Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

24 August, 2004

New Latin Textbook Changes With Times

By JUSTIN POPE, AP Education Writer

"Optimus magister bonus liber," goes the old Latin adage: "The best teacher is a good book." For generations of modern-day Latin students, that book has been "Wheelock's Latin." But as the latest generation of students buy their Wheelocks in the coming weeks, they will discover a textbook that looks very different from the original, densely packed tome Professor Frederic Wheelock sketched out a half-century ago.

There are photographs, maps and eye-pleasing layouts. Exercises reflect the latest pedagogical theory. Readings feature fewer battlefield dispatches and more emphasis on women and everyday life. There is even a dirty poem by Catullus.

Wheelock's also has a Web site, e-mail discussion groups and, soon, online audio recordings.

"The times, they are a-changing," says Richard LaFleur, the University of Georgia classicist who took over the editorship of the series in the mid-1990s following Wheelock's 1987 death. "We want to keep up with the changes."

Latin, however, hasn't changed for 2,000 years. And where publishers see essential updates, critics of high textbook prices often wonder if new editions aren't just a ploy to raise prices.

Critics say they understand why biology and accounting textbooks need frequent updating, by why algebra or ancient languages?

Unnecessary updates are "one of the biggest driving factors behind the high costs of textbooks," says Merriah Fairchild, higher education advocate at the California Public Interest Research Group.

LaFleur says that many textbooks are updated too frequently, but that even Latin needs a fresh coat of paint sometimes. He and Wheelock's family say they have put out a new version about every five years, and pressed Harper Collins to keep the series affordable.

Textbook prices are a hot topic on college campuses and have prompted hearings on Capitol Hill. In January, a CALPIRG report found University of California students could expect to pay $898 per year for textbooks, up from $642 in 1996-97. The average price per new textbook was over $100. Three-quarters of faculty members surveyed believed new editions were usually unnecessary.

Publishers blame an unusual marketplace where they have just one year to earn back their investment; after that, students buy used copies and the publishers get nothing. That encourages frequent new editions.

"The basic business model is broken," says Al Greco, a Fordham University professor who follows the industry at the Book Industry Study Group. Greco doesn't believe publishers are price-gouging. Still, he concedes: "You could question whether there's a need to revise the calculus book, the U.S. history book, the Latin book every three years."

Yet revise they do. Even the death of an author may not derail a series. Anthony F. Janson took over the "History of Art" series after his father died in 1982. (The revised sixth edition, featuring more emphasis on religious art in the late Renaissance, was retailing for $95 this week in a downtown Boston bookstore). A rival, "Art Through the Ages" still carries author Helen Gardner's name on its 11th edition, 60 years after her death, and was retailing for $108.95, with CD-ROM, on Amazon.com.

But while art books require expensive-to-print, color images, critics say that isn't true for other subjects. Calpirg has criticized frequent updates in calculus, a subject little-changed since Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Sir Isaac Newton invented it in the 17th century.

In Wheelock's case, Harper Collins bought the title after the namesake's death and put out a fourth edition based on notes he left. LaFleur got involved by pointing out errors in that edition. Eventually, he and the family discussed his taking over the project.

"He had the right feeling about my father, the respect, the allegiance to my father that was music to our ears," daughter Deborah Wheelock Taylor says.

LaFleur and the family insist the textbook has always been a labor of love, and affordability a priority. New versions contain pictures, but they are black-and-white. Harper Collins essentially publishes Wheelock's as a trade book, which means cheaper paper. Wheelock's has a Web site but is not bundled with expensive CD-ROMs.

"It's not bells and whistles," says Greg Chaput of publisher Harper Collins. "It's just solid, great information, beautifully written."

The basic, paperback version, the most popular introductory college Latin text, costs just $20.95. A supplementary reader is $19 and a workbook $17. Prices will probably rise a few dollars with a revised sixth edition due out next year, and a still-more-expensive hardcover is in the works, targeting high schools. But Harper Collins insists it will be reasonably priced.

Calpirg's Fairchild, though not familiar with the Wheelock's series, says Latin "sounds like a good example of a subject that doesn't need much updating." But she adds: "Any publisher who is consciously trying to keep the costs of production low so they can pass on the savings to students is doing the students a favor."

