Other Things You Should Be Reading
June 29, 2010, 12:12 am
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Right after you finish reading this entire blog of course.

  • Robin Hanson’s open letter to angsty teens.
  • Seth Roberts is not impressed with the results of genetics research. You mean it was supposed to produce results, and not merely $100k+ jobs and nice suburbs houses for PhDs? Guess I was misinformed.
  • This plea from Rick Grant to real estate agents to stop waiting for the government’s next trick & get back into actual real estate selling seems symptomatic of a larger issue I was screaming about over a year ago: when the government is this large and bulky and throws around this much money/regulation this haphaardly, the government becomes the economy, the government is the economy. If real estate agents are (as is implied) somehow on the sidelines keeping an eye on when/whether the government will extend this or that tax credit, or whatever other giant macro government goody/subsidy, well – who can blame them? What single other factor is going to have a larger effect on housing than this or that monstrous, ill-conceived, corrupt, rent-seeking, ill-informed government act by this or that government blowhard egomanic? What chance do old-fashioned rational market forces stand when the government can decide to “stimulus” ten billion phony dollars this way or that on the whim of some stupid-ass Senator? Grant wants real-estate agents to ‘get back to work’, but in light of the government’s whimsy, they’d be pretty stupid to. Actually, everyone would.
  • Arnold Kling notes the irony in having the EU warn about a collapse of democracy.
  • Norman Geras rebuts anti-sport sentiment via the parable of Erica.
  • Dafydd ab Hugh has figured out the most loathsome thing about lefties.
  • Please also read Dafydd on the one-size-fits-all none approach to salt among health nazis. Why is it that the most strongly, passionately-held lefty beliefs seem to be so ill-informed?
  • Steve Sailer points out the whiteness of soccer. Predominantly white, and yet you get Diversity Bonus Points for liking (i.e. pretending to like) it – no wonder lefties like (the concept of) soccer so much!
  • Per Kurowski letter to the FT on risk-weights.

    But when the regulators allow, as they do, the bank to hold only 1.6 percent in capital when lending to AAA rated clients, which implies a leverage of 62.5 to one (100/1.6), then the expected net result on capital for the banks when lending to AAAs, before credit losses, becomes a whopping 31.25% (.5×62.5).

    And of course, a bank, and bankers, being able to make 31.25% before credit losses when lending to no risk-AAAs, would be crazy going after the much more difficult 50% margin before credit losses available when lending to the riskier small businesses and entrepreneurs.

    Seems to me that between this, and salt regulation, and genetics research, and climate-change regulation, etc etc, I keep encountering a larger pattern, which has these properties:

    • a system or theory (risk weightings are good financial regulation, salt-is-bad research, carbon controls to stop climate change) set up by Smart People that has the surface trappings of rationality/science, i.e. the lingo, the jargon, the Peer-Reviewed Papers, etc.;
    • it is argued (not in the open marketplace but generally through the political/bureaucratic system) by Smart People that the system/theory should be put in place i.e. that it be given the force of law and whatever enabling executive power necessary;
    • only Smart People (i.e. the people who study/work with the system) really understand it in either its evidential support or its implications, because the rest of us, even if we could understand it (which many many could), are basically busy with our lives and don’t have the time;
    • in reality, the system/theory is not all that well thought-out and is really rather poor/flimsy;
    • but thousands of Smart Peoples’ jobs, livelihoods, lifes’ work, upper middle class lifestyles depend on it staying in place.

    And so it does.

    Seth Roberts calls this phenomenon, in the context he writes about, ‘cargo-cult science’.

    I think from a larger point of view it should be thought of as part of a larger pattern of Parasitic Meritocracy. Meritocrats create and populate self-perpetuating parasitic institutions that feed off the rest of society so as to make life nice and easy for…meritocrats. In fact it should not be surprising that they do this. By definition they are the ones who are good at talking, arguing, and convincing others to follow their ideas because their ideas are good and people who don’t agree with those ideas are stupid and low-class.

    Just try to argue against the salt regulation push at a cocktail party with highly educated upper class types for example. See how quickly and totally you are shunned….

  • Arnold Kling agrees with me that soccer needs more scoring, echoing my commenter Arthur Doohan that the low scoring encourages lucky/random outcomes (Kling’s point being, that this is bad not good).
  • zbicyclist makes an important point I totally agree with about the limits of government/regulatory power (in the context of the oil spill). He doesn’t go as far in extending this logic to consideration of whether various attempts at financial ‘reform’ make sense, but he should.

    That would go against the Parasitic Meritocracy however. And that could cause embarrassment.

My Favorite Left-Wing Policy Idea
June 23, 2010, 10:11 am
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My favorite left-wing policy idea is that one which necessitates raising marginal tax rates on people who make more money than (or have larger trust funds than) the idea’s proponent, and using the anticipated revenues to fund jobs/roles for him and his college friends that involve regularly making key decisions about strangers’ lives.

That particular left-wing policy idea is AWESOME.

Know Your Soccer
June 23, 2010, 2:56 am
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Just in time for the “World-Cup”: more fun facts about soccer, based on what I know about soccer.

  • Soccer, for those of you who may not be familiar with this curious pastime, is a children’s game originally designed in 1959 by SRA (Science Research Associates, Inc.) on a limited-but-renewable 2-year government grant signed by President Eisenhower “for the cost-effective promotion of safe, wholesome outdoor play in a controlled setting” in a bill primarily focused on disaster recovery and crowd control in a post-nuclear scenario. It was distributed as a Supplemental Learning Module (along with reading/instructional materials and a filmstrip) to K-6 teachers in classrooms all across the country that fall to much fanfare.
  • During the research phase its working name was Egalometric Teamplayment. The roots of the informal term “soccer” are murky and to this day the term is still disavowed in official Department of Education communications, in favor of the official name.
  • In what proved to be one of the game module’s (1st-3rd editions) less-popular features, the original instructions specified that all officiating and player communication be conducted solely in Esperanto. This rule is only still followed in Egalometric Teamplayment Leagues in Ashland, Oregon and certain parts of Harlem.
  • The Florida Orange Council, contracting with ad agency Foote, Cone, & Belding, in 1965 sponsored a successful campaign to have “Soccer Oranges” ™ inserted into the official game materials. According to this (at the time controversial, indeed nearly filibustered by Senator Strom Thurmond, but now mandatory and near-universally accepted) rule, all the soccer-playing children must eat at least three (3) sliced oranges (the slices being 45+/-5 degrees wedge) at halftime. This was also seen as an effective measure for disposing of surplus orange crops, bolstering the price of orange futures and thereby helping the American orange farmer. Although this section of the game is not contractually included in television broadcasts, the rule is also strictly observed in all FIFA play including the World Cup.
  • The famed “red cards” and “yellow cards” that still can be seen to be displayed by soccer referees at random, unpredictable intervals throughout any soccer game are a vestige of an earlier game design. In the game’s early years, these red and yellow rectangles (which were originally triangles) were part of a larger set of shapes/colors (purple hexagons, blue triangles, etc.) similar to Tangrams. The initial SRA proposal contemplated stopping the game at random intervals, choosing two opposing players at random, and submitting them to a ‘Tiling Challenge’ involving tangram-like constructive play on a special mat that would be unfurled in the middle of the field. This was to be, in effect, an IQ test so as to identify and weed out those children too intelligent to fall into the game’s target IQ-bands.
  • The most famous soccer character in history, “Pele”, was played masterfully by an actor (nee LeRoy Jackson) from the south side of Chicago chosen by the Carter Administration after an exhaustive nationwide audition to help the DoE promote the game as part of its anti-”malaise” efforts. This project (which also helped fund the Sylvester Stallone vehicle Victory!) was deemed a success by all administrators when it came up for review in 1983, although funding was cut soon after under mysterious circumstances.
  • The CIA World Factbook cites the invention and promulgation of soccer as one of the U.S. intelligence community’s most successful disinformation/propaganda efforts, stating in part that “there are regions of the Third World and/or England where one can travel for days without encountering a single soul who is even remotely aware of the American roots of [soccer]“. Robert McNamara considered it central to his “hearts and minds” strategy.

