May 31, 2003
More on Borgesian Classifications

When I reworked my blogroll last week, I quoted Borges as justification for my new pseudo-systematic arrangement. Perhaps I should have used Borges' actual categories. Some identifications are obvious:

  • A Dog's Life would come under "those that are trained", while The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler could be one of the "stray dogs".
  • First on the list of "those that tremble as if they were mad" would have to be Laurence Simon (Amish Tech Support). I'm sure there are others that could (and should) be included in this category, perhaps even some eager to be committed to it.
  • The category "innumerable ones" is made for the ever-increasing ranks of The Volokh Conspiracy.
  • There are lots of candidates for "suckling pigs", but I don't link to any of them on principle.

Unfortunately, that still leaves "those drawn with a very fine camel's-hair brush", "those that have just broken the flower vase", and several other hard-to-fill, categories. Nine out of ten blogs would have to be assigned randomly to the Borgesian categories.

Of course, there is precedent for that, too. Pejmanesque's Dantesque blogroll seems relatively random: why are Time and Newsweek listed under Gluttony, the New Republic under Perverted Love, and the BBC under Violence? On the other hand, he lists me in the Primum Mobile, and I have actually operated a Prime Mover. I doubt that there are very many others who can honestly say that they have read bits of Aristotle in Greek and operated a Prime Mover.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 10:03 PM
Historical Precedents

Steven Den Beste has a long post mulling over what would happen to the Commonwealth if a no-longer-Great Britain were to lose its independence by being absorbed into Europe. Towards the end, he quotes an Australian reader named Russell:

If the Brits de-throned the Queen she would still be the Queen of Australia and separately Queen of some of our States as well (such as Queensland) - I am, and hope to always remain - a subject of the Crown. She would similarly remain the sovereign of large parts of the Commonwealth.

This sounds bizarre: how can a monarch rule (however symbolically) over a (former) colony if she does not rule the home country? However, similar things have happened before. In 1807 Dom Joâo, prince regent of Portugal, fled to Brazil to escape Napoleon. I don't know why it took so long, but he returned to Portugal in 1821, leaving his son Pedro in charge of Brazil. Taking a lead from Bolivar and other contemporary revolutionaries, Pedro declared independence from Portugal the next year and ruled as Emperor Pedro I. The Brazilian monarchy lasted until 1889.

Here's the Amazon blurb for a book I haven't read, Tropical Versailles : Empire, Monarchy, and the Portuguese Royal Court in Rio de Janeiro, 1808-1821, by Kirsten Schultz:

In 1807, to escape an invading Napoleonic army, the Portuguese Prince Regent and some 10,000 functionaries set sail for Brazil. Following the transfer of the court, Rio de Janeiro became a "tropical Versailles," a new world seat of European imperial power. In discourse and practice, residents and royal officials in Rio set out to transform a colonial capital into a royal court and to redefine the bases for the political legitimacy of an empire and monarchy centered in America. With the capital of the Portuguese empire in Brazil for the next thirteen years, an extraordinary inversion of political, economic, and cultural hierarchies that had governed colonial relations for centuries came to pass.

I don't know about the book, but the events it covers seem interesting enough.

There have been some other cases of empires continuing to function when the imperial power was no longer giving orders, e.g. the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) in the 20 months or so between Hitler's conquest of the Netherlands and the Japanese conquest of Southeast Asia. Local officials continued to govern, and Dutch armed forces resisted the Japanese invasion. The status of French colonies in Africa and elsewhere in the same time period was more ambiguous, since Vichy France itself was not exactly independent, but not entirely occupied by the Third Reich. I believe the Germans permitted the French to continue administering Senegal, Gabon, and all the rest. I'm sure someone knows how the administration was financed, though I do not. I assume Dutch forces in the East Indies were compelled to 'live off the land', with no subsidies from home, and no replacement troops expected. But I'm too lazy to look any of this up.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 12:38 AM
May 29, 2003
Precedent: Nun

Eugene Volokh (5/28, 10:05 AM) and others have been blogging about the Muslim woman in Florida who wants to keep her driver's license, but doesn't want to have her picture taken with more than her eyes showing. Volokh adduces a relevant legal decision from the 1980s. There may be more such cases further back.

It's been more than thirty years, and I don't recall whether I read this or heard about it in Catholic school -- most likely the latter --, but I believe there were similar problems when nuns started applying for driver's licenses. I imagine they were slower to take up driving than most professions, but by the '40s or '50s at the latest cars had become necessary to much of the work nuns do. Of course, up until the '60s, nuns covered their hair entirely, and some wore quite astonishly complex headdresses. The problem with getting driver's licenses was not so much identification, though listing hair color on a license doesn't help much when the hair is never shown in public. The problem was peripheral vision: some of the more elaborate headdresses left only a very narrow field of vision, much too narrow for safe driving. I don't know whether there were lawsuits or the issue was handled administratively, but as I recall the story, some orders of nuns were forced to modify their habits, or agree to remove parts of them while driving, before they were allowed to get licenses.

