Elsevier buckles

by John Q on June 6, 2007

Over at the RSMG blog, Nanni points out that Reed Elsevier will no longer host arms fairs. This has followed a long campaign by academics and others. The case raised a bunch of questions about boycotts. My general feeling was that moral suasion should be tried first, but that if that failed, boycotts should follow. It’s not clear whether the outcome was purely the product of suasion or whether increasingly loud noises about possible boycotts prompted Elsevier to move.

Citation Practices

by Brian on June 6, 2007

In a recent “post about citing papers on the web”:http://metaphysicalvalues.blogspot.com/2007/06/ethics-of-citation.html, Ross Cameron drew the following conclusion.

bq. I’m tempted to think that if you put a paper up on the web, that’s to put it in the public domain, and it’s no more appropriate to place a citation restriction on such a paper than it is on a paper published in a print journal. I’m even tempted to think that conference presentations can be freely cited; i.e.that I shouldn’t have to seek Xs permission to refer in one of my papers to the presentation X gave.

The particular issue here is what to do about papers that the author posts and says at the top “Please don’t quote or cite”. (You occasionally see ‘don’t circulate’ as well, which is a little odd.) I’m not sure how common these notes are outside philosophy, but they are pretty common on philosophy papers posted on people’s websites. Now on the one hand, there is something to be said for following people’s requests like this.

On the other hand, as Ross notes, the requests can lead to annoying situation. One kind of case is where the reader notices an important generalisation of the paper’s argument. Another case is where the conclusion of the paper supplies the missing premise in an interesting argument the reader is developing. Either way, the reader is in a bit of a bind.

I think the main thing to say about these situations is that writers shouldn’t put such requests on their papers.

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Privacy and Slippery Slopes

by Brian on June 6, 2007

Ever since Google’s street view service was debuted there have been “many discussions over its privacy implications”:http://www.google.com/search?q=%22Google+Street+View%22+privacy&hl=en&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&hs=G0c&pwst=1&start=90&sa=N. I’ve found most of these fairly overblown, but this morning I started to get a better sense of what some of the concerns might be about. Writing on the SMH’s news blog, Matthew Moore “writes”:http://blogs.smh.com.au/newsblog/archives/freedom_of_information/013696.html approvingly,

bq. Mr McKinnon reckons you can hardly have a reasonable expectation of privacy on a public street when every second person has a video camera or mobile phone and when Google is now using street-level maps with images of real people who have no idea they have been photographed.

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Congratulations Language Log

by Brian on June 6, 2007

“This”:http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/004576.html is a nice story. The latest issue of Southwest Airlines’ inflight magazine features some “recommended diversions”:http://spiritmag.com/clickthis/8.php. They include the usual summer books, movies and music, and a plug for “Language Log”:http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/ as blog reading. Academic blogs have come a long way if they’re being recommended in inflight magazines. Now we only have to get them to be promoting other academic blogs the same way.

I’ve been seeing a lot of references to Language Log around the web recently, particularly to their prescriptivist-bashing posts. I particularly liked this attack on the “alleged rules for using less and fewer”:http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/, complete with examples from King Alfred’s Latin translations. It’s an example of how academic blogs can make an impact on public life not by dumbing down their work, or by stretching to find alleged applications, but simply by setting out their work in a clear and accessible way. Or, to bring things back to a favourite theme of mine, of why academics should get credit for successful blogs not necessarily as examples of research, but as examples of service to the community. Now giving people diversions alongside summer blockbusters isn’t quite the same kind of service as solving their medical or social problems, but it is a service, and a praiseworthy one.

I read the other day that a recent Gallup poll found that about 83 percent of Americans felt interracial dating was OK, and I believe this was a new high-water mark for this view. There was a degree of understandable concern about the remaining 17 percent, but (some people said) it’s only been forty years since _Loving vs Virginia_. And, as it turns out, it could be worse. The idea that the Earth orbits the Sun has had rather longer to catch on, but my colleague Omar Lizardo over at OrgTheory brings us new data from this year’s General Social Survey on the popularity of _that_ idea. It turns out that almost three quarters of Americans now subscribe to the Galilean view. Click through to Omar’s post for data on the percentage of Heliocentric-Positive Americans who think the Earth takes a year to orbit the sun, as opposed to a day, a month, or some other time period.

Irresistible Revolution

by Harry on June 6, 2007

One of my students, herself surprised to discover the left-wing of Christianity, lent me Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution to find out what I thought. I read it on a flight into Philadelphia, for a short stay in which I knew every minute of my time was booked, and became increasingly frustrated that I couldn’t take some time out to go and visit the Simple Way community, just to tell them how much I liked the book. And, although I know that it is impractical to demand as much of most people as Shane Claiborne and his community demand of themselves, and that there is a place for many different roles in the world, the book was deeply humbling, at least for me at this stage in my life.

