Saturday, July 23, 2016

A strip-mall restaurant recommendation

Another bit of evidence to support Tyler Cowen’s recommendation to seek out strip-mall restaurants: Siam Thai Restaurant in Charleston, Illinois (“east-central Illinois”). The NEW OWNER sign, which has been up since, I think, last winter, is important: the previous owner was a dud. The new restaurant is a two-woman operation: one host, one cook. The food comes in generous portions, beautifully prepared and intensely flavorful, without the sweetness that often dominates Thai dishes made for American tastes.

Hot? If you like, yes, from one to five, but all the flavors come through too. (That’s what happens with an expert cook.) Our host seems to understand our tastes well: one two and one three , which we share. They make a nice burn.

I have been eating Thai food with amateur enthusiasm since the early 1980s. Siam Thai is the best I have ever had.

A related post
Three great strip-mall restaurants

Friday, July 22, 2016


I’m a longtime fan of the web service StatCounter, which I use with Orange Crate Art. (See the orange odometer in the sidebar.) But I’m not a fan of the service’s new offering:

The StatCounter Growth Plan goes the next step and uses sophisticated technology to analyze your data and website for you. It then tells you in simple terms how to grow your traffic and improve your visitor experience with easy-to-understand steps.
Or rather: I’m not a fan of the pitch for this new offering, which appears every time I check my stats, in the form of a banner that clicks open to reveal my “Rank Against [My] Competitors,” or my blog’s grades:

[“Overall Industry Ranking: C+.” The ignominy! But for $29.99 a month I can learn how to improve.]

I wrote to StatCounter with some thoughts about this pitch, which I find more than a little insulting, partly because I’m a paying customer, but mainly because I didn’t ask for my work to be graded. (Sheesh.) I’ll quote from my e-mail:
My blog, which has been going for nearly twelve years, gives me great pleasure without making me a dime. It has brought me into contact with wonderful people I would never have met otherwise. Believe me, I don’t feel that I’m getting a C+ (your overall grade for me). And I have no competitors. I don’t regard other websites as competition. The only person I’m competing against is myself — to stay curious and be the best writer I can be.
I added that not everyone who’s online is looking for increased page hits or profit. There are other forms of satisfaction to be had in creating, as they say, “content.” I received a friendly reply from someone at StatCounter, saying that no insult was intended. I knew that, and wrote back to say so. It would be smart though for the company to realize that giving its users grades is probably not a great way to win their favor.

I suspect that StatCounter has been tweaking its metrics: since taking the above screenshot, I’ve dropped to a D- and moved up to a B-. But I’ve also discovered that I can use the nifty uBlock Origin extension to block the Growth Plan page element. I plan to check it on occasion though, to see if the pitch changes.

[“‘Underachiever.’ And proud of it, man!”]

A related post
Why I (still) blog

[Full disclosure: “How to e-mail a professor” has appeared in two textbooks for college students, bringing me a good number of dimes. And I’ve requested and received review copies of books and music over the years. But my blog is not a money-making proposition.]

Strunk and White fashion

From Grant Snider’s Incidental Comics : Strunk and White’s Writers Style Guide.

This guide is a loose and witty translation of bits of advice from The Elements of Style . The active/passive panel doesn’t attempt to illustrate the difference between the active and passive voices. Only one panel quotes directly from The Elements : “Use figures of speech sparingly.” I especially like that panel.

Thanks, Steven, for pointing me to this work.

Related reading
All OCA Strunk and White posts (Pinboard)

[The title really should be Writer’s Style Guide, or Writers’ Style Guide .]

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Domestic comedy

[Fixing our dryer’s venting .]

“Do you think we can work together without both of us yelling at each other?”

“No, but I think we can work together without each of us yelling at the other.”

And we did (work together that is, minus yelling). The connection between our dryer’s hose and duct was, it turns out, the kind of slipshod job known (at least in our house) as a “homeowner’s special.” Now we have a new hose and new duct, solidly attached, one to the other, both shining above a new laundry-room floor.

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[The floor is not a homeowner’s special. We know our limits.]

’Nuff said (2)

Joseph Joubert:

What is clear should not be drawn out too much. These useless explanations, these endless examinations are a kind of long whiteness and lead to boredom. It is the uniformity of a wall, of a long piece of laundry.

The Notebooks of Joseph Joubert: A Selection  , trans. Paul Auster (New York: New York Review Books, 2005).
Also from Joseph Joubert
Another world : Brevity : Form and content : Irrelevancies and solid objects : Lives and writings : New books, old books : ’Nuff said (1) : Politeness : Resignation and courage : Ruins v. reconstructions : Self-love and truth : Thinking and writing : Wine

’Nuff said (1)

Joseph Joubert:

Everything that is exact is short.

