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"I feel sweaty and gross, I need a shower" (didn't shower until next morning)

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.18.14

Pouty Husband Sends Wife Spreadsheet Detailing Sex-Life Dissatisfaction. Granted, their marriage is probably faltering and unhappy, but existence of the Excuse column and the many gems contained within more than make up for that.


 

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Guest Post - Genre Fiction and Gender

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.18.14

Nick S writes:Nicola Griffith's first guest post at Charlie Stross' blog is quite fun.

She touches on a number of different subjects and the links to "The Forgotten Heroines of Pre-Code Comics" and "Cover Posing" are worth the price of admission by themselves. But it's notable that, after giving various examples of sexism within both genre fiction and the critical community, she ends on an optimistic note:

Given my brief Hard Takes Soft was a necessarily simplistic argument -- in the real world nothing is uniform. But what's interesting to me, five years later, is that it already feels a little out of date. For starters, I'd change "is privileged critically" to "was privileged critically." Now I'd say, on balance, that the automatic privileging of hard sf over soft is no longer something to bet on unthinkingly. The world is changing. Again. A look at history shows many pendulum swings -- each accompanied by much agitation from the peanut gallery ranging from complaints of the established citizenry to the destruction of civilization, never mind all-white, for-boys comics -- and I think this is one such. Notions of gender are undergoing a seismic shift -- see, for example, my recent post about the word Wife -- and the genre is moving with it. The great boulder is rocking in its cradle.

Heebie's take: Context, Nick, context. Tell the readers we're talking about how Thor is now She-Thor.


 

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Cheer me up.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.17.14

It feels like we've talked about everything. So far today I've tried to write about
1. scarcity and cognitive bandwidth poverty, like how you become obsessed with money/calories/time when you're ongoingly deprived of it.
2. the way the kids today talk about hate-read, hate-fuck, and generally acknowledge how much fun it is to relish a certain kind of hatred, which didn't seem like it used to get acknowledged
3. how since Jammies' aunt died, I became FB friends with both of her sons' fiances, and in the past week one got diagnosed with cancer and the other posted a status about how it's been 5 years since her cancer diagnosis. They are both in their 20s. Holy shit get out of that toxic, deadly, cancerous town now. There were a few other cancer stories while we were there.
4. how the workers in the front of the house aren't wearing facemasks as they sand down the drywall putty stuff. It is a dusty chemical mess up there. So that's probably how they'll get cancer.
5. I haven't tried to write about the anti-vaxxers in my local mother's board, because what is there to say.
6. Oh yeah, I tried to say something about Mallory Ortberg's greatness, which thematically doesn't go with the rest of this list.

Well, someone needs to post something, so here you go.


 

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Reforms

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.16.14

So which make sense?

1. Reforms for the Supreme Court

But this term was not an aberration. In a forthcoming book, The Case Against the Supreme Court (to be published by Viking on September 25), I argue that throughout American history, the Supreme Court has largely failed at its most important tasks of enforcing the Constitution and protecting the rights of minorities.

2. Reforms for corporate tax loops. Here I'm inclined to think that if we just had regulatory agencies with some regulatory agency, the problem would resolve itself. And that in the absence of regulatory teeth, corporations will just be newly squirrelly with your new tax code. But maybe a better tax code can't hurt.


 

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Kickin' in the front seat, sittin' in the back seat.

Posted by Apostropher
on 07.16.14

Gotta make my mind up: which Mutombo should I sex?

Heads up, DC-area miscreants and rabble! I'm going to be in Rockville, MD this week and am hoping some of you fine folks will come play with me Friday night, since I'll have just finished up three days of this edge-of-your-seat action and am likely to be in need of palate-cleansing libations. I'll have my car and the subway, so it doesn't have to be way up in suburbia. Also, my hair is cut short so it won't be (immediately) apparent that you're out gallivanting with a hippie freak. Okay then: hands up, who likes me?

Moving to the front since this also became the de facto ttaM-in-SF thread: this saturday, Dear Mom, 8 pm.


 

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Mas Y Mas

Posted by Ogged
on 07.16.14

Oh world, how many sports have I never heard of?


 

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Bad

Posted by Ogged
on 07.15.14

It remains a mystery to me why anyone thinks that a system set up by and entirely internal to a college can be expected to hold that college accountable. Very good reporting by the Times on one woman's experience of reporting a rape to her school.

