Karma Police: The True NBA Lottery Odds

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This one was two big for one post! In part 1 I looked at some of the underlying patterns that seem to affect the outcome of the purportedly unpredictable NBA draft lottery. A billion-dollar industry and the billionaires and future millionaires driving it supposedly have their futures determined by a random drawing of ping-pong balls. If you believe that, you probably think we live in a two-party democracy, and you’re about to pay the deposit on that lovely bridge in Brooklyn you saw listed on Craigslist. Part 1 also spelled out the cases for and against the teams with the worst odds of winning the first pick. Part 2 examined the karmic cases for and against the top ten hopefuls.

When Plagiarists Keep It Real

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This week, at both colleges where I teach, someone posted flyers advertising for a paper-writing service. They marketed themselves as a “current Master’s student.” I was struck by the seeming audacity and doublethink of this. So I called the ad, pretended to be a student, and set up a meeting. I wanted to find out how someone in academia came to the conclusion that writing papers for others is kosher. I also wanted to hear from students about their feelings regarding plagiarism. Check it the story over at the Stony Brook Writing & Rhetoric blog.

Book Review: The Zone of Interest

amis Prick of the Spindle published my review of the latest novel by Martin Amis, The Zone of Interest. A bit from it:

The Zone of Interest alternates between three points of view: Obersturmführer Angelus “Golo” Thomsen, a womanizing mid-level Nazi whose status is due exclusively to his relation to an elite-ranking uncle; Paul Doll, a Nazi who oversees the arrival and ultimate fates of Auschwitz’s doomed arrivals while his wife and children grow apart from him; and Sonderkommandoführer Szmul, a Polish Jew whose life has been temporarily spared in exchange for his complicity in deceiving arriving Jews as to their fate and for pillaging and disposing of the bodies afterward.

Thomsen’s philandering is legendary and relentless, until he finally finds a woman he has feelings for—Hannah, Doll’s wife. At first, the attraction seems nothing more than carnal and fleeting; as Borges wrote, “There are those who seek the love of a woman to forget her.” But Thomsen possesses a complexity that reveals itself over the course of the story: a linear lothario early on, it’s soon clear there is hidden depth and breadth to his character. In some ways, he parallels Szmul: both men go along with the monstrous machinery of the camp because it is the only way they see to survive it. Thomsen remarks, “We went along. We went along with, doing all we could to drag our feet…but we went along. There were hundreds of thousands like us, maybe millions like us.” Like many of those millions, Thomsen ends up somewhere very far away from where and who he is.