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"I cut the dang thing twice, and it's still too short."

Posted by Stanley
on 11.24.12

It has come to my attention that it's possible, after hip-replacement surgery, for one leg to end up longer than the other. I find this outcome to be deeply unsettling and strange.

What are some other weirdo side effects of otherwise relatively common medical procedures? Freak me out, people.


 

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Austin meet-up

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 11.23.12

Josh is in town for Thanksgiving. Let's have brunch!

Update: Saturday at Freddie's at 11:00 am.

If you're on the fence, just remember how Sir Kraab found Sunday to be marginally more convenient, but was willing to sacrifice. FOR YOU!


 

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Text Wrote Something, and I Read It

Posted by LizardBreath
on 11.23.12

Lots of junior associates in big law firms hate the experience. And a surprising number of them write novels about how much they hated it. I've read a bunch of them - they're generally not very good, but I also hated being a junior associate, and so while I don't actually enjoy them much, there's something sort of satisfying about recognizing that someone else had the same experience. They're usually fairly unrealistic in detail: a literal recounting of what makes being a junior associate so unpleasant sounds incredibly petty, so people complaining about it pump up the intensity. (There are also successful, competent junior associates who don't hate it. They don't write books about the experience, as far as I've noticed.) They also share the problem that the feeling they're trying to convey is one of boredom, nervousness, and annoyance, which isn't much to hang a plot off of, and if you do a good job you leave your reader bored, nervous, and annoyed. In any case, Text has written one of these, at novella length, and self-published it on Amazon (you can buy it for a buck at the link, or read a bit of it for free), and I said I'd review it*.

It shares the flaws of the genre (oh, look, an overpaid twenty-something complaining about life), and is also independently not good. The narrator is nameless, and has an absolutely flat interior narrative: no emotional reaction to anything (barring one moment early on when he says that he loves people who bother to lie to him). I expect this is an intentional choice, but it's hard to tell what to make of it: the story takes place in the months around Christmas of his first year, and most first-years don't even start work until September - has law-firm life beaten all spark of human feeling out of him in four months, which seems fast, or is he supposed to just be a sociopathically emotionless kind of guy?

The narrative goes back and forth between legal work and the Associate With No Name's personal life: the legal work focuses on a pro bono case for an ex-prisoner who didn't get proper medical treatment for an injury while he was in prison, with bits here and there about a paying case on which AWNN never does anything useful, but occasionally worries about not having done anything useful. The pro bono case is the primary plot, such as it is - AWNN does some discovery, takes a deposition (there's some discussion there of what makes a good deposition, which while it's very reasonable in the abstract, is awfully out of character for a floundering first year: was he supposed to have extensive deposition and trial experience in the four months he's been practicing), and gets a decent settlement for his sympathetic client, who is, ironically, instantly thrown back in prison on an old charge. I think the reader is meant to care about the pro bono case, but you're not given much of any reason to: AWNN doesn't have feelings, and while the client is generically sympathetic (he's reformed, he has a kid, he has a girlfriend, presumably he needs the settlement money although no specific reason why, other than generally being poor, is mentioned that I noticed) there's nothing that brings him to life.

AWNN's personal life is a series of unconnected incidents - he has a girlfriend in another city, she breaks up with him, she comes to visit and they have sex, he flirts with another associate, they almost have sex but don't, he smokes a lot of pot (sometimes in the office, with other associates. This seems like a failure of realism to me: pot really smells noticeable. OTOH, while I've never worked anyplace where this was something that happened, I can't speak for all firms everywhere), he goes to a party dressed as John the Baptist (also a bit of a failure of realism: while I don't shop at American Apparel, do they really sell furry women's underwear capable of simulating an improvised John the Baptist goatskin loincloth? While it's possible, it struck me as distractingly unlikely.), he applies for clerkships (presumably because he's miserable at the firm, although as noted above AWNN doesn't have an emotional life, or at least not one that gets communicated to the reader), he gets propositioned for a threesome by a fat guy with cocaine and a yoga instructor while in a hotel in Miami for a clerkship interview, and he gets a clerkship despite not having served on a journal (not impossible, but without a connection with the judge also kind of unlikely), meaning that he can leave the firm after having worked for about six-eight months total. If this was intended to hang together in any coherent way rather than just one damn thing after another, I failed to grasp the intent. Further, none of the characters are represented in any way that would let you get interested in them: there's one attempt to physically describe the associate AWNN flirts with, but other than that they're just names who say things.

Strong points? There were bits and pieces that did convey that 'junior associate in a big law firm' feeling - one bit that cracked me up is where a partner has told AWNN that they absolutely have to talk about something immediately: he goes to her office, she's on the phone and waves him off; he returns ten minutes later, she's still on the phone; he returns ten minutes later; she's left for the day. I have had literally exactly that happen to me, working for a partner who didn't let me do anything without approval, but who also wouldn't talk to me. I ended up leaning against his secretary's desk for long periods of time when I had work-product that needed to be sent out, so he couldn't leave his office without either talking to me or admitting that he was intentionally leaving for the day without talking to me. And generally, the feeling of working under pressure doing things that you're being told are important, but without knowing what's actually important and what isn't, and not really knowing what you're doing or how to do it but feeling as if you have to fake competence while actually slacking off came through.

