20 October 2010

Midweek Link Sausages

Even more so than usual, you really don't want to know how these link sausages were made. Or where I got the ingredients.

  • Even among college students, e-books are not making printed books obsolete. The irony, though, is that publishers are going to use reduced print runs as a rather pathetic excuse to keep raising prices far, far beyond the rate of either inflation or printing-cost changes (and have you ever noticed that textbook prices don't go down when paper prices do?).

    In the best of all possible worlds, this would encourage instructors to take a much closer look at the value of the materials they are assigning as "required" textbooks, particularly in 100- and 200-level lecture courses that have a strong tendency to go over the textbook material in a lockstep manner. It will also hopefully lead to unbundling of problem sets from the books in mathematics and the sciences — a part of the book on which an inordinate amount of time, and an inordinate proportion of errors, get expended by the publishers, only to be made irrelevant by the instructor's own problem sets and exams that seldom resemble what is in the book. (And yes, I have edited such books and their ancillaries.) Similarly, publisher influence on academic library acquisitions doesn't help, either.

  • The electronic-forms-are-killing-print argument is no more valid for newspapers than it is for textbooks. Or, for that matter, for material for dedicated e-book readers, no matter what USA Today might otherwise imply with a misleading graphic not founded on verifiable, replicable data (but this time substituted an unacknowledged advertisement).
  • One of my pet peeves is misuse of statistical analysis as somehow being independent of the sources of the statistics. Exhibit A: "Empirical" Legal Scholarship. There is some valuable work being done under this rubric... but it is not empirical. An empirical study requires real-time observation of the data; a retrospective analysis of data presented to (as opposed to gathered by) the analyst is, instead, epidemiological, which in turn requires the use of slightly different mathematical tools as a check on validity, not to mention fairly searching examination of the data sources. This probably makes less difference for studies of judicial behavior than for studies of litigant or jury behavior, because for judges there are built-in validity and continuity tools, plus sufficient external restraints, to substitute for at least some of that mathematical analysis. The next time I see someone title an article with both "empirical" and "jury" in it, though, I'm going to go stochastic.
  • So Tea Party nutcase Virginia Thomas wants Anita Hill to "apologize" for testifying against Justice Thomas at his confirmation hearing. Perhaps Ms Thomas should consider offering an apology for the character assassination of Anita Hill by Ms Thomas's cronies first? At least there's a perception/room to differ issue on Professor Hill's own testimony; there isn't on the hatchet job from the right. n.b. I'm not going into the even-more-Alice-in-Wonderlandish cliché of the "pot calling the kettle black" for a number of reasons here... the most obvious being the race of two of the three individuals involved, and my pale skin creates "authenticity problems" for the undiscerning observer.