Print Story Just another typical, consistent, and boring diary entry
By lm (Sat Jun 26, 2010 at 10:06:16 AM EST) (all tags)
I think David Brooks' column on the trend of the news media towards tabloidism over the last fifty years is the most insightful reflection on the news media that I've read in some time. The shift from what happened to the personal relationships among those that do things has quite a few far-reaching consequences. I'd say that this shift is almost as profound as the shift from seeing news as a public service to seeing news as a profit-center.

But that is entirely unrelated to the rest of this entry. Only blather about my week follows.

Last weekend, my wife's family was in town to celebrate her fortieth birthday. It was mostly fun. Her parents still can't get over the fact that I wear a collared shirt and a tie all the time, even on the weekend. Most amusing was early Sunday afternoon. Xanthippe went shopping with her father. My daughters went to the pool with their aunt and uncles. I spent some time just talking with my mother-in-law. In the middle of the chit-chat, the following exchange took place.

"You look very nice today."

'This is pretty much what I wear day to day.'

"You always wear a tie."

'You know how some women don't go out of the house without makeup? I don't go out of the house unless I'm properly dressed.'

"That tie is very nice. It looks kind of like... Oh my! It's skeletons!"

Yes, it's true. I was wearing a tie with a skull motif. It was something of a shock. But still not as much of a shock as seeing the guy that used to always look like something dragged off the street wearing a proper shirt and tie.

:: :: :: :: :: ::

In running life, I've converted pretty much out of necessity to running all barefoot all the time. My distances and my times are way down. I've managed at least one mile every day this past week and two miles on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Some of those miles are close to ten minute miles.

I've been making mild progress on the circuit training. I can usually do at least one full set of shoulder presses at the new weight. That means it's time to begin loading one additional plate on the machines.

Weight wise, I don't know where I'm at. I've not stepped on the scale at all this week.

:: :: :: :: ::

Susan Neiman's Evil in Modern Thought continues to impress me. I've just finished the section where she discusses Voltaire. It was interesting to me because her interpretation of Candide is similar to my own. That is to say, it's not a philosophical argument but a lampoon of how heavy handed Leibniz's optimism comes across when people are suffering. In her reading, the difference between the view that Voltaire is attacking and the view that he is pushing for amounts to compassion. In the former, someone who is sufferings asks "Why?" and is told "It's for your own good." In the latter, someone who is suffering asks "Why?" and is answered "I don't know, but that sucks." The latter doesn't argue that the suffering is not purposive, that suffering is not objectively for the betterment of the sufferer. But it takes a compassionate approach to those who suffer by patiently listening to their cries.

A very interesting point that Neiman brings out is that Voltaire's earlier work, Zadig, deals with many of the same things. Only, instead of a lampoon of optimism, it seems to be a paean to that very view. Whatever tragic events happen to Zadig, he ends up better off after they fully play out.

Neiman argues that the chief difference between Candide and Zadig is that with Candide, Voltaire intentionally tries to distinguish between reasons and causes. Her argument is that prior to modern times, the two were almost universally conflated. I suspect that this is likely a holdover from classical metaphysics. Most of the classical philosophers held that if a thing has a cause, it has an end to which it is being driven, a purpose. A good illustration of this is Proclus' On the Existence of Evils where he argues that evil is uncaused in that it is entirely accidental. His argument amounts to saying that evils may be "caused" in an equivocal sense of the word but they are never intended. In other words, he couldn't even conceive of something being caused without there being a reason for that things being caused. The ancient world is a rational one.

And, Voltaire, it would seem tries to explicitly break that down. There may be a natural order of sorts where everything has a cause. But that does not mean that the natural order is rational, that there is a reason that any given thing is caused.

:: :: :: ::

Friday, I took my French reading exam at CUA. The school of philosophy requires MA candidates to pass one of four language exams: German, Greek, French or Latin. Once a semester, they hold the exam in a single room for all languages. The exam generally lasts all day. In the morning there is a three hour session to translate a "classical" text. Then there is a two hour break and another three hour afternoon session to translate a contemporary text, usually a secondary source.

