Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Quotations #099, and best wishes

"The utilitarian or servile arts enable one to be a servant - of another person, of the state, of a corporation, or of a business - and to earn a living. The liberal arts, in contrast, teach one how to live; they train the faculties and bring them to perfection; they enable a person to rise above his material environment to live an intellectual, a rational, and therefore a free life in gaining truth." -- Sister Miriam Joseph, C.S.C., Ph.D., The Trivium (1937)

"It should be known that history, in matter of fact, is information about human social organization, which itself is identical with world civilization. It deals with such conditions affecting the nature of civilization as, for instance, savagery and sociability, group feelings, and the different ways by which one group of human beings achieves superiority over another. It deals with royal authority and ... with the different kinds of gainful occupations and ways of making a living, with the sciences and crafts that human beings pursue as part of their activities and efforts, and with all the other institutions that originate in civilization through its very nature." -- Ibn Khaldun of Tunis (d. 1406) The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History, (trans. Franz Rosenthal, Routledge 1958) v. 1, p. 71, cited in Civilization (11e), 217.

"The future's an apathetic void of no interest to anyone. The past is full of life, eager to irritate us, provoke and insult us, tempt us to destroy or repaint it." -- Milan Kundera

"The lust for money may be distasteful, the desire for power ignoble, but neither will drive its devotees to the criminal excess of an idea on the march. Whether the idea is the triumph of the working class or of a master race, ideology leads to the graveyard." -- Corey Robin (London Review of Books)

"After a while, marriage is a sibling relationship - marked by occasional, and rather regrettable, episodes of incest." -- Martin Amis, Yellow Dog

"Manure is worth more than a man with a doctorate." -- Polish nobleman Anzelm Gostomski, Gospodarstwo [1588], cited by J. R. McNeill, "Bridges: World Environmental History: the First 100,000 Years," Historically Speaking (July/August 2007), p. 7.

Note: This concludes my regular miscellaneous quotation collection, which was the very origin of this blog. I'm not going away, nor have I run out of quotables, really. I have a series of quotations from John Tosh's Historians on History which I still have in the queue. Next year.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2008!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Thursday Verses: The Nurse's Song

We've been reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl. After an evening of reading political blogs and contemplating our present predicament, my spouse suggested this as a suitable poetic offering. I agree. This was published in 1972, so it was written when Bush hadn't even started going AWOL yet. And, despite this warning, here we are.

You can find a plot summary to put it in context here, and I stole the text from here.

The Nurse's Song

This mighty man of whom I sing,
The greatest of them all,
Was once a teeny little thing,
Just eighteen inches tall.

I knew him as a tiny tot,
I nursed him on my knee.
I used to sit him on the pot
And wait for him to wee.

I always washed between his toes,
And cut his little nails.
I brushed his hair and wiped his nose
And weighed him on the scales.

Through happy childhood days he strayed,
As all nice children should.
I smacked him when he disobeyed,
And stopped when he was good.

It soon began to dawn on me
He wasn't very bright,
Because when he was twenty-three
He couldn't read or write.

"What shall we do?" his parents sob.
"The boy has got the vapors!
He couldn't even get a job
Delivering the papers!"

"Ah-ha," I said, "this little clot
Could be a politician."
"Nanny," he cried, "Oh Nanny, what
A super proposition!"

"Okay," I said, "let's learn and note
The art of politics.
Let's teach you how to miss the boat
And how to drop some bricks,
And how to win the people's vote
And lots of other tricks.

Let's learn to make a speech a day
Upon the T.V. screen,
In which you never never say
Exactly what you mean.
And most important, by the way,
In not to let your teeth decay,
And keep your fingers clean."

And now that I am eighty nine,
It's too late to repent.
The fault was mine the little swine
Became the President.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Quiz: Viva La Resistance, Viva La Flavors

You scored as France, Free French and the Resistance. Your army is the French army. You are prefer to win your enemies by politics than by sheer action, but when the war has started you will fight to the end with those resources you have and belive in freedom and victory in the end.
France, Free French and the Resistance
United States
British and the Commonwealth
Soviet Union

In which World War 2 army you should have fought?
created with QuizFarm.com [via]

You are Magneto
Dr. Doom
Lex Luthor
Mr. Freeze
The Joker
Poison Ivy
Dark Phoenix
Green Goblin
You fear the persecution of those that are different or underprivileged so much that you are willing to fight and hurt others for your cause.
Click here to take the Supervillain Personality Quiz [via]

You Are a Caramel Crunch Donut
You're a complex creature, and you're guilty of complicating things for fun. You've been known to sit around pondering the meaning of life... Or at times, pondering the meaning of your doughnut. To frost or not to frost? To fill or not to fill? These are your eternal questions.

Your Score: Salt

You scored 25% intoxication, 0% hotness, 50% complexity, and 0% craziness!

You are Salt! You may be bland, but life just wouldn't be the same without you. You're plentiful and you come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colours. You bring out the flavour in whatever you touch and have been the world's best preservative for millennia. You rock.

Link: The Which Spice Are You Test [via]

There's an interesting continuity between the French Resistance and Magneto results. The donut result can only be described as an abstraction, because I'm a honey-glazed chocolate (or anything fresh) devotee.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Historical Mad Lib

This comes from a political exchange between two poets. Can you guess the people about whom this is written?
If you can convince the [________] that your armies are bombing their cities and rendering their women and children homeless beggars -- those of them that are not transformed into "mutilated mud-fish", to borrow one of your own phrases --, if you can convince these victims that they are only being subjected to a benevolent treatment which will in the end "save" their nation, it will no longer be necessary for you to convince us of your country's noble intentions. Your righteous indignation against the "polluted people" who are burning their own cities and art treasures (and presumably bombing their own citizens) to malign your soldiers, reminds me of Napoleon's noble wrath when he marched into a deserted Moscow and watched its palaces in flames. I should have expected from you who are a poet at least that much of imagination to feel, to what inhuman despair a people must be reduced to willingly burn their own handiwork of years', indeed centuries', labour. And even as a good nationalist, do you seriously believe that the mountain of bleeding corpses and the wilderness of bombed and burnt cities that is every day widening between your two countries, is making it easier for your two peoples to stretch your hands in a clasp of ever-lasting good will?

Yes, I think it sounds a lot like Iraq, too. I'll put the answer in comments, or you can read the whole exchange.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Pirkei Avot, Chapter 1, Mishna 17

by Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld
"Shimon his son [the son of Rabban Gamliel of the previous mishna] said: All my life I have been raised among the Sages, and I have not found anything better for oneself than silence. Study is not the primary thing but action. Whoever talks excessively brings about sin."
Maimonides, in his commentary to this mishna, has a lengthy but very worthwhile discussion about speech which we will summarize below. He divides speech into five categories.

(1) Obligatory: speech which the Torah requires us to utter. The primary example of this is Torah study. (Maimonides does not mention prayer. I assume this is because prayer is not considered "speech" per se, but is more of an internal, meditative activity.)

