Thursday, December 30, 2010

Argerich - Rach 3

I just a found a webbed video of Argerich performing the Rach 3 with Chailly -- I assume the famous one of which we have the recording.

Chailly can barely keep up. At times, one is proud just to be a member of the human race.

The video's in five parts.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Works Cited

This God embodied a single idea (he had no other wishes or concerns): he forbade extramarital sex. He was therefore a rather comical God, but let's not laugh at Alice for that. Of the Ten Commandments Moses gave to the people, fully nine didn't endanger her soul at all; she didn't feel like killing or not honoring her father, or coveting her neighbor's wife; only one commandment she felt to be not self-evident and therefore posed a genuine challenge: the famous seventh, which forbids fornication. In order to practice, show, and prove her religious faith, she had to devote her entire attention to this single commandment. And so out of a vague, diffuse, and abstract God, she created a God who was specific, comprehensible, and concrete: God Antifornicator.

Milan Kundera, Eduard and God

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Works Cited

This is not so difficult to understand. Those who had fought for what they called the revolution maintained a great pride: the pride of being on the correct side of the front lines. Ten or twelve years later (around the time of our story) the front lines began to melt away, and with them the correct side. No wonder the former supporters of the revolution feel cheated and are quick to seek substitute fronts; thanks to religion they can (in their role as atheists struggling against believers) stand again on the correct side and retain their habitual and precious sense of their own superiority.

But to tell the truth, the substitute front was also useful to others, and it will perhaps not be too premature to disclose that Alice was one of them. Just as the directress wanted to be on the correct side, Alice wanted to be on the opposite side. During the revolution they had nationalized her papa's shop, and Alice hated those who had done this to him. But how should she show her hatred? Perhaps by taking a knife and avenging her father? But this sort of thing is not the custom in Bohemia. Alice had a better means for expressing her opposition: she began to believe in God.

Milan Kundera, Eduard and God

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gift Horses

CARLOS: You know what we say in Spanish?

SCOTT:
What?

CARLOS: A caballo regalado no se le miran los dientes.

SCOTT:
How do they say it in Spanish... slower?

CARLOS (slower):
A caballo regalado no se le miran los dientes.

SCOTT:
Ah. We have the exact same saying in English.

And as well we should! It comes, my friends, from St. Jerome, famous translator of the Bible into the Latin Vulgate. Jerome gave away his extensive writings free of charge, and thus, to a critic, threw back this pithy rejoinder.* From this beginning, it now occurs in over a dozen languages, suitably calqued.

Although I never thought about what the hell it means until today. For those who don't know, the idea is if the horse is a gift, you shouldn't inspect its teeth (which would give you some idea of the age and health of the animal).


Czech:
darovanému koni na zuby nekoukej, darovanému koni na zuby nehleď

Dutch: een gegeven paard niet in de bek kijken, Men moet een gegeven paard niet in de bek kijken

Finnish: lahjahevosen suuhun ei saa katsoa

French: à cheval donné, on ne regarde pas la bouche

German: Einem geschenkten Gaul schaut man nicht ins Maul

Hungarian: ajándék lónak ne nézd a fogát

Icelandic: ekki vera vanþakklátur

Italian: a caval donato non si guarda in bocca

Polish: darowanemu koniowi nie zagląda się w zęby

Portuguese:
a cavalo dado não se olha os dentes

Russian: дарёному коню в зубы не смотрят

Slovak: darovanému koňovi sa na zuby nepozeraj

Spanish: a caballo regalado no se le miran los dientes

Swedish: skåda inte en given häst i munnen

*Which is not to say Jerome originated the phrase. It may well have enjoyed wide currency at the time -- or not. It's simply the earliest instance.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holiday Parties are Fun

PARTNER: I was telling Scott about this. People in my family have a tendency towards obsessive behavior. A cousin of mine says that every time she buys something, she feels like she's had sex. It's that good.

SCOTT: That's funny. Every time I have sex, I feel like I've bought something. Of course, I usually have.

PARTNER: You should write that down.

SCOTT: All right.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Works Cited

Although the palace at Gatchina had nine hundred rooms, Nicholas and his brothers and sisters were brought up in spartan simplicity. Every morning, [Tsar] Alexander III arose at seven, washed in cold water, dressed in peasant's clothes, made himself a pot of coffee and sat down at his desk. Later when Marie was up, she joined him for a breakfast of rye bread and boiled eggs. The children slept on simple army cots with hard pillows, took cold baths in the morning and ate porridge for breakfast. At lunch when they joined their parents, there was plenty of food, but as they were served last after all the guests and still had to leave the table when their father rose, they often went hungry. Ravenous, Nicholas once attacked the hollow gold cross filled with beeswax which he had been given at baptism; embedded in the wax was a tiny fragment of the True Cross. "Nicky was so hungry that he opened his cross and ate the contents--relic and all," recalled his sister Olga. "Later he felt ashamed of himself but admitted that it had tasted 'immorally good.'"


Robert K. Massie, Nicholas and Alexandra

Does the Universe Have a Purpose?

The aforementioned Craig - Dawkins debate has been webbed. The debate actually includes at least 6 people, three theists and three atheists. It's also held, honest injun, in a boxing ring!

The topic was "Whether or Not the Universe Has a Purpose" but this instantaneously becomes a debate on the existence of God, as the theists assert the universe only has a purpose if God exists and the atheists apparently accept the premise. But the questions are distinct -- or at least, there's a colorable argument they are. No one attempts to color it in.

At any rate, it turns into a fairly useless exchange, with Craig inserting the only interesting bit of philosophic rigor in his opening statement. Debaters are given less and less time for rebuttal as the affair proceeds, so it all eventually devolves into one-liners, and not particularly good ones.

Here's an interesting review.

On the religious topic, I continue my push through the New Standard Bible and the Oxford Bible Commentary. It's slow going -- a month and I've just reached Deuteronomy -- but historically fascinating.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Bilingual Pedantry

I now know more Spanish than Spanish speakers. Still can't speak the damn thing.


3:37:59 PM: Sanchez de la Garza/NATL/TAX/EYLLP/US:
hey Scott

3:38:08 PM: Scheule/NATL/TAX/EYLLP/US:
Hola.

3:38:19 PM: Sanchez de la Garza/NATL/TAX/EYLLP/US:
hablas español_

3:38:20 PM: Sanchez de la Garza/NATL/TAX/EYLLP/US:
?

3:38:58 PM: Scheule/NATL/TAX/EYLLP/US:
Un poco. Por ejemplo, yo sè que tu apellido significa "heron", un tipo de pàjaro.

3:39:10 PM: Sanchez de la Garza/NATL/TAX/EYLLP/US:
ahh "Garza"?

3:39:12 PM: Scheule/NATL/TAX/EYLLP/US:
Pienso.

3:39:12 PM: Sanchez de la Garza/NATL/TAX/EYLLP/US:
hehe

3:39:13 PM: Sanchez de la Garza/NATL/TAX/EYLLP/US:
si

3:39:19 PM: Scheule/NATL/TAX/EYLLP/US:
Sì.

3:39:25 PM: Sanchez de la Garza/NATL/TAX/EYLLP/US:
I dont think Sanchez has a meaning though

3:40:20 PM: Scheule/NATL/TAX/EYLLP/US:
Hmm, no sè. Creo que el "ez" originalmente significò "el hijo de", como "el hijo de Sancho". Pero no estoy seguro.

[PS. Tengo razòn.]

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Works Cited

(Chs. 11-15) [of Leviticus] form an important section on ritual purity and pollution. An explanation now almost universally rejected is that the various laws in this section have hygiene as their basis. Although some of the laws of ritual purity roughly correspond to modern ideas of physical cleanliness, many of them have little to do with hygiene. For example, there is no evidence that the "unclean" animals are intrinsically bad to eat or to be avoided in a Mediterranean climate, as is sometimes asserted.