Not, of course, that reporting to the town police is some kind of magical solution.

And it'll probably pull us off topic, but I can't help but think that the real problem here is that a significant minority of boys all over the country seem to think that treating a woman this way is ok. What the hell?


 

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Precocious

Posted by Ogged
on 07.15.14

I was led to reread Prufrock the other day, and although I did my best to hate it, it's still a great poem*. I recalled that Eliot had written it as a very young man, but did you know that he finished it when he was twenty-two? College-senior age. I mentioned this to a friend who said, check out what Picasso was doing when he was fourteen. Like so.

I'm sure y'all have had this discussion, but it seems obvious that some people have a knack for some things, and others don't, and some people have more than a knack. Sure, there are selection effects, and virtuous circles of talent and practice, and no greatness without practice and discipline, but most of us, shockingly, aren't Picasso.

So I'm happy to see this latest paper.

The new paper, the most comprehensive review of relevant research to date, comes to a different conclusion. Compiling results from 88 studies across a wide range of skills, it estimates that practice time explains about 20 percent to 25 percent of the difference in performance in music, sports and games like chess.

Sounds about right!

* This collection of critical responses to Eliot's first book of poetry is pretty amusing.


 

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First Jobs

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.14.14

Delagar's first job story is pretty great.

So I conducted my very first slow-down strike, refusing to conduct the work in a timely fashion. Eventually my father had to negotiate between us. I demanded a raise. I wanted equal pay for equal work. My brother the boss refused to grant it.

My first job was mini-babysitting across the street, while the parents were home but occupied, circa 1986. They asked my mom what she thought they should pay me. She answered "25¢ an hour". They were a little horrified and very nicely paid me $1/hour instead.

My jobs after that are not particularly interesting - some babysitting, Grandy's, a trout farm, and then tutoring and TAing sorts of jobs. And then my current job. The end.


 

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Guest Post - Grandmothers Raising Grandchildren

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 07.14.14

Heebie's take: Context, Nick, the readers need context. So, DeLong has a neighbor named Bie who, for decades, has worked with a single guy in a small village in Kenya on a small-scale charity called Grandmothers Raising Grandchildren. DeLong helps promote and match a charity drive which they expect to pull in a few thousand dollars, but ends up pulling in about 20K.

Ok, onto our regularly scheduled programming:

Nick S writes: Brad DeLong's story about his involvement with the Grandmothers Raising Grandchildren charity is fascinating, and of interest for his personal thoughts and experience rather than theorizing about economics. I remember when he did the original call for donations, and I didn't give, and felt badly about that -- so I was particularly interested in the follow-up.

There remains the question: What to do with the extra money? Bie decides to build a well--and to build a well not out in the fields where it would be useful for irrigating the rice but near the houses. Bie's view: the girls of Ahero need to go to school--and if you spend up to three hours a day carrying water back to the house, your school attendance is going to be spotty. The local powerbrokers have a different view. Their view: Ahero runs on rice. If there is enough water to grow the rice (and beans), then lots of things are possible. Then everyone can be fed. Then there will be enough labor to grow and process coffee and oilseeds. Then there will be money for teachers. Then there will be time for students to attend school. If there is not enough water...
In the end we play the heavies: the weirdos from Greater San Francisco who believe in education and quality-of-life for girls, rather than investment in productive and badly needed agricultural infrastructure. Is this the right thing to do with the money? We have no idea. Bie strongly thinks it is, but her values are not necessarily their values. And who are the "they" whose values should count anyway?"

 

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Piketty Reading Group: Chapter 9

Posted by LizardBreath
on 07.14.14

Rob Helpy-Chalk has chapter 10 next week, and fake accent has chapter 11 the week later. Volunteers for 12 or later chapters solicited in this week or next week's thread. Bave's notes on 9 are under the fold, discussing Piketty's treatment of the marginal productivity explanation for wage inequality.

Prior reading group posts:

Piketty Reading Group Setup
Initial Scheduling Post
Introduction and Chapter One -- Robert Halford
Chapter Two -- Minivet
Chapter Three -- Essear
Chapter Four -- Unimaginative
Chapter Five -- X. Trapnel
Chapter Six -- Conflated
Chapter Seven -- LizardBreath
Chapter Eight -- Lw

Chapter 9 continues the examination of income inequality, focusing on the dynamics of wage inequality since the beginning of the 20th century.

The chapter starts with "the most widely accepted theory" for why income in equality, and wage inequality in particular, is greater at some times and for some societies than others. Picketty rejects this theory as an explanation for all variations in income inequality, but he does think it explains some things, and it's a useful baseline theory against which the data can be compared. The theory assumes that a worker's wage equals her marginal productivity, and her productivity depends on her training/skill and the demand for that training and skill in a particular society. One upshot of these assumptions is that democratizing education will reduce inequality, because there will be lower barriers to people obtaining the most valuable skills. Another upshot is that rapid technological change can create sudden demand for certain work skills that are in low supply, thus leading to greater wage inequality in favor of workers who happen to have those skills.

Picketty says it's generally true that egalitarian access to education leads to a more egalitarian wage distribution. (He doesn't give evidence for this, other than pointing at Scandinavia.) But otherwise, he says, the technology/training theory doesn't explain enough -- it doesn't match up with the data. This is not surprising, because the theory does not account for the social and institutional forces that powerfully shape the wage distribution.

One such force is the minimum wage. Picketty takes a brief look at the history of the minimum wage in the U.S. and France, partly to show how social factors and institutions can affect he wage distribution at the low end, and partly because it's interesting and controversial. He concludes that the U.S. could stand to raise its minimum wage, and that having a solid minimum wage is one way to bridge the short and medium-term instability in labor markets that accompanies rapid technological (or other economic) change.

The rest of the chapter focuses on the high end of the wage distribution. In particular, Picketty makes a strong, data-based argument that the primary driver of increased income inequality in recent decades is the rise of what he calls "supermanagers": top executives in both the financial and nonfinancial sectors who make a ton more money than almost anyone else. Supermanagers are a major factor in the increased income inequality in the U.S. and U.K., and to a lesser extent in other English-speaking developed economies. They aren't so much a thing in continental Europe and Japan, although those countries appear to be following the supermanager trend by a couple of decades.

Picketty contrasts this situation with the early 20th century, when European incomes were much less egalitarian than in the U.S. He has discussed this in previous chapters--top incomes in that era were mostly income from capital rather than wage income.

Picketty also looks at top-end income inequality in a number of emerging economies. The data is not great, and Picketty laments that publicly available income-tax data has deteriorated since the 1990s, partly due to computerization (so the state can talk to itself privately via email rather than by publishing detailed tables) and partly, perhaps, because governments don't want to emphasize growing inequality. Reliance on household surveys rather than income-tax data underemphasizes inequality.

The interesting thing about the differences between the U.S./U.K and the rest of the developed world, and in particular about the supermanager phenomenon, is that it gives the lie to the technology/education theory of wage inequality. It's ridiculous to attribute massive executive pay to the greater marginal productivity of U.S. executives compared to French ones. My favorite sentence in the chapter says that "individual marginal productivity" here "becomes something close to a pure ideological construct on the basis of which a justification for higher status can be elaborated." Rather, the supermanager phenomenon indicates that this variety of inequality is not a "natural" result of the operation of economic laws, but a result of different cultures and institutions.

Picketty takes a stab at explaining the difference, pointing at compensation committees and corporate governance structures. He doesn't get into the details much at all, but he points out that high pay for elite managers engenders even more high pay for those managers' peers, through mechanisms such as corporate boards that are composed of the same kinds of people as the corporation's top managers. The supermanager class becomes self-perpetuating as it creates justifications for its own existence. It also has outsized influence on the political process and thus the tax codes, so over time it shifts culture and institutions even more in favor of extreme inequality.

In all, an interesting chapter, although it still feels like Picketty is preparing the ground for his real argument. I kinda wish he had talked about other cultural and institutional issues, in particular the ability of low- and moderate-income wage earners to organize and assert class power. Maybe later in the book?


 

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The Finals

Posted by Ogged
on 07.13.14

Who to root for? Muslim brother Ozil? Germany has seemed like the best team, particularly in the knock-out games, and I'd pick them to win. But I'll root for Messi to make his mark and get the World Cup monkey off his back.


 

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