I love the things that…

Al Wood says: “It seems there are two types of site on the internet: sites about things people do (like Facebook, Twitter and Perez Hilton) and sites about things that people make (like YouTube, Tumblr and Boing, Boing). And I think you can guess which side of this I’m on.”  So he suggests that The Burning Hell’s “I Love the Things That People Make” should become “the official anthem of the internet.”

For some time, I’ve been trying to come up with a good tagline for this site.  When I read this bit of Al’s, it became obvious to me that it ought to be “I love the things that people think.”

Some comments that have appeared on the backup site

I maintain a site on blogspot that consists almost entirely of reposts from this site.  This site is a backup, so that I won’t lose too much of my work in case something happens to WordPress.  As of now, there is little reason for anyone to read that site.

Every so often, a person offers a comment on the blogspot site.  I rather feel for these people, since there is virtually no chance that anyone but me will see what they have written, and I will occasionally go for weeks or even months on end without checking.  So, early in July, someone posting under the screen name “erplus” wrote this, in reply to my notes on an essay on theoretical studies in biology that Miriam Markowitz wrote for The Nation magazine last year:

please see the reader letter below which The Nation refused to publish neither in print nor online; tell me about esprit du corps.
Miriam Markowitz did not do her home work for an article that contains way too many platitudes imported from secondary sources. Just two examples.
A) Markowitz writes that Darwin’s “only explanation for the evolution of sterile insects was the good of the group.” This is a lie long peddled by Hamilton and his sycophants. In the The Origin of Species, Darwin wrote clearly that “This difficulty, though appearing insuperable, is lessened, or, as I believe, disappears, when it is remembered that selection may be applied to the family, as well as to the individual, and may thus gain the desired end. Breeders of cattle wish the flesh and fat to be well marbled together. An animal thus characterized has been slaughtered, but the breeder has gone with confidence to the same stock and has succeeded” [www.classicreader.com/book/107/59/]. Here “the family” does not stand for the mafia and “stock” does stands for a kin group. These passages and others by Darwin about “kin selection” are highlighted and justly celebrated in DJ Futuyma’s textbook of reference Evolutionary Biology and in EO WIlson’s Sociobiology. This intellectual heist by the late Hamilton and his sycophants is perhaps the most brazen ever, since it’s literally Darwin whom they insist(ed) in trying to rob!
B) Markowitz treats Dawkins as a scientist but he is not. In the said “Evolutionary Biology” textbook, e.g., Dawkins’ popular-science books are cited for the metaphoric syllogism about genes with intentionality; otherwise there is only a citation for a paper with trivial applied math. Dawkins indeed has never made a discovery. Had Markowitz talked to say E.Sober or even Futuyma, she would have written a much better article.
Given the above and much much more, Nation readers stand warned that almost nothing in Markowitz article has any depth, especially her cheapo-melodramatic pieties towards the end (albeit certainly not because Dawkins and Co. are right about anything).

I didn’t see this comment until Sunday, almost two months after erplus posted it.  I felt bad about that, especially since he had asked us about the original posting before turning to the blogspot site.  I apologized for my negligence there, and repeat that apology here.  Sorry, erplus!  I hope you find it in yourself to forgive me.

I have served a couple of other commenters slightly better, at least to the extent of reading their comments in a timely fashion.  Charles J. Shields gave us the following:

Just a note to let you know about a book blog I’ve started with a different twist: “Writing Kurt Vonnegut.” Every Saturday, I post another excerpt from my notebook as Vonnegut’s biographer— profiles of the people I met, the difficulties encountered, and the surprises, such as finding 1,500 letters he thought he had lost forever. It’s a blog written in episodes about being a literary detective.

Perhaps you’d like to give it a look at http://www.writingkurtvonnegut.com

All the best,

Charles J. Shields
And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut, A Life (Holt, November 2011)

That was in response to my repost of “Kurt Vonnegut, Junior, on Extended Families.”  Writing Kurt Vonnegut is worth a look, and so I thank Mr Shields for letting me know about it.


Number 1000

This blog has been around since July 2007; this is the 1000th post.  When we started in 2007, it was supposed to be a way for three old friends to keep in touch.  It didn’t occur to any of us that anyone we didn’t know would ever read it.  As it gradually attracted a readership, we marked some of the early posts that gave away personal information about the contributors as private.  So if you were to scroll through the whole thing, you’d find only 991 postings.  You can take my word for it that you aren’t missing anything by not seeing the other nine.

Stirring the pot

Lately I’ve been copying my posts from here to a site I maintain on Blogspot (or as I sometimes call it, “Blogs’ Pot.”)  I’m doing this simply to back them up in case something goes wrong with WordPress.  So far I’ve copied my posts from the launch of the blog in July 2007 through January 2009, and from May 2010 through the present.  I haven’t copied all of them, just the ones that I’d miss if they vanished completely.

