Mmmmm, gadgetry

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English inventor-genius James Dyson is coming out with a bladeless fan! Look at that! With my twin loves of gadgets and moving air, will I be able to hold out until the price drops from the absurd $300? Probably. But I’ll regret the wait!


Mr Dyson and his team of fluid dynamics engineers developed the technology behind the bladeless fan after studying the performance of an earlier Dyson invention, the Dyson Airblade commercial hand dryer that uses sheets of clean air travelling at 400mph to dry hands far more quickly and efficiently than rivals.
A team of fluid dynamics engineers spent four years running hundreds of simulations to precisely measure and optimise the machine’s circular aperture and airfoil-shaped ramp before perfecting Dyson’s Air Multiplier technology.
“We realised that this inducement, or amplification, effect could be further enhanced by passing airflow over a ramp,” says Mr Dyson. “And of course this was the point where the idea of a bladeless fan became a real possibility. Here was a way to create turbulent-free air and finally do away with blades.”
The new fan works by drawing air into the base of the machine. The air is forced up into the loop amplifier and accelerated through the 1.3mm annular aperture, creating a jet of air that hugs the airfoil-shaped ramp. While exiting the loop amplifier, the jet pulls air from behind the fan into the airflow (inducement). At the same time, the surrounding air from the front and sides of the machine are forced into the air stream (entrainment), amplifying it 15 times. The result is a constant uninterrupted flow of cooling air.

A crack in the ice?

When pretty much every college and university in America has some sort of salary and hiring freeze on one threat that doesn’t work well is saying to the Board of Trustees, “If you don’t raise salaries people will start to go on the job market.” There is very little market, except for retiree replacements at places that are doing that kind of thing.
The University of Chicago seems to see this as an opportunity.

The University of Chicago is planning a faculty expansion in coming year — not just the unfreezing of selected positions that some institutions are hoping for this year, but an effort to increase the total size of the faculty. Robert J. Zimmer, the university’s president, recently sent faculty members an e-mail in which he noted the impact of cuts in the last year, and said that he believed additional cuts would not be necessary. Further, he outlined plans for a faculty expansion. While details are not yet available, he said the following: “[W]e will institute a program for the gradual expansion of the faculty. Organized by the deans and provost and led by the faculty, we will seek out special opportunities and address key needs through a selected expansion over the next five years.

It could work. If Chicago starts picking off folks at the top that will open up some movement – and that might help break the salary freezes all sorts of places. Because if Chicago hires one of my middling-senior colleagues, that frees up salary to hire replacements at the bottom of the scale.
I’m on a committee with the highest-paid member of our faculty, who wryly admitted that the best thing he could do for the salary situation is retire. There doesn’t seem to be any other reason for him to do so, though (good health, still vigorous teaching, sacrificial community service), so I’m glad he isn’t on the list yet.
But still – he’s right. We’re a campus where some targeted buy-outs could make a big difference, given our salary structure and hour-glass shape to the faculty (if you look at cohort size). Our Provost and Dean of Faculty, an economist in her earlier life, seems always to point out when incentives for retirement come up that even mentioning the administration is considering such a thing actually slows retirements while people wait to hear what they might get.
I figure that a good many senior folks out there (here and elsewhere) are waiting for the resolution of the Obamacare thing so they can make a better decision. Why start using Medicare the year everything about insurance is up in the air?

After all, the Nobel Committee had already voted before the Copenhagen speeches

And probably actually voted before the speech at the UN, even though they mention it in their citation. George Will counts pronouns in Copenhagen:

In the 41 sentences of her remarks, Michelle Obama used some form of the personal pronouns “I” or “me” 44 times. Her husband was, comparatively, a shrinking violet, using those pronouns only 26 times in 48 sentences. Still, 70 times in 89 sentences conveyed the message that somehow their fascinating selves were what made, or should have made, Chicago’s case compelling.
In 2008, Obama carried the three congressional districts that contain Northern California’s Silicon Valley with 73.1, 69.6 and 68.4 percent of the vote. Surely the Valley could continue its service to him by designing software for his speechwriters’ computers that would delete those personal pronouns, replacing them with the word “sauerkraut” to underscore the antic nature of their excessive appearances.
And — this will be trickier — the software should delete the most egregious cliches sprinkled around by the tin-eared employees in the White House speechwriting shop. The president told the Olympic committee that: “At this defining moment,” a moment “when the fate of each nation is inextricably linked to the fate of all nations” in “this ever-shrinking world,” he aspires to “forge new partnerships with the nations and the peoples of the world.”
Good grief. The memory of man runneth not to a moment that escaped being declared “defining” — declared such by someone seeking to inflate himself by inflating it. Also, enough already with the “shrinking” world, which has been so described at least since Magellan set sail, and probably before that. And by the way, the “fate” of — to pick a nation at random — Chile is not really in any meaningful sense “inextricably linked” to that of, say, Chad.
But meaningful sense is often absent from the gaseous rhetoric that makes it past White House editors — are there any? — and onto the president’s teleprompter. Consider one recent example:
Nine days before speaking in Copenhagen, the president, addressing the United Nations General Assembly, intoned: “No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation.” What was the speechwriter thinking when he or she assembled that sentence? The “should” was empty moralizing; the “can” was nonsense redundantly refuted by history. Does our Cicero even glance at his speeches before reading them in public?
Becoming solemn in Copenhagen, Obama said: “No one expects the Games to solve all our collective problems.” That’s right, no one does. So why say that? Then, shifting into the foggy sentimentalism of standard Olympics blather, he said “peaceful competition between nations represents what’s best about our humanity” and “it brings us together” and “it helps us to understand one another.”