The Oxford Bible Commentary

Friday, November 19, 2010

Google "viola jokes" for an example of what musicians find funny

My friend Diana messages me that a friend of hers (who I don't think I've met) was on a plane last week and bizarrely, improbably, began to talk to the person next to her about Ernst and Young, and the stranger, a female violinist, ventured forth my name, saying she went to high school with me in a small town. Pequeño mundo, claro, but the mystery is: I can't think of a violinist I went to high school with -- though I did spend most of high school writing bad poetry and bemoaning the unfairness of life; es decir, I wasn't exactly social.

I did go to school with a violist, but I haven't talked to her in half a decade, long before I joined E&Y.

I think the best way to solve this mystery is taking into account that English isn't Diana's first language, so when she said "my friend met someone who knew you in highschool who plays the violin" what she meant was "my uncle saw someone who went to boarding school with Anne Heche last night on Glee who plays the kettle drums." Now that's a puzzle we all can solve.

Incidentally, I'll be in Jersey for the weekend. Be back Sunday.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Craig - Dawkins

Richard Dawkins, after persistently belittling the accomplished philosopher as unworthy of debate, will finally be appearing with William Lane Craig.

By Craig's report, Dawkins is typically petulant:

I am currently in Mexico to participate in a conference called Ciudad de las Ideas, which is a conference modeled on the TED conference in the US. It features lots of high tech people, sociologists, psychologists, economists, scientists, etc.

As part of the conference they´re having a panel of six of us debate on the question ¨Does the Universe Have a Purpose?¨ Well. to my surprise, I just found out that one of the three persons on the other side is Richard Dawkins! It´s true! I met him the other night. When he came my way, I stuck out my hand and introduced myself and said, Ï´m surprised to see that you´re on the panel.

He replied, Änd why not?

I said, ¨Well, you´ve always refused to debate me.

His tone suddenly became icy cold. Ï don´t consider this to be a debate with you. The Mexicans invited me to participate, and I accepted.¨ At that, he turned away.

¨Well, I hope we have a good discussion,¨ I said.

Ï very much doubt it,¨ he said and walked off.

So it was a pretty chilly reception! The debate is Saturday morning, should you think of us. I´ll give an update after I get back.


The umlauts are original. As Craig is fluent in German, I presume he's using some sort of international keyboard layout.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

In Defense of Prescriptivism

This defense by Noam Chomsky of linguistic prescriptivism is actually similar to my view on many fields beyond grammar, such as theology, art, morality, legality. None of the propositions in these fields have any truth value, just as no one linguistic rule is proper, but it is a worthwhile thing, nonetheless, to know the rules. "[T]hey are part of a repository of a very rich cultural heritage."

Q. In College English in 1967, you wrote that “a concern for the literary standard language—prescriptivism in its more sensible manifestations—is as legitimate as an interest in colloquial speech.” Do you still believe that a sensible prescriptivism is preferable to linguistic permissiveness? If so, how would you define a sensible prescriptivism?

A. I think sensible prescriptivism ought to be part of any education. I would certainly think that students ought to know the standard literary language with all its conventions, its absurdities, its artificial conventions, and so on because that’s a real cultural system, and an important cultural system. They should certainly know it and be inside it and be able to use it freely. I don’t think people should give them any illusions about what it is. It’s not better, or more sensible. Much of it is a violation of natural law. In fact, a good deal of what’s taught is taught because it’s wrong. You don’t have to teach people their native language because it grows in their minds, but if you want people to say, “He and I were here” and not “Him and me were here,” then you have to teach them because it’s probably wrong. The nature of English probably is the other way, “Him and me were here,” because the so-called nominative form is typically used only as the subject of the tense sentence; grammarians who misunderstood this fact then assumed that it ought to be, “He and I were here,” but they’re wrong. It should be “Him and me were here,” by that rule. So they teach it because it’s not natural. Or if you want to teach the so-called proper use of shall and will—and I think it’s totally wild—you have to teach it because it doesn’t make any sense. On the other hand, if you want to teach people how to make passives you just confuse them because they already know, because they already follow these rules. So a good deal of what’s taught in the standard language is just a history of artificialities, and they have to be taught because they’re artificial. But that doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t know them. They should know them because they’re part of the cultural community in which they play a role and in which they are part of a repository of a very rich cultural heritage. So, of course, you’ve got to know them.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Herbert

Hanah: Charlie has learned that really annoying technique where I ask him to take one bite of his food, so he picks up a nearly invisible molecule of food and eats it.


Scott: Time to put him up for adoption.


Hanah: Fortunately, he's being extra-cute at the same time.


Scott:
Very clever of him.


Hanah: Yes, it's all part of his plan to take over the world.


Scott:
He's the Kwisatz Haderach!


Hanah:
the what?


Scott:
I can't believe you thought you could bring forth the Kwisatz Haderach before his time!


Hanah:
ok...


Scott:
Ah. Apropos of nothing, you should read Dune.


Hanah:
I did once, but I didn't understand it.


Scott:
It's Dune, not Finnegan's Wake.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Works Cited

This is the one and only passage in the New Testament in which Jesus is called a carpenter. The word used, TEKTŌN, is typically applied in other Greek texts to anyone who makes things with his hands; in later Christian writings, for example, Jesus is said to have made "yokes and gates." ... How could someone with that background be the Son of God?

This was a question that the pagan opponents of Christianity took quite seriously; in fact, they understood the question to be rhetorical. Jesus obviously could not be a son of God if he was a mere TEKTŌN. The pagan critic Celsus particularly mocked Christians on this point, tying the claim that Jesus was a "woodworker" into the fact that he was crucified (on a stake of wood) and the Christian belief in the "tree of life."

And everywhere they speak in their writings of the tree of life... I imagine because their master was nailed to a cross and was a carpenter by trade. So that if he happened to be thrown off a cliff or pushed into a pit or suffocated by strangling, or if he had been a cobbler or stonemason or blacksmith, there would have been a cliff of life above the heavens, or a pit of resurrection, or a rope of immortality, or a blessed stone, or an iron of love, or a holy hide of leather.


Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus

Sunday, November 07, 2010

On Flashcards

I happened upon a post arguing against the usefulness of flashcards for language learners. I thought it was wrong, or at least the arguments advanced for the conclusion were wrong: my actual opinion is all this anecdotal evidence is junk.

Nonetheless, you can read the author's original argument here, where he argues flashcards are useless as they 1. create a particularly slow set of associations in the learner's brain inappropriate for actual language use and 2. wrongly reinforce the notion that there is a one to one correspondence between words in different languages. My original comment follows.

Both counts are wrong.

1. The Slowness of the Association

I'm not sure how other people experience it, but when I learn a language it's only at first that my brain goes through the long slog of conjugation charts, etc. For example, let's say a flashcard contains the word "dūcet."

Now when I'm first learning the word, I'll think:

1. dūcere means to lead
2. third conjugation, so the -e infix represents the future tense.
3. -t ending gives third person singular.
4. Now (in my head) I reach the English phrase "he will lead."
5. (then my brain will very quickly decode what is meant by "he will lead" in English. Since I grew up speaking English, this is fast enough to be automatic. I may see a mental picture of a man leading, or just have a wordless sense of what it means.)

This is a slow process. But as the flashcard comes up again and again, the different steps get elided over. Each step becomes as automatic as the last one, the one where an English sentence is decoded. Until, within a short amount of time, when I see dūcet, I simply understand it means (he will lead). Or when I see a -t ending in general I think third person. And really this is all we do when we learn languages--we gather information, learn the patterns from that information and apply them.

Really I don't see how this is any different than any other method of learning vocabulary. When I was a child my parents would point to my ears and ask what they were. At first I would have to think about it, just as I had to think about dūcet, but eventually the association became fast enough to be automatic. And now I just think "ears." If I'm in the middle of a Spanish sentence, I think "orejas." Associations between concepts and words have to be formed--it's simply a question of the best way.

The benefit to flashcards, especially the Anki program, is this process is very quick, not to mention the added benefit of it scheduling easy words rarely and hard words often. I don't need to go find my parents and have them point at my body parts. I just click a button, and it takes half a second.

