25 June 2006

Stoic Universalism

τὸ βούλημα τῆς φύσεως καταμαθεῖν ἔστιν ἐξ ὧν οὐ διαφερόμεθα πρὸς ἀλλήλους. “It is possible to learn the will of nature from those things by which we do not differ from one another.” Encheiridion of Epictetus, c.26.

21 June 2006

On people who wear too much scent

παντοδαπῶς με τυφλοῖ μύρου ὀδμὴ ᾧ σὺ κέχρισαι·
    κείνης πως ὀδμῆς κρυπτομένη κακίων;

At the bucolic caesura I have taken a Homeric liberty with hiatus. Sterner metricians may substitute τῷ.

Yes, it does.

Apart from Pascal's Wager — which is at best a caution to cover your derrière — this has got to be one of the worst arguments in the Great Theism Debates:

What is Dawkins’s response to those for whom his popularization of evolution causes so much pain? Essentially it is this: “Keep a stiff upper lip.” If “something is true,” he responds, “no amount of wishful thinking can undo it.” No doubt this is correct. But we might with as much propriety ask Dawkins: “If something is painful, does its truth justify inflicting it on people who find it disturbing?” Let us grant — only, to be sure, for the sake of argument — that Dawkins’s Darwinian explanation of Life, the Universe, and Everything is true. Does this in itself justify his strident shoving of it into our public discourse, knowing full well the emotional distress it will cause the spiritually sensitive? [full article]

How patronizing. "Oh, the poor, sensitive dears, leave them their comforts, even if false." Further, it is not wild-eyed idealism to believe that having more true information allows you to make better decisions in life, both practical and ethical. Mollycoddling the spiritually sensitive (whatever the hell that actually means) corrupts their decision-making process.

People are under no obligation to accept Dawkin's arguments. To suggest that they need to be protected from even hearing them due to their sensitive constitutions is manipulative emotional coercion.

15 June 2006

An Ancient Greek on Obstetrics

Medea, talking about the difficult life of women:

λέγουσι δ᾽ ἡμᾶς ὡς ἀκίνδυνον βίον
ζῶμεν κατ᾽ οἴκους, οἱ δὲ μάρνανται δορί,
κακῶς φρονοῦντες· ὡς τρὶς ἂν παρ᾽ ἀσπίδα     250
στῆναι θέλοιμ᾽ ἂν μᾶλλον ἢ τεκεῖν ἅπαξ.

And they say we live lives without danger
in our houses, while they go out and fight.
Their wits are addled! I'd rather stand in battle with
a shield three times than give birth once.

In the Greek the men "fight with spears" and she would "stand beside a shield", but "fight with spears" seems silly to me in English.

I have an old school edition of a few Greek plays in which some avid annotator has filled the margins with quotes from Shakespeare. It seems a bit excessive. But I can't help but think of Lady MacBeth when I read this, so I understand that mysterious compulsion a bit better.

11 June 2006

My Oldest Books

Several other people have been discussing their oldest books. Since I've not biblioblogged in a while, I'll mention my oldest.

My penultimate is Polybius, ex recognitione, Immanuelis Bekkeri, printed in Berlin in 1844. It was originally a two volume set (owned by Paul Geyer in 1867, and one Benedict Einarson some unspecified later time). At some point both volumes were jammed into a single library binding. This was a very high quality production, the binding and paper are sound and usable to this day, with minimal foxing.

My oldest book is ἩΡΟΔΟΤΟΥ ἹΣΤΟΡΙΩΝ ΛΟΓΟΙ Θ’, textus Johannis Schweighaeuseri, Volumen Secundum printed in 1818, apparently in Glasgow (Glasguae?). The paper is in good shape, though it has a lot more foxing, but the cover is falling apart. Once in the library of the Kimball Union Academy, Shelf D, No. 75, (which institution still exists).

I probably have a dozen more books from the late 1800s, mostly Greek topics. While I love a good, old book, I expect all of my books to survive actual use. For editions of Greek texts, I'm usually a more eager collector of the most current edition available, because I love a giant app.crit. more than I love the aroma of old books.

08 June 2006

The Sycophancy Fallacy

While I have, for health reasons, radically cut back on my reading of politcal blogs since the last presidential theatre season, a few times a week I do nonetheless check in on a few blogs, both left and right, to get a feel for what has caught people's attentions.

Just today I saw yet again an assertion I see regularly, namely, that the bloggers on The Other Side never say anything bad about their party of choice, that they're totally in thrall to them. On the face of it, this is positively delusional. If there is anything both left and right political bloggers as a class have in common, it is a passion for mercilessly savaging allied politicians. Not all of them of course, but there is hardly a lack of examples. The week following the "Nuclear Option" filibuster show-down probably offers 1000s of examples from both sides.

I have to wonder if people even think when they say something like that, or if it's some sort of phatic (WikiPedia def.) expression, like "well, that's the end of this post, I hope you enjoy it."

05 June 2006

Wisconsine-Sichuan Duck

On Saturday I had dinner with some friends at a local Chinese restaurant, which is best when you stick to the last two pages of the menu, where the Sichuan specialties are. Eric relates our dinner at length on his own blog. I agree with him that the duck was particularly fine. It was just finely sliced duck even more finely match-sticked red and yellow bell peppers. I know some people find duck a bit cloying at too fatty, but the slightly tart and crisp flavor of the pepper balanced it out better than I would have thought.

So I had to try my own version tonight, with a little twist. Rather than wait to thaw and quarter a whole duck, I indulged a bit and got a smoked duck breast (from Nueske's Farm — it was costlier than I recall from the last time I got it).


  • half that duck breast cut into 1/4in strips (the short length, not long)
  • one red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • one yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
  • mirin
  • light soy

Start your rice. Slice your peppers, and the duck. I took out about 1/5th of the peppers from each color and shoved them into a bag for later snacking. If you don't, you'll want to use more duck.

Get your favored frying device very, very hot. Add oil (peanut, by preference), then add the duck strips. Keep them moving, and when they've browned a bit, chuck in the peppers. Keep it all moving quickly. After the heat gets back to the pan (1-2 minutes), add a splash of mirin and a splash of soy (maybe 1tsp each). Cook until the soy and mirin are well reduced, the result should be nearly dry.

Eat, and delight how something so simple can be so tasty.