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Friday, May 26, 2006

Web Archives
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Which online web-archiving service to commit to: Furl, or Google's new Notebook? Furl stores actual copies of the webpages that interest you, while Google only stores URLs. But Google allows you to store your own scribbles and notes too. But Furl is more fun in a Flickr "sharing" way. But Google seems more likely to be around for the long term. Or do I let go of the "online" fixation and use nothing but Yojimbo? But it's great to be able to access everything from any computer that's online ... Oh, dear: I'm starting to feel disorganized again. Why oh why isn't Yojimbo a web-based application? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 26, 2006 | perma-link | (7) comments

Whose Public Servants?
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- The Senate has passed its ludicrous and destructive version of an immigration-reform bill -- another triumph for Teddy Kennedy. That's right: the very same Teddy Kennedy who spearheaded the disastrous 1965 immigration act that landed us in the pickle we're in now. Let us never forget the promises Teddy made back in '65: "First, our cities will not be flooded with a million immigrants annually. Under the proposed bill, the present level of immigration remains substantially the same ... Secondly, the ethnic mix of this country will not be upset ... Contrary to the charges in some quarters, [the bill] will not inundate America with immigrants from any one country or area, or the most populated and deprived nations of Africa and Asia ... In the final analysis, the ethnic pattern of immigration under the proposed measure is not expected to change as sharply as the critics seem to think." Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong. Whose interests does this man have at heart anyway? One consequence of our approach to immigration that I'm particularly dreading is increased ethnic strife. When has a dramatic overhaul of a country's ethnic makeup ever proved to be a good idea? Whaddya know: It's happening already. Black Americans aren't thrilled by our daffy immigration policies either. And if you find it annoying to be asked whether you want to be spoken to in Spanish or English, brace yourself. Steve Sailer assesses the damage. Best, Michael UPDATE: John O'Sullivan reviews the ugly way this piece of legislation was crafted. Take-home quote: The politics of this bill are not hard to read. It is being pushed by an alliance of Big Business (cheap labor), the Democrats (cheap votes), the immigration lawyers (more business), and the White House (economic illiteracy plus moral preening) against the opposition of most Republicans in both House and Senate -- and of most Americans. But aren't all those new immigrants at least going to solve our Social Security crisis? Jerome Corsi points out that the Congressional Budget Office, having looked at the Senate's bill, predicts that it will make the Social Security challenges grow worse.... posted by Michael at May 26, 2006 | perma-link | (26) comments

Thursday, May 25, 2006

It's Pulp Time
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- We're having a pulp fiction moment, so why not enjoy it? Pulp fiction is the theme of Slate's Summer Reading Week, and IFC has declared June Pulp Viewing month. So far I've found most of the Slate articles twitty and condescending -- all-too-characteristic of what happens when smartypants types discuss popular culture. I did enjoy Bryan Caplan's intro to the history of pulp fiction, Dwight Garner's survey of the work of Erskine Caldwell, and John Banville's piece arguing that two of the greatest 20th-century writers of on-the-page fiction were the crime writers Georges Simenon and Donald Westlake in his Richard Parker incarnation. (FWIW, I find Banville's argument plausible. I wrote here about Simenon, and here in praise of Donald Westlake.) Maybe that isn't too bad a harvest. Among the films that IFC will be featuring, I can recommend ... Whoops, I can't find IFC's June film schedule, so I can't pass along any tips at all, darn it. I do love passing along tips. By coincidence, I happen to be spending commuting time with this audiobook collection of Raymond Chandler short stories. What a dazzler and a giant Chandler was. All that juicy narrative tension ... The wised-up psychological shrewdness ... The mind-bending way a kind of poetic dream/symbolic logic mixes with straight-ahead crime yarns ... And of course the famous (and often-parodied, often-imitated) hard-bitten florid quality in the writin' itself. One beyond-fabulous line and metaphor follows another. About a tough guy with something dreamy in his eyes: "He looked like a bouncer who'd come into money." Woo-hoo! I'd happily sacrifice a half a dozen literary novels for the sake of one line like that. Before I slipped it into the Walkman, the audiobook had gathered dust on my shelf for a few years. I'd been apprehensive about it because the reader is Elliott Gould. (Gould in fact reads nearly all of the Chandler books that are available on audio.) An often-inspired actor whose work I generally enjoy, Gould appeared as Philip Marlowe in Robert Altman's 1973 film of Chandler's "The Long Goodbye," a flip and satirical riff on Chandler. Although I love the film and Gould in it, I was worried that Gould as an audio presenter of Chandler would be facetious or otherwise disagreeable. In fact, he presents the stories beautifully, and never tries to outsmart them. He balances "reading" mode and "acting" mode alertly, he plays up the laconic growl in his voice in a way that suits Marlowe and the era, and he sinks into and sells the tense moments with a rueful grit that feels convincing. Thinking about pulp fiction has got me thinking about American on-the-page fiction more generally ... Hmm. I don't think it's misleading to picture on-the-page 20th century American fiction as coming in two main flavors: the uspcale tradition (Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Updike, Cheever, Pynchon, etc) and the popular tradition (pulp, crime, sci-fi, blockbusters, thrillers, porn, etc). The first is generally more concerned with "the writin'."... posted by Michael at May 25, 2006 | perma-link | (16) comments

