The funniest youtube video I have seen in a long time.  College students playing beer-cup pong at an incredible level.  This is the Citizen Kane of beer-cup-pong cinema.

I guess this is one chapter of a yet-to-be-written update of Newman’s The Idea of a University.





From the indespensible “Best of the Web Today” by James Taranto at Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal page:

Life Imitates ‘South Park’

  • Al Gore: “I’m here to educate you about the single biggest threat to our planet. You see, there is something out there which threatens our very existence and may be the end of the human race as we know it. I’m talking of course about Manbearpig.”–from “Manbearpig,” originally aired April 26, 2006



BOTWT is an absolutely essential daily visit for me.



by Mr. Moleman”s Friend John Doolittle

I have noticed that our systems of measurements tend to consist of some units which are purely arbitrary, and others that are more natural.  And it appears that the best systems are ones where arbitrary units are used only to mediate between natural ones.

As an example, consider our measurement of time – the only realm I can think of that has not yet been assailed by the Metricists.

A year is the amount of time of the earth’s revolution around the sun.  It is fairly easy to think in terms of years, and it is not hard to use the concept of “a year ago” to frame memory.  The passage of seasons in the Temperate Zones is no doubt partly why this is so; in the Tropics it may be otherwise.  But a year is a natural measure.

Likewise, a day is a natural measure, except perhaps in polar regions where sunrise and sunset barely occur.

A second is also a relatively natural measure, approximately a heartbeat.  It is not hard to count seconds fairly accurately.

In between seconds and days, we have created minutes and hours. These are distinctly artificial,  It is quite impossible to count off minutes, unless one counts seconds and marks the 60th, calling that a minute.  Hours are even worse.

At the other extreme, between days and years we have created weeks and months, both artificial and arbitrary.  Indeed, the arbitrariness of months prevents them even being uniform lengths.

So what?  Well, I would argue that the fewer purely arbitrary units a system must employ, the better the system.

The naturalness of the time system may explain why the Metricists have left it alone (at least since Robespierre).

The “English System” of lengths (no longer used in England, which itself no longer exists) is certainly less natural than the time system.  The smaller units, such as inches and feet, correspond somewhat to human body parts, but human bodies are highly irregular.  Few humans are blessed, as I am, with a foot that measures almost exactly a foot long (shoed).

With volume it is much the same.  A cup is fairly close to a double handful for me, but maybe not for you.  (Try it and let me know.)   But I defy anyone to find a natural counterpart to the liter or quart. 

So I guess the Metric System isn’t that much more arbitrary than any other.  We seem doomed to live our lives surrounded by meaningless measures.  But at least our lives themselves are measured in more natural, if not necessarily more meaningful terms.

But when the Metricists start looking to change the clock or calendar, the end of days will indeed be very near.


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