Moreover, I can create a massive amount of flash cards and learn a massive amount of vocabulary in a single day with Anki--something that would be much slower if I had to learn through some alternative way--looking at pictures, or reading Wikipedia articles on the topic, etc. I can't conceive of a faster way.

II. You'll Believe in Word to Word Associations.

Well, yeah, if you believe the cards represent that, then you'll come to believe that one word is a perfect substitute for another. But why would you believe that in the first place, since it's, as you point out, so patently false?

Let's go back to dūcere. On the back side of the card, it says "to lead." Does that mean that I believe "to lead" and "dūcere" are exact translations? Of course not. I realize that the words mean roughly the same thing, but that of course the overlap is not perfect. Perhaps dūcere means several things (it does)--in which case, I simply add other translations to the back of the card. Or perhaps it means one thing in one context, and one thing in another? In that case one card can be "dūcere [referring to time]" and "dūcere [referring to people]."

Again, the only reason that a belief in a one to one correspondence between the term and its translation would get reinforced is if you already believed that in the first place. If instead you're intelligent enough to realize all translations are necessarily somewhat inaccurate (See Quine), then there's no problem. I know that the answers are just rough translations (though I can make them very specific if I like).

Plus you're somewhat caricaturing the flashcard system with the example of three as "три" or "трёх". That's not a problem: it's easy enough to write "three (gen)."

Now the answer is only трёх. The reverse card would be трёх with the answer "three (gen, acc an, prep)" [genitive, accusative animate, prepositional]. You can make your flashcards as precise as you like. One of my Latin cards, for example, reads "large sea [animal], anything ranging from a shark to a whale". Cēta, ae, f.

It's true that this definition will be missing something. But so will any association [got] through any method! If you only learn your words by, e.g., reading articles about that topic, then you will have learned the meaning of the word in that context--but you don't know every context in which the word will show up, either, and so the association you've formed is partial as well.

Dictionaries, however, are specifically designed to collect the meanings of words (in all their contexts). Thus, paired with flashcards, they serve as very direct ways of learning the usage of words, as opposed to other systems not specifically designed to capture and teach the meaning of word. I could, to the contrary, listen to a word in several sentences and take a guess at what it means--but it's much easier to just open a dictionary or ask an English speaker.

In short, flashcards are a great way to learn. They are not sufficient to master a language--if you want to be better at writing, you'll have to practice writing, if you want to be a better speaker, you'll have to practice speaking--but are a very useful tool.


The author replies in the same post linked to above.

Update: I went back to the original post to respond to the criticism of my original comment, but it appears that comment has been deleted (though it still shows up on a Google search). I don't know why, but I suppose it means I was right about something.

My comments at the site in question are now being altered by the site author. For the record, the other comment I left read, before being edited:

It is, of course, your blog, and you're welcome to enforce whatever policy you like, but I think it's a shame that debate on such an interesting and important language issue was shut down.

I've also preserved my comment (I only made one) on my own blog: http://scheule.blogspot.com/2010/11/on-flashcards.html

Readers are welcome to judge for themselves whether the comment was useful or merely argumentative.

Dvořák Symphonies

I have a collection of the complete Dvořák symphonies, which I usually listen to in order from the beginning. They say the early symphonies are rubbish, but I was still excited to listen to them the first time: they say the same thing about Tchaikovsky's, but of these even the first three are fun works. But Dvořák's really aren't--they're dull affairs, completely missing the evident genius of the latter works.

So now, when I listen straight through, I try to pick out the point where the symphonies go from bad to good. With Tchaikovsky, this is ridiculously easy. The leap in quality between the third and fourth symphonies is plain as day*: fun work gives way to masterpiece. It's even easier with Beethoven or Mahler or Brahms, who didn't write bad symphonies. Mozart did, but that's because he wrote his first one two months before being born.

With Antonin, the matter's fuzzier, but I peg the third movement of the fourth as the first showing something engaging and interesting, and by the first movement of the fifth, we've definitely reached quality.

*We're taught to avoid clichés, but what alternative sounds better than this? "Crystal clear" or "night and day" would be equally bad; "very clear" gives the same meaning, but there's also an admonition against the use of "very" -- and "plain as day" at least has an earthy feel to it that the Latinate "very" lacks, the latter always giving a sense of desperation ("I mean really really clear, here!") -- and "pellucid" would be pretentious, as would working in any foreign language synonym, whereas non-stressed alternatives: "clear," "evident," "obvious" lack the punch needed. "Is as clear as the composer was gay" is rather gangly.

Works Cited

This kind of continuous writing is called scriptuo continua, and it obviously could make it difficult at times to read, let alone understand a text. ... what would it mean to say lastnightatdinnerisawabundanceonthetable? Was this a normal or a supernormal event?


Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus

Friday, November 05, 2010

La bitácora

I found this thread delightful. It begins with someone in 2004 asking for the Spanish translation of blogger. The term was fairly new at the time, so it remained to be seem how Spanish would absorb it. As the posts become more recent, you can watch the term "bloguero" arise and begin to prevail over bloguista and bloguer. Presumably the endgame here will be when the RAE accepts the word.

It's charming how words bubble up to the Real Academy and finally acquire official sanction. The rudderless English vocabulary is charming too.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

About Four Minutes

11:25:23 AM: Denen: I'm writing my fact pattern for my class and I need a name for my fake cosmetics company - any ideas?

11:29:11 AM: Scott: Moulin Rouge.

11:29:20 AM: Denen: nice!

11:29:22 AM: Denen: I like it!

11:29:26 AM: Scott: Run with it!

______________________

Hanah: Is it possible to eat Chipotle too many days in a row?

Scott:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtZzyvuGy8E

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

El blues del dìa de elecciones

Hanah: You could vote for people who will repeal it.

Scott: Pudiera, pero no importa. ¡Tengo solamente un voto! ¡La diferencia entre el ganador y el perdedor serà mucho màs que un voto!

Hanah:
It doesn't matter.

Scott: ¡Exactamente!

Hanah:
No, it doesn't matter that your vote is unlikely to make a difference. You should vote anyway.

Scott:
¿Por què?

Hanah: Because you can.

Scott: Tambièn puedo poner frijoles en la nariz.

Hanah: Go for it.

Scott:
Ay, no tengo frijoles.

Hanah: I'll mail you some.

Scott:
Muchas gracias. El año que viene, pondrè frijoles en la nariz y votar.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Etiquette

LOREN: Ist Freitag!

SCOTT: Ist Freitag. Danke... erm... Gott ... ist Freitag?

LOREN: Gott sei Dank. Germans say it all the time, for everything.

SCOTT:
What is it again?

LOREN: Gott sei Dank.

SCOTT:
Is that Mao sei Dank's brother?

LOREN: Hyuck, hyuck. No, it's a form of "sein."

SCOTT:
What is it? Subjunctive?

LOREN: No, it's the imperative.

[Ten minutes later]

SCOTT:
The Internet says it's the subjunctive.

LOREN: Oh?

SCOTT: But I only looked for websites that would prove me right, so don't put too much store in that.*

_____________

LEIGH ANN: Scott, settle a debate for us.

SCOTT: Christ, what did I walk into?

LEIGH ANN:
So, if you finish your meal, and you go up to the buffet to get more, do you call that "a second helping"?

SCOTT:
No. I would call that... "seconds". When I visualize helping, it's more like, somebody's giving out mashed potatoes, and they plop a scoop on my plate. If I ask for a second helping, I expect another scoop.

LOREN:
So it's limited to one occurrence.

SCOTT: No, it's limited to one food, and not replenishing an entirely empty plate.

LEIGH ANN:
Well, what about with casseroles?

SCOTT: As, I'm sure you know... as with most situations involving casseroles, all bets are off.

* Compare the English phrase "God bless the Queen." This is the subjunctive. The phrase is a fossil of a time with a more robust use of the English subjunctive. Today we'd probably render it as "May God bless the Queen". Compare this to the indicative form, which would be "God blesses the Queen". The subjunctive implies a wish or uncertainty, while the indicative gives us fact.

