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Robert Douglas-Fairhurst on Adam Smith: "Perhaps Smith, too, was divided - after all, this was a man who once devoted two full pages of a treatise on language to the word
'but'." This is where I must protest that "but" is an interesting word. Note, for example, that one ordinarily thinks of "but" and "and" as contrasting words rather than synonyms. But the truth conditions for sentences including "but" and sentences including "and" are the same. "John went to the store and forgot the milk" is true if and only if "john went to the store" is true and "john forgot the milk" is true. "John went to the store but forgot the milk" is true if and only if "john went to the store" is true and "john forgot the milk" is true. You can try this at home and check for yourself -- for all X and all Y, "X and Y" is true if "X" is true and "Y" is true, and "X but Y" is true under the exact same circumstances.

Nevertheless, in many cases switching between "but" and "and" seems to alter the meaning of a sentence substantially and there are many situations where removing an "and" and inserting a "but" would seem clearly inappropriate. "John and Paul went to the store" is fine, but "John but Paul went to the store" isn't. "John went to the store but Paul did, too," however, is a perfectly legit thing to say. And in all cases the point is that this is true if and only if both dudes went to the store.

Anyways, I don't want to write a whole two pages on this, but "but" is interesting and there's nothing wrong with writing about it.

May 31, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (24)

Containing Gilbertology

Arresting him works.

May 30, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (15)


Great town, though I believe I once paid $7 for a Coke Lite at a stand near the Schloss Schonbrunn. I meant to speak, however, of the open source RSS reader that I downloaded yesterday, which is pretty cool too. I'm now officially a convert from NetNewsWire.

May 26, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (22)

Guy Lit

Julian Sanchez critiques a critique of the genre. I dunno. I watched the High Fidelity movie and liked it so I got the High Fidelity book which I thought was pretty good but not as good as the movie. Like most American men, I read very little fiction. I'm heading to the beach this weekend, so I thought I could use a novel and I guess I liked High Fidelity enough that I bought How to Be Good. Unless I'm confused and different guys wrote those books, but I think that's right.

At any rate, if I were going to write a "guy lit" novel I think the model for my protagonist would have to be . . . Julian Sanchez (as Sawicky used to put it, "My friend Julian Sanchez, bon vivant and man-about-town).

Seriously, though, critiquing whole genres seems to be silly. For any given genre, the median exemplar of the genre is going to be bad. Everyone has a few genres such that they like the median exemplar of the genre, but only a few standout works really "stand out" and have genuine aesthetic merit.

May 26, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (31)

Library Thing

Do I need more social network websites? Probably not, I tend to start these things up, then get distracted, and never really use them. But I like trying new things. So next on the agenda: LibraryThing.

Via Goodspeed.

May 25, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Small Ball

Everyone's talking "small ball" with regard to Phoenix-Dallas, but it's worth pointing out that the very different Detroit Pistons arguably fit the mold as well. Ben Wallace is listed at 6'9" -- very short for a center. Barely taller than Boris Diaw and shorter than Tim Thomas and significantly smaller than Nowitzki. Of course, Wallace is a muscle player in a way that Dirk and Thomas clearly aren't, but he is small and we saw at times during the Cleveland series that even though we're used to thinking of him as an interior guy he can guard a taller perimeter player like King James. Rasheed Wallace is actually the tall guy on Detroit, but not really a "big man" in the traditional sense.

May 25, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (95)

The Little Guy

Despite not being convinced that Dennis Rodman was better than Michael Jordan, the comparative hype over LeBron James' postseason performance over Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki serves as a reminder that there really is a bias in intuitive judgments in favor of high-scoring perimeter players versus guys who do other things better. James played very, very well but when you look at the numbers his somewhat higher scoring came at the expense of a considerably lower TS% and higher turnover ratio. Meanwhile, James is a very good rebounder for his size but he's still way worse than the big men.

Fundamentally, perimeter play looks more impressive since it involves all that driving and leaping, but this can get a little misleading at times. In particular, defensive rebounding almost never looks impressive when you're doing it right, but everyone knows that if you surrender tons of offensive boards you're going to lose the game.

May 23, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (103)


Not the country, which I hear is nice. It's also the name of a neighborhood in Northeast DC. Went out there Saturday night with some friends, hoping to try and regain our hipster cred, but it turned out to be curiously un-hip, though in a rather different way from U Street's "not hip anymore" flavor.

At any rate, I find all my friends' ongoing transformations into self-loathing yuppies rather amusing. It's not that I'm any better, but unlike your average twentysomething urban young professional, I was actually raised this way. My parents are the rare yuppies who never grew up and moved to the suburbs, just kept on living on University Place which was edgy when they moved there, I guess.

May 23, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (14)

Dennis Rodman

Malcolm Gladwell reviews the aforementioned book, The Wages of Wins. It's an interesting piece, though at this point I think all serious basketball fans already know that statheads think Allen Iverson is overrated. If you want to see a truly controversial claim, check out this 1999 paper by one of the book's authors looking at the 1997-1998 MVP race. The leading candidates were Michael Jordan and Karl Malone. They conclude that Malone had a superior season, worth 18.83 wins as opposed to Jordan's 16.44 wins. Fair enough.

They say Jordan actually only had the sixth-best season. Numbers four and five were David Robinson and Tim Duncan respectively. Then it gets a bit wild. Number three on the list is Jayson Williams! And number one on the list . . . better than Jordan, Barkley, Robinson, and even Malone -- Dennis Rodman whose 20.79 wins make him far and away the league's top player in the 97-98 season.

May 22, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (84)

Matt's Advice to Cleveland...

... is to try and trade Ilgauskas. He's an okay player, but also a pretty classic case of non-complementary skills. With LeBron on your team, there's no reason to try and run your offense through Big Z. Varejao's almost certainly a worse player in the abstract, but he's a good fit for the team -- provides what they genuinely need from a big man and can run the floor okay. They have essentially identical plus/minus scores. Cleveland needs spot-up shooting much more than it needs low-post offense, and you could probably procure outside shooting in exchange for him.

UPDATE: Or another way of looking at it -- trade whomever or other to move up high enough in the draft to get JJ Redick, who I don't think is even projected to go especially high. Most teams, I think, couldn't afford to play someone who's that short and can't really run the point, but the Cavs can.

May 22, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (33)