Perhaps someone with access to legal databases could do a search on 'nun + license + habit' or something like that? Or perhaps someone at the old nuns' home would remember how the issue was handled, since it may not have gone to court.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 12:45 AM
May 28, 2003
A Pertinent (Mis)Quotation

One of my favorite quotations goes something like this:

When it comes to congressmen, it's not what they do that's illegal that's shocking, it's what they do that's legal.

Unfortunately, I can't remember who said it, or when (early 1980s?), or the exact words, and Google hasn't helped at all. One reason I'd like to track all this down is that the quotation is so pertinent to journalism as well as politics. I'm sure Jeff Jarvis is right that Rick Bragg's practice of putting his name on news stories that he couldn't be bothered to report himself is common practice in the industry. But it's still shocking and offensive, or ought to be -- it certainly offends me --, and the New York Times ought to put a stop to it. Maybe there should be an amnesty for previous sins by Bragg and his brethren, but my personal opinion is that heads should roll if they continue to pretend to report things they haven't actually witnessed.

Why is the practice so offensive? Partly because it seems downright feudal. A famous name and exalted position entitle their owner to the ius primae lineae, the "right of the first line". That's not entirely unlike the ius primae noctis.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 12:17 AM
May 27, 2003
I'm Back

Sorry about the long silence. This is a tense time. I had an interview last Thursday for a job that is (for me) just about perfect: an excellent school in an inexpensive area not too far from New York City and the Washington-Baltimore area. Most of my friends and relatives live in one or the other. I would also be just about perfect for the job, but it remains to be seen whether I convinced them that that is true. Since there are three other finalists, the odds are not all that great. The decision is supposed to come Thursday. I'll blog an item or two before then, including one coming up in just a few minutes.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:59 PM
May 21, 2003

A few miscellaneous items:

  1. The Ba'ath Poker file has been updated to reflect the capture of yet another wanted Iraqi, the Two of Clubs.
  2. I have finally finished the long-overdue Patronage page, with the names and URLs of all those who have sent donations, except a few I haven't got hold of yet to confirm how they would like to be listed. It also includes explanations of the different levels: why it is better to be an Augustus than a Maecenas or a Messalla, and why a Virro is the worst patron of all. It can be reached through the third white button in the right column, the one labeled 'Honored Patrons'.
  3. I am going to be out of town on yet another 700-mile round trip drive to a job interview, from 9:00 AM Wednesday through midnight Thursday. I'll try to post more on the weekend to make up for the relative lack of posts before then. Please behave yourselves while I'm gone.
Posted by Dr. Weevil at 12:45 AM
May 20, 2003
Blogroll Changes

I have just reclassified my Blogroll, using a new method borrowed from a famous passage of Jorge Luis Borges describing a probably-fictional Chinese encylopedia, the Heavenly Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge:

In its distant pages it is written that animals are divided into

  1. those that belong to the emperor;
  2. embalmed ones;
  3. those that are trained;
  4. suckling pigs;
  5. mermaids;
  6. fabulous ones;
  7. stray dogs;
  8. those that are included in this classification;
  9. those that tremble as if they were mad;
  10. innumerable ones;
  11. those drawn with a very fine camel's-hair brush;
  12. etcetera;
  13. those that have just broken the flower vase;
  14. those that at a distance resemble flies.

This is from "John Wilkins' Analytical Language", first published in 1942 and later included in Borges' collection Other Inquisitions.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 03:10 PM
May 17, 2003
Unfortunate Names

David Adesnik of Oxblog tells us of an Army general named Richard ("please call me 'Dick'!") Head. When he was in the Navy, my father once worked for a general named Strong Boozer. I wonder if they ever met? A Google search led me to a genealogical site that includes a Strong Boozer in a family tree, giving his dates as 1915-1975, and place of burial as Arlington National Cemetery. He must be the same guy. Odd that both were successful military men. Is there some kind of "Boy Named Sue" effect, where an embarrassing name leads to mental and physical toughness and a suitably tough career?

Then there's the northern Virginia gynecologist named Dr. Harry Beaver. A coworker told me about him twenty years ago, saying "his name is Harold, but all the girls call him Harry". I didn't believe her until I checked the yellow pages, where he was listed (as "Harry") under "Physicians - Obstetrics and Gynecology". That settled it. You can put any name you want in the white pages, but the yellow pages are different. Years ago, a revolving group of University of Chicago students who shared a house listed themselves as "Sam Spade" so they wouldn't have to change the name every year or two. But I'm sure it's illegal to list a fraudulent name and profession in the yellow pages. Dr. Beaver seems to have retired a few years back, since he's only a shadowy presence on the web. (I assume any doctor in a big city these days will have a web-page.)

