kurt's nightmare

Generally, I post once a week. Topics are randomly selected and depend mostly upon whether it's baseball season or not. Other topics will include sex, politics, old girlfriends, music, and whatever else pops into my little brain. If you'd like to read, or ignore, my blog about China: http://meidabizi.blogspot.com/

Location: Dayton, OH, Heard & McDonald Islands

I'm an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Dayton. I represent no one but myself, and barely do that. I'm here mostly by accident.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A song

Here's a switch: a lovely country song about philosophy. Generally, people hate it if they haven't had a decent course in the philosophy of language. Those who have may still hate it, but then they know why.

I play it in A with a little break. Not to be sung to the tune of Glen Campbell's fabulously execrable "By the Time I Get to Phoenix."

For those many country music fans out there who enjoy quantified modal semantics, etc..

By the Time I Get to Kripke

I promised to pay Smith five dollars
I think you ought to do what is right
She said she believed she'd love me always
That attitude lasted just one night


De re her, de re me
She's as oblique as she could be
Her modal semantics you've just got to see
De re her, de re me
De re her, de re me

She said she thought love was an entity
Over which you can't quantify
I guess it lacked more than identity
Had no truth conditions to satisfy

She said she had to have a full-blown semantics
More austere but modulo Quine
One that could govern all possible worlds
With the sole necessary exception of mine


Now she's living on the golden mountain
Riding on Pegasus, gettin' her kicks
Dreamin' 'bout barbers who shave each other
Prime numbers divisible by six

Chorus and Repeat

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


A short one, for once. (And my thanks to Frodo for sending me the second pic.)

The college basketball season is over, quite possibly the most exhilarating I've ever experienced. For us Kansas fans, winning over UNC was kind of sweet. Winning over Memphis exceeded all expectations. A great game to watch, and, for me at least, a great outcome.

Kansas has as rich a basketball tradition as any school in the country. As some are already tired of hearing, the only coach in KU history with a losing record is James Naismith, who invented the game. Great fans, great building, great tradition, great teams. Oddly enough, my favorite player (among many candidates) is the virtually unknown and unremembered Delby Lewis. When I was pretty young, he always brought the ball up court to start the offense. For some reason, that image sticks with me, and that was when I began to love KU basketball.

It will be difficult for Bill Self to turn down Oklahoma State. I would think it would be hard for anyone to turn down $40 million. OSU will never be as cool as KU, but the cost-benefit analysis in weighing cool vs. $40 million is tricky. If he leaves, I think he will be making a mistake, but that much money can soften many an error. But one thing is quite clear: Lawrence is a great town. Stillwater is not.

Of course, Mario Chalmers's shot was the talk of today, as it should be. Given the history of Kansas basketball, it is amazing to me that his 3 pointer is almost without doubt the single biggest shot in the history of KU basketball.

Great season. Thanks. Go Hawks!


And now for something completely different. I was listening to "Morning Edition" yesterday, and in the story about the Texas polygamist compound, the announcer said something that made me realize, once again, the difference between reading the news and hearing someone else read it to you. Say this one out loud, and you'll see what I mean.

Officers met some resistance when they entered the sect's temple.

Friday, April 04, 2008

News from Lake Coulterville

La Coultera, who by dint of her brains, hard work, and pluck managed, somehow, to rise above the overwhelming obstacles placed in her path to go to Cornell and then the University of Michigan Law School, has—perhaps unintentionally—put herself into a trap.

To maintain her presence in the media, while decrying how she is ignored, she has to raise the ante. Just as Howard Stern or Jerry Springer have to keep pushing the envelope to avoid becoming tedious, so La Coultera can't rest on her well-established credentials as the Shock Jock of commentary. She has to increase the volume, the shrillness, the outrageousness. It isn't enough, now, to say the kinds of things that get one fired at National Review. It isn't enough to mock some of the widows of 9.11 (the ones who don't act as La Coultera demands). Ratchet up the animosity, the vitriol, and fire away, Gridley.

Evidently based on a reading of his autobiography that shows the same insight, sensitivity, understanding, and care she brought to reading Charles Darwin's works, La Coultera has pronounced her verdict on Obama and his first book Dreams from my Father. (The book has been out for awhile, but evidently she has just caught on that reading his book(s) might provide material for a column.)

Her conclusions? Obama is a two-bit Hitler. Dreams from my Father is best compared to Mein Kampf. Obama is a "lunatic" and "bonkers." He makes Jeremiah Wright look like Booker T. Washington.

These are valuable insights. Her quotes from the book are invaluable. When Obama expresses views that are remarkably similar to those of Clarence Thomas, Obama becomes Hitler, while Thomas is, of course, the poster child of the righteous. Perhaps this has little to do with, say, minor issues—e.g. the content of the statement—and a great deal to do with who states it.

I bet even at the University of Michigan Law School they introduced La Coultera to the argumentum ad hominem. Perhaps she was out getting a bikini wax the day that her professor added that it is a fallacy.

It is, finally, of interest to note that La Coultera frequently complains that "liberals"—i.e. everyone who disagrees with her—fail to read her books carefully or correctly. It is pretty clear that she hasn't read much pop psychology with equal care, as she might consider this "projecting." Today's trivia question: which book did she understand least? On the Origin of Species? Mein Kampf? Dreams of My Father? Or, in her analysis of Jeremiah Wright's remarkable claim that God does not, in fact, bless the intentional murder of thousands of people, perhaps it was the Book of Ezekiel she kinda sorta skimmed, rather than seeing that there, God does, in fact, damn a nation that carries out such an act.

I thank the good folks at FOX for providing the fair and balanced treatment that can, with a straight face, continue to promote La Coultera. To be fair (and balanced), she doesn't equate Obama with Hitler, but only because he is a "two bit" Hitler. Perhaps she would like him better if he were better at it? Say, a six-bit (75 cents) Hitler?

Perhaps we can start seeing a couple of those Christians who constantly worry about employees at Target being forced to say "Merry Christmas" come out and discuss the content of Wright's sermons—not just the sound bites—and the justice of comparing Obama to Hitler, and the value of this kind of approach as a model of Christian love.

Or is that too much to ask?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Final Four

OK, I got one half of the bracket correct (UNC vs. KU); I also picked a couple of upsets (Western Kentucky, Villanova). In general, my brackets look like they've gone through a Cuisinart. UCLA suprised me, although they came awfully close to losing to A & M, and there are some folks in College Station (or, as my Dad likes to call it, Malfunction Junction) none too happy about how that game concluded. Memphis also played extremely well, with surprising discipline; they clearly were underrated by me. I think I'm guilty of not liking the program there, a prejudice shared with many I hear and read on this topic (the same was true of Huggins at Cincy and KSU): the programs recruit incredibly talented athletes, but they can be a bit thuggish at times (this Memphis team not as much as in the past, or Cincy's team) and, well, as at many programs, academics might take a back seat. Details. If Memphis plays like it did against Michigan State, I don't see how they lose.

In any case, before my picks, I will add that I think I get stupider listening to Billy Packer. Given the three options of listening to him, ignoring him, or always believing the contrary of what he says, I'm confident the first option kills brain cells. I'm not sure about the other two, but imagine if one got more intelligent simply by negating a given source of information. This would be useful.

Digression: I know, it sounds like a strategy to use with Bill O'Reilly. Last night O'Reilly said in consecutive sentences that the US has never done x, and that the US did x but it was ancient history. This was in the context of the claim that the US government would introduce a disease to unsuspecting citizens. They have never done that; they did that, but the Tuskegee experiments were ancient history. End of digression.

UNC vs. Kansas

Soap opera city, babeee! The KU fans--me included--probably need to get over Roy Williams going to Chapel Hill. Self is a great coach, Williams is an honorable man and put KU back on the map after it had been floundering (in spite of Larry Brown's visit). I know that UNC has Hansborough, although he should have gone to Kansas, much closer to his home (beautiful Poplar Bluff). I know they have tons of great athletes, and I'm not sure if anyone other than maybe Collins can stay up with Lawson. But I'm going out on an irrational limb, and picking Kansas. If they play as tight as they did against Davidson, they may get run out of the gym. Sometimes you just have to see which Kansas team shows up. I'm hoping for the one that beat Texas for the Big 12 Championship. But this will be a game time discovery. I can see them being within 5 points at half, and going on to win, especially if they can stop some perimeter shooters or getting one or two Tar Heels into foul trouble. I can also see Arthur with 3 fouls in the first 12 minutes, and the entire second half devoted to making the score less horrifying. Again, we'll just have to see. Go Hawks.

Memphis vs. UCLA

A lot of folks are picking UCLA here. I've consistently picked against UCLA, and consistently been wrong. I see no reason to stop now. The standard claim is that UCLA and Ben Howland's defensive genius can stop Memphis from doing what it wants. I think that may well be false. I don't see UCLA scoring much, and I don't see them stopping a lot of transitional baskets. They may also have trouble if Memphis does some pressing to speed up the game. UCLA could win if Memphis can't figure out how to deal with Love, or at least minimize the damage he can do, and if it hits a good number of outside shots. But the latter has been problematic, and the sheer athleticism of Memphis may pose serious problems for UCLA. I'm very much looking forward to this game; an interesting clash of basketball philosophies, as it were. I pick Memphis.

Championship Game

Somehow, I can imagine KU beating UNC, but UNC playing Memphis in the Final. I think I've been reading too much Walt Whitman.

As Jay Bilas has correctly pointed out, the way teams play at this stage of the tournament can vary widely from week to week. UCLA played great last week, and not so great the week before. This makes the Final Four and Championship game tricky to predict. In spite of all reasoning, evidence, logic, and sanity, I'm going with my Jayhawks. (For those betting, this means put it all on the Bruins to take the whole thing.) KU over Memphis.