Cephalusblegging and the Cult of Bendis

by John Holbo on June 6, 2006

I’m writing up a set of explanatory notes to go with Plato’s Republic, Book I. And I find myself unable to fact-check something I found on wikipedia – namely, Cephalus, the old guy we meet right at the beginning, is “an elderly arms manufacturer.” Arms manufacturer? How do we know? And how much do we know? Ship-building, sword-making, what? It would be interesting to know more for a couple reasons. First, it casts Socrates’ whole ‘would you give a madman his weapons back?’ question in a slightly more personal light. Selling weapons to madmen – hey, a deal’s a deal – is the modern complaint about arms dealers, after all. Also, it is ironic that, in just a few years, the war will be lost and Cephalus will have his fortune seized by the Thirty Tyrants; his son Polemarchus will be dead, executed. (This whole war business is a double-edged sword. Profitable, but tricky to handle safely.)

Can any intrepid classicists get me a source for the Cephalus-as-arms-manufacturer fact?

[click to continue…]

6/6/6 6:6:6

by Eszter Hargittai on June 6, 2006

John has already mentioned that today is special for those who care about that sort of thing. (I’d link to his post if I wasn’t writing this on a somewhat malfunctioning Treo.) I was alerted to the special date by an email from a friend who let me know that he jumped in the shower at 6:06:06am. For those of us who aren’t ready to be doing anything at that hour (including notice the significance of the date and time) and who aren’t too strict about the specifics, another opportunity will arise at 6:06pm. What’s interesting enough for such an occasion? I will be on Broadway in NYC dropping off a friend at his show at 6pm. But so then what?

UPDATE: I’ve fixed the numerous typos in this post now that I have Web access again. I’ve also uploaded what I ended up doing at 6:06pm 6/6/06. In true photogeek fashion, I was just taking a picture.

Support research into LAM

by Chris Bertram on June 6, 2006

Havi Carel, a philosopher at the University of the West of England in Bristol who has formerly taught at the Australian National University and the University of York, England, has recently been diagnosed with LAM, a very rare lung disease. She’s taking part in the Bristol Bike Ride (24 miles) on 25 June 2006 to raise money for LAM Action, the UK LAM organisation, and she would really welcome your support. Money that is raised will support research for this under-funded and under-researched disease.

If you want to know more about LAM go to: “www.lamaction.org”:http://www.lamaction.org .

You can donate online by credit or debit card at the following address:

“http://www.justgiving.com/havi”:http://www.justgiving.com/havi

All donations are secure and sent electronically to LAM Action. If you are a UK taxpayer, Justgiving will automatically reclaim 28 per cent Gift Aid on your behalf, so your donation is worth even more.

The misallocation of scepticism

by John Quiggin on June 6, 2006

With today (6/6/6) bearing the number of the beast, my thoughts went back to the most recent scary date 1/1/00 when we were promised TEOTWAWKI thanks to the famous Y2K bug.

Oddly enough, although we seem to be overwhelmed with alleged sceptics on other topics, only a handful of people challenged the desirability of spending hundreds of billions of dollars to fix a problem which was not, on the face of it, any more serious than dozens of other bugs in computer systems. Admittedly not all the money was wasted, since lots of new computers were bought. But a lot of valuable equipment was prematurely scrapped and a vast amount of effort was devoted to compliance, when a far cheaper “fix on failure” approach would have sufficed for all but the most mission-critical of systems.

As far as I know, there was no proper peer-reviewed assessment of the seriousness of the problems published in the computer science literature. Most of the running was made by consultants with an axe to grind, and their scaremongering was endorsed by committees where no-one had any incentive to point out the nudity of the emperor.

Why was there so little scepticism on this issue? An obvious explanation is that no powerful interests were threatened and some, such as consultants and computer companies, stood to gain. I don’t think this is the whole story, and I tried to analyse the process here, but there’s no doubt that a reallocation of scepticism could have done us a lot of good here.