One of my students at the University of Alabama in the mid-90's was a gynecologist's wife who had returned to school to finish her degree after her kids were grown. She confirmed that Harry Beaver was real and that she and her husband knew him, and claimed that there was another gynecologist in Ohio named Seymour Hyman. Google lists a Seymour Hyman as vice-chancellor of CUNY and (another?) as eponym of a charitable foundation, so there is at least one man with that name. Whether he's a gynecologist is still unclear.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 10:07 PM
They're Back! Or Maybe I Just Didn't Know Where They'd Gone

Last June the Blogosphere was briefly abuzz about the South Park Studio site, which allowed users to construct their own made-to-order South Park characters. Unfortunately, within a few weeks the site (in Germany) had stopped providing the service, with an apologetic message. Perhaps because my German is inadequate, it was never clear whether they had been threatened with a lawsuit or just couldn't afford the bandwidth. Most likely the latter, since I now see (from Left & Right, found through Silent Running) that the site is back at a new URL, Planearium South Park Studio. (L&R's links don't seem to work, so you'll have to scroll down to May 11th for a picture of Rob.) It's not exactly the same -- there don't seem to be any 'Kiss My Ass' T-shirts in the Body option -- but close enough. Here is the self-portrait I constructed last June, which is actually an excellent likeness:

Be sure not to add anything in the Hair/Hat option if you want a bald character like mine. These can be changed but not deleted, so you would have to start all over again.

The site doesn't seem to provide any capability to print or store your results, but that limitation is easy enough to get around, at least on Windows machines. For those who don't already know, here's how it's done: Use Shift-PrtScr to save a screen shot to the clipboard, then open Microsoft Paint, retrieve the screen shot with Ctrl-V, trim it down to the appropriate size, and 'Save As' a JPEG file. Some detail is lost in the process, but what do you want for free?

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 09:26 PM
Talented Infants

Meryl Yourish has good advice for those charged with changing the diapers of baby boys. Many years ago I worked with a man who bragged about his first-born son: "Not even a week old and he can pee right over the top of his head!" As I recall, he (the son, not the father) would sometimes fall short and get himself right in the face, then rub his eyes with his tiny fists as if thinking "Who did that? And why is he being so mean to me? I haven't done anything!"

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 08:58 PM
How Goes The Hunt?

I have made the following changes in my Ba'ath Poker files:

  1. The button is no longer yellow, and is in the right-hand column.
  2. The Nine of Hearts, reported captured on May 1st, has been deleted. Two weeks later, he's still not on the CentCom list, and they certainly ought to know whether he's in custody. Do the news media owe us a correction on that?
  3. Some dates of captures have been changed to match the CentCom list. Oddly, three people were reported in the press to have been captured from two to five days before the official CentCom dates. These can't just be lucky guesses, because they were right: all three (or three out of four, if we count the Nine of Hearts) have since turned up on the CentCom list. I can only assume that there were delicate negotiations, and the press reported them captured when they were still actually at large. Were tribal chieftains, or Kurds, or Syrian or Iranian border guards holding them? If so, did any money change hands? That might explain the delay, since haggling takes time.
  4. There are now 24 of the Top 55, and 24 of the Deck of 52 in custody: we're approaching the half-way mark in only five weeks (counting from the first capture, which was three days after the statue toppled).
  5. All graphs and charts have been adjusted to reflect revisions in the data.

Overall conclusion: After a long lull, captures seem to be picking up again, though it's too early to tell whether the trend will continue. The first capture was on April 12th. In the first three weeks (counting the 12th), 18 wanted Iraqis were picked up: that's nearly one per day. In the next twelve days (May 3rd-14th) only two were apprehended, a Five and a Two. But in the last three days (May 15th-17th), we have picked up another Two, a Three, and two face cards, a Queen and a Jack. We still have none of the Top Eight Iraqis (the Aces and Kings) in custody, but we have fully half of the Next Eight: three Queens and a Jack. The Two of Diamonds was reported captured on Thursday along with 200 other Baathists, including three generals, who were presumably on CentCom's longer list of 200 wanted Iraqis, though I don't believe that list has been published. Is the noose tightening? Are fugitives gathering in groups? That should make them easier to find, though actually picking them up could get more dangerous.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 03:50 PM
Dreadful Warning

Well, that only took an hour or so, but then I got onto other things, including jotting down topics I want to blog on: 41 and counting, though some will be left on the cutting-room floor.

Watch this space: there will be plenty of blogging later today.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 01:49 PM
May 16, 2003

OK, I'm finally starting the long-promised rearrangement of the yellow buttons, which may cause unpleasant side-effects until I get it right. It shouldn't take more than an hour or two, though. Then comes the Patronage page, now almost presentable. Thanks to all my contributors (really, thanks!), my bank is now happy -- or will be as soon as PayPal's "three to four business days" expire.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 07:08 PM
May 15, 2003
Scrambling Lists

The Command Post reports that yet another person on the Centcom Iraqi 55 Most Wanted List has been captured, but doesn't give a name, number, or card ID. I checked the official Centcom list to see if the information was there, and found two annoying developments:

