Dr. Weevil at 12:51 AM
August 13, 2002
Late Hit

It appears to be conventional wisdom that Al Gore lost the election in great part because his distaste for Clinton's character flaws inclined him to keep the outgoing president at a distance. Does that make Clinton the Troll under the Bridge to the Twenty-First Century?

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 07:09 PM
August 12, 2002
Homeric Voyager?

A couple of days ago, Steven Chapman (formerly 'Daddy Warblogs') wrote this little squib:

What the fuck is "meatspace"? Sounds like a parallel dimension, made entirely of meat. "Captain, we're entering meatspace now." "Very good, Number One. Bring the meat-deflectors online."

Thank you Glenn Reynolds for making me smile until my sides split.

Surely Meatspace is like Fluidic Space: a realm where the laws of nature are quite different from those we know. But Meatspace is much more useful: that's where the starship Voyager goes when supplies run low in the Delta Quadrant. Deflectors are not needed, just a tractor beam to haul in whole Ribeye Asteroids and a shuttle craft to mine the Porterhouse Moons of planet Lambchop. Also a simple hose to suck up bits of the Gravy Nebula. Of course, they always proceed at flank speed while doing this.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 10:42 PM
Not Just A Joke?

Sand in the Gears has an amusing list of proposed right-wing bumper stickers. In passing, he mentions the common "My kid beat up your honor student" sticker. I first saw that on a pickup truck with a gun rack in Tuscaloosa. It actually said "My kid beat up your honor student at Holt High School". Holt is a suburb of Tuscaloosa with numerous 'manufactured homes' and (I think) a steel mill. The sports teams are 'the Ironmen'. (Well, maybe not the girls' teams: perhaps War Liberal can tell us.) I think the bumper sticker was probably more than just a joke.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 10:22 PM
Non-Mickey's Assignment Desk

What happens to supposedly dangerous items confiscated at airline gates? I assume actual weapons are seized by the police as evidence while their owners are hauled away in handcuffs. But what about all the nail clippers, knitting needles, and gun-themed earrings and belt-buckles (not to mention Congressional Medals of Honor)? Are they thrown in the trash? Formally incinerated? Or perhaps taken home by those who confiscate them? I've occasionally seen rude remarks by disgruntled airline passengers who accuse the security screeners of 'doing their Christmas shopping' when they confiscate valuable and obviously non-dangerous objects. Does anyone know the answer to my first question? It's actually two questions in one: what is supposed to happen to all the stuff, and what actually happens?

A professional journalist, or a blogger with airline connections, should be able to come up with some answers. I haven't seen anyone even ask the question . . . not that I've been in an airport in the last eleven months.

David Kenner of An Age Like This reports that he has had confiscated items returned to him at his destination. However, that was before September 11th. According to my comments, there seems to be no common method. They variously report donation to charity (I hadn't thought of that), open theft, and accumulating huge piles of stuff with no decision yet on what to do with it all ('pseud', from a newspaper article -- apparently at least one journalist has thought to ask).

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 10:05 PM
Not Just A Verbal Quibble

In National Review's On the Corner, Andrew Stuttaford blogs a strange but unsurprising story from what is still known, rather inaccurately, as the 'United Kingdom':

The Daily Telegraph is reporting that, following objections from a Muslim trainee, London's Metropolitan Police will issue an alternative cap badge for those recruits unwilling to wear the traditional design, which includes a royal crown topped by a cross. The notion that this cross is any meaningful sense religious is absurd--it is a patriotic symbol, much like the crosses incorporated in the design of the Union Jack. So will those have to go too? In a way this would be appropriate. All that would be left behind would be a bland, blank sheet deprived of meaning and history, the perfect symbol of our multicultural age.

A flag that is a mere "blank sheet", presumably white, is certainly not "deprived of meaning and history": the historical meaning of such a flag is "we surrender".

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 09:53 PM
August 11, 2002
Another Story

Another forgotten story from long ago:

Dan of HappyFunPundit tells the sad tale of a fast food clerk and her manager who couldn't subtract $14.72 from $20.00 without a cash register or calculator. The problem is not new.

