March 30, 2006


The Avalanche-Journal reports that "Lubbock's homeless population could double, or even triple, in the coming weeks and months" as FEMA stops funding the Katrina refugees who were evacuated here.

Assistant City Manager Quincy White says "Some [evacuees] have just not taken the initiative to take responsibility for themselves," but evacuee Eddie Simmons says that it's been difficult to find a job that's reachable by public transportation (which rings true if you've ever been here; getting around Lubbock without a car doesn't look easy).

Thought this should be noted.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 07:48 AM | Comments (0)

March 27, 2006

As Jennifer Hornsby Has Taught Us

succeeding in doing X counts as trying to do X; the infelicity in describing it as "trying to do X" is that that is (usually) less informative than saying "doing X." Still.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 09:37 PM | Comments (0)

Back from Portland

Great times in Portland. I can now add to my store of anecdotes:

Oregon: amused a stranger in an elevator (and horrified my companions) by arguing that since my room was on the third floor, it was reasonable to expect that the hotel was on average only six floors tall

and I have to say I don't see what's so bad about that argument. Except that my prior probability that the hotel was six floors tall should've been pretty low. And that I had additional evidence for the height of the hotel, having been in the elevator. Well, OK.

I'd also like to change my Texas anecdote to:

Texas: unloaded a truck with a friend who happened to show up wearing the same shirt

Richard Mason has been tracking the progress of the states meme.

And, of course, the APA was a great time, with lots of good philosophy, which I will probably not blog about because I've come back to lots of work.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 08:56 AM | Comments (18)

March 17, 2006


Last night we were talking about how hard it is to make a living as a writer, and I remembered the New Yorker profile of John Ashbery that said that Billy Collins was possibly the only person in America who can support himself writing poetry. (Ashbery teaches.) And then I realized: More Americans make a living blogging than writing poetry.

Could anything be more wrong?

Posted by Matt Weiner at 07:43 AM | Comments (7)

March 16, 2006

Oh no, a great big monster!

I just wrote this sentence, which I think is entirely nondeviant in context:

(1) If I were the sitelords I would not approve my comment now, just to show me.

Leaving aside the incomprehensibility, it seems to me that the behavior of the first-person pronoun is typical of counterfactuals beginning with "If I were...." We might be able to approximate what is going on here thus: Say that there are possible worlds in which the sitelords have more or less my personality, but in which I nevertheless exist and have left the same comment.

Then (1) amounts, roughly, to: In the nearest such world, the sitelords (acting as I would) would not approve my comment, just to show me. That is, the second "I" refers to me-as-sitelords in this possible world, while "me" and "my" refer to me-as-me in this possible world.

Except that there are lots of problems with viewing this in terms of a possible world, starting perhaps with the fact that if the sitelords had more or less my personality the site would be much different and I would never have left the comment. (In this world they just say they've lost it AOTW. Yay! Go Becks!) Maybe that is just one of the standard objections to possible-worlds analysis of counterfactuals.

Still, it seems as though there may be no analysis in terms of possible worlds that preserves the direct reference of "I." In fact, that may be true even of simpler cases like "If I were N.N., I wouldn't say that," since direct reference theories may preclude a possible world in which the antecedent is true; and the consequent presumably should be analyzed in terms of whether N.N. or a counterpart says that in some possible world, and if "I" directly refers to me it may prevent us from analyzing it as referring to N.N. or the counterpart in the other world.

If I remember correctly Kaplan addresses a sentence like this in discussing monsters, in "Demonstratives." (Monsters are devices that shift the referent of context-dependent items like "I"; Kaplan argues that English doesn't and can't contain any.) Except if I remember correctly, the sentence is something like "If I were Marilyn Monroe, I would want to kiss me," which seems wrong; if I were John F. Kennedy, I would (would still?) want to kiss Marilyn Monroe, but there's no reason to think that Marilyn Monroe would want to kiss me even if she had roughly my preferences etc. Which seems to me what that sentence would say.

Monsters are a subject of live debate now, and I expect I haven't said anything new here. Just wanted to record the sentence.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 04:02 PM | Comments (3)

March 14, 2006

32 States, 32 VPs (plus DC)

In comments to the visited states map Richard Mason propose a new time-wasting challenge: Recount a one-sentence anecdote for each state you've visited. Actually the anecdotes are verb phrases. And I am not constraining myself to make these anecdotes interesting. If you are aware of a more interesting anecdote involving me from that state, keep in mind that I'm trying to do this pretty quickly. Also, many of these states were visited while moving across the country.

Here goes:

