February 25, 2009

lazy writing for the digital age

Memo to writers: Beginning any piece of writing with, "Webster's Dictionary defines [my subject] as ...." has long been recognized as poor form. It is just as lazy to begin with, "Typing [my subject] into Google returns [large number of] hits." Especially if your subject can be expressed in a few rather common words.

Memo to users of statistics: Any "online poll" is utterly meaningless, unless it is simply a normal poll that has happened to use a web interface.

Memo to editors: These problems? It's your job to keep them out of print.

February 23, 2009


I don't know where I'll be going to grad school, but now that I know I'll be going I've started focusing on the insignificant details that I actually have some control over. So when we move, we're going to box everything up, stick it in a storage space, go on a road trip for two months, and then I'll come back (by plane if necessary) and either load it on Amtrak (for a cross-country move) or a U-Haul (for an East Coast move).

I swear I have actually called Amtrak to get shipping rates to both places I might end up going. I still don't know when I'm going to choose or how I'll begin to decide between someplace pretty where I'll be happier and have more friends and someplace cold with crazy-awesome professional options, but I know how I'm going to get there.

This is what happens when you have to have control over something. You find the little tiny thing four months out that you can control, and obsess over it instead of the huge giant thing you need to figure out in the next six weeks.

Also? Boy does moving suck.

February 7, 2009

ethical dilemma

Let's suppose, hypothetically, that there's someone who is a public advocate on a particular subject, and is relatively well known for his or her advocacy. You happen to know that this writer/speaker/agency director/political candidate's behavior in his or her private life is dramatically at odds with his or her advocacy positions. We're not talking, "Leaves the lights on in the other room while writing about environmentalism," we're talking, "Owns four Hummers and has trophy heads from endangered species on his or her wall." Or, writes movingly about the importance of preventing child abuse, but has broken his or her own child's arm several times. You have this information, and you are also pretty sure you could contact someone who is integrally involved in facilitating this person's further advocacy, whom you reasonably believe would find this person's private behavior appalling, and whom you also reasonably believe might take steps to alter this person's public role given new information. What is your responsibility? Do you have an obligation to offer that information? To keep your mouth shut and not damage someone else's life? Does it vary depending on the severity of the infraction and the importance of the person's position?

I haven't been able to get a handle on this at all. So any thoughts you have, I'd like to hear.