Sunday, December 31, 2006

Maggie Welcomes 2007

Maggie the Beagle wishes you all a joyous 2007!


Saturday, December 30, 2006

As a Fellow Morning Person, I've Got Some Sympathy

Then again, I'm not the most powerful person in the the world.

As reported by the New York Times:

At President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Tex., a White House spokesman, Scott Stanzel, said Mr. Bush had gone to bed before the execution took place and was not awakened. Mr. Bush had received a briefing from his national security adviser Friday afternoon, when he learned the execution would be carried out within hours, Mr. Stanzel said. Asked why Mr. Bush had gone to sleep before hearing the news, he said Mr. Bush “knew that it was going to happen.”
Hussein's execution was widely reported (here and in Iraq) at 6:10 am Baghdad time, which is 9:10 pm Crawford, Texas time. In 2004, President Bush fell asleep during the first half of the Super Bowl, missing the Janet Jackson brouhaha.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Fortress on 30th Street

I'm never too surprised when I venture into a personally-unexplored part of New York and stumble upon something wonderful or strange.

While heading to get our knives sharpened at an odd little shop on 30th street, I happened upon the old 23rd precinct station house, built in 1908 in the style of a fortress.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Just in Time for Finals: Word Shoot

You know finals are here when tempting eat-up-your-time-in-big-bites web-based video games just reveal themselves to you.

Enter Word Shoot, a flash-based game where you protect yourself from your relentless opponents by spelling their names. Text entry hasn't been this fear-based since Giraffe, the falling letter game that ships with Palm PDAs.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Heal Up, Senator Johnson

As has been covered extensively in the news, South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson has very recently undergone surgery to deal with a brain hemorrhage. Were Johnson to resign his post before the new session convenes, functional control of the Senate would likely return to the GOP (the Republican governor of South Dakota would likely nominate a Republican as a replacement, leading to a 50/50 split, with VP Cheney as a tiebreaker).

While some conservative commentators hover ghoulishly over the stricken Senator Johnson, a guest on NPR's NewsHour program reminds us of California Senator Clair Engle, who did not resign his position as his brain cancer progressed:

On June 10, 1964, during the roll call for the historic, successful effort to break the filibuster on what would become the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when the clerk reached "Mr. Engle," there was no reply. A brain tumor had robbed Senator Engle of his ability to speak. Slowly lifting a crippled arm, he pointed to his eye, thereby signaling his affirmative vote ("aye"). Few who witnessed Engle's brave act forgot it. Nine days later the Senate approved the act itself—producing one of America's towering 20th century legislative achievements.
Senator Engle died a month and a half later.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Sometime reader of this blog and fellow Columbia Law student CSK has conducted a bit of a holiday investigation:


As we approach the holiday season, I thought I'd investigate the various spelling of the Jewish holiday. I have found four common binary variations: Ch/H, n/nn, k/kk, and a/ah. The following is a list of the sixteen permutations, in order of the number of results from a Google search of each permutation.

Perhaps readers of your blog would appreciate this analysis?

Hanukkah — 12,100,000
Chanukah — 3,400,000
Hanukah — 1,010,000
Hannukah — 790,000
Chanuka — 545,000
Hanuka — 518,000
Channukah — 437,000
Chanukkah — 315,000
Chanukka — 301,000
Hanukka — 107,000
Hannuka — 62,500
Hannukkah — 44,200
Channuka — 18,800
Channukka — 1,750
Hannukka — 821
Channukkah — 741

Note that Microsoft Word reports that all but the top three spellings are incorrect.

I suspect that the inclusion of all these terms on my blog will change the context-sensitive Google Ads on this page through the end of the year.

Update (12/06/06): CSK's roommate ASL weighs in:
Working hard, aren't you?

The two variables about which I feel most strongly are the doubled consonants. The correct answer: one N, two K's. In proper Hebrew pronunciation, the kaf is doubled because it contains a dagesh chazak. In other words, the word would be broken into syllables as ha-nuk-kah rather than ha-nu-kah. (Several other Hebrew loan words are spelled with doubled consonants for the same reason - e.g. sabbath, hallelujah.) Granted, since most people don't pronounce dagesh chazak properly any more, I suppose it's reasonable to write only one K. The thing that's definitely wrong, though, is two N's. I'd guess that those spellings come largely as a result of people remembering that there's a doubled consonant but getting the wrong one.

As to the H vs. CH, question, obviously H with a dot underneath is the most ideal option, but that's hard to do on most word processors. I tend to use H here, but I admit that I sometimes use CH for het in some other contexts. If there's no option of having a dot, I'd say the CH is the best bet. Another spelling that occurs 1,290 times on Google is Khanuka (and variants), but I think it would be better to reserve KH for khaf and CH or H-dot (or h-bar!) for het. That distinction has been lost in Ashkenazi and modern Israeli Hebrew, but I'm pretentious that way. Another neat option is what Bryan/Aviel and other Sephardim do: Januk(k)a(h) (along with Pesaj).

As to the final H, it seems at first glance that the Hebrew spelling (with a hei) would mandate the H. However, a deeper analysis of Hebrew linguistics actually offers a rather compelling argument not to include the H. The details are too complicated to explain here, though.

When It Says Religious Test, It Doesn't Mean Test Like the S.A.T.

(Crossposted from the American Constitution Society :: Columbia Law School)

The American Family Association – worried that newly-elected Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN), who happens to be Muslim, will be sworn in with his hand on the Koran (instead of the Christian Bible) – is urging its members to do the following:

  1. Send an email asking your U.S. Representative and Senators to pass a law making the Bible the book used in the swearing-in ceremony of Representatives and Senators.

  2. Forward this email to your friends and family today!
Never mind that Representatives don't place their hands on anything when they're sworn in en masse. How the AFA-proposed law wouldn't violate Article VI, Section 3 is beyond me:
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. (emphasis added)
Too many more oversights like this and I'm going to stop turning to the American Family Association for my constitutional theory.