Annals of Rationality vol MCMLXXVII

by Kieran Healy on November 27, 2006

Via “Jeremy Freese”:http://jeremyfreese.blogspot.com/2006/11/why-get-help-when-you-can-help-science.html, a poster for a Mass General Hospital study. As Jeremy says,

Do you have not one, but two separate problems that are associated with making bad decisions? If so, why don’t you choose to have a 50% chance of forgoing treatment for both for three months, in exchange for _$600_?… Don’t worry: you can rest assured you’ll be in the most capable, professional hands — just look at the quality of our graphic design! Yes, that’s a picture of a human brain we got off the web, with a martini glass superimposed on top of it. And, see, there’s a photo of an anguished woman, just below a photo of a cartoon man so excited he’s raising his arms with glee.

This reminds me of one of my favorite books, encountered during research for Last Best Gifts: Ed Brassard’s Body For Sale: An Inside Look At Medical Research, Drug Testing, And Organ Transplants And How You Can Profit From Them. This is a how-to guide for selling the renewable and non-renewable bits of yourself and also for getting accepted into paying clinical trials of all kinds.

Comments problems

by Henry on November 27, 2006

A few people have emailed me in the last few weeks saying that they’ve been unable to comment here (or, more precisely, that they have been commenting here and that their comments have been disappearing into the ether). If you’ve been having this problem, well … don’t comment here obviously, but email me with info about what has been happening, what your browser version is, what your internet service is, IP address if you have a fixed one, and anything else that might be helpful. If anyone has any idea what might be going on (we’re using WordPress 2.0.4) feel free to let me know either in comments or by email.

The Fry Who Loved Me

by Henry on November 27, 2006

I’m writing this post in part to recommend Charles Stross’s _The Jennifer Morgue_ (publisher, Powells, Amazon, As Brad DeLong says, if you’re into Cthulhu mythos, operating system humour, spy novels and parodies of bureaucracy, this is the novel for you. But mostly, I’m writing it to perpetrate the pun in the title, which in addition to being atrocious is also almost certainly incomprehensible to anyone who hasn’t read the book already. But it could have been worse … [worser]Goldfingerling? Branzino Royale? Flounderball?[/worser] _Much_ worse.

Peter Fryer is dead.

by Harry on November 27, 2006

Sorry, I’m nearly a month late, but better late than never to have mourned his passing. A lovely Guardian obit here. A couple of nice letters here. Full text of Hungarian Tragedy here. I note that Chris Brooke has not yet added him to the DSW. A further note for Oxford-connected people — this Peter Fryer is no relation to the Pete Fryer who works for Unison (nor, interestingly, the late Bobby Fryer of Bobby Fryer Close. The Healyites just had lots of Fryers, I guess).

The end for endnotes?

by John Quiggin on November 27, 2006

I’ve been reading Karen Cerulo’s Never saw it coming and while it’s generally pretty good, it contains what I assumed was a howler of a mistake, but turns out to be a gross misjudgement. Cerulo argues that the generally optimistic view taken by Americans does not extend to deviant groups, and uses as an example, the Heaven’s Gate cult which, as she states believed that they would be removed from the Earth by a spaceship following the comet Hale-Bopp, their true home’. As she says, most reporting of the group treated it as the epitome of the lunatic fringe. I assumed that Cerulo was somehow unaware of the fact that all the members of the group had committed suicide in an attempt to ensure that the spaceship didn’t miss them. I looked at the endnotes to check the dates on some of the cited media reports and discovered a note reading

144. Henry 1997, 4. Readers may recall in order to hasten their arrival in heaven, all thirty-nine members of the group engaged in a mass suicide

which to my mind justifies the lunatic fringe description. In any case, surely this point was important enough to include in the main text, or a footnote on the same page.

While I’m on this subject, is there any excuse for persevering with endnotes in books*? They’re just about useless, (those that don’t give something worse than useless like “ibid” or “loc cit”). If the material is of too little interest to be included in the main text or in footnotes, and can’t be omitted altogether for reasons of academic nicety, couldn’t it be placed in a supporting website?

* Footnote/endnote: A bit more discussion of this at Andrew Norton’s blog (thanks to Damien Eldridge for locating this for me)