26 January 2011

Steady-State-Hypothesis Link Sausages

Several tasty link sausages leading up to indigestible bites of the State of The Onion link sausage:

  • In a shocking — I say shocking — development that discloses the iniquity of Writer's Digest for all to see, WD has announced a "partnership" with dubious, deceptive vanity press Author Solutions to create a "self-publishing solution" for readers of the magazine. If you needed any more proof that the ownership of WD (and, for that matter, its editorial staff) cares not about actually helping its readership, this is it. There are so many conflicts of interest inherent in this little deal that I cannot even begin to unwind them all — and that's before dealing with the particular nature of WD's "partner."

    Perhaps, though, this merely demonstrates two markers for literary scams. This first, and perhaps most obvious (given recent history), is a location within twenty-five miles of Bloomington, Indiana. It's not just Author Solutions (formerly Author House) and Bookman/Jones Harvest/Brien Jones, either; even the purportedly reformed refugees seem to have no clue on actually helping authors. The second, more sarcastically, is the use of the management-speak term "solutions" in relation to anything about publishing... and for this, a quick check of my own files seems to confirm that it's pretty uniformly a marker for — at minimum — services/products that will take an author's money without reliably benefitting the author's craft or income. Thus, if an author notes either of these markers when doing due diligence — you do some background investigation before giving up your money, right? — he/she should run away; there will be plenty of alternatives.

  • Being a scientist is as much about attitude and observation as it is training; consider Vladimir Nabokov's contribution to lepidopterology.
  • How ironic, in a sense, that so much of Obama's address was devoted to economic and quasieconomic concerns the day before the World Private HegemonicEconomic Summit opens in Davos. And how convenient for the participants to visit their numbered Swiss bank accounts in town while they're there.
  • Finally on this platter, the State of The Onion (which would have been much more entertaining than was the actual speech).

    • The President gave a lot of attention to broad-minded efforts to pump up education without noting the main problem with education: the lack of rigor in undergraduate education degrees. Perhaps the first step, then, should be a mandatory demotion of the education "degree" to a minor, and not a major, with a required Latinate/engineering major. After all, it's unlikely that those who have had no rigor in step two of their education will be successful in instilling rigor in step one — and the constant refrain that we're hearing these days is that high-school graduates aren't ready to do anything, but require considerable additional training.

      But then, I'd like to see a lot more National Merit Scholars in the classroom; the few that go into teaching eventually end up in administration, almost universally — and virtually never end up teaching in the area of their undergraduate education, if that area is not education itself. What are we telling our kids about teaching as a career when it's the mediocre students who end up as teachers?

    • It's all well and good to talk about "bipartisanship" in a speech before a partisan institution, but that presupposes that the party labels are themselves meaningful — and at no time since the voting and debate over the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act in 1962 through 1964 have the party labels been less predictive of any individual member's views (or amenability to compromise). Just consider the difference between the two Republican Senators from Maine and the most-junior Republican member of the House from Tennessee... and I don't just mean gender, either.
    • Government isn't about being efficient. Government is about being effective. When government is ineffective, it is also inefficient... but trying to "fix" efficiency gets the problem backward. As a specific criticism, it's not the "costliness" of regulations that should be at issue, but whether the regulations result in the behavior change they are supposed to cause. If the regulations don't result in that change, there is nothing that can be done to make them "efficient" — just laying off the staff that is supposed to enforce them doesn't do anything. In political science, this is the backward mapping problem (PDF); military officers know it as the principle don't give an order that you know will not be obeyed.
    • Obama missed a major opportunity to point out a side benefit of health-care reform: Over time, it will by itself operate as malpractice reform, as those who believe they were harmed by medical malpractice will no longer need a big payday just to pay for continuing medical care. Instead, he bowed to the pressure of those who would use outliers to shape policy... and, for that matter, to those who continue to reject national regulation of lawyers.
    • Anybody who doesn't view Obama as a centrist after actually reading/listening to the speech defines anyone to their own left as a commie/socialist liberal — in other words, rejects the celebration of dissent embedded in the Constitution... or is a member of the Mad Tea Party, which is roughly the same thing but even more intellectually dishonest.