Links for 2010-08-19

  • “As a white male Baptist, it is my duty today to denounce the violence perpetrated by Patrick Gray Sharp, 29, who yesterday attacked the police headquarters in McKinney, Texas, in a heavily armed but ineffectual assault involving a high-powered rifle, road flares, “gasoline and ammonium nitrate fertilizer.”

    I understand that this denunciation must be swift and unambiguous and that, in the absence of such denunciations made by and on behalf of every and all white male Baptists, others are entitled to assume that every white male Baptist is fully in agreement with the actions of Patrick Gray Sharp and to therefore deny white male Baptists the rights others enjoy.”

  • “If ten people are talking about urban fantasy, they’ll actually be talking 
about six different things. When I first started paying attention to things 
like sub-genre definitions (early 1990’s), the term urban fantasy usually 
labeled stories in a contemporary setting with traditionally fantastical 
elements–the modern folktale works of Charles de Lint, Emma Bull’s punk 
elf stories, the Bordertown series, and so on.

    But the term is older than 
that, and I’ve also heard it used to describe traditional other-world 
fantasy set in a city, such as Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar stories. Vampire 
fiction (the books of Anne Rice, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and P.N. Elrod for 
example) was its own separate thing.

    Lately I’ve been wondering–when did “urban fantasy” come to be used 
almost exclusively to describe anything remotely following in the footsteps 
of Buffy and Anita?”

  • “After a few years of watching the academic job market collapse into a seeming death spiral, I also started to wonder whether my “full disclosure” strategy of trying to scare off prospective graduate students was adequate. I started to entertain the possibility that if the problem was too many qualified applicants for too few jobs, then perhaps the responsible – even ethical – course of action would be for me to stop contributing to the oversupply of applicants.

    So, a few weeks ago I revised my departmental web page to include the following statement: “Notice to prospective graduate students: I will not be accepting new students in my lab for the indefinite future.””

  • “The oppressed conservative student is a regular theme in the right’s critique of higher education. You know the stories — mocked for displaying the American flag or a Ronald Reagan bust, shouted down for suggesting that that Iraq war is just, always in fear of earning a low grade for criticizing affirmative action or some other widely held belief among the left-leaning campus majority.

    Research presented here Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association affirmed that many conservative students feel that way, but also that many do not — and that the latter group in fact thrive on the very campuses that tend to be portrayed as hostile to them. “

  • “Which begs this question: what is the core audience of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World? Well, when I saw it this weekend, the members of the audience were mostly under 30 and (visually) equally distributed between stereotypical nerds and stereotypical hipsters. There were enough snarky T-shirts and chunky black-frame glasses to fill a coffee shop next to an Apple store.

    But only enough of them to fill that one coffee shop — and this is the problem, commercially speaking. Nerds and hipsters love what they love, and, while they love it, they love it with the white-hot intensity of a thousand obsessive-compulsive suns (and when they stop loving it, they hate you for still loving it — but that’s another column entirely). But hipsters and nerds — and the occasional hipster nerds — aren’t in themselves a big enough audience to move the box-office needle any appreciable distance.”


  1. #1 Jeff
    August 19, 2010

    There’s something to be said for tight control of graduate trainee numbers. Medicine has been doing that for over fifty years — although the driving factor was, in large part, cost.

    The Federal Government — and ultimately, the taxypayer — pays for the residency training of all physicians, so it makes no sense for the government to pay for the training of more surgeons or more oncologists than America needs. Further, each trainee physician needs to see or do X number of cases to become proficient at their specialty, and again, it serves no one to have too many trainee specialists chasing too few cases. For both reasons, the number of residents training per year has been tightly controlled for decades, held to a number roughly projected against need; a process administered by the federal Council on Graduate Medical Education (COGME). Which incidentally means that, generally, physician trainees, especially specialists, have an easier time finding jobs. After all, they only trained as many as they predicted would be necessary.

    The process isn’t perfect, of course. As you might imagine, the powers that be, driven to try to make sure money isn’t wasted on specialists that aren’t needed, tend to *underestimate* demand, leading to widespread chronic shortages. Working against that are long-term trends — like the rise of nurse practitioners / physician assistants — which throw into serious doubt assumptions regarding the number of *primary* care physicians needed (who also get residency training).

    And finally, medicine has the unusual characteristic of being able to statistically predict future demand to a far greater degree than any other field. After all, you can make reasonable inferences regarding the frequency per year of cancer in children, or the number of heart attacks in adults. You can also count on nearly 100% conversion of potential customers to actual customers. I mean, it’s not like someone who discovers they have cancer is *not* going to seek the services of an oncologist. You can make some reasonable assumptions about the number of oncologists America will need that are not as possible for, say, social psychologists.

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