Holiday Greetings: All Rights Reserved

A giggle courtesy of Brian Leiter’s great blog, Leiter Reports.

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Via reader Ian Best comes this all-purpose set of seasons greetings, written by Professor Gary Potter (Music, Indiana-Bloomington):

Puritans_Christmas
In fact, Puritans didn’t even have Christmas, but if they had, I bet a lot of rules would have been involved.

From me (“the wishor”) to you (“the wishee”):

Please accept without obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, politically correct, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practised within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I wish you a financially successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2016, but with due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures or sects, and having regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform or sexual preference of the wishee.

By accepting this greeting you are bound by these terms that:-

This greeting is subject to further clarification or withdrawal.

This greeting is freely transferable provided that no alteration shall be made to the original greeting and that the proprietary rights of the wishor are acknowledged.

This greeting implies no promise by the wishor to actually implement any of the wishes.

This greeting may not be enforceable in certain jurisdictions and/or the restrictions herein may not be binding upon certain wishees in certain jurisdictions and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wishor.

This greeting is warranted to perform as reasonably may be expected within the usual application of good tidings, for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first.

The wishor warrants this greeting only for the limited replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wishor.

Any references in this greeting to “the Lord”, “Father Christmas”, “Our Saviour”, “Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer” or any other festive figures, whether actual or fictitious, dead or alive, shall not imply any endorsement by or from them in respect of this greeting, and all proprietary rights in any referenced third party names and images are hereby acknowledged.

This greeting is made under Czech Law.

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Silly Words: Lesser-Known Ethical Dilemmas

Amsterdam Sculpture
Sculpture I spotted above Amsterdam’s canals. Are they contemplating the categorical imperative?

Via McSweeny’s a Monday morning giggle:

LESSER-KNOWN TROLLEY PROBLEM VARIATIONS

BY KYLE YORK

– – – –
The Time Traveler

There’s an out of control trolley speeding towards a worker. You have the ability to pull a lever and change the trolley’s path so it hits a different worker. The different worker is actually the first worker ten minutes from now.

The Cancer Caper

There’s an out of control trolley speeding towards four workers. Three of them are cannibalistic serial killers. One of them is a brilliant cancer researcher. You have the ability to pull a lever and change the trolley’s path so it hits just one person. She is a brilliant cannibalistic serial killing cancer researcher who only kills lesser cancer researchers. 14% of these researchers are Nazi-sympathizers, and 25% don’t use turning signals when they drive. Speaking of which, in this world, Hitler is still alive, but he’s dying of cancer.

The Suicide Note

There’s an out of control trolley speeding towards a worker. You have the ability to pull a lever and change the trolley’s path so it hits a different worker. The first worker has an intended suicide note in his back pocket but it’s in the handwriting of the second worker. The second worker wears a T-shirt that says PLEASE HIT ME WITH A TROLLEY, but the shirt is borrowed from the first worker.

The Ethics Teacher

There’s an out of control trolley speeding towards four workers. You are on your way to teach an ethics class and this accident will make you extremely late. You have the ability to pull a lever and change the trolley’s path so it hits just one person. This will make you slightly less late to your class.

The Latte

There’s an out of control trolley speeding towards five workers. You’re in a nearby café, sipping on a latte, and don’t notice. The workers die.

The Dicks

There’s an out of control trolley speeding towards two workers. They’re massive dicks. You have the ability to pull a lever and change the trolley’s path so it hits just one person. He’s an even bigger dick.

The Business Ethics Version

There’s an out of control trolley speeding towards three workers. You have the ability to pull a lever and change the trolley’s path so it hits a teenager instead. At a minimum, the three workers’ families will receive a $20,000 insurance payoff each, and the families will no doubt sue the company, which in this scenario you represent. The trolley driver seemed to die instantly from a freak aneurism, so your company might not be faulted for negligence under the FELA and might come out okay. The teenager’s parents, on the other hand, make a total of $175,000 a year, and can afford a pretty decent lawyer.

