Why, No. We Don't Have Anything Better To Do

The University Near Here, despite being in (we're continually told) dire financial straits, continues to spend time and resources on areas that don't have much to do with… y'know… actually educating its student population. Because, that's hard. What's easy is moral posturing, symbolic gestures, and indoctrination. Boy, we got that down pat.

Correction: we don't have that down pat. For example: A Monday press release gave the shocking news: "UNH Will Take All Energy Drinks Off The Shelves Beginning In January 2012".

DURHAM, N.H. – In an effort to further its mission to be the healthiest campus community in the country by 2020 and keep its students safe, the University of New Hampshire will no longer sell energy drinks in its retail and vending locations beginning in January 2012.

I'm not sure how long that press release will stay out of the memory hole. Later that same day, UNH issued a "never mind" statement.

DURHAM, N.H. -- University of New Hampshire President Mark W. Huddleston will delay implementation of a decision announced earlier today to stop selling energy drinks in its retail and vending locations beginning in January 2012.

That's right: we can't even implement our meaningless symbolic gestures without blundering. (For a bit of a chuckle, note the URL on that press release.)

You've no doubt heard of politician's logic, from the Yes, Minister clip above:

  1. Something must be done!
  2. This is something.
  3. Therefore, we must do it!

It's kind of like that. Except in this case, the University was even kind of weak on point one.

The "something must be done" decision was claimed to be in support of the nebulous goal of being "the healthiest campus community in the country by 2020".

Normal folks would ask: is UNH planning to accumulate health statistics on every member of the "communiity" by 2020?

No, of course not. That would be a massive invasion of privacy. Safe bet: There's no measure of how healthy our community is now, there won't be one in 2020, and there will be no comparison with other campuses.

Well, there would be obvious health benefits by stopping the sale of "energy drinks", right?

Probably not. The big concern, it seems, is kiddos mixing them with booze. How many energy drinks used that way were purchased from UNH "retail and vending locations"?

My bet: nobody knows, or even worried too much about finding out.

What percentage of energy drinks sold at UNH are "abused" as opposed to people just looking for a boost?

Again, the safe wager is: nobody knows, or even worried too much about finding out.

Would this have produced a measurable impact on the "health" of the community?

Don't ask silly questions.

Last Modified 2012-09-25 5:39 AM EDT

To Reamde, or Not To Reamde

[Amazon Link]

On Tuesday, I noticed that the Kindle version of Neal Stephenson's new novel, Reamde, had gone unavailable on the Amazon website. (The symptom was a missing image over there under the "Media I'm Consuming" heading on the right.) (No, your right.) Wha happen?

On Wednesday, it had (also inexplicably) returned to the store.

And this morning, I got a note from Amazon. In part:

We're writing about your past Kindle purchase of Reamde: A Novel by Neal Stephenson. The version you received had Missing Content that have been corrected.


An updated version of Reamde: A Novel (ASIN:B004XVN0WW) is now available. It's important to note that when we send you the updated version, you will no longer be able to view any highlights, bookmarks, and notes made in your current version and your furthest reading location will be lost.

If you wish to receive the updated version, please reply to this email with the word "Yes" in the first line of your response. Within 2 hours of receiving the e-mail any device that has the title currently downloaded will be updated automatically if the wireless is on.

Fortunately, I hadn't made much progress into the book, although I've so far enjoyed it. The opening chapter is set during a Thanksgiving family reunion in Iowa, with the narrator avoiding stepping in cowpies. (Frozen and unfrozen each have their unique hazards.) Ah, fond memories.

Anyway, I'll start over. Who knows if I missed some of the "Missing Content" already? I should have the fixed version, if Amazon is to be believed, although I can't figure out how to tell for sure.

Some folks are less equanimous than I about the issue. Cynthia Ewer posted a "review" on the Amazon site:

An avid Neal Stephenson fan, I preordered the Kindle version of this book in mid-July. As of this morning, I'm about 40% through the book--and I just received a notice that my Kindle edition was "missing content", and would be replaced.

I'd like to tell both distributor Amazon and publisher William Morrow/HarperCollins that this problem is totally unacceptable--and I expect some adjustment to compensate for this issue.

First, it seriously damages the reading experience. I've invested many hours in the book, overlooking various format errors along the way. Now--without more--I'm told that what I've read is incomplete. Do I begin again at the beginning? Do I plow on? Either way, the reading experience is fatally tainted.

Second, this situation oozes contempt for the ebook buyer. As a published author, I'm aware of the word-by-word scrutiny that my print manuscripts receive. Why should ebooks be any different? Tossing a carelessly-formatted file out at random reflects badly on all links of the publishing chain, from author to publisher to distributor Amazon.

Third, this level of carelessness is inexcusable on economic grounds. I'd expect to find format errors and mangled content in a pirated ebook, not in a $17 Kindle edition. When I purchase an ebook at a price point so close to the print version, the publisher rakes in far more profit than from a print title. To then turn around and offer shoddy, incomplete text in that pricey Kindle title shows an arrogant disregard for economics, the reader, and the distribution channel.

My suggestion? Give each purchaser of the buggy version a 75% credit on this title. That, to me, is a fair reassessment of the injury I've received as a reader of this title. Compared to the cost of, say, reprinting and replacing defective print editions, it's still a financial bonanza to publisher William Morrow--and would go a long way to restore the credibility of this author, publisher and distributor.

Impressive dudgeon. I can't say I blame her.

Last Modified 2012-09-25 5:51 AM EDT

Why I'm a Red Sox Fan

It builds character. Also:

Yeah, it hurts. It always hurts. But it’s like making out with a chick with German measles. I’ve had my shots, baby. And I’m immune to it all.