2014

WEEKLY READING - HERODOTUS

Fresh out of Guardian columns, but here’s this week’s reading nonetheless. Just wound up the new translation of Herodotus’s The Histories, by Tom Holland. It’s a fine version, although idiomatically modern in many places. But that does serve to make the text more immediate, and probably more like what the initial audience in Athens would have heard. Highly recommended, and much better than getting your Thermopylae by way of Frank Miller.

WEEKLY READING - SPINOZA

And now to the last of the Guardian weekly readings posts, with a look at Spinoza. There’s an odd resemblance to Calvin, at least in my personal pantheon, that would have horrified both of them. Each is a beautifully structured thinker, in a very admirable way, but one that I just can’t follow along with.

The particular thing about Spinoza is the recent vogue in attributing the entire foundation of the modern world to him, exemplified in a whole series of things by Jonathan Israel.

When I was reading him in grad school, there were various editions but they all seem to have been superseded by the Hackett Complete Works. The biography to read is Nadler’s.

THE GENERAL...

The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.
– Sun Tzu

WEEKLY READING - PLATO

When I started studying political philosophy in graduate school, the emphasis was on the classics and above all, Plato. Augustine, the Church Fathers, and Bonaventure only kept reinforcing this as I got farther and farther into theology. Here Mark Vernon gives a fair rundown on how Plato somehow stands across Western thinking.

Plato: a very short introduction will give you more, as will Stanford (Web), but the more important thing to grasp about any ancient philosopher is that they’re pursuing a way of life. Then you could consider the Republic or even the Complete Works in tandem with Plato’s Philosophers: The Coherence of the Dialogues, which is one of the few texts I’ve found that covers all the dialogues.

2013

DEPTH DIMENSION WITH YOUR BEVERAGE

Five Oldest Pubs in the United Kingdom - Anglotopia.net: "The Old Ferry Boat is a great example of one of the pubs that started as an inn and still operates as such today. Though no documents apparently exist of when the Inn actually began, one record stated that liquor was served there as early as 560 A.D. and the foundations are reportedly another century older."

Mind-boggling witness to some of the continuities possible in the Old World.

LAW SCHOOLS’ APPLICATIONS FALL AS COSTS RISE AND JOBS ARE CUT - NYT

Law school applications are headed for a 30-year low, reflecting increased concern over soaring tuition, crushing student debt and diminishing prospects of lucrative employment upon graduation.
One for my students as they contemplate the future.

Law Schools’ Applications Fall as Costs Rise and Jobs Are Cut - NYT

TWO SPACES AFTER A PERIOD: WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER, EVER DO IT. - SLATEMAGAZINE

Can I let you in on a secret? Typing two spaces after a period is totally, completely, utterly, and inarguably wrong.
Truth from Sinai.

Two spaces after a period: Why you should never, ever do it. - Slate Magazine

TECHNOLOGICAL DETERMINISM AND THE TEXTBOOK


Everybody seems to be in love with digital textbooks. Except students.
Cautionary note from Nicholas Carr.

Technological determinism and the textbook

PASSIVE VOICE, USED WELL

The passive voice is like any tool. You can use it well, you can use it badly, and you can abuse it right out.
One for my students.

Passive Voice, Used Well

2012

HOW THE CIA USED A FAKE SCI-FI FLICK TO RESCUE AMERICANS

The CIA was in chaos when Tony Mendez arrived at his desk the next morning. People dashed through the halls, clutching files and papers. Desks were piling up with “flash” cables — the highest-priority messages, reserved for wartime situations.
Not a caper movie, but a real movie caper.

How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans

MATT RIDLEY: WHEN BAD THEORIES HAPPEN TO GOOD SCIENTISTS

The origin of our tendency to confirmation bias is fairly obvious. Our brains were not built to find the truth but to make pragmatic judgments, check them cheaply and win arguments, whether we are in the right or in the wrong.
Matt Ridley: When Bad Theories Happen to Good Scientists

FLYING UNDER THE INFLUENCE - BY @DRUNKENPREDATOR

Every morning, the hangar doors roll open and the sunlight flares my electro-optical sensors. I drag myself onto the flight line, load up my pylons with Hellfire and Griffin missiles, and try to get some coffee into my tank before takeoff. If all goes well, I lumber into the air, loiter over some godforsaken warzone du jour, and occasionally lob weaponry at those I’m told are the enemies of the free world. By broad consensus, I’m pretty good at my job — and when I’m not soaring above the mountains of Afghanistan or Yemen, I even find time for hobbies, like posting on Twitter. But after I return to base, I self-medicate with extreme prejudice. Because I’m a Predator drone, and you people make me drink.

Allow me to explain.
Flying Under the Influence - By @Drunkenpredator

HOW BOOKS LEARN - ALAN JACOBS

In light of this long, long history, during which the poem has had to learn so much, adapt to so many circumstances, how could it be intimidated by the rise of electronic reading? “Why should I concern myself with bits and pixels? I remember the harried scribe with his papyrus sheets. I was once a song.”
How Books Learn - Alan Jacobs

WHAT IS IT TO BE INTELLECTUALLY HUMBLE? | BIG QUESTIONS ONLINE

Intellectual humility will be a trait of our character when we care so much about knowing, understanding, and getting to the truth of some big question that we become oblivious of how we rank, of what we are “worth” vis-à-vis the other status-striving agents in our circle. The apostle Paul says, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up,” (1 Corinthians 8:1) and we might add that love of knowledge can build us up in humility.
What Is It to be Intellectually Humble? | Big Questions Online

VALUING DIVERSITY OF IDEAS

Dump the stereotypes. Dave Barry and others ask if we really believe all red state residents are dumb, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, NASCAR-obsessed, gun-fondling, Bible-bullying, redneck, sweatshop tycoons who claim government doesn’t work, and then get elected and prove it; or that all blue-state residents are godless, unpatriotic, ear-pierced, Volvo-driving, latte-sucking, tofu-chomping, tax- crazed bleeding-hearts who presume people shouldn’t have to work and beg our enemies, “Please don’t hurt me.” Seek out people with different beliefs.
Valuing Diversity of Ideas

HOMER NOW

THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER is that no one to date has rivaled the Homeric epic’s extraordinary staying power—nearly three millennia now, and still going strong.
Peter Green reviews the present field of translations and revisions.

Homer Now

ZUCKERBERG DIDN’T KILL PRIVACY

Question: ‘Why did Facebook go public?’
Answer: ‘They couldn’t figure out the privacy settings either.’
Zuckerberg didn’t kill privacy

THE AMAZON EFFECT


The bookstore wars are over. Independents are battered, Borders is dead, Barnes & Noble weakened but still standing and Amazon triumphant. Yet still there is no peace; a new war rages for the future of publishing.




Worth noting.


The Amazon Effect

2011

HOW TO LAND YOUR KID IN THERAPY - THE ATLANTIC

The unfortunate roots and bad results of the helicopter parenting I see so much of at school.


How to Land Your Kid in Therapy - The Atlantic

2010