Monthly Archives: January 2009

A Dogged Candidate for Congress

An amazing number of folks I read regularly online practically seem prepared to swear that the only reason congressional candidate Tom Geoghengan hasn't walked on water is that he's been too busy doing good on land. (For more mainstream adulation, see James Fallows, Tom Geoghegan for Congress.)

The latest is How Tom Geoghegan Saved My Dog: Hildy's Story.

Kidding aside, Geoghegan sounds like an absolutely amazing candidate to replace Rahm Emanuel in Congress. They are taking donations.

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A Joy of Blogging

One of the great parts of this blogging thing is that smart and funny people send me email or leave comments about the stuff I post. Case in point was the funny, if cruel, remark about Boris Johnson left by “eric” on the post below, How to Complain in British.

“eric” turns out to be Eric Fink, a law professor at startup Elon Law School in North Carolina, and he too has a blog with the cheerful title of Debris. And poking around there, I found a link to this wondrously funny deconstruction of the most prevalent and awful commercial I seen since I acquired satellite TV, the “Snuggies” ad. But it does make me wonder if getting a TV was such a great idea.

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How to Complain in British

The British press are suggesting that this missive to Virgin Airlines might be is The best complaint letter ever.

I think the US version, were there one, would be a little less…polite…

Posted in UK | 3 Comments

Strossing Out A Little

Crooked Timber, the only group blog I have ever imagined I might enjoy being a part of (not that they asked), is having a bunch of online luminaries do a very fun discussion of Charles Stross's writings; see Charles Stross book event for details.

Recommended, although I should note that while I read Stross, I'm not a Strossian myself.

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Today’s Top Story You Didn’t Hear About

AP via NYT (buried inside the paper), Rove Subpoenaed on U.S. Attorneys [emphemeral link, sorry],

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Karl Rove, a former top White House aide, to testify about the Bush administration's firing of United States attorneys and prosecution of a former Democratic governor. The subpoena, by Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, continues a long-running legal battle and directs Mr. Rove to appear for a deposition next Monday. Mr. Rove previously refused to appear before the panel, arguing that former presidential advisers cannot be compelled to testify before Congress. Mr. Conyers said the transfer of power in the White House, with President Obama now in office, could affect the legal arguments available to Mr. Rove.

Rep. Conyers is the right sort of pit bull. If there's one thing Karl Rove wants as much as vampires want garlic and bright light, it's a chance to testify under oath.

Update: There's better coverage at the Washington Post, but I don't read that over breakfast.

Posted in Politics: The Party of Sleaze | 8 Comments

Archimedes Sort of Discovered Calculus

Archimedes kindasorta discovered calculus:

Archimedes wrote his manuscript on a papyrus scroll 2,200 years ago. At an unknown later time, someone copied the text from papyrus to animal-skin parchment. Then, 700 years ago, a monk needed parchment for a new prayer book. He pulled the copy of Archimedes' book off the shelf, cut the pages in half, rotated them 90 degrees, and scraped the surface to remove the ink, creating a palimpsest—fresh writing material made by clearing away older text. Then he wrote his prayers on the nearly-clean pages.

What they're finding as they try to recover the underlying text is hard to summarize, but it sounds calculus-like,

Archimedes developed rigorous methods of dealing with infinity—still used today—in which he followed Aristotle's injunction. For example, Archimedes proved that the area of a section of a parabola is four-thirds the area of the triangle inside it (shown in red in the diagram below). To do so, he built a straight-lined figure that's an approximation of the curvy one. Then he showed that he could make the approximation as close as anyone could ever demand to both the section of the parabola and to four-thirds the area of the triangle.

Critically, Archimedes never claimed that by adding triangles forever, you could make the straight-line construction exactly equal to the section of the parabola. That would require an actual infinity of triangles. Instead, he just said that you can make the approximation as good as you like, so he was sticking with potential infinity.

Modern historians and mathematicians have always believed whenever Archimedes dealt with infinities, he kept strictly to the potential kind. But Netz, who transcribed the newly found text, says that the recent discoveries show that Archimedes indeed used the notion of actual infinity.

There's more…

Posted in Science/Medicine | 1 Comment

Small World Dept.

Nick Katzenbach, guest blogging at TPMCafe, Respect for Law and the Constitution Is Also Good Politics, writes a whole load of interesting stuff, but I was especially taken with this aside:

Nor do I think that when I confronted George Wallace to get Vivian Malone admitted to the University of Alabama anyone imagined that her brother in law, Eric Holder, would be attorney general of the United States for its first black president.

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