The Real Stinker

There’s an out of control trolley speeding towards four workers. You have the ability to pull a lever and change the trolley’s path so it hits just one worker instead. But get this: that one worker? It’s your fucking mom. Bet you weren’t expecting that shit, were you?

The Surrealist Version

There’s an out of control trolley speeding towards four workers. You have the ability to pull off your head and turn it into a Chinese lantern. Your head floats into the sky until it takes the place of the sun. You look down upon the planet. It is as small as the eye of a moth. The moth flies away.

The Meta-Ethical Problem

There’s an out of control trolley speeding towards Immanuel Kant. You have the ability to pull a lever and change the trolley’s path so it hits Jeremy Bentham instead. Jeremy Bentham clutches the only existing copy of Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals. Kant holds the only existing copy of Bentham’s The Principles of Morals and Legislation. Both of them are shouting at you that they have recently started to reconsider their ethical stances.

Boxing Day Drollery

Happy Boxing Day! Here is the report from Reginald, a creation of the satirist Saki (H.H. Munro) whose perspective on life rival’s Maggie Smith’s on Downtown.

REGINALD’S CHRISTMAS REVEL

They say (said Reginald) that there’s nothing sadder than victory except defeat. If you’ve ever stayed with dull people during what is alleged to be the festive season, you can probably revise that saying. I shall never forget putting in a Christmas at the Babwolds’. Mrs. Babwold is some relation of my father’s–a sort of to-be-left-till-called-for cousin–and that was considered sufficient reason for my having to accept her invitation at about the sixth time of asking; though why the sins of the father should be visited by the children–you won’t find any notepaper in that drawer; that’s where I keep old menus and first-night programmes.

Mrs. Babwold wears a rather solemn personality, and has never been known to smile, even when saying disagreeable things to her friends or making out the Stores list. She takes her pleasures sadly. A state elephant at a Durbar gives one a very similar impression. Her husband gardens in all weathers. When a man goes out in the pouring rain to brush caterpillars off rose-trees, I generally imagine his life indoors leaves something to be desired; anyway, it must be very unsettling for the caterpillars.

Of course there were other people there. There was a Major Somebody who had shot things in Lapland, or somewhere of that sort; I forget what they were, but it wasn’t for want of reminding. We had them cold with every meal almost, and he was continually giving us details of what they measured from tip to tip, as though he thought we were going to make them warm under-things for the winter. I used to listen to him with a rapt attention that I thought rather suited me, and then one day I quite modestly gave the dimensions of an okapi I had shot in the Lincolnshire fens. The Major turned a beautiful Tyrian scarlet (I remember thinking at the time that I should like my bathroom hung in that colour), and I think that at that moment he almost found it in his heart to dislike me. Mrs. Babwold put on a first-aid-to-the-injured expression, and asked him why he didn’t publish a book of his sporting reminiscences; it would be SO interesting. She didn’t remember till afterwards that he had given her two fat volumes on the subject, with his portrait and autograph as a frontispiece and an appendix on the habits of the Arctic mussel.

It was in the evening that we cast aside the cares and distractions of the day and really lived. Cards were thought to be too frivolous and empty a way of passing the time, so most of them played what they called a book game. You went out into the hall–to get an inspiration, I

Wee MacGreegor was a creation of John Joy Bell, a concoction too sweet for Saki.
Wee MacGreegor was a creation of John Joy Bell, and no doubt a concoction too sweet for Saki.

suppose–then you came in again with a muffler tied round your neck and looked silly, and the others were supposed to guess that you were “Wee MacGreegor.” I held out against the inanity as long as I decently could, but at last, in a lapse of good-nature, I consented to masquerade as a book, only I warned them that it would take some time to carry out. They waited for the best part of forty minutes, while I went and played wineglass skittles with the page-boy in the pantry; you play it with a champagne cork, you know, and the one who knocks down the most glasses without breaking them wins. I won, with four unbroken out of seven; I think William suffered from over-anxiousness. They were rather mad in the drawing-room at my not having come back, and they weren’t a bit pacified when I told them afterwards that I was “At the end of the passage.”