Performance and Art
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I always enjoy comparing notes with the brash evo-bio brainiacs at GNXP. Agnostic especially is drawn to mulling over culture-and-art matters, and he unfailingly comes up with interesting thoughts and provocative research. Recently he has been thinking about G and creativity. With no research to back me up (but with several decades in the arts and the media), I love following his arguments and then throwing pebbles in his path. I was pretty pleased with my latest comment on his latest posting, so I'm treating myself to re-running it here: Let me give you a few more things to chew on. The main flaw with your theory, it seems to me, is that it obliges you to exclude tribal, folk, popular, and commercial art. Yet almost certainly 80% of the art that has ever been made has been tribal, folk, popular, or commercial. There are entire cultures that have no "high" culture whatsoever, and there are immense cultures (the US for instance) where high culture is a spotty thing, but where commercial and folk culture are hyper-dynamic. Subtract rock, blues, c&w, automobile design, fashion, movies, sci-fi, magazines, TV, pulp fiction, etc from "American culture" and you don't have a lot left. Something, but not much. Your notion that most performers don't qualify as artists strikes me as an almost-equally major flaw. For one thing, there's a "performance" aspect to all the arts -- a novel is a kind of performance, after all, and so is a painting. There's the blurriness of categories of performance, for another. Standup comedians often come up with their own material, improv actors and clowns do too, and how about singer-songwriters who perform their own stuff? There's a practical, on-the-ground matter: many composers will tell you that such-and-such a performer of his/her stuff is a "great artist." During her great years, the ballerina Suzanne Farrell never did anything but execute Balanchine's steps -- yet if you were to go to Lincoln Center and say "For the sake of my theory, I have decided that Suzanne Farrell wasn't an artist," you'd be hectored out of town. She was a great star. There's the cultural problem: the division between "composer" and "performer" is clear-cut only in a limited number of art forms, and in a limited number of cultures, and even then you have to take it case by case. And then there's the historical problem, which is that art probably originated in pre-history as performance: storytelling, dancing, drumming, singing, etc. All that preceded "composition." In other words, performance isn't tangential to creativity. It's central, essential. "Composition" came along later. Happy to agree that there are degrees of creativity, but I really think it has to be taken on a case-by-case basis. A song might be a stinker (ie., non-creative), yet a performer might make something memorable out of it (ie., execute a real act of creativity in performance). This is a common occurrence, btw. If you're a theater-goer, for instance, one... posted by Michael at May 25, 2006 | perma-link | (7) comments

Stores Gone Missing: What Were They?
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I just got home [I wrote and cached this a couple weeks ago] after my regular Saturday run up to the Seattle area. (Well, it's a regular run when I'm not on one of my runs to San Jose and points south.) About every other trip I cross Lake Washington and visit the posh Bellevue Square mall and its environs. Went there today. What was interesting was how many stores were vacant. Back in 2002 when Boeing was on the skids due to the 9/11 attack and resulting big drop in air travel, I would have chalked this up to a sour economy. But things are booming around here, so the mall must have raised its rents or perhaps a clump of leases came up for renewal and the store operators decided to bail out for other reasons. And what was really interesting was the fact that I had no idea what stores had left. I've been noticing this inability to remember for a long time. It seems that, unless I shopped in a store a time or two, I almost never notice that such-and-such had closed. Twenty years ago, most malls had uniformly aligned storefronts. Aside from the store's sign, there was almost no individuality presented if you cast your eye down one of the mall's axes. Nowadays, many malls allow stores to have distinctive facades that can project a foot or two into the mall pedestrian space. One might think that this would make stores more memorable. But no: despite the various touches including one ex-store's use of polished granite around its display windows, I still had no clue as to what went missing. What does this mean? Is there some sort of societal force in play? Have I been having "senior moments" for the last 30 years? Beats me. So let me offer the spin that I'm a simple, practical guy who doesn't stuff his head with unnecessary information; if I never buy Mrs. Fields' cookies, why should I pay any attention to where the shop is/was located? Later, Donald... posted by Donald at May 25, 2006 | perma-link | (5) comments

