Archive for Friday, May 25, 2012

Heard on the Hill: KU prof weighs in on increasing number of companies facing distracted-driving lawsuits; KU event to show how to preserve family history items; new KU blog features books with chains

May 25, 2012, 12:01 a.m. Updated May 25, 2012, 10:55 a.m.


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• Paul Atchley is a KU psychology professor who has done lots of research into how cellphones and driving go together extremely poorly.

He’s also, apparently, been increasingly busy as an expert witness in a growing number of lawsuits.

He was quoted in a Washington Post article recently about how employees using their cellphones have become something of a liability for companies.

Corporations that allow employees to talk or text behind the wheel are apparently becoming the target of lawsuits across the country, the story posits, citing several examples.

He told the Post that new technology is making it easier to determine if a cellphone was being used at the time of a crash. It used to be difficult to prove, he said.

“But with phone records now, I will actually be able to track your phone in motion,” he told the Post. “When suddenly your phone is no longer moving, I know pretty certainly when the crash occurred and if you were talking around the time of the crash.”

On-board computers in cars will only make that process easier into the future, he said.

• As anyone who has ever seen my desk knows, I have long operated under the maxim “Don’t throw it out, it might be history.”

A KU archivist and a conservator will host “Preserving Family History,” possibly for kindred spirits of mine, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. June 2 on the third floor of Watson Library.

Conservator Whitney Baker and Archivist Sherry Williams will explain how to recognize the value of historic family items, and to share techniques for preserving photos, papers and news clippings.

Anyone interested in attending should RSVP by Thursday to Kristina Crawford at 864-8961 or The event is free and open to the public.

• And no matter how strange your stuff is, they’ll probably know of a way to conserve it.

In a relatively new blog from the Spencer Research Library, I spotted this post about the challenges related to housing a book from around 1370.

Back then, apparently, people swiped books a lot more than they do now, so they came equipped with their own chains (photo at the link to the blog post).

This book, “Sermones de sanctis,” is a bound manuscript from Germany, and features the writings of Frater Soccus, a monk from the Cistercian order.

Apparently, someone was so concerned that Frater’s writings would be swiped, they chained the book to a bookcase or desk.

But today you can’t put the darned thing on a shelf because the chain gets in the way of the books sitting next to it.

Baker, one of the presenters in the workshop above, created a sort of clamshell box to hold the book so it could be put on the shelves with all its brethren.

• Listen to Paul. Always pull your car over to the side of the road before you submit your tips for Heard on the Hill to


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