I’ve made no effort at all to publicize that other site, yet it has drawn a surprising number of pageviews and even a few comments.  One comment about the US Civil War was so substantial that I had to break my reply to it into two parts (1, 2).  I didn’t expect anyone to read acilius.blogspot.com, and am mystified that anyone has taken an interest in it.

Back in the New Year

I’m taking a couple of weeks off from blogging.  I’ll be back after the first.


Thanks to Unwinder’s Tall Comics for mentioning us.

Brush with greatness

The sound you hear is my jaw hitting the floor.  I’ve been the one monitoring our gmail account (losthunderlads at gmail dot com) lately.  So today I opened it and saw two messages from George Hinchliffe.  As in the co-founder of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.  He made some kind remarks about this blog.

Why I Post Under a Pseudonym

Under a false name

Lately I’ve been leafing through the Penguin Classics version of Søren Kierkegaard’s Papers and Journals.  One of the major themes is his relationship to the pseudonyms under which he wrote.  For example, on page 204 we find this passage, dated 9 February 1846:

Up to now I’ve been of service by helping the pseudonyms to become authors.  What if I decided from now on to do in the form of criticism what little writing I can allow myself?  I’d then commit what I have to say to reviews in which my ideas developed out of some book or other, so that they could also be found in the book.  At least I’d escape being an author. 

I suppose my use of the pseudonym “Acilius,” together with the preponderance of “Periodicals Notes” and Quick Links here, is among other things a strategy to avoid becoming an author.  But that isn’t the whole story.  Returning to Kierkegaard, here is a passage from later in 1846, found on page 225 of the book:

The idea I expressed in my life to support the pseudonymous writings was in total consistency with them.  If, with such an enormous productivity, I had led a secluded, hidden life, seldom appearing in public and then with a serious mien as befits a thinker, a professor face, heaven help me!  All that crawls of silly girls, young students, and the like would have discovered that I was profound.  That would have been hugely inconsistent with my work.  But what care fools about consistency- and how many wise men are there in each generation? 

When I first read this bit two or three weeks ago, I had just been thinking about my reasons for blogging under a pseudonym.  Coming upon it helped me formulate three specific reasons.

First, I teach at a college.  Many of my students look me up on Google.  If I blogged under my real name, they would immediately find this site.  I already catch them spouting opinions which they take to be mine in an attempt to make points.  If I were to make hundreds of posts in which I give my opinions about virtually every possible subject so easy for them to find, I could expect to encounter that sort of thing every day. 

Second, I often tell little stories about people I know.  Since I use a pseudonym and do not identify these people, the reader cannot be expected to know who they are.  Even readers who know me and recognize the characters may find something of the detachment of fiction in a story published under a pseudonym.  If I were to use my real name, however, I would have an obligation to give the others a right to rebut what I have written about them. 

Third, I am not the sole author of this site.  Others post here, still others comment here.  Some of these are people who are connected to me in some identifiable way (for example, my wife) and who may occasionally make remarks here that they would not want to share with everyone in the world.  If I obscure my identity by using a pseudonym, those others may be able to preserve some measure of privacy.

World Values Survey, II

In response to the Believer’s post below, I’ve added the World Values Survey to our page of “Reference” links.

How people found us yesterday

WordPress bloggers often obsess over one particular feature the service offers, which is a list of the search terms that brought views to the site on each day.  Since Los Thunderlads is a general interest blog, our list of search terms sometimes resembles a cross-section of what people are looking for when they search the web.  Here are the search engine terms that brought people here yesterday:

periodic table  
georgia o’keeffe paintings  
andy warhol banana  
bacteriophage model  
stanley fish habermas  
yinka shonibare  
barney fife photos  
barney fife  
ugly hijabi  
gordon lightfoot  
andy warhol banane  
female sex comics guns  
lionel trilling  
zippers in art  
gay periodic table  
naughty muslim women  
google books frontispiece  
burqa pictures  
chadri naked  
white tie  
kids playing  
vietnam sheaf  
women who like rape  
rape of the sabine  
veiled face  
“barney fife”  
horse embryo  
hijab fashion  
royal albert hall  
period table  
muslim women street  
patricia piccinini  
banana andy warhol  
roman military soldier equipment  
giuseppe arcimboldo  
red transparent umbrella  
chemistry textbook periodic table  
robot thinking  
aden yemen map  

As was the case in my previous post along these lines, I can explain some of these, but not all.  Moreover, there are some which,  while I can explain how they led people here, I cannot explain how anyone came to search for them.  For example, “gay periodic table” seems to have led here; but why anyone searched for that particular phrase leaves me at a loss.  That two people came here yesterday as the result of searching for it seems really strange.  And why this site should rank third in a Google Images search for “horse embryo”, I have no idea.