Monday, March 14, 2005


That was the name of a horse I won a lot of money on one day at the LA County Fairgrounds. A friend and I put $10 on its nose at 26-1, and took our wives out for dinner when it won by three lengths. We bet it because we liked the name; we were both editing papers for a professor who was quite prodigious with his daily output but had many tangents in his writing. "Make a note of that," we'd say to the tangents, throwing the stuff down into footnotes.

I'm still a footnote lover; it's probably a character flaw that I will not excise a tangential thought but rather stick it in a footnote as if to say "you can go here if you like, but it's the road I've not taken." I instruct my students to be careful with them, but I like them to learn proper footnoting as more than following Turabian, APA or whatever style. Good footnoting is an art.

So I'm reading this article (subscribers only) on how many papers now use URLs in their footnotes which end up being dead links. This is of course troubling; one has difficulty enough verifying good scholarship without having references to disappeared sources. But this caught my eye:
Anthony T. Grafton, a professor of history at Princeton University who has written a book about footnotes, has read a draft of the Iowa State professors' study and agrees that citation decay is "a real problem."
Makeanoteofthat: You can be a history professor at Princeton writing a book about footnotes.

That's a job I want.