Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Notes for Noting and Links for Thinking

* There is some interesting discussion of principles of rational requirement at Philosophy, etc., in two posts: A Paradox for Subjective Rationality and Disjunctive Requirements. The latter is a particularly useful introduction to the difference between a wide-scope disjunctive requirement and a narrow-scope disjunctive requirement -- a slight difference that makes a lot of difference.

* The Bible and Graphic Novels: A Review and Interview with the Authors of "Marked" and "Megillat Esther" at SBL Forums (HT: NT Gateway). The Megillat Esther graphic novel, by JT Waldman, looks like it might be awesome.

* Canon lawyer Edward Peters has an interesting post that shows how important it is to keep a distinction between parish and diocese when handling liability obligations arising from clerical sexual misconduct. To put it very roughly it involves forcing victims to pay (collectively) for settlements given to the victims (individually).

* An interesting discussion by Stephen Carlson of the application of phylogenetic techniques to manuscript traditions: New Testament Stemmatics

* Art and Images Related to the Book of Revelation

* A taste of Benedict XVI's first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est:

Nowadays Christianity of the past is often criticized as having been opposed to the body; and it is quite true that tendencies of this sort have always existed. Yet the contemporary way of exalting the body is deceptive. Eros, reduced to pure “sex”, has become a commodity, a mere “thing” to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity. This is hardly man's great “yes” to the body. On the contrary, he now considers his body and his sexuality as the purely material part of himself, to be used and exploited at will. Nor does he see it as an arena for the exercise of his freedom, but as a mere object that he attempts, as he pleases, to make both enjoyable and harmless. Here we are actually dealing with a debasement of the human body: no longer is it integrated into our overall existential freedom; no longer is it a vital expression of our whole being, but it is more or less relegated to the purely biological sphere. The apparent exaltation of the body can quickly turn into a hatred of bodiliness.

* An interesting post on Newman's dedication of the Oxford University Sermons to Dean Church, at "Zadok the Roman"

* A nice little article on critical thinking that can be applied outside its specific domain: Critical Thinking for the Military Professional, by Col. W. Michale Guillot at Chronicles Online Journal, the online companion to Air & Space Power Journal.

* A nice online logic puzzle game: Inspector Parker. It's fairly simple, but whiles away the time quite dangerously.

* There is an interesting discussion, with lots of comments, on national inefficiencies at Crooked Timber. I think that what the comments show is that 'inefficiency' in this sort of context means absolutely nothing without a precise goal in mind. On the sales tax issue: I prefer that the sales tax not be included in the labeled price. It makes more clear , and people are perhaps more likely to think through their priorites in voting on sales taxes or supporting/opposing sales taxes if they have a clear sense of the difference the sales tax is already making. But the real reason it tends not to be done, I think, is that people (quite rightly, I think) tend to regard taxes as something superadded: it is an additional imposition. An acceptable imposition, but an additional one. They don't want taxes factored into the labeled price, because they don't consider the after-tax price to be the correct price. Rather, it's the correct price plus the government's mite. And it must be noted that there's nothing wrong or irrational about this way of looking at it. On tipping the U.S. doesn't seem particularly unusual, since Canada's expectations are much the same. In Atlantic Canada, by all accounts, tipping expectations are much greater than in the U.S.: their idea is that you should be tipping anyone who makes minimum wage or close to it. So if you go into Tim Horton's for a coffee in Nova Scotia the expectation is that you will not only pay for the coffee but that you will tip the people who work there. (But it's still your choice, not theirs.) On metric, it's noteworthy, by the way, that Canada is a good example of conversion to metric that never quite worked. Partly because it's next door to the U.S., and partly because Canadians tend to have similar views to Americans on this point (with the occasional additional, "If it was good enough for the British Empire, it's good enough for me"), the attempt to convert to metric has just led to Canadian measurements being a mess. It's not uncommon for a Canadian to measure his height in feet, his sports distances in metric, his travel distances in metric, long distances that aren't travel distances in miles, short distances in yards, lumber in feet, very short distances in centimeters, the weight of bananas in metric, his own weight in pounds, temperatures in Celsius (usually) &c. Among common measures only speeds are consistently measured in metric. I'm even told that while houses are technically designed in metric, they aren't built in it. But -- and this is really the only thing that matters -- Canadians don't have much trouble handling it at all. You have to learn different scales of measurement for all sorts of things anyway, even in metric, so the gain of an all-metric system would be relatively small. It's not as if you're actually coming up with a new and simple scale that would usably cover weight, length, temperature, and speed indifferently. That would be a gain in efficiency worth having in everyday life. If the U.S. converted it would inevitably be more like Canada in its conversion than the ideal metric enthusiasts always have in their head.
UPDATE: It's also noteworthy that the advantages in mental computation provided by metric are often exaggerated. Metric's primary advantage occurs if you do work that requires a lot of decimal changes. If you work in fractions (e.g., if you do work in which it's useful to divide things in half) you tend not to think in metric terms anyway. And for weather temperatures, Fahrenheit is a more convenient scale for precisely the reason Celsius is often lauded: on a Fahrenheit scale, really hot weather temperatures are near 100 and really cold weather temperatures are near 0. The convenience or efficiency of one or the other just depends on where you put the emphasis.

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