Dried Roses

Sunday cat pix

How does he hold himself up on those tiny little feet?


LinkJune 4, 2006 in Cats

Pattern of the week

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LinkJune 6, 2006 in Patterns · Web/Tech

Nourrir grand’ barbe

Ronsard, translating a Greek epigram:
Si nourrir grand’ barbe au menton
Nous fait Philosophes paroistre,
Un bouc barbasse pourroit estre
Par ce moyen quelque Platon.
Free translation:
If long beards
Make philosophers
Then goats must appear
Great Sophisters.
Pierre de Ronsard, Gayetez (orig. publ. 1553), in Œuvres, ed. Gustave Cohen (Paris: Gallimard, 1950) 1:341. Ronsard’s source is the Greek Anthology.

LinkJune 10, 2006 in History of Philosophy · Literature

Sunday cat & garden pix

Cat & Garden sounds like one of those niche-market magazines, consisting of press releases and invitations to consume, that with Greshamite efficiency have driven almost everything worth reading off the newstands.
Musa keeping tabs on Josie, who is hiding off-camera on the left.


LinkJune 11, 2006 in Cats · Garden

Pattern of the week

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LinkJune 15, 2006 in Patterns

Writing gone awry

Disons franchementShall I speak freely? Most people (Ancients and Moderns alike) do not remember, in the middle or at the end of a letter, what they said at the beginning. Because they themselves understand what they mean to say, they imagine that this first understanding suffices, and that it is conveyed immediately to another. Not thinking, then, of any clarification in particular, they usually say but half of what they mean. And it is certain that a word left at the end of the pen, an omitted particle, a forgotten connection, breaks up the train of reasoning, puts sense out of order, and leaves the reader to divine what was meant. ce qui en est. La pluspart des gens (& des Anciens, comme des Modernes) ne se souviennent pas au milieu, où à la fin d’une Lettre de ce qu’ils ont dit au commencement. Parce qu’ils s’entendent eux-mesmes, ils s’imaginent que cette premiere intelligence suffit, & que d’abord elle passe d’eux à autruy. Ainsi ne songeant point à un particulier eclaircissement d’ordinaire ils ne disent qu’à demy ce qu’ils veulent dire. Et il est certain qu’un mot laissé au bout de la plume, qu’une particule obmise, qu’une liaison oubliée, detache la suite du raisonnement, met le sens en desordre, & donne à deviner au Lecteur.
Jean-Louis Guez de Balzac (lnglabfr.png) was born in 1597, one year after Descartes, and died in 1654. Among philosophers, he is known as the author of Socrate Chrétien (1652), and as the recipient of letters from Descartes. The Entretiens were written in the 1640s and 1650s. The later ones followed upon Balzac’s retirement from courtly politics and literary polemics; in them Balzac reflects upon his career and on the literary life in general. The Entretiens were first published in 1657. As their name implies, they were addressed to particular correspondents and often commemorated particular occasions. By the standards of the period, their style is informal, like that of Montaigne’s Essais; but they exhibit too much erudition and stylistic self-consciousness for us to call them that.

LinkJune 16, 2006 in Literature · Reading Notes

Sunday cat pix

For some reason, this looks like those dioramas you used to see in natural history museums.


LinkJune 19, 2006 in Cats

How shall I spam thee?

What better way to start the day than with spam poetry? You make it by combining the subject-lines of your morning mail. In this case each line is from a different message. Here’s an example (credit: M; some punctuation added for clarity).
The Ballad of 06/19/06-08:16-09:57CDT

Hidden in the alder-bushes
Leaped as if to meet the arrow;
Found these songs so wild and wayward—

Love the shadow of the forest,
“From the Master of Life descending,
On the banks their clubs they buried,
Gitche Manito, the mighty,
See the face of Laughing Water!”

And yes, it is scrambled Longfellow. So much for Parnassus. Read the original.

LinkJune 20, 2006 in Jeux d’esprit · Literature

Pattern of the week

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LinkJune 20, 2006 in Patterns

David Brooks on the emotions of boys and men

It’s time for a new stereotype: Right-wingers don’t know science. But they still make propaganda from what they think they know. Exhibit #1 is from Mark Liberman at LanguageLog:
Mark Liberman, “David Brooks, cognitive neuroscientist”, LanguageLog 12 Jun 2006.
—, “Are men emotional children?”, LanguageLog 24 Jun 2006.
David Brooks makes dubious use of neuroscience to argue that in order to increase reading among boys, they should be given Hemingway and the like, not Jane Austen.
In his first post Liberman looks at one paper, presumably representative, on the topic of sex differences in learning. The paper concludes that for pictures that aroused intense negative emotions, women’s memories were, in a group comparison, somewhat better than men’s.
Turhan Canli et al., “Sex differences in the neural basis of emotional memories”, PNAS 99.16 (6 Aug 2002).
Associated with that finding were differences in activation patterns in the brain. But those differences must be set against a background of community. The two sexes “share an extensive network of structures associated with attention, language, and motor control that are associated with emotional arousal”; and, as Liberman notes, if we could see the raw data we would likely find a great deal of variation among individuals.
Even more telling is a second post. Brooks’s source turns out to be Why gender matters by Leonard Sax. Sax grossly misinterprets a paper concerning responses to pictures of faces exhibiting various negative emotions.
Killgore, William D. S.; Oki, Mika; Yurgelun-Todd, Deborah A., "Sex-specific developmental changes in amygdala responses to affective faces," Neuroreport 12.2 (Feb 2001): 427-433.
He claims that “the locus [in male brains] of brain activity associated with negative emotion remains stuck in the the amygdala”. In girls responses to negative emotion are supposed to shift to cerebral cortex during adolescence, in boys they don’t. From Liberman’s careful examination it is apparent that the study by Killgore et al. proves very little. The samples are very small, and individual differences between members of the same sex come close to swamping supposed differences between the sexes. The paper certainly does not support the claims of Sax or Brooks.
Brooks admits to being scientifically illiterate. Sax has an M.D. He also has an agenda, which is to promote single-sex public schools. The National Association for Single Sex Public Education (NASSPE), which seems to consist in Sax and an assistant, advertises his book prominently. The NASSPE has regional meetings every year. The Northeast Conference is co-sponsored with a charter-school outfit, Victory Schools, and a Transformation Life Coach who has founded the Academy For Leadership and Transformation (which seems to be nothing other than the Coach herself). It will set you back $325 plus $165 for accommodations.
Single-sex education may be a good thing, although memories of high-school gym, admittedly a special case, suggest that it has its drawbacks. But misinterpreting science is not. And even if the conclusions of the paper by Killgore et al. had been correctly stated, the inferences Brooks wants to draw from them are far from being justified.

LinkJune 25, 2006 in Psychology · Science · Unenlightenment