California: visited Disneyland, which I barely remember
Connecticut: listened for a long time to a skipping CD in the next room, creating a surreal effect as it shifted back and forth between tracks
Washington, DC: parked legally right in front of my friend's apartment building in Adams Morgan
Delaware: listened to a white gospel group on a radio station broadcasting out of Elkton, MD (if this did not take place in Delaware, replace with "got stuck in traffic")
Florida: learned of Fametracker from my brother after pointing out a sign for J.T. Walsh Real Estate
Georgia: walked a mile or two to eat lunch at a food court that sold pig knuckles
Idaho: was photographed with a fellow philosopher in a way that made me look much drunker than I in fact was
Illinois: failed to meet Ben Wolfson, Adam Kotsko, and Ogged, but attended an excellent concert marking the AACM's 40th anniversary
Indiana: called from the congested turnpike to arrange to pick up some belongings for a friend in Tinley Park, IL
Iowa: drove a few hundred yards off I-80 to get a hamburger
Maine: for the first time, drove on roads where the speed limit was 65
Maryland: grossed out a fellow performer by pouring much water into my trombone and emptying the spit valve at the end of the piece
Massachusetts: imposed myself on a friend for several hours before finding my key in a recess of my pocket
Michigan: was caught in driving snow after helping a friend buy a component for her car stereo
Minnesota: attended a wedding reception in an aquarium
Missouri: saw a lot of signs for the Precious Moments Chapel
Nebraska: bought a postcard in North Platte to send to a friend who had spent several days there with her mother and two cats, involuntarily
New Hampshire: drove through on the same trip I drive through Maine, presumably
New Jersey: discussed with another epistemologist whether there is chocolate cake in heaven
New York: on Memorial Day, wandered around deserted downtown Syracuse with several friends from Pittsburgh
North Carolina: was upbraided for ordering Rolling Rock when not in Pittsburgh
Ohio: played with laptop pachinko-style pinball machines in attic of cousins' house
Oklahoma: was stuck by the side of the interstate, and then in a rest stop, for about five hours when the U-Haul threw tread off a tire
Pennsylvania: was born 'n'at
Rhode Island: tried to make contact with a high school classmate while (temporally) between trains
Texas: reached perhaps the highest point in Lubbock, on an overpass
Utah: finished 1982 Janine sitting in Temple Plaza
Vermont: ate superb ice cream at a dairy
Virginia: visited colonial Williamsburg, as I vaguely remember
Washington: rented a car in Spokane and drove to Pullman on a two-lane highway
West Virginia: took a boat on a lake with family friends
Wisconsin: helped a family with a U-Haul find the dropoff point, so we could get their truck after U-Haul had refused to honor my reservation
Wyoming: drove up through the high plains in a lashing thunderstorm

Somehow these remind me of something from Life: A User's Manual, though surely not as good. To make this an internet meme thingy, I suppose I should tag three people with it. So: apostropher, Ben Wolfson, Jackmormon, you're it.

[UPDATE: whoops, skipped Virginia]

Posted by Matt Weiner at 07:42 PM | Comments (11)

March 09, 2006

Here Is Something I Don't Understand

When I say, "Here is something you can't understand: how I can just kill a man," what is it that you don't understand? Certainly not how I can just kill a man in the sense of the methods and means that I have at my disposal for killing a man. Rather, perhaps, is it the means by which my killing a man comes about: the process by which I arrive at killing the man. As in, "I can't understand how a great heavy machine like that can fly."

(Further research reveals that the song goes "how I could just kill a man," which seems not to present the same problem. But the point, whatever it may be, stands. It wouldn't be the first time I've massacred a song in order to make a philosophical point.)

Posted by Matt Weiner at 08:06 PM | Comments (6)

March 08, 2006

Glenn Greenwald Is Shrill

...meaning, of course, dead on target.

[UPDATE: See also Laura Rozen and a succinct summary from Atrios, from whom the original tip.]

The Republicans are currently exploiting, erm, a seam in our system of government. We have a system of checks and balances that is designed to restrain abuses of power. Part of this is that Congress is supposed to oversee the executive. When the executive does something wrong or even suspicious, Congress should investigate. But the Republicans in Congress put pure partisanship above their duties, and so the Bush Administration is free to run amok on any number of issues -- torture, lying about the war, and now illegal spying on Americans.

But, as Glenn points out, there is hope; Watergate didn't bring Nixon down in a day. Bush is extremely unpopular, and Congressional Republicans may be forced to distance themselves from him for no other reason than to save their own craven hides. Or they could lose enough seats in Congress that Democrats will actually have the power to exercise some oversight. But the Republicans' commitment to malfeasance is disheartening. That's why I don't post about politics more.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 07:24 AM | Comments (0)

March 07, 2006

Phil Review Coming Along

To assuage the fears of some the Philosophical Review is indeed moving along to getting its new issues out. They've given me a copyedited version of "Must We Know What We Say" that I'm going to have corrected eftsoons. It's scheduled for the April 2005 issue; from what I know about journal publication schedules, it seems very unlikely that it'll be out by the end of March, but they should be out in a fairly timely fashion.

Also, the main file I'm to work with, the one that doesn't have the changes explicitly marked, is called WeinerClean.pdf. I thought much of my readership would want to know that.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 07:53 PM | Comments (0)

March 06, 2006

Judging by its cover

Remember the analysis of the graphic design of the Bush/Cheney and Kerry/Edwards campaign bumper stickers? On the way to the office I saw a red car sporting a dark blue bumper sticker that I couldn't read from that distance. "That looks like a liberal bumper sticker," I thought. (The prior probability of this in the Tech parking lots is pretty low.) Turned out to be this one. I'm a little disturbed.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 03:14 PM | Comments (2)

March 04, 2006

Not Counting Airports

Here are the states I think I've visited. (Driving through counts; I think every state I've driven through, I've actually got out of the car.)

I am, so far, pretty bad at picking up states that are next to the ones I live in. I have plans to visit Oregon soon.

create your own visited states map

via Amanda Marcotte, who seems to go north of the Mason-Dixon line only in aeroplanes.

UPDATE: Richard Mason's map:

Posted by Matt Weiner at 11:41 AM | Comments (11)