Note that the verb in the subjunctive -- bless -- is identical to the imperative form -- e.g., Steve! Bless that donkey! -- and the bare infinitive -- e.g., He helped Steve bless the donkey. Because of this, and because the subjunctive is less common nowadays, some are tempted to reanalyze phrases with it as imperatives, i.e., "Hey you, God! Bless the Queen!" But now you and I know it's not a command at all, and it's a good thing, because you really should not be giving the Almighty orders.

We have something similar with the German phrase Gott sei Dank. "sei" is indeed the second person singular (informal) imperative, but (as in English) it is also the third (and first) person singular subjunctive (I). But, even without getting into the cases of the nouns (which I know little about), you can see that the only real option is the third person singular subjunctive, which would translate as "Thanks be to God." The others -- second person imperative: "Hey you! Be thanks to God! Be God to thanks!" and first person singular subjunctive "I be thanks to God! I be God to thanks!" -- just don't work. See also the Spanish que Dios te bendiga, or the Latin sit dīs grātia or dī tē ament, examples of subjunctive all.

By the way, despite Somerset Maugham's famous quip, the subjunctive remains alive and well. I throw it into our publications whenever I can, and so be it forever.

I look forward to Sasha's prompt corrections of this post.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Debate on the Resurrection

I generally very much enjoy Bart Ehrman. I first encountered him on a few Teaching Company courses on the New Testament, knowing nothing about who he was. Later I learned he was a minor celebrity in the field.

Nonetheless, I don't think he handles himself particularly well in the following debate.



His attempt to logically refute the resurrection of Jesus fails. Yes, miracles, if such exist, are incredibly unlikely. Yes, history deals in probabilities. But the claim a miracle is unlikely is in isolation from any other data. Once we look at other evidence, the likelihood may change dramatically. The chance of, for example, a man being able to walk on water may be amazingly low. But if we introduce other evidence, e.g., there are ten million witness, the ability has been thoroughly tested through the scientific method, whatever you will, the miracle, unlikely in itself, becomes the best answer.

Likewise with the resurrection. If we ask whether a resurrection occurred in isolation, the possibility may be absurdly low. But if other corroborating evidence exists--if--the possibility changes.

The question of what that corroborating evidence is, and what its weight is, is another issue. My only point is that we cannot logically arrive at a conclusion without at least doing the messy job of weighing that evidence. Ehrman is actually famous for being able to do that messy job--so his attempt to rationalize away the task is particularly disappointing.

Craig puts this well, and, in all, Ehrman disappoints.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Now I Have a Friend on the Sea of Azov

[12:08:04 PM] Julia Nickul: there is one bad myth that russians thinks is true. We think that most of the us people are stupid. But that's a stupid opinion

[12:08:17 PM] Scott: No, we're not stupid.

[12:08:20 PM] Scott: We are, however, very fat.

[2:09:36 PM] Julia Nickul: my fried from ohio told me that US men more beautiful than women

[12:10:17 PM] Scott: It's very true. Sometimes I spend entire days staring at the mirror.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Snack to the Face

CARLOS: Did anyone else get one of these brownies?

SCOTT: Don't eat that, Carlos. I didn't sleep for three days after eating that.

LOREN: Shut up, nobody told you to eat the whole thing. Well, actually we did.

SCOTT: I'm pretty sure that's verbatim what you said. In fact, I remember saying, "I ate half, do I have to finish it?" and you all said, "Yes, we want to see what happens."

____________________

BOSS:
Gum?

SCOTT: Не давайте ей жвачка; она её глотает.

BOSS:
Жвачку.

SCOTT: So close.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The End of Meat

Philosopher argues for end of carnivorism:

Here, then, is where matters stand thus far. It would be good to prevent the vast suffering and countless violent deaths caused by predation. There is therefore one reason to think that it would be instrumentally good if predatory animal species were to become extinct and be replaced by new herbivorous species, provided that this could occur without ecological upheaval involving more harm than would be prevented by the end of predation. The claim that existing animal species are sacred or irreplaceable is subverted by the moral irrelevance of the criteria for individuating animal species. I am therefore inclined to embrace the heretical conclusion that we have reason to desire the extinction of all carnivorous species, and I await the usual fate of heretics when this article is opened to comment.


The comments are rather nasty, but also stupid, generally missing the long list of provisos the guy protected himself with.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Quel beau jour! (I have no idea if this is grammatically correct)

I had the most wonderful day. I spent a few hours at a French conversation group this evening at Le Pain Quotidien in old town Alexandria. This proved somewhat challenging, as I don't speak French, but it turns out it's not that hard. You just take your sizeable Spanish vocabulary, knock the stress to the end of the word, squeeze all the vowels so they're more oo-ey, swallow your R's, and fake the past tense by throwing in any random vowel before the infinitive. The only native speaker there complemented my pronunciation. In fact, we were reading some song lyrics, and no knew what the word rafale meant. "Well, I don't know," said I, "but it looks a lot like the Spanish word for machine gun burst."

I was right.

I even won a game of twenty (French) questions, which meant I had to come up with the next topic--which was difficult, but I managed.

And the woman sitting next to me was stunning.

(I was also amazed at the number of Republicans. Even in Virginia, I did not expect any overlap between tea party activism and desire to learn French.)

TP Report

SCOTT: I got to say, it is really cool to be browsing through Lexis and stumble upon an article you helped write.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Works Cited

Where would the world be if all men had sought security and not taken risks or gambled with their lives on the chance that, if they won, life would be different and richer? It is from the bystanders (who are in the vast majority) that we receive the propaganda that life is not worth living, that life is drudgery, that the ambitions of youth must he laid aside for a life which is but a painful wait for death.


Hunter S. Thompson, "Security"

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Jay was kind enough to point out that I'm a diphthong away from being a gay Buddhist.

Also, all of you should be watching Community.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Real Name, Frank

MOM: So Scott, what's the difference between goldenrod and ragweed?

SCOTT:
They're exactly the same thing.

MOM: Really?

SCOTT:
Pretty much.

MOM:
And does goldenrod cause allergies?

SCOTT: I don't understand why you keep asking me questions.

MOM: Or is it only ragweed?

SCOTT: Neither causes allergies. The allergies are caused by the animals the ragweed attract. Like beavers.

MOM: That doesn't sound right.

SCOTT:
Also, sparrows. And... oysters.

MOM: You're making this up.

SCOTT:
I am not. One of the most majestic sights in the animal kingdom is the annual migration of the oysters. They come over the mountains in a wave, clapping their shells, in search of goldenrod.

MOM: Are you making this up?

SCOTT: What the hell do I know about goldenrod?

_____________

DAVID:
You know, they call it the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, but that's not really appropriate.

SCOTT: Which term do you disapprove of? Grand or canyon?

DAVID: Both. It's more of a... mediocre ditch.

SCOTT:
A sub par rut.

DAVID:
The ass crack of the world. Making the real Grand Canyon...

SCOTT:
The vagina of the world? Deep, wet, full of Indians...

DAVID:
You're losing control of the metaphor! Pull up! Pull up!

SCOTT:
Aargh!

DAVID:
Aargh!

SCOTT:
We should really exit the church if we're going to continue this conversation.

_______________

DAVID: So, I just told Mom I have swamp ass, and she said, "Crotch rot?"

SCOTT:
Gross. Was she trying to top you or something?

DAVID:
Maybe.

SCOTT:
Yeast infection! Hemorrhoids!

DAVID:
You win!

SCOTT: Colostomy bag!

MOM:
Are these terms you picked up from the MCAT?

SCOTT:
No, colostomy bag is the nickname of one of our coworkers. I can't remember why.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Carlos Improbus

CARLOS: Puer probus est. The boy is good.

SCOTT:
Right, just like our coworker.

JAY: What?

SCOTT:
We have a coworker named Carlos Probus. Carlos the Good.

JAY:
So you work with a Carlos Probus and Carlos Mallo?

SCOTT:
Right.