  1. Two who had been reported captured days ago now say "Taken into custody May 15th". How can that be? Were they in Kurdish or other hands, and only listed as taken into custody when they actually arrived at a U.S.-controlled prison? I already knew their names the day before yesterday. I've been graphing the pace of captures to see whether it is increasing or decreasing, so dates are important.
  2. Worse, Centcom has completely reordered the list of 55. Number 18 is now number 9, number 10 is number 12, number 21 is number 31, and so on. I haven't made the complete cross-reference list -- that's my next task -- but it appears that the new List of 55 matches the Deck of 52 cards much better. I suppose that's the reason for the change. Before, the Queen of Spades was number 18 (way too low), while the Seven of Hearts was number 20 (way too high). Now I have to go back and edit my list of captured Iraqis, giving both the old and new numbers as well as the card IDs. Redoing the graphs will take hours. Not only is this irritating, it will allow malicious lefties to claim that the list was reordered to make it look better. It's certainly true that moving the various Ba'ath Party regional chairmen / BP militia commanders from the middle of the list to the bottom will slightly improve the looks of the graphs I made. They were number 22-36 on the old list, but three of them didn't even make the cut (sorry about the pun) for the deck of cards, while the rest were all Twos, Threes, Fours, and one Five (the Baghdad regional commander). Only three of the sixteen have been captured, so moving them down to numbers 40-42 and 44-55 on the list does make it look a bit better overall. On the other hand, the deck of cards was what caught the public's imagination, so making the list match the deck is more appropriate than the other way around -- not to mention that the cards have already been printed and distributed.

Oh well, back to work on the new list. I've got plenty more to post on other subjects, too. (There's nothing like financial support to make me feel like working harder. Thanks again!)

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 02:04 PM
Thanks, Readers!

So far, eleven different readers have come through with contributions: two Domitians ($5 each), six Plinys (Plinies? -- five $10, one $20), and three Messallae ($25 each). The Patronage page should be ready late tonight. First I have to e-mail all the contributors to see which ones want their names / e-mails / webpages listed and which prefer anonymity or pseudonymity -- also to thank them, of course. As for the rest of you, it's not too late to join the Council for Blogging Excellence. By the way, buying me something from my Amazon Wishlist will also earn you a place on the Patronage page.

However, before I get down to e-mailing contributors and coding the page, I have some breaking news: see next entry.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 01:45 PM
May 14, 2003
Patronize Me, Please!

Tomorrow morning, I plan to overhaul this site, moving the ugly yellow buttons to the right column. Until I'm done, things may look look a little weird from time to time, though not for long -- I always keep backups.

In the mean time, anyone who thinks this site worth supporting should know that now would be a really good time to throw some money in the tipjar. If you're wondering why, here's the story. (If not, skip down to the fourth paragraph.) I have a standing order for a multivolume encyclopedia of classics published in Germany. The publisher is supposed to bill my debit card $180 or so (it varies with the exchange rate) every June and December as the new volumes are shipped. So far I have received 15 of the planned 18. Of course, being unemployed, I'm on a tight budget, but I made sure to keep an extra $200 in the bank, since I knew another volume was imminent. (I wouldn't start the subscription today, but now that I have most of the volumes it would be stupid to cancel it.) I just discovered that the publisher charged my debit card $534.37 last Thursday, which is either a horrible mistake or means they've shipped the last three volumes all at once, without bothering to warn me. I only had $503 in the bank, so that debit and eight others made since are all overdrafts, for which my bank is charging $28 each. They told me they covered the first one 'as a courtesy'. Thanks a lot. If they hadn't, I'd have one annoyed creditor and a $28 charge. As it is, I now owe the bank not only $350 more than I was expecting for books, but an extra $252 (9 x $28) in fees, plus another fee of $27.50 every 5 days as long as I'm overdrawn, which could easily be another week or more. I had always assumed that when the damned Mastercard debit card was 'swiped' with an electronic card-reader, the charge would be rejected if I was overdrawn. What the Hell is the machine doing if it's not checking for sufficient funds? I wouldn't have made any of the charges after the big one if I had known I was already overdrawn. Key Bank has my e-mail address, and couldn't be bothered to contact me that way, which should be doable by a program without any human intervention. So, can I sue them for greedy incompetence?

I was already pissed at them for what they did a few weeks ago. The whole reason for opening a Key Bank account in Rochester, even though there were lots of other banks closer to my new apartment, is that I was happy with their service at my last address in Maine, unlike a lot of other banks I've known. I was a lot less happy when Key Bank-Maine started charging $12 per month for an account that had not had a transaction in six months: it seemed a bit steep. Of course, that was my fault for not closing it. But after the first charge, I wrote to them to close the account. I mailed my letter on the 23rd of March, and, even after subtracting the time in the mail, eight days is long enough for them to have closed my account before the end of the month. They didn't answer until April 5th, which conveniently allowed them to charge me another $12. I think they left my letter lying around just so they could do that. It's things like that that give capitalism a bad name -- not that I mean to suggest that I would prefer any other system.

So, if you want me to stop whining and move all the yellow buttons to a less obtrusive position, send me money! What's in it for you? I'm devising a reward system based on the Metropolitan Opera's 'Council for Artistic Excellence', which lists donors of one million, half a million, and a quarter million dollars. All they get for their generosity is their names in tiny print at the back of the program. My system should be ready for unveiling some time tomorrow. The idea is to have a separate page listing donors to this site by categories. These would be named after various Romans, something like this:

For only $2 you can be a Virro (an amusingly stingy patron in Juvenal), and have your name listed in tiny print as a member of the Council for Blogging Excellence -- just like the Met, only much much cheaper.

