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September 2011 Links: Understanding Expenses, the Freelance Revolution, Skirt Length, College Life, Schools, Software, and More

October 9th, 2011 · by Jake Seliger · 2 Comments

* The Tyranny of Silly Expense Control Rules; notice the comment from yours truly.

* The Freelance Surge Is the Industrial Revolution of Our Time. People are, in other words, repurposing their jobs. A lot of academics in the humanities appear to be completely missing this. In addition, you might want to emphasize this fact in your job training proposals, much like social media.

* Speaking of college life: “Smart Girls Wear Short Skirts, Too: Stop Complaining About College Students.”

* The FDA should be limited to establishing safety, which I find convincing for reasons demonstrated by Cowen and Grove.

* The Real Problem With College Admissions: It’s Not the Rankings. Notice especially the graph.

* I don’t often agree with the Wall Street Journal’s editorial line, but “The Latest Crime Wave: Sending Your Child to a Better School” has it about right:

In case you needed further proof of the American education system’s failings, especially in poor and minority communities, consider the latest crime to spread across the country: educational theft. That’s the charge that has landed several parents, such as Ohio’s Kelley Williams-Bolar, in jail this year.

An African-American mother of two, Ms. Williams-Bolar last year used her father’s address to enroll her two daughters in a better public school outside of their neighborhood. After spending nine days behind bars charged with grand theft, the single mother was convicted of two felony counts. Not only did this stain her spotless record, but it threatened her ability to earn the teacher’s license she had been working on. [. . .]

Only in a world where irony is dead could people not marvel at concerned parents being prosecuted for stealing a free public education for their children.

I knew some kids in high school who used this trick; one day, I gave a guy a ride home after working on the school newspaper and was surprised at how far he lived from campus. He told me that his parents used his uncle’s address to smuggle him in.

* Is barefoot running (using shoes like the “Vibram Five-Fingers” I wear) “better” for you? Yes, if you land on your forefoot. If you still land on your heel, however, they’re probably worse. This, however, would be pretty damn unnatural.

* My job is to watch dreams die. My job is to make dreams live; I think it works out better for me.

* One Path to Better Jobs: More Density in Cities.

* File this under “no shit:”

But to many education experts, something is not adding up — here and across the country. In a nutshell: schools are spending billions on technology, even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning.

This conundrum calls into question one of the most significant contemporary educational movements.

Remember: there is no silver bullet for education.

* The New Pants Revue, by Bruce Sterling: “Since I’m a blogger and therefore a modern thought-leader type, my favorite maker of pants sent me some new-model pants in the mail:”

I should explain now why I have been wearing “5.11 Tactical” trousers for a decade. It’s pretty simple: before that time, I wore commonplace black jeans, for two decades. Jeans and tactical pants are the same school of garment. They’re both repurposed American Western gear. I’m an American and it’s common for us to re-adapt our frontier inventions.”

(Hat tip Charlie Stross.)

* The most important post you haven’t read and probably won’t read: Great Stagnation…or Great Relocation?:

Suppose all of those people had the same purchasing power. If you were a factory owner, and you wanted to minimize transport costs, where would you put your factories? The answer is a no-brainer: China and India. Some others in Europe, Japan, and Indonesia. Perhaps a couple on the U.S. East Coast. But for the most part, you’d laugh in the face of any consultant who told you to put a factory in the U.S. The place looks like one giant farm!

It may be that American manufacturing strength was due to a historical accident. Here is the story I’m thinking of. First, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, our proximity to Europe – at that time the only agglomerated Core in the world – allowed us to serve as a low-cost manufacturing base. Then, after World War 2, the U.S. was the only rich capitalist economy not in ruins, so we became the new Core. But as Europe and Japan recovered, our lack of population density made our manufacturing dominance short-lived.

Now, with China finally free of its communist constraints, economic activity is reverting to where it ought to be. More and more, you hear about companies relocating to China not for the cheap labor, but because of the huge domestic market. This is exactly the New Economic Geography in action.

* California or Bust. Isaac may also write a post on this.

* Student choice, employment skills, and grade inflation.

* People respond to incentives, example #14,893:

Top officials [in the Social Security Administration], in a bid to meet goals to win promotions or thousands of dollars in bonuses, directed many employees to refrain from issuing decisions on cases until next week, according to judges and union officials. This likely would delay benefits paid to thousands of Americans with pending applications, many of whom are financially needy and have waited for a government decision for more than a year.

* Demand for software developers is still high.

* Two thousand years in one chart, or, “we make a lot of stuff these days.”

* This is how you catch someone’s attention with the lead: “I became a feminist the day my sixth-grade math teacher dismembered and spit on a white rose, telling us, ‘This is you after you have sex.’

* How Suburban Sprawl Works Like a Ponzi Scheme.

* Hiring Locally for Farm Work Is No Cure-All.

* “The Numbers Behind What’s Your Number?: How many sex partners has the average American woman had—and does anyone still care?” My guess tends towards “no,” and that the number of think “no” increases with age.

* Why Businessmen Wear Black Hats in the Movies:

Why don’t the movies have plausible, real world villains anymore? One reason is that a plethora of stereotype-sensitive advocacy groups, representing everyone from hyphenated ethnic minorities and physically handicapped people to Army and CIA veterans, now maintain a liaison in Hollywood to protect their image. The studios themselves often have an “outreach program” in which executives are assigned to review scripts and characters with representatives from these groups, evaluate their complaints, and attempt to avoid potential brouhahas.

Finding evil villains is not as easy as it was in the days when a director could choose among Nazis, Communists, KGB, and Mafiosos.

This has the unfortunate side effect of decreasing realism and / or pandering to obviousness; no one is going to argue Nazis aren’t bad guys.

* For the performing arts, this is the moment where recession turns into depression. See data at the link.

* Filed under “duh:” “The e-book marketplace is redefining what people expect to pay for books.”

* “[T]he broader point really is the cliche: this is what it looks like when “the terrorists win” and we lose the long-term struggle to protect a free society.” From James Fallows.

* Awesome: NASA revealed on Wednesday a design for its next colossal rocket that is to serve as the backbone for exploration of the solar system for the coming decades.

* Some real Shock and Awe: Racially profiled and cuffed in Detroit.

* Better Business Bureau (BBB) accreditation appears to be bullshit, since the organization will rescind accreditation if you criticize it.

* Finally, for those of you who made it to the end: “Steve Jobs passes and the Internet speaks.”

Tags: Links