JAY: Carlos the Good, and Carlos the Bad? You have a good Carlos and a bad Carlos?

SCOTT:
And the only way to tell them apart is the bad Carlos's goatee.

JAY: How has this never come up before?

SCOTT:
I honestly never noticed.

Being Smart is Fun

SCOTT: You know, I know we've been talking to each other for months now, but I never actually got your name.

GUY: Yeah, I'm glad you finally brought that up. I'm Alfred.

SCOTT: Good to meet you, Alfred. Scott. Any nickname?

ALF: I've gone by pretty much every iteration of the name at one point or another. During the 80s, when the sitcom was huge, people called me Alf.

SCOTT: There's also a fantastic movie starring Michael Caine called Alfie.

ALFIE:
Ah, there was a remake of that.

SCOTT:
Which sucked. But the original is top-notch--and the best part is it came with a song over the credits. What's it all about... Alfie? So with that name, you've got a theme song and everything.

ALFRED: Actually, I was named after an English King who killed a lot of vikings.

SCOTT:
Sure, Alfred the Great. He was the first King of England--and the only English King to have an epithet. So good King to be named after.

ALFREDO: You pretty much know everything, don't you?

SCOTT: Good to meet you, Alfie. If I run into any vikings, I'll give you a call.

Friday, September 10, 2010

J-E-L-L-O

CARLOS: And then for dessert, Jell-o!

LOREN: Jell-o! Carlos, you can't eat that. Let me see what's in it. There's not even a label, Carlos! You don't know what's in it!

SCOTT: That's because Jell-o just is. It can't be broken into anything smaller.

CARLOS: He's right.

SCOTT: Jell-o has an entry in the periodic table.

Morality, God

I left this comment in response to an article about an atheist who felt himself compelled to abandon the idea of objective morality.

There's nothing logically impossible about holding the two beliefs:

1. Moral truths exist.
2. God does not.

One can believe right and wrong are brute facts of the universe (as many assert God is), that is, things that simply are, and are not explained by other deeper facts. They are like laws of physics--brunt, irreducible, simply there--and not like biological laws, which are really just generalizations from deeper chemical (and then physical) facts. To ask who created morality is as fallacious as asking who created God. It is that is.

Nonetheless, many of the reasons for rejecting the existence of God are similar to the reasons for rejecting the existence of morality: you can't see morality, people believe in different moralities, etc. So though one can hold those two beliefs simultaneously, they have to deal with the tension.

For my part, the tension eventually became too much, and I went from soft atheist to hard atheist. The reason was, however, parenthetical to theology. It actually came from reading David Chalmers's the Conscious Mind, in which he argues that everything reduces to physical facts, except consciousness. Moral truth, aesthetic truth, and other sorts of truth are abandoned. I found the argument compelling.

Nonetheless, I still act in a way most people would consider moral. I turn the other cheek. But I do this, in my view, not to follow any objective notion of right or wrong, but simply to follow my own preferences, which--fortunately--line up with most peoples'. Indeed, becoming a moral skeptic hasn't changed my behavior at all. I just swapped an objective grounding with a subjective one.

This is part of a deeper ontological indifference of mine. I am generally uninterested in whether something has a subjective or objective grounding--we can, for example, argue about the quality of a movie and in so doing be appealing to either 1. an objective ideal of cinematic truth, or 2. our personal preferences as to what's a good movie. But the standard--objective or subjective--we base the argument on is far less interesting to me than the actual argument.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

The Perils of Meetup Groups

So I was waiting in Barnes and Nobel for a new member of the Latin group to show up. Now, I've just seen one, not terribly good picture, on his profile, where his face isn't all that visible. All I can really tell is that he's a man with somewhat dark skin. So this is my evening. I was sitting in the cafe reading a book, waiting for anyone to show up, and after a while, a black man gets up and heads down the escalator. I thought: "Oh my god! I hope that wasn't him, I'll feel so rude!"

So I run after him, wave to the security guard, exit the store, and go running down 12th St. after a black man, now halfway down the block. Finally, I catch up, and say, "Excuse me, excuse me... *pant* you weren't waiting for the Latin class, were you?"

To which he answers: "What? Latin class? Uh no, dude. Not me."

"Oh," said I, "Sorry about that. Carry on."

So I reenter the bookstore, wave to the security guard, sit down, read my book, drink my coffee. And then another black man gets up from a table and goes downstairs... and wait for it, wait for it--there I go, running after him.

Never did find the guy. Did meet a lot of African Americans with no interest in learning Latin, so, I guess the day wasn't a complete waste.

Wien Weirdness

Woman imprisoned eight years in Viennese basement by Austrian lunatic. Upon escape, given job as talk show host.

Meals, Español

SCOTT: With a "U" Carlos, with a "U"! A "branch" es una rama--nobody's going to want to come to that.
During my lunch break, I like to walk around town talking to random people, about whatever. I do this because 1. I'm afraid of doing it, and I like doing things I'm afraid of and 2. it makes me feel good to connect with people, most of whom are quite friendly and eager to chat. But approach enough people with a smile and you're bound to get asked for money by someone, as I did today. A homeless man and I bartered, I eventually got him down to agreeing to a cup of coffee. So I took him to this little local place owned by a Korean family I know, and bought us a couple of coffees. I was grumpy at first, but he turned out to be quite a sweet person all in all, and it was nice talking to him.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Workplace Hostility

BOSS: Want a piece of gum?

SCOTT:
I already took one. Are you being sarcastic?

BOSS:
No.

SCOTT:
...

BOSS: ...

SCOTT:
I still can't tell.

BOSS: Just help me find this Post-It note. Have so many of the things I can't find the one I need.

SCOTT (reflecting, not helping):
You know, it would be a good idea if someone made a stack of Post-Its that started one color and slowly changed colors as you got through the stack. Then you could tell how old each Post-It was.

BOSS: That's a great idea. I'm sure nobody's thought of that.

SCOTT: ...

BOSS: ...

SCOTT: Again, I'm having trouble identifying the sarcasm here.

BOSS:
You weren't here last week, were you?

SCOTT:
Nope.

BOSS: Ah, neither was I.

SCOTT: Wait, no, I was here last week. I remember now. I came in bright and early every day.

BOSS: Good save.

SCOTT:
Worked a week of twelve hour days.

________________________________________

DENEN:
Where's everybody else? Are they having a meeting without me?

SCOTT: Yep. The Anti-Denens Club meeting. Right down the hall. Look for the "No Denens Allowed" sign.

DENEN:
That explains it.

SCOTT: The club is older than your being here, too. For the first four years, the Anti-Denen Club was kind of pointless, but lately it's come into its own.

DENEN: It obviously didn't work too well. I got hired after all.

SCOTT: All right, all right, fair enough. No, I agree, this year has not been a banner year for the club. But we've all learned from our mistakes and are looking forward to a great fourth quarter.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Eye Lie

OPTOMETRIST: What kind of contacts do you wear?

SCOTT:
They're six week.

OPTOMETRIST: There's no such thing as six week contacts.

SCOTT: ... Huh. Ok, I may be wearing them a bit longer than I'm supposed to.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Being There

GIRL ON METRO: You have a very pleasant attitude.

ME: I'm quite surprised you can tell, without even talking to me.

GIRL: I pay attention to these things. You have a nice attitude. It's refreshing.

ME: Thank you. So what do you do?

GIRL: I work in preserving ocean habitats.

ME: I'm a lawyer.

GIRL: A DC lawyer, with a pleasant attitude. That's a first.

ME:
Well, I'm not a very good lawyer, if that explains anything.

________________________________

JAY:
After this episode, I made Emily watch "Being There."

SCOTT:
You made me watch it, too.

EMILY:
You never made me watch it.

SCOTT:
My God, Jay, did you just get Emily and me mixed up? When you proposed to Emily, you sure you didn't think you were proposing to me, right?

Fung-Shwit

JAY: We're having a friend come over to give us some home decorating tips.

SCOTT: I got to say, Jay, I'm kind of hurt you didn't come to me.