(2) Praiseworthy: speech which is not commanded by the Torah, but which fulfills a positive purpose. This would include complimenting others, praising good people and qualities, and denigrating bad qualities. Also words -- as well as song -- which inspire, which touch the soul of the listeners and goad them to become greater people would fall under this category.

(3) Permissible: speech which relates to our businesses and our basic needs -- food, clothing etc. One is considered praiseworthy if he minimizes his speech in this category.

(4) Undesirable: empty talk, that which the listener gains little from. This would include much of what we hear in the news (if it's not the juicy stuff which probably belongs in an even lower category). The commentators give such examples as discussing how a person became rich or died (or both), or how a wall was constructed. (It's almost amusing that scholars such as Maimonides had difficulty even coming up with examples of such talk. One imagines that they could not easily conceive of wasteful talk that would hold anyone's interest in the first place. Guess they lived in the days before pro ball... :-)

(5) Forbidden: that which the Torah explicitly forbids -- cursing, false testimony, gossip (whether true or false), vulgar language, etc.

Maimonides writes that needless to say, the first two categories should form the bulk of our speech. Even regarding this, however, he adds two qualifying conditions:

(1) We practice what we preach. Learning but not doing, or praising good deeds which we ourselves do not fulfill may very well be worse than not speaking or learning in the first place. In this vein, our mishna stated: "Study is not the primary thing but action."

(2) Our speech should be concise and to the point. We should always be wary that our words are proper and carefully chosen. Too much speech is counterproductive in almost every area. Even regarding Torah study the Talmud writes that one should teach his students in as concise a manner as possible (Pesachim 3b). And likewise, our mishna concludes: "Whoever talks excessively brings about sin."
In truth, however, there is a much deeper idea here as well. Speech does not have to be about G-d and religion to be valuable. Even light speech may be worthy if it is an expression of caring and concern for others. Kibitzing with another in order to befriend him or her, to show an interest in the other and to become a part of his life: all such speech is a form of using our Divine gift properly.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Quotations #098

"They are very fond of wine, and drink it in large quantities. It is also their general practice to deliberate upon affairs of weight when they are drunk; and then on the morrow, when they are sober, the decision to which they came the night before is put before them by the master of the house in which it was made; and if it is then approved of, they act on it; if not, they set it aside. Sometimes, however, they are sober at their first deliberation, but in this case they always reconsider the matter under the influence of wine." -- Herodotus, on the Persians

“a heroic tenor, not a hero… A dreamer, a numbskull, a man without ideas, without strength of purpose, in a word: stupid” -- Oswald Spengler, on Adolf Hitler.

"Rationalism is at bottom nothing but criticism, and the critic is the reverse of a creator: he dissects and he reassembles; conception and birth are alien to him. Accordingly his work is artificial and lifeless, and when brought into contact with real life, it kills." -- Oswald Spengler, The Hour of Decision

"Romanticism is not a sign of powerful instinct, but, on the contrary, of a weak, self-detesting intellect. They are all infantile, these Romantics; men who remain children too long (or for ever), without the strength to criticise themselves, but with perpetual inhibitions arising from the obscure awareness of their own personal weakness; who are impelled by the morbid idea of reforming society, which is to them too masculine, too healthy, too sober." -- Oswald Spengler, The Hour of Decision

Every work of man is artificial, unnatural… This is the beginning of man’s tragedy — for Nature is the stronger of the two.” -- Oswald Spengler, Man and Technics (1931 ).

(Spengler quotes from NYRB)

"Does your Mr. Winkie need upgrading?" -- Anonymous ED Spam

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I am a metaphysical Non-Reductionist, an epistemological Absolutist, and a moral Objectivist

After posting this, I realized a little editorial commentary might be useful. My comments are in italics

Your Score: N-A-O

You scored 77% Non-Reductionism, 77% Epistemological Absolutism, and 55% Moral Objectivism!

You are an N-A-O: a metaphysical Non-Reductionist, an epistemological Absolutist, and a moral Objectivist. If you are simply dying inside to figure out what all this mumbo-jumbo means, then simply continue reading.

Metaphysics: Non-Reductionism (Idealism or Realism) In metaphysics, my test measures your tendency towards Reductionism or Non-Reductionism. As a Non-Reductionist, you recognize that reality is not necessarily simple or unified, and you thus tend to produce a robust ontology instead of carelessly shaving away hypothetical entities that reflect our philosophical experiences. [I think the test designer has a pretty clear preference here] My test recognizes two types of Non-Reductionists: Idealists and Realists.

1. Idealists believe that reality is fundamentally unknowable. All we can ever know is the world of sense experience, thought, and other phenomena which are only distorted reflections of an ultimate (or noumenal) reality. Kant, one of the most significant philosophers in history, theorized that human beings perceive reality in such a way that they impose their own mental frameworks and categories upon reality, fully distorting it. Reality for Kant is unconceptualized and not subject to any of the categories our minds apply to it. Idealists are non-reductionists because they recognize that the distinction between phenomenal reality and ultimate reality cannot be so easily discarded or unified into a single reality. They are separate and distinct, and there is no reason to suppose the one mirrors the other. Major philosophical idealists include Kant and Fichte.

If your views are different from the above, then you may be a Realist. 2. Realists deny the validity of sloppy metaphysical reductions, because they feel that there is no reason to suspect that reality reflects principles of parsimony or simplicity. Realism is the most common-sensical of the metaphysical views. It doesn't see reality as a unity or as reducible to matter or mind, nor does it see reality as divided into a phenomenal world of experience and an unknowable noumenal world of things-in-themselves. Realist metaphysics emphasizes that reality is for the most part composed of the things we observe and think. On the question of the existence of universals, for instance, a realist will assert that while universals do not physically exist, the relations they describe in particulars are as real as the particular things themselves, giving universals a type of reality. Thus, no reduction is made. On the mind-body problem, realists tend to believe that minds and bodies both exist, and the philosophical problems involved in reducing mind to matter or matter to mind are too great to warrant such a reduction. Finally, realists deny that reality is ultimately a Unity or Absolute, though they recognize that reality can be viewed as a Unity when we consider the real relations between the parts as constituting this unity--but it doesn't mean that the world isn't also made up of particular things. Aristotle and Popper are famous realists.

