January 2006

2006 01 31
NOT Auspicious


I swore I wasn’t going to watch the SOTU tonight. I might not. But I’ve got NBC on right now, and Brian Williams just had a doozy. [Paraphrase:]

And there we have the newly minted Supreme Court Justice, Samuel Alito…Many say that, second maybe only to declaring war, appointing members to the Supreme Court, one of the great powers of the presidency.

Oy.


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2006 01 30
At the 55 Bar


Posted by in: Music, Pictures we took

These are mainly to confirm that I’m the world’s worst photographer. Also, the trombonist looks like he’s insane and has glass eye because I used the red-eye corrector that came with the camera. Eh. I’ll take down the photo if he threatens to sue.

As for the show, it was lots of fun. The drummer came down with a bad chest cold in the week before the gig, the bassist was stranded in Chicago with flight delays, and Yoon managed to get herself a migraine. But the show went on: the drummer got well enough to play, the bassist made it to the second set, and Yoon took some happy pills. I think a good time was had by most, if not all.


Howls of outrage (2)

2006 01 30
CitiBastards


Posted by in: Anecdotal

I, like the rest of you, hate credit card companies. I hate the fact that I have a credit card (okay, three) and have to use it. I’d like to say that Citibank is especially nefarious, but I’m not sure there’s a point in playing favorites.

Their latest attempt to bend me over a barrel comes by way of changing due dates. From August 2005 to January 2006, my statement closing date varied no more than two days from month to month. It was 8/26, 9/27, 10/26, 11/28, 12/28, 1/26.

However, my due dates varied as many as 9 days from one month to the next (9/15 to 10/24), and as many 11 days over the course of that time period (9/15, 12/26, 2/15). Here’s how they went, in order: 9/15, 10/24, 11/21, 12/26, 1/17, 2/15.

So I finally called to call them on this. “Yeah, that is a tremendous amount of variation,” Niki in Customer Service exclaimed. “Why does that happen,” I ask coyly. “Oh, well, you know, the computer just automatically chooses a date.” “So why doesn’t my statement closing date vary as wildly?” “Oh, because the computer recognizes when you pay your statement, and if you pay quicker one month, it assumes that you’d prefer to have your due date earlier than it was.”

But this account doesn’t fly. In September, my payment (9/8) posted 7 days before the due date (9/15), but my October due date wasn’t moved closer to the 8th of the month, but to the 24th! In October, my payment (10/11) posted a full 13 days before the due date, but my November due date was moved to only 3 days earlier, 11/21. In November, my payment posted three days before the due date, but my December due date was pushed to the 26th, five days after the November due date. (This is clearly so that I would spend spend spend on Christmas presents and have nothing left to pay Joe Biden Citibank by the 26th.) And then, between December and February, my due date moves 11 days, from the 26th to the 15th.

Thanks to all you Democrats who voted for the Bankruptcy Bill. You were right after all: there’s just no way that so many bankruptcies aren’t the result of irresponsible debtors. People should know better than to do their bills on the same day each month.


A single voice crying in the wilderness (1)

2006 01 29
CD Release Party


Posted by in: Music

Here’s the write up in Time Out New York:

A bold young collective, 4inObjects brings together four of New York’s most consistently impressive rising instrumentalists – trombonist Jacob Garchik, pianist Jacob Sacks, bassist David Ambrosio and drummer Dan Weiss – and cuts them loose behind adventurous vocalist Yoon Choi. The band’s soon-to-be-issued debut CD, on Yeah Yeah Records, captures an intense live set, including a radical reinterpretation of Radiohead’s “Airbag.”

And the CD release party is tonight!

Can you really afford to miss this? Can you? No, I didn’t think so. Details here.


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2006 01 28
“…and even philosophy.”


Posted by in: Political issues

These sound like serious people:

� Morgan Reynolds, Texas A & M Professor Emeritus of Economics, former Chief Economist for the Department of Labor for President George W. Bush, and former Director of the Criminal Justice Center at the National Center for Policy Analysis

� Steven E. Jones, Professor of Physics, Brigham Young University, co-chair of S9/11T and the creator of its home page and its forum

� Robert M. Bowman, former Director of the U.S. “Star Wars” Space Defense Program in both Republican and Democratic administrations, a former senior Air Force Colonel with 101 combat missions, who is also a Catholic Archbishop

� Lloyd DeMause, Director of The Institute for Psychohistory, President of the International Psychohistorical Association and Editor of The Journal of Psychohistory

� James H. Fetzer, Distinguished McKnight University Professor of Philosophy at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, author or editor of more than 20 books and co-chair of S9/11T

� Daniele Ganser, Senior Researcher at the Center for Security Studies of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

� Andreas Von Buelow, former assistant German defense minister, director of the German Secret Service, minister for research and technology, and member of Parliament for 25 years.

See what they’re up to


Howls of outrage (16)

2006 01 26
Too cool for school


Well, well.

Students think their lecturers are stuck-up, disorganised, unpunctual, unfunny, badly dressed and too desperate to be “hip”, a poll suggests.

The responses from 648 students found many thought academics were “snooty” and had “objectionable facial hair”.

But an Association of University Teachers spokesman said lecturers and students had a “healthy relationship”.

The survey, which asked students to vent their grievances, was published in the Times Higher Education Supplement.

Students complained that academics failed to turn up to lectures – and assumed that undergraduates were lazy.

Academics’ “inadequate” essay feedback and poor information technology skills were also criticised.

The poll suggests that many students find their lecturers’ attempts at being trendy insufferable.

One said: “They pick up ‘street’ information from the media and decide they understand today’s youth. It is pathetic to talk about these things to us in the hope of seeming knowledgeable and cool.

via

But that’s in Britain, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. I’m sure it’s a completely different story this side of the Atlantic.

Just joking. The bit about trying to be hip reminds me of my grandmother. My grandmother told me at least a dozen times while I was growing up about a prof of a friend of a friend of a friend’s child who (in the late sixties) was alleged to have said on the first day of class, “Hey, let’s just hang out and rap a little.” My grandmother never related this without a) mentioning that he was an American; and b) shuddering in horror, pursing her lips, asking if I could believe it, and so on. In addition to the fact that I’m not cool and know it, this edifying tale has also helped to mold me into the uncool lecturer that I am today.

On the other hand, a stuffy lack of humour sucks too. And I find it irritating when lecturers are deeply hostile to any attempt to liven up a lecture with a joke or two, as if that’s some sort of soul-destroying compromise with the rabble. Fucking twits. If you’re not funny, that’s fine, but don’t try to make a virtue out of it. My attitude on this was actually shaped by my grade 11 English teacher, who, though a jerk, gave damn good lecture. He would speak for 20 minutes or so, very well, and then just as my attention and energy was starting to flag would suddenly shift gears and relate an anecdote or say something funny before resuming. No attempt to be funny in a hip way, of course. The timing was everything. No matter how engaging the subject matter, it’s difficult to concentrate for long periods of time without a break. The little laugh or distraction provided was like a small course to cleanse the palate in between the main dishes of a feast. I’ve been trying to work that rhythm into my lectures ever since I started teaching.


Howls of outrage (5)

2006 01 26
Teaching Mill


Posted by in: Philosophy

I’m beginning a semester today with John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism. I like to inform the students of these facts before we begin delving into the philosophy:

[Mill] began to learn Greek at three and Latin at eight. By the age of fourteen he had read most of the Greek and Latin classics, had made a wide survey of history, had done extensive work in logic and mathematics, and had mastered the basics of economic theory.

Given this, it really is quite amazing that Mill allowed himself to write the following sentence in the second paragraph of Utilitarianism:

All action is for the sake of some end, and rules of action, it seems natural to suppose, must take their whole character and colour from the end to which they are subservient.

Mill doesn’t deign to stop and explain himself. This just astounds me. But then again, if he had, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to write “Everybody loves somebody” on the blackboard at the beginning of each semester.


Howls of outrage (9)

2006 01 26
Just Words


Posted by in: Odds and ends

Looks like the Bushies are hung by their own petard on this one.

Reminds me of a scene from The Royal Tenenbaums:

Gene Hackman (estranged husband staying a few nights in his ex-wife’s house):

I want you out of my house!

Danny Glover (wife’s boyfriend, who’s fed-up with Hackman’s prolonged stay in his girlfriend’s house):

This is not your house!

Hackman:

Don’t talk semantics with me!

Maybe you should just watch the movie….


Howls of outrage (8)

2006 01 24
Mark your calendars!


Posted by in: Music

After much hard work . . .

Hello Friends and Music Lovers,

We would like to invite you to our CD Pre-release party at the 55 Bar on Sunday, January 29th. We are very excited and hope that you can join us and share in this event. Our new CD will be available at this performance ahead of it’s official release on February 14. Hope to see you this Sunday!

4inObjects

Yoon Sun Choi – voice
Jacob Garchik – trombone
Jacob Sacks – piano
David Ambrosio – bass
Dan Weiss – drums

Sunday, January 29th
9:30pm
55 Bar (55 Christopher St. – 1/9 train to Christopher Station)
Cover $7


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2006 01 23
Harper wins Tory minority government, CBC News projects


Oh well:

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper will become Canada’s next prime minister, as Canadians have elected a Tory minority government and ended a 12-year reign of Liberal rule, CBC News projects.

At 10 p.m, the Tories were leading or elected in 99 ridings in central and eastern Canada, the Liberals in 89, the Bloc in 39 and 20 for the NDP.

It was hard to know what to hope for. As much as I hate the Conservatives, the NDP didn’t have a chance, and the Liberals deserved a good whooping. Anyway, you can’t have the Liberals rule the country forever. If it really is a minority government, it’s reasonable to hope that it’ll fall quickly, but not before giving the Conservatives a nice chance to embarrass themselves. It’s not clear yet whether the embarrassment will be the result of actually doing what they want to do, or failing to do it. Either way, it’ll pave the way for a (slightly) chastened and reformed group of Liberals to take power in a year or so. To be honest, I’m relieved. A Conservative majority would have truly sucked.


Howls of outrage (6)

2006 01 22
Public Service Announcement


Posted by in: Odds and ends

A PSA that names the names (including one that’s familiar to us Explananda folk).


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2006 01 22
That’s fast


Posted by in: Wikipedia

So yesterday Cornell announced that it’s named a new President, and already the news is incorporated into David Skorton’s Wikipedia page. Wow, that’s fast.


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2006 01 22
Darth Vader as personal fitness trainer


Posted by in: Fitness blogging

I’m sorry, but every time I’m at the gym I end up siding with Darth baby on this one: the dark side really does make you stronger.


Howls of outrage (2)

2006 01 20
Writing it down


Posted by in: History, Political issues

From John V.A. Fine’s The Ancient Greeks: A Critical History:

One of the great milestones in breaking down the privileged position of the aristocracies was the act of codifying the unwritten laws and reducing them into writing. Among the early Greeks, as among any early people, the laws were the ancestral customs – the customs, rules, and judgments which had gradually evolved from generation to generation for regulating society and making civilized life possible. In Homer they were called themistes or dikai; the earmark of uncivilized peoples, such as the Cyclopes, was that they had no themistes . . . In a society that was governed first by kings and then by aristocracies, it is natural that the knowledge, interpretation, and application of these unwritten laws became the exclusive prerogative of the nobles. This control over the administration of justice was one of the main bases of power of the aristocratic governments, and it is known that they manipulated this control to their own advantage. . . No wonder the victims of maladministration of justice felt that the laws, no matter how harsh they might be, had to be wrested from the secrecy and mystery with which the nobles were shrouding them, for, as Euripides expressed it several centuries later (Suppliants, 433-434), “When the laws are written, both the weak and the wealthy have equal justice (dike).”

A bit further on, this amusing way of dealing with would-be innovators:

The laws were inscribed in as permanent a form as possible on wooden, bronze, or stone stelae or on the walls of temples or public buildings. Since these laws to a great extent reflected the ancestral customs hallowed by age, it is natural that stories arose that many of the lawgivers were divinely inspired. This feeling of awe which the codes inspired helps to explain why the Greeks were reluctant to change their laws. Demosthenes (24.139) and other ancient authors report the well-known story that at Italian Locris, if a man wished to introduce a new law or amend an old one, he had to appear before a governing body with a halter around his neck; if his proposal was rejected, he was immediately strangled. According to this tale, in a period of two centuries only one law was altered.


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2006 01 20
Hearts and Minds, Hearts and Minds.


Jesus it’s bad there.


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