March 15th, 2006


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Beware the Ides of March!

It's been a couple of years since I posted this, so I figure it's time to bring it off the bench for the benefit of people who missed it last time. That's me in the center of the photo, which was taken in the spring of 1989 or 1990. The full story can be found here, but the short version is that when I took Latin in college, I played the part of a candidate for election to the Roman Senate for a class project, and was therefore required from time to time to wear a toga in public.

Just in case you've forgotten the story:

The following story, too, is told by many. A certain seer warned Caesar to be on his guard against a great peril on the day of the month of March which the Romans call the Ides; and when the day had come and Caesar was on his way to the senate-house, he greeted the seer with a jest and said: "Well, the Ides of March are come," and the seer said to him softly: "Ay, they are come, but they are not gone." (Plutarch, Life of Caesar 63:5-6)

Suetonius tells the same story in The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, and of course Shakespeare dramatized the warning in Act I, scene ii of Julius Caesar. And of course, the warning came true, as Caesar was assassinated on ides (i.e. the 15th day) of March. Not that I'm telling you anything you didn't already know.



allthatjazmyne, whose math-fu is stronger than mine, noticed that one of the so-called prime numbers I included in yesterday's list was divisible by two and asked, not unreasonably, "How is 4,545,454 a prime number?" Having investigated the matter, I have determined that 4,545,454 is indeed evenly divisible by two and is therefore not prime. I blame the Wikipedia editor at, who on March 3 edited the list of safe primes to include the non-prime. I've fixed the mistake, both on Wikipedia and in my list.

How college kids did more than their government to stop a genocide

Student Aid
by Jason Zengerle

Late last summer, Sam Bell set out to acquire an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). It was an unusual shopping expedition for a private citizen, much less a 22-year-old only a few months removed from his political science and philosophy studies at Swarthmore College. But, ever since graduation, and even while in school, Bell had been working to do what the U.S. government and the United Nations had so far failed to: stop the genocide in Darfur. He believed a UAV might help that goal, and so, one September afternoon, he put on his one-and-only suit and paid a visit to the Washington, D.C., offices of an aviation contractor called Evergreen International.

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Copyright 2006, The New Republic
10-T, 10-C

Ten random things: March 15

Ten quotations about Shakespeare:

  1. "He was the man who of all modern, and perhaps ancient poets, had the largest and most comprehensive soul.… He was naturally learned; he needed not the spectacles of books to read nature; he looked inwards, and found her there." — John Dryden
  2. "In his tragic scenes there is always something wanting." — Samuel Johnson
  3. "After all, all he did was string together a lot of old, well-known quotations." — H. L. Mencken
  4. "If the public likes you, you're good. Shakespeare was a common down-to-earth writer in his day." — Mickey Spillane
  5. "I am more easily bored with Shakespeare and have suffered more ghastly evenings with him than with any other dramatist I know." — Peter Brook
  6. "Asking if Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare's works is about as real as asking, "Is Elvis dead?" — Gary Taylor
  7. "Interest in Shakespeare among teenagers the world over is so astounding that Shakespeare already forms a part of the global canon." — Alice Boyne, The English-Speaking Union
  8. "Shakespeare is a drunken savage with some imagination whose plays can please only in London and Canada." — Voltaire
  9. "What would we not give for a single personal letter, one page of a diary!" &mdash Sam Schoenbaum
  10. "I believe he was a genius." — Mel Gibson

I say, thank God we have Mel Gibson to give voice to opinions that might otherwise be overlooked.