JAY:
You have two flat screen televisions in your room!*

SCOTT:
I know! Isn't it awesome?


* Neither of which, incidentally, I use.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Principate

SCOTT: You see, Augustus preserved the Senate even though in reality he and the future emperors possessed all of the power, up until Diocletian said screw it, and stopped going through the charade. But until then, the Senate was just a rubber stamp, with everybody just pretending it meant something. Like we do now with the Constitution.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Size

OPTOMETRIST: Has anyone in your family ever had glaucoma?

SCOTT:
No.

OPTOMETRIST: Can you read the bottom line?

SCOTT: Yes. But let's go back to that glaucoma thing. Why did you ask that?

OPTOMETRIST:
Because your optic nerves are huge.

SCOTT:
Damn right.

OPTOMETRIST:
That can be bad.

SCOTT:
Oh.

________________

DIANA: Have you been going to the gym? You're bigger than I remember.

SCOTT: You're smaller than I remember. Much.

DIANA: I had a baby.

SCOTT: That was my point.

________________

SCOTT:
I can't get over how small he is. Look at him!

DIANA (holding Nicolas):
He used to be smaller.

SCOTT: Thank you, yes, I have a basic understanding of the process. Let me get a picture.

Friday, August 20, 2010

I Rock

SCOTT: Where you headed?

OLDER LADY: Just heading to work.

SCOTT: Ah, where do you work?

OLDER LADY: Patton Boggs.

SCOTT: Ah, good firm. What kind of law do you do?

... (later) ...

OLDER LADY: You know, this is the first time in thirty years anyone has ever talked to me on the Metro. It was a pleasure.

SCOTT: Likewise.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pickpocketing

SCOTT: I lost my wallet. I found it in the theater; all the money was gone.

JAY:
You think someone picked it?

SCOTT: Yeah. Come to think of it, someone behind kept shoving my chair.

JAY: Sorry, need metro fare?

SCOTT: Nah, I'm good. I think you know what has to happen now... I have to get a gun.

The Inebriation Hypothesis

If you're not a linguistics nerd, you'll have to trust me. This is hilarious.

One of the standard activities amongst Indo-Europeanists is the attempted adducement of the causative factors underlying the expansion of Indo-European languages, at the putative expense of surrounding tongues, most of which are no longer attested but which were doubtless related to both Basque and Etruscan and possibly Japanese. The explanation long considered standard was that the Indo-Europeans, or IEs as they are usually familiarly termed, were of a warlike mien and simply exploded out of their homeland via what in military circles is termed “a forceful display of occupational intent” or “spirited attainment of autochthon-nonvoluntary advisorial status”. Most scholars accepted this explanation, and for a long period debate was limited to the locus of the original expansion, with most European scholars except for the Poles claiming the Urheim for their own portion of Europe (the Poles had long recognized that Autochthhon-Involuntary Advisorial types came from any other region than Poland and were afraid that if they claimed the Urheim, the Germans would invade them to get it back). In recent years, Marija Gimbutas’ claim that the original IEs were in fact the Khurgan culture of the steppes has gained wide acclaim, since it positions the Urheim in an area that no-one wants to claim anyway and thus reduces friction at important Indo-Europeanist social events. In addition, the Khurgani were apparently a rather vigorous bunch, whose major artifacts were (a) hand axes and (b) rapidly built tombs, both of which are consistent with the traditional view of the IEs.

There are several problems with this scenario, however, foremost of which is the fact that the warlike expansion hypothesis was originally formulated by 19th century Germans, who also proposed that the spread of glaciers during the ice-age was the result of the military superiority of northern ice floes as compared to decadent Mediterranean lakes, and who invented the term “spirited attainment of autochthon-nonvoluntary advisorial status”, which in German constitutes a single word of such breathtaking length and consonantal density that many opponents of said attainment strangled in the act of attempting to oppose it. In addition, Indo-Europeans had a plethora of words for (a) trees, and (b) pigs, neither of which are found in notable profusion in the steppes and which certainly were not particularly valued by the Khurgani, who liked to gallop uninhibitedly about spiritedly advising those in their path and, according to Gimbutas, beating up feminists.


William C. Spruiell, A Reinterpretation of Some Aspects of the Indo-European Expansion

Friday, August 13, 2010

Videos

Jay has begun making videos out of my conversations. The effect is quite disquieting. Also effective is the long awkward pause that ends each intercourse.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Snap!

CARLOS: Loren does not want to talk to me, so I will talk to you, Scote Scheule.

SCOTT: ¿Por què piensas que quiera hablar contigo?

LOREN: Oh, no he didn't!

SCOTT: ¿Còmo se dice "!snap!"?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Abogados

SCOTT: Hola, Carlos. ¿Sabìas acerca del terrorista que secuestrò un aviòn lleno de abogados?

CARLOS: No, what happened?

SCOTT: ¡Amenazò con liberar uno cada hora si sus demandas no eran cumplidas!

CARLOS: Is good.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Catch the Latin Bug

SCOTT: In fact, I checked the website today, and someone else had joined the group.

CARLOS: Really?

SCOTT: It's true.

CARLOS: A girl?

SCOTT: Lo siento, Carlos.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Record Attendance Nonetheless

WOMAN: Excuse me, what language are you speaking?

SCOTT:
It should be Latin.

WOMAN:
Oh. I'm looking for the French group.

SCOTT:
Come back in a thousand years.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Marriage

ED: Well, my first wife, while she was living, used to say "You should marry your best friend."

SCOTT: Yeah, but Jay's already engaged.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

It's not redacted; their names really are BOSS 1 and BOSS 2. I work in a Dr. Seuss book.

SCOTT: Loren's in there with BOSS 1 right now.

NEW COWORKER:
I know. I just managed to get out of it.

SCOTT:
Were you hiding behind your desk?

NEW COWORKER: I've got to say, BOSS 1 and BOSS 2 come up with the weirdest projects.

SCOTT:
Yeah. And you weren't here when we built the catapult. BOSS 2 came in, said, look, this'll cut our commute time in half.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Cup

RICHARD: That's the great thing about soccer. With baseball, if you go to a bar, everybody's cheering for their own team. But with soccer, the whole country's cheering for the same side. It's just like--

SCOTT: World War Two?

RICHARD: I was going to say "the Olympics."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

So I've Heard

Scott: Jay bought me a mug covered with dirty phrases from Shakespearean plays.


Hanah: that's nice of him


Scott: I'm very fond of it.

"chaste treasure"

"pick the lock"

"assault between the sheets"

"low countries"

"Change the cod's head with the salmon's tail"

I haven't figured that one out yet.


Hanah: you could try googling it


Scott: "you could try googling it" is also on the mug.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ankyloglossia

SCOTT: Where is everyone?

LOREN: They're at training.

SCOTT:
Ah. But you and I need no training.

LOREN: For we were born perfect.

SCOTT:
Except, I couldn't make a "th" sound because the ligament under my tongue was too tight.

LOREN: Really?

SCOTT: I would say, "One, two, tree..."

LOREN: Ah, so you would have fit in in Jamaica.

SCOTT: Those are the options my parents had to consider. Do we fix his tongue or do we send him to live with his Jamaican uncle?

LOREN:
So the choice was between dreadlocks and slicing your tongue.

SCOTT: Yeah. We tried the dreadlocks for a couple years, but eventually my parents...

LOREN:
Decided to cut the hair and the tongue.

SCOTT: That was the worst birthday of my life.

PS: Ankylo comes from the Greek for crooked.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

World Cup at Work

SCOTT: Whoa! Goal, Uruguay!

LOREN:
You're listening to the game?

SCOTT:
Uh, no... I just have a feeling.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Gumption

SCOTT: How you doing today?

MAN ON STREET:
I think I just got fired.

SCOTT:
From where?

MAN: Deloitte.

SCOTT: So there may be an opening?

Monday, June 07, 2010

The Disgusting Mutability of Language

Scott: I got another Latin text today. The amount of time I dedicate to that class, which I think Jay attends only to humor me, is obscene.


