Monday, May 30, 2011

There have been genuinely religious Abrahamists, but only because they’ve somehow maintained the forms of personal-God religions while having in fact abandoned any such belief. Some people think that men like St Paul and St Augustine are exemplary instances of what it is to possess the religious temperament. It’s easy enough to see why they have this reputation as long as we stick to the sociological understanding of religion: both were brilliant monsters of egotism, and almost all religious belief, considered as a sociological phenomenon, is about self.
This connects to a phenomenon that at first glance seems curious. If we take the term ‘morally worse’ as purely descriptive, denoting people whose characters generally appear to be morally worse than average, and if we restrict our attention to those who have had some non-negligible degree of education, we find that people who have religious convictions are on the whole morally worse than people who lack them. Are the religious worse because they’re religious, or are they religious because they’re worse? The first direction of causation is well known, but it’s the second that is more prominent in everyday life. The religious (sociologically speaking) tend to be religious because religious belief provides them with a framework in which they can handle certain unattractive elements in themselves. In converts – those who take up religion without having been brought up in it, or without having previously taken it seriously – the correlation between religious belief and relative moral badness in the strictly descriptive sense (which is not incompatible with charm) is particularly striking.

Galen Strawson in the LRB on Mark Johnson's Saving God: Religion After Idolatry and Surviving Death

Saturday, May 28, 2011

It's not just lexical. You can walk — or run, crawl, scurry, roll, etc. — out the gate, out the back, out the exit, etc. You can look — or stare, peer, gaze, squint, etc. — out the window, out the porthole, out the viewport, out the sunroof, etc.
But you can't (standardly) walk out the house, or out the plaza, or out the village, or whatever — all of those need "of". Nor can you (standardly) peer out the box, or stare out the car, or shoot out the bushes — though you can perfectly well shoot at someone out of the bushes, etc.
Apparently out as a transitive preposition has something to do with transiting from within an enclosed space through a limited aperture of some kind.

Mark Liberman at Language Log 

Conversely, out of has to do with exiting an enclosure or container.
It seems to me that you walk or come out of X for those X values where you can’t be in X in the sense of inside X or fully within X.” You can be in the bushes, in the house, in the water, in the blue, and in the car, all of which are containers of sorts (or of you), so you walk or come out of those things. You cannot be inside the door or the window, so you come out those things (without of).

commenter Steve Kass, ibid.

Monday, May 23, 2011

that clinking clanking sound

Ownership of your Egg Card account
4627XXXXXXXX3061 has been transferred to Barclays Bank PLC.

Dear Dr Dewitt

As you may be aware, on 1 March 2011 we announced Egg credit cards were to be sold to Barclays Bank PLC. As a result of this, the ownership of your Egg Card account transferred to Barclays on 29 April 2011. The sale involves the assignment of all Egg Banking PLC's rights as the lender to Barclays Bank PLC, who have agreed to perform the obligations of Egg Banking PLC under the terms and conditions of your Egg Card Agreement. Barclays will manage your account through their credit card operation, Barclaycard. From 29 April 2011, references to 'we', 'us', 'our' and 'Egg' in your Egg Card conditions became references to Barclays Bank PLC and references to 'Group' will mean Barclays and each Barclays Affiliate including but not limited to Barclays Bank PLC and Barclaycard.

If you have any other products with Egg, such as Egg Savings, Egg Insurance, Egg Mortgages or Egg Loans, they are not affected by this announcement and will continue to be provided by Egg Banking PLC.

How you use and service your credit card account will not change immediately. You'll continue to be able to service your account online at in the usual way and use your Egg Card as normal. Any Direct Debits you may have set up with Egg will be collected as usual, so there's no need for you to change anything.

You can still make the most of all the benefits your Egg Card has to offer.


Why do I find this terrifying?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

no more fried ants jokes

the age of an individual is not measured chronologically in Amondawa culture, which lacks a numerical system able to enumerate above four. Rather, individuals are categorized in terms of stages or periods of the lifespan, based upon social status and role, and position in family birth order. As we have also noted, each Amondawa individual changes their name during the course of their life, and the rules governing these name changes form a strict onomastic system.