The book sells about 30,000 copies a year — a tiny market compared with subjects such as economics or Spanish, which are taken by millions of students.

"It's a small fraction of my income," says LaFleur, who fell in love with Roman culture watching "Ben Hur" as a boy and drops words like "errata" into everyday conversation. "We're not in it for the sales. If people wanted to make money, they wouldn't plan on becoming Latin teachers."
|| Palmer, 10:47 AM || link || (0) comments |

17 August, 2004


Work sucks and next week the position ends. Been sending out resumes left & right. Went to an atheists meetup this evening. Some really nice folks. And a chickie even showed up! The Dulcinea continues to put out, which, as Martha would say, is a good thing. Old Man Standiford and I went to see Alien vs. Predator the other day. It was pretty bad.

I'd write more but I'm in kind of a strange mood. Today is my dad's birthday. While I had been planning to just put on some music and look at pictures, I just can't quite bring myself to do it.
|| Palmer, 10:46 AM || link || (0) comments |

11 August, 2004

Horses' Mouths

Today’s plan is to get through the last 3 or so hours of work and then get the hell outta Dodge. I’ve decided to use up all those half-full jars of curry paste in the refrigerator by making curried chicken tonight. Well, I’ll try to use them up, at any rate. After dinner, I shall have the company of The Dulcinea. We haven’t seen each other since the weekend and I don’t think either of us has had an orgasm since then so we’re both keen on rectifying this situation.

I feel like a complete dunce as I blew a nice opportunity last night to hit on a hottie. Short with long brown hair. We chatted briefly in the cereal aisle but I neglected to stick around long enough. Bummer. I was so thrown off that I bought the wrong kind of milk.

I think I must have a self-esteem problem as I am, in general, horrible at hitting on womyn. In addition, I was quite disturbed by my reactions to various ads as I perused some at a site the other day. I’d find a picture of a nice-looking woman and check out a larger version only to find that, much to my dismay, I felt most of the women were just too beautiful for me, that I wouldn’t stand a chance with them. I then proceeded to curse the site for not being able to filter by marital status. “Just gimme the divorcees,” I pleaded.

Sometimes I feel like I’m looking a gift horse in the mouth. I mean, I have a woman who makes booty call to me. And, assuming her parental duties don’t conflict, is always ready and willing when I beckon. We’ve been e-mailing one another today and I got this:
I will likely need a shower, because, as we know, I am a dirty, dirty girl. And having my back scrubbed sounds very good...

For anything I’ve wanted to do in bed, she’s been a willing partner in crime. (In fact, I think the next thing we’re going to try is photography.) But I keep fantasizing about someone else. Not usually someone in particular, just this anonymous woman with small breasts and long hair. And it’s driving me nuts. I’ve been hanging out at places and at times that I normally wouldn’t just to increase my odds of finding such a womyn. And, as I said above, I’ve been perusing personals. Unfortunately, they’re not particularly helpful. Most women my age seem to either have kids or want them and, since I find that to be an immediate turn-off, I just move on to the next ad.

Yesterday was not a particularly good day. I felt very angry, very disillusioned. I’d read way too much about the awful things going on in the world. It made me feel helpless and hopeless. And very, very alone. Things did get better when I got home and could spend some time, well, alone. Having no one around to make demands on me proved very salutary. Honestly, I really don’t want to see The Dulcinea tonight but I do want to get laid. She hangs around too long. After sex, she wants afterglow and I want to either read, watch a movie or just do something – anything except lying in bed. Well, unless it’s to go to sleep. I dunno – I guess I just like post-coital solitude. There are no emotional bonds that need tending between her and me. Not on my side, anyway. But I must admit that The Dulcinea seems resigned to my emotional distance. At least I think so – I dunno. How can I tell? She keeps lending me books and giving me little gifts yet she’s unobtrusive. She doesn’t call or email all the time, which is nice. I worry that she’s gonna break off our arrangement and then I’ll be like a junkie without a dealer.
|| Palmer, 10:45 AM || link || (0) comments |

08 August, 2004

Rant O'the Day

Last week I was listening to Air America, the new lefty radio network. A gentleman by the name of Mike Malloy came on. Apparently it was his first broadcast for AA but he had been on the radio elsewhere as many people called in to welcome him back to the airwaves. Amidst all the welcome backs and well wishes was a caller named Jeff who expressed his disillusionment with the Democratic Party and that John Kerry is essentially the same as George Bush. With vitriol usually reserved for Bush himself, Malloy went after the guy:

Jeff: I'm disillusioned.
Malloy: About what?
Jeff: The Democratic party.
Malloy: (Frustrated tone) Oh God. What about the Democratic party's got you disillusioned?
Jeff: Well, the fact that, ya know, if you look at the 2 party system, you've got Bush as the wolf, you've got Kerry who's the wolf in sheep's clothing.
Malloy: Yeah.
Jeff: That's the way it looks like to me.
Malloy: Yeah.
Jeff: I'm voting for Nader because he's the closest thing we've got to somebody who's honorable, is actually willing to make a stand on anything...
Malloy: Yeah.
Jeff: …without talking outta both sides of his mouth. And is actually concerned for the working class poor in this country.
Malloy: Yeah. OK.
…Malloy: I've been through this discussion a thousand times - I'm so sick of it I could just vomit blood. OK, is that graphic enough? Nader - I love Ralph Nader. He's a great man, he also…if he continues this nonsense, he's gonna hand this election to Bush. Now…in a perfect world, Nader would be the Democratic nominee, I grant you that. But this is not a perfect world, this is Bushworld, alright? If you want 4 more years of Bush, vote for Ralph, that's all I can say. You know that as well as I do. Every vote for Nader is a vote away from Kerry and a vote for Bush. For God's sake, the Republican Party is financing some of these get-out-the-vote campaigns for Nader so don't be a fool. It's OK to be idealistic but don't be a fool, OK?

This is a refrain I hear often from the far left. “Anybody but Bush” is the new motto. Michael Moore and Bill Maher got down on bended knees before Ralph Nader and pleaded with him to withdraw from the presidential race. While the scene was funny on one hand, it also symbolized the great extent to which progressives have given up the fight. Most of the Left views Ralph Nader as an enemy. Why? If I were to vote for Nader, it would go to his column, not Bush’s. Then again, with these new computerized voting machines, it wouldn’t be too surprising if that were to happen. Progressives love to contrast themselves against conservatives by saying such things as they stand for things like fairness and equality – genuinely good moral principles – whereas the Right stands for the interests of Big Business. Not to pick on Michael Moore, but here’s part of his speech from a Nader rally in the last presidential election:

If ya don't vote your conscience now, when will you start? When will you start to follow your conscience? If at the age of 18 or 19 or 20 years old, if at this very 1st election of your life you decide to settle for less, how has that moved us forward? We're at the place that we're at because we have settled for so less for so long - if we keep settling it's only gonna get worse. The lesser of 2 evils - you still end up with evil…we're being asked to choose the 2nd worst candidate…You know, this country never would have got to where it was if people had behaved that way. The Founding Mother and Founding Fathers of this country - what if they had said, "Oh, I'm afraid, I'm afraid of King George. You know, I…I…if we have a revolution we might have a worse king! So, uh, I…I guess we shouldn't have a revolution cuz we can't win, we can't win!"

"Ralph can't win. Ralph can't win. Ralph can't win." How many times have we heard this? What if Rosa Parks had said to herself, "I'm the only person on this bus - I can't win! I'm afraid." But that's not what she did. She took her seat on the bus! She acted some courage! She had the courage of her convictions! The only reason we have moved forward is because of people of courage! You don't make a decision based in fear, make your decision based on your hopes, your dreams, your aspirations, and your conscience. Not from fear!

Oh, how far the mighty have fallen! Moore now endorses Kerry though his sympathies still lie with Nader and/or the Green Party. Why? I’d do not hesitate to guess that he fears another 4 years of Bush. Not only Moore but much of the Left fears another 4 years of Bush. They are content to settle for the second worst candidate and let things get worse. The Left is fond of railing against businesses who seek short-term profit instead of long-term viability which, they argue, would be better for the people on the shop floor. To my mind, the credibility of many liberals is lost in their rush to abandon their consciences and take up the same tactics they’ve been denouncing for 20+ years. Moore asked the youth of America to cast a vote in favor of their hopes and aspirations. As his words make clear in his films, books, and speeches, Moore believes in the goodness of the American populace and he called for them to stand up to the affronts against it. He called on people to help make fundamental changes to the status quo, changes to core problems in our society. A few years later, Moore has retracted that call to service and, instead, rings a klaxon warning us of the evil that is George Bush. While I don’t know much about Malloy or his past views, here in 2004 he is content with being the obverse of Fox News pundits. And his cynicism is disturbing. After conceding that the Democratic Party is funded by big corporations, he ended the call above like this:

For Christ's sake! The funding for all campaigns in this county - for everybody - is all the same. Pick your poison.

