Wednesday, May 28, 2003

My latest B&C blog:
Roundtable on faith and the science of free will, plus the rise of the female farmer.

Coming next week: May news in review and May book review roundup.

Monday, May 19, 2003

My latest B&C blog:
Can Neo save America's soul? Plus, more on CEO salaries, why Canadians make the best American flags, how Washington D.C. is preparing for annihilation, and the future of zoos. All in one weblog! How's that for "Random Curiosity"?

- My B&C blog archive
Cleaning out a couple of items on the Iraq invasion (and be sure to follow the last link in my B&C blog this week to a wrenching Weekly Standard feature on the U.S. military's Mortuary Affairs unit)

This Wash.Post piece raised the interesting question of what it means for fighter pilots to be removed from the destruction they bring with their bombs:

In fact, pilots in the air campaign over Iraq usually hear nothing when their bombs explode and often don't see the blast, either. Their war is based on precision weapons, bombs guided by lasers and satellites to targets with often pinpoint accuracy. Since the start of military aviation, pilots have been cushioned to some degree from the carnage of combat. But the prevalence of sophisticated weaponry in this conflict offers an unprecedented level of psychic insulation.

And a USA Today clip. The headline says it all:
"War brings the world to Bagdad, [Florida]"
I've written (for the Trib) and blogged (at B&C) about the college admissions frenzy (see fourth item here), but as usual, The Onion is among the most helpful sources in putting it into perspective:
"Soup-Kitchen Volunteers Hate College-Application-Padding Brat"
I was reading through the March/April 2000 issue of Books&Culture and was intrigued by these two stories, which I hope to follow up on with articles at some point:

Moe Berg was a third string catcher for the Boston Red Sox, on the same team as Ted Williams. He was sophisticated, especially for a professional athlete, having been educated at Princeton; he spoke several languages and was something of a ladies' man. During World War II he spied for the Allies. His life makes for quite an adventure, and several biographies of Berg (both for adult readers and for juveniles) have been published in the last five years alone, in addition to earlier ones. At the present time George Clooney is reportedly in conversation with Warner Brothers about adapting one of these biographies2 for the big screen. Clooney will play Berg.

One of the first biographies of Berg was Moe Berg: Athlete, Scholar, Spy, originally published in 1974, and rereleased in 1996.3 A copy of the original book, which contained a number of pictures of Berg, was sent to the great German physicist Werner Heisenberg, who had headed up Hitler's nuclear physics program during the war. An astonished Heisenberg recognized Berg in the photos as a "Swiss acquaintance who had accompanied him to the hotel, who had listened so attentively in the first row during his lecture" and had later asked "such intelligent and interested questions."4

It turns out that Berg was not Swiss, and his interest in what Heisenberg had to say was rather sinister. The catcher-turned-spy sat in the front row of that small lecture hall in neutral Switzerland with a loaded pistol in his pocket under orders to shoot Heisenberg, if the infamous Nobel Prize-winning physicist had said anything that indicated he was making progress on building a bomb for Hitler. Satisfied that Heisenberg was not in fact making meaningful progress on a German atomic bomb, Berg kept the gun in his pocket.

Berg's judgment was validated by a remarkable revelation that came to light when the Allied forces invaded Germany and captured the leading physicists: despite the fact that basic bomb physics had been discovered in Germany in 1938, despite the fact that Heisenberg, arguably the world's greatest physicist at the time (Einstein and Bohr having passed their prime), was working on nuclear physics for Germany, despite the very long tradition of German superiority in physics—despite all this—the Germans had made virtually no progress on the atomic bomb, while their American counterparts, sequestered on a mesa in the New Mexico desert, had succeeded. The results in Germany were simply pitiful.

What had gone wrong? Why was Germany unable to make even nominal progress on a bomb despite the conviction of a number of his former colleagues working for the Allies that if anyone could build a bomb, it would be Werner Heisenberg? ... full story

In 1855, the Rock Island Railroad and its subsidiary, the Rock Island Bridge Company, built a bridge across the Mississippi River at Rock Island, Illinois. A year later, the steamboat Effie Afton collided with one of the bridge piers, and the boat's owners promptly filed suit in federal court against the bridge company, asking for compensatory damages and the removal of the bridge as a hazard to navigation.

