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Posts Tagged ‘Oxford University

The Oxford Comma…

The Oxford Comma– AKA, the final serial comma– has come in for some harsh criticism.  Indeed recently, the storied punctuation mark suffered the ugliest of indignities:  the “Writing and Style Guide” in Oxford University’s own “Branding Handbook” (the internal guide to usage meant to be consistent across all University publications) instructed: “As a general rule, do not use the serial/Oxford comma: so write ‘a, b and c’ not ‘a, b, and c’.”

The Prose Police did carve out an exception:  “when a comma would assist in the meaning of the sentence or helps to resolve ambiguity, it can be used…”

Good thing too.  Language Log demonstrates with examples both hypothetical:

…and actual:

Your correspondent operates, as readers may have noticed, on the compositional principal “better safe than sorry”…

As we disagree with Vampire Weekend, we might recall another example of linguistic mutability:  it was on this date in 1966 that Jimmy Hendrix changed his name to Jimi Hendrix.  Hendrix had a good bit of Experience, if readers will forgive the pun, with name changes…  He born was Johnny Allen Hendrix, but his father changed his name to James Marshall Hendrix (in honor of the father’s dead brother).  Hendrix performed as a sideman as “Maurice James”; he led his pre-fame band, The Blue Flames, as “Jimmy James”; and when confronted with confusion of having two Randys in the group– Guitarist Randy Wolf and bassist Randy Palmer, he dubbed the latter “Randy Texas.”  The former, anointed by Hendrix as “Randy California,” later joined his step-father Ed Cassidy to form Spirit.

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The Annals of Epistemology, Vol. 13: Oops…

Dr. John Ioannidis

Much of what medical researchers conclude in their studies is misleading, exaggerated, or flat-out wrong. So why are doctors—to a striking extent—still drawing upon misinformation in their everyday practice? Dr. John Ioannidis has spent his career challenging his peers by exposing their bad science…

Ioannidis laid out a detailed mathematical proof that, assuming modest levels of researcher bias, typically imperfect research techniques, and the well-known tendency to focus on exciting rather than highly plausible theories, researchers will come up with wrong findings most of the time. Simply put, if you’re attracted to ideas that have a good chance of being wrong, and if you’re motivated to prove them right, and if you have a little wiggle room in how you assemble the evidence, you’ll probably succeed in proving wrong theories right. His model predicted, in different fields of medical research, rates of wrongness roughly corresponding to the observed rates at which findings were later convincingly refuted: 80 percent of non-randomized studies (by far the most common type) turn out to be wrong, as do 25 percent of supposedly gold-standard randomized trials, and as much as 10 percent of the platinum-standard large randomized trials. The article spelled out his belief that researchers were frequently manipulating data analyses, chasing career-advancing findings rather than good science, and even using the peer-review process—in which journals ask researchers to help decide which studies to publish—to suppress opposing views. “You can question some of the details of John’s calculations, but it’s hard to argue that the essential ideas aren’t absolutely correct,” says Doug Altman, an Oxford University researcher who directs the Centre for Statistics in Medicine.

From The Atlantic‘s fascinating– and chilling– “Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science

As we seek third and fourth opinions, we might send studious birthday wishes to Elizabeth Cabot Agassiz (née Cary), the naturalist and educator who was the co-founder and first president of Radcliffe College; she was born on this date in 1822.  After the death of her husband, Swiss naturalist Louis Agassiz, with whom she traveled on scientific expeditions, she settled on the idea of college for women in the “Harvard Annex” in Cambridge; in 1894 the Annex became Radcliffe College. She served as its president until 1899, then honorary president until 1903. Her books include A First Lesson in Natural History (1859), and  A Journey in Brazil (1867).

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There *will* always be an England…

From Offbeat Earth:

As both books and classic red phone booths are becoming a thing of the past, a village in Somerset, England has merged the two rare commodities.

The bright red old phone booth was purchased for just 1 pound and remodeled as the smallest library in the world. Residents line up to swap their already read books for new ones left by other patrons. Over 100 books and a variety of movies and music CDs are available at this tiny library.

As we cull our collections, we might recall that, though teaching is known to have been done there since 1096, it was on this date in 1214 that the University of Oxford received its charter (and the head of the University, until then “magister scolarum Oxonie,” became the Chancellor).  The document, delivered buy a Papal Legate to end a dispute between the school and the town, legitimized the institution, provided for the appointment of the Chancellor, and  commanded the town to feast a hundred poor scholars annually.

The Charter (replete with Papal seal)

Source: Oxford University Archives

Happy Father’s Day!

Life begins at 65 (or so)…

Meet Ted Wilson.

I’m an artist, musician and good friend and widower. I started drawing at a young age because my dad did it and I got really good. All the other kids in school always liked my drawings of Dick Tracy and Krazy Kat, so I stuck with it. When I was 15 I got a job as a ghost artist for the syndicated strip “Kingsley Masterson and his Pirateens.” Then, after high school I started my own strip called “Jungle Hustle”. I plan to put some pictures of it up here some time soon.

I gave up being an artist when I met my now deceased wife Rosie because she thought it was childish. Instead, I got a job as an accountant and worked for over 40 years at Rockville Insura-best, Inc. I retired soon after Rosie died because i didn’t need as much money anymore.

Now I’m a musician in a fun band called the Ryan Montbleau Band.

Ted is also a journalist, a reviewer of…  well, everything.

In each week’s edition of The Rumpus (an online zine your correspondent heartily recommends), Ted tackles an aspect of existence…  This week, he gave 3 out of 5 stars to “Forest Fires.”

… There are benefits to forest fires even to those not responsible. For instance, a recently contained forest fire is a great source of freshly cooked meat. Free meat is important in today’s economic climate. Not only can one find all the regular woodland creatures, but there is also the possibility for less legal and culturally unacceptable meats. I like to keep a picnic set in the trunk of my car, ready at a moment’s notice.

On the downside, the loss of all those trees might mean hundreds of pieces of Ikea furniture the world will never be able to assemble and enjoy temporarily before discarding on a sidewalk or giving away through Craigslist to someone else who will eventually discard it on a sidewalk.

It’s also a sad time for people who live near the fire and are forced to evacuate their homes. But at least it causes them to really evaluate what’s important in their lives by reducing their belongings to the essentials. It’s a great way to purge.

While forest fires can be bad, they’re not nearly the dire experiences Smokey the Bear makes them out to be.

Next week he’ll be reviewing Garth Brooks.

And while at The Rumpus, Dear Readers, do check out the resident cartoonists, among them the delightful Lucas Adams

As we look again at the elderly gentleman in the seat next to ours, we might recall that it was on this date in 1829 that the first Boat Race between the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge was rowed. (Oxford won).

The tradition began with two friends: Charles Merivale, a student at Cambridge, and his Harrow schoolfriend Charles Wordsworth (nephew of the poet William Wordsworth), who was at Oxford.  Merivale and Cambridge sent a challenge to Oxford –and so the practice was born which has continued to the present day, by which the loser of the previous year’s race challenges the opposition to a re-match.

The first Boat Race took place at Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire; contemporary newspapers report that a crowd of twenty thousand traveled to watch.  Shortly thereafter, the race was moved to Putney, where it has become an annual tradition.  But the first fixture was such a resounding success that the people of Henley later decided to organize a regatta of their own, the event now known as the Henley Royal Regatta.

The Boat Race

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