Friday, September 30, 2005


Today I had lunch at Peppers with Jason and two other grad students to talk about applying. The conversation ended up just wandering around, with a lot of metaphysics thrown in, since I didn't actually have a lot of specific questions. The net result is that sometime during the conversation, I realized that I've subconsciously decided to apply this year unless I just can't get the work done. So, let there be a conscious decision.

I am applying to grad school this year.

I also decided to ask Keith Simmons and Alan Nelson for recommendations. I'm told that it's no problem that Keith only knows me from a set theory reading group, and Alan has only taught me as a visiting professor. Apparently a recommendation from him would carry a lot of weight, even more than I realized. That'll be four recommendations if each of them ends up being willing (Bill Lycan and Ram Neta are the other two).

Oh yes, time to take the GREs.

John Roberts told me this morning that even though November 18th is the deadline for my thesis defense, it isn't when my final draft is due. More like penultimate, possibly antepenultimate. Still, Nov 18th is precisely 7 weeks from today. Even after making some progress this week, I'm way behind where I need to be. Time to cut back on Go and AIM--if I have the strength.

Oh Gasp! New Math!

A long train of links starting with Belle gets you to the assertion that children in L.A. schools are having trouble learning fractional division because they are being taught that fraction division is repeated subtraction (in the same way that division of natural numbers is repeated subtraction).

Too often, the math that teachers are taught at district training sessions is just plain wrong. For instance, middle school teachers are erroneously taught that fraction division is repeated subtraction. This makes sense only for special examples such as 3/4 divided by 1/4 . In this case, 3/4 may be decreased by 1/4 a total of three times, until nothing is left, and the quotient is indeed 3. Understanding division as repeated subtraction, however, is nonsensical for a problem like 1/4 divided by 2/3 because 2/3 cannot be subtracted from 1/4 even once. No wonder students have trouble with fractions in high school.

Leave aside the odd use of 'erroneously' to describe a working algorithm, but does anyone really think that it's easier to teach kids this complicated method of subtracting fractions instead of the normal "invert and multiply" method? The subtraction method is going to take more computation except in the rare cases where the two fractions have the form a/b and ca/b. I guess that's the point of all the hubub. But maybe I'm out of touch with exactly how the average kid learns math.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


Whatever happened to my underload? I was supposed to take three courses my final semester.
PHIL      109        PHIL PROB PSYCH            LEC     3.0                  
13821 001 T 12:30PM-03:00PM KNOBE, JOSHUA
Josh Knobe is one of the big guys in experimental philosophy, and he's new here in the department, and he just came and visited phil club and he's totally awesome. Unless the course description ends up being something ridiculously weird, rabid wolves couldn't stop me from taking this course.

PHIL      305        SYSTEMATIC PHIL            LEC     3.0                   
09559 001 W 03:30PM-06:00PM REEVE, C D
Ancient Philosophy is a requirement for graduation, but I'll sign up for an independent study and take this course on Plato as a substitute, assuming I've correctly identified what this is (I can't sign up for it directly because it's 300 level).

PHIL      240        PHILOSOPHY OF MIND         LEC     3.0                   
13968 001 T 03:30PM-06:00PM LYCAN, W G
Philosophy of Mind with Bill Lycan?! Unless it's an entire semester on consciousness, the rabid wolves don't stand a chance. It's 200 level, so they won't let me sign up directly. Am I allowed to take two independent studies?

MATH      181        INTRO TOPOLOGY             LEC     3.0                    
07298 001 MWF 11:00AM-11:50AM BELKALE, PRAKAS
MATH      187        GROUPS AND FIELDS          LEC     3.0                    
07299 001 TR 09:30AM-10:45AM EBERLEIN, P
Did I ever mention that the math department schedules classes the way Satan would? I could take either or neither of these, depending on how I'm feeling next semester.