The morning session flew by quite quickly for me. A "classical" text in the mind of the school of philosophy for French is usually Descartes. I'd translated the whole piece before an hour was up, marking a half dozen problem spots to revisit if I had time. I went back and fixed those. Then I proof read my entire translation. Barely an hour and a half had passed and I was done. So I turned my work in and left to browse through the library.

Unbeknownst to me, the German exam was about a quarter to a third longer than any of the previous German exams. Not a single person taking the German exam finished before the clock ran out. Not knowing that I wasn't working on German, they all felt their heart sink when I got up to leave at the half-way point and they hadn't even finished the first paragraph. After I returned from the library and the rest of the test-takers were dismissed for lunch, some of chatted about which languages we were taking the test for and those taking the German exam were quite relieved to hear that I hadn't blitzed through a text they couldn't finish in half the time that it took them to not finish.

The afternoon exam was more difficult for me and had at least one sentence that I think I got completely wrong (and a few that I'm not sure that I got right). Nevertheless, I was still finished before two hours ran out. I ought to have taken the leisure to work out the bits I was uncomfortable but on the one hand, my adrenaline rush was wearing off and I was starting to crash and on the other, I had to fart really badly and didn't want to make the annals of history of the school of philosophy as the guy that was loudly farting through the last hour of the exam.

And now all that's left is the waiting. Sometime over the course of the next month, I'll get a letter telling me whether I've pass or not. If I pass, I'll then be eligible to take oral comprehensives. I've already completed enough coursework so after the oral exam, all that's left is writing my thesis. Presuming of course, that I passed the reading exam and that I manage to pass my oral comps.

:: :: ::

An old friend of mine linked to an intriguing article on the generalized differences between men and women.

When chimps go to war

The behavior of Lady GaGa's persona analyzed in terms of Sartre and Beauvoir.

If Wilbur won't go to the slaughterhouse, bring the slaughterhouse to Wilbur.

In the US Congress, the current score is Apple: 86, RIM: 9,140.

Republicans do their best to keep Democratic senator Harry Reid in office.

Junk food tastes better to children when packaged with cartoon-decorated packages. The margin is slim but buried deep within the article is this astonishing factoid: Ninety percent of the children recognized Dora the Explorer, 77 percent recognized Scooby Doo. Yes, it's true. Dora the explorer is more popular than Scooby Doo.

NPR explains why Making bombs is hard. I've been saying that for a long time.

Wiki-How explains What it means to be offsides in football soccer. Oddly, I played soccer in elementary school but never paid close enough attention to the rules to know what offsides meant.

:: ::

As part of the weekend-long festivities to celebrate my wife's fortieth birthday, we ducked into the local Apple store where she wanted to buy on of the latest generation iPods. While there I played around with the iPad a bit. Complaints about its keyboard, I think, are a bit overblown. It's certainly not the best thing since sliced bread but it's serviceable and does some pretty clever things.

The thing that mystifies me is that the iPad version of Pages doesn't do footnotes or endnotes at all. Import a document with footnotes, they get stripped right on out. So I looked around for an alternative word processor and came across Byte<super>2</super>'s Doc<super>2</super>. Upon examination, it didn't have footnote or endnote capacity either. So I sent in a feature request before I left for work. By the time I arrived at work and checked my email, I had this reply sitting in my in-box, We will be adding these in the future but unfortunately I cannot give you timescales for them yet.

Another possibility is looking to something like LaTeX Lab. The past two semesters, I did my term papers in Microsoft Word rather than LaTeX like I did my first year. Some things are easier that way. Some things are more difficult. More often than not, I was shocked by how little progress has been made in the world of word processing since the last time I used anything other than LaTeX and a text editor for serious writing.  But even with using an iPad entirely as a front end for laTeX, managing documents on the iPad is effectively at the level of managing documents on Palm Pilot fifteen years ago. I'd have expected a bit of progress in that arena.

On the other hand, the form factor of the iPad is pretty sweet and the speed at which it does what it does is far beyond what I expected.

All in all, though, at this point I'm leaning towards a Netbook rather than iPad. But we'll see what happens.

