JHU Press Blog

Selling water for profit in the 17th century

by krm | Thursday, April 20, 2017 - 6:00 AM

Few things are as precious and important in our lives as water. What other material substance has been classified as a human right? Does the universal daily need for water mean, however, that it must always be in public hands, or should private companies be allowed to control access to it and make profits from selling it? Would private enterprise somehow commodify a human right and create a profit-controlled gateway to a basic necessity? Although the instinct to keep water in public hands has been strong, some societies have been willing to privatize their water utilities. Thames Water in London, for example, is a private company supplying the metropolis. Created in 1989, it serves millions of people in southeast England every day. Even in urban areas where the provision of piped water is in public hands, for-profit companies supply any increasing quantity of water people drink in bottles for sale.

For-profit water companies are not, however, only a new phenomenon, the product of Thatcherite liberal economic policies that created Thames Water, or an earlier 19 th century era of laissez-faire capitalism when many private water companies supplied cities. Indeed, for-profit water companies have a...Read More

From Here to There: Amazon Sales Rank

by krm | Wednesday, April 19, 2017 - 6:00 AM

Numbers, numbers, everywhere, nor any figures to cite.

In my last post, I talked about Amazon buy buttons and the inner workings of a book’s availability. In my experience, availability is usually the number one concern for authors and publishers. Once the book is available and being sold, authors tend to track their sales rankings, sometimes obsessively.

The algorithms behind Amazon’s best-seller rank have confounded authors and publishers for years. Before I delve into what I have gleaned, it is good perspective to remember that everything on an Amazon book detail page is marketing – from the description to the reviews to the rankings. The whole goal of the page is to get you to buy the book. Publishers put forth the best marketing copy, cover design, endorsements and reviews with the hope of driving sales. Amazon then layers in additional marketing with the use of algorithms, keywords, special offers, and rankings.

There are around 14-15 million books on Amazon. I have been unable to find a credible source for an accurate count, but Bowker reports 38 million books in its database. At least 700,000 new books...Read More

Victorian Journal Hits Golden Milestone

by bjs | Wednesday, April 19, 2017 - 6:00 AM

Newspapers and other periodicals played an important role in the life of Victorian Britain, Ireland, and the British Empire. For the past 50 years, the journal Victorian Periodicals Review (VPR) has published research on the editorial and publishing history of those periodicals. Alexis Easley , editor of VPR and Associate Professor of English at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, joined us for a Q&A after the publication of the 50th volume's first issue .

What does it mean to you to be editor at the time of this important milestone?

It is both humbling and deeply gratifying. Over the past 50 years, the journal has gone from being a photocopied newsletter to a major international journal. The rapid expansion of digital archives of newspapers and periodicals in recent years has led to immense growth in our scholarly community. It is thrilling to be part of this scholarly network — and to take part in the collective project of illuminating the fascinating history of the Victorian press.

The new issue includes a memorial to Michael Wolff , the journal's founding editor. How bittersweet is...Read More

How to beat a conservationist at their own game

by krm | Tuesday, April 18, 2017 - 6:00 AM

I want to address my Republican and conservative friends for a second — really anyone that is sick and tired of all this talk about climate change. I’d like to let you in on a little secret: a surefire way to piss off the tree-hugging conservationists that annoy you so much.

Before I tell you how to do that, let’s talk about The Carbon Code: How You Can Become a Climate Change Hero .

This is a book about self-reliance, accountability, and setting a good example. It’s a road map to the tools and technologies that will save you money and allow you to keep your family safe. Because you may not believe that climate change is real, that we’re the cause, or that it’s dangerous . . . but the United States military does. So does Exxon Mobile, and other big oil giants. The Carbon Code is a conservative take on climate change, focused on how individuals — and their choices — matter.

You’ve probably heard climate advocates pushing for policies like carbon taxes, clean energy grids, divestment from petroleum companies, and so on. It can seem like you have nothing in...Read More

In the Beginning: A Story of World Domination

by krm | Monday, April 17, 2017 - 6:00 AM

Silence deafened the laboratory. The raging spring storm outside finally penetrated the transformers powering the west side of campus, stealing life from inside the science complex. In one instance, the monotonous sounds of motors, fans, and compressors were hushed. The professor rose from his slumped form, his laptop screen now blank. The incubators serving as nurseries to his beloved flies were quiet but still warm. “Any minute,” he thought, “the emergency generators should kick in.” But there was no sound on the roof, other than the muffled cries of wind racing across the flat surface, to indicate that backup power was imminent. The room was silent. Only the storm outside provided relief from the denseness of the dark, eerily silent, laboratory. Scrittle scrattle . “What was that?” Scrittle scrattle . There it is again. And closer this time. “Is someone there,” the professor said as he moved slowly toward the open laboratory door leading to the hallway. No response. Maybe it was just a tree branch scraping against the side of the building. Of course he immediately knew that was impossible. All of the nearby trees were still just infants; none were tall enough to...Read More

Changing World of Children's Literature

by bjs | Friday, April 14, 2017 - 6:00 AM

Four times a year, Children's Literature Association Quarterly publishes first-rate scholarship in children's literature studies. Two recent issues have taken on questions of genre in children's and young adult literature. Editor Claudia Nelson , Professor of English at Texas A&M University, joined us for a Q&A on these issues as well as what the journal has in store for upcoming issues.