More was here, though, than met the eye: the bridge represented the first reach of the northern railroad system across the Mississippi, and the Effie Afton's Saint Louis owners saw this as a direct threat to the grasp that the river and the slave-holding South held on midwestern agriculture. At the trial, the bridge company's chief counsel charged that the boat had been deliberately wrecked as a political gesture, with the owners of the Afton attempting to break up the Northern railroads in just the same way that Southern politicians were threatening "a dissolution of the Union" in order to shore up the slipping hegemony of slavery. But then, he added, the wreck of the Afton was also a psychological gesture. The pilot of the Afton had been driven, not just by the politics, but by "passion"—by a mad, unreasonable urge to wreck what could not be controlled—when, if reason had been in charge, "the chances are that he would have had no disaster at all." The jury listened to both arguments, and then deadlocked, nine to three, in favor of the bridge company.

The chief counsel for the bridge company was Abraham Lincoln.

It does not come as a great surprise to find that Lincoln in 1857 would discover a political analogy between Southern threats to disrupt the railroads and Southern threats to disrupt the Union. ... full story
I blogged earlier about the demise of Netscape. Here's an article about the state of Netscape on its tenth anniversary from "Netscape these days survives as a desolate outpost in the vast AOL Time Warner empire, something akin to banishment to Irkutsk."
Although this article in yesterday's Tribune is a little too predictable, not to mention obsessive about the recent teen hazing video, I like how it spins the usual media assumption that poverty creates savages and wealth brings happiness:

Everyone knows poverty puts teenagers at risk for a host of problems. But after a flurry of violence and vandalism has roiled some of the most affluent towns in Illinois, parents are wondering if wealth is its own risk factor. As committees gather to complete plans for the traditional rites of prom and graduation, the feeling of nervousness in Chicago's more moneyed communities is palpable....

Recklessness has always been intertwined with adolescence, regardless of family income. But many mental health experts believe that, for history's most indulged generation, something has changed. Whether it's stress once reserved for chief executive officers, a sense of entitlement, a relentless barrage of media or too much time alone, many kids have simply lost their way, said Dr. Louis Kraus, chief of adolescent psychiatry at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center.,1,692055.story

Friday, May 16, 2003

I didn't want to bury these links, so here they are again. Look for a response to an essay on "apatheism" (the combination of apathy and atheism) in my B&C blog on Monday along with a little rumination on the Matrix and philosophy.

My latest Tribune story:
A profile of Ricky Harris, the first American to have a network talk show in Germany, on the cover of today's Tempo:,1,7537737.story
you can log in with member name and password of "bcread"

- My Tribune archive

My latest B&C blog:
The quiet scandal of CEO pay; plus my interview with Robert McChesney on media diversity and democracy.

- My B&C blog archive
What better way to send off the leaders of tomorrow on their prom nights than with some alcohol-induced hedonism in some extravagantly god-awful SUV limos? The Wash. Post leaves this rhetorical question unuttered.

Grr...the picture isn't working. Click here.
It’s the end of the Lakers dynasty, writes Jack MacCallum at Here's my 2001 story for the Web site of Sports Illustrated For Kids comparing the late nineties Laker dynasty with the eighties version. The stats are there, but numbers aside, the clunky individualism of Shaq and Kobe were no match for the artistry of Magic, Kareem, and Showtime.
This NYT story on staging the photo ops of President Bush relates to my B&C blog on presidency and projection.
Tax cuts are a reckless and ineffective tool for poking the economy. As a recent New Yorker column pointed out, President Bush (a man whose sincerity while presenting platitudes and other simplistic thinking is rarely paralled in American politics) has argued that tax cuts create jobs. Which is an odd equation when you consider that Congress already passed his historically deep tax cuts in 2001, and that hardly kept the job market out of the crapper. Earlier, James Surowiecki also deconstructed the logic of tax cuts:

The righteous disdain for taxation is clearly part of a broader backlash against the government’s “greedy hand.” It is politically expedient, since lower tax revenues can be used to justify sharp cuts in entitlement programs, whose beneficiaries tend to vote Democratic. And it has become a convenient way of patching up the holes in the economic case for tax cuts. Thanks in part to the supply-siders, the U.S. already has the lowest tax burden of any major industrial country, and marginal tax rates are relatively modest. Cutting tax rates that are so low, most economists believe, creates few incentives. The carrot just isn’t big enough. And with the national debt at more than six trillion dollars, and twenty-five trillion dollars in Social Security and Medicare obligations soon coming due, the potential benefits of another big tax cut are simply outweighed by the costs. ... In the past three years, the president has managed to offer tax cuts as the right response to a booming economy, then to a recessionary economy, and now to a slow-growing economy.