So know your soccer! It’s the peoples’s game.

The Second Goal
June 21, 2010, 11:11 am
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I was reading this worthwhile soccer rant by Ferdinand Bardamu when I recalled my idea for fixing soccer:

Add a second goal.

It could be just a little goal, even hockey-sized. Just a little goal off to the side of the main one. Still worth one point.

Can anyone honestly say this wouldn’t make soccer dramatically more exciting?

The problem with soccer, clearly, is that there just isn’t enough scoring. I gather that soccer enthusiasists would see that as an ugly-American, no-attention-span, TV-addict type of complaint. Because all Americans have ADHD and sub-Neanderthal IQs thus need constant scoring to pay attention. But that’s not the main problem with too little scoring at all. There isn’t that much more scoring in baseball yet it’s far more tense.

The main problem with soccer is that (unlike even baseball) the outcome of a game isn’t in doubt for nearly a high enough percentage of the game. At any given time in a game, if you look at the scoreboard, you’re looking at the Most-Likely-Final-Score. If it’s tied, chances are, the game will end in a tie. If one team is ahead, chances are, that team will win. So why are you still watching? is a question you can ask yourself of every soccer game – at virtually any time in the game.

Games are only interesting if the outcome is in doubt. Right? Imagine a limiting case where the goals were one inch wide. No scoring possible. The score will be 0-0, regardless of either team’s ability. Can we at least admit that this would be a boring game to watch?

Soccer is not like that, obviously. The goals are wider than one inch. They are wider than the ball. They are even wide enough to allow for (I guesstimate) about 0.9 goals per game. So soccer is unlike my limiting hypothetical ‘no-scoring-possible’ game. It’s just that it’s not unlike it enough.

Now compare soccer to basketball. In a typical pro basketball game, each teams scores perhaps 40-60 times per game. Does basketball really suffer from this? The outcome is in doubt a lot. It can swing back and forth. Yes, one team might dominate from the start (due to better ability). Shouldn’t they (if they have better ability)? But as long as teams are not hugely separated in ability, chances are, a basketball game will stay interesting to watch for most of the duration. And teams can beat better teams, it happens all the time. So there is doubt in basketball. Clearly this is a better-engineered sport than soccer. And I say this even though I’m not really a basketball fan.

If you think about why basketball is this way, it’s primarily because it’s far easier to score. Teams score on a significant percentage of their attempts (I don’t know whether it’s 20% or 40% but it’s significant.) Why couldn’t soccer be this way? What’s the reason?

One reason seems to be that offensive attacks are too hard, and defense too easy, in soccer. Well okay then, make defense harder and offense easier. One way is to just make the goal bigger. I’ve considered this but not sure that’s the way to go, because you’d just increase the number of Hail Mary-type kicks.

A ‘second goal’, however, and suddenly you’ve got something. Does the defense keep two players back? Do they still just keep the one goalie back and hope he can run to the side goal if need be? With two goals to cover, chances are only 9 instead of 10 guys get to cover their half of the field for defense. Now you’ve got more holes and lines and angles. The offense will have an easier time.

The only counterargument I can see to this is “the offense will have an easier time!” Yes, the offense will have an easier time. Exactly. Feature not bug. Do you want to make soccer better or don’t you?

I get the feeling people don’t. If soccer were more interesting, certain folks wouldn’t be able to get nearly as much mileage out of pretending to like it.

Even His Powers Have Limits
June 20, 2010, 10:35 pm
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President Obama must be surprised that his words haven’t plugged the oil leak. He has given so many speeches and interviews about it now. And it’s still not plugged! How is that possible?

Obama evidently has no experience with a tangible, real world that does not bend in obeisance to his utterances. He verbally ended The Iraq War – which is why it’s over. (He promised that all US troops would be out of Iraq within 16 months of his Presidency, i.e. by May 2010.) He also verbally closed Guantanamo Bay – which is why it’s closed. More recently and notably, Obama verbally declared that the health care bill wouldn’t threaten the plan of anyone who wants to stay on their current one – and that’s totally true too!

