Neither Indifferent nor ScepticalInnovations (22.2.2006, 21:45 UTC)
The last few months have involved two major technological innovations for me. First, I handed my television over to the brother and told him to use it as he sees fit. I wish I could sit here and tell you that it was Galloway’s appearance on Big Brother that did it for me. I admit I was tempted to sit down and write a letter of apology to Osama Bin Laden (something along the lines of ‘you were right all along. We’re vomitorium hedonists careering around the garlanded emptiness of our lives and we deserve to be dispatched to our maker in bite-sized pieces. Here’s my address to help you bump me up the to-bump-off list. Miaow’). But I’ve nothing so principled to announce I’m afraid. I’m just sick of watching television. Which is a good thing: I’m a total television addict. I could leave the bloody thing on all day every day and stay up late watching total unremitting shite. I was not entertained and yet I kept on watching. So it was time to give the thing away and do without. I have to say I missed it hugely for the first day or so, but after that it really was easy. I have an excellent digital radio and half a dozen entertaining channels to choose from. I have a mammoth backlog of books to read, both for fun and for work (I’ve just finished Cormac McCarthy’s blistering Border Trilogy and at the moment I’m meandering my way through Caro’s mammoth 1976 biography and character study of Robert Moses, The Power Broker). I have a huge collection of music to listen to. I have enormous amounts of work to do. So armed with myriad ways to stave off the boredom that the TV exacerbates I don’t miss it at all. Good riddance. In a totally unrelated step, I’ve dumped Windows off my laptop. I know my way around Windows but I’m a little tired of watching its performance falling off within weeks of reformatting or first boot. I’m not too concerned about the viruses that we know about: it’s the slow log-in times pointing to the viruses we don’t know about that worry me. So, I took the opportunity of changing the hard drive on my laptop to load up Linux Ubuntu. Ubuntu is designed precisely for people like me: the dangerous sort with enough nous to totally wreck a system but not enough to fix it again. The OS is really very impressive so far: it comes bundled with Open Office, which I’m finding a bit more stable than Office XP (and more competent when I crash it) and a huge range of other software. It’s noticeably faster than Windows XP on my machine and far more configurable, which means I can mess to my hearts content. And if I truly screw up I’ll just reinstall: it doesn’t mean sitting online for a day downloading from Microsoft Update. In fact, I can partition the drive such that my personal files are separated from the OS, so reinstalling the system doesn’t mean having to lose all the files and configurations I’ve built up. And it’s all free! All I’ve needed was access to Google so that I could find what I needed and how to add in the various bits and pieces that I wanted. Still, I wonder if I can wire up Linux to watch Lost?
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Neither Indifferent nor ScepticalTour in Ruins (17.2.2006, 10:11 UTC)
Callalillie has taken a rather strange tour, of 'preserved ruins.' The photos remind me (not entirely accurately) of the lovely, vaguely creepy Horta Museum on Rue Americaine in Brussels (creepy because I've always been vaguely discomfited by walking through people's houses). Still, this tour is certainly on the list for the next trip to NYC.I must post my musings at some stage on the shift in American culture at the turn of the 19th and 20th Centuries, from emulating European (largely Francophile) aesthetics to being the focus for everyone else's artistic, architectural and musical aesthetics - from Met to Moma, in a way.
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Neither Indifferent nor ScepticalOliver Sacks (15.2.2006, 17:03 UTC)
Fascinating, charming long audio interview with Oliver Sacks over on the New Yorker.
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Neither Indifferent nor ScepticalCrumby Proclamation (14.2.2006, 15:54 UTC)
Apropos of absolutely nothing, I asked a friend who has access to such things to email me copy of this 1689 proclamation by King James to the people of Dublin regarding the scarcity of bread in the city. Click on the image to zoom in. I wonder why the bakers weren't keeping the bread supply up? What could have been going on at the time? I can't imagine...
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Neither Indifferent nor ScepticalWake (11.2.2006, 12:04 UTC)
I can't tell you how difficult it is to take long-exposure photographs on a moving ship. Thankfully I avoided accidental blurring on this one by softening the image in an artful manner. I like the result though!
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Neither Indifferent nor ScepticalWho'd have thunk it #1048 (27.1.2006, 15:43 UTC)
It's possible to be unbelievably arrogant and naive at the same time.
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Neither Indifferent nor ScepticalDead Flag (27.1.2006, 14:22 UTC)
Some marvellous spin-offs of the Red Flag in the comments to this great post over on Crooked Timber. I also like the idea that the Internationale was really an attack on Kant.
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Neither Indifferent nor ScepticalOn Libertarianism Doesn't Apply to Children (27.1.2006, 14:18 UTC)
There's a very interesting post over on Internet Commentator, addressing the question of how libertarianism might or might not apply to children. Frank is hostile to the idea that "children are either property of their parents and implicitly theirs to abuse as they see fit, or free agents who implicitly have the "rights" to spurn school, refuse medical treatment and have sex with dirty old men." Can't argue with that, though I raised the issue of whether and how we can distinguish between a child and an adult. Frank's reply is excellent.If you've anything to say, say it over there.