If I were George Will I would have wondered who expected the Games to solve ANY of our collective problems
The speechwriters ought to read this before they sit down for their next serious job – writing a Nobel acceptance speech. Yikes!

Obama’s Nobel

As best I can figure it, the Norwegians are trying to make up for the rejection Obama must have felt in Denmark. That’s the only reason I can think to give him a prize before he’s, you know, DONE anything other than be Not Bush in Iraq and Afghanistan. The rationalizations they offer in the New York Times article are stunningly odd:

“We are not awarding the prize for what may happen in the future but for what he has done in the previous year. We would hope this will enhance what he is trying to do.”
. . .
Mr. Jagland said the conflict in Afghanistan “concerns us all. We do hope an improvement in the international climate could help resolve that.” Mr. Jagland had been asked by a reporter whether Mr. Obama’s selection for the award was intended to influence the American debate on troops levels in Afghanistan.
. . .
The full citation read: “The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.”

Vision of! Work for! What about negotiating an actual treaty, as opposed to giving one big speech about?? They’ve given plenty of Nobels to Americans for negotiating actual treaties that didn’t work out (Kissinger, Carter), and one can respect the efforts or not – but there was a product. But just for the Vision Thing? Oh, well – the long night is falling in Oslo already, they have to have something to talk about for the winter.
Further: Well, it will certainly make for a nice room in any future Obama Presidential Library. By the way – have they started fundraising for that yet?

Dante Blogging – Inferno Canto XXI

Canto XXI
Dante begins this Canto with a lovely set of sound effects – read it out loud and see!

Così di ponte in ponte, altro parlando
  che la mia comedìa cantar non cura,
   venimmo; e tenavamo ‘l colmo, quando
restammo per veder laltra fessura
  di Malebolge e li altri pianti vani;
  e vidila mirabilimente oscura

And so from one bridge to the next we came,
  talking of things I do not care to sing
   within my Comedy, and reached the top,
And rested there to see the other crack
  of Evil Pouches, and their useless cries;
  and what we looked upon was wondrous black.
(21.1-6)

Those first four lines with their P, C, and O are really something – and he’s using them to describe things he will not sing to us.
The Canto ends with the opposite – a vulgar sound all done with T, C, and D.

Per l’argine sinistro volta dienno;
   ma prima avea ciascun la lingua stretta
   coi denti, verso lor duca, per cenno;
ed elli avea del cul fatto trombetta.
(21.136-139)

Then the platoon turned sharp left on the bank,
  but first they’d stuck their tongues between their teeth
   and blown it at their sergeant for a sign,
and he had made a bugle of his arse.

As Esolen points out, “one musical note in Hell, as it were” (461). The sergeant generating the note is a devil – one of Dante’s first band of dedicated demon tormenters. This ditch is full of boiling pitch and bribe-takers; the demons circle the bubbling goo poking any grafter who sticks a body part above the surface. Their names are, as Esolen points out, very Screwtapey: Calcabrina works out to Tramplefrost, Cagnazzo becomes Larddog, Rubicante becomes Redfroth (460). I’d never thought, though, that these crazy compounds should remind us of the brigands and politicians of Dante’s time. Remember that one of his great patrons (though perhaps not this early?) was Bigdog of the della Scala family, Cangrande.
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It’s always nice to know the British can be ignorant too, despite their nice accents.

In a savage attack, Andrew Grant, chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), compared the Government’s crackdown on independent schools’ charitable status to Henry VIII’s seizure of land and property in the 1500s.
. . .
He compared the move to Henry VIII’s decision in the 1530s to shut down English monasteries and nunneries, confiscating all land and property for the crown. It was sold to pay for Government expenditure.
Addressing headmasters on Monday, Mr Grant said: “Let’s be clear: the threat that currently underlies the Charity Commission’s guidance is the well-tried mediaeval one of confiscation of land and property and it looks no less crude and ugly under the rose of Labour than it did under the rose of Tudor. Down in St Albans, we’ve been there before, of course, in 1539, when the monastery was dissolved.”