Courtesy Language Hat, Stan Carey on “When Time is not Space: The social and linguistic construction of time intervals and temporal event relations in an Amazonian culture,” a paper by Chris Sinha et al. in Language and Cognition.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Andrew Gelman draws attention to a terrific paper by Mark Chaves on the religious congruence fallacy.

Religious congruence refers to consistency among an individual's religious beliefs and attitudes, consistency between religious ideas and behavior, and religious ideas, identities, or schemas that are chronically salient and accessible to individuals across contexts and situations. Decades of anthropological, sociological, and psychological research establish that religious congruence is rare, but much thinking about religion presumes that it is common. The religious congruence fallacy [emphasis added] occurs when interpretations or explanations unjustifiably presume religious congruence.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I'll bet they read xkcd

A commenter has pointed out that it is no longer possible to ride around and around and around on the Circle Line. Since 2009 (always the last to know), the line has been reconfigured: trains now go in a clockwise direction to Hammersmith, then loop back counterclockwise.


Paul Waugh tells the full story here.


Always the last to know.

From to time to time people ask whether The Last Samurai is available as an e-book, to which I reply, Not to my knowledge, jinsai. (Roughly.)

I've just been checking out to see whether they have relented and agreed to stock new copies of the book.  (They have not stocked it for the last 5 years or so.  It is in fact available, new, from the Random House website, but the average punter has better things to do than scour publishers' websites on the off-chance that a more expensive version of the book might be available.)

To the best of my knowledge, the physical book can still not be bought new off -- but it turns out there is a Kindle edition. Available only in the UK. I can't buy it from Germany. If you're reading this in the US or Canada, my guess is you can't buy it there. If you happen to live in the UK, you lucky devil, you can in fact get an e-version of the book.  I THINK.

The link is here.

When I view this page, I am told that pricing information is not available, and that Kindle titles cannot be sold to residents of my country off  I surmise that a resident of the UK would have better luck.  It's entirely possible, though, that a UK Kindle version does exist but cannot actually be bought.  (UK resident readers of pp can check out the link and report back, if so inclined.)

[Since you ask, no, no Kindle version is offered on Bastards. BASTARDS.]

[Update: a commenter has checked out and says the Kindle edition is indeed available for £7.99, or rather WILL be available from May 31. 

American readers who own a Kindle and would like to have The Last Samurai on the device would appear to have two options:

1. Mail the Kindle to someone in the UK and get them to buy the e-version and send it back.

2. Buy a cheap flight to the UK; fly to the UK, taking care not to leave the Kindle behind; personally buy the e-version; return in triumph to the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. A bit pricey to the untutored eye, but offers the opportunity for Samurai-themed London tourism: you can ride the Circle Line around and around and around, buy a chicken meal at Iowa Fried Chicken, see Ulysses Mocking Polyphemus at the National Gallery . . .  You could go to Grant & Cutler!  Anyone rash enough to go to Grant & Cutler would probably, it has to be said, wipe out the modest gain in portability achieved by installing Samurai on a Kindle: here is a whole bookstore crammed to the rafters with foreign language books, books almost certainly NOT available on Kindle -- if you have not taken the precaution of bringing an empty suitcase you will find yourself giving most of your clothes to Oxfam. 

2. is clearly the option likeliest to make your life more interesting, though perhaps not the best choice if credit card debt is a source of concern.]

Sunday, May 15, 2011

About a week ago I got a notification from PayPal that a reader had sent a donation for a secondhand sale of Samurai. I was, as always, extremely touched and wrote back to say thank you. He then mentioned that he had named his cat Helen and hoped this was all right.  I said, Well, my ex-husband named his dog Ludo, so it must be all right.

Today I got another email; the NGO from which he had adopted the first cat wanted a home for its sister and thought they should stay together.  So he now has two cats, Helen and Sibylla.  They are five months old.  Sibylla is the aloof, unfriendly one at the back: