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15 July 2009 @ 10:22 am
A quick check in...  
I've been meaning to check in with my blog for more than two months. At some point I will clear the backlog but I had to report this little incident. Long story short I wrote a letter to the editor and they actually put it in print.

I was reading the Globe and Mail (Canada's self-proclaimed national newspaper) and came across a letter to the editor responding to some favorable coverage of American Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor with a criticism that more than 60% of her decisions were reversed. I immediately thought this was a silly criticism and so as I worked on unraveling the history of the determination of Pluto's mass, I did a bit of digging on the web I wrote the following letter to the Globe and Mail editors:

Paul Ranalli suggested in his letter to the editor that a 60 percent reversal rate for judge Sonia Sotomayor was unacceptably high for a private business. However, such rates are relative. In major league baseball such a rate would be a .400 batting average, worthy of the Hall of Fame. On average the American Supreme Court reverses more than 60 percent of the cases it rules on.
Also, these reversal rates only apply to the small number of cases the Supreme Court selects to rule on, of the over 200 cases she wrote the opinion on as an appelate judge only 5 went before the Supreme Court.

Yours Truly,
Allan Olley

Note the published letter is just the first three sentences of this.

Despite being curtailed all my missing points were made but more accurately and precisely by another letter writer and my analogy became the title for the letters on that topic. I had to look up Sotomayor's record and look up what the at bats to run ratio thingy was called and make sure that indeed 0.4 was an impressive batting average, actually almost superhuman as a career average. I was hardly the first to make this analogy (example), but I claim independent invention. I've just discovered that Sotomayor also ruled on the baseball strike of '95 making the analogy even more apt. Of course all this is of little concern to me, but I find such fallacious arguments troubling.

Anyway, I guess I've taken my first step to becoming a full fledged crank who writes to the newspaper.
Current Location: Oakville, Ontario
Current Mood: excitedexcited
Current Music: Take me out to the ball game
_Bud_: Don Quixote_bud_ on July 15th, 2009 03:33 pm (UTC)
Gotta love the spin they put on this. The Supreme Court selected to rule on 5 out of 200+ cases and over-ruled 3. In reality they over-ruled less than 1.5%.

But more importantly... Pluto is NOT a planet!

In other (astronomy related) news: Radio Ham operators have been bouncing signals off the moon since the 50s. But back in March a German ham team bounced a radio signal off Venus!

Allan Olley4ll4n0 on July 15th, 2009 03:56 pm (UTC)
One of the reasons people accepted Pluto as a planet in the first is that they thought it had a mass almost equal to the Earth's (overestimated by a huge amount). The way they estimated the mass has come up in my research.

Interesting I knew radar was used for distance measurements of celestial objects, but had no idea you could do it with plain radio. NORAD early warning systems in 1960 mistook the radar image of the moon for an incoming missile attack. http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.07/start.html?pg=11 . Luckily they figured out the mistake before launching their "counter attack."
Pauldaisho on July 15th, 2009 09:37 pm (UTC)
As you accept being edited with good grace, I can confirm there is nothing wrong with writing letters to newspapers. Just never use green ink if you send things in written longhand. :)
Allan Olley4ll4n0 on July 16th, 2009 09:12 pm (UTC)
I should probably be clearer that despite my wording I actually sent an e-mail and not postal mail. However, the section of the newspaper is still called the letters to the editor. So in this honorary sense it was a letter.