By any stretch of the historiographical imagination, of course, Henry VIII is Renaissance or Early Modern. Keep your objurgations more current, Mr. Grant!
Then there’s this interesting bit of academic class warfare:

The comments came as the University and College Union, which represents lecturers, said private schools’ charitable status should be abolished. It claimed the £100m a year saving could pay for 20,000 extra university places.

Dante Blogging – Inferno Canto XX

Canto XX
The next pocket of the Malebolge contains those who predicted the future. Their punishment fits their crime very visibly – as Vergil says about one of them:

See how he’s made a breast out of his back.
   because he wished to see too far ahead,
   now he looks back and walks a backward path.
(20.37-39)

That is, their heads are screwed around to face their backs, and they back through hell at a slow walk, weeping down their backs.
Vergil seems a little more hostile to these than even to the average damned souls. Esolen suggests that his extremely hostile narration of the founding of his own city of Mantua by Manto, the daughter of Tiresias, may be an implicit self-defense against charges of magic (458). In the Middle Ages the Aeneid, like the Bible, was used for fortune telling – in the sortes Virgilianae one picked up a copy of Vergil’s poem, flipped to a random page, stabbed a line with your finger, and found your fortune. The sortes Biblicae was the same thing, but with a Bible.
The only memorable medieval person in this circle is Michael Scot, court alchemist and astrologer to Frederick II Hohenstaufen. Astrology is one of those pagan practices the Church was never able to stamp out. Yes, pagan – though there may be Christian’s who have a very high mark for predestination, we have to leave room for the free will. If stars control things, there’s no free will. And there astrology columns still are in newspapers.
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Plato and crankiness

Tomorrow we start The Symposium in Euro Studies 101. Talk about mood swings!
I appreciate Plato much more now that I am an adult. Plato was a great artist. However, I think he’s a deeply tricky one – and probably even not particularly honest. I don’t believe in his Socrates at all – just one quick read through Xenophon makes you realize that in a world of opposing evidence we can’t just say that Plato is right – unless, of course, we are professors of philosophy who think that full-time philosophers are inherently more reliable than soldiers.
So tomorrow I’m starting off with about 15 or 25 minutes of pictures of symposia, masks of Dionysus, and Greek homosexuality. I’m an art historian, after all – and these folks get to deal with visual evidence along with translated texts.

Garrison Keillor – He doesn’t want to kill Granny by limiting care, just all the Republicans.

if the country wouldn’t be better off without them and if Republicans should be cut out of the health-care system entirely and simply provided with aspirin and hand sanitizer. Thirty-two percent of the population identifies with the GOP, and if we cut off health care to them, we could probably pay off the deficit in short order.

Garrison Keillor suggests a solution to the problem of having a population with differing opinions. A final solution? We could say something about his Nordic heritage leading him to such outlandish options, but that would be unkind.
Wonder why Republicans don’t want to fund NPR? Because they say things like this, and then scramble backwards to say it was all a joke (at least I expect he’ll scramble).

Dante Blogging – Inferno Canto XIX

Canto XIX
Dante begins with an epic apostrophe – but not of the muses:

O Simon mago, o miseri seguaci
  che le cose di Dio, che di bontate
  deon essere spose, e voi rapaci
per oro e per argento avolterate
  or convien che per voi suoni la tromba,
   però che ne la terza bolgia* state.

Simon Magus, O you wretched crew
  of his disciples! The things of God should be
  espoused to righteiousness and love, and you
Rapacious wolves, you pander them for gold,
  foul them for silver! Sound the trumpet now
  for you — for this third pocket is your place.

The simonists, those who like Simon Magus want to reduce sacred authority to a cash transaction, are planted upside down in holes, with fire burning the souls of their feet. The red-hottests pair of feet turn out to be those of a recent pope, Nicholas V. Esolen cleverly points out that Nicholas had inverted the purpose of the hierarchy of which he was head, so this makes an example of Hell fitting the sin.
Nicholas mistakes Dante for Boniface VIII – he wonders if the prediction was off by a few years and Boniface is already dead and waiting to be plunge Nicholas deeper into the hot hole. Dante then leaps forward to Boniface’s even worse successor, Clement V.
It is clear from all this that Dante is generally troubled by the temporal power of the Church – he takes it all the way back to the Donation of Constatine. Dante’s problem is that the sources of temporal authority he wanted to like were the Empire and the Kingdom of France – neither of them very likeable, either.
Still a problem today, and no more liable to a solution other than the individual holiness of clerics and just uprightness of rulers. It could happen.
*When I was proofreading I noticed this little moment of structural orientation I had slid past before. Handy!
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