Archive for September, 2015

Rich as a Rockefeller? Take a Number.

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

According to a September 29, 1916 article in the Chicago Tribune, millionaire John D. Rockefeller became the world’s first billionaire (in US dollars).

Rockefeller was an inspiration – to journalist Ida Tarbell, whose family and entire town was impoverished by Rockefeller’s secret corporate dealings and who later wrote the exposé of the oil trust – to US legislatures and judges, whose antitrust laws Rockefeller circumvented again and again – and later, to art-lovers and philanthropists.

Today there more than 1,800 billionaires, so they’re not that special any more unless you define “special” as “steering the world’s economies, politics, laws, culture, and international relations.”

Together, the worlds’ billionaires are worth only about $7 trillion.

In New York City, that’s hardly enough to fix a parking ticket any more.

Diary of a 21st Century Philosopher #2

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

The Unemployed Philosophers Guild’s Ivory Tower is situated far away from the world of academia, but every once in a while we like to check in with our fellow philosophers who have chosen to spend a life in the philosophical trenches.

Today’s blog post is by a special guest to the PhLog, a University student in the UK who is wrestling with life as a 21st century philosopher. We’ll be checking in with her from time to time as she negotiates being a thinking person in a non-thinking world.

Diary of a 21st Century Philosopher: Advancing in the Field

Being a woman is pretty difficult – for one, our pockets are far too small to fit anything in. Being a female philosopher is no exception (but at least we can carry out a thought experiment where our pockets ARE bigger, and this is a much happier world.) Historically, philosophy was an old boy’s club and so the most famous and successful academics of our time are men. I aim at nothing short of world domination, so it seems to me that in order for my evil plan to come to fruition, something has to change.

When we look at the great minds in philosophy, what do we notice? They all have in common an affinity for argumentation (check – I’ve been labelled ‘argumentative’ by a toddler), a determination to answer fundamental questions about our existence (also check – I’ve always wondered what the point is in earlobes), and the ability to turn a phrase (not to brag, but I did make popular the term ‘cool beanz’). There is only one thing that separates me from the company of the greatest minds of philosophy: a beard.

It is interesting to note that Marx had a beard, and so did Plato, and Nietzsche had some very interesting facial hair. Even if you question whether Nietzsche was a ‘good’ philosopher, you can’t deny that you’ve heard of his moustache. Therefore it is clear to me that if I want to be taken seriously as a philosopher I must, at all costs, grow a beard.

While Plato didn’t strictly prohibit women from becoming Guardians in his Republic, I’m sure he wouldn’t have taken anyone seriously without a friendly face-hugger. It is a well-known fact amongst the nerdier philosophers that a beard adds +10 to your wisdom, and stroking it regularly enhances logical abilities. But if I truly want to be a Master of Philosophy I need to transcend all earthly facial hair and reach that which will give me infinite wisdom: the Form of the Beard.

Jodie Russell is a Philosophy student at the University of Exeter and may or may not be the illegitimate descendant of Bertrand Russell. Her passion for the subject blossomed early in school when she fell “head-over-heels” for David Hume.

There is no “slow” in “slogan” (if it’s for a postal service)

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

As of September 15, 1858, the Butterfield Overland Mail Company was under contract to the U.S. Postal Department for mail delivery on the “Oxbow Route” between St. Louis and San Francisco via Arkansas, Texas, and New Mexico. And to inspire the dedicated riders on this, the father of the Pony Express, was the company motto:

Remember, boys, nothing on God’s earth must stop the United States mail!

It was not a pithy slogan, but the route itself had a pithy lifespan, ending in March of 1861.

Speaking of cogent, no-frills mottos, you really can’t beat the Pony Express:

The mail must go through.

Their motto doesn’t have the lively spirit of that great rallying cry of the circus and the theater:

The show must go on!

However, almost any dull phrase can be goosed by the delivery of a hopeful understudy.