“I never did like Kipling,” was Mrs. Babwold’s comment, when the situation dawned upon her. “I couldn’t see anything clever in Earthworms out of Tuscany–or is that by Darwin?”

Of course these games are very educational, but, personally, I prefer bridge.

On Christmas evening we were supposed to be specially festive in the Old English fashion. The hall was horribly draughty, but it seemed to be the proper place to revel in, and it was decorated with Japanese fans and Chinese lanterns, which gave it a very Old English effect. A young lady with a confidential voice favoured us with a long recitation about a little girl who died or did something equally hackneyed, and then the Major gave us a graphic account of a struggle he had with a wounded bear. I privately wished that the bears would win sometimes on these occasions; at least they wouldn’t go vapouring about it afterwards. Before we had time to recover our spirits, we were indulged with some thought-reading by a young man whom one knew instinctively had a good mother and an indifferent tailor–the sort of young man who talks unflaggingly through the thickest soup, and smooths his hair dubiously as though he thought it might hit back. The thought-reading was rather a success; he announced that the hostess was thinking about poetry, and she admitted that her mind was dwelling on one of Austin’s odes. Which was near enough. I fancy she had been really wondering whether a scrag-end of mutton and some cold plum-pudding would do for the kitchen dinner next day. As a crowning dissipation, they all sat down to play progressive halma, with milk-chocolate for prizes. I’ve been carefully brought up, and I don’t like to play games of skill for milk-chocolate, so I invented a headache and retired from the scene. I had been preceded a few minutes earlier by Miss Langshan-Smith, a rather formidable lady, who always got up at some uncomfortable hour in the morning, and gave you the impression that she had been in communication with most of the European Governments before breakfast. There was a paper pinned on her door with a signed request that she might be called particularly early on the morrow. Such an opportunity does not come twice in a lifetime. I covered up everything except the signature with another notice, to the effect that before these words should meet the eye she would have ended a misspent life, was sorry for the trouble she was giving, and would like a military funeral. A few minutes later I violently exploded an air- filled paper bag on the landing, and gave a stage moan that could have been heard in the cellars. Then I pursued my original intention and went to bed. The noise those people made in forcing open the good lady’s door was positively indecorous; she resisted gallantly, but I believe they searched her for bullets for about a quarter of an hour, as if she had been an historic battlefield.

I hate travelling on Boxing Day, but one must occasionally do things that one dislikes.

You can find more Reginald stories on project Gutenberg.

Funny Words: Devastating accretions of correspondence, incident to the festive season

Monroe LetterAt a loss to write in holiday thank you cards, emails, Facebook messages?  Saki got there before you. Happy Boxing Day!

“Down Pens”

By Saki

“Have you written to thank the Froplinsons for what they sent us?” asked Egbert.

“No,” said Janetta, with a note of tired defiance in her voice; “I’ve written eleven letters to-day expressing surprise and gratitude for sundry unmerited gifts, but I haven’t written to the Froplinsons.”

“Some one will have to write to them,” said Egbert.

“I don’t dispute the necessity, but I don’t think the some one should be me,” said Janetta. “I wouldn’t mind writing a letter of angry recrimination or heartless satire to some suitable recipient; in fact, I should rather enjoy it, but I’ve come to the end of my capacity for expressing servile amiability. Eleven letters to-day and nine yesterday, all couched in the same strain of ecstatic thankfulness: really, you can’t expect me to sit down to another. There is such a thing as writing oneself out.”

“I’ve written nearly as many,” said Egbert, “and I’ve had my usual business correspondence to get through, too. Besides, I don’t know what it was that the Froplinsons sent us.”

“A William the Conqueror calendar,” said Janetta, “with a quotation of one of his great thoughts for every day in the year.”

“Impossible,” said Egbert; “he didn’t have three hundred and sixty-five thoughts in the whole of his life, or, if he did, he kept them to himself. He was a man of action, not of introspection.”

“Well, it was William Wordsworth, then,” said Janetta; “I know William came into it somewhere.”

