Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Goodbye to all that

The Washington Post reports on a plan to drop thirteen majors at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. The majors in question: American studies, art, English (without teacher-certification), French, geography, geoscience, German, history, music literature, philosophy, political science, sociology, and Spanish:

Students and faculty members have reacted with surprise and concern to the news, which is being portrayed by the school’s administration as a path to regain enrollment and provide new opportunities to students. Critics see something else: a waning commitment to liberal arts education and a chance to lay off faculty under new rules that weakened tenure.

The plan to cut the liberal arts and humanities majors . . . is in line with a failed attempt by Republican Gov. Scott Walker in 2015 to secretly change the mission of the respected university system — known as the Wisconsin Idea and embedded in the state code — by removing words that commanded the university to “search for truth” and “improve the human condition” and replacing them with “meet the state’s workforce needs.”
Thanks to Slywy for passing on this news.

Three related posts
“A fully realized adult person” : The gold standard, haircuts, and everyone else : Philosophers and welders

How to improve writing (no. 74)

From a New Yorker review of a memoir by Andrew Lloyd Webber:

Could we, terrible thought, have been unfair to Andrew Lloyd Webber? The answer turns out, on inspection, to be a complicated and qualified Yes. Certainly, no artist as hugely successful as he has been can have struck a chord without owning a piece of his time.
I’ve stared at these sentences to figure out why they bug me. The we is not as pompous as it might seem: the word refers to “American lovers of musical theatre who blame Andrew Lloyd Webber for pretty much everything that went wrong on its stages, starting in the early seventies.” But there’s the breathless “terrible thought,” the meaningless “on inspection,” the amplified “Yes,” and the final sentence, with its hype (“hugely successful”), awkward pun (“struck a chord”), and piled-up verbs (“has been can have struck”). I thought of a number of ways to revise that sentence:
An artist as successful as Lloyd Webber owns a piece of his time.

An artist as successful as Lloyd Webber is an integral part of his time.

An artist as successful as Lloyd Webber has made his mark on our time.
But I gave up, agreeing with Elaine that the sentence is nothing more than a truism: anyone who’s successful and famous is successful and famous. My revision:
Could we have been unfair to Andrew Lloyd Webber? The answer turns out to be a complicated and qualified yes.
Related reading
All OCA “How to improve writing” posts (Pinboard)

[This post is no. 74 in a series, dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose.]

Impromptu in D

Fresca suggested a Lassie story in which a little boy named Donny visits the Martins. I can’t go there. But I did suggest that if Donny were to visit the Martins, he might be gored by a boar, gored real bad. So bad that he’d turn into Jake Barnes. John Barron, John Miller, David Dennison: what’s one more name? Imagine this scene:

“Oh, Jake,” Peggy said, “we could have had such a damned good time together.”

Ahead was a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. Was that supposed to mean something? The car slowed suddenly pressing Peggy against me.

“Yes,” I said. “Sad!”
Lassie stories
“The ’Clipse” : “The Poet” : “Bon Appétit!” : “On the Road”

[Jakes Barnes: from The Sun Also Rises. John Barron, et al.: Trump pseudonyms. Peggy: Peterson.]

Recently updated

Mozy, sketchy The e-mail is real.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Mozy, sketchy

[Update: It’s real.]

Here’s the text of an e-mail I received this morning, purporting to be from the (excellent) backup service Mozy:

This message looks sketchy to me: no greeting, no signature, no contact information. The tech jargon reads as if its purpose is to baffle. There’s significant inconsistency: upgrade, update. And the strange underlining in that ominous final sentence: “Please accept the update request when it occurs.” Even the period is underlined.

This stern, cryptic message makes quite a contrast to Mozy’s shiny, cheerful newsletter-like e-mails to users. Here’s an excerpt from one such e-mail, one I received this morning, twenty minutes before the upgrade e-mail:

I can think of two ways to explain the upgrade e-mail:

1. It’s bogus.

Yet the e-mail appears to come from a genuine Mozy address. So:

2. It’s genuine, written by a tech-minded employee who wasn’t thinking about how the message might look to a lay reader.

At Mozy’s user forum, the authenticity of the upgrade e-mail has been an open question for eleven hours. How about it, Mozy? Will you tell your users whether this e-mail is real? And if it is, will you do better?


March 21: I went to Mozy chat support and found the answer: it’s real. Still no answer on the forum, but I suspect that will change soon.

Later that same day: Still no response. Something I hadn’t realized: some users assume that the underlined sentence is a link (it’s not), which deepens their suspicion that the e-mail is bogus.

Thoreau pencil

From an auction to benefit the Thoreau Society and Thoreau Farm Trust: a “genuine Thoreau pencil.” Current bid: $250.

Cambridge Analytica, continued

Channel 4 News continues its report on Cambridge Analytica. Today, the company’s work with a recent presidential campaign.

“On the Road”

Here is a fourth (and probably final) piece of Lassie fan-fiction. You can click on each image for a slightly larger page. Enjoy.

Related reading
All OCA Lassie and Route 66 posts (Pinboard)

And three previous pieces of Lassie fan-fiction
“The ’Clipse” : “The Poet” : “Bon Appétit!”

[The lines that Buz recites are from sonnet 18: “Kiss me, rekiss me, & kiss me again: / Give me one of your most delicious kisses, / A kiss in excess of my fondest wishes: / I’ll repay you four, more scalding than you spend.” From Louise Labé, Love Sonnets and Elegies, trans. Richard Sieburth (New York: New York Review Books, 2014). Paul Martin recites Exodus 22:21 (KJV). The Timmy and Buz backstories will be familiar to fans of Lassie and Route 66. This story has a few treats for anyone who’s read my other Lassie stories.]

Monday, March 19, 2018

Steroids and stilts

“Trump is Nixon on steroids and stilts”: John Dean (who should know) on CNN just now.

[Meaning: Trump has gone well beyond Nixon in obstructing justice. I realized only this morning why this remark caught my ear: alliteration and zeugma.]

Channel 4 News
and Cambridge Analytica

From Channel 4 News, a three-part series about Cambridge Analytica: first, about Cambridge Analytica and Facebook; second, about Cambridge Analytica’s claims to use bribes and sex workers to entrap political candidates. Part three, about the company’s doings in the United States, arrives tomorrow.


Part three, about the company’s work with a recent presidential campaign.