Today we’ll talk about reference books.
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Reference books are interesting. Mostly, they aren’t *read* but dipped into. But where would we be without them? They’re very useful for all sorts of reasons, and what the reasons are depends so much on the book. Some are specialized, some general. Some on the web, some still in print. Let’s discuss.
The ‘mother of all dictionaries’ still has to be the Oxford English Dictionary. I’ve got the one in really small print. It’s great.
I don’t own an encyclopedia, but I make extensive use of Wikipedia, especially as a starting point for other research. You have to be careful with Wikipedia. As we all know, anyone can post there. In the controversial subjects, this can get problematic, but it’s pretty good for some technical things, and there are almost always links to good sources.
For my work as a statistician, I have a lot of statistics books. One reference that I use a lot is Cambridge Dictionary of Statistics
When our offices were destroyed on 9/11, we got insurance money, and I used ours to buy the Encyclopedia of Statistical Sciences which is magnificent, but not something the average person will want (or be able to afford!). Unfortunately, I now work at that job only 1 day per week.
Getting to stuff of more interest here, I’ve got several editions of the Almanac of American Politics. I see that the 2008 edition is out. I will be buying it today!
On the web, there are lots of good resources: National Journal ratings gives percentiles for each congressperson on several liberalism and conservatism scales. Progressive Punch is somewhat similar, but provides ratings, rather than percentiles.
The Washington Post provides a database of how congresspeople voted.
For 2008, the starting point is the magnificent race tracker wiki. Over here is a list of open seats for 2008…. I have to explore that site some more. Polidata has links to more sites, which I still have to explore, and National Journal provides information on fund raising in each race. Another great site is swing state project
One topic I am interested in is polling, and there are a number of good sites there, too. One of the most insightful is Political Arithmetik. If you want to see some neat graphs, it’s a great spot. Pollkatz has links to more polls. TPM also has a lot of great information. Pollster has a nice mix of polls and articles about polling. Polling report has the added advantage of access to state polls (for a fee) and, if you subscribe, you get a print publication as well. Survey USA polls are here. For more general polls, there’s Gallup.