LING      137        SEMANTICS                  LEC     3.0                     
07051 001 TR 03:30PM-04:45PM TERRY, JULES, M
If I've underestimated the rabid wolves, this looks pretty. I'm sure not having ever taken a linguistics course won't be a problem.

Then there's bowling. Oh, did I mention that I definitely have a natural sciences perspective left, and possibly, pending the results of a conversation with the study abroad advisor, a social sciences perspective to fulfill? *Hates*

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Bed blogging

...less salacious than it sounds. I've been mildly sleep deprived for a long time now, but I don't have any major obligations until next tuesday, and I plan on spending most of the spare time in bed.

Consistency again

This morning, I mailed a paper to the Editor of the Australasian Journal of Philosophy in ever so distant New Zealand. Since this is an international journal which would be accessible through the internet as well as any university library worth its salt, I should have no hesitation showing the paper to my good friends who always accept me for who I am. Yeah right. But the hobgoblin of little minds is strong today, so here you are.

Witness the rather mundane title: Brutal Composition and Our Intutions.

Update: maybe I'll find out how to make it into a pdf for those of you running linux (does the linux running one still read this, actually?). Anyway, pdfs are nifty and professional looking.

It wasn't necessary

...but oh did I need that guilty self-congratulatory feeling.

Me: I need to send this to New Zealand
Girl behind the counter: "Is this just letters/papers?"
Me: "Yeah, it's just a manuscript."

Monday, September 19, 2005

Why we buy our own books

Davis Library BD311 .V35 1990

DUE 08-15-06

That's the entry for Peter Van Inwagen's Material Beings, a book that I read a while back and now need a page number from. Given the nature of the book and the length due date, I'm fairly certain I can narrow it down to one of 5 people who has it out of the library. Still, it could easily take as long as a week to track him down and humiliatingly beg to have a look at the book.

Plan b: remove that thankfully inessential citation from the paper and continue.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

But, I want the compliments...

The comment spam has ceased being interesting, so I've deleted what's coming in, and turned on word verification to stop more from appearing. Although I'll miss the compliments, I don't think they'll ever match the silver tongue of my first secret admirer.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

One of the good guys is being a bad guy

I don't really have a theory of how Supreme Court nominees should be evaluated, but I'm pretty sure that it's not like this:

Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, was much less satisfied with the nominee's responses to questions about whether there is a "right to die."

"Do you think the Constitution encompasses a fundamental right for my father to conclude that he does not want to continue - he does not want to continue - on a life-support system?" Mr. Biden asked.

"Well, Senator," the judge replied, "I cannot answer that question in the abstract because - "

"That's not abstract," Mr. Biden interjected. "It's real."

Mr. Biden found the long back-and-forth less than illuminating, referring at one point to "this Kabuki dance we have in these hearings here, as if the public doesn't have a right to know what you think about fundamental issues facing them."

Of particular interest is the bold ontological assertion that abstract objects are not real. While there are certain moods in which I agree, I find Professor Biden's excursion into metaphysics to be a bit of a non-sequitor. That said, John Roberts' confirmation could well be such a disaster that it doesn't matter how bad the stated reasons for opposing him are. Paraphrasing a bit, I'd sooner confirm Godzilla than John Roberts.

It only takes one drop

The Vatican would desperately like to purge American seminaries of gay men, and are preparing by conducting an investigation to find all the mutants.

Edwin O'Brien, archbishop for the United States military, told The National Catholic Register that the restriction should apply even to those who have not been sexually active for a decade or more.

I really hope that they don't think this one through too carefully.

It is unknown how many Catholic priests are gay. Estimates range widely, from 10 percent to 60 percent.

Monday, September 12, 2005

What I was going to write

I was writing a long post detailing my lack of faith in the entire project of giving a theory of reference during these past two days. Shortly before finishing, I made the mistake of expressing some of the same thoughts to Ed and thought "oh wait, I'm just doing a bad job of rehashing Stephen Stich's argument from The Fragmentation of Reason." So instead of the long post, I'll just give you the money shot:

I think that analytic philosophy went insane recently

There's two long posts waiting in the wings, one on Benjamin's essay "The Storyteller" and the other on Benjamin and fascism, but they might die equally horrible deaths.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

I have a secret admirer!

Or some comment spam on that last post. You be the judge:

"You have a knack for
writing. I read about 20
blogs a day, and skim about
30 more, so I mean it! We
can all use improvement, but
you certainly are better than
most I've read."

But don't get your feelings hurt, international man of mystery!

"I'm going to be starting a blog
soon, about affordable seo [ed: link removed]
(I know, it sounds strange!) but
if you don't mind, I might drop
you a line just to get a little advice.

Oh how I anticipate that day.

In the meantime, read about how spammers are sort of like aliens.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Down with the king

How could a monarch stoop to dressing so much like a member of the petty-bourgeoisie? In the next generation we will have kings earning their MBAs and selling yard tools.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Judicial Activism please?

Rejoice! The california state legislature passed legislation rendering the marriage law gender neutral. It awaits the signature of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who may well still veto it, in which case there aren't enough votes to push it through (at least I think not).

What I really love is the governor's position, however: "Schwarzenegger's office has repeated that he believes the issue should be decided either by a vote of the people or a court decision" (emphasis added). All the more evidence that the judicial activism issue is a red herring.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Digging myself in deeper

Trying to write for my thesis is becoming a nightmare. Not only is the organization absolutely impossible, I'm really struggling to decide what demands to hold the theory to, so that I'm honestly unsure whether I'm defending Dennett or attacking him, half of the time.

I'm reasonably sure of a number of points, but I have no idea how to work them into a thesis. I'm also worried that everything I've written so far is a dead end that I won't be able to use once/if I clarify these problems.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Things I should've or actually did use as responses to dumb questions on my P.E. webassign

My first stab at the problem was good enough, but I ultimately decided not to submit it on grounds of unresponsiveness:

1. What is the Physical Education Activities Program at UNC trying to accomplish through formulating activity standards?

The physical education activites program at UNC attempts to foster a fascist youth movement centered around the cultivation of an aesthetic of bodily perfection, especially that of the virile young man.

3. Does elitism foster mass-participation in physical activity? Briefly explain your answer.

Elitism is naturally at the core of any fascist movement: the individual learns that he must submerge his private goals into the collective will of the fatherland as it is expressed by the leaders of the nation. Having made peace between individual and state via this submission, the individual then participates in the mass-physical activity dictated by the reich.

4. Physical activity has been shown to provide some protection against several chronic diseases. Name four of these diseases.

Democracy, Modernity, Enfeeblement, Faggotry.

More tactically sound were the following responses:

To 1) The physical education activities program at UNC attempts to promote a culturally relevant approach to fostering physical education that is congruent with the economic and moral necessity of healthy physical activity. PEAP attempts to combat the well documented decline in physical activity following puberty, a period of transition which many UNC students have previously experienced. Thus, these students are at risk for declining levels of physical activity, and PEAP attempts to shelter them from this possibility.

To 3) While some might see elitism as the cornerstone of any regimen of physical education, drawing upon the lengthy cultural history of the Olympian ideal and the correlatory focus on the virile young man, this conception of physical activity seems more likely to promote a spectator society that is detrimental to the possibility of mass-participation in physical activity. Elitism, however natural it may seem, is likely to cause many students to become alienated from physical activity, seeing their own physicality as a flawed cariacature of those privileged by the elitist doctrine, a result which can only be strengthened by the Judeo-Christian conception of the body as an impure and temporary resting place for the soul.

To 4) Physical activity is known to absolutely obliterate coronary heart disease, adult onset diabetes, hypertension and depression.

Friday, September 02, 2005

T-10 minutes

...until there's a legal battle over disciplinary action taken against high school students because of their facebook profiles. From a pragmatic perspective, I really can't imagine what they thought they were doing by launching this new service.