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Comments Problems Update
[Bumped and revised] Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- If you tried to post comments the last few days you noticed that your comment does not immediately appear. It might appear minutes or even hours later. Why? All comments are being put into a "holding tank" to await a decision by a Blowhard as to whether or not each comment is publishable. So if we are off eating, sleeping, commuting, working at our day jobs, etc., the comments just sit there. We are sorry about this because it takes a lot of fun out of the blog. The problem is that we are receiving dozens and dozens of spam comments daily and want to keep this blog clean. We are looking for software that requires readers to copy a numeric code phrase before commenting can be done. This creates a slight inconvenience, but is better than the present conditions, we think. So please bear with us until we can make commenting a more normal activity for you. I'll remove this post once the situation is resolved. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at May 24, 2006 | perma-link | (5) comments

Self-Organizing System
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I spend far more time researching and trying out get-yourself-organized software than I do actually organizing myself. Nonetheless, I think I've finally found the Mac organize-yourself software package that's perfect for me. Yojimbo is an iTunes-like way of sorting out your thoughts, links, and scribbles. I've been using it for a month, and I'm happy to report that my desktops -- my real and my virtual desktops -- are both cleaner than they've been in a long, long time. Another good sign: I haven't wasted any time researching organize-yourself software in weeks ... Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 24, 2006 | perma-link | (2) comments

Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- * Trixie makes the whole "having cramps" thing about as vivid as can be. Men: read, learn, cower. * Here's the best theme for a blog I've seen in a long time. Yummily written and very enjoyable too. * Corbusier surprises with a posting in praise of Houston. * Talk about working at something ... * Jim Kalb suspects that Lao Tze wouldn't have had much patience with our present-day experts. * Do men have sex on their minds all the time? * Tyler Cowen points out an interesting inflation-adjusted list of movie hits, an archive of Virginia Postrel articles, and the fact that the best-selling book in all of French history is "The Da Vinci Code." * More on the media-making company behind Harvard plagiarist Kaavya Viswanathan. * God only knows how they arrive at these figures, but a billion people are now said to have access to the web. * Words of substance: Thomas Fleming of Chronicles magazine on the classical tradition and American democracy. I was impressed, but am eager to know what the real history junkies make of Fleming's piece. * Why do conservatives put up with Republicans? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 24, 2006 | perma-link | (7) comments

Don Bachardy
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- One of my favorite contemporary figurative artists is the Californian Don Bachardy, most of whose career has been spent making pencil drawings of friends and visitors. Bachardy, who is also known as the younger partner of the writer Christopher Isherwood, has style and elegance to burn, as well as an eerie ability to capture a likeness -- and then something more. His work is (to my mind) an entrancing combo of the exacting and the informal. There's a little bit of the classicist in him, a little bit of the celebrity portraitest, a little bit of the California party host, and a whole lot of insight. Christopher Isherwood by Don Bachardy Pencil drawings, alas, don't reproduce on computer screens as well as many of the more colorful and harder-edged media do. But there's still some Bachardy on the web that is well worth searching out. Here are some links: link, link, link, link, link, link, link. Armistead Maupin visits with Isherwood and Bachardy; Carolyn See does too. Here's a David Hockney portrait of the couple. I wrote about Christopher Isherwood, one of my favorite writers, here. Eager to hear how the figurative-art fans respond to Bachardy. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 24, 2006 | perma-link | (2) comments

More G and the Arts
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Agnostic thinks that G (or at least a subset of G) can function as a measure of creativity. I disagree, but I sure found his case a fun one to wrestle with. I wrote about G and the arts back here. Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 24, 2006 | perma-link | (6) comments