After a commercial break, the next caller came on and wanted to return to the “Nader caller”, now a derogatory term. Malloy disallowed this and the caller was left to remark that the guy “needs to get off his high horse.” Doesn’t that sound familiar? If Rush Limbaugh were to do that, these same lefties would be falling all over themselves to use phrases like “limiting the debate”. Nowhere did Malloy actually address Jeff’s concerns - he did not want to talk about corporate power, for instance. Instead he dismissed it as a given. And he used the same tactics as does the Bush administration – fear. Doesn’t “A vote for Nader is a vote for Bush” sound a bit like Orwellian doublespeak? In other words, if you vote for a candidate that represents the concerns and values that we both share, you’re actually voting for the candidate that does not represent these things.

Remember: NADER DID NOT COST GORE THE 2000 ELECTION! Michael Moore knows this – he discusses it in Fahrenheit 9/11 and in Stupid White Men. And how does he know this? Go to any liberal/progressive web site that has recommended reading and you’ll find Greg Palast’s The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. The first chapter is about Palast’s investigations in the debacle in Florida back in 2000. It is from here that Moore drew his information. The Democratic Party demonized Nader after Bush was put into office and now the Left is demonizing him out of fear. Rather than view the record of the Bush administration as a call to arms, as a rallying point for strengthening efforts to enact change in our society, progressives have given up the fight. Instead of seeing the past few years under Bush as making the case that we need to elect Nader more than ever, they’ve internalized the “I can’t win” mantra. My worry is that most progressives see this whole situation as just a bump in the road and that the movement will just be able to pick up where it left off. That any momentum gained up to this point can simply be conjured at the drop of a hat once Kerry is in office. Progressives have spent years complaining about the lack of choices at the polls and trying to expand those choices. And now they are undoing all of that work. The lesson here for the Dems is that, if you are able to demonize the GOP enough, the far left will fall in line and you’ll get their votes. Progressives are throwing away all their hard work they’ve done in creating a viable 3rd party.

Let’s be fair. If you’re going to say that a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush, then also follow-up by admitting that a vote for Kerry is a vote for big corporations. As progressives prepare to go to the polls to cast a vote for John Kerry, they are also becoming chicken shits who are afraid to follow their consciences. They are doing the exact opposite of what Rosa Parks did. They are also becoming hypocrites in that they’ll continue to speak against the influence of corporate power from one side of their mouths and preach the virtue of Kerry from the other. “Anybody but Bush” may be catchy but it is virtually meaningless and enlightens no one. The Bush administration, when not lying outright, couches their words in vagueness and now the progressives are doing the same. “Anybody but Bush” does nothing except express contempt for an administration. It says nothing of where you stand on issues or lay out the course you’d like to see this country take in the future. Too many liberal voices sound disembodied from any firm positions or ideals other than their dislike of Bush. And after expressing their dislike, they follow it up with apologetics. They have to throw their support for Kerry out of fear of Bush and then temper it and distance themselves from Kerry for fear that they’ll lose their progressive credentials. For me, they’re already lost.
|| Palmer, 10:24 AM || link || (0) comments |

05 August, 2004

Day Off

I've decided to forego work today. I suppose I could have gone in but I have a job interview this morning and want to try to sneak a haircut in before it.

I had a phone interview yesterday while I was at work and the guy called my house asking to schedule a live one about 2 hours later. Apparently I made a good impression. I didn't think it went that well but, then again, I'm a horrible judge of such things. While the position isn't a dream job, by any means, it isn't a contractor position so I'd be a real employee with, theoretically, real benefits. And it's very close to home so my drive would be slashed 66%. I'd like to get health insurance again and, if I luck out, they'll have some kind of tuition reimbursement plan.