For $5 you can be a Domitian, with your name in somewhat larger type and a link to your e-mail or website. Historical background: The poet Statius wrote numerous poems for the vicious and bald emperor Domitian, including one (Silvae 4.2) which devotes 67 lines to praising the emperor for inviting him to dinner (just once!) at the imperial palace. According to Statius, the dinner was quite lavish, but he also mentions "a thousand tables" of guests, which makes the abundance of his gratitude look a little sad -- perhaps he had overdue bills -- and Domitian rather cheap: Statius wrote a 12-book epic for him, not as good as the Aeneid, but just as long and better than most Latin verse. (This is the same Statius who much later guided Dante through Purgatory.)

For $10, you can be a Pliny, with your name in larger type, your e-mail and website (if desired), and a nickname or brief motto -- 'Roll Tide', 'Nixon's the One', 'Death to Infidels', whatever. (I reserve the right to refuse contributions if the motto is too offensive.)

For $25, you can be a Messalla, for $50 a Pollio, and for $100 a Maecenas. Historical details are still to be added for all three: suffice it to say that they were patrons of Vergil, Horace, Ovid, and other great Roman poets. These categories will come with further privileges, not yet perfectly defined: perhaps a 50 x 100 button or a picture of yourself, your kids, your dog, your cat, your favorite cartoon character, or anything you like within the bounds of decency (as broadly defined by me).

For $250, you can be a mighty Augustus, and I'll give you a whole page to express yourself or advertise your own site.

Of course, if anyone sends even larger amounts, I'll have to add a new category at the top, perhaps a Iuppiter Optimus Maximus whom I will bow down and worship as a beneficent god.

Details are still to be worked out, but the page will include pictures of Augustus and Maecenas, brief descriptions of what makes the various Romans fair to middling, good, very good, or truly superb patrons, and much more. Stay tuned. I've already got a Messalla and a Maecenas since I installed the PayPal button a few weeks back. Who's next?

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:56 PM
May 13, 2003
Où Sont Les Blogs d'Antan?

Does anyone know what happened to Horologium, previously known as Regurga-Blog, and run by 'The Timekeeper'? It's been down for weeks, and I've finally, reluctantly, deleted it from my blogroll. I believe the Timekeeper is in the military, so perhaps he has been otherwise occupied.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:56 PM
Could Be Worse

Today's Best of the Web (scroll down to 'The Seventh Century Meets the 21st') quotes a Memri story about the new website of the Saudi religious police, the Authority for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. I found the second paragraph quoted particularly amusing:

Also shown is a photo of several Barbie dolls, along with the text: "The enemies of Islam want to invade us with all possible means, and therefore they have circulated among us this doll, which spreads deterioration of values and moral degeneracy among our girls." On the photo, under the heading "The Jewish Doll," is a story titled "The Strange Request." The story reads: "One girl said to her mother: 'Mother, I want jeans and a shirt open at the top, like Barbie's!!' The dolls of the Jewish Barbie in her naked garb [sic], their disgraceful appearance, and their various accessories are a symbol of the dissolution of values in the West. We must fully comprehend the danger in them."

What would they say if Barbie were anatomically correct?

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 09:37 PM
The Other Side Of The Balance

The expense of Bush's recent trip to the Abraham Lincoln has stirred various lefties to paroxysms of silly nastiness. COINTELPRO Tool (him again! last post on 5/9), the Man Without Qualities (last post on 5/7), and others have blogged on their various misrepresentations.

What I have yet to see is the argument that the trip may well have saved the taxpayers money. This would be impossible to prove, but is at least plausible, and a knowledgeable person (perhaps someone at Sgt. Stryker) might be able to come up with some rough estimates.

Here's one possible line of argument:

I have read that the armed forces often pay substantial reenlistment bonuses, since training a new person is so expensive and time-consuming. With 4000 sailors on board, it's possible that even a one-year one-percent increase in the reenlistment rate on the Lincoln would save the Treasury more money than the president's trip cost. Would his trip produce such an effect? It can't have hurt. (Can anyone provide me with the URL for the news story reporting only one negative thing the sailors said about Bush -- that he put ketchup on his t-bone? It was quoted extensively in one of the blogs on my blogroll, but I can't find which one.) It's also likely that news coverage of his flight to the Lincoln had a positive effect on the morale of other ships and military units in all four services, an effect that again would likely have helped reenlistment rates at least a little bit.

Of course, such an effect would be difficult to detect and impossible to prove, since there are too many other variables. I assume reenlistment rates vary not only from year to year but from unit to unit, depending on the likelihood of combat, particular duties assigned, friendliness or hostility of local populations, exchange rates, even the weather. If the rates for the Lincoln or the Navy overall go up next year, it would be hard to prove that they would not have done so anyway, and if they go down, it could well be by less than they would have if Bush hadn't made the trip.

Here's another possible line of argument:

So far, I have only looked at this from a narrowly financial point of view, it's effect on the Defense Department personnel budget. A wider analysis is also possible, though even less measurable, so I'll keep this short. Better morale helps win wars with fewer casualties, and probably cuts down on accidental deaths and injuries in peace time, too. I suspect that aircraft carriers are like other complex organizations: surely a happy crew is a competent crew?

Again, I don't have the specialized knowledge to prove this hunch. Perhaps my readers can help me out.

Update: (11:30 PM)

No thanks to my lazy readers (just kidding!), I managed to find the article mentioned in the middle of the fourth paragraph: Daily Pundit links to Jim Miller on Politics, who quotes large excerpts of the story in the Everett Herald, the Lincoln's hometown paper.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 09:23 PM
More On Bush's Supposed Absence Without Leave

Bill Herbert (COINTELPRO Tool, last post on 5/8) has a great deal more on what he calls "The Bush AWOL meme". At the end, he asks:

. . . if Bush was truly "AWOL" during this 18-month period, and never received any kind of court martial, or even a Non-judicial Punishment, what does that say about his chain of command?

I think this point can be sharpened. Is it possible to be AWOL without ever being officially declared AWOL, or punished for absences, either then or later? If the chain of command never put Bush down as AWOL, then surely he had implicit leave to be absent on whatever days he may (or may not) have been absent. If his absences were excessive, his commanders may have been derelict in their duties, but how can he have been AWOL if they never objected to his (putative) absences? If they did, where's the evidence?

Here's an analogy: If a neighbor or housemate leaves his car keys lying around while he's at work, and I drive his car all around the neighborhood without asking permission, I am very likely committing a crime. I imagine it depends on the state whether it's simple auto theft or comes under a separate 'using a vehicle without permission' statute. But if the owner knows what I'm doing and never complains, either during or after these joyrides, doesn't that imply permission?

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 07:28 PM
May 12, 2003
Another Way To Rank Bloggers

Update and Mea Culpa: (5/13, 6:55 PM)

What was I thinking? Not only had I managed to forget all about the Blog IQ list until I read Amygdala last week, I'd even forgotten that C.G. Hill of Dustbury had already come up with this idea and done some of these calculations almost three months ago, as he reminds me in the first comment here. Readers may now dismiss me as a shameless plagiarist, if they think I'm stupid enough to have done this consciously. (Just call me the Deuteragonist.) All I can say is that I've turned 50 since then, and senility seems to be setting in: I even made the first comment on Hill's post, which should have helped me remember it. At least I did the work of putting together an actual table . . . .

Last week Gary Farber (Amygdala) posted something on BlogStreet's Most Important 100 Blogs or 'Blog IQ' list, not to be confused with their Top 100 Blogs list. The latter counts incoming links equally, while the former weights links from higher-ranking blogs more heavily. (Each is actually a Top 500 list: just change the '100' in the URL to '200', '300', '400', or '500'.)

Almost a year ago, I was already wondering whether it would be possible to calculate in a scientific way who is a 'bloggers' blogger' (as well as who is the most shameless, most populist, most selfish, and so on). At the time I thought the obvious measure would be links vs hits: a bloggers' blogger would be someone who gets a lot of links but relatively few total hits. Of course, hit-counts are quite unreliable for comparing sites. When I read Farber's post, I realized that a useful measure could be devised by comparing a blogger's ranks on BlogStreet's two lists. Someone who rates much higher on the Blog IQ index than the regular BlogStreet index might properly be described as a 'blogger's blogger', 'punching above his/her weight' as it were.

My formula is very simple: I just divided the Top 100 rank by the Most Important 100 rank, and then sorted by the resulting number. I ran the calculations on the Blog IQ Top 100. Here are the Top 35 results, with the ratio in bold (the fact that Gary Farber is in first place is an interesting coincidence):

1. 17.29 21 363 Amygdala
2. 16.18 34 550 AintNoBadDude
3. 14.21 67 952 Balloon Juice
4. 11.04 24 265 Unqualified Offerings
5. 8.64 25 216 Natalie Solent
6. 8.35 20 167 Ted Barlow
7. 8.00 26 208 Matthew Yglesias
8. 7.40 68 503 The Talking Dog
9. 6.91 43 297 On the Third Hand
10. 6.89 62 427 Charles Murtaugh
11. 6.43 28 180 Max Sawicky
12. 6.41 73 468 Nathan Newman
13. 6.33 70 443 Mark A. R. Kleiman
14. 6.18 88 544 Bjørn Stærk
15. 6.06 36 218 Dr. Weevil
16. 6.05 22 133 TalkLeft
17. 5.78 49 283 Eve Tushnet
18. 5.73 64 367 Too Much To Dream
(name subject to change, Andrea Harris' blog)
19. 5.69 16 91 Kausfiles
20. 5.63 81 456 The Blogs of War
(Dr. Frank's, not the other one)
21. 5.45 40 218 Transterrestrial Musings
22. 5.37 41 220 Cut on the Bias
23. 5.32 65 346 Skippy the Bush Kangaroo
24. 5.25 8 42 Ken Layne
25. 5.20 45 234 BuzzMachine
26. 4.96 23 114 Electrolite
27. 4.77 44 210 Body and Soul
28. 4.76 58 276 Matt Welch
29. 4.56 98 447 Brink Lindsey
30. 4.42 38 168 Semi-Daily Journal
31. 4.15 54 224 Nick Denton
32. 4.07 60 244 The Edge of England's Sword
33. 4.00 1 4 InstaPundit
2 8 Andrew Sullivan
35. 3.97 35 139 The Truth Laid Bear

I've only given the first 35 because (a) I'm a lazy lazy man, (b) I figured everyone would want to know how InstaPundit and Andrew Sullivan rate, and (c) rounding off to the nearest multiple of 5 after them makes the list end with someone whose own ranking system is still the best, at least for political blogs. I have not given any links because (a) I'm a lazy lazy man, (b) there are one or two I refuse to link to on principle, (c) most of the others are on my blogroll already, and (d) those that aren't can easily be found through the BlogStreet links at the beginning of this post.