From Time magazine:
While President Bush held a rally last week near Arkansas' state capitol to drum up support for his tax cuts, a few blocks away, at nearly the same hour, Republican Governor Mike Huckabee was imploring his balky legislature to support a tax raise. "I envy his position of being able to come to Little Rock and preach tax cuts while I preach a tax increase," Huckabee told TIME. "He has a tool that I do not have, called deficit spending, and can shift—or at least not fix—the Medicaid issue, which is causing most of my heartburn." Medicaid costs in Arkansas have risen from $1.2 billion a decade ago to $2 billion, and Huckabee, like Governors everywhere else, wants Washington to start shouldering more of the burden. ... Governors increasingly blame the Bush Administration for the severity of their situation. "I am a good Republican. I am a good team player," Arkansas' Huckabee said laughingly during an interview. "[But] turn that tape recorder off and I will speak an earful."
New York's Blue WhaleThe 94-foot blue whale is back at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, says the NY Times.
Newsweek ran an item on jokes about Saddam Hussein that were funny but used to have serious consequences--people died for cracking wise about the dictator. Here are some of their favorite examples:

Saddam’s chief bodyguard assembles all 20 of Saddam’s official doubles. “OK, listen up. Praise be to Allah, our president has survived the American bombing, so you all still have your jobs. That’s the good news. The bad news is, he lost an arm.”

Saddam Hussein, Taha Yassin Ramadan and Tariq Aziz are lounging on the balcony of one of Saddam’s palaces when a flock of geese flies over. “Ramadan, shoot the geese,” Saddam says. The vice president lifts his AK-47 and empties a clip into the sky, but doesn’t hit a single goose. “You try, Tariq,” Saddam says. The deputy prime minister fires and misses as well. “Damn, I have to do everything around here,” Saddam says. He fires five rounds in the air. None of the birds fall. There’s an awkward silence. Then Tariq Aziz points at the receding flock and says, “My God, would you look at that! Dead birds flying!”

A TV interviewer asks an American, an Afghan and an Iraqi, in turn: “What is your opinion about electricity shortages?” The American replies, “What’s an ‘electricity shortage’?” The Afghan says, “What’s an ‘electricity’?” The Iraqi says, “What’s an ‘opinion’?”
This essay was too incoherent to work well in my B&C blog roundup, but I wanted to retain this clip. It's by the lucid writer Cullen Murphy of the Atlantic Monthly on the "built-in conservatism" of human beings:

Over the ages and across countless cultures our beds have looked like beds, our chairs like chairs, our houses like houses. Our active lives are defined by the body's thresholds of heat and cold, pain and pleasure, energy and fatigue. Our eyesight is fixed within a specified range (better than that of bats, inferior to that of eagles), and so is our hearing. The sheer physical demands of hauling the body to work seem to be influenced by some inherent governor: a famous study of commuting, for instance, suggested that although distances have changed with technological advances, people in all eras and cultures have budgeted about the same amount of time for daily travel (on average, about half an hour one way). ... I retain considerable faith in the staying power of our pre-posthuman selves. Enhancement arrives with the audacity of Napoleon; the body responds with the inertial resistance of those two great Russian generals, January and February.
Etymology Today from M-W: vinaceous \vye-NAY-shuss\ of the color wine : dark red

The first recorded evidence of "vinaceous" in English dates from 1688, about the time of the accession of Mary II. If ever the queen used "vinaceous," she was probably in the confines of her landscaped garden, admiring the vinaceous shades of petals or looking indifferently at the vinaceous cap of a mushroom; since its beginning, "vinaceous" has flourished in the earthy lexicon of horticulture and mycology. It has also taken flight in the ornithological world as a descriptive word for the unique dark-red coloring of some birds, like the vinaceous amazon or vinaceous rosefinch. You probably won’t encounter these exotic birds while enjoying the spring weather in your neighborhood, but you might see someone tossing a vinaceous Frisbee or jogging by in a vinaceous T-shirt.

- Previous E.T.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

My latest Tribune story:
A profile of Ricky Harris, the first American to have a network talk show in Germany, on the cover of today's Tempo:,1,7537737.story

My Tribune archive

Monday, May 12, 2003

Latest B&C blog:
The quiet scandal of CEO pay; plus my interview with Robert McChesney on media diversity and democracy.

My B&C blog archive
From a recent daily newsletter:

Sure hope Dave Ladensack enjoyed his round of golf. According to the odds, he'll have to wait 335,000 years to repeat his feat -- recording two holes-in-one during a single round. Bucking odds mightier than lightning-strike proportions, the 47-year-old Ladensack did it April 27 at the Port Huron (Mich.) Elks Golf Club. "I was in disbelief," said Ladensack, who notched his third and four career aces. "It really doesn't sink in right away." A 5-handicap, Ladensack used a 6-iron on the 161-yard seventh hole and, about 90 minutes later, perfected a 4-iron on the 186-yard 14th hole. Chances of pulling off the feat, while hardly scientific, are 67 million-to-1, according to a representative of Golf Digest. That means Ladensack could play 200 rounds of golf a year and not duplicate his feat for another 335,000 years. "From tee to green, I'm not too bad. But my close game, that's bad," he said after finishing with an above-average 81. "I guess it helps that I didn't have to chip or putt."
From the 4/20 Sunday Telegraph via the Globe and Mail:

My father was very much in his own world," says Thomas Steinbeck, the son of Nobel laureate John Steinbeck (1902-68), who is also a writer. "This was a man who named his suits. I remember there was a 'Dorian Gray' grey of course, a fawn-coloured suit that he called 'Old Yeller' and a brown one called 'Chestnut Bay.' He also named his shoes, his comb, his screwdriver. This was a man who talked to parking meters, seriously. His life was in his head."
From Fortune magazine via Sojomail

10 largest employers in the USA, according to the 2003 Fortune 500:

Wal-Mart: 1.3 million employees
McDonalds: 413,000 employees
United Parcel Service: 360,000 employees
Ford Motor Company: 350,321 employees
General Motors: 350,000 employees
IBM: 315,889 employees
General Electric: 315,000 employees
Target: 306,000 employees
Home Depot: 300,000 employees
Kroger: 289,000 employees

Added together, these top 10 employers oversee a population of employees roughly equal to the population of South Carolina or Scotland. Wal-Mart alone has a payroll as large as the combined populations of Delaware and Wyoming.
Etymology Today from M-W: prestidigitation \press-tuh-dih-juh-TAY-shun\
: sleight of hand, legerdemain

The secret to performing magic tricks is all in the hands—or at least, that’s what is suggested by the etymologies of "prestidigitation" and its two synonyms "legerdemain" and "sleight of hand." The French word "preste" (from Italian "presto") means "quick" or "nimble," and the Latin word "digitus" means "finger." Put them together and—presto!—you've got "prestidigitation." Similarly, "legerdemain" was conjured up from the French phrase "leger de main," which translates to "light of hand." The third term, "sleight of hand," involves the least etymological hocus-pocus; it simply joins "hand" with "sleight," meaning "dexterity."

Note: One of my favorite English professors has been lobbying the Oxford English Dictionary to include presticogitation--sleight of mind, or thinking that is so swift and impressive that it baffles the observer (as I blogged about before).

- Previous E.T.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

A couple of years ago I would have flung my hands to the heavens and wailed at the news of Aaron Sorkin leaving The West Wing. As a writing student and newspaper reviewer I admired Sorkin's unique flair for writing dialogue--his ear for the human voice, the depth of his smooth narratives, and his deft balance of tragedy and comedy in the same show--often in the same scene. Television was lucky to have such a playwright (Sorkin wrote the play and then screenplay for A Few Good Men, the screenplay for The American President, and most of the episodes of Sports Night, all brilliant--my wife and I blazed through the two-season complete set of Sports Night in the three months after Christmas), and The West Wing was my favorite creation of his.

So his loss is a severe one for television (although his eventual comeback on another project is one of the few reasons to hope for the future of the medium). But there are several reasons not to be surprised, and some reasons not to be sad. First, the politics (ironically enough) of television are magnified in proportion to the drop in ratings points, which The West Wing suffered over the last two years due, to hear critics tell it, to: the lack of Bill Clinton as an obvious foil, the presence of real-word foreign policy plotlines that drowned out fictional ones, the Bachelor (and the Bachelorette, which one reviewer said brought "the second tart to bring down a president"), writing fatigue, or all of the above. Sorkin himself said he thought the show had peaked, and the desperate stunts it's now pulling seem to back that up (A sniper smashes glass in the press room! The vice-president has an affair and resigns! The president's daughter (spolier alert) is kidnapped! Uh, here's Matthew Perry! Please, please watch!) Plus, Sorkin, like most other gifted writers, is something of a head case (which is why I aspire not to be a great writer, not that I was in much danger of that), and his idiosyncrasies were tolerable when the show was riding high but not now.

So lament the demise of one of TV's true gems (West Wing will become more "efficient"--read: "formulaic"--next season, critics report). But take heart in this: Sorkin produced nearly 90 masterful hours of television over the last four years, and since they're play-like, they're well worth returning to via syndication, a tape library like the one I built for seasons one and two, or the DVD set of the first season, which is out in Britain and can't arrive here soon enough.

See also:
- Wash. Post story on Sorkin exit
- Slate weblog on Sorkin's departure
- The best story on The West Wing, in the now-defunct Brill's Content
Old Man of MountainFace-lift fails: The stone visage of the "Old Man of the Mountain" crumbled over the weekend, despite the efforts of stabilizing cables. The famous face is on the New Hampshire quarter. AP story in USA Today.
I wanted to post this item while war coverage was still raging, but technical difficulties had their way. It's from a New York Observer profile of CNN anchor Aaron Brown, who was one of the few to comment on how pointless and overwrought much of the round-the-clock war coverage was (and doesn't it seem even more pointless now--at least all the endless armchair quarterbacking about what would happen next?)

Aaron Brown can be the Midnight Rambler. He knows this.

"There are times-I have had moments-where there was nothing," Mr. Brown said from the CNN Center in Atlanta the other day. "We had no place to go. There was no guest booked. There was no embed phoning in. My preference in that moment is to say, 'Let's everybody have a quiet six minutes.' But that is not an option. There is only one option-that's to talk. And I'm sitting there and my left brain is going, 'God, just shut up.'"

He wasn't the only one, though he wins points for his candor. Here are my favorite two essays on war coverage, from the New Yorker and Sports Illustrated.
Sports Beat follow-up: I wrote about the depressing Detroit Tigers on Monday (here's an SI column on them), but an AP item about the Cleveland Indians caught my attention in the NY Times yesterday. One of the saddest baseball stories from the 1990s was Wayne Huizenga's hastily- assembled-and-then-dissolved Florida Marlins team that pulled out Game 7 of the 1997 World Series against the Indians, thus depriving the decade's third-most-dominant team (behind the Braves and Yankees) of an elusive championship.

Now the Indians are well into their descent, as the item noted yesterday on the occasion of the return of John Hart to Jacobs Field; Hart was Cleveland GM from 1991 to 2001 and is now with Texas. "Not much has changed," said Hart while peering out of the visitors' dugout. But the Indians "are a shadow of the team they once were," the AP said. Their 9-21 start is their worst since 1969, and a few years after a run of 455 straight sellouts at Jacobs Field, attendance is down 30 percent from last year. They're worst in the league except for the Tigers.

Monday, May 05, 2003

My latest B&C blog:
April news in review, plus a clip about autonomy in television writing and quips from New Yorker cartoons. And a roundup of stories on SARS media coverage, poetry, the Middle East, and disappearing African apes.

Trimmed from my news roundup...

What a month for governmental pride and corruption. Chicago's Mayor Daley had city crews destroy the lakefront Meigs Field during the night to avoid a political battle. Four Miami cops were convicted of planting a gun on a homeless man. They could have been helping the Coast Guard, which packed 1.7 tons of cocaine into a speedboat after making 13 arrests off the Colombian coasts (that's right, just a few more raids now and we'll have this drug problem licked...)

Religion provided some unpredictable stories in a month in which President Bush's faith-based initiative was derailed. Retired flower shop owner George Kelley's mission to give people 10 bucks in exchange for memorizing the ten commandments was suspended last month, "until the Lord provides additional money." (And still you have to think that waiting for God to drop ten dollar bills from the sky is more fiscally reasonable than believing tax cuts will spur the economy.) An atheist won the right to pray at city council meetings in Murray, Utah. (I'm no atheist--see below--but I love how this flies in the face of people who believe God is wearing an American flag T-shirt.)

And it doesn't matter if you're atheist or devout, the most reliable indicator of whether you'll have a happy marriage, a study found last month, is ... whether you are a happy person going into it.

Finally, Tom Dennin, former voice of Notre Dame football who appeared as himself in Rudy, died last month. I just watched Rudy a week or two ago and, not knowing who it was, was struck by how acutely the announcer seemed to be focused on the field, rather than letting on to being a performer being filmed, as most announcers in movies do.

- My B&C blog archive
Talking about God--whatever that means, and only if, you know, you kinda feel like it:
As I've written at length (including in my bio and essays on atheism) I strenuously affirm the doctrine of a Creator and Christ as redeemer. So imagine my surprise to do a Lexis search of my last name and find this item (archive's not working, but it's up at my file site.

Howard Bierma, of Thousand Oaks, says he uses the word ["God"] sometimes, maybe after someone sneezes or when he has banged a finger, but not to express his spirituality. He is an atheist and humanist who has been a member of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Conejo Valley for about five years and defines religion as interaction among people aimed at improving humanity. He answers the question of the day this way: "Creation is all random, so I wouldn't define God."

His minister, the article goes on to note, fudges all statements of belief and invocation of religious terms with "whatever that means to you." I question the substance of this wishy-washy, whimsical assembly-required belief system in my letter to an athiest, but for now let me beat my anti-relativist drum once more: if everything is relative, then what is meaningful? What is true, and of what consequence is it true? What is the purpose of belief other than useless diversion? And isn't stating that salvation is "whatever it means to you" actually an absolute, ontological statement, or is it honestly just an opinion? I've also said before that I have little stomach for religious zealots who browbeat others with their certainty. But this other extreme, this do-it-yourself flimsy faith, doesn't impress me either.

I'm no relation, that I know of, to Howard, by the way. I'd love to meet him though and buy him a beer. We'd have a blast.
PistonsSports Beat: I grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is roughly halfway between Detroit and Chicago, so althought my shift in major league allegiances upon moving to Chicago hasn't clashed with my conscience, I still keep an eye on Detroit teams. And what a spectacularly lousy show they've put on lately, with the Tigers's historically bad start and the Red Wings' equally historic first-round sweep at Anaheim's hands. Only the Pistons could salvage the city's sporting mood, with
three straight defiant wins in the first round to avoid infamy themselves. As the NY Times headline points out this morning, the Pistons should be the first to thank David Stern for extending the first round last year from best-of-5 to best-of-7 (which, though fairer to teams after a seemingly interminable 80-plus game regular season, still ultimately means more (yawn) NBA (groan) playoff games (still awake?)

As for the Tigers, the chase for history is on. They're about one fifth of the way toward the expansion 1962 Mets' record of 40-120. Detroit's April record was 3-24, and I think I saw in the Times yesterday that the '62 Mets had 12 wins at this point in their season. The Tigers are hitting .184 as a team and lost Saturday on a game-winning home run by Damion Easley, whom they paid to leave this offseason.

Attendance was about 13,000 for that game in the 40,000-plus-seat stadium, which brings me to one final sports note: The NYT's Murray Chass reports (second item here) the average MLB crowd in April was 24,390, the lowest it's been since 1991. As he says, you can chalk it up to the economy and the weather, but early season attendance has dropped over 14 percent the last two years. Just think what it would be if we were coming off a strike.
Etymology Today from M-W: tempestuous \tem-PESS-chuh-wus\
: of, relating to, or resembling a tempest : turbulent, stormy

Time is sometimes marked in seasons, and seasons are associated with the weather. This explains how "tempus," the Latin word for "time" could have given rise to an English adjective for things turbulent and stormy. "Tempus" is the root behind the Old Latin "tempestus," meaning "season," and the Late Latin "tempestuosus," the direct ancestor of "tempestuous." As you might expect, "tempus" is also the root of the noun "tempest"; it probably played a role in the history of "temper" as well, but that connection isn't as definite.

