Friday, December 22, 2006


I could give a damn about Donald Trump or Rosie O'Donnell, let alone why they're bickering — but a friend of mine, a reporter for a local newspaper, e-mailed me the following excerpt from an Associated Press report because it made him snicker.
In an entry posted Wednesday night on her Web site, O'Donnell duplicated an excerpt on Trump's rocky financial history from his biography on the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, which is written by users. (Emphasis added.)
Every so often, Wikipedia gets mistaken for a legitimate reference. Last year, Nature published a study claiming that Wikipedia had only slightly more errors than Britannica. It was rather obvious this study would be debunked — and it was, quite thoroughly, when Britannica issued its 20-page response just three months later — but for those three months, Wikipedia got respect. Folks took it seriously.

It was kind of like, at Thanksgiving, when you offer the children a sip of wine; and it's fun and all, that for a moment they get to pretend they're grown-ups, but then it's finished and you send them back to the kiddie table. That's where Wikipedia belongs. Its founding principle is idiotic (rejecting the idea that "expertise" exists), and its primary defense ("Through collaborative edits, the truth will emerge") was best answered by Jerry Holkins: "What you've proposed is a kind of quantum encyclopedia, where genuine data both exists and doesn't exist depending on the precise moment I rely upon your discordant fucking mob for my information."

Yes, the AP is throwing a sucker punch. "We would never cite Wikipedia; but since we think it's ridiculous that Rosie O'Donnell did, let's report that fact — and we'll append it with the observation that any 10-year-old with a modem can 'write' Donald Trump's biography on Wikipedia."

When you spend six hours daily reading wire reports, this is exactly the sort of drop-in that you keep your eyes peeled for. If you ask anyone who has worked in intelligence, he'll list a half-dozen street corners in Washington, D.C. where you can, on any given day, spot chalk marks left by covert operatives. This is the same principle in action. Wire services are designed to be dry and devoid of opinions — but they're usually written by people who are anything but. If you're paying attention, you can usually find the proof.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

LSAC Activity Update Error

Law School Applicants: If you elected to receive a monthly LSAC Activity Update via postal mail, you may notice a discrepancy regarding your letters of recommendation. Specifically, the key identifying each Letter ID might not match what appears in your LSDAS account online. See the comparison below for an example.

LSAC Activity Update (postal mail)
  • L1 — Charles Fitzgerald
  • L2 — Louise Dickens
  • L3 — Janet Hemingway
  • L4 — Bill Maugham
LSDAS (online)
  • L1 — Janet Hemingway
  • L2 — Bill Maugham
  • L3 — Charles Fitzgerald
  • L4 — Louise Dickens
If you chose to direct letters to law schools — for example, to send L4 to Harvard but not to Yale — this discrepancy might cause you concern. But I've spoken with several people at LSAC and confirmed that all LSDAS reports will match the letter assignments that you chose using the website. The monthly Activity Update is generated automatically using a separate software program, and the discrepancy is caused by a glitch in that program that assigns independent Letter IDs based on each letter's date of receipt.

LSAC is aware of the problem. However, since the problem doesn't affect the LSDAS reports, and since fewer applicants are choosing to receive the monthly updates anyway, LSAC doesn't consider this a priority. They probably won't fix it. Eventually, they expect to discontinue the postal mail option and the glitch will become moot; but I'm posting this notice in the meantime for applicants who might search Google looking for an explanation.