“That sounds more probable,” said Egbert; “well, let’s collaborate on this letter of thanks and get it done. I’ll dictate, and you can scribble it down. ‘Dear Mrs. Froplinson – thank you and your husband so much for the very pretty calendar you sent us. It was very good of you to think of us.’ ”

“You can’t possibly say that,” said Janetta, laying down her pen.

“It’s what I always do say, and what every one says to me,” protested Egbert.

“We sent them something on the twenty-second,” said Janetta, “so they simply HAD to think of us. There was no getting away from it.”

“What did we send them?” asked Egbert gloomily.

“Bridge-markers,” said Janetta, “in a cardboard case, with some inanity about ‘digging for fortune with a royal spade’ emblazoned on the cover. The moment I saw it in the shop I said to myself ‘Froplinsons’ and to the attendant ‘How much?’ When he said ‘Ninepence,’ I gave him their address, jabbed our card in, paid tenpence or elevenpence to cover the postage, and thanked heaven. With less sincerity and infinitely more trouble they eventually thanked me.”

“The Froplinsons don’t play bridge,” said Egbert.

“One is not supposed to notice social deformities of that sort,” said Janetta; “it wouldn’t be polite. Besides, what trouble did they take to find out whether we read Wordsworth with gladness? For all they knew or cared we might be frantically embedded in the belief that all poetry begins and ends with John Masefield, and it might infuriate or depress us to have a daily sample of Wordsworthian products flung at us.”

“Well, let’s get on with the letter of thanks,” said Egbert.

“Proceed,” said Janetta.

” ‘How clever of you to guess that Wordsworth is our favourite poet,’ ” dictated Egbert.

Again Janetta laid down her pen.

“Do you realise what that means?” she asked; “a Wordsworth booklet next Christmas, and another calendar the Christmas after, with the same problem of having to write suitable letters of thankfulness. No, the best thing to do is to drop all further allusion to the calendar and switch off on to some other topic.”

“But what other topic?”

“Oh, something like this: ‘What do you think of the New Year Honours List? A friend of ours made such a clever remark when he read it.’ Then you can stick in any remark that comes into your head; it needn’t be clever. The Froplinsons won’t know whether it is or isn’t.”

“We don’t even know on which side they are in politics,” objected Egbert; “and anyhow you can’t suddenly dismiss the subject of the calendar. Surely there must be some intelligent remark that can be made about it.”

“Well, we can’t think of one,” said Janetta wearily; “the fact is, we’ve both written ourselves out. Heavens! I’ve just remembered Mrs. Stephen Ludberry. I haven’t thanked her for what she sent.”

“What did she send?”

“I forget; I think it was a calendar.”

There was a long silence, the forlorn silence of those who are bereft of hope and have almost ceased to care.

Presently Egbert started from his seat with an air of resolution. The light of battle was in his eyes.

“Let me come to the writing-table,” he exclaimed.

“Gladly,” said Janetta. “Are you going to write to Mrs. Ludberry or the Froplinsons?”

“To neither,” said Egbert, drawing a stack of notepaper towards him; “I’m going to write to the editor of every enlightened and influential newspaper in the Kingdom, I’m going to suggest that there should be a sort of epistolary Truce of God during the festivities of Christmas and New Year. From the twenty-fourth of December to the third or fourth of January it shall be considered an offence against good sense and good feeling to write or expect any letter or communication that does not deal with the necessary events of the moment. Answers to invitations, arrangements about trains, renewal of club subscriptions, and, of course, all the ordinary everyday affairs of business, sickness, engaging new cooks, and so forth, these will be dealt with in the usual manner as something inevitable, a legitimate part of our daily life. But all the devastating accretions of correspondence, incident to the festive season, these should be swept away to give the season a chance of being really festive, a time of untroubled, unpunctuated peace and good will.”

“But you would have to make some acknowledgment of presents received,” objected Janetta; “otherwise people would never know whether they had arrived safely.”

“Of course, I have thought of that,” said Egbert; “every present that was sent off would be accompanied by a ticket bearing the date of dispatch and the signature of the sender, and some conventional hieroglyphic to show that it was intended to be a Christmas or New Year gift; there would be a counterfoil with space for the recipient’s name and the date of arrival, and all you would have to do would be to sign and date the counterfoil, add a conventional hieroglyphic indicating heartfelt thanks and gratified surprise, put the thing into an envelope and post it.”