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Neither Indifferent nor ScepticalGreenery (25.1.2006, 15:20 UTC)
Well, after all that snow, and inspired by Belfast's unseasonably good weather, here's a picture of yellowy-green summery grass. And hills.In other words, I've nothing to say.
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Neither Indifferent nor ScepticalUnphotographable (23.1.2006, 17:39 UTC)
Via a very very roundabout route, I've just come across the other-worldly, almost meditative Unphotographable - an account of photographs never taken. Very strange idea, stunningly realised.
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Neither Indifferent nor ScepticalCruise Control (20.1.2006, 17:25 UTC)
This piece of sad news from The Register:UK TV viewers will not get to see an episode of South Park which shows Nicole Kidman and fellow Scientologist John Travolta attempting to coax a fictional Tom Cruise character out of a closet, with Kidman saying: "Don't you think this has gone on long enough? It's time for you to come out of the closet. You're not fooling anyone."Apparently the Cruise character in the show claims that he isn't in the closet, although he actually is. More on this, plus legal analysis (seriously!) by Julie Hilden over on Findlaw.Interestingly, the episode itself indicates that its creators know well that they may be defaming Cruise, and they know of his litigious history. The joke disclaimer preceding the episode announces that "All characters and events on this show -- even those based on real persons -- are entirely fictional." At the end of the episode, the Cruise character threatens to bring a suit (not on the gay issue, but in defense of Scientology) "in England" -- which lacks a formal equivalent of the First Amendment. And all the credits at the end use the pseudonyms "John Smith" and "Jane Smith."Hilden doesn't think Cruise would win in the face of a 1st Amendment defence, but it probably won't come to that. The episode will probably just disappear.
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Neither Indifferent nor ScepticalDrottningholm (19.1.2006, 11:49 UTC)
Another Sweden picture: I likes this one. Not sure about the framing on the left though.
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Neither Indifferent nor ScepticalMurals (19.1.2006, 11:13 UTC)
Fascinating piece from Paul here. It's even got pictures!
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Neither Indifferent nor ScepticalHowzat for plagiarism??? (17.1.2006, 17:03 UTC)
Courtesy of somebody who mysteriously found me through googling this (I'm not sure if I've even seen this movie), here's an interesting set of pictures. But less interesting than the non-cgi Educating Rita to my curmudgeounly mind!
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Neither Indifferent nor ScepticalHeidegger and the Nazis (17.1.2006, 16:30 UTC)
I was going to start this post with a stamp of irritation with BBC Radio 4 saying what Friday coming's Afternoon Play (Todtnauberg, by John Banville, which might be quite interesting) as presenting an account of a meeting between Paul Celan and Martin Heidegger, "the Nazi Philosopher."I'm no fan of Heidegger, but, although it might be entirely fair ('cos it's true) that he was a Nazi, it's surely unfair to say that he was "the Nazi Philosopher." As Richard Rorty insists, surely we can separate the man's terrible politics and actions from his work (and our use of that work)?1But now I'm not so sure of that position: an internet search (oh font of verifiably high-quality wisdom!) brought this long paper to light (with a response here), where Alex Steiner argues that it is quite possible to associate Heidegger's work with his Nazism. I don't know enough to be sure. Is there anyone out there with a helpful opinion?1 Rorty addresses Heidegger's Nazism in in 'Another Possible World,' which was published in the London Review of Books in 1990. The essay was republished in Philosophy and Social Hope as 'On Heidegger's Nazism.'
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Neither Indifferent nor ScepticalIs this West West Lothian? (17.1.2006, 14:22 UTC)
I was interested to listen to Lord Baker talking about the West Lothian question on the Today Programme this morning (the realplayer file is here). I have to say that I'm somewhat sympathetic, on the face of it at least, to the idea that there something amiss when Scottish MPs can vote on some issues that affect English people but that English MPs can't vote on the same issues as they affect the Scots. That said, I think the problem arises from an incoherent devolution strategy for the UK, not from a devolution per se.Anyway, from a NI-narcissism point of view, I was intrigued (and mildly concerned) to hear Lord Baker proposing that the solution was for the Speaker to ringfence some bills or section of bills as being territorially specific and that, therefore, only MPs from that territory could debate them.Does this imply that only MPs elected to Northern Ireland constituencies would debate and vote on NI-specific legislation? Surely the Westminster asylum is getting along fine on its own without our particular brand of lunatic taking over...
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Neither Indifferent nor ScepticalNot Before 2007 (16.1.2006, 18:40 UTC)
To coin the lovely phrase, the EU Constitution hasn't gone away you know. Although it's in hiding in Ireland. As noted on the The Fundamental Principles of the European Constitition blog, Bertie has just said that there won't be any movement on the issue before the next French Presidential election (in 2007) so the constitution won't be addressed in the lifetime of the Dáil. Here's hoping that when they do deal with it they do what the Convention actually intended, which is a basic statement of principles of governance, not a gargantuan attempt to fuse all treaties together.And maybe, while they're at it, they could come up with a different name...
