links for 2009-04-13

  • "I was invited to the upcoming APS meeting in Denver to speak in a session on "Women and Minorities in Gravity: Science and Career Paths." And since I have somewhat of a bad conscience for never having been at never any APS meeting, not to mention never having been of any use for The Issue, I thought I should go. Now that the meeting is coming closer, I wonder what I know about women and minorities in physics (not sure what "in gravity" is supposed to mean). And their career paths. Or absence thereof."
  • "There are eleven separate warnings decals on our carseat. They are a variety of shapes and sizes and they all say the same thing, the gist of which is âWarning: an infant car seat is for infants, and when you put an infant into an infant carseat, you will have an infant in your carseat. Warning: If you do not buckle your infant into the carseat, your infant will not be buckled into the carseat. Warning: If you place the infant in the carseat and then place the carseat in the car, the infant will also be in the car.â Apparently in the event of an accident my child will be protected by a thick barrier of warning messages saying I shouldnât have done that. "
  • "The Elements of Style does not deserve the enormous esteem in which it is held by American college graduates. Its advice ranges from limp platitudes to inconsistent nonsense. Its enormous influence has not improved American students' grasp of English grammar; it has significantly degraded it."
  • "[F]or some reason, about a year ago I became intensely curious about three cereal grainsâcorn, rice, and wheatâand the role they played in getting civilization off the ground. And so, on this Passover holiday, when Ashkenazi Jews are supposed to avoid not only leavened bread, but corn and rice as well (the reason? apparently some 13th-century rabbi feared that a grain of wheat might fall in undetected), I thought Iâd go âagainst the grainâ (har, har), and ask âFour Questionsâ about all three of these strange plants."
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Seems like the Chronicle Review article treats S&W as a set of rules or even guidelines for grammar instead of what it is: guidelines for writing style and nothing more. Why blame S&W for the abusive "rules" that educators have propagated over the years? Not only that, Pullum treats S&W as if they are both humorless idiots, and he really can't take a joke, because textbooks can't have jokes, of course.