Two straight issues of the journal have focused on questions of genre. What makes this the topic to discuss at this time? Genre makes a great lens through which to consider children's literature because all texts belong to some genre, which gives readers a starting point from which to understand them. Karen Chandler and Sara Austin's recent guest-edited issue on genre in African American children's literature offered fascinating articles, I thought, and got me thinking about how genre helps to structure texts. So when I was writing the introduction to issue 42.1 , it occurred to me that an interesting facet of the issue was that each article focused on a different kind of text, produced over a wide timespan and in a wide variety...Read More

Public Policy Writing That Matters

by krm | Thursday, April 13, 2017 - 6:00 AM

A lawmaker with conviction is a difficult person to persuade. It’s tempting to think that the reason they don’t do what you think they should is simply that they don’t know enough. They don’t know what you know. So you research a topic, live with it for months, and write a report or a memo with the goal of educating them. Facts. Figures. Regression Analyses. Case studies. Literature reviews.

But then they still don’t listen. They still don’t do what you think they should. And maybe you blame them for not realizing how ignorant they are. You read about public attitudes and compare those against public policy, and you see that about 70 percent of the general population has no concrete way to influence the policy that affects their everyday lives. Eventually, you grow cynical about the entire process. Maybe even a little helpless.

Here’s the thing. Ignorance is rarely the problem.

The reason lawmakers don’t do what you think they should is they don’t believe what you believe. When you present facts and figures, they don’t believe, so they question your sources or methodology. When you lay out a logical argument, they don’t...Read More

Practical Lessons in Psychological First Aid

by krm | Wednesday, April 12, 2017 - 6:00 AM

Most of us have directly observed another human in psychological distress, whether it was a friend, a family member, a co-worker, or perhaps a complete stranger. Similarly, those of us who have observed someone in distress have usually been motivated to offer some form of support in an attempt to ease the suffering we witnessed. Indeed, it appears to be a natural human instinct to offer support to those in acute distress. Whether the psychological distress was caused by a personal failure, loss of a loved one, a medical emergency, a dwelling fire, a crime, or acts of violence or even disasters, we were compelled to offer words of support. Sometimes our efforts were effective and sometimes they were not. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, our words actually appeared to make matters worse, seeming to intensify acute distress. At times such as these we lamented the absence of a psychological “magic bullet,” a verbal “Hail Mary” that would immediately end the suffering and lead to the realization of the promise we made that “everything will be ok.” Consistent with our own intuitions, a recommendation in the American Journal of Psychiatry stated that ‘‘shortly after a traumatic event, it is...Read More

On Dementia Patients and Air Travel

by krm | Wednesday, April 12, 2017 - 5:00 AM

Raising dementia awareness can assist caregivers and airlines to meet the challenges of traveling with dementia.

In light of the recent video showing a passenger on an airplane presenting dementia symptoms, and the disastrous outcome when asked to leave, I wanted to share insights on ways to better manage air travel with dementia.

Someone who is presenting dementia symptoms may be challenged by new environments, new people, any change in routine, a change of time zone, noise and fatigue. Also, people with behavioral challenges will likely have difficulty. There are a number of dementia signs and symptoms that may indicate that travel is not a good idea. These include:

Consistent disorientation, confusion, or agitation even in familiar settings Asking to go home when away from home Delusional, paranoid, or disinhibited behavior Problems managing continence Teary, anxious, or withdrawn behavior in crowded, noisy settings Agitated or wandering behavior Physical or verbal aggression Yelling, screaming, or crying spontaneously High risk of falling Unstable medical conditions

Whether the trip will be a success depends on the individual with dementia symptoms, how far the dementia symptoms have progressed, and how easily they become agitated or anxious with all...Read More

Why did a fisheries scientist write a book about climate change?

by krm | Tuesday, April 11, 2017 - 6:00 AM

Photo courtesy of Phillip Meintzer.

I've gotten this question many times since people first heard about The Carbon Code: How You Can Become a Climate Change Hero . The answer is simple: nothing makes sense in conservation, except in light of climate change (apologies to Dobzhansky) .

The consensus understanding of the climate crisis is that it is affecting everything. Oceans will get warmer and more acidic. Species will flee for the poles, and many will go extinct. Crops will fail. Rivers and lakes will vanish, and vast reserves of fossil fuels will become unburnable . Refugees will flee climate wars, and societies will shift as they accommodate – or resist – the coming wave of fleeing humans, as our planet becomes less able to support civilization.

To make matters worse, the United States now has a federal government whose leaders seem to be doing everything in their power to undermine efforts to save ourselves from the worst parts of climate change. They are eliminating environmental protections, attacking scientists, deleting data, and defunding anything that could inform...Read More