[This is a tough one. The Idealist position has a strong post-modern feel; the Realist position seems closer to the pragmatic approach which I think represents my position. I'm not entirely sure, from these descriptions, how these two positions are opposed to each other]


Epistemology: Absolutism (Rationalism or Pragmatism) My test measures one's tendency towards Absolutism or Skepticism in regards to epistemology. As an Absolutist, you believe that objective knowledge is possible given the right approach, and you deny the claims of skeptical philosophers who insist that we can never have knowledge of ultimate reality. The two types of Absolutists recognized by my test are Rationalists and Pragmatists.
[Maybe it's a measure of my philosophical unsophistication that I think both positions have merit, but I don't see a contradiction between believing that some objective knowledge is possible but that ultimate reality is likely beyond our comprehension]

1. Rationalists believe that the use of reason ultimately provides the best route to truth. A rationalist usually defines truth as a correspondence between propositions and reality, taking the common-sense route. Also, rationalists tend to believe that knowledge of reality is made possible through certain foundational beliefs. This stance is known as foundationalism. A foundationalist believes that, because we cannot justify the truth of every statement in an infinite regress, we ultimately reach a foundation of knowledge. This foundation is composed of a priori truths, like mathematics and logic, as well as undoubtable truths like one's belief in his or her own existence. The belief that experiences and memories are veridical is also part of the foundation. Thus, for a rationalist knowledge of reality is made possible through our foundational beliefs, which we do not need to justify because we find them to be undoubtable and self-evident. In regards to science, a rationalist will tend to emphasize the foundational assumptions of scientific inquiry as prior to and more important than scientific inquiry itself. If science does lead to truth, it is only because it is based upon the assumption of certain rational principles such as "Every event is caused" and "The future will resemble the past". Philosophy has a wide representation of philosophical rationalists--Descartes, Spinoza, Liebniz, and many others.
["Self-evident" works best for ethical propositions, and mathematical ones]

If that didn't sound like your own views, then you are most likely the other type of Absolutist: the Pragmatist. 2. Epistemological Pragmatists are fundamentally identified by their definition of truth. Truth is, on this view, merely a measure of a proposition's success in inquiry. This view is a strictly scientific notion of truth. A proposition can be called true if it leads to successful predictions or coheres best with the observed facts about the world. Thus, for the pragmatist, knowledge of reality is possible through scientific reasoning. A pragmatist emphasizes man's fallibility, and hence takes baby-steps towards knowledge through scientific methodology. Any truth claim for a pragmatist is open to revision and subject to change--if empirical observations lead us to call even logical rules into question (like quantum physics has done for the law of the excluded middle), then we can and should abandon even these supposed a priori and "absolutely certain" logical rules if they do not accord with our testing and refuting of our various propositions. As a consequence of this, a pragmatist doesn't feel that scientific knowledge is based upon unfounded assumptions that are taken to be true without any sort of justification--rather, they believe that the successes of scientific inquiry have proved that its assumptions are well-founded. For instance, the assumption of science that the future will be like the past is adequately shown by the amazing success of scientific theories in predicting future events--how else could this be possible unless the assumption were true? Pragmatism borrows elements from realism and yet attempts to account for the critiques made by skeptics and relativists. It is essentially a type of philosophical opportunism--it borrows the best stances from a large number of philosophical systems and attempts to discard the problems of these systems by combining them with others. Famous pragmatists of this type are Peirce and Dewey.
["Philosophical opportunism": Yup, that's me!]


Ethics: Objectivism (Deontology or Logical Positivism) In Ethics, my test measures your tendency towards moral Objectivism or moral Relativism. As a moral Objectivist, you are opposed to Subjectivist moral theories and believe that morality applies to people universally and actually describes objects and situations out in the world as opposed to just subjects themselves. The two types of moral Objectivists my test recognizes are Kantian Deontologists and Utilitarians.
[I didn't come out strongly Objectivist, which makes sense. This is definitely an area where I'm on the fence. Which is, probably, very ironic.]

1. Kantian Deontologists believe that the one intrinsic good is a good will. As rational beings capable of making decisions, the moral worth of our decisions is ultimately derived from the intentions behind our actions, not their consequences. A moral being does the right thing not out of recognition of any consequences, but out of a sense of moral duty. For Kant, a good will is the ultimate good because to deny the will is to deny the one thing that makes us rational, moral beings. If an act will accord with or further our status as free, rational beings, and it is possible to will the universalization of such a moral principle without infringing upon our good wills, then an act is good. Kant's categorical imperative provides an objective standard to judge moral worth--it is not hypothetical in the sense of other imperatives, which hide a latent if-clause. For instance, "Eating razors is good" is good ONLY if you tack on an if-clause that says something like: "If you wish to destroy your gums." Thus, the categorical imperative is good, not just IF something is the case, but in ALL cases. It requires people to treat others as ends, and not means to ends, for to treat everyone as a means to an ends would be to deny them their ability to function as rational, free beings--which is what makes morality possible in the first place. The major proponent of this view in the history of philosophy is, quite obviously, Kant.
[I've always liked the formulation "treat others as ends, and not means to ends" but the overweening nature of Kant's arguments doesn't help me much.]

If that didn't sound like your position, then you are probably the other variety of moral Objectivist--the Utilitarian. 2. Utilitarians define "happiness" or "pleasure" as the sole intrinsic good, and the principle "The greatest pleasure for the greatest number" best reflects a Utilitarian view of ethics. Utilitarianism is a consequentialist moral theory, meaning the consequences of an action--not the intentions behind it--determine the act's moral worth. Even if you intended to do great evil with a certain act, if the act produces a net gain of pleasure and happiness for the greatest number, then it was indeed a good act because your intentions weren't realized. What matters in this scenario, obviously, is the consequences of the act. Utilitarianism, of course, can also be reduced to Hedonism. If you do not feel that the greatest happiness of the greatest number matters, but only pay heed to the greatest happiness of individuals, then you are more adequately classified as a Hedonist. But both Utilitarians and Hedonists define "pleasure" as an intrinsic good and determine the moral worth of an act through its consequences. The only difference is whether we measure the collective pleasure of a group or only an individual's pleasure. Prominent Utilitarians include Bentham and Mill.

[Mill -- that's my guy. But John Stuart, not his dad, and there's a healthy dose of rights, not just opportunities, there.]

As you can see, when your philosophical position is narrowed down there are so many potential categories that an OKCupid test cannot account for them all. But, taken as very broad categories or philosophical styles, you are best characterized as an N-A-O. Your exact philosophical opposite would be an R-S-R.

Link: The Sublime Philosophical Crap Test written by saint_gasoline on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test [via]

Funny Quiz, Predictable Result

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are a Reality-Based Intellectualist, also known as the liberal elite. You are a proud member of what’s known as the reality-based community, where science, reason, and non-Jesus-based thought reign supreme.

The quiz itself is pretty goofy: one book to build a civilization, naked pyramids, historical revisionism. But I can't argue with the result, can I?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

This just in....

In 2006, this was a really useful blog. In a calculation based on number of posts, number of inbound links from other blogs and especially inbound links from high-ranking blogs, Ahistoricality was ranked 24th in usefulness to answer the question "If I can read 100 blogs, which should I read to be most up to date?" I actually made the cut for high efficiency, too. It's a good thing I was ranked high, because I don't read any of the other blogs in the top 100, unless someone I do read links to them.

What does it mean? Well, if I ever go looking for a paid blogging gig, it might be worth something, I suppose. Anyone looking to hire a history-minded news junkie with a digital photography habit?

P.S.: All you folks coming here from the various reprints of the list of influential blogs might be a little disappointed to learn that I'm on hiatus, more or less. Sorry, but I highly recommend working through my blogroll if you want to learn something!

