contraceptive branding

Another gem from Crooked Timber, written by Belle Waring:

What do you think of when you hear the word “Trojan”? Possibly, you think of the heartbreaking scene of farewell between Hector and Andromache, when little Astyanax is frightened by the nodding plumes of Hector’s helmet. But probably not. Probably, you think: Trojan horse. So consider the context. There’s this big…item outside your walled citadel, and you are unsure whether to let it inside. After hearing the pros and cons (and seeing some people eaten by snakes), you open the gates and drag the big old thing inside. Then, you get drunk. At the height of the party, hundreds of little guys come spilling out of the thing and sow destruction, breaking “Troy’s hallowed coronal”, as they say. Is this, all things considered, the ideal story for condom manufacturers to evoke? Just asking.

I suppose I hadn’t really thought of it before. It might make one rethink one’s brand loyalties. Then again, what do “kimono,” “rough rider” and “lifestyles” suggest?

academic blogging

One idea I’ve been batting around is to make a blog on information theory — an academic blog where there is discussion and posts of interest to the IT community, reviews of books, papers, and so on. It lacks a vision now, and the more I think about it, the less useful it seems.

In areas like economics, cultural criticism, literary/media studies, and journalism, academic blogging has found a good niche. John Holbo at Crooked Timber has two good posts on literary studies, and Wally has his essays on seriality and narrative. The strongest selling point is that blogging allows a sort of public hearing on a draft of new ideas without the formality of a graduate seminar or conference. It can enhance dialogue, which is good when you are trying to work out new ideas. These blogs deal with issues of interpretation.
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probability surveys

The professor for my Statistics class this year, David Aldous, is the editor of a new open-access journal called Probability Surveys. It highlights another problem in corporate journal publishing. Tutorial articles are often invited papers at the editor’s discretion or for special issues. This journal will be full of survey articles, and treads the line between those collections of research monographs and more bleeding-edge research journals. It’s not a profitable area for publication, because survey articles serve graduate students and intersted outsiders, and therefore do not lead to subscriptions, which is what commercial journals rely upon.

Of course, it’s not off the ground yet, but I’m pretty excited. I’m usually willing to spend an hour reading up on some subject I know very little about, especially if it’s an expository article.