Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ow. Headache.

We wisely and unfortunately did not buy tons of candy for Halloween this year (wise because we never get any Trick-or Treaters and now we're not left with tons of candy, unfortunate because we're not eating tons of candy right now).

And as anticipated, not a single child came to our door, which is actually too bad, because that lucky child could have been treated to something fun we scrounged up on the spot, like the ever-popular apple (everyone loves to get an apple at Halloween!), or maybe a handful of loose raisins.

"Here, kid. Take 'em and git."

Not that the kid would have been allowed to eat loose raisins even if they wanted to (which they almost certainly would not), because we could have poisoned them or something. If we had any poison lying around. Which you never can put past us. A lot of cleaning products have nasty ingredients.

The point is, no Trick-or-Treaters, but I'll keep my eye peeled (and my ears pricked) for monsters and ghosts as the night draws on.

Meantime, I've been watching TV on Hulu (because the regular TV was tuned to sporting events in which I have limited interest unless someone is getting eaten by monsters--and you'd think on Halloween there'd be a good chance of that, but no), and I have kind of a concentration headache from staring at the tiny screen.



Saturday, October 30, 2010

Yay! Also, Boo!

Faithful readers may have observed that I'm generally full of sunny good cheer when it comes to the idea of voting.

Go vote! It's a party in our system of government and every citizen who registered to vote is invited! Don't think of it as your civil duty: think of it as a civil privilege! Exercise the franchise! Yay!

It's enough to make you sick, how sunny and cheerful I am.

And then every time there's an election coming up, it gets to the point, right about now, where I really, really, cannot wait for the happy day to arrive, because I am totally sick of campaign ads.

Shut up and get off my television, campaign ads.

But go vote, everyone. Soon! Mercifully soon!


Friday, October 29, 2010

I Have Discovered Justice

As long as we're on the subject of stolen library books, I couldn't resist this piece on Pharyngula.

Don't worry, the purloined book in question was eventually paid for, so presumably the library was able to purchase another copy.

You can do that, if someone checks out the book before stealing it. I salute PZ Myers for that. It's an honest theft.

When someone just creeps off with a book and you have no idea who it was, it's hard to know where to send the bill.

I keep advocating for a lottery system in which we can just bill someone selected at random from the directory, but it hasn't caught on yet.

Ooh, either that, or we could bill everyone! Go for that "punish the whole group to make them enforce the rules on each other" thing! In college, they billed all the residents of the dormitory for any damage to the common rooms, right? It's perfectly fair and reasonable.

In college they split up the repair bill between the dorm residents, but I think we might as well charge every registered student the full amount. Then we could put any leftover funds towards exciting purchases like that ice cream sundae bar I've been wanting to put in.

Oh yeah, this is going to go over well at the next budget meeting.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

What Price Job Satisfaction?

I was at a workshop on access services today, and during a break I couldn't help but idly consider a career change to some male-dominated profession or industry.

It's not that I'm unhappy where I am. I like librarianship. I like women.

But sometime I would like to be in the short line for the restroom at a conference.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Watch Those Light Fingers

The library where I work serves four schools. The student body of one of those schools has achieved a minor notoriety for stealing textbooks. Their books just vanish. Very mysterious.

It's quite frustrating, because as a library the institution wishes to serve its users by having the books they want to use, but also wishes to not to keep purchasing the same book over and over when it keeps disappearing.

You're tempted to just say "fine, we're not buying you books anymore," but that's obviously hugely unfair to those students who didn't steal a library copy. Those students are certainly the vast majority, and we hate to tell them we don't have a title they need.

On the other hand, we can't just buy replacements indefinitely. Or we could, I suppose, but that would mean not buying various other books. Which, since those other books don't get stolen, might in fact not bother the students terribly. Maybe we should just buy a hundred copies of every title that gets put on Course Reserves, enough for every student to steal one or not, and call it a day in terms of book purchases.

But that's not the direction we've chosen to go in collection development so far.

So what's fairer: to buy no copies of popular texts and make everyone pay for their own, or to buy copies for a couple of people to slip away with and then make everyone else pay for their own once the first ones have disappeared?

Meh. It's not one of the more satisfying questions we consider.

Also, to be fair, I should really try a little study here, to make sure confirmation bias isn't causing us to think that this particular school is really 'losing' a disproportionate quantity of the books in its field (given its representation in the total user population), when the number might really be about the same as for other schools.