In 1976 or so, when I was at the University of Chicago, I went to the college bookstore to buy some manila envelopes. The clerk (not a student, I hope) was unable to figure out the total cost of 12 envelopes priced at 5 cents each. She tried the cash register, but didn't have the patience to do it right, ringing up 5, 5, 5, 5, and 5, then 25, and only then realizing that she didn't know what to do next. She tried a calculator. She tried pencil and paper. The whole process must have taken at least ten minutes, though it seemed more like twenty. Like the several customers behind me in line, I was frozen in stunned vicarious embarrassment throughout. Eventually, she came up with a price of 80 cents, I agreed without hesitation, she rang it up, and the cash register added the appropriate tax automatically. Fortunately I had the exact change, so I paid and got the Hell out of there, wondering how she had ever graduated from high school. Of course, I soon realized that she would probably have been very grateful if I had told her the correct amount. Then again, perhaps she wouldn't have believed me.

I wonder whether she ever learned basic arithmetic, and whether she is currently employed. I don't imagine there are a lot of fields in which such gross arithmetical ineptitude would not be a handicap.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 12:00 AM
August 10, 2002
A Dirty Story

Years ago, when I was in college and spending summers and holidays working for Mayflower, I had a fellow mover who was rather depressive and unlucky. Some even called him a 'loser'. His wife had left him and his life had fallen apart -- not necessarily in that order -- and he had lost his office job and started moving furniture for Mayflower, apparently not just for the summer but as a long-term plan, though he didn't last long.

He was also trying to avoid being evicted from his apartment. What happened was that someone rang his doorbell, his cat slipped out and ran away when he opened the door, and he went out looking for it. It took an hour or so to catch the cat, and he forgot that he had been filling up the bathtub when the doorbell rang. When he got back home there was an inch or two of water in his apartment, even more in the apartment downstairs, and his downstairs neighbor was screaming and banging on his door.

So far, a very commonplace story. In fact, just a few years later, I personally experienced pretty much the same series of events, with myself as the downstairs neighbor. What particularly impressed me was his matter-of-fact explanation for why he was filling his bathtub. It wasn't that he was planning to take a bath, but that he didn't like to wash dishes more than once a week, and it was more efficient to do so all at once in the bathtub -- basic principles of hygiene be damned.

I had forgotten this story until some blogger whose name I've forgotten linked to this entry on Views from the Outside.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:34 PM
I'm Back

I'm back from Boston and will soon be posting in my usual desultory way. Just so this post won't be completely utilitarian, here's a little note on the etymology of 'desultory':

A desultor was an ancient Roman circus rider, an acrobat who leapt from one galloping horse to another. During the civil war between Mark Antony and Octavian, a certain Munatius Plancus switched sides so deftly and so often that he became known as desultor bellorum civilium, "the desultor of the civil wars". The historian Velleius Paterculus describes Plancus as morbo proditor, in omnia et omnibus venalis, "a traitor by perverse inclination, for sale to anyone for any purpose". After the wars ended, Plancus was the senator who officially proposed that Octavian take the name Augustus. Thus endeth today's lesson.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:16 PM
August 07, 2002
The Profits Of War II

I have to drive to Boston in a few minutes, and won't be back until very late Friday.

Three quick remarks on my second-to-previous post before I go:

  1. I didn't mean to imply that Megan McArdle (Jane Galt) is necessarily wrong in arguing that wars can sometimes help the economy, just to say that they need not do so to be worth fighting -- and worth fighting even in crude economic terms, though there are usually better reasons than those.
  2. Will Wilkinson's reply seems awfully strained. He seems to think that if I've spent $20,000 (not $30,000) on car insurance over the last 30 years without a claim, I've lost a bet and wasted my money like a fool. I think the peace of mind was worth the price. (Perhaps I would agree with him if I were selling my car today and checking into a nursing home, never to drive again, but that's not likely to happen for another 30 years.) He says "insurance is exactly like gambling. Because it is gambling." So if I go out and wreck my car on the way to Boston, doing at least $20,001 worth of damage, I can call myself a small winner, and if I do $1,000,000 or more worth of damage, I hit the jackpot? That can't be right.
  3. In the comments to the prior post, Herr K. calls my comparison of the defense budget to car insurance "singularly inapt". I never said they were the same in every respect, only in the most pertinent one: that both are expenditures designed to avoid incurring much larger expenditures. Contrary to Wilkinson's argument, no profit is necessary. And yes, David Gillies, rottweilers and barbed wire and handguns and "the club" and padlocks and many other things are even better analogies. The big difference is that a whole nation can't avoid such expenditures by moving to a safer neighborhood, and there is no international police force to call in a national emergency. (Well, unless you're Kuwait invaded by Iraq, in which case we are the international police, or vigilantes, if you prefer.)