Of course, this is not a list of the best ratios in the whole BlogStreet database, which contains 136,092 blogs as I write this, only those who make the Most Important 100 Blogs. If you're wondering who is at the bottom of the list, that would be Slashdot (2/14=0.14) and Metafilter (7/55=0.13). However, there are quite a few on the Top 100 Blogs list who do not make the Most Important 100 Blogs list at all, and some of them would have even worse ratios.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:48 PM
Overlooking The Obvious

Desultory reading may have solved a months-old problem. Remember all the abuse Bush got for referring to Greeks as 'Grecians'? Here is what the London Times had to say about it at the time (August 20, 2000), as quoted by Eugene Volokh this past January:

Bush has a propensity to mispronounce simple words and has invented others, such as "Grecians" for Greeks.

Volokh quite properly objects: although the usage is archaic and unidiomatic, "saying that the usage is simply incorrect is itself simply incorrect".

The following day, in a post pretentiously titled "Puzzle Solved", Mark A. R. Kleiman objected that the term can only be used of ancient Greeks, "as for example Keats's 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' or Dryden's translation of Plutarch's 'Lives of the Eminent Grecians and Romans'". Alluding to the rumors that Bush dyes his hair, Kleiman ended with smug mockery:

But that left a puzzle: Where did Bush find the word? It didn't seem likely that he'd been reading Keats or old translations of Plutarch. But now . . . we know where he saw it:

The label of his bottle of Grecian Formula.

Considering how much grief Bush gets for his Christian beliefs (not from any of the Volokhs, I hasten to add), it's odd that Kleiman did not mention a much likelier source, the Authorized or 'King James' Version of the Bible:

  1. The children also of Judah and the children of Jerusalem have ye sold unto the Grecians, that ye might remove them far from their borders.
    (Joel 3:6)
  2. And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.
    (Acts 6:1)
  3. And he [= Paul] spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him. (Acts 9:29)
  4. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.
    (Acts 11:20-21)

I don't suppose modern Greeks are too eager to be identified with these 'Grecians', who are slave-dealers (1), whiners (2), and very poor losers in public debate (3). (At least the fourth passage is fairly positive.) The 'Grecians' in the second passage appear to be Hellenized Jews rather than ethnic Greeks, and the same may be true of the third and fourth -- I don't have any commentary to hand --, but the Grecians in the first passage must surely be seafaring Greek traders. To sum up, in the most-admired version of the Bible, still read by millions of Christians, Grecians is a perfectly proper name for Greeks. It seems the likeliest source for Bush's odd locution.

By the way, I would not have noticed the Biblical usage myself if I had not sat down last week and read Joel, the most entomologically interesting book of the Bible: much of it is vivid description of a plague of locusts, cankerworms, palmerworms (whatever they are), and caterpillars.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 09:50 PM

On Saturday, Meryl Yourish wrote:

A few days ago, I went on a morning hike with a friend to break in my new hiking shoes, and as we were returning to our cars, we saw a helicopter flying overhead. We stopped to look. It was a military helicopter, and the thought that was on both of our minds is that in America, we've never had to fear the sound of helicopters above. I know Andy was thinking it, because he said to me, "You know, no matter what else you say, one thing about this country is that we don't have to worry about our own government shooting us."

That's not the only thing we don't have to fear from helicopters. In 1984, I was working as a programmer on the 12th floor of a building in Roslyn, Virginia, with a beautiful view of the Key Bridge, Georgetown (the neighborhood and the university), and the so-called National Cathedral. (As a Roman Catholic, that name always irked me: my National Cathedral is way across town.) The White House was maybe two miles to the east, but our windows faced north.

One day I was coding up a storm with my office-mate, a recent immigrant from mainland China, when eight large military helicopters, the kind that carry troops or cargo, flew by in tight formation, very low and very close, passing from left to right, that is directly towards the White House. My first thought was that there were at least 50 countries in the world where that would very likely mean that the president's life expectancy had just shrunk to an hour or less. I was glad (still am) to live in a country where I didn't have to worry about where they were headed and why, and could be completely confident that Reagan was in no danger at all from them. (Weirdos with crushes on Jodie Foster are another story.)

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 12:20 AM
May 11, 2003
Life Imitates Art

Apostablog (11:58 AM May 9th if the link doesn't work -- found via Roger L. Simon) provides a nifty picture of Australian troops about to head into action in Iraq:

Simon notes the heavy influence of the Mad Max series, but the smaller vehicle is straight out of Cherry 2000. I wonder whether their commander sent them out with the admonition "Life is an adventure".