Overall, though, really not good. On the other hand, it only costs a buck, and if Text's comments have left you thinking that you'd like to read his thoughts at greater length, here's your chance. And there was one line that I think may have been lifted from Unfogged comments; if anyone else reads it, we could see if they notice the same thing I did. (Conf to Text: There's your review. Don't say I never did anything for you.)
___________

* Given that this is going to be a negative review of something written by a commenter, I feel impelled to note that I've never written fiction myself at all, and very much doubt that I could write anything close to this competent at this length. It's written in comprehensible English, and while it's noticeably not copy-edited properly, it's not too painful to read in that regard.


 

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 11.22.12

Tradition dictates.


 

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Pro Se Litigants Can Bite Me

Posted by LizardBreath
on 11.21.12

I am going to be up all night making pie because I'll be stuck in the office until God knows because some nimrod is flinging poo at one of my clients, and each bit of poo that takes him three minutes to generate is something I have to respond to with a legal document that takes hours to write. Our office closed at three today -- I was here late last night, and if I leave before nine or so tonight I'll be surprised.

Feh.

Additional thought: What's maddening about this is that it's very easy for an ignorant litigant to create a huge amount of work for me, in a way that can't possibly advance his own interests. Nonsensical papers can't do the guy any good, but I still have to not default on responding to them, and the minimal unit of response for each of his outbursts is big enough to be a sizable hassle.


 

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SAMCRO

Posted by Stanley
on 11.21.12

I've been watching Sons of Anarchy, usually just before bed. I advise strongly against this practice. The show, while excellent, seems to be inducing really weird, violent dreams. I'm never involved in the violence—just standing there observing it. Still, it's off-putting. I can't remember a television show that's had such a consistent effect on my dreaming.

Also, Jax is British? Huh.

Finally, this cover of Bob Dylan's "Forever Young" was on the show and is very good.


 

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I'm sure that if I knew my Marx I could come up with a really pithy or at least cleverly allusive title for this post

Posted by Ben
on 11.20.12

I got an email this morning, friends. Yes: people email me. In this case it's because I was put on a mailing list when I gave someone's "project" some money, but sometimes they email me even without my having entered into some kind of economic relationship with them, and me as an individual, too.

(When you've finished reading this post you will return to the previous paragraph and marvel at how it subtly introduced the main themes of what follows. This I—not predict, but—command!)

What was I emailed? I was emailed about the upcoming, and final, instantiation of a thing that's been had in SF intermittently, the Underground Market, which is predicated on the idea that there's no reason to subject people who sell food to one another for profit to silly bureaucratic notions like "health codes" or anything like that. (So when the dude in charge writes that it was in part "about" (ugh) "[t]he idea that what makes food safe at the local level is not only inspectors, but the inherent responsibility and care created by the local community", what he means isn't "not only inspectors" but rather "not inspectors".) I believe it had, predictably, Yglesias as a supporter. But that's not all it was about! No! It was shut down, but!

But the movement had already spread. It spawned other markets, from Boise, Idaho to Amsterdam. It promoted the idea that people should be able to eat food made in their neighbor's kitchen just as easily as food that's been trucked in from across the country.

And yet I can't help but half suspect that the point hasn't been sufficiently proven. For isn't there an easier yet way to eat food made in my neighbor's kitchen? Yes, my neighbor could bring his food to a big warehouse or whatever kind of structure they set these things up in, set it all up in a stall, and then wait for me, too, to arrive at the venue, at which point I walk up to his booth and give him some money, in exchange for which he gives me food, which I bring home and eat.

But wouldn't it be even easier for both of us, if perhaps less profitable* for him, if I just went into his apartment and ate the food there? This would be truly underground—perhaps even … rhizomatic … a distributed and fault-tolerant non-market (since we have disintermediated the financial intermediary) of neighbors dining or lunching with neighbors with no central venue or planner at all—thus nothing for the city to shut down.

And get this: this utopia is already at hand! We already can eat food made in our neighbor's kitchens! We just have to befriend them, or something (beats me; I certainly don't interact with mine). Unless, indeed, we cannot, since we only can interact with our neighbors by purchasing what they sell.

* I mean monetarily; obviously we should consider also the mana buildup.


 

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Why doesn't he turn on the lights?

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 11.20.12

There's a pop song out right now that samples
I know, caught up in the middle
I cry, just a little
When I think of letting go.

It amuses me, just a little, that the sample stops just short of the worst line in all of the 1980s. "Oh, that song is BEAUTIFUL! Let's sample it! Besides the crappy heart of the song, not that."


