Sunday, January 30, 2005

In memorium James Henry Berkey 1913-2005

His grandfather was a carpenter and German immigrant; his father ran a construction company; he spent most of his life working as a real estate developer: a nice path upward for a family through an industry.

He grew up on Long Island, where his father built much of Dwight Eisenhower's estate. Like many of my family, he came to Washington DC at the time the FDR was dramatically expanding the size of the federal government, and with it the prosperity of the metropolitan region. During the war, he was an officer, working on stateside base construction for the mid-Atlantic. It was then he met Marian Blake, who had come to DC from Seattle to help the Pentagon balance its books. She was one of five women on the transcontinental troop train that brought her to her new hometown. My grandparents knew each other for five days before they were married, and stayed together for over 60 years.

After the war my grandfather purchased plots of rural land in northern Virginia and had shopping malls built on them, malls that served the rapidly expanding DC suburbs. The business was quite lucrative, and the proceeds enabled him to travel extensively, including taking a cruise that circumnavigated the globe. He was an incredibly gregarious man, and was able to make long lasting friendships wherever he went. When I was growing up, it was not unusual for him to be hosting guests from Finland, or Hawaii. He was the hit of my wedding, charming the socks off everyone.

He is survived by his wife, daughter, two grandsons, and three great-grandchildren.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

repurposing and Iraq links

ok, what this is, is a personal blog that somehow got a real name attached to it. It is not, despite my initial intentions, a professional blog like Weatherson's. The new description "out of the closet as a human being" is meant to capture what it means to run a personal blog under your real name.

That said, my main audience is still Google spiders, and my main job should still be to raise the Page rank of things people should see.

First, they say political bloggers only link to the work of real journalists. That may be right, but it is also true that Seymour Hersh is the only member of the mainstream media doing any real investigative journalism anymore. Here is his recent talk at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue (via Majikthise ). Here is his article on the covert ops that have been going down in Iran without any outside oversight.

Snippets from the talk at the Free Synagogue.:

Iraq is being turn into a "free-fire zone" right in front of us. Hit everything, kill everything. I have a friend in the Air Force, a Colonel, who had the awful task of being an urban bombing planner, planning urban bombing, to make urban bombing be as unobtrusive as possible. I think it was three weeks ago today, three weeks ago Sunday after Fallujah I called him at home. I'm one of the people -- I don't call people at work. I call them at home, and he has one of those caller I.D.'s, and he picked up the phone and he said, "Welcome to Stalingrad." We know what we're doing. This is deliberate. It's being done. They're not telling us. They're not talking about it.


Every four-star General I know is saying, "Who is going to tell them we have no clothes?" Nobody is going to do it. Everybody is afraid to tell Rumsfeld anything

(Via Dr. B. and Majikthise)

When people talk about Vietnam, you get the impression that this kind of reporting was more commonplace. "It was the first war fought on TV" they say. Perhaps I just get too much of my news from the radio, but it doesn't seem to me like Americans are exposed often enough to pictures like this or these. (Via Dr. B. again)

And no one can talk about how war corrupts the soul anymore. New Kid points to these pictures, which are notable not only for their explicitness, but for the cruel commentary in the captions. (If the person who submitted the photos is playing by the rules of the site, the captions come either from the photographer or someone immediately acquainted with them.)

The elections are tomorrow. I hope they go well. I hope a government is elected with a shred of legitimacy. I hope they will ask us to leave and we will leave. Wouldn't it be nice.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Discussion questions

First, look at the Hasseloffian recursion. Really look at it. For a while. Now answer the following questions.

1. I showed the Hasseloffian recursion to my logic students while explain the concept of a recursive definition. Is this good pedagogy?

2. The president of my university just announced a policy which allows him to monitor all use of university computers for obscenity, indecency, or whatever he sees fit to worry about. Should I worry that the Hasseloffian recursion is a potential violation of the university’s acceptable use policy?

3. I am still snickering about the Hasseloffian recursion, 24 hours after I first saw it. Do I have the emotional maturity of a twelve year old?

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Not desireless

I should go to zazen soon. But I think I'm just going to go home and sleep the sleepy sleep of the sleepy. Mmm. Sleep.

Caroline was up at 4:30 this morning. Not sure where she is now. Or Molly for that matter. I should probably walk Dog when I get home. Dog has not wanted to go outside for very long since the cold snap hit, and neither have I, but we probably both should.

Really, though, I'm just going to go home and sleep the sleppy sleep of the sleepy.

Bioethics blog.

The editors of the American Journal of Bioethics have a blog, featuring recent posts by Glen McGee on IVF overseas and Art Caplan and stem cell policy. I like it, because it is a research-oriented blog, very professional, but still fairly snarky, at least in what I have read.