Ref: Cost-effective Outbreak Detection in Networks
Jure Leskovec, Andreas Krause, Carlos Guestrin, Christos Faloutsos, Jeanne VanBriesen, Natalie Glance.
ACM SIGKDD International Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining (ACM KDD), 2007.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Censored Stories: Have you Heard?

As in the past, I give you the Project Censored and WorldNetDaily lists for most underreported stories of the past year or two. Like last year, I'm going to bold the ones I've heard of.

WorldNetDaily, "10 most underreported stories of 2006," January 3, 2007

1. Plans under way for North American Union:
2. Wave of murders and other crimes by illegal aliens
3. Female teachers sexually preying on their students
4. Mideast terror leaders favor Democrats
5. Manipulated war photos by major news outlets
6. New revelation showing that contrary to his claims, Sandy Berger deliberately hid classified documents
7. Iran leader's apocalyptic end-times vision
8. Two border agents face heavy prison time for injuring a drug smuggler they thought was armed
9. Mega-pastor Rick Warren praising Syria
10. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg snoozing for 15 minutes during oral arguments

ProjectCensored, "Top 25 Censored Stories of 2008,"

# 1 No Habeas Corpus for “Any Person”
# 2 Bush Moves Toward Martial Law
# 3 AFRICOM: US Military Control of Africa’s Resources
# 4 Frenzy of Increasingly Destructive Trade Agreements
# 5 Human Traffic Builds US Embassy in Iraq
# 6 Operation FALCON Raids
# 7 Behind Blackwater Inc.
# 8 KIA: The US Neoliberal Invasion of India
# 9 Privatization of America’s Infrastructure
# 10 Vulture Funds Threaten Poor Nations’ Debt Relief
# 11 The Scam of “Reconstruction” in Afghanistan
# 12 Another Massacre in Haiti by UN Troops
# 13 Immigrant Roundups to Gain Cheap Labor for US Corporate Giants
# 14 Impunity for US War Criminals
# 15 Toxic Exposure Can Be Transmitted to Future Generations on a “Second Genetic Code”
# 16 No Hard Evidence Connecting Bin Laden to 9/11
# 17 Drinking Water Contaminated by Military and Corporations
# 18 Mexico’s Stolen Election
# 19 People’s Movement Challenges Neoliberal Agenda
# 20 Terror Act Against Animal Activists
# 21 US Seeks WTO Immunity for Illegal Farm Payments
# 22 North Invades Mexico
# 23 Feinstein’s Conflict of Interest in Iraq
# 24 Media Misquotes Threat From Iran’s President
# 25 Who Will Profit from Native Energy?

I've heard of seven of the ten WND stories, a strong majority, and about half -- twelve of the twenty-five -- PC stories (six of the top ten, though, which is comparable to the WND list). Most of the WND stories I heard about through mainstream sources, and heard debunked through sources like Orcinus. Most of the PC stories I read through Tom's Dispatch (via HNN) or progressive blogs like Progressive Historians and Sideshow, though a lot of the top ten were reported by mainstream outlets (just not hammered into the ground).

We now return you to your regularly scheduled hiatus.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Kinda Dorky Grammar Nerd, Artiste Demi-god, Founding Emperor and worthless General, worth more than my own car as a corpse

Killing time, clearing out bloglines, that sort of stuff. Haven't done quizzes in a while. Not likely to do them again for a while. Hiatus continues.....

Your Score: Orpheus

0% Extroversion, 66% Intuition, 72% Emotiveness, 71% Perceptiveness

You are an artist, an aesthete, a sensitive, and someone who has never really let go of that childlike innocence. To you, all of life has a sense of wonder in it, and the story of Orpheus was written about someone just like you.

When the Argo passed the island of the Sirens, Orpheus played a song more beautiful than the Sirens to prevent the crew from becoming enticed. When his wife died, he ventured into the underworld to charm Hades but, in his naivete, he looked back becoming trapped there.

You can capture your unique world view and relate it to others with the skill of a master storyteller. Your sensitivity and creativity make you a treasure to the human race, but your thin-skinned nature and innocence can cause you a lot of disenchantment and pain. What's doubly unfortunate is that, if you try to lose those traits, you never will, and everyone will be able to tell that you're putting up an artificial shell to prevent yourself from being hurt.

Famous people like you: Hemingway, Shakespeare, Mr. Rogers, Melville, Nick Tosches
Stay clear of: Icarus, Hermes, Atlas

Link: The Greek Mythology Personality Test [via]

You Scored an A
You got 10/10 questions correct. It's pretty obvious that you don't make basic grammatical errors. If anything, you're annoyed when people make simple mistakes on their blogs. As far as people with bad grammar go, you know they're only human. And it's humanity and its current condition that truly disturb you sometimes.


You scored as Augustus, You are Augustus! First emperor of the Romans and one of the greatest statesmen in the ancient world. You brilliantly eased the old Republic into the Principate and set the path for an empire that would last for centuries and form the underpinnings for all western civilization. Hail Caesar!

Antoninus Pius
Marcus Aurelius

Which Roman Emperor Are You?
created with QuizFarm.com [via]

You scored as General George McClellan, Beloved by your men and respected by your peers, you are the architect of the grand Army of the Potomac. Too bad you don't like to let it, you know, fight and stuff. I'd be lying if I said I knew where your head was at.

General George McClellan
William T. Sherman
General James Longstreet
General Ambrose Burnside
General Jeb Stuart
Robert E. Lee
General Nathan Bedford Forrest
U.S. Grant
Stonewall Jackson
General Phillip Sheridan

Which American Civil War General are you?
created with QuizFarm.com [via]

$4790.00The Cadaver Calculator - Find out how much your body is worth. [via]

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Art or Garbage? A Photo Essay

What is public space? What do we have a right to do in public space? What is art?
Art or Garbarge? This lovely bow was planted firmly in the middle of a parking lot. Accidental, I'm sure, but somehow charming, as though someone tried to make the parking lot pretty as a birthday present.
I've seen people work on cars in auto part store parking lots. I've seen bright, colorful packaging on green grass before. I'd never seen evidence of car servicing in a University parking lot before.
A subtle adjustment to the environment can create mystery, a sense of adventure. In this case, I still wonder what the story is. How did the traffic cone end up under the river? Was it flung from the bridge? From the bank? Brought there just to see if it floated? Removed from a despised repair site?
One of the things I love about the camera is the way in which you can look places you'd never be able to see otherwise. This is looking down an old pipe, probably a defunct water or sewer pipe, which stands open to the sky in a small downtown are. It never ceases to amaze me, really, the creative ways people find for hiding their garbage. It never ceases to amaze me now lazy and unthinking people are about their garbage: there are garbage pails all over downtown....
This was stencil painted on a downtown traffic signal control box (At least, I think that's what it was; it was near a traffic signal, anyway), and it's a clever little piece. The three masked and big-haired women on a three-person bike, how well-armed they are, the money bags in the bicycle's wire baskets at the back. Again, there's a story here, this time a much more deliberate one. Traffic control boxes don't usually tell stories.
I found another interesting piece of graffitti here (mildly risque), demonstrating another way to apply art to public spaces quickly: it's drawn on to a sticker (a US mail address label). The two layers of drawing seem to have nothing to do with each other, artistically or thematically (nor do either of them speak to the medium of the address label).