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Neither Indifferent nor ScepticalComing to the Crunch. (13.1.2006, 16:03 UTC)
O headline writers have such fun...
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Neither Indifferent nor ScepticalAIG-whizz (12.1.2006, 14:38 UTC)
Well, as a philosopher I tend not to be all that au-fait with things topical, but one perk of my job is that I get to hang around with people who know their stuff. This week the leader of the project that I work for had an article in the Irish Times (subs required, but we have the text from the article up on our site here) outlining the manner in which Dublin became the hub for a major piece of false accounting in the reinsurance industry. According to Justin, this has had a major reputational impact on Ireland as an offshore financial centreReinsurance is just what it says on the tin: insurance companies insure their books against huge losses so that they can survive major claims, in the same way that small bookies pass parts of bets on to bigger bookies when they are made. When it's working properly the reinsurer takes a portion of the risk on, for a premium, and pays out if required.Fraud happens (for example that between American International Group and General Re) when money is supposed to be transferred but, secretly, no risk is transferred (and not much of the money). When this happens the client (equivalent to the small bookie) essentially receives a loan from the reinsurer but sticks the transaction on the books as an asset rather than as a liability (I'm a bit hazy on this, but I think that that's what's going on). So AIG was able to overstate their market value. General re was paid a fee without taking on any risk of having to pay out money.There's lots more on this in various places, including in the Washington Post, on the Law Professors' Blog, in the Irish Times, and in the Insurance Journal.But for Ireland it comes down to this: the country is no longer a cheap place for doing business (given the rise in the corporate tax rate), but any advantage it might have in terms of reputation (advanced European democracy and all that), will not be helped by these sorts of events. Whether or not there was regulatory oversight involved (and you should not Justin's quote from Charlie McCreevy on this), it is not good news. And neither is it going to go away.
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Neither Indifferent nor ScepticalTreeline (10.1.2006, 14:50 UTC)
Back from a lovely, cold, break in Sweden. God - does this mean I have to do some work now???
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Neither Indifferent nor ScepticalWinter Bee (24.12.2005, 14:00 UTC)
I was surprised to see a bumble bee in the garden just now, obviously (from the yellow spot on her leg) gathering quite a bit of pollen for a nest. Very strange on Christmas Eve.
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Neither Indifferent nor ScepticalWandering (24.12.2005, 12:57 UTC)
In my seasonal meanderings around the blogosphere, I suspect that Lex has by far the best picture of the moment. And the BBC's Late Junction, despite the devilish rumours to the contrary, actually has all the best tunes.
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Neither Indifferent nor Sceptical2006 Threats (22.12.2005, 22:19 UTC)
Great piece on tonight's Channel 4 News: a top 10 list of threats to the UK in 2006. Christmas cheer par excellence... The video can be viewed through the item's page.
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Neither Indifferent nor ScepticalVacation! (22.12.2005, 21:20 UTC)
Term is over so it's time for rest. Good stuff! After a nightmare journey down to Dublin (mostly my fault) I'm in for a great holiday. I hope you have a good one yourself.
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Neither Indifferent nor ScepticalSteamy (21.12.2005, 10:24 UTC)
You really can't hang around New York without finding a picture of a red and white thingy with Steam coming out (Assyrian facade optional). The NYC equivalent of a red-haired girl with a donkey.
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Neither Indifferent nor ScepticalEntwined (20.12.2005, 18:11 UTC)
I see the new issue of Britain and Ireland is out, this time addressing matters cultural.
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Neither Indifferent nor ScepticalAttitudes towards an (the?) EU Constitution (20.12.2005, 16:57 UTC)
I can't find the data on the Eurobarometer site, but RTÉ is reporting a slight rise in support for an EU constitution in the latest Eurobarometer, accompanied admittedly by a drop in general support for the EU. Interpreting from very slight data (academic speak for 'guessing'), this suggests a rather normal trend in political thinking: if you don't trust the institution, you'd better get yourself protected by a body of law.
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Neither Indifferent nor ScepticalShutterseek (20.12.2005, 14:13 UTC)
Via Apparently Nothing, I've just come across a wonderful resource: ShutterSeek. It's a kind of Lifehacker for camera obsessives. Great stuff!
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Neither Indifferent nor ScepticalCoasting (20.12.2005, 12:07 UTC)
A more pleasant picture today, taken somewhere beyond New Haven on the Boston-New York train: by far the best way to travel between the two cities.By the way: them there on the horizon are a spectacularly bleak row of houses.
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Neither Indifferent nor ScepticalHe knows when you are sleeping... (19.12.2005, 15:59 UTC)
Not that anybody needs a reminder of the heightened tensions in the American security apparatus, here's a photo of the armed coast guard boat that accompanied the Staten Island Ferry from Manhattan last week. The ferry is the best way to see NYC (especially, as we did, at dusk) and I fully recommend it. But sometimes it's hard not to be put off by the incessant monitoring. This is partly because, instead of being reassuring, it sort of puts everyone on notice that the baddies are out to get you. Maybe that's what it's supposed to do?By the way, Mel makes some interesting points linking last week's spook-related revelations on both sides of the Atlantic.
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