“It sounds delightfully simple,” said Janetta wistfully, “but people would consider it too cut-and- dried, too perfunctory.”

“It is not a bit more perfunctory than the present system,” said Egbert; “I have only the same conventional language of gratitude at my disposal with which to thank dear old Colonel Chuttle for his perfectly delicious Stilton, which we shall devour to the last morsel, and the Froplinsons for their calendar, which we shall never look at. Colonel Chuttle knows that we are grateful for the Stilton, without having to be told so, and the Froplinsons know that we are bored with their calendar, whatever we may say to the contrary, just as we know that they are bored with the bridge-markers in spite of their written assurance that they thanked us for our charming little gift. What is more, the Colonel knows that even if we had taken a sudden aversion to Stilton or been forbidden it by the doctor, we should still have written a letter of hearty thanks around it. So you see the present system of acknowledgment is just as perfunctory and conventional as the counterfoil business would be, only ten times more tiresome and brain-racking.”

“Your plan would certainly bring the ideal of a Happy Christmas a step nearer realisation,” said Janetta.

“There are exceptions, of course,” said Egbert, “people who really try to infuse a breath of reality into their letters of acknowledgment. Aunt Susan, for instance, who writes: ‘Thank you very much for the ham; not such a good flavour as the one you sent last year, which itself was not a particularly good one. Hams are not what they used to be.’ It would be a pity to be deprived of her Christmas comments, but that loss would be swallowed up in the general gain.”

“Meanwhile,” said Janetta, “what am I to say to the Froplinsons?”

Silly Words: Lorae Ipsae

Anybody who works in web editorial (or print editorial for that matter) has probably encountered Lorem Ipsum, the dummy text used to fill out design templates as a way of testing whether they work. For some odd reason, this is called “Greeking” even though it most assuredly is Latin.

As a writer/producer, my view is it’s a bad idea…as it doesn’t really give you much info about whether the content will work (length, headers, etc.) But sometimes you have to use it, and because it’s the web, if if you tired of the same old text there are a bunch of other versions you can play with. Courtesy of the drolly titled Tentacled Testing. Comments are theirs.

Here’s a collection of the various places to grab some blocks of text:

  • Lorem Ipsum Generator – There are many but I like this one. Great and easy options.
  • Bacon Ipsum – One of my favorites. Whimsical, meaty and work safe.
  • Beer Ipsum – Not as many options but beer is never wrong. Unless a client sees it.
  • Hipster Ipsum – I work in Brooklyn. I use this to amuse developers but I’m careful to keep it away from client’s eyes.
  • Gangsta Ipsum – No actual swear words but it’s not something I would use at work.
  • Fillerati – If you love novels this is the dummy text for you.
  • Samuel L. Jackson Ipsum – I don’t know where you work but I wouldn’t use this one on anything but I am so very happy it exists.

And although cupcakes’ cultural moment maybe be over, there is still a delightful Cupcake Ipsum generator.
Screen Shot 2013-07-21 at 6.48.31 PM

MOOC’s or MOOA’s

Reluctant as I am to give The Manhattan Institute any traffic, Benjamin Ginsberg‘s take on what academe really needs is pretty funny, and it’s not more courses:

As colleges begin using massive open online courses (MOOC) to reduce faculty costs, a Johns Hopkins University professor has announced plans for MOOA (massive open online administrations). Dr. Benjamin Ginsberg, author of The Fall of the Faculty, says that many colleges and universities face the same administrative issues every day. By having one experienced group of administrators make decisions for hundreds of campuses simultaneously, MOOA would help address these problems expeditiously and economically. Since MOOA would allow colleges to dispense with most of their own administrators, it would generate substantial cost savings in higher education.

Tipped by Leiter Reports.

Screen Shot 2013-06-23 at 9.26.59 PM
Could MOOA’s do any better at the all important task of gratifying universities’ edifice complexes. From PhD comics, and he’s way too easy on Gothic Envyist, a baleful architectural trend still with us.

Grammatical Words: Bill Walsh’s new book

Washington Post Copyeditor extraordinaire and proprietor of the http://www.theslot.com/, a blog for copy editors, (check out the advice for caption writers under “Sharp Points”) has written a new book.
Screen Shot 2013-06-14 at 8.55.32 AM
Looks like fun. A few bits:

“Anal-retentive: As a matter of fact, it does have a hyphen. Thank you for your interest.”

“Shephard: To shephard a plan is to take it on a fifteen minute suborbital flight while sporting a jaunty crew cut. You probably mean shepherd.”

“Armed gunmen: They’re the worst kind.”

“Without further ado: It’s a ridiculous cliché. Even when you don’t make the mistake of spelling it adieu.” 

Commonplace Book: Some Philosophical Giggles

Tipped by Leiter Reports, some nice bits from a Kindle Commonplace book on philosophy:

Mind

   “Mind is classified by the US Post Office as Second Class Matter”–From the front cover of Mind

   “Philosophy is to the real world as masturbation is to sex.” –Marx

   “I like to do all the talking. It saves times and prevents arguments.” –Oscar Wilde

   Heidegger has been mistranslated. His major work is really “Being on Time.”

Verizon: Your Data is Ever So Important to Us!

The story about Verizon handing private data to the NSA is indeed outrageous…but seriously, it’s Verizon, how well could it have worked? Something like this perhaps?

Screen Shot 2013-06-07 at 5.47.22 PMHello, you've reached the Verizon Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Help Line. Although your call is special to us, we are currently serving other security agencies, and you will be placed in the queue for faster service. There are currently, pause [nine], callers ahead of you, including Mossad, Chinese State Security, and Vladimir Putin's Dry Cleaner, but rest assured you are currently ahead of Latvia and Belize. Your call is important to us!

Hold music “Danger Zone” for 10 minutes.

Hello, we are still busy helping other callers with their business and surveillance needs. If you would like to use our automated help line for frequently requested queries, press 1, otherwise please stay on the line and a representative will be with you shortly. Did you know you can now get free automatic upgrades based on usage via quick and convenient text messages right from your phone? Text us today, and soon you will be a gold elite Verizon Surveillance Service Member (for users who trace 10000 or more calls a month) entitling you to free cocktails at any DoubleTree bar where are you using one of our handy assumed identities. Txt 007up to us right now and enroll today!

Presses 1

Please listen carefully to the menu options, as we are currently updating them based on pending litigation, and they may change during the course of this call. If you have a subpoena, please press 1, if you don't have a subpoena, please press 2.

Presses 1

Thank you. If your question is technical, press 1, if you have forgotten your PIN, press 2, if you are using our mobile app or web site, press 3, if your computer crashed after downloading metadata from tracking a gazzillion phone calls and you don't know what to do, press 4, if you just lost the message about that fantasy baseball league you wanted to join, and would like us to undelete it for you, press 5. Press 6 for all other inquiries or to speak to a representative.

Presses 2.

We are sorry to hear that you have lost your PIN, and frankly a little disappointed. But Verizon realizes these things happen! We regret to inform you, however, that you cannot reset your PIN via this help line, only your FISA customer representative, your control, or Senator Diane Feinstein can do that. To meet your FISA customer representative, please hang up and drive to the Pittsburgh Bus Station and ask Eunice for the key to locker 002. You will know what to do after that. If you would like to speak to a representative about another issue, please press 1, otherwise, please hang up.

Presses 1

A representative will be with you shortly; as customer service is job one at Verizon, will you help us out by staying on the line to take a brief survey about whether we are meeting all your surveillance needs? Please press 1 for yes.

Live cheerful voice trying hard to sound like it belongs to somebody from Iowa comes on the line, Hello, My name is Lindsey, thank you for your call, how can I help you today?

Joking aside, seems like a lot of bets are out on the inability of the public to get exercised by this latest affront. Maybe digital media is the new opiate of the masses, but are we so high on it that we let government in on our every move without putting up a ruckus?