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The ark was soundproof?

Continuing our visual series, here is something I saw in a public park playground recently:
Let me repeat, this was a public park, county operated. The text reads as follows:
(upper right): Once there was a man named Noah who was warned by God of a great flood. Noah began to build an ark that was 450 feet long, 75 feet high and 45 feet wide.
(upper center): The ark was built with cypress (gopher) wood that was coated, both inside and outside, with a tar-like substance to make the ark waterproof and soundproof. The ark had three levels with one door.
(upper left): Seven days before the flood came, Noah began to stock the ark with food and he led the land animals, birds, reptiles and his family two by two into the ark.

(middle right): It rained for 40 days and 40 nights and the whole earth was covered with water. With water from the sky and from inside the earth, the flood waters rose more than 20 feet above the highest peak.
(center): Living creatures outside of the ark died from the flood but all that were in the ark were safe. [picture of ark]
(middle left): Once it stopped raining, the ark floated 150 days and nights. Then the ark came to rest upon a large mountain top.
(lower right): After living more than a year inside the ark, Noah sent a raven and a dove out to see if the earth was dry. The dove returned with an olive branch and Noah knew that soon it would be safe to return outside.
(lower middle): When Noah, his family and all the animals left the ark, a large beautiful rainbow appeared in the sky. The rainbow signified God's promise that the earth would never again be destroyed by water.
(lower left): Noah took about 100 years to build the ark. Noah was 600 years old when it was completed and 950 years old when he died.
Separation of Church and State, anyone?

I'm trying to figure out some of the odder details. The conversions of cubits to feet is a little haphazard, but not surprising in a child-oriented setting. I don't remember ever hearing about the ark being soundproof before, though, nor that Noah stocked the ark in seven days, after spending a century building it (My JPS version of the text suggests a bit less than a year inside the ark, not a bit more, though). There seems to be some particular tradition here that I'm not familiar with, or else it's both unconstitutional and incompetent.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Pictures: Family Quilts

I thought I'd try something a little different this weekend, and do a series of visual Open Threads over at Progressive Historians based on my own photography and experience. I thought I'd lead off with something I promised I'd share a long time back: some family quilts.

Quilting has a long distinguished tradition in the US, though not as distinguished as some think, and is a fantastic medium. There are a few quilters in my spouse's midwestern family, and a few quilt traditions, as well as interesting innovations.

The first quilt (on the right) was a hand-embroidered (but machine-quilted, for you purists) bedspread given to us for our wedding by my spouse's grandmother. All the siblings in that generation got one, with unique designs. Definitely a family treasure.

The second quilt (on the left) was made by one of my spouse's great-aunts, a lively lady who haunts dollar stores and made quilts incessantly (still, I think, but we haven't visited the homestead in a while) with fabrics that catch her eye. A visit to her home invariably involved a quilt-showing, and if you like something, odds are pretty good that you can take it home. She calls this pattern an "Indian Blanket" though it's obviously a loose interpretation. The bright colors and black/white sections make it a perfect baby quilt, actually, and it still graces our child's bed sometimes. The third quilt (on the right) is another of her productions. I don't think there's any deep meaning to the pattern -- the basic design of triangular pieces is supposed to represent a windmill, I think -- but it's very typical of her tendency to mix and match things that aren't conventionally used in a patchwork.

The last quilt (on the left) was made by my mother-in-law. The print pieces from the Three Bears/Three Pigs stories are from a commercial kit, I'm fairly sure, but the borders, etc, are hand-pieced. If you click on it and look close, you'll see that the words have been embroidered extra-thick to allow my blind spouse to tell which picture is which. We told these stories over and over, of course, using this quilt.

Any interesting quilt stories in your family?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Progressive Engagement With Disability

Penny Richards reminds me that -- as Tom Lehrer so memorably put it long before a disabiilty rights community existed -- the annual "make fun of the handicapped" event is going to happen again. For the last few years, there have been protests against Jerry Lewis and his Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon, and they are going to continue.

I'm something of a neophyte in the area of disability theory, though I have a personal interest as well as a historical one. Scholars who study disability distinguish between three models of disability: charity, medical and social. The Charity model is the oldest: the disabled are seen as being a burden, less than fully human, objects of pity, and their survival and lifestyle is determined by the sufferance and generosity of others. The Medical model is more recent: it defines the disabled as imperfect humans, deviants who should be fixed, to the extent that it is possible. "Find a cure" is the cry, and anything less than a cure is a pity. Perhaps the epitome of this view in recent culture is Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby (spoiler alert) in which an athlete chooses death over a disabled life.

The Social model is most recent, and it is at the heart of the disability rights movement. The Social model sees disability in a much more nuanced fashion: disabilities do not affect the whole person (usually), but are part of a continuum (multi-dimensional) of abilities. The "challenge" of disability does not come from the disability itself, but from the ways in which society structures living spaces and habits of interaction with the assumption of ability. That normative assumption of ability is, of course, terribly flawed, because not everyone who's considered "able bodied" is equally so, and the vast majority of the population will experience at least temporary mobility, sensory or cognitive restrictions over the course of a lifetime -- thus the term "temporarily able-bodied." The Social model seeks access, adaptation and accomodation: technological and medical tools to solve problems; architectural, educational and employment changes to increase access for everyone; educating the broader public on the specific nature of disabilities, the essential and full humanity of the disabled, and the general utility of accomodations.

There are two other significant strains within the disability rights movements. The Social theory described above informs a pretty wide swath of disability civil rights activists, but not all of them. There are two other notable positions, each predicated on a negation of an older model: Overcoming/Passing and Separating.

Within the blindness community, activists centered on the National Federation for the Blind approach blindness as an inconvenience equivalent to left-handedness

The real problem of blindness is not the loss of eyesight. The real problem is the misunderstanding and lack of information that exist. If a blind person has proper training and opportunity, blindness can be reduced to a physical nuisance.
That sounds a lot like the Social model, but it's really an inversion of the Charity model: with technology (though the NFB has qualms about it, often pushing traditional low-tech solutions) and good education (emphasizing fully-blind mobility: NFB training centers insist that students with low vision wear blinders and guide dog users abandon them for the duration), the blind can overcome their blindness so they are not at all dependent on the sufferance of others. This extends to an actual philosophical objection to aggressive pursuit of Americans with Disability Act (ADA) "reasonable accomodation" changes, on the grounds that it compromises the independence of the blind to rely on sighted society adapting to their needs. I've heard the organization described as trapped in the "denial" and "anger" stages of grief.

