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December 9, 2011 / Jake Seliger

December 2011 Links: Paypal’s bogusness, Ribbed Tees, literary friendships, literary “research,” Alex Tabarrok’s new book, and more

* Do not ever use Paypal; this story from someone who gets their accounts frozen is standard. I had a nasty experience with Paypal that guarantees I will never, ever use them again, and I can tell you from experience that their legal department is just as jerky and condescending as their dispute resolution department, which is described at the link.

* Ribbed Tee makes ludicrously expensive but equally ludicrously nice shirts; the large “MicroModal” shirts actually fit me, which is astonishing. They’re also offering 50% off for people who send in old Hanes or Fruit of the Loom shirts, which is a pretty sweet deal, as well as an effective way of getting people like me to write about it.

* Cultivate literary friendships. I do this but it’s seldom easy, especially when it comes to separating the posers from the authentic.

* The Research Bust:

[A]fter four decades of mountainous publication, literary studies has reached a saturation point, the cascade of research having exhausted most of the subfields and overwhelmed the capacity of individuals to absorb the annual output. Who can read all of the 80 items of scholarship that are published on George Eliot each year? After 5,000 studies of Melville since 1960, what can the 5,001st say that will have anything but a microscopic audience of interested readers?

* There’s a daft NYT discussion that asks, “Why Does the SAT Endure? It then narrows: “If [. . .] the test can be gamed, why are the scores still so meaningful to college admissions officials, and does the SAT put students who can’t afford to take prep classes at a disadvantage?” The answer should be obvious but no one gives it: colleges need some measuring device independent of schools and teachers. Otherwise they have no way whatsoever of knowing whether a 3.5 GPA from one school has any real relationship to a 3.5 from another.

I agree with many of the criticisms of the SAT that are floating around, but they don’t really matter because the SAT (or some SAT-like device) is still necessary if colleges are going to have any means of evaluating very heterogenous school experiences. Anyone who fails to appreciate that need shouldn’t be given space to bloviate.

* “The End of Stagnation and the Coming Innovation Boom;” especially note this:

Our ancestors were bold and industrious, they built a significant part of our transportation and energy infrastructure more than half a century ago. It would be impossible to build that same infrastructure today. Could we build the Hoover Dam? We have the technology, of course, but do we have the will? In building infrastructure many interest groups can say no and nearly no one can say yes. We are beset by a swarm of veto players. Time, however, is running out. We cannot rely on the infrastructure of our past to travel to our future.

I’ve seen this especially in watching Seattle attempt to build a light-rail system to alleviate its atrocious traffic problems. The number of lawsuits and amount of bullshit is staggering, so it’s taken the city and other players literally decades to get anything done.

Bill Gates and TerraPower are apparently trying to build a very low-cost, high-safety nuclear reactor in China; it’s pretty easy to imagine why they didn’t choose to do in the United States: NIMBies, lawsuits, scaremongering, people with veto power; the list goes on. .

* I think this, from Jeffrey Goldberg, is basically true:

I think we’re only a few years away, at most, from a total South-Africanization of this issue. And if Israelis believe that the vast majority of American Jews — their most important supporters in the entire world — are going to sit idly by and watch Israel permanently disenfranchise a permanently-occupied minority population, they’re deluding themselves. A non-democratic Israel will not survive in this world. It’s an impossibility. So Israel has a choice — find a way to reverse the settlement process and bring about the conditions necessary to see the birth of a Palestinian state (I’m for unilateral closure of settlements but the military occupation’s end will have to be negotiated with the Palestinians) or simply grant the Palestinians on the West Bank the right to vote in Israeli elections.

(Hat tip Megan McArdle.)

* The brutal logic of climate change, an important and likely-to-be-ignored post.

* Unsurprising: Alabama Can’t Find Anyone to Fill Illegal Immigrants’ Old Jobs.

7 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Kirsten Mortensen / Dec 10 2011 6:20 am

    You have a typo in your Ribbed Tee paragraph.

    I’m sure they’re very nice however :-)

    • Jake Seliger / Dec 10 2011 9:22 am

      Do I? I think I’m missing it.

      • ficedula / Dec 11 2011 2:38 am

        Apparently Ribbed Tee makes ludicrously expensive (but nice) excrement. Perhaps slightly less appealing than intended ;)

      • Jake Seliger / Dec 11 2011 10:19 am

        Seriously! And spell-check doesn’t find that, either. Fixed, obviously. Thanks.

  2. Jason Fisher / Dec 12 2011 12:32 pm

    I also had a nasty experience with PayPal, and I haven’t used them since.

  3. Robert Nagle / Dec 17 2011 11:02 pm

    I’ve heard complaints about paypal over the years (mainly related to security), and I guess it’s not surprising that their customer service sucks.

    But their new micropayment scheme for creators of digital content is ground-breaking and really our only hope against Amazon. https://merchant.paypal.com/cgi-bin/marketingweb?cmd=_render-content&content_ID=merchant/digital_goods

    Amazon basically dictates what ebooks may be priced now. But paypal’s 5 cents + 5% plan offers enormous flexibility about pricing (i.e., you can price something at 75 cents or 1.50 and still make a decent wad of cash — whereas Amazon will penalize you severely for doing so). I’m half-inclined to sell exclusively via paypal and basically abandon amazon as a result. (although it would be helpful to have an alternative if I ever want to walk away from amazon.

    Finally, it should be noted that this paypal anecdote was resolved eventually to the customer’s satisfaction.

  4. Robert Nagle / Dec 17 2011 11:13 pm

    Oops: I meant to say:

    I’m half-inclined to sell exclusively via paypal and basically abandon amazon as a result. (although it would be helpful to have an alternative if I ever want to walk away from PAYPAL).

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