Kish: sir, you should charge money


Scott: I do! But Jay refuses to pay.


Kish: he should make you cupcakes


Scott: I would not eat anything Jay tried to cook.
But I should learn the Latin word for cupcakes.


Kish: is there such a word?


Scott:
Placenta pōculōrum.
That's my attempt. Literally, cake of cups.


Kish:
that sounds wrong


Scott: I didn't create the language, but yes it does.


Kish:
it's the "placenta" part


Scott:
I know. If you can stand the etymology, the placenta was literally named: "Uterine cake." By some, I can only assume, very sick anatomist.


Kish: well, you should command jay to make you such a cake
now i want a cupcake


Scott: It's done! I shall order two cupcakes, one for your finder's fee.


Kish: perfect!
let jay know that he is free to purchase what he cannot make


Notā bene: Realdo Colombo, a 16th century Italian anatomist bears the blame. He created the term placenta uterīna (which in Latin, sounds much more musical). Placenta is indeed the Latin word for cake, specifically a flat cake, and derives from the Proto-Indo-European for flat: *plak-. This might be the ancestor, through the Germanic languages, of our word flat (p's tended to become f's in the Germanic languages. Pater vs. Father. Pēs vs. Foot. Piscis vs. Fish. Pellis (think pelt) vs. Felt. Pullus (rooster!) vs. Fowl. Portus (gate) vs. Ford.) These are things I, and mainly only I, find immensely interesting.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Tesla

JELENA: People wonder why I'm fascinated with Tesla. It's such a great human story.

SCOTT: And he's one of your countrymen.

JELENA: The establishment kicked him when he was down. J.P. Morgan, Edison, all knocked him about. In fact, there was this German midget who dedicated his life to demonizing Nikola Tesla.

SCOTT: I've never heard of this midget.

JELENA: Because he spent his life demonizing Tesla rather than accomplish something himself!

SCOTT: Calm down. Look, every great man, in every age, has been pursued by a vindictive midget. That's simply the way of the world.

JELENA: By the way, do you want a copy of the Shipping Almanac?

SCOTT: Sure. Do you want me sign your copy?

JELENA: Sure.

(scribble, scribble)

JELENA: "Dear Jelena. What a load of ship... ... ping. Love, Scott." Very droll.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A month ago or so, during Latin class, Jay looked over the parapet at Barnes and Nobel on the second floor and saw a woman he recognized browsing through the new fiction.

"Is that Elena Kagan?" said Jay.

"Who the hell is Elena Kagan?" said I.

"The solicitor general."

"Ah. Well, let's find out then.... HEY ELENA!!!" I yelled. She quickly looked up, and we both ducked under the table. "I guess it was her," said I.

"I can't believe you did that," said Jay.

Because I don't follow politics,* I didn't realize that this was the same woman currently up for a seat on the Court. Today Jay pointed out how tired he was of people talking about Kagan.


SCOTT:

I had to Google who Kagan was.


JAY:

What? You yelled at her in Barnes & Noble!


SCOTT:

Whoa! That Kagan?


JAY:


"Elena!" (ducks)

Yeah, that one.


*Because I consider everyone who disagrees with me too wrong to have a meaningful discussion with.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Logic

COWORKER: (whispering) Psst! Come here!

ME:
What?

COWORKER: You've been going to the gym lately?

ME: Damn right.

COWORKER: ... do you take your shirt off?

ME:
Hell yeah, I do. We got mirrors for a reason.

COWORKER: Well, you know, I don't mind, but uh, some of the women around here...

ME:
Oh, give me a break. What if we were at a pool?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Toes

Andrew: did you break my toe last night?
i woke up at 4 am with a broken toe, but couldn't find anyone to blame

Scott: I know I broke somebody's last night, but I can't remember whose. I suppose it might have been yours, but let's not rush to conclusions.

Andrew:
has that ever happened to you?
you just wake up with a broken bone?

Scott: Can't say that it has. Is this a a lie you're going to tell people to cover up the fact that Liss is abusing you?
If so, it needs work.

Andrew:
right
especially to explain these black eyes

Scott: Though now that you have a broken toe, probably a great time for us to play racquetball.

Andrew:
and we have just uncovered something that will be crucial to your conviction: motive.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

DAN: (observing underside of bag of granola bars) It looks like we've got rats.

LOREN: Throw it out.

SCOTT: Wait a damn minute. You should take that as a seal of approval. Would you rather eat granola bars that the rats didn't think were good enough to nibble on?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Monthly Company Lunch

JELENA: My God, Scott. Are you picking out all the strawberries and raspberries from the salad?

Scott scurries off.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Works Cited

"My dear Narcissus, you have money in corn, I have money in corn, lots of people have money in corn. The more corn that can be landed in winter the lower the price will be. That worries me."

"That could be construed as a very selfish point of view."

"Are you saying there is less selfishness in wanting the price of corn to be low rather than high?"

"But there are more people who want it to be low!"

"Doesn't that add up to more selfishness rather than less?"


BBC: I, Claudius,

Monday, March 22, 2010

Thanksgiving

Absolutely nobody on earth deserves the friends I have.

Nēmō super terram amīcōs meret quōs habeō.

Or should I say blue-pees?

Scott: I'm listening to a Castillian radio station out of Madrid. You'd think that would mean I could get away from hearing about US politics, but all they talk about is Obama.

The rest of the world needs to get a life.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Racquetball

I beat Drew!

(I'm entitled to boast about this because 1. it's never happened before; and 2. the amount of times he's beaten me can only be comfortably expressed using scientific notation.)

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Answer, by the way, is Мяу

Hanah: these animals are really confusing. They all have four words.
an english name, and english sound, a russian name, and a russian sound.

Scott: What's Russian for meow?

Hanah:
I don't remember. I think it sounds a lot like meow.

Scott: Meowь?

...

Scott:
Russian words are bizarre. French, Spanish, even German words look like English, but Russian's off on its own planet.


Hanah: but some of them sound the same. Like meow. Or penguin.


Scott:
I've yet to learn the Russian for penguin. I'll take your word for it (this is a pun!).

...

Hanah:
I'm going to have to be able to get around [in Germany] in a real-lifey way there, not just as a tourist.


Scott:
Yes, for Sechs Wochen.


Hanah: ?


Scott: That means six weeks.


Hanah:
oh. I thought it meant sex woman.


Scott:
It means that too. This leads to many misunderstandings.

...

Hanah:
and [Charlie] says "chai" for tea and "stoll" for chair


Scott: Aww, that's cute.


Hanah:
it's totally adorable


Scott:
Stoll is table, but still cute.


Hanah: no, it's chair


Scott: stool is chair.
stoll is table.
Unless you let him sit on the table.
Which you really shouldn't. You need to establish boundaries.


Hanah:
He's not allowed to touch the stove.
And he's also not allowed to go home in that other mom's red convertible BMW, no matter how much we both want to.


Scott:
Congratulations, you're already more responsible than my parents were.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Interviewing the Boss

SCOTT: So basically, we're just looking for some information for the website to broadcast the utility of the various groups. Can you think of any big wins recently we can mention?

BOSS: Hmm. Nothing's coming to mind.

SCOTT: ... moderate wins then?

BOSS:
Hmmm. No, can't think of any.

SCOTT: ...

BOSS:
...

SCOTT: How about any slight failures?

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Perdido

SCOTT: Viste Perdido?

DIANA:
¿Còmo?

SCOTT: Lost.

DIANA:
Ha. No.

SCOTT: I've been watching this show on ABC lately, Modern Family, and one of the stars is this amazing Colombian woman. So I now know of two Colombians, her and you, and, judging by that, I'm led to believe Colombian women are extraordinarily attractive.

DIANA:
It's true. We are known for our women. Women and coffee.

SCOTT: Right.

DIANA:
And... you know... the drugs. Those three things.

SCOTT:
Naturally. All three show up on the flag.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Business Cazh

LOREN: Did you go to McDonald's too?

SCOTT: Hell no. In fact... Diana! Tell Loren how healthy my lunch was.