 

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Walmart and Black Friday

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 11.20.12

Training managers at Walmart:

We had an entire day devoted to word phrasing, looking at how employees use words and what key words to look for. A computer test consisted of a "what's wrong with this picture?" game. You were shown the area near a time clock, and different handmade and computer-made signs. One sign said "Baby shower committee meeting Jan. 26, 8 pm." Another said "Potluck Wednesday all day in break room." Which one of those signs should raise alarms with management?
"Baby shower committee." Because of the word "committee," a manager would have to find the person who made the sign, find out why they used that word, then determine if the action got a warning or a write-up. If it was the store manager who found the sign, a write-up was almost guaranteed. They called it unlawful Walmart language, unbecoming a Walmart employee--words like "committee," "organize," "meeting." Even "volunteer" was an iffy word, and they would raise an eyebrow at "group."

At math club last night my students filled me in on all their Black Friday tips. One goes to Walmart at 5 pm on Thanksgiving day, and they were first in line last year, so they got a red balloon to indicate that fact. Walmart opened at 9 that evening and they got a great price on a TV. Another camps out at Best Buy until it opens at midnight.

It's easy to be anti-Black Friday, and I am, don't get me wrong. But it's basically Halloween for grown-ups, and grown-ups seem to get equally excited as Hawaii and Hokey Pokey got for Halloween. I'm not sure how you weigh the giddy excitement that so many adults have for Black Friday in its favor, but a lot of people do find it extraordinarily fun.


 

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Trollery of the old school

Posted by Ben
on 11.19.12

We owe k-sky a debt of gratitude for posting a link to Horsey Surprise, which is very funny, guys.


 

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Never say never

Posted by Ben
on 11.19.12

Yes, I know, we'd all like to keep this stuff off the front page, but still, I find it so absolutely mind-boggling that what I understand to be a major newspaper in Israel would run an op-ed with a headline calling for a "decisive conclusion" that I have no choice but to torment you with this baffling/disgusting fact as well. I mean really what the hell.

(Via CT.)


 

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Math Ed

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 11.19.12

This sounds so weird and bizarre.

Since joining the faculty of Stanford University in 1998 I have experienced fierce personal and professional attacks from two mathematicians - James Milgram (Stanford, retired) and Wayne Bishop (Cal State, LA). Milgram and Bishop are opposed to reforms of mathematics teaching and support the continuation of a model in which students learn mathematics without engaging in realistic problems or discussing mathematical methods. They are, of course, entitled to this opinion, and there has been an ongoing, spirited academic debate about mathematics learning for a number of years. But Milgram and Bishop have gone beyond the bounds of reasoned discourse in a campaign to systematically suppress empirical evidence that contradicts their stance. Academic disagreement is an inevitable consequence of academic freedom, and I welcome it. However, responsible disagreement and academic bullying are not the same thing. Milgram and Bishop have engaged in a range of tactics to discredit me and damage my work which I have now decided to make public.

A range of specific tactics ensue.

I believe her, but she doesn't really go into what has ensnared them on such an emotional level. (She mentions that they make racist comments, but not in much detail.) I'd be curious to hear their side of the story, because the premise - no! student engagement is bad and wrong! - is so weirdly ludicrous.


 

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Stupid statistics

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 11.19.12
Dear Heebie,
Are you informed about our short-term disabiliity benefits for fulltime faculty?
57% of employees say a disability would mean they couldn't work. But 65% say they'd run out of money in less than a year because they've made no preparations.

If only the 57% could re-define disability to mean they could work, then maybe there'd be more of a safety net, hmm?


 

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Christmas time is nearly upon us!!!

Posted by Ben
on 11.18.12

And that means … Christmas music.

I've made a mix to help you get in the spirit of the season. Tracklist below.

1. George Crumb - A Little Suite for Christmas 6: Canticle of the Holy Night
2. Califone - Burned by the Christians
3. Current 93 - Christus Christus the Shells Have Cracked
4. John Fahey - Red Cross, Disciple of Christ Today
5. Charming Hostess - When Jesus Christ Was Here on Earth
6. Tom Waits - Chocolate Jesus
7. Bill Monroe - Wait a Little Longer, Please Jesus
8. The Byrds - The Christian Life
9. Dorsey Dixon - When Jesus Appears
10. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Jesus Met the Woman at the Well
11. Fred Lonberg-Holm Trio - Jesus, Etc.
12. Food - Christcookie
13. Miles Davis - Prayer (Oh Doctor Jesus)
14. Low - If you were born today (song for the little baby Jesus)
15. Leona Ruth - Over Yonder Where Jesus Is
16. Olivier Messiaen - Praise to the Immortality of Jesus


 

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How do I google how people google?

Posted by Stanley
on 11.18.12

Recently, I overheard the assertion that most people search for things on the internet by typing in full questions. So, for instance, were a person interested in finding out where to acquire a Chihuahua in Shreveport, she would search for "where can i buy a chihuahua in shreveport" or something similar thereto.

I was completely astounded by this assertion, because it's totally at odds my own searching method. (I'd probably enter the combined search terms "chihuahua breeder" "shreveport" or something like that.) And my first reaction was to assume that it was a generational gap, where people who got used to doing Boolean-style searches continue to operate that way, while younger people have just gotten used to typing in full questions. But that explanation didn't totally make sense, since the person making the assertion was my senior by probably ten years.

Also, did I just position myself on the "old people" side of a generational gap? Let's not talk about that part.


 

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