My Kind of Nanny State
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- I feel divided about social-behavior legislation. On the one hand: screw the nanny-state. Restaurants and bars should be able to decide for themselves whether to permit smoking. On the other hand, well ... I don't mind some exceptions either. I wouldn't be upset if the city where I live were to ban pit bulls, for instance. It might represent some kind of intrusion on liberty -- but I've also known people who have been horribly injured by pit bulls. If a law were passed requiring all commercial snailmail to clearly indicate a complete return address, I'd be glad for that too: I'd wind up wasting less time opening mail just to make sure it isn't important. Besides, should "liberty" be everywhere and always an absolute? Libertarian absolutism is just another kind of absolutism, isn't it? Some nanny-state regs even seem unobjectionable in liberty terms. For instance: signing people up for 401Ks. Studies have shown that if the default option offered to employees is not enrolling in a 401K, then relatively few people will sign up, while if the default option is signing up, then many people will. Since we're probably better off if more rather than fewer people are enrolled in 401K plans, and since I can't summon up any objections to making signing-up the default option, I have no trouble with this, happy though I am to agree that it can be hard to know where to draw the line on this kind of thing. I'll confess something further too: I don't mind a little taste-legislating, at least not when it's done as locally as possible, and especially not when I (ahem) share the taste that's being legislated. An example is fast-food signs. I wouldn't mind never seeing the eyesore variety again. They're a jumble, they're a blight ... The California city of Santa Barbara has a regulation banning garish fast-food signs, at least in its downtown. Here's the result: That's what a fast-food strip looks like in Santa Barbara. Easy on the eyes, no? Although I generally prefer a looser ship to a tighter one, tough zoning can sometimes result in places I find more attractive than laissez-faire places. (Laissez-faire places can have their charm too, of course.) I don't want to argue the point, by the way, just to confess that I'm a man of principle when it suits me but an opportunist when it suits me too. If anyone is tempted to go off on an "aesthetics are just subjective" tangent, let me say quickly that, at least where places (and especially public places) are concerned, I disagree. If a city's downtown is appealing, it's likely to attract people, while an off-putting downtown will make people stay away. And surely aesthetics play a role in explaining why some neighborhoods are more in-demand than others. (See here for a posting I wrote about how an inspired approach to parking played a role in reviving Santa Barbara's downtown.) As to what's considered... posted by Michael at May 24, 2006 | perma-link | (16) comments

Rise of the Machines
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards and Others -- Dept. of When It Rains it Pours: First it was the spam comments. As Donald has explained, we're being carpet-bombed daily with hundreds of spamcomments. Spamcommenters, curse them, seem to have learned how to cycle through IP addresses, rendering our usual way of managing them (ie., banning IPs) useless. Over the weekend, our heroic webguy upgraded the blog to MT 3.2; then his connection (dial-up, believe it or not) gave up the ghost. We'd like one day to have a plug-in that would require commenters to type in some random numbers to prove they aren't spambots. A small inconvenience, but one that would enable comments to pop up instantly. For the moment, though, we have no such thing installed -- which leaves us having to approve or disapprove each comment by hand. This means that when we're away from the computer, comments will queue up for a while. Apologies for that. We know it detracts from the fun of a blog's give-and-take. But your comments will show up eventually, and we do hope to have a random-number thingee installed soon. Then it was the home computer's turn to raise the blood pressure. After 10 months of eerily flawless service, the iMac The Wife and I love so dearly took ill. Apple phone support told us in no uncertain terms that the machine required an in-person looksee, so we hauled our beloved off to the local Apple store. Back home, intent on not depriving ourselves of the Internet, I plugged the five-year-old old iBook into the cable modem. The computer and the Internet refused to play nice together. Three hours later, I was still juggling calls to our ISP and to AppleCare. The Wife gave me a pitying and appreciative look, decided she'd like to talk to her Mom -- then stared in perplexity at her cellphone, which was giving her nonsensical readouts. Was there a new magnetic force in the air? In any case, we both needed a break at the end of a semi-trying day, so we settled down before the TV and clicked on the remote. What had we collected on the DVR? Uh-oh: What was that unfamiliar red light on the face of the DVR trying to tell us? ... Tech support is still at work on that one. The time had come for our cast of machines to show us who's really boss, I guess. We had everything but Kristanna Loken (very cute but mildly NSFW) to make a true "T-3" couple of days of it. Anyway: thanks to all for continued patience. I'm hoping to find a few non-tech-preoccupied moments when I can make a bit of a return to the fun of blogging ... Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 24, 2006 | perma-link | (3) comments