The Notebooks of Joseph Joubert: A Selection  , trans. Paul Auster (New York: New York Review Books, 2005).
Also from Joseph Joubert
Another world : Form and content : Irrelevancies and solid objects : Lives and writings : New books, old books : Politeness : Resignation and courage : Ruins v. reconstructions : Self-love and truth : Thinking and writing : Wine

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Words and bonds and borrowings

Michelle Obama in 2008:

“Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you’re going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them, and even if you don’t agree with them.”
“Your word is your bond”: why aren’t those words a matter of plagiarism? Because they’re meant to be recognized as a borrowing. Dictum meum pactum , “My word is my bond,” is the motto of the London Stock Exchange. The philosopher J. L. Austin adapted that motto in his How to Do Things with Words (1962):
For one who says “promising is not merely a matter of uttering words! It is an inward and spiritual act!” is apt to appear as a solid moralist standing out against a generation of superficial theorizers: we see him as he sees himself, surveying the invisible depths of ethical space, with all the distinction of a specialist in the sui generis . Yet he provides Hippolytus with a let-out, the bigamist with an excuse for his “I do” and the welsher with a defense for his “I bet.” Accuracy and morality alike are on the side of the plain saying that our word is our bond.
The poet Geoffrey HIll borrowed Austin’s words in a 1983 essay, “Our Word Is Our Bond.” More recently, Austin’s words showed up in Marianne Constable’s punning book title Our Word Is Our Bond: How Legal Speech Acts (2014).

Austin, HIll, and Constable all intend that their borrowings be recognized: that’s the whole point. There’s a world of difference between a borrowing meant to be recognized — an allusion, and the unacknowledged use of words passed off as one’s own.

I used to think about allusion all the time. This page gives some idea.

A related post
Abby and Austin

[In Constable’s title, speech acts is not a plural noun: acts is a verb. Clever.]

Lend me your ears passages

From Wikipedia, items in an odd and funny series: “Meredith McIver is a staff writer for The Trump Organization, author, former ballerina, and registered Democrat.” And now she has taken responsibility for the appearance of words from a Michelle Obama speech in Melania Trump’s Monday night speech. From Ms. McIver’s statement:

In working with Melania on her recent First Lady speech, we discussed many people who inspired her and messages she wanted to share with the American people. A person she has always liked is Michelle Obama. Over the phone, she read me some passages from Mrs. Obama’s speech as examples. I wrote them down and later included some of the phrasing in the draft that ultimately became the final speech. I did not check Mrs. Obama’s speeches. This was my mistake and I feel terrible for the chaos I have caused Melania and the Trumps as well as to Mrs. Obama. No harm was meant.
This explanation leaves an important question unanswered: did Ms. Trump make clear that she was reading passages from Ms. Obama’s speech? That these passages were from Ms. Obama’s speech doesn’t mean that Ms. McIver knew that at the time . Either way, it’s plagiarism, but it’s not clear to me who really bears greater responsibility for passing off Ms. Obama’s words as Ms. Trump’s own.

“In working with Melania . . . , we discussed,” “First Lady speech,” “the chaos I have caused Melania and the Trumps as well as to Mrs. Obama”: I think Ms. McIver could use some help with her own writing. Here is the text of her statement.

A related post
It’s plagiarism

[It feels odd to me to write “Ms. Obama” and “Ms. Trump.” But since the surnames alone suggest Barack and Donald, I have done so. To me, Ms. Obama is “Michelle.” I met her, back in 2004, here in downstate Illinois. Too bad she won’t run for Senate.]

Trump’s ghostwriter

Tony Schwartz wrote The Art of the Deal for Donald Trump:

If he were writing The Art of the Deal, today, Schwartz said, it would be a very different book with a very different title. Asked what he would call it, he answered, The Sociopath .


If Trump is elected President, he warned, “the millions of people who voted for him and believe that he represents their interests will learn what anyone who deals closely with him already knows — that he couldn’t care less about them.”
Read it all at The New Yorker : Jane Mayer, “Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All” (The New Yorker).

AHD on singular they

The American Heritage Dictionary has an updated its usage note for singular they .

My thinking about singular they changed in 2009 — a conversion experience — and has remained unchanged since. I think the pronoun is best used sparingly, and best avoided when one’s writing is subject to formal evaluation. Recasating a sentence can be a better choice than a singular they or a cumbersome he or she .

The most interesting part of the AHD note:

The recent use of singular they for a known person who identifies as neither male nor female remains controversial; as of 2015 only 27 percent of the Panelists accepted Scout was born male, but now they do not identify as either traditional gender. With regard to this last sentence, the Panel’s responses showed a clear generational shift: the approval rate was 4 percent among Panelists born before 1945 and 40 percent among Panelists born later.
Singular they as a pronoun for a person who identifies as neither he nor she seems to me to inherently confusing. As I wrote in a comment on another they post, “If I were not a he and were making this kind of decision for myself, I’d choose singular pronouns.”