Let that be a warning to you, students of schools. Your school gets a reputation, and then gets blamed for everything, with everything being seen as evidence of guilt! Rumors, innuendo...all the libraries whispering about you behind your back...

I need hardly say that any individual student, or group of students in a classroom, is still A-OK with me. I'm not out there giving people dirty looks at the reference desk because Muttonchops Wilkins' Big Book of School-Specific Health Knowledge has turned up missing.

Not unless they look kind of shifty-eyed when I oh-so-casually turn the conversation that way. In that case I'd obviously find out where they lived and then break into their room using super-cool stealth lock picks when they weren't around and search for clues. And if some sort of international travel was involved, I'd be all over that. Creeping over borders with forged passports and such is all in a day's work.

That's how we roll in Tech Services. Dedicated. Also criminal, I suppose, if you want to get picky.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Work of the Day

Today I was editing OPAC records. It was awesome.

We got a large purchase of e-books, and had the records all loaded into the system at once (saves time! frees energy! cleans your office for you!), but because of the way we like to include the link to the online text, we do still have to go through and change that part in each individual record.

It's a good low-stress task, though. The kind of thing you can do while playing music--which reminds me I forgot to bring my iPod home to recharge. Sigh.

Tomorrow it will be the kind of thing you can do while humming to yourself.


Monday, October 25, 2010

The Making of Sausages and Sports

This New York Times article raises a question I had not previously considered: whether or not it's morally defensible to watch football, given recent information about the long-term brain damage caused by frequent head trauma.

Can we really feel good about watching people give themselves and each other brain damage every week? They're still not fighting to the death, so we've got that going for us, but nevertheless...

And we might find it hard to feel too badly for the superstars who make millions of dollars to take these kinds of risks--not that early dementia is a good deal, but at least they got something out of it.

But what about all those players who aren't superstars and don't make millions of dollars, but maybe have to quit while young due to injury? They get to risk severe physical injury and brain damage for our entertainment and don't even get piles of money out of it.

The piece makes an interesting comparison:

Watching football has become a bit like eating meat. We have more information about the carnage involved before it ends up on our plates. But we have a taste for it, so we do not want to think too hard about it.

Are our fond conceptions about the value of physical exercise and teamwork and sportsmanship no sounder a justification than our fond conceptions of happy green farms where cheerful cows and pigs and chickens lead rich, full lives before winding up on our plates?

Well, I'll leave you sports fans to wrestle with this heady philosophical problem. I've already sworn off watching football for personal reasons*, so I don't really have an angle here.

*Or one personal reason, which is that I personally find it boring.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Advertising Horror of the Day

I just saw a reprehensible TV commercial for the Dodge Charger.

First, the usual blah blah chatter about how awesome and manly this car is (during a football game, every single thing advertised will be bristling with aggressive manliness, which is eye-rollingly tiresome but too commonplace to stir me from my reading).

Then, the money quote:

"It's not just American craftsmanship. It's an American craft manship."


Seriously, Dodge? That's a really terrible pun. Also, it's stupid.

The commercial goes on to make much of the newly-invented term 'manship,' summoning, I suppose, both the concept of a seafaring vessel that is bold, masculine, square-jawed and rippling with taut muscles, and the use of '-ship' tacked onto a word to indicate a quality.

Like, you know, 'leadership,' refers to a quality of 'being a leader,' so 'manship' apparently refers to a quality of 'being a man.' A man with a bold and masculine seafaring vessel at his command. The master of his fate, and the captain of his soul!

The kind of man who's man enough to go buy a car, because it takes some real manliness to do that, as evidenced by the paucity of automotive vehicles on the roads these days.

Sometimes in the old days we might have used the word 'manhood,' but '-hood' doesn't have anything to do with 'craftsmanship,' so clearly a new word had to be made up.

I'm not at all opposed to making up words, but I am opposed to making up words specifically so you can make terrible puns with them.

Shut up and get off my television screen, Dodge. Your feeble wordcraftery disgusts me.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Health News of the Day

Latest exciting health news: our household's brush with tuberculosis!

Months and months of antibiotics await.

It's a little weird. I mean, who gets tuberculosis these days?

Such was my immediate reaction, but I need hardly state that this was a display of my vast and shameful ignorance.

Apparently, people get tuberculosis. For example, my gracious spouse.

