The Great Beer Robbery

Guinness has been robbed!

The national police force, the Garda Siochana, said a lone man drove into the brewery — a Dublin landmark and top tourist attraction — on Wednesday and hitched his truck to a fully loaded trailer awaiting delivery to city pubs.
. . .
Police said the raider took 180 kegs of Guinness stout, 180 kegs of U.S. lager Budweiser and 90 kegs of Danish beer Carlsberg. Guinness brews both of those brands under license for sale in Ireland.
. . .
Each keg holds about 88 British-sized pints, the most common serving size in Ireland equivalent to 20 ounces (568 milliliters) each. The total theft involves 39,600 pints with a retail value exceeding €160,000 (US$235,000).

The Arabic situation is popping up everywhere

Inside Higher Ed has a piece on some problems in teaching Arabic in America

A report released earlier this month by the Modern Language Association found that the number of students taking Arabic in higher education institutions rose by 126.5 percent from 2002 to 2006 — to a total of 23,974. The number of colleges offering Arabic instruction also nearly doubled, from 264 in 2002 to 466 in 2006. The highest rate of growth in enrollments, meanwhile, has been at the community college level, where enrollments grew 135.8 percent over four years. Leaders in foreign language learning hailed the results as promising news – proof that interest in such a strategically important and yet tricky-to-learn tongue continues to grow.
But beyond the numbers lies a significant problem. “Although there’s a great deal of hoopla about spending money on the teaching of critical languages and this and that, the infrastructure that would really support the development of good, highly-trained, pedagogically-trained university instructors isn’t there,” says Catharine Keatley, associate director of the National Capital Language Resource Center, a joint project of Georgetown and George Washington Universities and the Center for Applied Linguistics.

To put those numbers in perspective, go here for a chart of enrollments for the top 15 languages offered in America. As a classics major I’m pleased to see that there are more people taking Latin than Arabic, and that Arabic is barely outpacing Greek. As someone who worries about language competence in American government and military, this would worry me, except that I know that 4 years of Greek and Latin would be great preparation for pushing on into all kinds of difficult languages – certainly better than one year of bad Arabic.
The Inside Higher Ed piece asks the obvious question about who is teaching Arabic, given the insane rise in demand. Adjuncts, of course.
Inside Higher Ed doesn’t ask the question that occurs to me more and more often – what do we mean by Arabic in American education? What if the native speaker adjunct is Moroccan and our textbook series is Egyptian? How close is Iraqi Arabic to Yemeni Arabic? Does anyone really speak Modern Standard Arabic? Read my previous post on the topic and wonder. Follow the links there and you may come to agree with me that the situation is something like teaching Americans Latin before sending them to work in Latin America.

Visitor tracking and pit of your stomach emotional weirdness

I read something last week that reminded me of the power of visitor tracking – I forget what – and I mentioned it to my collegial non-blogging but regular reader and occasional commenter next door office neighbor. Then I showed her what I get from Sitemeter for free. You can skim down in the right hand column and click on my Sitemeter badge and see some stuff too, I suppose. I hadn’t really looked at the hit tracker much lately, but sitting here at home with my foot elevated (grrrr, sez the Gouty Professor) I happened to look again.
Someone googled me – http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=Michael Tinkler. I click on the little link and discover that said googling was done from these scenic Colleges’ own server – by a Windows user. This visitor spent a couple of minutes on my site and then clicked out via one of the dog pictures from last week.
So why am I feeling – um – observed? Because I figure that many people on campus who do read me have me bookmarked or can remember “Crankyprofessor.com.” Those who are coming to look for the first time may well be – gulp – people reading my Tenure Box, a process I assume is going on right now. I made no mention of the blog in my tenure case, but one of the outside reviewers did, which might tip the committee off.
I don’t think googling candidates for jobs or promotions is an invasion of privacy. I never tried to be particularly anonymous here; perhaps I was naive, but when I started blogging in 2002 (thanks to Amy Welborn and Megan McArdle, the latter of whom actually said something like “why don’t you get a blog of your own?”) I didn’t consider possible professional implications. However, I’ve always assumed that I’m writing in public, and have consequently done my best to avoid annoying my friends and loved ones any more than I do in person.
Of course, maybe it’s just the professor for whom I dog sat, looking at the cute picture of his dog in the snow.
Yeah.
I’ll think about it that way.