Today is Pete's birthday so my other 2 invites will just have to wait.
Holy biscuits! These tennis chickies are hot! I am really frisky right now. Woke up with morning wood and sex has been on my mind ever since. I think I'll do the interview, run an errand and then go ogle womyn somewhere.
|| Palmer, 10:24 AM || link || (0) comments |

03 August, 2004

Morning Musings

Aside from spending countless hours pondering politics, I’ve been doing other things. My relationship with The Dulcinea continues. She seems to have come to terms with the fact that I’m not interesting in a serious relationship and mostly interested in sex. It seems that the mechanism her brain has used is “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”. Yesterday afternoon she called me and said that it was a booty call. Despite an urge to be alone and continue reading, I invited her over. Sex. I will yield to it every time. With her admission that is was merely a booty call, I expected her to leave shortly afterwards but noooo. I was keen on reading and doing chores but she lingered. She wouldn’t leave. I didn’t really mind too much if she hung around. But if I left her to her own devices, she’d probably get pissed that I was ignoring her. I felt like I was obligated to entertain her even though this meant not being able to do what I felt like doing. I’m happy to lie around holding her for 10 or 15 minutes after we have sex but there are times when I just want her gone. Leave me be. I am thankful for our flings – she indulges my every whim – but I’m on the lookout for someone younger, a nullipara. A nullipara with long hair.

I hate to sound like a total pig but I can’t help it. I spent a few seconds at a stop sign today watching a woman walking the other way. I have no feelings for The Dulcinea. I enjoy her company as well as the sex but I want more and something different.

This morning was pretty amusing. I stopped in at CZ ostensibly to get coffee but, in reality, it was to see Jolene and her long hair. We chatted for a while which meant I got a late start and didn’t make it to work on-time. No matter, though. The boss doesn’t get here until about 45 minutes after I do and I’m a lowly contractor who’s contract expires in a month. Besides, the employees here are always late. Obviously no one checks or cares.

During the drive, I listened to NPR. As I was sipping coffee, the announcer proclaimed that the CEO of the company I work at had resigned. Here’s a the story:

The CEO of the CUNA Mutual Group quit after allegedly offering cash to employees if they would break away from their union.

Mike Kitchen retired after the board of directors found out he had offered $1,000 to the group that wants to change the current union structure, News 3 reported.

CUNA and the union, representing 1,400 workers, have not reached agreement on a new contract, and the two sides recently agreed to a 30- day cooling-off period that temporarily halted union picketing.

Kitchen reportedly offered his own money to a group that wanted to set up their own representation. CUNA Mutual says the group declined the money.

The board of directors learned of the offer and after looking into it, asked Kitchen for his resignation.

Union officials said they are glad Kitchen resigned.

“Hopefully this removes a major impediment to the ongoing and lengthy, difficult negotiations Local 39 has been engaged in for the last many months,” Jim Cavanaugh of the South Central Federation of Labor told News 3.

Kitchen had been CUNA's CEO since 1995.

The company said Jeff Holley, its chief financial officer, will take over until a search is made to find Kitchen's replacement.

After hearing more news, I get to work and park my car. Walking to the entrance, I noticed a band of 3 gentlemen clad in green polo shirts approaching me. So, they had brought back the 21st century Pinkertons. These guys worked for a security firm who specialized in doing whatever it is they do during labor disputes. They hadn’t been around for nearly a month and now they once again patrol the parking lots. CEO resigns -- Pinkertons. Hmmm…any connection between the 2, ya spose?

I’ve been here an hour and am ready to go home. I’m proofreading Naomi Klein’s No Logo, a polemic against branding and its effect on popular culture. At least I think it is. I haven’t really read much of it. I’ve been removing the word “LIE” which an angry Usenet poster seems to have used to replace every instance of the words “the,” “of,” and “on”. Apparently the person is a right-winger who can’t stand anything in opposition to Faux News but also feels the need to post on Usenet. So he or she reached a compromise. Post but make sure you put the word “LIE” everywhere so everyone knows your feelings on the matter. Ah well, keeps me occupied.

