Archive | June, 2014

Elsevier and other academic publishers still gouging libraries

30 Jun

This is why I have a strong preference for textbooks published by non-profit publishers.

Why Evolution Is True

An article by Ian Sample in the June 17 Guardian summarizes a paper by Theodore Bergstrom et al.published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science (reference and abstract below) about how academic publishers price their electronic journals when selling access to libraries (and hence members of a subscribing university).

Although many for-profit academic publishers keep the prices of their library contracts secret (they do this so they can charge different prices to different universities), state universities are required by law to divulge this information under the Freedom of Information Act. Using that , Bergstrom et al. wrote to 55 university libraries and 12 library consortia (e.g., the University of California system) to find out how much they paid for their journals (often sold as “bundles: groups of journals published by a single academic publisher).  They got information for 360 contracts. The the results are disturbing, especially…

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Land of the Beer Tank

25 Jun

Walking into my local grocery store, I noticed a large tube sticking out of a beer display. Looking at the display from the side, I realized what it was: a tank constructed out of Bud and Bud Lite.

Beer Tank

Archaeologists reconstruct past cultural systems based on the material remains they leave behind. I wonder what archaeologists of the future would interpret about the 2014 United States based on the beer tank! This monument to alcohol, commercialism, and militarism is begging for a cultural analysis (and I say this as a proud American).


Don’t Shoot, America!

10 Jun

At its heart, anthropology is a comparative discipline. We examine the minutiae of different cultural contexts and explore variation through time and across space. Doing so allows us to, among other things, shine a light on our own customs and behaviors. Using this perspective we can ask informed questions like “How do our familiar patterns compare to the ‘strange’ patterns of others?” or “Are there better ways of doing things?” Sometimes we end up discovering that we are the strange ones, when compared to global norms.



There was a school shooting near the college where I teach today. Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the event is that it was not unusual. As other developed nations respond with disbelief and horror, I realize that such events have become familiar within my cultural context. A recent headline from the satirical newspaper The Onion says it best:

“‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens


Now that is the anthropological perspective in action! So here’s my question for readers from the U.S. and readers from everywhere else: Why has America become the world capital of mass school shootings?