I'm sure I'll have more to say about this when I get back home. Thanks to all my other commentators.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 03:22 PM
August 05, 2002

Instapundit (second update) refers once more to Paul Krugman's 'rhinoceri'. That's as bad as 'octopi'. If you want to be pedantic and use the Greek plural, they're 'rhinocerotes' (five syllables) and 'octopodes' (four syllables). If you want to be really pedantic, you can even use the Greek pronunciations and call them 'REE-no-keh-ROW-tace' and 'ock-TOP-o-dace'. But who would want to do that? Certainly not I.

Better to stick with the standard English plurals 'rhinoceroses' and 'octopuses'. If these sound too ugly, we can pretend that the plural is the same as the singular and say 'a herd of rhinoceros' or 'a plateful of octopus'. That works with squid and haddock and moose and trout, why not rhinoceros(es) and octopus(es)? Dictionaries may object, but my ears do not.

Krugman's meaning is also obscure, as he must explain that it refers to Ionesco's play, which most of us haven't read. What is particularly confusing in a political context is that many Americans (especially on Free Republic) already use RINO to refer to a 'Republican In Name Only' like John McCain, or Jim Jeffords before he came out of the closet as a Democrat. Of course the same thing on the other side is a DINO. When Krugman calls Mickey Kaus a rhinoceros, he means what others would call a DINO, not a RINO.

Just to further confuse things, ancient Romans used rhinoceros as "a nickname for a man with a long nose" and metaphorically for a Frasier Crane or Gil Chesterton type of critic: in the epigrammatist Martial, nasum rhinocerotis habere, "to have the nose of a rhinoceros" means "to turn up the nose, to sneer at every thing". Does that make Krugman a rhinoceros when he writes about Republicans?

Update: (8:40 PM)

In the first comment, 'barbara' quote Webster's as approving 'octopi'. I think Webster's ought to be ashamed. I object to 'octopi' because it's neither Latin nor English, it's pseudo-Latin. It seems to me perfectly proper either to use the original foreign plural of a foreign word, or to use the English plural with 's' or 'es'. But if you're going to use the original foreign plural, you need to get it right. Thus, the plural of 'cherub' and 'seraph' could be either 'cherubim' and 'seraphim' (Hebrew) or 'cherubs' and 'seraphs' (English), whichever sounds better. But making them 'cheruboi' (Greek) and 'seraphen' (German) would be wrong.

In Latin, words of the same ending do not always have the same plural. The plurals of alumnus and genius (2nd declension) are alumni and genii, but the plural of genus (3rd declension neuter) is genera, the plural of Venus (3rd declension feminine) is Veneres (= 'statues of Venus'), and the plurals of census, hiatus, and apparatus (4th declension) are census, hiatus, and apparatus (with a long U in the last syllable instead of a short). I was going to correct James Lileks' inexcusable 'hiatii', approved by VodkaPundit, but Sightseeing in Plato's Cave beat me to it.

In some cases, either the Latin or the English plural sounds good: 'indexes' or 'indices', 'appendixes' or 'appendices', take your pick. (We can observe a general trend towards the English forms with X as fewer people take Latin.) In other cases the Latin plural sounds much better: no one would say 'genuses' for 'genera', 'axises' for 'axes', or 'basises' for 'bases', even though the last two are easily confused with the plurals of 'axe' and 'base'. That is no doubt why some foreign plurals survive. But adding any old Latin ending to any Latin word seems wrong, no matter what Webster's says. And I don't think it's just my personal whim that says 'octopi' is wrong: it's not Latin, it's not Greek, it's not English, what excuse does it have?

Similarly, English-speakers are under no obligation to sprinkle their speech with French phrases like 'je ne sais quoi' and 'soupçon'. But those who do will want to spell and pronounce the words correctly. (If I haven't, please let me know: I'm only quoting these words as part of my argument, and may well have gotten them wrong.)

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 02:02 PM
The Profits Of War

I'm no economist, but it seems to me that Will Wilkinson of The Fly Bottle and Megan McArdle of Live . . . from the WTC are missing the point in arguing that war is definitely (Wilkinson) or possibly (McArdle) bad for the economy. Many economically useful activities aim not to make money but to avoid losing it. If I buy a piece of furniture for $100 and later, when I have no further use for it, sell it for $30 at a yard sale, I'm not being stupid: that's $30 more than I would have if I burned it or buried it in the backyard or gave it to Goodwill. (We'll leave out the possible tax advantages of the last as unnecessarily complicating my argument.)

To take a more pertinent example, is not the defense budget a form of insurance? I've spent more than $20,000 on car insurance alone over the last 30 years, without ever filing a claim. Am I too stupid to know that I've been throwing my money away? (I sure could use that money now.) Or was it worth it to avoid the catastrophic effects that would have followed if I had wrecked my car or someone else's and put myself or others in the hospital, as I might very easily have done? I think the latter is correct. Although I am extremely unlikely to put someone in a wheelchair or a coma for the rest of his life, such an action would be so extraordinarily expensive as to justify paying quite a lot for insurance to avoid a multi-million-dollar liability. Even a very expensive army that never fights a war can be a wise investment if it prevents war. If war turns out to be necessary, and expensive, the expenditure can still be justified if the alternatives are worse. We already know some of the things Al Qaeda and their buddies would like to do to us, and they certainly seem worse than war on Iraq.

I don't know how much the destruction of the World Trade Center, part of the Pentagon, and four airplanes has cost and will cost the U.S. economy, but I'm quite sure that it would have been worth spending another ten or twenty billion dollars on defense (broadly defined) over the last few years, if that would have sufficed to prevent that destruction.

So far I have only considered the economic costs of terrorism, not the deaths of so many people (except in so far as those are economic phenomena, loss of skilled employees and so on, where they can be counted in the economic cost). Again, I'm no economist, but I don't think economics can tell us how much to spend to avoid the deaths of ourselves or our loved ones or our fellow citizens. Most of us would have been willing to spend quite a lot to avoid those particular deaths, and are willing to spend quite a lot to prevent similar (and possibly worse) things from happening in the future. It's hard to think of any part of the federal budget that is more justified than defense, profit or no profit.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 01:02 AM
Vans and Vauban

The Cranky Professor writes about visiting the star-shaped fortress of Ticonderoga. I don't know how many such forts there are in the U.S., but there is one at Fort Monroe in Virginia, built to protect the north side of Hampton Roads. It is next to the north end of the bridge-tunnel that connects Norfolk to Hampton and Newport News. Fort Monroe houses Continental Army Command, so I don't imagine it's easy to visit these days.

I've only been there while working for Mayflower in college. Some of the officers' quarters are inside the star-shaped fortifications, which are surrounded by a star-shaped moat. To get inside, you had to make a right-angle turn from the road around the fort, cross the moat on a narrow one-lane bridge, then drive through a tunnel in the wall with less than 6" total clearance on both sides combined. The clearance did not allow for rear-view mirrors, which had to be pulled in for the duration, making them useless. And you couldn't get out of the cab to look if you got stuck. Fortunately, I never got stuck.

Inside you found that officers' quarters are huge old (turn-of-the-century?) duplexes three or four stories high, with 15 or 20 rooms and 15' ceilings on the first floor, making for way too many steps. The occupant was typically a colonel with four teenaged kids and enough furniture and household goods to fill up a van and a half. If you're wondering, that's a lot of stuff. All in all, Fort Monroe looked like a very nice place to live, but well worth avoiding if you're a mover.

Of course the enlisted men's quarters were outside the wall and moat, but also near the beach. They're the only place I've ever seen a professional moving man turn down a free beer. It was 8:00 AM, and even moving men find that a little early to start on the beer, though some sergeants apparently don't.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 12:24 AM
August 04, 2002
Donkeys and Turkeys

Caveat: This post has nothing to do with illuminated donkeys or turkey bloggers.

A few days ago, Redwood Dragon blogged an amusing story (or rather joke) about raffling off a dead donkey, which is even ruder than raffling a live turkey.

In his Golden Ass, the only Roman novel that survives complete, Apuleius suggests that a dead donkey might actually have some use. The narrator, who is turned into a donkey early on, at one point is nearly murdered by a cook to replace a leg of venison stolen by some dogs. It is implied that that it would take a lot of herbs and spices to make leg of donkey pass for venison. I wonder: is donkey a regular part of any national cuisine today? Have any of my readers ever tried it? If so, what does it taste like? (Please don't say "chicken".)

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:57 PM
August 03, 2002

Apologies to anyone unlucky enough to see the pornographic pictures some proctological specimen posted in the comments on my previous two blog entries. They were up for 4-5 hours before I saw and deleted them. I'm hoping the sender's ISP (AOL) will help me track down the anus (no need to use foul language) who posted them, though they don't seem to be in any hurry to answer my e-mail. Andrea Harris of Spleenville seems to have been hit by the same rectal aperture. If anyone else was targeted, I would like to hear about it. It might help narrow the field of suspects.

As Cicero didn't quite say, "O tempora, o morons!". (Not an original joke, though I don't recall who said it first.)

