December 20, 2004
Reading Will's gripe below, I wonder: when are we going to stop caring whether people actually know things? When you have free access (or at least ad-supported access) to the entire store of human knowledge, doesn't how you use information matter more than whether you know it? Call me a poor-memory partisan, but I look forward to the day when acquiring knowledge is generally unnecessary, often inadvertent, and always strictly pleasurable.
Put another way, what's much cooler than knowing is: finding out. Or better yet, it's the difference between crescat scientia and crescat sententia.
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When suggesting, this weekend, that Professor Rosen's view of the blogosphere was imperfect, I neglected to point out that he linked to GW Law Students at Life, Law, Libido and Ambivalent Imbroglio. I have no idea why-- after receiving a mention in the New York Times Magazine!-- they care about being mentioned on this humble chunk of cyberspace, but apparently, they do.
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Armen, guest-blogging at De Novo, basically suggests that Law Schools would do well to shrug off the shackles of meritocracy.
1: There is much to be said for giving the Law Schools the ability to pick among some range of criteria about what they think represents legal merit. (If Constitutional rules hobble government-lackeys in this fight, maybe we should abandon government support).
2: Why not have mandatory labelling requirements and abandon the law-school requirement for lawyers? Contrary to my libertarian instincts I see some justification for the bar exam (the judiciary is expensive and so only folks who know the rules should be permitted to spend the subsidy to waste our time), but none for any additional barriers to entry. If you can pass the test, why not let you earn a living?
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For once in her blog, Heidi Bond gets something almost perfectly right. There is no such thing as too much cheese.
[She goes astray only when suggesting, in an unforgivable moment of weakness, that her pasta:cheese ratio was too low.]
[Incidentally any readers with a knowledge of where to get good, great, or divine cheese in New Haven, especially at bargain prices, please, please tell me where.]
Oh, one other quibble: She suggests that she possesses more cheese than God, but my (admittedly adumbrated) understanding of God is that he possesses a "helluva lot" of cheese. Probably more than Heidi.
Heidi, still trying (in vain) to connive her way out of her place in the underworld, claims a defense of contemporaneous commentary. Alas, this is unavailing. My understanding (again, adumbrated) is that the omnipresent divine does not come only in powdered form and that therefore Heidi Bond is committing sacrilege.
Phoebe Maltz suggests that while there is no such thing as too much cheese, there is such a thing as too many cheeses. I suggest that her real complaint with the strange Bartlett orange substance is just that it is bad cheese. Bad cheese definitely exists.
Anthony Rickey, meanwhile, suggests that God is cheese.
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Heidi Bond bemoans the fact that she is forced to (gasp) reboot her computer to take an exam for law school. I couldn't care less about that myself but am very miffed at the strange regulations that YLS imposes on exams here--
What injustice, exactly, is prevented by keeping students with laptops from using "control-f" or (god forbid) hyperlinks on a non-curved pass/fail examination? And is there some due process violation in forbidding hyperlinked documents for the first time this late in the semester, with no warning? And will the combination of burden and pure self-enforcement do anything other than annoy the honorable students?
In response to the many readers who have asked for clarification:
You know the find-within-a-page function (which, on my machine, is accessed by using "control-f")? It is forbidden by the YLS-powers-that-be. Also, many students construct bajillion page outlines that sum up the whole course, and then let the student navigate the unwieldy file by use of internal hyperlinks (the equivalent of sticking pesky sticky tabs in a binder). This, also is forbidden. I am told by many students that this is the first semester this has been forbidden and that there was no warning of this change in policy until the email we received this week. Pity the students who have made outlines on the assumption that using their outline, on an open-book exam, to hop to and fro within a Word document didn't constitute an abuse of the mighty power of the laptop. My contracts class has prepared me to make a case of promissory reliance on this.
These rules are silly nonsense; I understand that there are procedures and bureaucracies to talk to, and I will be happy to do so, if I can only find out who they are?
