Finally, Wolfram Alpha Has A Purpose!

Or, A Use for the Otherwise Useless

It can convert from words to pages! This is (seriously) something I have immense trouble with, especially with conference papers. I spent a good hour procrastinating about this just last week, so now I need a new hobby. Gee thanks, Wolfram Alpha.

Long hiatus, I know. Writing, dissertating, being lazy — all things that take time.

I have big plans for the new year, er, semester, though. So watch this space! Or at least keep it in your rss reader.

In the meantime: C. Vann Winchell makes for some fun light reading– a one man TMZ for history. I wish he would post more.

PS – (h/t) to Merlin Mann.

Image Cite: xurble,“Wolfram and Hart,” Flickr, CC License.


Commercial Sheep

Or, If I had to read this, so do you

Bad writing in economics has a long history:

Mr. Pennant, in his British Zoology, chap. I. div. I. sect. iii. under the article Sheep, makes the following observations:

It does not appear, (says that agreeable writer) that the breed of this animal (sheep) was cultivated for the sake of the wool among the Britons; the inhabitants of the inland parts of this island either went intirely naked, or were only cloathed with skins.

On the coins or money of the Britons are seen impressed the figures of the horse, the bull and the hog, the marks of the tributes exacted from them by the conquerors (Camden.) The Rev. Mr. Pogge was so kind as to inform me, that he has seen on the coins of Cunobelin that of a sheep. Since that is the case, it is probable that our ancestors were possessed of the animal, but made no farther use of it than to strip off the skin and wrap themselves in it, and with the wool inmost, obtain a comfortable protection against the cold of the winter season.

~Tench Coxe, Remarks on Lord Sheffield’s Observations on the Commerce of the American States; by an American (London, 1784), p.19-20

Update: also this little tidbit, a few pages later:

In England, it is well known they spend half their money in drink. (p.26)

* Made a tiny bit more tolerable by the fact that the original uses a long s, which I always hear it as a lisp while reading.

Image cite: Wiccked, “Sheepish,” Flickr, CC License


Annals of Ahistorical Thinking

Or, This is Why We Can’t Have Smart Things

White Horse

Here’s Andrew Sullivan, on Beast Books, the current bête noire of professionally nostalgic media entrepreneurs.

I miss the days when books were written because an author simply had something to say and took her time to say it well.

May I propose a thought experiment to see whether Sullivan’s nostalgia is just lazy thinking or a justified use of the world-weary declension card? When was that golden age? When books were written by disinterested Serious People, for pure thought, seriously? Precisely, I mean. I’d like dates.

Perhaps Sullivan is referring to that one golden afternoon of September 25, 1965, or perhaps those madeleine-encrusted years between 1913 and 1927. But probably he dates the true end of the golden age to October 10, 2006, no?

Somehow, I doubt any precision will be forthcoming. One hears lots of talk about the dangers of scientific ignorance, but I think ignorance of historical thinking is a problem that goes to the highest levels, too. If even our paid thinkers don’t understand how to think historically, what then? Goodness me, wreck and ruin, I suppose.

Pointless nostalgia will out, though. Écrasez l’infâme!

Update: links fixed.

Image cite: cybertoad, “White Horse,” Flickr, CC License


Interesting Interconnections of Indelible Importance

Fake Palm Tree

Link roundup time, folks:

Feign, Feign, Feign
Via Prof. Hacker, some thoughtful comments on “imposter syndrome” through the lens of Michael Chabon’s new book on being a dad.. Apparently, as in parenting, so on the tenure track: Fake It ‘Til You Make It. h/t

AAS Blog
The American Antiquarian Society, a much loved research center in dear Worchester, MA now hath a blog. It appears to have started up recently, and they’ve already hit a wonderful slightly snarky but erudite stride:

“The stories that America made up.”
Via hotel boredom and Boing Boing, Robert Wuhl’s comedic retelling of American history. The tagline (above) makes it worth a look. Caveats: A little dated (it’s pre-election, and very borscht belt), and mildly nsfw (fer cussin’).

File Under Love
Finally, an oldie but a (new to me) goodie: the ribald back channel twitter feed from this past summer’s ALA conference. Yes, librarian gossip. Main topics: sex, sex, and how poor some librarians’, uh, presentation skills are. h/t.

purlpletwinkle, Not fooling anyone…,” Flickr, CC License


Dizzying Array of Dazzling Detritus


It’s Friday, I’m dissertated out, so here’s some links:

  • Tim Burke has some smart things to say about Google’s recent sketchy shenanigans, and fairly sums up, I think, the general consensus among the digerati humanists w/r/t the current state of the Google Books project: Do Not Want.
  • He also has some fair gripes about the awful balkanized state of other textual databases. Welcome to my life: I got 99 UIs, but a completed search ain’t in one, folks.
  • There’s a new episode of CHNM’s Digital Campus out. We learn that Google Wave is apparently great for discussing Google Wave, but otherwise distracting as hell. A very good, and useful episode, even in non-google aspects.
  • Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s new book Planned Obsolescence: Publishing Technology, and the Future of the Academy is up, and has lots of interesting things to say about the future of publishing and peer review. Perhaps the best work on these subjects I’ve read (and I’m only halfway through!). Highly recommended.
  • Finally, because every Friday post should end with some contemplation of past, present and future, here’s Thomas Cole’s most serious series of paintings exploring political economy (which I might get to see this weekend!).

Happy Weekend!

Image cite: Krossbow, “Flotsam and Jetsam,” Flickr, CC License