When I started blogging I imagined I would do mostly professional and political stuff, rather than so much personal stuff. I should probably head back to that since I am blogging under my own name. Prospective employers can see this blog--indeed that may be why I haven't gotten any callbacks from the APA.

Ok, from now on, more snarky bioethics content.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

my profgrrl imitation

Inspired by Playing School I'm blogging my to do list

Prep classes for rest of week [finally struck out on thursday afternoon]
Find better way to manage list of upcoming cfp's & deadlines (outlook?) Struck feb 1
Deal with everything in email box Struck Feb 1
Read bonobo articles, think about Lloyd and human evolution
Email Dennet reference to Emilie [added]

Rest of week
finish lloyd book
Start on job talk
Develop reading list for job talk
Set up Angel page for Symbolic class
Organize presentations for Science: QMR class.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Fetus repeatus



Molly didn't want to know the gender, but I'm planning on sneaking a peak at the file when the report comes in.

Current name ideas

David Hume

Elenora (Nora)
Nicola (Nico)

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Upsetting, difficult to parse,

The Venerable Tenzin Yignyen is constructing a Chenrezig sand mandala in the campus art gallery. The story is that the mandala is a manifestation of the compassion of the Buddha, and it is home to many gods, who are also manifestations of the compassion of the Buddha. The construction of the mandala is supposed to be a chance to meditate and cultivate your own spirit of compassion. I went down, because I wanted a chance to breathe deeply before going into the office to prepare for classes tomorrow.

The world is complicated and full of chance meetings, and scheduling has brought a rather odd collection of exhibits to the tiny, two-room gallery our campus houses. The bulk of the wall space is taken up by the work of a photojournalist named Tyler Hicks who has been working in Iraq and Afghanistan. The most prominent photograph is of a Taliban soldier found by a group of northern alliance fighters wounded in a ditch, pretending to be dead. The Alliance soldiers kicked him around, and he lost his pants. The order then came in to execute him. The photo shows three men with Kalashnikovs filling the wounded man with lead. For some reason, the photo has been printed on cloth and displayed like a scroll painting.

It would be easy enough to regard the photos as a chance to cultivate compassion, but there is more noise in the room. At the far end are huge blow-ups of cartoons by the Get Your War On guy. Clip art with angry obscenities. My current ethics textbook says that many who sheltered Jews during the holocaust were more motivated by anger at the Nazis than compassion for their victims. I do not know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. In the hall outside of the gallery are drawings of women’s fashion made with pink Sharpies in an exhibit called “permanent/temporary.”

The gallery is full of people I know who want to talk to me. I am given the chance to contribute to the mandala. It looks like a birthday cake, and I am given a tool that looks like the tubes used to spread frosting. My lines of sand are weak and tentative. I find the whole thing upsetting, and difficult to parse. I have to leave. It turns out I was there for two hours.

Friday, January 21, 2005

The academic buffet

So, all the coursepacks for everyone’s classes are in boxes in the mailroom. “Language and the Human Experience.” They all look so interesting. “Neanderthals.” The philosophy coursepacks must be elsewhere. “Body Politics: Power, Sex and Nonverbal Communication.” I want to take some of the coursepacks, but why? I won’t have time to read them. I can’t keep up with my own field. “The Sociology of Anarchism.” I get this way in libraries to. I want to read it all—an intellectual sluttiness that has made it impossible to specialize and has clearly inhibited my career.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

the pause that refreshes

I'm prepared for class tomorrow, but don't have enough time before quitting time to start a whole new project, so I'm going to speed post all the stray thoughts I've been wanting to put up here.

Animal Power

Spiderman can spin webs, like a spider. Wolverine has claws, like a little rodent. I would like to be able to sleep one hemisphere of my brain at a time, like a dolphin. Not sure how I'd use this power to fight crime, but I'd sure like to be able to do it.

Zazen for the Theraveda

I was doing a lot of deep breathing at meditation last week, when suddenly a noticed that I could hold my breath for bizarrely long periods of time without feeling any anxiety. It could be that I had just lost my sense of time, but it seems more likely that I had really really hyperoxygenated my blood and could sit without breathing.

I missed the longer Zen service last sunday, which is just as well, because it involved more chanting, and hence more statements which I would try to evaluate. Really, if I'm a buddhist at all, I'm theraveda, not zen, so I'm not sure I fit with the group I'm sitting with.

Tiny Caroline's Tiny Cognitive Development
She can relate her day now. I come home, and I ask her what she did today, and she says "I eata nuts." Since she is holding a bowl of nuts, I realize that this is probably a recent event. So I say "what else did you do today?"

"I eata eggs," and, indeed, there is a plate of old half eaten eggs on the dining room table.

Her concept of number seems stalled. On the ordinal front, she can sort of count, but she never gets the order of the numbers right, and can't really synch her words up with her pointing. On the cardinal front, she basically recognizes two kinds of collections. "One" is a single object. "Two" is any collection of more than one object, which can sometimes be quite a lot. As I recall from reading Gelman and Gallistel during my disseration research, this phase will last a while.

Important announcement

I am hereby declaring a moratorium on Stuff. I am most concerned with Stuff I Have to Deal With, but if there is any Stuff You Have To Deal With, consider it suspended as well, pending further notice.

Also, I would like people to Stop It.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Blogspot meltown?

I can't access any blogs with a address from work, but I can get to them from home. I can also add posts to this blog, because the editing windows all go through a address. The IT people say the problem is with blogspot, and the pages I am accessing at home are just in my computers cache.

If that is the case, then Molly will not be able to read this post at home.

Molly, can you read this post? Should I talk to IT again?

Should I assume the inability to access blogspot is a productivity enhancing measure from administration and get back to work?

Monday, January 03, 2005

the problem of evangelism

After I posted about my desire to shelter tiny Caroline from Christian messages, Molly showed me an atheist children's book. It assured its tiny audience that God was made up, just like unicorns and elves. While the book better reflected the current state of my thought on religion than the Christmas-time religious messages I previously said I wanted to protect Caroline from, I didn't want to bring the atheist book into my house either. In fact, the atheist children's book bothered me just as much as "God Made Food", a Christian children's book that came in a pile of handmedowns we got from someplace.

See, this is what really bothered me about Christmas. (I've already been snoped on something I said in my Christmas post, which really bums me out, because I was really hoping that Christmas caused suicides. I was even willing to wager that the festivals in other religions didn't cause suicide the way Christmas did, and that neither did Christmas as it is practiced outside of the USA. Now I will have to find other reasons to hate Christmas.) I'm not really bothered by the failings of christianity vis-a-vis my idealized vision of Buddhism. It's the evangelism.

I tell my students that when you enter a conversation with someone, you shouldn't expect the other person to change their minds any more drastically than you are willing to change your own mind. I'm not sure where I first head this rule (Habermas?) but it strikes me as both a basic piece of courtesy and a foundational principle of collective rationality. We need it both to live together decently and to form an effective knowledge-seeking community. Anyone who enters tries to convert you without themselves being open to conversion is, ironically, speaking in bad faith. My irrational aversion to public displays of Christianity comes only because in my own experience, Christian evangelism is more associated with this sort of bad faith than other religions.

This makes messages given to children especially sensitive. Children believe what they are told naturally and automatically. No adult could ever be as able to accept ideas as a child. I think you exploit a child by pumping her full of belief, of catechisms and creeds and the shibboleths that separate tribe from tribe. Better to impart the values and habits of careful belief formation, than any dogma.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

foreground makes the heat more soothing

The weather was balmy when we returned from the APA, and a tepid rain had washed away all the snow. Still, the major battle over the last few days has been with the cold.

Shortly after we got in the house on Friday and turned the heat back up, the furnace broke. I fussed with the things I knew how to fuss with, and then called the repair people. The repair people said that it would be Monday before they could even check on the availability of the parts we needed, and asked if we had an alternative source of heat.

"I guess we can buy space heaters," I said.

"Well, fortunately the weather is fairly balmy," they replied

So now we heat the first floor with one large Kerosene heater, and use small space heaters to warm up other rooms as needed. Our neighbor, lovely and kind Vicky Coffee, loaned us an electric space heater, and the stove does a good job warming the kitchen. Unfortunately the weather has not remained balmy. It got down to around 5 last night, and right now it is 21 F, with some freezing rain.

Having a single major radiant heat source for the whole house is actually quite cozy. You are aware of the changes in temperature as you move about the house. If you stick your hand in the air, you discover it is noticeably warmer near the ceiling. In some rooms, cold air billows about your ankles like dry ice fog. The fact that the temperature is always in the foreground makes the heat more soothing.

The kerosene heater came with a lot of conflicting instructions. The grandmotherly woman at the wise buys said to never use kerosene that has been in a can that has held any other kind of fuel. Wild Bill Locy, who gave us a gallon of kerosene on Friday when we discovered that no stores were open that sold kerosene, said twice that we should ignore this rule. The instructions printed on the heater itself make very Talmudic pronouncements on this bit of kashrut law. “Kerosene is to be kept only in blue cans. Kerosene that has been in red gasoline cans or yellow diesel cans is unclean.” When we were finally able to purchase kerosene, we were unable to secure a blue kerosene can, so we purchased a new yellow diesel can and wrote “Kerosene only: no other fuel has been in this can nor should go in this can” on it using indelible marker. Hopefully this will satisfy the petroleum rabbis.