August 2006

2006 08 31
MS Vista

I’ve been watching the news about Microsoft’s new operating system, Vista, off and on since (I think) the first word of it a few years ago, back when it was called Longhorn. At first it sounded like it had a lot of bells and whistles, not all of which were obviously desirable. Then, for a long time, most of the news was about the gradual discarding of many of those bells and whistles. The consistent element in the emerging story has always been a bloated operating system, with absolutely gargantuan needs in terms of hardware needed to run it.

The conventional wisdom seems to be that MS is heading for a disaster. Frankly, I’ve been struggling for a while to see any other plausible way of reading the evidence. Read this, for example, and tell me that people, that companies, are actually going to put up with this bullshit. I mean, path dependence counts for an awful lot, but holy kershmoley, will people really be willing to pay so much money to upgrade computer systems for such crappy reasons? The line seems to be that, ok, so you’ll need to buy very fancy hardware to run this operating system, but there may even be a net gain when you take into account increased productivity, fewer support calls, etc. etc. etc. But all of this is an obvious lie, especially when you consider that even a very smooth transition to a new operating system is bound to encounter some real bumps.

Anyway, the official Chris of Explananda line, for all of you keeping track at home, is that Vista will be a disaster for Microsoft. I’d dump that stock now. And, hey, I recently installed Ubuntu on an old hand-me-down laptop that came my way. More on that some other time, if I get a chance.

Howls of outrage (2)

2006 08 30
Google Books

Posted by in: Aristotle, Books, Google

Google Books looks like it’ll be very useful, since a lot of books I use for research are a) not on my shelf; and b) have lapsed in copyright. Already, for example, I’ve noticed Cope’s Introduction to Aristotle’s Rhetoric among Google’s many full-text offerings. This summer I used the Perseus Collection to consult Cope’s commentary on the Rhetoric and for easy bilingual reference to some of the texts he mentions in passing, but had missed having his Introduction. Have I mentioned that I love the internet?

One disappointment to report so far, however. Bonitz’s Index Aristotelicus is still not anywhere to be found on the internet. In a way, this is unsurprising: It’s long, with really small print, which probably makes it difficult to scan in clearly and a nightmare to manually enter. Also, many people nowadays, including me, are in the habit of using the TLG instead for word searches. All the same, I do find it odd that no one, anywhere, has done this yet. Bonitz still has his fans, and his index is often more useful than the TLG, at least for some purposes. Also, it’s really fucking expensive, and library copies of the book are few and usually not circulated.

So if anyone wants to scan about a 1000 pages of text and host it in an easy to access way on the internet, I would be much obliged. If I had time, I swear I would do it myself.

UPDATE: Bingo!

Howls of outrage (4)

2006 08 29
Pay Scientology $10K, learn to sense colors, odors, textures

Posted by in: Religion

Are you gullible, selfish, and do you desperately need to believe you are better than other people? Oh, and do you have money? Have I got a program for you.

Scientology believes there are 57 different senses, and they have a new program designed to train True Believers (who also Pay) to hone their senses. Here’s an article about the program, followed by the hilarious list of all 57 senses. Genius!

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2006 08 28
They, their

Posted by in: Language

Further to this post (plus the comments) on grammar, I just came across this footnote in a paper by Myles Burnyeat (“Enthymeme: Aristotle on the Logical of Persuasion”, 1990):

This article sometimes uses their as a gender-neutral pronomial adjective and they as a gender-neutral pronoun, in accordance with a usage that goes back to the fifteenth century.

If that doesn’t settle it for you, you’ll need to hear Burnyeat give a talk, so that you can imagine the tone – the withering tone – in which he might deliver the footnote aloud.

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2006 08 28

Posted by in: Iran, Political issues

Henley has a post up outlining what he thinks the game plan will be for U.S.-Iran relations over the next while. It includes a bombing campaign, thus conflicting with my own forecast from last April.

I think Henley’s post is a very nice description of how things would go if the situation in Iraq weren’t so dire. But it is dire – very much so. Even if the Bush administration were gung-ho to march – excuse me, fly – onward into Iran, I think they know damn well that the resistance to it in the military and at home would be too stiff. We can probably expect to learn about some seriously dicey covert stuff at some point in the future, but for now I’m standing by my predictions: No war. No air campaign. Not even surgical strikes on military or nuclear research installations.

Howls of outrage (12)

2006 08 26
Advice on my advice

Posted by in: Odds and ends, Teaching

Another semester is about to begin. I’ll be teaching Classical Greek Philosophy (PDF) and Moral Philosophy (PDF) this semester. The former I’ve taught twice now already; the latter not at all.

The demoralizing rash of plagiarism cases last semester led me to decide to spent a lot more time this semester talking about the issue. I thought the discussion would also be a good opportunity to talk to students about writing in general, and to this end, started the summer with the hope of producing a little pamphlet on writing. Along the way, I got seriously sidetracked by my dissertation – damn thing – and the result is that I’ve only managed to produce a seriously pared down pamphlet . . . and it kinda sucks. The worst part is that I’ve had to cut out a planned section on common writing mistakes. Eh. What can I do? I’m really trying to finish my fucking dissertation.

What I’d like to know is whether this (PDF) is worth handing out at all. If it is, do you see any easy improvements I could make to it? Grammatical and spelling mistakes are, of course, especially embarrassing in a document with this purpose, so extra gratitude to anyone who can spot them.

UPDATE: I’ve revised the document, depriving most of your (helpful!) comments of their original context.

Howls of outrage (15)

2006 08 26
Baking soda

Posted by in: Odds and ends

Since we moved into our current apartment a year ago, we’ve had a problem with the bathroom sink clogging up. Plunging it didn’t work, so I ended up pouring quite a bit of Draino down the sink over time (always followed by a large pot of boiling water). That really sucked, since a) Draino is awfully expensive; and b) it just can’t be good for the environment.

Finally, in desperation I poured some baking soda down the drain and followed it up with a large pot of boiling water 15 minutes later. And it worked! As well as Draino! But at 1/10th the cost! I’m pleased about that. And whaddaya know, it turns out I’m not alone.

UPDATE: Damn, it turns out that baking soda works well for lesser clogs, but not for the worst. I therefore retract my claim that baking soda works just as well as Draino.

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2006 08 26
Nussbaum on Mansfield

Posted by in: Books, Feminism

For your morning delectation: Martha Nussbaum crushes Harvey Mansfield’s book on Manliness — and Mansfield himself — into a fine powder.

How did someone whose every paragraph is a stake in Socrates’s heart come to be an exemplar of philosophical seriousness?

I had never so much as heard of this guy, even though he’s been at Harvard for years, and no way have I even been in the same building as this book — but my money’s on Nussbaum having it right, and Mansfield seems like a hard guy to feel sympathy for. Read the whole thing, and wish that someone had the energy to do this to every “public intellectual” who deserves it.

Howls of outrage (3)

2006 08 25
Getting out of Iraq

Upyernoz explains why it would have been wise to announce pull-out dates a long time ago. I understand the arguments against announcing pull-out dates, but I argued for the same position as Upyernoz a long time ago, and nothing since then has changed my mind.

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2006 08 24
His crib was in Athens, yo

Posted by in: Books, Classics, History

Stealing an idea (by email) from Steve Laniel, I suggest that Thucydides be known henceforth as T’Diddy, at least whenever we wish to consider points of contact between his work and hip-hop.

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2006 08 22
Gig Thursday

Posted by in: Music

Will it be fun?  Yes.  Yes, it will be fun.  Yoon’s new toy piano just arrived in the mail, too.  I love this band.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

8:30pm – 11pm
Yoon’s E-String Band
Khabu Doug Young – ukulele
Thomas Morgan – guitar
Vinnie Sperrazza – “laptop” drum and cymbal
Peter Van Huffel – clarinet, wood flute
Yoon Choi – voice, toy piano
Perch Cafe
365 5th Ave (between 5th-6th Street)
Park Slope, Brooklyn
donation $5

In other music notes, Yoon just got back from Toronto, where she was recording her third album.  Last night I was listening to a few unmastered tracks from the sessions.  Sounds very nice. 