I blame that movie we saw about John Keats dying of consumption. But more to the point, I suppose, I blame Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

In the absence of any productive response, I'm going to go play Assassin's Creed. Now there was a time period when people were familiar with consumption.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Feeling It

As someone who sees bright-eyed young future doctors all the time, I was interested in this post by PalMD about the moment when a person first actually feels like a 'doctor.'

You have all these years and years of education and study and training, and then somewhere in, a doctor!

I bet it's not the same as feeling like a 'physician' (or I guess a 'scholar' or something, if you get a PhD). That just doesn't have the same emotional zip.

I do wonder if it's also one of those things that you get to, and think "well, all right, I'm that"--but somehow you find it's not as enormous a thing as you anticipated back when you were starting out.

All the work that's gone into it kind of minimizes the thing itself by comparison. Not that you don't feel good about it, but it doesn't fill you with self-inspired awe or anything.

Or so I imagine, based on the magnificent achievements I myself have completed in my time. None of them was becoming a doctor, but I did once memorize half the periodic table.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Yet Another Nifty Date

For those who enjoy entertainingly numbered dates, I cannot help but notice that today is 10-20-2010. Or 20-10-2010 if you use the European system.

Either way, it's pretty fantastic, right? We should all start baking celebratory numeral cakes, or whatever we're supposed to do to recognize entertaining dates.

A nice pie, maybe?


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It's Pure Chemistry

For everyone who's ever wondered why having salt poured on them is bad for slugs and snails, see this detailed explanation from a chemist, on Adventures in Ethics & Science. It is a fitting celebration of National Chemistry Week.

I confess I have never actually poured salt on a slug or snail, though I have accidentally stepped on them, which is also messy. I'm rather fond of snails in the abstract, slurming along in their handsome curled shells with their little waving feelers, but I'm sure they're much less charming if they're eating the lettuce in your garden.

Mice are pretty cute too, unless they're chewing up your bread and leaving little mouse droppings in your silverware drawer.

It's all a matter of whether or not something is competing with me for food.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Pointless Whine of the Day

I kind of hate store credit. I have to remember to shop there again to use it, you know?

I don't blame L.L. Bean, specifically. They sent me the boots I ordered, just the way I told them to. What else were they supposed to do? They couldn't have known the boots wouldn't fit, any more than I did.

Until I tried them on. And then had to send them back, and now I have this credit that I have to use, and I really don't shop at L.L. Bean generally, except hope springs eternal that someday I'll find a pair of boots that fit.


My life is filled with hardship, sorrow and cold, wet feet.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Now if Anyone Wanted to Advertise...

Stephen's Lighthouse has an interesting post on how Google is different from libraries. Well, OK, one of the numerous ways, since there are certainly many that one could discuss.

The particular way he's talking about here is that Google is ad-funded, so they are, essentially, working for advertisers, and whatever value they offer to other users is in the service of advertisers and therefore somewhat incidental.

Whereas libraries do not work for advertisers, and whatever value we offer users is based more on the hope of being valuable to users. Whether or not we always succeed in being valuable, or as valuable as we could be, or as valuable as Google is incidentally, can always be debated, but the intention is to serve the library user, not the advertiser.

It's an interesting way to think about focus.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Exciting Weekend Plans

Here's what's been on my to-do list:

Read Let the Right One In
Play some Bioshock
Watch some Doctor Who
Drink some wine

Things are proceeding very nicely according to plan so far.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sad Work

It's just a fact of libraries that books sometimes turn up missing. They get lost, they get stolen, they sprout legs and walk away.

Then you have to make sure the catalog doesn't keep saying you have things you don't. Delete records, remove duplicate items. I keep thinking "but we should have this!" We can't delete this record from the catalog!

Oh, right, but we don't have it, so we have to delete it if we don't want the catalog to be a liar. Sigh.

The 'workyear outline' my predecessor left me suggests doing this three times a year.

I just did it for the first time since I took this position last August. Oh well. Outlines are made to be scribbled around the edges of.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Use it Again

I saw this on NPR's Twitter account ages ago and meant to exclaim in glee over the fact that bacteria in reusable grocery bags is apparently not that big a concern. They can carry germs, just like anything that might get dirty, but at least one study suggests that it's not likely to be in large enough concentrations to make people sick.

I carry piles of reusable bags, ever since I started to feel overwhelmed by the plastic ones and decided to make it a personal goal to stop bringing them home (we use them in trash bins, but you can only go through so many).