As an aside, next semester I will probably return to LaTeX anyway. The only two advantages I find in Microsoft Word are the citation manager and that the word count doesn't include footnotes. But the former needs a lot of work before it does everything that it ought to do. So that leaves making it easier to count the number of words in a document's body proper as the sole advantage that Word holds for me. That's not much. (To be fair, Word holds other advantages in other contexts. For example, I do like its revision tracking when passing around a document among multiple people.) If I figured out how to properly do the typefaces, Word is probably also superior for using other languages such as classical Greek. LaTeX's math mode has all the characters and diacritics but either I'm just ignorant on using Greek typefaces while not in math mode or LaTeX doesn't properly support the non-Latin alphabets I need. Not to mention, even with Latin alphabets, some of the diacritical marks are pains in the keister in LaTeX.


At work one of my cow-orkers came back from vacation. He'd left prior to my shave and a haircut business and returned afterwards. He made a small comment on it to which one of my other cow-orkers replied, "yeah, I don't know what we're going to do now that we no longer have a Help Desk Jesus."

The Jesus comparison, I can understand. Unkempt, longish hair and an unkempt beard makes one look like either Jesus or a Unix system administrator. But some folks, like my wife and eldest daughter insist that with the unkempt hair and facial hair that I was a dead ringer for Leonardo DiCaprio. I'm not quite certain where that comes from.

< on wrists | A wrapup of my Saturday. >
Just another typical, consistent, and boring diary entry | 9 comments (9 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Word, citations by ni (2.00 / 0) #1 Sat Jun 26, 2010 at 02:33:43 PM EST
The word citation manager is fucking awful. I find it only barely better than just doing it by hand. It really seems like they just hacked it together and threw it on at some point -- the interface doesn't even respond in the same way as the rest of the application does.

If you don't know about it, look into BibTeX.

"These days it seems like sometimes dreams of Italian hyper-gonadism are all a man's got to keep him going." -- CRwM

I've looked at BibTeX before by lm (2.00 / 0) #3 Sat Jun 26, 2010 at 09:35:45 PM EST
Looks like a lot of work and I'm lazy, albeit insufficiently lazy.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
i work at a large law firm by nathan (2.00 / 0) #2 Sat Jun 26, 2010 at 04:49:34 PM EST
And so far, I've worn a tie three times since May 15th. Partners frequently wear polos (to be fair, those are usually transactional partners.)

That's party of the reason by lm (2.00 / 0) #4 Sat Jun 26, 2010 at 09:36:43 PM EST
I'd probably fit in better walking around dressed like a punk rocker than I do wearing a collar and a tie.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
collar tie aren't unheard of by any means by nathan (2.00 / 0) #5 Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 12:01:02 AM EST
There are several SA's who wear suits every day. One of them is kind of a hipster and he wears these skinny suits with skinny ties that would look silly except that he himself is skinny. He also apparently played in the studio with Bad Religion a few times.

Obama-style jacket w/o tie is also pretty popular.

[ Parent ]
he has to be the worst-dressed president by gzt (4.00 / 1) #6 Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 04:12:52 PM EST
by far. and, just so you don't get any wrong ideas, kennedy did in fact wear formal morning attire with a top hat at his inauguration, despite popular thought to the contrary. quite sharp, better than homburg-toting eisenhower.

[ Parent ]
this topic interests me, +1 by nathan (2.00 / 0) #7 Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 04:16:23 PM EST
How can I find out what each President wore to his inauguration? Is this information readily available on a website, for instance?

[ Parent ]
hmm by gzt (4.00 / 1) #8 Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 04:33:05 PM EST
good question. in the 20th century, formal morning attire with a top hat until kennedy, with the exception of eisenhower who wore a homburg. johnson, formal morning attire with no hat. nixon's first was formal morning attire with no hat, second was some weird combo. carter was the first to wear a suit. reagan wore a stroller to his first inauguration, suit to second. suits afterwards. and then i found this:

[ Parent ]
you are a gentleman, and a scholar, and probably by nathan (2.00 / 0) #9 Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 04:37:09 PM EST
A number of other fine things too. TY

[ Parent ]
Just another typical, consistent, and boring diary entry | 9 comments (9 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback