Saturday, September 26, 2009

Does anybody care about the Nobel Prize for Literature

Apparently, they do - as shown by the betting line pointed out by MR.

Apparently, Amos Oz is the top contender, currently. Maybe I should read something of his, just in case!

(Although many worthy authors are honored, others are completely ignored. 'There is the view that the Nobel literature prize often goes to someone whose political stance is found to be sympathetic at a given moment,' said Alan Jenkins, deputy editor of the Times Literary Supplement. )

Friday, September 25, 2009

Quote of the day

It's comforting to imagine that violence and paranoia belong only to the far left and right, and that we can protect ourselves from their effects by quarantining the extremists and vigilantly expelling anyone who seems to be bringing their ideas into the mainstream. But the center has its own varieties of violence and paranoia. And it's far more dangerous than anyone on the fringe,even the armed fringe, will ever be.
- Jesse Walker, Reason magazine

Fearing That Hideous Strength

Chicago Boyz has David Foster analyzing an interesting response from C.S.Lewis to Haldane's criticism of his non-marxist ways.

It contains bits which I've often seen quoted:
I am a democrat because I believe that no man or group of
men is good enough to be trusted with uncontrolled power over
others. And the higher the pretensions of such power, the more
dangerous I think it both to the rulers and to the subjects. Hence
Theocracy is the worst of all governments. If we must have a
tyrant a robber baron is far better than an inquisitor. The baron’s
cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity at some point be sated;
and since he dimly knows he is doing wrong he may possibly
repent. But the inquisitor who mistakes his own cruelty and lust of
power and fear for the voice of Heaven will torment us infinitely
because he torments us with the approval of his own conscience
and his better impulses appear to him as temptations.
And since
Theocracy is the worst, the nearer any government approaches to
Theocracy the worse it will be. A metaphysic, held by the rulers
with the force of a religion, is a bad sign. It forbids them, like the
inquisitor, to admit any grain of truth or good in their opponents,
it abrogates the ordinary rules of morality, and it gives a seemingly
high, super-personal sanction to all the very ordinary human
passions by which, like other men, the rulers will frequently be
actuated. In a word, it forbids wholesome doubt. A political
programme can never in reality be more than probably right. We
never know all the facts about the present and we can only guess
the future. To attach to a party programme -— whose highest real
claim is to reasonable prudence -— the sort of assent which we
should reserve for demonstrable theorems, is a kind of

The scientific approach: a classification system for girls

Apparently, there are supposed to be only three. One wonders whether the author had limited exposure or whether things are really that simple. None of the types actually seem suited for him.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Frying the Holy Grail

is too goofy NOT to link.

You might want to look up "British push bottles up the German rear" in the comments as well.

Everybody should do well... the science quiz linked by the Bad Astronomer.

Of course I got them all right, none of the questions are obscure, although I did have some doubts about one of the questions. But it's interesting how many people miss quite a few, taking it will let you see the statistics.

Hopefully none of my Scrabble opponents read my blog....

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Annals of Unfortunate Surnames

I was reading Shakespeare's "King John", and came across a rather strangely named character: Bigot. Immediately I wondered whether maybe bigotry was named after a Frenchman the way Chauvinism was!

Well, it's not. The French surname Bigot, while unfortunate, does not appear directly related to the term "bigot", which is thought to be related to either the Germanic "Bei Gott!" (by God) or "visigoth" (there is an attested case of "Bigoth" used for "Visigoth").

Monday, September 21, 2009

This could have been from The Onion....

....but it is from the Volokh Conspiracy, a respected law blog.

The headline says it all.

Founder of Jedi Religion Claims to be Victim of Religious Discrimination

(for those lacking all nerd cred, Jedi is the religion featured in Star Wars, now the fourth most common religion in the UK, if you believe their census - and they just might be taking the mickey)

A couple of links from MR

A couple of compelling links, offered without comment from MR today:

1) A New York Times op-ed listing the last words of people about to be executed.

A couple of samples:
Kick the tires and light the fire. I am going home.
I have come here today to die, not make speeches.
I wish I could die more than once to tell you how sorry I am.
I appreciate the hospitality that you guys have shown me and the respect, and the last meal was really good.

2) The dangers involved in killing all the pigs. (yes, they did this in Egypt in a brain-damaged effort to avoid swine flu)

Sunday, September 20, 2009