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:57 PM
May 09, 2003
Follow The Deal On Down

Of the 55 Iraqis on the Centcom most wanted list and the 52 on the deck of cards, twenty are now in custody. It's not too soon to take a look at statistical trends and what they show us. Here are the latest versions of my two graphs (which can also be reached through the Ba'ath Poker button above):

Time of Capture vs Rank on the List of 55:

Time of Capture vs Rank in the Deck of 52:

As these graphs show, the pace of captures is slowing a bit. If we look at the 26 days (inclusive) from the first capture on April 12th to the last on May 7th, we find that 12 were captured in the first 13 days, only 8 in the last 13.

Even more disquieting is the sparsity of high-ranking captives. The list and the deck are quite different in detail, but similar over all. If we divide the list of 55 into thirds, we have 3 of the top 18 or 19, 3 of the next 18 or 19, and no fewer than 14 of the bottom 18 or 19. In fact, we have 14 of the bottom 16, very nearly a clean sweep. If we divide the top third in half, we have none at all of the top sixth (1-9) of the list of 55, just three (10, 16, 18) in the second sixth.

A few of those not captured are likely to be dead, most notably number 5 ('Chemical Ali', the King of Spades, by allied bombing), though number 12 (commander of the Republican Guard, the Jack of Clubs) was reportedly shot by Saddam for his troops' incompetence and lack of zeal, which sounds plausible. But that still leaves a lot of high-ranking Ba'athists on the loose. There is very little evidence that they are leading any sort of 'resistance movement', and they can't all have been killed by Allied bombing, though it's likely enough that we nailed one or two in the attempts to kill Saddam by bombing his bunker on the first day of the war and that restaurant on (I think) April 7th.

So what's going on? As I've remarked before, Ba'athist big fish presumably have greater access to money, guns, bodyguards, and plastic surgeons than the little fish, so perhaps they are just hiding more successfully. But big fish are also much more likely to be recognized by Iraqis and Americans, which is a huge disadvantage. It seems likely therefore that most of them are not in Iraq at all. Whether they are in Syria, France, Belarus, or some other country is the question. The sharp difference in capture rates between the top two-thirds of the list and the bottom third makes it look as if the Syrians (or whoever) have their own list, and are only willing to protect the Top 40 (approximately), not the Top 55. Allowing some of the little fish to be captured may even help the big fish escape -- not to mention reducing the risk of an American attack on Syria.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 10:57 AM
May 06, 2003
I'm Not Dead Yet

Apologies for my long silence. I spent Thursday, Friday, and part of Saturday on an expedition to darkest New Jersey for a job interview, and most of Sunday on an operatic excursion to Toronto.

Highlights of the latter:

  • I have a general impression that the number of Canadian flags flown between Toronto and the border has increased over the last year or two.
  • The Voortman's Cookies factory near Exit 107 on the QEW was flying three flags. In order as I passed them on the way to Toronto: Old Glory, the Maple Leaf, and the Voortman's Cookie flag. Is Voortman's an American-owned company, or just feeling friendly? Most likely the latter, to judge from their website.
  • More than half the seats at the Opera Atélier were empty. At the end of The Marriage of Figaro, one of the minor characters came out to express his heartfelt thanks to those of us who had showed up. As he said (quoting from memory), "You'll notice that I was the only one in the cast wearing a mask, and I didn't buy it at a pharmaceutical supply store." He urged us to encourage all our friends to go to the opera, the theater, restaurants, and so on. Toronto's tourist trade must really be hurting. Perhaps they should market concert-going as a test of manhood. Just as many Japanese eat blowfish sushi because it can be deadly, so tourists can demonstrate their courage by visiting Toronto and attending crowded performances, then eating dinner in Chinatown.
  • One advantage to the almost-empty house was that I was able to move to a much better seat than the one I had paid for. I started out in what should have been the best seat in the balcony: it had an aisle on one side and a pillar on the other, with plenty of legroom. Unfortunately, it also had a very tall guy right in front. At intermission, I moved to the frontmost box on the left, which I had all to myself. I wish I had had the nerve to move before Act I. For the second half, I was no more than 15 feet from much of the action. It was amazing how much more intelligible the words and action were. An excellent performance, too, and there are shows through the weekend. If you are in Toronto this week and want to demonstrate your courage without eating sushi, this would be one way to do it. Balcony seats are only $25 Canadian, and you can probably move to much better ones without paying for them, as I did.
  • The Opera Atélier does 'original instruments' performances of 17th and 18th century operas. I was surprised that Figaro was sung in English. Surely one kind of authenticity demands the other?
Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:56 PM
May 01, 2003
At Least I'm Not A Heretic

From Curmudgeonly and Skeptical, who only made it to the second level (this is a contest, right?):

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Fourth Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:

Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very Low
Level 2 (Lustful)High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Very High
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Extreme
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Very High
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)High
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Low

Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test

Any malicious souls who wish to seal my doom will want to note how well I rate on Prodigality and Avarice and drop something in the Tip Jar, or perhaps buy me something from my Wishlist. In fact, if enough people do that, I will move the ugly yellow buttons to the sidebar and make them some less obnoxious color. Unless of course I decide to listen to my Fraudulent and Malicious side and just take the money and goods without doing anything in return. (Actually, I'm planning to move them anyway, most likely this weekend: they look ugly up there.)

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 09:29 AM