The granddaddy of all mail slogans belongs to the U.S. Postal Service, and it’s a motto everyone knows by heart – for at least four or five words – except that the U.S. Postal Service doesn’t really have a motto! We’re all thinking of the praise Herodotus lavished on Xerxes’ messengers, which is this (in the Macaulay translation):

These neither snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness of night prevents from accomplishing each one the task proposed to him, with the very utmost speed.

However, it’s the George Herbert Palmer translation we all learned – for at least four or five words – and it’s his work inscribed on the James Farley Post Office in New York City:

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

Though lengthier than the Pony Express motto, it packs megatons more drama… as long as you don’t ask whether the couriers’ undergo their heroic journeys to deliver history-altering battle plans or to hand off cable bills and magazine offers from Publishers Clearing House.

Pardons for Everyone!

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

On September 8, 1974, President Gerald Ford granted Richard M. Nixon an unconditional pardon.

Now, therefore, I, Gerald R. Ford, President of the United States, pursuant to the pardon power conferred upon me by Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, have granted and by these presents do grant a full, free, and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from July (January) 20, 1969, through August 9, 1974.

Talk about inspiring.

In the spirit of charity, let’s all take a moment today to forgive somebody in our own workplaces who also may regret “mistakes.” Here are a couple of suggestions:

I hereby have granted and by these presents do grant a pardon unto whoever left the door to the office fridge open for all offenses against my warm egg salad sandwich.

Pursuant to the power conferred upon me as an Entry Level Help Desk Tech, I hereby grant a full, free, and absolute pardon unto the name partner (who shall remain nameless) who called me at home in the evening because they downloaded the Rumpelstiltskin Virus by opening attachments (again), as well as the child of a senior administrator who emailed me the day before a Computer Science final with “a few questions about algorithms, like what are they.”

I grant a full, free, and absolute pardon unto the temp who ate a sesame seed bagel over my keyboard and completely rearranged all my drawers and lost the key to my desk. You’re forgiven and everything, but seriously wtf you were here for one day.

Summer Romance: Signature Drink #4

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

This summer, the UPG PhLog celebrates the Romantic Era with four signature drinks (loosely) inspired by the Romantic.

Our Formulation Salon:

Mistress of Ceremonies – Miriam Leuchter
Celebrated Cognac Cognoscente – Therese McNally
Proponent of Unsettled Weather – Heather Quist
UPG Blog Bon Vivants – Jay and Meg

Our final drink for the summer is inspired by a seminal piece of Romantic Era literature. This butterscotch-flavored drink also owes its name to our low resistance to a good butterscotch pun.


The Young Werther’s


4 parts bourbon
1 part butterscotch schnapps
4-5 generous dashes of bitters
lemon twist
seltzer water or tonic water


The main ingredients.

This drink captures the spirit of Goethe’s novel Sorrows of Young Werther, with its sickly-sweet I-can’t-believe-I-was-that-sappy-when-I-was-young foundation, to which we have added a healthy dose of bitter experience to cut through the cloy.

Start with bourbon. (This is a sound approach to many challenges in life.) A slightly harsher whiskey will more effectively contend with the schnapps. We used a high-rye bourbon for less sweetness.

Add the butterscotch schnapps. You may have qualms, but that is perfectly normal. This is the signature ingredient of The Young Werther’s, athough it is disgusting and even a whiff of it can induce a diabetic shock. Just keep it to one part. Be brave. Carry on.

Go heavy with the bitters. Trust us.

Now shake, pour over ice, add a lemon twist, and top with a dash of seltzer or tonic water.

This drink has magical properties. Mixing the thick butterscotch schnapps with the bourbon makes a trippy lava lamp effect as the liquids dance around each other.


Butterscotch schnapps dancing in rye

As you can tell, we’re not fans of sweet drinks here at the PhLog, but this drink is well balanced, and the undertow of syrupy-sweet is a nice reminder of the mawkish excesses of the Romantic Era.


“You need a flask so you can drink it in your car.” – Heather*

*obviously, this would apply only to Mississippi drivers whose blood alcohol content remains below .08%