More E.T. from M-W: usage notes:
putrid \PYOO-trid\
1 a : rotten b: foul 2 : morally objectionable

Can you sniff out another adjective that describes a less- than-pleasant odor? If "malodorous" comes to mind, you've got a good nose for synonyms. But malodorous smells aren't always as bad as putrid ones; they can range from merely unpleasant to really offensive. If "putrid" and "malodorous" don't seem quite right, try "noisome," which suggests that something is harmful as well as bad-smelling. "Fusty" and "musty" are used for things that are dirty, wet, or lacking in fresh air and sunlight (as in "a fusty old attic" or "the musty odor of a damp cellar"). For a real stinker, go with "fetid," a word for smells that are truly foul or disgusting.

obstinate \AHB-stuh-nut\
1 : perversely adhering to an opinion, purpose, or course in spite of reason, arguments, or persuasion
2 : not easily subdued, remedied, or removed

If you're obstinate, you're just plain stubborn. "Obstinate," "dogged," "stubborn," and "mulish" all mean that someone is unwilling to change course or give up a belief or plan. "Obstinate" suggests an unreasonable persistence; it's often a negative word. "Dogged" implies that someone goes after something without ever tiring or quitting; it can be more positive. "Stubborn" indicates a resistance to change, which may or may not be admirable. Someone who displays a really unreasonable degree of stubbornness could accurately be described as "mulish."

Previous E.T.

Saturday, May 03, 2003

Coming Monday: My B&C blog this week: April news in review. Next week at this blog: some thoughts I might dare to venture on ethics and homosexuality, and my search for middle ground between right-wing sexual witch hunts and left-wing sexual ethical nihilism. And my thoughts on the departure of one of my favorite contemporary writers, period: Aaron Sorkin, who is leaving "The West Wing."
New from my home page, A picture I had taken with David Bloom, an affable, accomplished, and Christian correspondent for NBC, who died in Iraq last month. Again, my condolences to his family. All of network news, not just NBC, suffers for this loss.

Also, I blogged earlier about why atheism is a faith. I've posted that permanently at my home page alongside my letter to atheist I had occasion to write recently. See what you think.
I try--honest--to keep e-mail forwards to a minimum, but a chilly May 1 in Chicago put me in the mood for this chuckle-worthy forward about winter in Michigan (currently posted at my file blog).
Now this is the kind of economic news that's interesting. From's daily newsletter:

So which player was the biggest bargain in the NBA this season? If you compare his statistics to his salary -- as Bloomberg News did -- it was Golden State Warriors guard Gilbert Arenas. The former Arizona star averaged18.3 points, 6.3 assists and 4.7 rebounds while making a team-low $512,435 in the final year of a two-year contract. At the other end of the scale, thebiggest bust was Danny Ferry of the San Antonio Spurs. The consensus college player of the year at Duke in 1989, Ferry averaged 1.9 points, 1.2 rebounds and 9.4 minutes this season ... all for a mere $4.55 million.
I'm back!
Sorry about the long hiatus (not that I am so delusional or self-absorbed as to think it caused much sorrow or inconvenience). Spent a full month looking at this each time I tried to post:
Error 506:Unable to contact view generation service: (server:page)

I tried unsuccessfully to contact Blogger (those capitalists are so worried about paying customers for Blogger Pro that us free bloggers can take a hike) and other online technical advisors. Today I finally started wiping out some old postings and one of them turned out to be the culprit (it was the Victor Eremita interview, I'll try re-posting it soon).

To make up for the dearth of content, I'll shift my posting pace into overdrive for the next week or so, although my B&C weblog is still my top priority. Thanks for hanging in there with me!
Things I would have posted had I been able to in the last month:

My latest Tribune articles:
(you can log in with member name and password of "bcread")
- College admissions controversies
- Model trains a link to history for YMCA residents
- My Tribune archive updated through April

My B&C blogs:
- A Wrigley Field escape, and dialogue on the business of sports stadiums
- Masters diary
- The State of Reading: surprisingly resilient
- Advertising reviews: Ocean Spray's irreverence and sixties songs on TV ads
- My B&C blog archive