DIANA:
It was a very healthy lunch. I would not have put grapefruit and beans together myself, but it was healthy.

SCOTT:
I pureed them together into a smoothie.

LOREN: Really?

SCOTT: No, that would be gross.

LOREN: So, does the acid from the grapefruit neutralize the gas from the beans, or something?

SCOTT: We'll find out!

LOREN: Ha!

SCOTT:
I've never made a fart joke at work before! I finally feel like I'm at home.

LOREN:
Uh oh.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Frogs

SCOTT: Reading anything good?

MOM: Yeah, actually, I just checked out a book from the church library: How to Pray for Your Adult Children.

SCOTT: Ah. Well, good. Thank you, I guess.

MOM:
It's not like I don't pray for you already.

SCOTT:
You just haven't been doing it right.

MOM:
Could be.

SCOTT: So maybe I'll stop getting rained on by frogs now.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Works Cited

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.


Dylan Thomas

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Coup de Pa

SCOTT: And is your husband hoping for a son?

DIANA: No, he wants another daughter.

SCOTT: Oh?

DIANA:
Yes. That way he remains king of the house.

SCOTT:
Ah. Yes, I remember when we had to depose my father.

DIANA: Really?

SCOTT:
My brothers and I launched a coup, then set up a short-lived military junta. After two months we were invaded by the United States, and my father was restored to power. It's because we were spreading revolutionary socialist ideas.

DIANA:
Huh?

SCOTT: One of my brothers turned out to have a been a CIA plant.

DIANA:
What?

SCOTT:
I could go on.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

No Would not Suffice

KISH: And you said you didn't like Avatar?

SCOTT:
Kish, I wake up at night in a cold sweat, considering the possibility that there is an alien intelligence out there, scrutinizing our planet, our species, deciding whether or not we should be allowed to exist--and maybe sometime soon this intelligence is going to look down on us, and see Avatar's 94% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and decide that we're just not worth allowing to survive. And they'll be right.

(See also this.)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Last Day Skiing

SCOTT: You should switch to Marlboros, Rich. Everyone knows Camels are for blue-collar workers.

RICHARD: I am a blue-collar worker.

SCOTT: Right, but... You got to smoke for the job you want.

...

MOM: It's so nice! All the trails are so well-groomed.

SCOTT: You could learn something from these trails, David.

...

JOKES FOR WIPEOUTS

SCOTT: Hey, David! You want some summer, spring and winter with your fall?

...

SCOTT: Hey, David! You want some colorful foliage with your fall?

...

SCOTT: Hey, David! You want some 'of the Roman Empire' with your fall?

DAVID: That was your best one yet!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

a DAY in Montre-AL

SCOTT: Cé-LINE... I was think--ING... that be-CAUSE... you SAY... your English is rust-Y... well.. obvious-LY, I can-NOT speak in FRENCH but I CAN, howev-ER, speak En-GLISH, in this aw-FUL French ac-CENT, if that would be easi-ER for YOU.

CÉLINE:
Non.

SCOTT: Non?

CÉLINE: Non.

SCOTT: Non.

CÉLINE:
Bon.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Denny's

SCOTT: And she's buy...ing... a stairway... to Denny's...

DAVID: What was that last word?

SCOTT:
Denny's. The original song was about Denny's. Robert Plant loved Denny's.

DAVID/JIMMY: "Robert... we love this new song... but..."

SCOTT/ROBERT: "But what?"

DAVID/JIMMY:
"But... what's with the Denny's?"

SCOTT/ROBERT: "What do you mean what's with the Denny's? Denny's is awesome! The deals are amazing!"

DAVID/JIMMY:
"Robert, it's..."

SCOTT/ROBERT: "Grand slam!"

DAVID/JIMMY:
"Hmm. Maybe we could put in another word there. Let's just try a few out. She's buying a stairway to church, maybe."

SCOTT/ROBERT:
"No. No! Up yours!"

DAVID:
I think that's enough.

SCOTT: Yeah, let's go skiing.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

And More



SCOTT: David, I've decided that until you cut your goddamn hair, I'm going to call you girls' names. Is that all right with you?

DAVID:
All right.

SCOTT: These are also going to be the names of ex-girlfriends of mine--is that going to be weird for you?

DAVID:
It might be.

SCOTT:
Too bad.


At Mt. Cannon today, we learned that there was an unmarked trail down a nearby mountain. I didn't want to do this, but Richard did, and if he was going to do it, then of course I had to. So to get to this trail, as it turns out, we had to pop off the skis and hike for fifteen minutes along a mountain ridge. Then we found the trail, which was pleasant, but it deposited us about a mile from the base camp. So long story short, I ended up walking down the side of the road with my skis on my shoulder.

But, it was all worth it, because later, I found a lemming.

MOM:
I can't believe you picked it up.

SCOTT: You obviously don't understand how cute this creature was. It popped out of a Disney movie. It climbed up David's shoulder and started to preen itself.


Works Cited

Not good. The parameters breed like mosquitoes in the bayou, faster than he can knock them off. Hunger, compromise, money, paranoia, memory, comfort, guilt. Guilt gets a minus sign around Achtfaden though, even if it is becoming quite a commodity in the Zone. Remittance men from all over the world will come to Heidelberg before long, to major in guilt. There will be bars and nightclubs catering especially to guilt enthusiasts. Extermination camps will be turned into tourist attractions, foreigners with cameras will come piling through in droves, tickled and shivering with guilt.


Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

TV with Dinner

MOM: And thank you, Lord, for this meal that we're about to eat, and this beautiful day. Amen.

SCOTT: Can I add something?

MOM: Of course.

SCOTT:
And thank you, dear Lord, for this episode of House that we are about to receive. Thank you for Hugh Laurie's delightful comedic timing, and for the continued strong writing through the latest season. Amen.

MOM: Amen.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Works Cited

"I'm not so much for Beethoven qua Beethoven," Gustav argues, "but as he represents the German dialectic, the incorporation of more and more notes into the scale, culminating with dodecaphonic democracy, where all notes get an equal hearing. Beethoven was one of the architects of musical freedom--he submitted to the demands of history, despite his deafness. While Rossini was retiring at the age of 36, womanizing and getting fat, Beethoven was living a life filled with tragedy and grandeur."

"So?" is Säure's customary answer to that one. "Which would you rather do? The point is," cutting off Gustav's usually indignant scream, "a person feels good listening to Rossini. All you feel like listening to Beethoven is going out and invading Poland."


Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Works Cited

One night he set fire to twenty pages of calculations. Integral signs waved like charmed cobras, comical curly ds marched along like hunchbacks through the fire-edge into billows of lace ash. But that was his only relapse.

Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Family Connections -- However Tenuous

I was at McDonald's this morning and I noticed the woman standing in front of me had Wackenhut written on the back of her jacket. I know the name Wackenhut, because it's my great grandmother's maiden name.

In fact, I even know why this woman had it on the back of her jacket.

"Do you work for Wackenhut Security?" I said.

"Yes. Well, I did. For five years. It's a good company."

"One of my cousins actually founded it. Fred Wackenhut," I said.

So we sat down and had breakfast together.

I guess the surreal part was seeing the name and thinking that, one century ago, my great great grandfather Johannes arrived on a ship from Germany, and he's the one who brought that name to this country. I doubt he had much else.

And step by step it eventually ended up on a complete stranger's shirt. And step by step, a part of him had made me. Cool.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Works Cited

Slothrop goes hunching paranoically along the street, here's "God Bless America," a-and "This Is the Army, Mister Jones," and they are his country's versions of the Horst Wessel Song, although it is Gustav back at the Jacobistrasse who raves (nobody gonna pull an Anton Webern on him) to a blinking American lieutenant-colonel, "A parabola! A trap! You were never immune over there from the simple-minded German symphonic arc, tonic to dominant, back again to tonic. Grandeur! Gesellschaft!"

"Teutonic?" sez the colonel. "Dominant? The war's over, fella. What kind of talk is that?"

Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow