February 29, 2004
Coming Up Soon

I haven't been posting much lately because I've been working on a series of spin-off blogs, each of which will present a work of literature in daily or weekly slices, with the comment section open. Daily readings are particularly suitable for epigrams and aphorisms, weekly readings for short stories and longer poems.

Which authors will be included? Watch this space. The first two or three blogs will debut tomorrow. I was hoping to have them up 1 minute after midnight for the start of the archaic Roman year, but it looks like it will be later tomorrow, since I have a very bad cold.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:21 PM
February 25, 2004
Advice For Students

When cheating on a quiz, make sure that the teacher has not provided multiple versions with entirely different questions and answers. Having all the right answers to all the wrong questions can be deeply embarrassing. Crossing out the wrong answers copied from one student so you can substitute the right answers copied from another is nearly as bad, if you fail to cover your tracks and the copied wrong answers are still legible. Worst of all is when you cross out the right answers and substitute the wrong ones because you haven't learned enough to be able to tell which set of answers was worth copying.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:18 PM
Is This Too Mean?

Adbusters (never heard of 'em before) is keeping track of which prominent 'neocons' are Jewish. Their chart ticks off fully 50%, with mysterious, perhaps sinister, differences in the shapes of the ticks applied to each name. (Why does Douglas Feith get a comma, while Robert B. Zoellick gets a square?)

David Bernstein of The Volokh Conspiracy offers a handy logo to let the people of Adbusters know he's Jewish. (The date is 2/24, 11:47:47 AM if the link doesn't work.) Since the text is in German ('Jude'), I assume it's a Nazi-era symbol.

It's not nice to tease the paranoid, but wouldn't it be fun to convince Adbusters that all neoconservatives are Jewish, along with most of the saner libertarians and paleoconservatives? Some are just more open about it than others. Government statistics say that the U.S. is only 2% Jewish, but (cue ominous theme music) that's what they want you to believe. It's actually more like 37%, and they're everywhere! Or is it we're everywhere?

Let's all put the symbol on our sites! Here's my copy:


I hope Bernstein doesn't mind me copying it. It seems more polite than hogging his bandwidth.

Sure, you might think that a Catholic school teacher like me would be sitting around with a smudge of ashes on his forehead and a crucifix on his wall, but you never know. On the internet, no one knows you're a dog, and no one knows whether I'm actually twirling my sidecurls and pondering the Talmud. Maybe I'm not a Catholic school teacher at all. As some of my readers have suspected, my real name is not Weevil. In fact, my grandmother's maiden name was Salmon, which I've always thought was just a fish. However, I suppose it could be a shortened form of Salomon . . . .

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:12 PM
February 15, 2004
The Really 'Other' White Meat?

I suspect some science-fiction writer has already thought of this, but I haven't read it anywhere else, so . . . .

If scientists ever succeed in cloning extinct animal species, as in Jurassic Park, how long will it be before someone tries out what they taste like? Most living creatures are edible, and I can't think of any reason why the dead ones would be different. Of course, it would take a lot of courage to be the first to take a bite of roast dinosaur. All the more so, if it had died of natural causes, and I don't suppose they would ever be abundant enough to be slaughtered while healthy.

For all we know, trilobites might taste better than lobsters. The fact that they're extinct suggests that they weren't exactly unattractive to predators.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 08:53 AM
The Limits Of Technology

Daniel of Crooked Timber trashes 'humint' (human intelligence) and writes "Stick to the satellite photos, thatís my advice, they donít lie." Can he really be that naîve? Granted that human intelligence is extremely slippery, there are many questions satellite photos simply cannot answer. The point was made very clearly on The Simpsons, specifically the episode from the 9th season in which Mr. Burns turns out to have stolen the one and only U.S. trillion-dollar bill fifty years ago. As an FBI Agent says, "We believe Burns still has the bill hidden somewhere in his house, but all we've ascertained from satellite photos is that it's not on the roof."

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 08:29 AM
Tiny Generations

Virginia Postrel catches Andrew Sullivan calling someone only four years older than himself "the most honest thinker of his generation", as if they belonged to different generations.

A university that shall remain nameless (not one I have ever attended or taught at) once advertised a job for a tenure-track classics position. One of the faculty told me afterwards that no fewer than 18 of the 200 or so applicants had letters of recommendation in which they were described as "the finest scholar of his/her generation". I suppose that might almost be possible, if we define as generation as all those born within the same half of the same year. To make things worse, more than half of the 18 came from the same recommender. I'm still trying to find out who that could have been: such promiscuous generosity in bestowing praise can't possibly be helpful. Finally, my source was cynical enough to observe that he (or possibly she) had never read a recommendation that said or in any way implied "this candidate is a better scholar than I am".

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 08:17 AM
Freudian Slip?

Dreaded Purple Master (2/14, 9:06 AM) catches Yahoo News in an embarrassing grammatical error in the very first sentence of a story:

White House reporters pour over military records of President Bush that were released late evening Friday, Feb. 13, 2004.

Perhaps the problem is not so much pure ignorance as a mixture of ignorance and malice. After all, the grammar is correct if we supply a direct object for "pour". Whether the missing word would be "slime", "bile", "venom", or something to do with the contents of chamber pots cannot be determined, but it would certainly be something nasty.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 07:57 AM
February 13, 2004
Tasteless Joke Of The Week

It's almost a week old, but this picture on Donald Luskin's website, The Conspiracy to keep you Poor and Stupid, is my favorite comment on the Super Bowl halftime festivities. Go look at it, and then come back and click on 'more' to read my further comments.

Perhaps I'm over-thinking this, or just have a sick mind, but shouldn't a pig have a whole row of right nipples? Perhaps the others are still covered by the dress.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 10:40 PM
February 11, 2004
What Was John Kerry Trying To Tell Us?

Over the years, I've known quite a few people who claimed that "everyone cheats on his taxes" or "every man cheats on his wife". It's hard to know for sure, but I had reason to believe that most of them were not unbiased observers but cheaters who justified their cheating by telling themselves that cheating is universal (it's not) and therefore nothing to be ashamed of (it is). For the last few weeks, I've been wondering whether John Kerry's long-ago insistence that huge numbers of American soldiers in Viet Nam were babykilling rapists tells us anything about his own behavior in the field.

This post on Country Store (11:00 PM on 2/11, if the link doesn't work) suggests that my suspicions may have been justified. I hope not, and hope that his actions can be explained some other way. While continuing to investigate thoroughly whether the president ever played hookie from his National Guard duties, the media might want to inquire whether John Kerry ever raped or tortured or murdered anyone in Viet Nam.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 11:58 PM
The Idiocy Of Filtering Software

I don't know what brand internet filter my school uses, but it seems to do a very poor job, with numerous false positives and some false negatives, too. I didn't have anything to do during 7th period today, so I checked all the links on my blogroll, and no fewer than 20 were declared, in big red letters, to be "pornography". I hope the computer department isn't keeping track of my browsing. These sites flunked whatever test was applied:

  1. Anticipatory Retaliation
  2. RiShawn Biddle
  3. 2Blowhards
  4. Carraig Daire
  5. Cathy's World
  6. Classless Warfare
  7. Colby Cosh
  8. Cronaca
  9. Dustbury
  10. Electric Venom
  11. God of the Machine
  12. HobbsOnline (too much JadeGold?)
  13. Horologium (ditto)
  14. Ipse Dixit
  15. Isntapundit (he does mention "anal warts" in his most recent post -- 1/27)
  16. Reflections in D Minor
  17. A Small Victory
  18. The Sound and Fury
  19. Andrew Sullivan (too much gay stuff?)
  20. VodkaPundit (for the name, I assume)

I see nothing particularly offensive about any of them, though some (e.g. Cosh) use a fair number of four-letter words. What is particularly striking is the high percentage of relatively apolitical culture blogs (2Blowhards, Cronaca, God of the Machine, Reflections in D Minor) that are banned. Otherwise, there seems to be no pattern at all.

As for false negatives, the two sites on my blogroll that most frequently display pictures unsuitable for Catholic high school students were not blocked: I mean Curmudgeonly & Skeptical and Gweilo Diaries. All in all, the software might as well have flipped a coin, or rather plugged into www.random.org.

Of course, in some cases, the name of the site may have been the problem. Still, I would think a good filter would be able to tell that a site whose name includes the single word "blowhard" is far less likely to be pornographic than one where the "blow" and the "hard" are separate words. In some cases the problem may be words that aren't in any dictionary. If the software doesn't find 'horologium' in its internal word-list, does it assume that a name starting with 'ho' must be an obscentiy? Or does somebody somewhere think that a 'horologium' is something like an aquarium, only for ho's instead of fishes? Does someone think a 'cronaca' is some kind of marital aid or obscure anatomical term? And how did Buzzmachine make the cut? It sounds like a slang term for a vibrator to me. And Feces Flinging Monkey is also unblocked, despite its name.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 10:29 PM
The Importance Of Redundant Weapons Systems

The mice are back. I've caught four in the last two days. The fourth one stepped on a trap when I walked into the kitchen an hour or two ago -- perhaps he was too busy running away from me to watch where he was going. It only trapped his hind legs and he tried to crawl away, squeaking pitifully. I was just thinking I would have to step on him to put him out of his misery when he tried to crawl over another trap between him and the stove, which went off and killed him. I'm beginning to understand a little better why I'm getting mail for eight or ten previous residents. I've also learned that raspberry jam is surpisingly ineffective as mouse-bait. I ran out of cheese yesterday, and have only caught the one mouse since baiting all four of my traps with jam. It's not that they've been nibbling the jam successfully, either, since the traps are all still fully baited.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 09:26 PM
I'm Back

I've been busy working on some spin-off blogs that should be ready to unveil by Sunday or Monday. I don't want to give any hints until I've got something to show for my work: watch this space. In the mean time, I'll post a few brief items to make sure this page will not be entirely blank.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 09:17 PM
February 01, 2004
Carpe Couch?

Megan McCardle ('Jane Galt') ends a long post with the phrase Carpe Couch, 'seize the couch'. If she had put it completely in Latin, it would have been Carpe Lectum. Or perhaps Carpe Pulvinar, especially if those using the couch are gods.

Some Romans had a semicircular couch, rather like the booths in the corners of some modern restaurants, but arranged for lying rather than sitting. They called this kind of couch a sigma, after the Greek letter. This sounds confusing if you think of the standard modern sigma used for mathematical summations that looks like an M tipped over on its left side. In classical times, the Greek capital sigma still looked like a Roman capital C: the angular version is a Byzantine thing. I suppose the Romans called the semicircular couch a sigma rather than a ce (pronounced 'kay') because outside of an alphabetical context sigma is more obviously the name of a letter, not just a random syllable.

Coming soon: Why 'sigma' resembles 'stigma', 'magma', and 'smegma' -- the words, I mean, not the phenomena they describe. The words are in fact etymologically parallel formations.

How's that for extreme nerdularity?

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 09:38 AM
How Nerdy Am I?

The only reason I know the Super Bowl is today is that I did something I very rarely do: I watched the evening news on local TV last Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to find out whether my school would have any Snow Days to start the second semester. We did: three in a row, which helped a lot in finishing up grading for the first semester, though it left students even mores disgruntled than usual when they finally returned for a 'late opening' on Thursday. In chatting about the weather, the newsdrones mentioned Super Bowl hoopla several times.

And the only reason I know the Super Bowl is being played in Houston (this year? every year? I certainly don't care) is that I was thinking of going to see Don Carlo at the Philadelphia Opera this afternoon, and realized on Thursday or so that I'd better make sure the big game is not in either Philadelphia or Baltimore, since I wouldn't want to have to drive anywhere within 20 miles of the stadium anywhere near game time. As it turns out, today would have been an excellent day for an opera trip, since the roads should be very empty this afternoon. Too bad I don't have the energy after all that grading. I'll probably do some hassle-free shopping instead.

Finally, I wonder whether I could have gotten a better seat for today than for the next Sunday matinee of Don Carlo two weeks from now. It all depends on whether any significant number of opera fans are also football fans, so I'm guessing the answer is 'no'. Then again, perhaps I'm stuck in Frasier-and-Niles cultural stereotyping.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at 09:17 AM