It’s so hard to write about the book mainly because it is not written for me or, I guess, for most CT readers. Claiborne is not bringing us atheists the good news about Christ, but bringing the not-so-good news about what Christianity demands to his fellow Christians. I’ve looked all over the place at blog posts and reviews, and almost all are by Christians (and, interestingly, almost all are positive)

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Spam Again

by Kieran Healy on June 6, 2007

Remember that weird spam we were recurrently getting in our index.php file? I spent several days looking for the source of it, to no avail. Turns out that our host, DreamHost, had been hacked and several thousand account passwords obtained. These were used — in our case I guess more than once, but details are still extremely hard to find — to access the index files of many sites. DreamHost have apparently sent out a letter to affected customers, but we were affected and haven’t heard a word, and as yet there’s nothing on their website, either. Here’s another person who was affected. All very frustrating. We’ve changed our shell passwords and all that, so I suppose we’ll just wait for some details and an explanation from DreamHost.

_Update_: I wrote to DH techsupport this morning, and just received a response. They say, in part:

bq. We had not sent out the emails regarding dedicated machines yet, as we
were performing additional research. Those emails will be going out very
shortly. I do apologize for the delay, and discovering this on another
blog. To secure your account you will need to change your FTP password. The
logins that we were noticing tended to be automated, and frequently would
overwrite the same files repeatedly. While perhaps not comforting, this
does mean that they generally weren’t looking for personally identifiable
information or uploading other hacking scripts that could serve nefarious
purposes. … Again we are very sorry for the trouble this may
have caused; the email will be going out shortly.

So if they were aware that users with dedicated as well as shared servers were affected, maybe they’re weren’t undercounting the number of people hit by this. But if so then it wasn’t really true when they said all affected customers had been notified.

Dick Vosburgh is dead

by Harry on June 6, 2007

I heard via Desmond Carrington that Dick Vosburgh died several weeks ago. He wrote for…well, just about everyone, even, it turns out, John Cleese. In recent years his voice has become familiar to listeners to all those cheap documentaries about the Comedy Greats that Radios 2 and 4 put out. There’s a nice obit in the Independent here. I liked these bits:

Only occasionally did Vosburgh perform himself. “I was cast in a TV series,” he said in a 1960s interview, “as an obnoxious comedian, very vulgar and unfunny. That was OK until I saw the cast list. It said ” Dick Vosburgh as himself”.


Dick was the warmest and most generous of men, but occasionally there would be someone who was difficult to work with – [the notoriously difficult and ungenerous — HB] Arthur Askey for instance. If you told Dick later that you were going to be working with such a person again, he would say, “Be sure to give them my loathe.”


by Henry Farrell on June 6, 2007

A review of Ian McDonald’s new novel _Brasyl_ (“Powells”:http://www.powells.com/s?kw=Ian%20McDonald%20Brasyl&PID=29956, “Amazon”:http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1591025435?ie=UTF8&tag=henryfarrell-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1591025435 ,first 48 pages available “here”:http://www.pyrsf.com/chapters/Brasyl/Brasyl.htm), as a taster for a longer essay which will appear sooner or later (more on that anon). I’ve written “briefly”:https://crookedtimber.org/2005/03/28/hugo-nominees/ about McDonald’s previous book on India, _River of Gods_. As I said of that book:

McDonald has been engaged in a very interesting effort over the last ten years to re-imagine science fiction from the perspective of the developing rather than the developed world,… I’m not sure whether the book is (or even tries to be) authentic in any strong sense of the word (I’d be fascinated to hear the opinion of anyone who’s from India and has read it), but it’s exciting, thought-provoking, and (once you come to grips with the many viewpoints that McDonald uses), very entertaining.

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Sounds uncomfortable

by John Holbo on June 6, 2007

Bush has gone wrong by steering too close to Crunchy Condom

Taken in isolation, a suggestive phrase. From this portion of Ross Douthat’s exchange with Jonah Goldberg.

I was going to venture more substantive critique, but I have to go to dinner. Perhaps more to follow later. (Goldberg’s follow-up. Douthat’s response.)


by John Holbo on June 6, 2007

Our Harry writes:

We had a scare last year; our eldest was warned that she might need very expensive orthodontistry in order to be able to be a fully-paid up participant in the ideology of perfect teeth.

It seems to me that the answer to this problem is to combine it with themes we have seen of late. Heterodontics will be like heterodox economics (heteronomics, if you don’t mind thorough butchery of etymology), but about your teeth. Then, if things get really bad, just go to a freakodontist. (Since poor dental care is a problem in America, as Harry points out, maybe you could get some right-wing thinktank money to sponsor a study of the surprising value, to the poor, of freakodontics.)

World’s Greatest Shave update

by John Q on June 6, 2007

I’ve just returned from a thankyou event held by the Leukaemia Foundation of Queensland for participants in the World’s Greatest Shave, for which my son and I shaved our beards (here’s the result, and many readers of CT and my blog gave generous donations. Together we raised over $6000, which was in the top ten efforts for the entire state.

The thankyou event was both interesting (I’ve never seen so many women with the identical haircut in one place) and inspirational (talks from leukaemia patients, family members and fundraisers really brought home how much this effort means). The $3.6 million raised this year has enabled the Foundation to clear the debt on this new accommodation facility for families of leukemia patients. This is a huge boon. Thanks again to everyone who contributed.