I took a step towards publishing my first zine – I installed InDesign on my laptop. Now I just need some articles and pictures. What to put in there? I’ve got some stuff to contribute but I’d also like to write some new things. And I’d like to have other folks put in their $0.02 as well. Anyone interested in contributing?
|| Palmer, 10:23 AM || link || (0) comments |

02 August, 2004

Reading Too Much

I am currently watching an interview with Paul Krugman being streamed over the Internet while I sup coffee. The past several days have been a bit on the odd side. This is probably because I've been reading too much. And I've been reading lefty books, mostly. Most of my reading has been done at work. Things are usually fairly slow and, being a contractor, I'm not on any projects, have no meetings to go to, and whatnot. So, if the phone ain't ringin', I've got nuthin' to do. So I read. Today I finished reading Ron Suskind's The Price of Loyalty. It's about former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill who was fired by George Bush about 2 years ago. Bush comes across as being a rather ineffectual leader - a puppet - surrounded by hard-nosed puppeteers who were keen on pushing through their ideological agendas without any discussion. People like Karl Rove and Dick Cheney who have seemingly made it their life's missions to undo FDR's web of social nets, annex Iraq, and privatize & deregulate everything to line the pockets of their fatcat friends as well as their own.

O'Neill is the former CEO of Alcoa and a very wealthy man. Nevertheless, the book portrays him as a man who went to Washington to do good. His method was to gather data - hard facts - and get together with people from all sides to hash it out and come up with the best, if not the right, answer. But Bush and his most powerful cronies would have none of this. O'Neill sought to assemble communities of inquiry to find the right answer while his opponents in the administration came into power with an agenda and wouldn't let such minor things as fiscal responsibility get in the way of lining the pockets of Enron and Haliburton.

Interestingly, the book puts Alan Greenspan in a whole new light. He and O'Neill have been friends for decades and the two conspired to push sound economic policy through the Bush administration and into practice. Unfortunately, their plan went awry. Before I read the book, I knew Greenspan as the guy who goes before Senate committees and give exceedingly opaque treatises on the state of the economy. That and he was friends with Ayn Rand. But The Price of Loyalty portrays him as someone at odds with the Bush administration and a man with sound values and firm grasp on common sense. Although perhaps it shouldn't have, that seemed revelatory.

Reading all of these lefty tomes has made me feel like I've fallen into Orwell's 1984. From what I recall from 20 years ago, any analogy of the US to Oceania seemed to relate to technological advances, how stealthily and easily we the people could be spied upon. But now I've come to terms with the fact that James Bond-like spying devices are a reality. What really concerns me is that doublespeak has become the MO of the Bush regime and no one seems to care. Honestly people, there was a legitimate reason your high school English teacher made you read 1984 - it wasn't just to piss you off or keep you busy. Bush runs up a deficit of several hundred billion dollars just like Reagan yet there are still folks who view the Republicans as fiscal conservatives and Democrats as the tax & spenders. These people take their tax cut to the bank, watch the deficit balloon, and call Bush fiscally responsible. "Those damn Democrats will raise taxes and spend it all!" Just like that nasty Democrat Bill Clinton who actually balanced the budget unlike his 2 Republican predecessors and his Republican successor. Wasn't it Jerry Browne who, during the Democratic primaries in 1984, said that we're gonna have to bite the bullet and raise taxes?

We need some new rules to move this country towards a sense of Rawlsian fairness. To wit:

1) progressive taxation - Adam Smith was in favor of them. The more wealth you have, the more you use government services and protections. YO! Rich people ! YOU pay for them.

2) Pick one of the following:

a) the United States makes a serious effort to wean itself off of fossil fuels OR

b) the owners of or children of owners of SUVs that never take their gas-guzzlers offroad are the first to go off to war.

3) The Fairness Doctrine is to be reinstated. A lefty figure gets to have equal time on Fox News and the like to give an opposing view to shatknockers like Bill O'Reilly and his ilk.

4) Corporate CEOs will be held legally responsible for the crimes their company's commit.

5) Corporate CEOs cannot complain about government interference & regulation, watch the company go under, and then ask for a bailout by the Feds. If you're going to tout the virtues of the free market free of government intervention and then downsize, move jobs abroad, bust unions, get outrageous compensation packages, etc., then you have no right to crawl to Uncle Sam and the taxpayers and ask them to get you out of your mess.

Shit, there's probably many more rules but I'll stop here. November 2nd will be a nail-biter for me.
|| Palmer, 10:23 AM || link || (0) comments |