Presuming that money is like bread

A relative of mine recently shared a gif on Facebook of ‘Five Best Sentences’. I try not to post whenever somebody is wrong on the internet, but responding to the list made me realize something about so-called economic conservatives:

Many conservative truisms only make sense if you assume money is like bread and that anything of value is like money.

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Phriday phishing

I’ve heard from several students and former students today who got suspicious e-mail claiming to be from me. Maybe you got one, too?

The body of the messages mostly just said “Hello, are you available?” However, one student received a message which went on to ask if he could pick up something at the store.

The e-mail sig said “Dr. P.D. Magnus”, but I don’t think I ever write my name that way. It also gave my UAlbany rank and information, which I only do in e-mails that need to sound official and heavy-hitting.

The from line on these e-mails was tapperrea.maxwell.syr@gmail.com — To be clear, that’s not me. If they contact you, don’t pick up anything at the store for them.

Education by any other name would still be next to Humanities

When the UAlbany uptown campus was built, all the buildings were given functional names. The Philosophy department is in the Humanities building, on the podium next to Education and across from Business Administration.

Here’s the rub: The actual school of ed was moved downtown long ago and so doesn’t have anything to do with the Education building. The business school got a shiny new building several years ago, and so we’ve had to awkwardly distinguish the new business building from the old business building (which hasn’t actually housed any of the business classes).

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An intermediate case between agent and double agent

This is a post I wrote back in November but for some reason didn’t post. I had learned from a then-recent episode of Citation Needed about Juan Pujol, a Spaniard who served as a double agent in WW II.

The beginning of Pujol’s career as a spy vexes the usual connotation of “double agent.” He wanted to help the Allied cause, but the British repeatedly declined his offer. So he reached out to the Nazis and offered to help them, with no intention of doing so. Instead of going to the UK and reporting back to the Nazis, he went to Portugal and lied to the Nazis about what was going on in the UK. He made up a network of contacts and things that he had learned from them. He bodged together these reports based on reference books and magazines.

British intelligence became aware of these reports going to Berlin and tried to track down this mysterious agent. Pujol was finally able to convince them of his usefulness, and they brought him to London. There he worked to create a whole fictional network of spies who systematically misled Nazi intelligence about things in the lead up to D-Day.

Clearly Pujol was a double agent in the latter part of the story, but what kind of agent was he in the first part? It would be wrong to say flat-footedly that he was a Nazi agent, because he was deliberately sending them rubbish. But he wasn’t coordinating with the British, either. Because he wasn’t a British agent, he lacked the second agency required for being a double agent.

Links

Wombats and nineteenth-century opinion

Wombats were admired for their stumpy strength, their patience, their placid, not to say congenial manners, and also a kind of stoic determination. Occasionally they were thought clumsy, insensible or even stupid, but these isolated observations are out of step with the majority of nineteenth-century opinion.

Angus Trumble

In The Public Domain Review, Trumble recounts how Pre-Raphaelite artists were obsessed with wombats and attempts to suss out how they’d learned about them in the first place. Fitting the possible sources into the timetable of modern philosophy, it occurred to me that Kant might have known nothing at all about wombats.

A ridiculous wombat drawn by Edward Burne-Jones.

Elegy for the Blue Room

It resonated with me when John Holbo wrote recently: “Remember when there were blogs? Ah, those were the good old days.”

It gestured back to a day when the internet was built mostly out of individuals putting together things which they cared about and sharing them on a server somewhere in the world. The internet was the magic maze which let everybody else wander around and marvel at the wonders.

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Cyberpunk ambitopia

When I got my first iPhone, I wrote that its “compressed functionality underscores the extent to which the internet has changed things. If you had told me about it when I was a kid, I would not have been able to wrap my head around it.” It’s a camera, a calendar, an address book, a pocket watch, a GPS. It also takes calls, although I use it for text messaging more than voice.

When I imagined future technology as a kid, I often imagined smart houses. There was recently an on-line ad targeted to me for a front door lock that you can control from your phone. This is like the computerized houses of my elementary-school imagination. I should be excited, but I’m not.

The future has gritty problems that 1980s cyberpunk novels didn’t prepare me for.

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