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Dig, Patch or Flatten?: Alaskan Way Viaduct
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Oakland's Cypress Street Viaduct collapsed, transforming automobiles into pancake-like objects, when the big 1989 earthquake struck the Bay Area. The viaduct was opened in 1957 and was structurally similar to Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct which was completed in 1953. The Alaskan Way Viaduct still stands, though it suffered damage in the large Puget Sound area quake of 2001. How much longer it will stand is a matter of considerable local debate. That is, unless another earthquake intervenes to polish it off. When new, the Alaskan Way Viaduct was a Big Deal. This was before Congress passed the legislation creating the Interstate system of freeways, so freeways of any kind were comparatively rare outside of the Northeast and Los Angeles. There were none whatsoever in the Seattle area until the Viaduct was built. The Viaduct is a two-level affair, both levels raised, each level handling one direction of traffic, with parking underneath. It runs along the harbor next to dockside thoroughfare Alaskan Way. Downtown Seattle proper is on a hillside starting a block farther east of the northern part of the Viaduct. At the time the Viaduct was built, the parts of the city next to it were pretty ratty; First Avenue, for instance, was home to pawn shops, taverns, rescue missions, cheap movie houses, flop houses and houses of other kinds. What the Viaduct did was divert U.S. Highway 99 traffic from having to creep through downtown Seattle (Interstate 5 was nearly a decade in the future). And as stated, this was a Big Deal. It received a lot of favorable press coverage (can you imagine the press giving any freeway totally positive coverage these days?). And it was a Big Thrill when my father drove us on the Viaduct for the first time. Times have changed. First Avenue still boasts a couple token X-rated theaters, but the rest of its charming ambiance has given way to condos, the Seattle Art Museum, a Harley showroom, boutiques and restaurants. Moreover, the local intelligentsia has been grumbling about the Viaduct for decades. They contend that it's ugly and walls off the city from the waterfront. In November 2005 a statewide Initiative was voted in, raising taxes for (theoretically) transportation infrastructure improvements. (For what it's worth, I voted against the Initiative because I think transportation moneys are not being wisely spent in Washington State. I think the local power structure of government officials, planners, liberal businessmen, etc. is all too sold on public transportation when what the region desperately needs is another beltway. But what do I know compared to those super-brainos.) A problem with the Initiative is that not enough money will be raised to actually complete any of the important promised projects, including replacing the Viaduct. There are three basic options regarding the fate of the Viaduct: Simply tear the Viaduct down and widen Alaskan Way. This might be the simplest solution and would resolve all aesthetic issues. Its downside is that the Viaduct carries... posted by Donald at May 23, 2006 | perma-link | (11) comments

Monday, May 22, 2006

Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I said I was gonna get hitched and, by golly, I did! Let Him Eat Cake. Here is The Bride trying to get the fussy eater to munch some wedding cake (I didn't offer much resistance). [Photo by Elizabeth Pittenger] Despite a rainy forecast, we had sunny weather. But it wasn't very hot, plus there was a strong breeze, so Kirkland, Washington's Woodmark Hotel at Carillon Point (on the shore of Lake Washington) kept the flaps of the tent down -- hence the yellow hue to the picture. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at May 22, 2006 | perma-link | (24) comments

Saving Time
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I see that Time magazine has a new hand on its helm. Richard Stengel has been appointed Managing Editor, the new top-dog position. For all I know, Stengel is the perfect man for the job and that within a few years every issue will be packed with ad pages commensurate with its fat circulation figures. But I'm doubtful. Back in the 1950s teenager me eagerly awaited the mailman to arrive on Thursday, the ETA for Time to get from the Chicago printing plant to Seattle, way out on a remote corner of the country. When it arrived, I'd plow through it before other family members could get to it. And having finished, I had the satisfaction of feeling plugged into the news as interpreted by the sophisticated geniuses inhabiting New York City, nexus of information. Yes, it was a hix-in-the-stix taking cues from the Giant Metropolis thing. I somehow felt more "in the know" than the Seattle folks who relied only on broadcast media and local newspapers for news. Now, I'm sure Harry Luce's PR guys would never have put it quite so bluntly when away from their favorite Radio City area watering hole, but I think aspirational, middle-brow people in the provinces were an important target for Time. You really need to understand that media based in New York (especially), Chicago, Los Angeles and perhaps Washington, D.C. had immense prestige in the 1950s and early 60s compared to media based elsewhere. Go back another 20 or 30 years and LA didn't count much if entertainment was set aside while Washington's prestige was largely as a dateline location. Today the news/culture scene in the United States is far more dispersed. Important blogs, to take the most extreme example, are based in such (formerly) unlikely places as the Minneapolis area and Knoxville, Tennessee. I essentially stopped reading Time by the early 1980s. Even given cheap subscription rates, I simply wasn't getting enough value to make it cost- and time-effective. Worse from Time's standpoint, I find it hard to imagine any circumstance that would have me regularly reading it in the future. And I doubt that I'm alone, notwithstanding those high circulation numbers. These admittedly personal observations lead me to suspect that Time is doomed no matter what Stengel tries in his rejuvenation effort. For what it's worth, if I were in Stengel's shoes (and without benefit of focus group and other marketing research data he has available) I'd be inclined to go back to Time's roots as a news summary for people who are too busy to pay much attention to events on a daily basis. I would greatly increase the ratio of word-space to photo-space. I would eliminate feature articles -- even the cover story. Facts would be salient and opinion segregated to sections where opposing views would be presented, along with short rebuttals. Given the tendency for news media to ignore inconvenient (from their perspective) information, I'd include short facts-rebuttal sections in the... posted by Donald at May 22, 2006 | perma-link | (9) comments

Would You Hire a Ph.D.?
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I suppose I'm extrapolating from my own personality and experience in graduate school. Lord knows it took me a long time to get my mind halfway back to normal afterwards. As a result, if I were still in the demographic data business and was hiring, I'd be more cautious when evaluating candidates with doctorates than I would with people with lesser degrees. Not that there's anything categorically wrong with Ph.D.s, mind you. No question that the typical Ph.D. has above-average intelligence; that's a valuable trait for the data game. Plus, earning a doctorate normally requires persistence, another useful trait. But Ph.D. holders can carry less-desirable baggage, especially those whose degrees are not in hard-science or engineering fields. This risk is higher the more recently-minted the Ph.D. is. One potential problem with brand-new Ph.D.s has to do with that recently-completed dissertation. It can take two or more years to get through the process. This can do serious damage to one's sense of time if one is dropped into a business research setting. (I'm not talking about pharmaceutical testing and other intrinsically long-term research here.) As stated, a dissertation can take years. Government research projects can take months. Business research often can be expressed in terms of weeks. There's a serious gap between weeks and years, and some bright Ph.D.s can have trouble with this. Dissertations are supposed to be practically perfect. The Ph.D. candidate can spend large chunks of time submitting draft chapters to his dissertation committee members who are seemingly never quite satisfied with this detail or that. Of course the world doesn't need Ph.D.s who are sloppy researchers, but the new doctors might have difficulty grasping the notion that imperfect research can be good enough. Most will understand this sooner or later: a few might never get it. So one item I'd want to tease out during a job interview would be how wedded the person was to the ideal of uncompromising quality. If the person was adamant regarding quality, then I'd probe regarding flexibility and practicality on other matters. If I detected such traits, I might figure that he could be weaned from perfectionism. A potential problem for social-science Ph.D.s is too strong a commitment to Theory. This can come from the classroom or seminar, but the first dissertation chapter typically deals with previous research ("the literature") and setting up the hypothesis to be tested in later chapters, so Theory is usually a big deal from this source as well. Theory is not a bad thing, but practicality normally trumps it in business settings. The job candidate should show a sense of perspective/flexibility on this. It wasn't much the case in my grad school days, but nowadays a number of academic disciplines have been hijacked by political movements. While it's hard to imagine a diehard deconstructionist applying for a private-sector research job, I'm certain I'd never hire such a person if he came calling: he'd only be a source of trouble for... posted by Donald at May 22, 2006 | perma-link | (17) comments

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Big Changes
Michael Blowhard writes: Dear Blowhards -- Steve Sailer has put up an important posting outlining what the effects of the Senate's immigration bill are likely to be. Read it and then kiss goodbye to the America you knew and perhaps even loved. The Senate, in effect, is saying: "Hey, America, you're tellin' us that you think immigration rates are too high and that immigration is out of control? You're sayin' that you're worried that demographic changes are happening a little too dramatically? Well, you ain't seen nothing yet!" Have I ever made it explicit that a theme of my contributions to this blog is Our Elites Have Turned Against Us? Best, Michael... posted by Michael at May 21, 2006 | perma-link | (39) comments