There is also a long-standing tradition, most common among people with limited forms of disability (partial hearing loss, partial vision loss, some mobility issues, etc.) who are the children of "able-bodied" parents, of adapting to the disability by hiding it as much as possible, and "mainstreaming" as many activities as possible. You don't hear it as much any more, but there was a time when it was common for hearing parents of deaf children to refuse to learn sign language, forcing the children to focus on lip reading and vocalization. There was a time when visually impaired children with some sight, or with degenerative conditions, were not taught braille, on the grounds that they should use the sight they have, as much and as long as they have it. In both cases, the families are trying to help -- there's no real malice here, most of the time: we're talking about well-meaning people with flawed ideas -- by keeping their children from acquiring the markers of disability: "passing" instead of adapting. Again, this is an inversion of the Charity model, arguing that the disabled should aspire to emulate ability and eschew adaptation, as though one could "build up strength" and "avoid contagion" and therefore improve one's lot.

Then there is the "Deaf Community"/Pride model: arguing that ASL, etc., constitutes a distinct culture, smaller and different but no less legitimate than the Hearing Culture that surrounds it. This is an inversion of the Medical model: instead of seeing disability as a flawed version of a normative body, disability is a new norm to be celebrated rather than cured. I might include the Paralympics in this model as well, but I'm open to other arguments: my spouse seems to think that it's a reasonably healthy Social model adaptation. (Special Olympics definitely falls in the Charity category) Disability Pride activists strive for separateness: their heroes are the ones who focus their attentions primarily on the disability community itself, who articulate new artistic and cultural forms (or at least themes [or at least identities]) for and about disability. Deaf Pride activists have been known to refuse to authorize cochlear implant surgery which could restore partial hearing; it becomes controversial sometimes when Deaf parents of Deaf children decide to forego the surgery to keep their children within the community.

As a social historian with more than a touch of post-modernism in my system, I suppose that I'm kind of predisposed to see the Social model as "right": Ability and Disability are abstract categories, and the new medical, engineering and digital technologies are blurring the distinction even more than ever. The rising tide of aging Baby Boomers is going to make adaptation to sensory and mobility loss considerably more necessary, common, and economical.

The Medical model, all-or-nothing, cure-or-doom, is grossly outdated. "Lifestyle drugs" and "five-year survivor" and "living with the virus" are the new medical models anyway: everyone needs maintenance and we're still gonna die. The Charity model is just premodern: it's unrealistic and psychologically unsound for everyone involved. The converse positions -- passing/denial and separatism/pride -- are understandable reactions but inflexible and of limited utility to a very small portion of the relevant population.

As an historian, and as a progressive, the Social model and the disability civil rights movements are the key components of the future. If it requires raising loud objections to grossly outmoded public displays of self-indulgent do-gooding, so be it.
[Crossposted to Progressive Historians]

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Painful Extended Metaphor on the Occasion of Alberto Gonzales' Resignation

Ding, Dong! The witch is dead!
Which old witch? The Wicked Witch!
Ding, Dong! The Wicked Witch is dead!

I admit, it was the first thing that went through my head when I heard the news this morning. It's childish (though if you've got a little one of your own, you know how easy it is for their music to get stuck in your head) but heartfelt: the failure of the Department of Justice to be anything but an enabling enforcement arm of unconstitutional and un-American activities cuts to the quick of my citizen's heart.

Then I thought about it a little more and realized that we may have begun the journey that will get us back to the heartland, back to reality, back to those we love. Yes, I'm about to compare the future of the Republic to The Wizard of Oz.

Having landed, more or less by accident (something about sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind applies to our soon-to-be-former-AG, not to mention Congressional Republicans) on the Wicked Witch of the East (I think that makes the DoJ employees Munchkins, which I hope they won't take the wrong way: they're free!), we now have on our feet a great power which the Wicked Witch of the West would willingly destroy us to get (subpoena power, independent prosecutors, real Justice) but we can't really use it all on our own. We want to get back to Kansas (restore the Constitution! abandon Imperial projects! etc.) but we can't do it on our own, so we look for leadership and wisdom in the Great and Powerful Oz (Congressional Democrats and Democratic Presidential candidates). They tell us that we have to slay the Wicked Witch of the West first, which we do in the process of trying to protect ourselves and our friends (investigating illegal wiretapping, bringing an end to the slaughter in Iraq, protecting our troops by calling administration-connected contractors to account, and generally putting an end to this administration, via impeachment or electoral victory).

We then discover, to our chagrin, that the Great and Wonderful Oz is a fraud who has no magic (we've been disappointed by our Democratic leadership before, and there's an awful lot of mealy-mouthed moderation out on that campaign trail), but that we ourselves have the power within us to restore that which is precious. The Ruby Slippers can bring us home if we truly believe that we belong at home, if we deeply understand what it is we've lost and honestly wish to return. Even with all its flaws, there's no place like home. Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.

Democracy, Constitutional Government, Responsible Leadership, Messy Internationalism: that is our farm in Kansas. It's a lot more colorful than we give it credit for; certainly a lot more real and precious than the technicolor certitudes of Oz, the false color of the Emerald City (in the book version, it's all illusion, like looking for a "true leader" among modern careerist politicos), the rule by magic and force of the Wicked Witches.

I haven't fully cast this yet. I think Dorothy is the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," though she's also the whole American population. The "Heartless" but Sentimental Tin Man, the "Brainless" but very clever Scarecrow, the "Cowardly" but frightening Lion, the "Good Witch" who keeps us from falling deathly asleep.... I'm not sure who fills those spots. We need them filled, though.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Quotations #097

"Three moral successes don't equal one operational success." -- Avi Dichter, former head of Shin Bet (Washington Post, 8/27/06)

"The Devil is part of our experience. Our generation has seen enough of it for the message to be taken extremely seriously. Evil, I contend, is not contingent, it is not the absence, or deformation, or the subversion of virtue (or whatever else we may think of as its opposite), but a stubborn and unredeemable fact." -- Leszek Kolakowski, "The Devil in History," My Correct Views on Everything (2001), p. 133.

"You say that to think in terms of a 'system' yields excellent results. I am quite sure it does, not only excellent, but miraculous; it simply solves all the problems of mankind in one stroke." Leszek Kolakowski, "My Correct Views on Everything," (response to E.P.Thompson) in My Correct Views on Everything (2001).

"These revolutionary doctors and their pitilessly determined disciples are the only men in Germany who have any life; and it is to them, I fear, that the future belongs." -- Heinrich Heine

"In the reading room of the New York Public Library, that mausoleum, designed by some schoolmaster with memories of hard oak, dust and gloom, there are men who sit day after day, bulwarked by stacks of books, scribbling, scribbling in the little pools of light from the green-shaded lamps on the long oak tables, and you look at them and wonder what will-o'-the-wisps they are pursuing day after day, year after year. One of them may be writing a history of dentistry in America, another studying explosives in order to blow up the world, a third gathering evidence that Shakespeare wrote the Bible. Their faces are pale and grim. The only cheerful people in that place are those who do not read the books, but only handle them as they come from the dumbwaiter, and set them on the counter like mouldy slabs of beef. Those who sit at the long tables day after day are dedicated men; some of them are brave men. There is death in old books from the stacks of a great library; the dust that impregnates their pages is death and darkness; the dust says, "These are books that no one has opened for twenty years, fifty years, eighty years; and when you have written your book, it too will gather dust." White book dust, bone dust: garden dirt and axle grease are clean in comparison; they are living and unctuous; rubbed into the skin, they do good. The dust of books causes blains and hangnails; ingested, it provokes dyspepsia, flatulence, and heartburn; in the lungs it is cancerous. Who would not choose, if he could, to sit chained to an oar in a Roman galley, in the sunlight and salt air, rather than in this sunless crypt where, in the years from 1905 to 1920, Charles Fort sat? Many people must have wondered why he was here behind his tall stack of books: but one does not ask. Perhaps there is another like him there today, silent and determined under the green-shaded lamp." -- Damon Knight, Charles Fort: Prophet of the Unexplained (Victor Gollancz, 1971)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Quotations #096

"The difference between ignorant and educated people is that the latter know more facts. But that has nothing to do with whether they are stupid or intelligent. The difference between stupid and intelligent people-and this is true whether or not they are well-educated-is that intelligent people can handle subtlety. They are not baffled by ambiguous or even contradictory situations-in fact, they expect them and are apt to become suspicious when things seem overly straightforward." -- Neal Stephenson, Diamond Age.

"History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of history it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened." -- Hunter S. Thompson, Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas

"If the evidence that existed always spoke plainly, truthfully, and clearly to us, not only would historians have no work to do, we would have no opportunity to argue with each other." -- John H. Arnold, History: A Very Short Introduction, p.13.

“I am looking forward very much to getting back to Cambridge, and being able to say what I think and not to mean what I say: two things which at home are impossible. Cambridge is one of the few places where one can talk unlimited nonsense and generalities without anyone pulling one up or confronting one with them when one says just the opposite the next day.” -- Bertrand Russell

"lecherous, libidinous, lustful, venerous, erotomaniac, aphrodisiac, irreverent, narrow-minded, untruthful, and bereft of moral fibre." -- Joseph Goldstein, describing Bertrand Russell at age 68 (1940).

Monday, July 30, 2007

One Book Meme, but with two books

I'm sorry, but I read way too many books....

One Two book(s) that changed your life?
I can think of several. Interesting, both of these were early grad school experiences.
Yoram Binur's My Enemy, My Self radically altered my Jewish political identity
Marc Bloch's The Historian's Craft crystallized my historical professionalism.

One Two book(s) you have read more than once?
Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, and I've read Richard Adams' Watership Down probably a dozen times.

One Two book(s) you would want on a desert island?
Well aside from a really good survival guide, what I'd really want are some really big multi-volume series.... An English translation of the Talmud and Mishnah, and the Durant History of Civilization. I suppose I'd settle for Abraham Cohen's Everyman's Talmud and the Durant Scientific Revolution volume.

One Two book(s) that made you laugh?
Almost anything Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett or David Lodge wrote. (I don't think of myself as an anglophile...)
Also Ogden Nash's poetry, Michael Bond's Paddington books and A.A. Milne's Pooh stories, but you have to read them aloud.

One Two book(s) that made you cry?
That's a tough one. The first one that comes to mind is the play "Mr. Roberts" -- I went through a serious play-reading stage.
I think I also cried when I read Harlan Ellison's Deathbird Stories for the first time. More than once.

One Two book(s) you wish you had written?
Susannah Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell
In my first year of graduate school, I read a book which was almost exactly the book which I had in my head; it was better than I could have done at that point, better than I could do now.

One Two book(s) you wish someone had written?
A Social History of Banking in Modern Japan
The Impeachment of George W. Bush and Collapse of the Republican Party

One Two book(s) you wish had never been written?
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion
The Book of Revelations.

One Two book(s) you are currently reading?
Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle trilogy
The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.

One Two book(s) you have been meaning to read?
Thomas Sowell, Migrations and Cultures
Kyle Ward, History in the Making: An Absorbing Look at How American History Has Changed in the Telling over the Last 200 Years

Now tag five people: No. But I will note the bloggers which I read who have done this meme already, many of whom have also declined to tag: Another Damned Medievalist, Terry

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Pocketknife Fixed Camera

How many times have you fixed a camera with a pocketknife?

In my case the answer is TWICE! A while back I dropped it on hard rock, bending the ring around the lens in so far that it jammed on the lense and the lens wouldn't move. I fixed that with the can opener... well, I needed something both stiff and sharp, so I could get it in the gap and pry!

Earlier today, the lens cover stopped working: wouldn't open all the way, and wouldn't close hardly at all. It might have caught on my shirt pocket while I was putting it away quickly. I thought about calling the Panasonic folks, but their standard repair fee for out-of-warranty (i.e., bought on eBay) cameras is $161.50 (more than I paid on eBay), and that doesn't include cameras damaged by falls, misuse or water....

So, inspired by the thought of having to spend major money on a repair or new camera (I'm holding out until they roll out new features and reduce prices on existing models in the Fall), I took a closer look and realized that a piece of the lens cover was bent, and probably keeping it from moving freely. Well, bend it back! Took some doing with the little blade, but it now seems to be back in business! Still, it bears the marks.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

How do you read? (an original meme)

In honor of Harry Potter Day, here is a list of twenty metaphors for reading: Bold the ones that best apply to your professional reading; underline the ones that apply to leisure reading; italicize the ones that turn you off
1. Reading is grafting, and the reader connects new text to another text read.
2. Reading is dancing, and the reader follows the lead and steps of the text, including its rhythm, music, lyric, genre, and flow.
3. Reading is sorting, and the reader puts knowledge and experience and dramatic elements of text into categories.
4. Reading is surveying, and the reader examines the territory of the book, its surface, size, structure, scope, distinguishing features, divisions, boundaries, etc.
5. Reading is integrating, and the reader incorporates new knowledge into other knowledge; blending and kneading together.
6. Reading is counting, and the reader is concerned with the number of pages in the text or how many pages are left until they can escape the text (also envision the image of a prisoner marking off days on calendar).
7. Reading is soaking up, and the reader absorbs the text like a sponge.
8. Reading is a vehicle, and the reader travels to another place.
9. Reading is eating, and the reader consumes and is nourished (or poisoned) by the text.
10. Reading is a mirror, and the reader sees reflection in text.
11. Reading is a machine, and the reader feeds the text through a mechanical process.
12. Reading is a transaction, and the reader and text exchange value: the reader receives knowledge and experience, the text receives meaning, and the newly produced response is the receipt or proof of the transaction.
13. Reading is exercise, and the reader gains intellectual agility and strength.
14. Reading is mining, and the reader digs into the text for answers.
15. Reading is a good investment, and the reader’s efforts pay off.
16. Reading is planting, and the reader receives seeds of knowledge that grow into new understanding.
17. Reading is unwrapping, and the reader opens the text to reveal a hidden message.
18. Reading is translating, and the reader moves the meaning from one language to another.
19. Reading is a friend, and the reader enjoys the companionship of the text.
20. Reading is wrestling, and the reader struggles with the text.

Yes, I answered multiply to several of them, especially where leisure and work reading overlap. You can, too. If you don't see metaphors you like here, you can go to the master list of 150 metaphors.

This is my meme, but I don't tag people. Just give me credit where credit is due, please.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Hungry, too.

This really is more of an Aristotelean test than anything to do with spirit animals.

Your Score: The Wolf

Your spirit animal has a Nobility ranking of 12 out of 18.

Your spirit animal is the wolf. It is a ferocious companion, and a loyal friend. It is both a respectable and noble creature; to have this spirit animal says good things about you, and that you are starting to figure things out. Wolves are pretty rare spirit animals.

***Wondering how this animal was chosen for you? These questions were carefully thought out to see how important you hold certain virtues such as: humanism, self-knowledge, rationalism, the love of freedom and other somewhat Hellenic ideals. Some of the questions were very subtle. Your score was then matched with an animal of corresponding nobility. However, you shouldn't think this was a right/wrong sort of test, but more of an idealistic values test. It's ok to not hold these values, you'll just get an animal spirit of lower stature if you do!***

Link: The What is Your Spirit Animal Test written by FindingEros [via]

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Thursday Verses: The Uncultured Rhymer to His Cultured Critics

Thanks to Penny Richards for noting his birthday recently, and pointing me to this incredible archive of Lawson's work.

My students probably feel this way about me sometimes (I'm not a grammar nut, mind you, but I do believe in the value of clarity and evidence) but that doesn't mean that I can't feel this way about other figures in my life.

The Uncultured Rhymer To His Cultured Critics
By Henry Lawson (1910)

Fight through ignorance, want, and care —
Through the griefs that crush the spirit;
Push your way to a fortune fair,
And the smiles of the world you’ll merit.
Long, as a boy, for the chance to learn —
For the chance that Fate denies you;
Win degrees where the Life-lights burn,
And scores will teach and advise you.
My cultured friends! you have come too late
With your bypath nicely graded;
I’ve fought thus far on my track of Fate,
And I’ll follow the rest unaided.
Must I be stopped by a college gate
On the track of Life encroaching?
Be dumb to Love, and be dumb to Hate,
For the lack of a college coaching?

You grope for Truth in a language dead —
In the dust ’neath tower and steeple!
What know you of the tracks we tread?
And what know you of our people?
‘I must read this, and that, and the rest,’
And write as the cult expects me? —
I’ll read the book that may please me best,
And write as my heart directs me!

You were quick to pick on a faulty line
That I strove to put my soul in:
Your eyes were keen for a ‘dash’ of mine
In the place of a semi-colon —
And blind to the rest. And is it for such
As you I must brook restriction?
‘I was taught too little?’ I learnt too much
To care for a pedant’s diction!

Must I turn aside from my destined way
For a task your Joss would find me?
I come with strength of the living day,
And with half the world behind me;
I leave you alone in your cultured halls
To drivel and croak and cavil:
Till your voice goes further than college walls,
Keep out of the tracks we travel!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Now can I get back to the 800-page novel I'm reading for fun?

What Be Your Nerd Type?
Your Result: Literature Nerd

Does sitting by a nice cozy fire, with a cup of hot tea/chocolate, and a book you can read for hours even when your eyes grow red and dry and you look sort of scary sitting there with your insomniac appearance? Then you fit this category perfectly! You love the power of the written word and it's eloquence; and you may like to read/write poetry or novels. You contribute to the smart people of today's society, however you can probably be overly-critical of works.

It's okay. I understand.

Social Nerd
Drama Nerd
Science/Math Nerd
Gamer/Computer Nerd
Anime Nerd
Artistic Nerd
What Be Your Nerd Type?
Quizzes for MySpace

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Picture: Spring Shadow

This has nothing whatsoever to do with the holiday. There's no political subtext or hidden meaning beyond some subtle and some obvious beauty.

Update: If it's patriotic content you want, you can read the Declaration here, or see fireworks here (I'll be attempting fireworks pictures tonight, as well. We'll see).

Sunday, July 01, 2007

2008 Candidate Preferences, early returns

Here's the results of this test [via]. I like the fact that it lists actual match, not relative position.
1. Theoretical Ideal Candidate (100%)
2. Dennis Kucinich (88%)
3. Alan Augustson (79%) (Green Party)
4. Barack Obama (78%)
5. Joseph Biden (76%)
6. Hillary Clinton (74%)
7. Christopher Dodd (70%)
8. Michael Bloomberg (69%) (I)
9. Wesley Clark (68%)
10. Mike Gravel (67%)
11. Al Gore (66%)
12. John Edwards (65%)
13. Bill Richardson (56%) (Lowest ranked Democrat)
14. Ron Paul (47%) (Highest ranked Republican)
15. Kent McManigal (45%) (Libertarian)
16. Elaine Brown (43%) (Green Party)
17. Rudolph Giuliani (29%)
18. Mike Huckabee (27%)
19. John McCain (21%)
20. Tommy Thompson (20%)
21. Mitt Romney (18%)
22. Chuck Hagel (15%)
23. Newt Gingrich (11%)
24. Tom Tancredo (11%)
25. Sam Brownback (11%)
26. Fred Thompson (8%)
27. Duncan Hunter (7%)
28. Jim Gilmore (6%)
The Democrat/Republican split doesn't surprise me, though I was surprised to see Bloomberg in the high 60s pretty much in the middle of the Democrat pack, and a little surprised to see all the Republicans but Ron Paul fall in the 20s and below. So much for my centrist credential....

Saturday, June 30, 2007

I'm able to grin, and think of the places....

Your Score: The Places You'll Go

You scored: 42% Grinchification ; 50% Cathatitude ; 71% Loraxity ; 50% Hoponpoppiness

You are: Oh, The Places You'll Go!

Oh, The Places You'll Go! is a story about setting out into the world. When it comes to being nice, you're fairly average; you can compromise when it's needed, but you like to get your own way when you can. You're very observant about the world around you, and are more likely to get involved with political or activist causes. You also tend to be more down to earth than whimsical.

The lower your Grinchification score, the nicer you are.
The higher your Cathatitude/Hoponpoppiness score, the more whimsical and creative you are.
The higher your Loraxity score, the more concerned you are with the world around you, politics and activism.

Other Possible Results

Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now! The Lorax The Cat in The Hat Horton Hears a Who! Green Eggs and Ham Hop on Pop If I Ran the Zoo How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Butter Battle Book Yertle The Turtle Fox in Socks

If you liked this test, please take the time to rate it! Thanks!

Link: The Which Dr. Seuss Book Are You Test written by carysehlwinn on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test [via]

Wednesday, June 20, 2007