The Cranky Professor considers changing his name . . .

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James Gillray, “The Gout”
Just back from the doctor and the pharmacy, I am considering changing my nom de blog to The Gouty Professor. Remember when I wrote that I was trying to listen more attentively when colleagues tell me to go to the doctor? Lo and behold, there turns out to be a reason I’m still limping for the fifth day in a row. Though the Nurse Practitioner is confirming my uric acid levels with a blood test I’m taking the medication as though the diagnosis is correct. What’s more, my diet and genetic predisposition probably pale before iatrogenic reasons – hydrochlorothiazide for blood pressure is probably the main culprit,
Perhaps I shouldn’t grade any papers tonight . . . I have far too much fellow-feeling right now with Henry VIII for the grading distribution to be very high.
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Holbein, Henry VIII

Stational events for Lent

Does anyone know where I can find the list of 2008 papal appearances during Lent? I both wish to participate AND to avoid some! You know how it is. Oh – and I have the regular stational list – it’s papal appearances I’m interested in.
Under the Liturgical Year link, the Holy See site doesn’t have 2008 posted yet!
Oh – don’t try to make fancy html links in the comments – you’ll just get moved to the spam file.

It’s not just crazy Americans seeing Mother Theresa in a cinnamon bun…

…it’s crazy Englishmen seeing martyr’s faces coming out of – get this – books bound in their skin.

Yes, English priests martyred in the 17th century were subject to indignities you might think the Nazis invented.
The Nazis were anything but novel. Mainly, 20th century evil has been more efficient in its cross-filing than Early Modern, Medieval, or earlier rulers ever pulled off.

Iceberg!

There have been some terrifying pictures of the cruise ship sinking off Antarctica. I think the best I saw was on the front page of the New York Times yesterday: the ship was lying almost on its side!
Funny – I had just been talking with the president of these Colleges at a dinner about places we’d like to go. He’s a former director of the Peace Corps and has been to a lot of exotic spots. Antarctica is on his list of nexts or dream spots. I wonder if he’s reconsidering?

I Know there are some funny conversations over dinner tonight at the convent in Nashville . . .

The headline calls the St. Cecilia Domincans Buzzworthy. Well, yes, I suppose they are!
Here’s the Washington Post story about the Dominicans and the new Catholic high school they have agreed to staff in Northern Virginia. A paragraph:

But the cheery 42-year-old brings another major layer of buzz to the Arlington Diocese because she is a member of the Nashville Dominicans, rock stars in the world of Catholic religious orders. Although the number of religious sisters in the United States has plunged since the 1960s, resulting in an average age of about 70, there has been an increase in recent years among traditional, habit-wearing orders, including the Nashville-based Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, which has 226 members and a median age of 35. It recently raised $46 million to expand its chapel because the sisters were spilling into the hall. [my emphasis]

Here’s their own website.
Here are my previous posts on the Congregation.

They’re Rock Stars! Wouldn’t “Members of the Country Music Hall of Fame” have been better? Still, I think you should send them money! You know, end of the tax year and all.

Environmental Degradation at Westminster Abbey – interior, and caused by our modern wimpiness

Environmental conditions inside Westminster Abbey are now causing “serious concern”, according to one of its own conservators, Marie Louise Sauerberg. The Coronation Chair, commissioned in 1296 and used for virtually every crowning since 1308, has suffered from serious flaking of its gilded surface. Humidity levels fluctuate considerably in the abbey, mainly because of central heating. Polychromed wood is particularly vulnerable to these changes, causing the paint to flake.

. . .

Serious damage has also been sustained by the ancient sedilia, or priests’ stalls, which date from around 1307. The sedilia, on the south side of the high altar, are decorated with paintings and are among the abbey’s greatest treasures. They also feature some of the earliest English paintings on panel. The sedilia have long been regarded as a rare survival, and William Blake recorded them in a watercolour in 1775.

. . .

The condition of the sedilia is now so fragile that if one were to pass one’s hand over the surface, a considerable area of the surviving 700-year-old paint would simply fall off. Even though they are just beyond the reach of tourists’ hands, tiny paint fragments occasionally fall to the floor.

The throne, too, is on view but beyond the reach of the public in the ambulatory. It is moved, however, for every coronation to the area in front of the high altar, for the new monarch’s anointing and crowning.

The environmental damage is largely the result of heating in the abbey, which reduces relative humidity. This is now thought to vary from around 30% to 80% throughout the year, a very high range.

. . .

Although heating is essential for worshippers, it may be possible to reduce the temperature slightly. [my emphases]

Of course, heating is not essential for worshipers – only for modern worshipers. One of the coldest moments of my life was in the crypt of the Church of St. Mary Magdalen at Vezelay in July. Stone churches are cold! We moderns are not very willing to do more than kneel. Of course, medieval folks were always arguing over which degree of hierarchy got to wear what kind of fur hoods in church, so they were cold, too! Villard de Honnecourt provides a design for a gimbelled hand heater, after all.

Still, they had better solve this fast.

Flat Screen tv

You know, most of my television time is taken up with Law’n’Order, Turner Classic Movies, the Weather Channel, and the occasional Top Chef episode (pretty much in that order of minutes viewed per month); I just can’t see my way to an $1,800 television – even if Consumer Reports is recommending it. I’d need to find myself watching a lot more movies, and I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
via Instapundit

Translation into Arabic

This is a fine, fine thing for which to give thanks:

Books by Stephen Hawking, Umberto Eco, Haruki Murakami and other star writers past and present have been chosen as the first works to be translated into Arabic, in a major initiative to widen access to foreign literature.
The Abu Dhabi-based project, Kalima (“word” in Arabic), aims to publish 100 books in its first year and 500 titles a year by 2010, it announced yesterday.
The first 100 are from 16 languages, including Greek, Japanese, Swedish, Czech, Russian, Chinese, Yiddish, Italian, Norwegian, Latin and ancient Greek. Half the candidate titles are English.
Four years ago the UN’s Arab human development report identified a lack of translated foreign works as an issue restricting Arab intellectual life. The UN report noted that Spain translates in one year the number of books that have been translated into Arabic in the past 1,000 years.
“The rest of the world enjoys a wealth of domestic and translated writing, why should the Arab world be any different?” Karim Nagy, Kalima’s Egyptian chief executive, said as the first titles were announced. “We can start putting Arabic readers back in touch with great works of world literature and academia, and begin filling the gaps in the Arabic library.”
The selection process is designed to strike a balance between different genres, juxtaposing the works of classic authors with contemporary writers. Academic, business and educational material is also being translated.
The organisers point out that in Europe’s “dark ages” and until the end of the first millennium Arab scholars and libraries led the world in producing and preserving knowledge in science, medicine, philosophy and the arts. Since then, however, very few foreign works have found their way into Arabic.
“In past centuries Arabic learning was a source of great riches for the western intellectual tradition,” said the British author Ian McEwan. “It is a cause for celebration that this major translation initiative is able to offer riches in return.”**
Other titles due out in Arabic this year are by Nadine Gordimer, Khaled Hosseini, Albert Camus, George Eliot, Albert Einstein, Jacques Lacan and Spinoza.
Muhammad al-Mazrouei, of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, which is financing the translation and publishing project, said: “We want to give Arabic readers the opportunity to read and enjoy a breadth of quality writing from around the world in their mother tongue. Arabic is a beautifully expressive language, and one that should be more widely celebrated and valued.”

**Arabic learning? Well, Greek learning, Syriac translations, then creative Arabic learning. That process of acquisition of foreign knowledge all stopped a LONG time ago, as the article makes clear with the comparison with Spain. Arabic readers never seemed much interested in post-Hellenistic non-Arabic knowledge. One also wishes things were being translated into Arabic because of demand, rather than this supply-side approach. Of course, an English reader should talk about that problem of disinterest in other language traditions – we’re pretty poor at that. In fact, there’s a good argument to be made that much of the best work available in English is “anything translated from a foreign language,” because so little makes it past the filter that almost all of it is good.
Further: I’m reminded by a comment to ask “Into what kind of Arabic will these be rendered?” I blogged about the interesting question of modern Arabic this summer.