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I recently a discovered a copy of The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell 1872-1914 on sale for fifty cents at the public library. There is a version that combines the whole of his autobiographical effort, but I was pleased to find and begin with this volume. On the whole, though, I found it wanting in several respects and quite disappointing. Perhaps this is due to having only part of the complete work, or perhaps it is a result of my general displeasure with the genre.
Some thoughts and notes.
(1) I had especially looked forward to Russell's discussion of the period in which he worked on Principia Mathematica. Although this discussion did not, in the end, amount to much, the detailing of his relationship with Whitehead turned out to be somewhat interesting.
(2) I have long been interested in the relationship between Russell and Wittgenstein (detailed nicely in Ray Monk's biography Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius). Unfortunately, this portion of The Autobiography contained only a brief mention of Wittgenstein in a letter to a third party. Russell wrote: "He is much the most apostolic and the ablest person I have come across since Moore."
(3) Russell devoted a good deal of space to other famous figures. He wrote with pleasure, for example, on Moore, Keynes, Cantor, and Conrad, all of whom he knew personally. As for intellectual influences, he thought Kant "ill" but held Mill in high esteem.
(4) Russell taught a course at Harvard in 1896. One of the students in this class was T.S. Eliot, who subsequently based his poem Mr. Appolinax on Russell and the experience. Somehow, despite long being a fan of both Russell and Eliot, this fact had managed to escape me.
(5) Finally, I found the most interesting part to be the detailing of his early thoughts on religion. Following his grandmother (he was mostly raised by his grandparents), Russell considered himself a Unitarian until the age of 15, at which time he began thinking rather seriously about religion and religious belief. Over the course of some years, his beliefs changed (e.g. he would declare at one point that he no longer believed in an afterlife) until eventually he considered himself an atheist. His summary of the events: "Throughout the long period of religious doubt, I had been rendered very unhappy by the gradual loss of belief, but when the process was completed, I found to my surprise that I was quite glad to be done with the whole subject."
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Painter/blogger Duane Keiser has managed to sell all but one of the post-card sized (post card-sized?) paintings on his nascent blog. He's been posting them one a day for a couple weeks now and selling them for $100 a pop... not a bad living, if it keeps up. When I first saw this last week, I worried $100 would be too steep, and it may still be (the demand could just be the result of bloggers bestowing a moment of celebrity). But either way wouldn't it make more sense to sell on eBay (after posting to the blog, of course)? Surely the market would support more than $100 per painting now, and later on if $100 is what they're worth to Mr Keiser, he can always set a reserve. I guess there's a lot of bad art being sold there, but the posting schedule and the blog association would be real differentiators.
A few months ago I flirted briefly with the idea of posting a haiku each day for a year, putting them on blank post cards, and mailing them to the highest bidder over $.37. It was a little too much of a stunt to actually go and do, especially since my haiku are pretty woeful. But it would've made a neat little experiment in viral marketing -- could have plotted pricing data against links, regressed out the quality ofthe poems, etc.
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I've made no secret of my love of cold climes-- though people sometimes shy away from me when I mention my love of 40-degree rainy days and it was tough to get friends to come over in high school when we could barely lift our Star Wars cards with our numb fingers in my freezing room.
On the bright side, though, I need no furry slippers to enjoy the freezing cold outside. One contradictory note: Zero and One are cool enough numbers (and together the building blocks of the base 2 numbering system &c. &c.) but really there's a lot to be said for 2-- that's where all the action begins. It's even! It's prime! Oh, what fun.
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Sonnet LXXXIII, Pablo Neruda
It's good, love, to feel you near in the night
invisible in your sleep, earnestly nocturnal,
while I untangle my worries
like confused nets.
Absent , your heart sails through dreams,
but your body— abandoned so— breathes on.
Seeking me without seeing me, completing my sleep
like a plant that doubles in the dark.
Arisen, tomorrow, you will live another life,
but from the lost frontiers of the night,
from being and not-being where we found ourselves
something lingers— drawing us together— in the light of life
as if the seal of darkness were marking
with flame its secret creatures.
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