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:53 PM
August 02, 2002
Hallelujah! Bjørn Is Back

A few weeks ago, I moved eight of my links to a new section of 'Comatose Blogs', since they hadn't been updated in weeks or even months but I wasn't quite ready to pull the plug on them.

Bjørn Stærk is now back home posting up a storm, so I've returned him to my main blog-list, Les 120 Journaux de Blogdom. (No one has commented yet on the literary allusion.)

Lane McFadden has twitched once or twice lately, but there's no real content, so I'll leave him under 'comatose' for now, checking back frequently for clearer signs of sentience.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 03:07 PM
Shooting Whales In A Barrel

The Cracker Barrel Philosopher at Country Store (new to me -- thanks, Daily Pundit!) links to an interesting story from the land of Tim Horton:

One million pounds set to march on Ottawa
Obese people plan to protest funding cuts to stomach stapling

A woman from Guelph, Ont., is organizing a "million pound march" on Parliament Hill to express concern over the affect funding cuts will have on the weight-loss surgery she says saved her life and could save the lives of other obese people.

"When Parliament reconvenes in the fall, we're planning a million pound march on Ottawa. We think that will be a pretty big wake-up call when Ottawa sees a million pounds sitting on their doorstep," said Moira Barber, founder of Weight Loss Surgery Advocacy Ontario.

This story inspires various irreverent thoughts:

  1. Why don't the National Post proofreaders know the difference between 'effect' and 'affect'?
  2. I hope Parliament's doorsteps are made of stone.
  3. The number sounds impressive until you do the arithmetic. Three thousand marchers should be more than enough, and should not be too hard to find in a country as well-equipped with doughnut shops as Canada.
  4. Somehow, I don't imagine the route of the march will be more than a few blocks.
  5. Shouldn't that be a 'Million-Kilo March'? (It's a good thing Canada is not a member of the EU, where it's illegal to sell bananas by the pound. Otherwise, the organizers might find themselves in court.)
  6. Is 'march' the mot juste, or would some other verb be more appropriate?

I'd better stop now: this is just too easy.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 12:13 AM
August 01, 2002

True pedants hate it when words are coined that combine a Greek and a Latin root rather than two roots from the same language. According to them, an 'automobile' should either be an 'ipsimobile' (all Latin) or an 'autokineton' (all Greek), and the same goes for other hybrids such as 'homosexual' and 'heterosexual'.

Daily Pundit uses the Anglo-Greek hybrid 'crapocracy' to describe the Saudi regime. Actually he calls it a "porkulent royal crapocracy", which is even better. The term is not quite original. Google gives three hits. I hate to quote Vladimir Posner, but in this Vanity Fair article, he is quoted as saying that 'dermocracy' is a Russo-Greek pun, and translates it as "crapocracy".

Pedants will be glad to know that an all-Greek word for rule by the excremental elements of the state is easy enough to find: 'scatocracy'. Some Greek and Latin words have nominative (subject) forms that differ quite a bit from the other forms. For example, the Latin word for 'king' is rex, as in Tyrannosaurus rex, but the other forms all begin with reg-: regis ('of a king'), regum ('of kings'), regi ('to or for a king'), regibus ('to or for kings'), and so on. The ancient Greek word for 'sh*t' is even odder than most. The stem is skat- as in 'scatology', but the nominative, which is also the dictionary form, is skôr. Since learning that in grad school about 15 years ago, I've much preferred Heath bars when struck with the urge to consume a lumpy brown chocolate-covered toffee candy.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:51 PM
Another Silly Quiz

56.25 %

My weblog owns 56.25 % of me.
Does your weblog own you?

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:24 PM
Belated Birthday Anecdote

In honor of Milton Friedman's 90th birthday, some may find this little anecdote amusing:

In the fall of 1975, he came to the University of Chicago bookstore to sign copies of a new book. One of the local leftists stationed himself just a few feet away and kept up a constant flow of shouted and even screamed insults about 'Fascist oppression in Chile', which he blamed on Friedman. The bookstore management did not try to throw the bum out. Someone asked Friedman what he thought about having his own personal heckler. Being an economist, he gave an economic answer. After all these years, I can't recall the exact words, but here's the gist:

When the product you're trying to sell can't attract a market of its own, you have to try to borrow someone else's market.

Perhaps he said "steal", not "borrow". I wish I could remember.

The birthday was yesterday, but I was too busy driving from Maine to Baltimore to blog this until now. Better late than never: Happy Birthday, Milton Friedman!

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:22 PM