A person who lacks the means, within himself, to live a good and happy life will find any period of his existence wearisome.

– Cicero, On Old Age.

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Published in: on February 11, 2004 at 01:17  Comments Off on  
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The opposition to intelligence

This is likely not of much interest to most people, but it’s something I noticed while reading a book…
Opinions about military intelligence

Published in: on January 31, 2004 at 14:37  Comments (5)  
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Greeks and sex

(No, this is not another post about buggery)

Put up your weapon in the sheath. We two
shall mingle and make love upon our bed.
So mutual trust may come of play and love.

(Kirke to Odysseus; Odyssey, X:375-7, Fitzgerald’s translation)

This line popped up in a fortune today, and I remembered that it really struck me last time I read the Odyssey.
Random thoughts

Published in: on November 14, 2003 at 20:32  Comments (13)  
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Easily amused…

Reading the Unicode standard for text encoding is surprisingly fascinating. The proposal for the encoding rules for Egyptian Hieroglyphics bring up all the points they’ll need to consider when encoding Mayan Hieroglyphics and various kinds of runes; the proposals for Tengwar and Cirth are just as serious.

OK, I realize this is a strange thing to be doing on a Friday night. But it’s strangely alluring…

Published in: on October 11, 2003 at 00:39  Comments (3)  
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Conversations on the mathematics of belief

(or, The Gods Must Be Crazy)

Last night, aided by a great deal of coffee and a strange mood, hansandersen, jrpseudonym and I had a discussion about Pascal’s Wager and the mathematics of belief. The results were… well, somewhat strange, but some of you may find them amusing or interesting, so here’s a brief summary. It’s incomplete – guys, you want to add in some comments with your own notes and thoughts from last night? I know there’s plenty.

So, without further ado: Magic 8 ball, what should I believe?

Published in: on June 19, 2003 at 11:40  Comments (12)  
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In explanation…

The previous post on words came out of a half-dazed idea for a game. (As in, I was half-dazed at the time…) A bunch of Greek words of the sort that can be used in English are written on cards and placed in a hat. Words that can only be used as prefices are marked as such, like “eu-” (“good”), but other words are just given in their full form. (“logos”) Each card has Greek text, English rendering, and possibly notes on meaning.

Then everyone takes turns drawing two cards out of the hat and assembling an interesting word out of them, defining the word and using it in a sentence or telling a short story to illustrate its use and meaning. Bonus points for style. This game should probably be played while drunk.

So the words in the previous post were some imaginings of what might come up under these circumstances.

Published in: on April 22, 2003 at 13:31  Comments (6)  
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Observations on words

[From some thoughts while slightly inebriated, last night]

The news story of the apocalyptic carp – the one which started to spout revelations in Hebrew in New York – was described as “ichthyological theology,” that is, Deus ex Piscem. In Hebrew one may refer to this as “Torah min hamayim” – Torah from the waters, as opposed to the more common Torah min shamayim, coming from the skies. (This is because “sky” – “shamayim” is actually a degenerated compound word, “sham-mayim”: there-water. “Sun” – “shemesh” – similarly degenerates from “sham-esh,” there-fire. This is a very old degeneration, probably predating Hebrew)

Ichthyological theology should not be confused with eschatological scatology (“Oh, shit. There goes the planet.”) nor scatological eschatology. (“Well, the world seems to be going to shit today…”)

On the subject of other word constructions, as I was discussing with hansandersen and doublefeh on the way home last night, Greek particles are fun. And there are some words that need to come into more widespread use: not just mythology but logomythy, the lore of learning, the secrets I tell my students about how to survive in physics; topology and topography need to be supplemented by topomythy, place-lore, not just an area knowledge but the stories of a locale; similarly mythography, the charting of legends, which keeps track of the ley lines and so on, and its linguistic dual graphomythy, the lore of mapmaking.

English is a great language.

Correction: It occurs to me that logomythy shouldn’t be the lore of study, but word-lore itself: that is, the content of this posting.

OK, I need to stop trying to avoid work now.

Published in: on March 16, 2003 at 11:39  Comments (17)  
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Wisdom in the Streets

Question of the day, as posed by a Sasebo billboard.

From today’s photography expedition

Published in: on December 21, 2002 at 15:27  Comments Off on Wisdom in the Streets  
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