Howls of outrage (4)

2006 08 21
Postscript: War and the environment

I mentioned in a recent post that the environmental consequences of war are often overlooked. Indeed, I have the sense that they’re not just often overlooked by the gung-ho-for-war crowd, but even by anti-war types with a strong interest in assembling compelling reasons to avoid war. Here’s a nice supplement to that point, focusing on the environmental consequences of the recent war in the Levant.

It is an interesting feature of the Iraq War that it is the only war – at least the only one I can think of off the top of my head – that actually had a highly compelling environmental reason in its favour: As I used to point out ad nauseum, Saddam Hussein was on the point of success in his project to destroy the Iraqi marshes, an ancient, irreplaceable, and unique ecosystem, which supported an ancient, irreplaceable, and unique culture (the Marsh Arabs). [Update: By “compelling,” of course, I mean “strong,” rather than “decisive all things considered.”]

Yet, even in the case of the Iraq War, we need to weigh against it all the unexploded ordinance, the depleted uranium, and other assorted acts of violence to the environment perpetrated by both sides. We should also recognize that Saddam Hussein was draining the marshes for a variety of reasons, including agriculture and the suppression of dissent. The removal of Saddam Hussein will hardly address these contributing causes to the environmental destruction which the war put on hold, and to some extent reversed. So it remains to be seen whether the reversal of the marsh’s fortunes can be extended and consolidated, or whether it was just a pause in a longer, and very sad, story of environmental catastrophe.

Howls of outrage (2)

2006 08 20
To the stairmaster machine at the gym, which I suspect harboured doubts about whether I could climb 400 flights in an hour

Posted by in: Fitness blogging

In yo face, muthafucka.

Howls of outrage (5)

2006 08 18
Kosovo and Iraq

John Quiggin is mulling over his past support of the Kosovo Intervention in the light of the Iraq War.  I think he makes several good points, which overlap with thoughts I’ve had on the subject for a while now. 

I think Kosovo presented a difficult case.  But it seems pretty clear in retrospect that Kosovo established precedents that later became an important part of the story of the Iraq War, which is, I think, an unambiguous failure.   

That is really one of the hidden – or at least, less noticed – costs of the Kosovo Intervention.   Of course, this point doesn’t establish anything by itself.  Perhaps it was worth it all the same.  Nevertheless, I think that anyone who supports the Kosovo Intervention in retrospect needs to meet this concern directly.

This is all connected to a more general complaint I have about a some of the more gung-ho flavours of military humanitarian intervention out there.  There is, I think, a real reluctance to acknowledge the full costs of any sort of military exercise.  Even an apparently successful intervention such as the one in Kosovo, for example, may pave the way for future disasters.  Even an apparently successful intervention will lead to environmental destruction.  War militarizes a society; dulls it to certain sorts of violence; normalizes that violence.  War costs enormous amounts of money, money which is not only diverted from worthy projects, but – and I think this is extremely important – is diverted into the creation and maintenance of economies that need more war to survive.  Every missile fired into Kosovo needed to be replaced.  The replacement was surely a great boon to whatever community did the replacing, but that community became thereby that much more dependent on war, that much more addicted to its role in meeting the demands of war. 

Against all this, we need to weigh the humanitarian objectives of a war, along with many other things, such as probability of success, and so on.  So – again – this is only the opening move in what would need to be a long argument about any war.  But for now if the gung-ho types can think a bit harder about the vast range of costs associated with war I’ll be very happy.

Howls of outrage (2)

2006 08 17
"Bagpipe Music"

Posted by in: Academia, Philosophy

The latest edition of Topoi has a short piece by Jonathan Barnes called “Bagpipe Music.” It’s a bit of curmudgeonly grousing, as the abstract of the paper suggests:

Ancient philosophy is in a bad way. Like all other academic disciplines, it is crushed by the embrace of bureaucracy. Like other parts of philosophy, it is infected by faddishness. And in addition it suffers cruelly from the decline in classical philology. There is no cure for this disease.

As far as I can tell, there’s some truth in what Barnes says, though I would quibble, dispute, and reject here and there.  Unfortunately, he’s absolutely right about the decline in classical philology.  My own linguistic skills are part of that sad story.

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