I was reading Cowboys Full, James McManus’s entertaining history of poker (but way too much on the so-called World Series of Poker), and I skimmed the index to look up some of my favorite poker writers. Frank Wallace and David Spanier were both there but only got brief mentions in the text, I was disappointed to see. I guess McManus and I have different taste. Fair enough. I also looked up Patrick Marber, author of the wonderful poker-themed play, Dealer’s Choice. Marber was not in the index.
And this brings be to the subject of today’s post. Anyone who wants can reach me by email or even call me on the phone. That’s how it is with college teachers: we’re accessible, that’s part of our job. But authors, not so much. Even authors much more obscure than James McManus typically don’t make themselves easy to contact. Maybe they don’t want to be bothered, maybe it’s just tradition, I dunno. But I think they’re missing out. McManus does seem to have a twitter account, but that doesn’t work for me. I just want to send the guy an email.
People can, of course, duck emails. I tried a couple times to contact Paul Gertler about the effect of the statistical significance filter on his claimed effects of early childhood intervention, and I have it on good authority that he received my email but just chose not to respond, I assume feeling that his life would simpler if he were not to have to worry about that particular statistical bias. And of course famous people have to guard their time, so I usually don’t get responses from the likes of Paul Krugman, Malcolm Gladwell, David Brooks, or Nate Silver. (That last one is particularly ironic given that people are always asking me for Nate’s email. I typically give them the email but warn them that Nate might not respond.)
Anyway, I have no problem at all with famous people not returning my emails—if they responded to all the emails they received from statistics professors, they’d probably have no time for anything else, and they’d be reduced to a Stallman-esque existence.
And, while I disapprove of the likes of Gertler not responding to emails of mine making critical comments on their work, hey, that’s his choice: if he doesn’t want to improve his statistics, there’s nothing much I can do about it.
P.S. In his book, McManus does go overboard in a few places, including his idealization of Barack Obama (all too consistent with the publication date of 2009) and this bit of sub-Nicholas-Wade theorizing:
Aahhhh, so that’s what it was like back in the old days! Good that we have an old-timer like James McManus to remember it for us.
But that’s just a minor issue. Overall, I like the book. All of us are products of our times, so it’s no big deal if a book has a few false notes like this.