I might be a little leery of carrying meat around in reusable bags, since meat juice is notoriously popular with your more discerning human-illness-causing bacteria, but since I conveniently don't eat meat, there's no worry there.

I suppose if you do eat meat, you could always just wipe the bags down with a touch of rubbing alcohol or the like. As far as I'm concerned, it would be well worth it to avoid being smothered by the accumulation of plastic bags.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fear Not Numbers

Apparently girls can do math. Now you tell me, after I've gone and gotten these numerically challenged degrees in English and library science.

I salute for highlighting this study--actually a review of 242 other studies. As we tell students in our EBM-related classes all the time, reviews are good! Saves you having to read all those 242 studies yourself.

Because we may be able to do math, but we have busy lives and are often short on time.

Now, girls in school, get some practice crunching numbers. If I were 12 right now, I would be all over that.

It will serve you well once the Association of Research Libraries comes asking for statistics on your collection, you know. And you may think it couldn't happen to you, but don't be so sure. The ARL has a long reach.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Legal Matters of the Day

A couple of things I should probably be paying attention to:


A court in France ruled in favor of a man who sued Google for defamation based on the search results returned for his name (via Staring at Empty Pages). So essentially Google is responsible for passing along what other people say about you in France, if it's not true.

This will probably be appealed, but will obviously have a big, fairly chilling effect on search engine business in general if it stands. If a company has to be aware of the nature of the results returned by a query and make sure none of them are defamatory before allowing them to appear...well, damn, how would you even do that?

Also, what about the people who specifically want the defamatory material? Customer satisfaction among that group goes way down if all they can get is whatever has been approved, and you know that's no good for business. Although it could allow lots of small black market search engines to pop up and thrive, which would be good for that business.

"All the results that aren't fit to print!"


There's a case about electronic reserve reading underway involving Georgia State University that could mean a lot to many in academic fields. Barbara Fister at Inside Higher Ed sums it up nicely, but basically, some journal publishers sued GSU, saying that putting articles on reserve through library e-reserves or course management systems is a violation of copyright.

Now a lot of universities do this (or so I've heard!), so the results of this case will be a pretty big deal.

Copyright is one of those areas that both fascinates and frustrates me, and I do work in an academic library (although we've made the copyright-fear-based decision to stay the heck out of electronic reserves until we know if it's legal), and I will hope to learn and understand more about this in future.

I heard about it this time from Dorothea on Book of Trogool.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Spreading Germs

I've started hearing about computer viruses spread by USB drives. It's no longer enough to be cautious about opening suspicious email attachments. Now you have to be cautious about plugging in suspicious drives.

And since you get free thumb drives all over these days (they're one of the cooler trinkets you pick up at conferences), there are dozens in the lost and found, and they're so useful!--but if one of them is poxed with some ghastly virus...well, it's no good, is it?

See this article from Slate with terrifying details.

You know this, like many a virus, could take a particular toll on public computers, such as those in libraries. I assume our IT people are reacting with appropriate prophylactic alarm.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Murder Mostly Justified

It is remotely possible that someone may remember that I once attended "one of those Murder Mystery Dinner Party things," and that I, or the character I had been portraying, turned out to be a killer (although I still hold that this was an understandable choice given the circumstances).

Well, we had another mystery today! And guess who turned out to be the murderer?

Yup, it was me.

In this case, I can't offer the excellent justification that the victim (my father) had previously had my mother and brother killed and tried to do the same for me, but I can say that he was indirectly responsible for my beloved husband's untimely demise, so there was certainly a grudge there.

In any case, based on my history with mystery events, people in pun-filled situations who've made a lot of other enemies should be particularly wary about crossing me.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Sometimes You Want the Numbers

A good point on FWD/Forward about how touch screens can be problematic for people who can't see them well.

If you want to pay with a debit card at the grocery store, but you can't see the numbers on the touch screen, what are you supposed to do? Tell someone your PIN so they can type it in for you, and then also potentially use it to take your money? Hmm.

I mean, I suppose in the grand scheme of things the likelihood of someone memorizing your PIN and then also happening to get hold of your card is small, but still, I certainly don't go around telling people mine. And if I did have to tell someone for some reason, I'd feel compelled to change it as soon as possible.

Which should not be considered a reasonable solution for people who can't see touch screens, since having to keep changing your PIN, and remembering a new one every time you go shopping, is few peoples' idea of convenient.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Thorny Book-Counts Be Not Seen

Sometimes you get a song running through your head. Sometimes it's semi-random and annoying, while at other times it may serve to express some personal feeling.

Lately, while wrestling endlessly with library statistics, I have felt the need for something soothing to help stave off anxiety, weeping fits, and red-eyed rage, so I've been repetitively humming the lullaby from A Midsummer Night's Dream. I had to make up a tune, given that we can't know how Shakespeare imagined it sounding, but I don't let that slow me down.

Not when I'm counting duplicate titles in a list of 6,000 e-journals.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

It's All Numbers, Numbers!

Ugh. I'm working on those soul-crushingly hideous number questions, so dreadful that merely to contemplate them would make Santa Claus himself vomit with rage: ARL statistics.

Shudder. You know, those questions always seem so innocent and straightforward, and then you start trying to count things and you realize that apparently we have no means of accurately keeping track of anything!

How many journals do we currently receive?

Do we count all the stuff in those giant packages that we linked on the web site because, well, who knows when someone's going to need to consult Waterbirds for a waterbird-related health question, so we stick it on the e-journals page, but we haven't gotten around to putting it in the OPAC yet, because we don't know, but we can guess, and while our guess must perforce be a non-never date given the impossibility of absolutely ruling out the arising of some waterbird-related health issue, we still don't think it's going to happen anytime soon. I'm going to catalog them, eventually, but it's just not been at the top of my list.

So I ask you, do we consider these 'currently received'?

I have to warn you, I will be highly dissatisfied with any answer, because I am sick of this and all related questions.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Reach a Little

One must acknowledge Banned Books Week (even if a little late), and I found this inspirational post on RH Reality Check noting that with book bannings "It's (Almost) Always About Sex."

Obviously it's not entirely always about sex (remember Huckleberry Finn), but there's no denying that seems to be the issue in a large percentage of cases.

This inspires me to want to come up with a new reason to get challenged. I want to write a book for children or young adults that will feature shockingly casual drug use, socially threatening witchcraft and extensive, detailed advice on effective ways to challenge authority and commit various types of white collar crime, and see if I can get challenged on those grounds.

Because honestly, sex panic? So overdone.

It's like zombies. A classic, sure, but there's got to be something more interesting to worry about. Maybe my challenged children's book will be about killer robots.


Monday, October 4, 2010

You Always Fail Someone

Unfortunately, the new awesome e-only journal model at the library where I work doesn't satisfy everyone.

One older doctor said today, in a wistful way, "I don't like the library as much as I used to."

Aw. That made me kind of sad.

I could only sympathize. I know, if you want to come in and browse through the journals of your field to see what's going on, it's just not the same on the computer.

Especially if you're not really that familiar or comfortable with the conventions of online journals. Which, let us remember, not everyone is, even in a high-tech profession.

How do you find the title you want? How do you get to a particular issue? How do you get the full text of an article you want? (Naturally, the journal he was looking at also picked that moment to have problems with providing full text.)

Sigh. It's the shelves, I told him. The online versions aren't as easy to use as the traditional print, but they take up a lot less space.

You can't do everything, and there's no way around that, but he seemed very nice and I felt kind of bad that we've sort of nudged his model of library user out of the picture. I mean, we'll help him, I did the best I could to direct him to the exciting possibilities of the e-journals, but if that's just not how he prefers to read, I don't know how much use he'll get out of it, and I'm afraid he may just find that the library isn't for him anymore.

I suppose you'll always fail to be what someone is looking for (often many people in many different ways!). You just have to do the best you can for people with the resources you do have, and recognize that that won't always be exactly what they want.


Sunday, October 3, 2010


I see on Jane's E-Learning Pick of the Day that Google now offers a URL-shortening service:

I do use those services every once in a while, generally when I want to add a link to one of our Subject pages at work and it turns out to be something long and clunky. The URLs themselves show up on the page, rather than just appearing as the classic underlined blue text, and I think that's basically good--a way of making transparent, giving due credit, to the resource linked.

Here: click to get there, but if you care, it's!

So I see the value of displaying the URL, but if it's too a specific page it can be really long, and can loop around and look ugly on the page. In these cases, I've sometimes put in a shortened URL instead, just for aesthetics. I'm a little doubtful about the persistence of shortened URLs since if the service that creates the link fails, the link will presumably no longer work, but it's certainly also true that if an originating website is rearranged, or a document removed from a server, that link will also no longer work, so I don't think it's an unacceptable risk.

Sometimes links break, and that's part of the nature of information on the web.

I don't use shortened URLs often enough that I really have a favorite, or that I will get an opportunity to try Google's version anytime soon.

I think I started with, which is the first of these services that I heard of (and which has the advantage of letting you customize the short URL, so you can make it something you'll recognize--I especially like this given that I'm usually posting a link as a resource on a web page, and want to characterize it in some way), and may have also used, which seemed to be popular on Twitter.

I was, however, immediately curious about the .gl domain, which turns out to be Greenland. It's interesting to see how various sites and services make use of domains whose countries they have (as far as one can tell) no real connection to, but that suggest something about the service. Like, which plays on the connection of FM to radio, or the exciting potential of the .tv domain.

Greenland, the Federated States of Micronesia and Tuvalu might as well get something out of their domains.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Stellar Armed Conflicts: Now With More Dimensions!

As I have already cantankerously expressed my low opinion of 3D movies, faithful readers will no doubt be unsurprised by my reaction to the news (which I got from Women's Eye on Media) that the various Star Wars films may soon be released in 3d versions.

Bah. That's my reaction.

My spouse's reaction is stronger: George Lucas must be stopped.

There has to be a way.

Someone file an injunction! Get some sort of conservatorship set up, through which we, as a nation (maybe a world! is Star Wars huge outside the U.S?), can take over as guardians of these historically important films and prevent further mucking about with the cherished childhood memories of so many!

George Lucas has proven himself an incompetent administrator of the legend, and must have his legal rights to make further production and promotion decisions terminated.

Ha. Obviously, I can't actually back that position. I may be in favor of loosening copyright and letting more old stuff into the public domain (in fact, I'm fairly sure that I am), but even I can't really argue that copyright should expire while the creator is still alive.

Whether or not we like what Lucas has done with the monster empire that is Star Wars, he made it up and can do as he likes with it. He may be a money-grubbing hack, but he has that right.

Honestly, if I had an idea I could milk for everything it was worth (and it was worth that much), I might be a money-grubbing hack too.

I wanted to sell out, but no one was buying! Why does everyone assume I have some kind of artistic integrity, just because I'm not a millionaire film/toy magnate?


Friday, October 1, 2010

Think Big Bad Thoughts

New evidence of human irrationality, reported on Bad Science: apparently, people tend to look less kindly on those who injure a few, than on those who injure many.

60 students were given a vignette to read about a case of fraud, where either 3 people or 30 people were defrauded by a financial advisor, but all the other information in the story was kept the same.
Participants were asked to evaluate the severity of the crime, and recommend a punishment: even though fewer people were affected, participants who read the story with only 3 victims rated the crime as more serious than those who read the exact same story, but with 30 victims.

Further research examined a number of actual cases in which similar crimes injured more or fewer people, and found that this phenomenon is not confined to the lab setting:

[The cases] were all from 2000 to 2009, they were all jury trials, and the researchers’ hypothesis was correct: people who harm larger numbers of people get significantly lower punitive damages than people who harm smaller number of people. Juries punish people less harshly when they harm more people.

The theory here is that it's easier for us to identify with a small number of people than a large number, so harm done to a few feels more real than harm done to many, and therefore more serious.

This actually makes perfect sense when I think about it. I can easily imagine three individual, harmed people, I could put a face to them if they were introduced to me, I can sympathize with them. But 30 people? That's way more people than I could carry on a conversation with at one time. I'm certainly acquainted with that many people, but I wouldn't really want to try interacting with them all at once, I'd lose track of them.

Anything that happens to 30 people is hard to really get a grip on.

I do wonder, if there's a point where empathy fails and gives way to impersonalization, there's also a point where impersonalization fails and gives way to horror at the scale of a crime.

Say, if hurting three people is bad, and hurting 30 people is less bad, is hurting 300 people bad again? Or less bad still because, hey, how much can I really feel bad for 300 strangers?

What about 3,000 people? Or 30,000?

And then, where does horror at the vast scale of a crime become despair at its implacable hugeness, and a disinclination to do anything because there's no way we could make a dent in that? Let's not even bother to try to punish this wrongdoer, what's the use?

I guess from the evidence presented so far, the lesson is if you're going to do wrong, do it big.

I will adjust the scale of my evil plans accordingly.