William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

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Regifting Robin, Cute Christmas Puzzle

Since it is that festive time of year, we have a fun little puzzle recommended to me by my aunt. Apparently, this is going around via an email chain, stumping people all over the country. Try and then come back here after—but only after—you have figured out the solution, which I provide below.

Regifting Robin.

Regifting Robin



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Denis Dutton RIP? Arts & Letters Daily Too?

The shock to the loyal readers of Arts & Letters Daily must have been as great as mine, when I clicked and saw this (early Tuesday morning in Taipei, 28 December):


Denis Dutton

But then about a half hour after this appeared, it disappeared. Was it a mistake? A premature announcement in the manner of newspapers who routinely write obituaries of notables well before their expiration date? Could it have been a joke? Or perhaps Dutton is really gone, and those left thought better of the initial plain bulletin and plan to do it up in style later?

A recent article in New Zealand’s The Press said that Dutton “has been in poor health.”

Dutton was (is?), of course, the originator and then chief editor of the influential compilation site, whose purpose is to find and link to the best writing on the internet. No easy task, that. Dutton, a philosopher, focused on the humanities in a sciency sauce. His tastes were (are?) libertarian, but conservatives, liberals, and even the occasional progressive found a voice on the site.

A&LD began in 1998, and a couple of years ago The Chronicle of Higher Education bought the site, but kept Dutton and his editing crew (there was, after the sale, a slight increase in articles linked to the Chronicle, though).

The site was—and still is—an adequate replacement for the late lamented Lingua Franca, a printed magazine about the life and loves of academics, famous for its quirky and imaginative writing. Lingua Franca was the magazine where Alan Sokal revealed his infamous hoax.

If Dutton is gone, he will be sorely missed. A&LD is the only site that many read routinely (certainly true with me), and we can only hope that the team that comes after him shares Dutton’s distinct tastes.

Stay tuned to the original site for updates, which I’ll also post here.

Update Marc Morano sends this link, from Stuff.co.nz, which confirms the worst.

I forgot to mention above, the Dutton was also instrumental in creating the Climate Debate Daily site, which wasn’t as well known or as influential as A&LD. (Not surprisingly, either, as CDD would often link to inferior material, such as posts on this site.) That site is modeled after A&LD, having two columns of daily links: one con (“Calls to action”) and one pro (“Dissenting voices”). The “pro” column of course representing sugar and spice and everything nice; with the “con” column being its opposite.

As of this writing (2:27 am EST), A&LD has not posted an official obit.

What Will They Protest Now? Guest Post by G. Willikers

‘G. Willikers’ is an old friend of mine and another long-time higher education insider. I tend to think old G is right, and that those schools who have banned ROTC because of Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell will not extend a welcome hand to the military not that it has been banished. There will be plenty of “We support our Troops” speeches, though; “support” being yet another word that has no relation with its plain English meaning.

Well, it is the end of the semester, and things get a little busy, and so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that so far, only three presidents of Ivy League schools (Yale, Harvard, and Columbia) have expressed excitement and enthusiasm about getting the good old ROTC back on campus where it belongs. This, of course, is a reaction to Congress passing, and Obama signing, the repeal of the Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell Clinton-era policy that allowed gays and lesbians to serve, but only if they kept their true identity and orientation under their hat.

The whole military-policy-on-gays line was a straw man for the universities. Everyone likes a bad guy, and everyone likes to be the good guy. DADT was perfect for the universities. They could take the moral high ground and cast someone else as the bad guy. Even better, universities could publicly punish the bad guy for their backward ways by not allowing them on campus—and feel good while doing so. The only kink in this brilliant strategy was that the military, as a whole, did not seem particularly perturbed to be the bad guy, and they didn’t feel the need to whip up protests and bang on the gates to get in. Why should they? There are plenty of universities with thriving ROTC programs.

Reports such as from the New York Times step away from DADT and claim that for some universities dropping ROTC was a matter of “academic standards.” The implication is that Midwestern U. isn’t obligated to carry the lamp of learning as high as the Ivies. Except for classes on physical fitness and weapons, much of the ROTC curriculum is interchangeable with a sound business curriculum: cultural awareness, ethical decision-making, communication, and leadership.

If faculty were truly concerned with academic rigor, the university context offers avenues for faculty involvement and oversight. However, few faculty members have the interest (never mind the experience and technical knowledge) to oversee courses on adaptive tactical leadership (3 credits) or basic course physical fitness (1 credit), so better to drop the whole thing altogether. What is clever about the academic-standards charge is that can be easily resurrected as a reason not to engage with the ROTC.

Prediction: The ROTC will never be a full partner in Ivy campus life. There will be some forthcoming, and beautifully worded, invitations. It is doubtful that the military will enter in an alliance that can be shattered by dismissive and prideful faculty and politically motivated administrators. At best, the repeal of DADT signals a truce between the Ivies and the ROTC. But that doesn’t mean they are going to be friends.

Global Warming Superheroes


“Holy CO2, Gaia Girl! It’s the evil Christopher Monckton, 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley! We have to stop him before he goes all Lordly on us!”

“Gosh, you’re right Flash Carbon! But what weapons can we use against him!”

“Never fear, men!”


“I mean people. Never fear people.”

“Just so we’re straight.”

“Never fear, I say, for I, Lieutenant Monsoon, have a plan!”

“What kind of plan could you possibly have to defeat such raw evilness? I’m Gaia, goddess of the whole Earth! While you only represent a localized seasonal change in precipitation patterns!”

“Gaia Girl is right, Lieutenant. Which is why I, Major Terra, outrank you.”

“What can you mean! Just look at my uniform! I obviously am superior to you!”

“Majors outrank Lieutenants. Everybody knows that.”

“If you were any good, you’d be a general!”

“Boys, boys! That’s enough!”

“Don’t you start, too, Weatherman!”

“Boys and female creature! It’s so simple! I shall defeat him by forecasting his doom!”

“But that would mean that forecasts become more important than actual events! Nobody would ever fall for that, even evil Viscount Monckton! I’m Flash Carbon, so I’ll just increase his local CO2 and he’ll retain so much infrared energy that his blood will boil!”

“OK, boys, it sounds like a plan! Everybody all together!”



Such is the dialog we might imagine the characters of the new site Global Warming Superheroes to have (though I’ve cleaned it up and made it into intelligible English, something with which the sites’ authors are unfamiliar).

Those who imagine themselves superheroes—the future of humanity depends on them!—really do have an enemies list, and of all the evil “deniers” in the world, Viscount Monckton was one of the first who made the cut. Alas, I did not. I fancy I can dish out intellectual infamy with the best denier, and that I am just as crooked as any climate criminal.

But Flash Carbon and his dispirited band of environmental protectors have not noticed me and I am hurt. The truth is that I want to be drawn as a comic character. I’d do this myself but my talents do not lie in that direction: even my stick figures are unrecognizable So could I beg my loyal readers to click over to Global Warming Superheroes and tell them of my iniquities?

What’s always been strange to me is the unquestioning devotion folks like Major Terra, Gaia Girl (not woman!) and their pals have. Just think: none of these personages are climatologists, presumably none has spent the years necessary to learn the material background to offer cogent criticisms. I beg their pardon if I am mistaken in this. But I will suppose I am correct, and then ask, why are they so certain, even to the point of religious conviction? It must be True Belief.

They, and their brethern the Activists, have chosen to heed a small but vocal of group of scientists who have foreseen that mankind will be responsible for a tumult to come. For it is written, though it is not here yet, but ever on the horizon. We are always just at the point where something can be done. But we can brook no delay! Always, we must not tarry, for the moment is ever now. Tomorrow is too late!

Despite their calls, pleas, and demonstrations for action, environmentalists are really modern-day Antinomians. Faith alone is what is needed for salvation. And faith is what is demanded! What you do is inconsequential, as long as you believe. Profess your faith and all shall be forgiven you. Claim to believe and you can hop out of your chauffeured car and onto your private jet and go anywhere, consume anything, use any resource you like. Just like Al Gore.

But express the slightest doubt and you shall be cast outside the gate where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth! Denier! Thy name is anathema! This is why the enemies list is always made of those who preach doubt. It is a very strict religion.

Update We made villain! Briggs the disgruntled troll! http://globalwarmingsuperheroes.com/climate-change-deniers/briggs-the-disgruntled-troll/

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