Friday, May 29, 2015

Old Crow Medicine Show, "I Hear Them All"

This is the song that made me an instant fan of Old Crow Medicine Show when they played it at South by Southwest in 2006. Thanks to Dan Korman for taking me there. It's some great songwriting:

I hear the sounds of tearing pages
And the roar of burning paper
All the crimes in acquisition
Turn to air and ash and vapor

The peaceful symbols of different religions including "the gentle lamb of Judah / Sleeping at the feet of Buddha" was a delightful surprise from an Appalachian string band.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Was Michael LaCour Really the Texas Longhorns' Mascot?

I just looked at the CV of Michael LaCour, who is notorious for falsifying political science data and even a departmental teaching award. It has this curious entry under "University and Departmental Service" at the end of the second page:

The University of Texas at Austin
• Mascot, “Hook Em”, The Longhorn, 2007-2009.

I have no idea whether LaCour was the Texas Longhorns' mascot for two years, or if he made that up too. Any journalists reading this blog might want to check out whether LaCour is again full of bull, or if in this case the bull was actually full of him.

If it's true, I suppose he could go back to that line of work, since it doesn't require him to show his face in public.

Update: A few people have sent me this blog post from 2008 discussing Longhorn mascots of that time period, which doesn't mention LaCour. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Siberian regionalist flag

I recently played in a historical live-action roleplaying game about the Russians and British in colonial India. It got me curious about the history of Siberian independence movements (in the game, I started one, and courted British support in breaking away from Moscow). Apparently in 1917, a "Siberian National Banner" was chosen, and this is what it looked like:

Kazantzev, who designed it, said: "The National Siberian Banner shall be a combination of 2 colours: white and green. White colour means Siberian snow, whilst green colour - Siberian taiga. The banner shall be rectangular, split into 2 parts diagonally from the left top to right bottom. Thus, the upper triangle shall be of green colour, and the lower one - of white colour."

I agree that green and white is a good color scheme for Siberia, but I think a more symmetrical design would've looked better. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Don't Fear Announcing Your New Publications on Facebook

Lots of my friends in philosophy are shy about announcing their new publications on Facebook and other social media sites. Getting a paper published in a prestigious journal is an impressive achievement, but some people don't mention it (or do so in a conflicted way) because they're modest and they don't want to boast or appear boastful to others. I think they should become less conflicted and post about their forthcoming papers! Recent work can be advertised in ways that help other philosophers and make your friends happy.

A good way to talk about your paper that just got accepted is to provide a brief and accessible explanation of what it's about. This takes a few extra minutes to write, but it's helpful to all the philosophers reading your Facebook page. They get an easily digested update on new research and they don't even have to stop procrastinating. A few people might have helpful comments and ideas and give you good instant feedback. When John Williams and I got our Backward Clock paper accepted in JPhil, I posted about it on Facebook and David Manley told me about some additional work that supported our point and which we cite in the final version. I had some excellent conversations on Facebook about my paper attacking the fine-tuning argument as well.

For the most accessible work, you might be able to write in a way that helps your friends outside philosophy figure out what exactly it is that you do for a living, and maybe even explain cool stuff to them. If you're working in a very technical area it may be hard to communicate the idea in an accessible way. But you might at least be able to say something general that helps people get a sense of what it is that you do.

Maybe talking about your publications like this is still kind of boasty. But even then, the effects of your boasting may be ones you want. Your friends will be happy for you when they see that you accomplished something, and don't you want to make your friends happy? You probably also have some frenemies who'll be envious or annoyed or have some other negative emotion about your success. But you shouldn't worry too much about them. They're frenemies! If you let concerns about your frenemies' feelings determine your decisions, your life will be less fun. And if you're concerned even about your frenemies' feelings, you're probably a kind-hearted person who deserves to have fun.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Wild Flag, "Future Crimes"

My little sister, who introduced me to Sleater-Kinney, gave me the first Wild Flag album. This is my favorite song from it, and I think hers too.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


I'm planning to post random cool stuff that I found somewhere on the internet every Wednesday. Today's post is just a quote about astatine, the 85th element on the periodic table. Its name comes from the Greek word astatos (αστατος), meaning "unstable".

Randall Munroe of xkcd writes in What If?:
We don’t know what astatine looks like, because, as Lowe put it, “that stuff just doesn’t want to exist.” It’s so radioactive (with a half-life measured in hours) that any large piece of it would be quickly vaporized by its own heat. Chemists suspect that it has a black surface, but no one really knows.  
There’s no material safety data sheet for astatine. If there were, it would just be the word “NO” scrawled over and over in charred blood.

Monday, May 18, 2015

First and Final Post

Back in July 2004, when I was a grad student at UT-Austin, I started a blog called "The Ethical Werewolf". I wrote mostly about politics and philosophy, since that's most of what I spent my time thinking about, apart from smart ladies from various possible worlds. The blog unexpectedly propelled me into 2008 Democratic primary politics, thanks to interest from a bunch of smart young bloggers who are now superstar journalists at Vox. Later on, it basically became my academic homepage, with occasional posts outlining my travel plans and making silly philosophy jokes. I also wrote at a lot of other places with a lot of nice people, most notably at Donkeylicious with Nicholas Beaudrot. 

I called the blog "The Ethical Werewolf" in part because I've always identified with helpful wolfy characters (Oz from Buffy, Perrin Aybara from Wheel of Time, and Remus Lupin from Harry Potter who is a role model for teaching). It also had to do with my views concerning moral motivation. David Brink once emailed me about why I gave my blog that name, and after making the Buffy / Harry Potter references, here's what I told him:
...I think humans have a lot more in common with the higher mammals, at least as far as the psychology of motivation is concerned, than most philosophers thinking about motivation allow. This is a basically Humean view -- we're all passion-driven, desire-belief-motivated creatures.  The differences between humans and animals aren't to be found in the structure of motivation -- they concern other things like our capacity for abstract concepts which allows us to have a theory of mind, and how much working memory we have.  Our motivational continuity with the animals is kind of werewolfy.  I also think that if an animal had a strong desire to avert others' suffering and promote their pleasure, it would be a perfectly good example of a moral agent. And that's what I am -- a mostly-animal moral agent, or to be poetic, an ethical werewolf. (If I actually turned into a big powerful beast under the full moon and did socially beneficial deeds, that would be awesome, but unfortunately I haven't been bitten by the right person yet.)
Christine Korsgaard attacks a "picture of the virtuous human being as a sort of Good Dog, whose desires and inclinations have been so perfectly trained that he always does what he ought to do spontaneously and with tail-wagging cheerfulness and enthusiasm". But that's exactly the kind of animal I aspire to be! And I guess the ultimate Good Dog would be an Ethical Werewolf.

I still like the name, the view about motivation, and the fictional werewolves. But now I'm planning to start blogging again, I'm thinking it's best to set up an eponymous blog that's better integrated with my new academic homepage at So I'm putting this up as the final Ethical Werewolf post, and the first post at If you're looking for the kinds of posts you used to see at The Ethical Werewolf ten years ago, that's the place to go!

I sort of have a plan for a schedule of posts. On Mondays I'll post something that runs at least a few paragraphs (philosophy? politics? Philippa Foot fanfic?). On Wednesdays I'll post something nifty I found on the internet. On Fridays I'll post some music I like. Probably a lot of the Monday posts are going to be inside-baseball stuff about philosophy, especially in the beginning. I'm hoping for a core audience of philosophers and people who don't mind chatting with philosophers. If that's you, come on over!