As I wrote shortly after he was inaugurated, Obama’s is a rhetorical Presidency. Words are actions. Speech conjures reality into existence, molds it, shapes it. He says things and they happen. This has been Obama’s experience of adult life prior to becoming President.

So how confusing and frustrating it must be that repeatedly demanding the oil leak be plugged doesn’t automatically make the oil leak plugged.

You almost feel sorry for the guy.

Not Sure If I’ve Shared My Sweden Theory Here Before
June 12, 2010, 3:30 pm
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People who like socialism, and Sweden, and cite Sweden’s (or other Scandi country’s) supposed socialism all the time as a great example of socialism, got this idea primarily because they think (or saw on TV/movies) that Swedish people are sexually attractive.

As a corollary, such people subconsciously think socialism (in particular note the obsession with government medical care) will make more people around them sexually attractive – and, in particular, sexually active. Thus increasing their (currently poor, we surmise) chances of having sex with sexually attractive people.

(UPDATE 6/14) Related: “Liberal” Matthew Yglesias fantasizes about colonialism, as long as it’s administered by “earnest Norwegians in association with an international crew of policy wonks”. Seems to me you have two choices when reading something like that: you can be utterly mystified and wonder what he’s been smoking, or you can read it simply as Matthew Yglesias’s deepest ‘desert island’ fantasy (i.e. that he would be one of the policy wonks, stranded and ‘administering’ the natives along with a bunch of hot, ‘earnest’ Norwegians). I know which one survives Occam’s Razor.

Socialism: Must be doing something right.

June 12, 2010, 1:31 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I hereby bequeath the below links to you, the Reader. With a special bonus: my own commentary, for free! (If I feel like it).

  • Arnold Kling’s remarks on U.S. mortgage finance are a helpful summary/intro to his particularly wacky way of looking at it (which I basically share 100%). If you ask me, mortgage finance in this country has for a long time been a stealth socialist program laundered through the markets by converting it into a (at times very lucrative) pyramid scheme.

    Ok, maybe my way of looking at it is even more wacky than Kling’s. But this is a view I formed, in part, while working on a mortgage-bond trading floor. Not coincidentally, in my travels I have gotten the distinct impression that mortgage traders lean left whereas other credit traders lean right: which makes total sense if you buy my theory. After all, if I am right, the entire mortgage-securitization machinery requires government socialism to exist; other kinds of credit do not.

  • iowahawk’s great Sarah Palin guest commentary from a couple weeks ago. Has it been fully recognized what a special sort of genius the guy behind iowahawk is?
  • Ilkka of The Fourth Checkraise with an interesting tidbit about Romanians in Finland. This caught my eye:

    all modern leftism is status signaling of being immune to the societal consequences of leftism

    Is leftism just another form of conspicuous consumption, I wonder?

  • Seth Roberts in talking about the Foxconn suicides has a critique of academia:

    It would be incredibly helpful to figure out what’s causing them. But few professors want to study a problem that they have no idea if they can solve nor how long it will take. They don’t want to wait ten years to write a paper. By then their funding will have run out. If funding is assured regardless of progress, then how does the funder ensure they are actually doing something? And few professors have total academic freedom. Their graduate school advisor, their academic friends, the people who control their career have certain beliefs. About which theories are good and which are bad. About which methods are “correct”. If their results contradict these beliefs, if they use a “wrong” method, they will suffer, just as all heretics suffer. So there is pressure to come up with an acceptable answer using proper methods. This gets in the way of coming up with the actual answer.

    Rings true to me. Part of why I left academics. Which is not to say I was too good for academics or anything. I was not good. But I could not figure out how to be good, or how to even identify and study something interesting, in the environment described above. Academics in practice is the business of producing papers in journals read by a handful of other people. If you get lots of papers in those journals you’re a good academic; if you don’t, you’re not. I was not. I was not interested in anything I was doing and the few papers I did get into journals, were because I had to (in one case I had an advisor throw a hissy fit when it seemed like I wouldn’t, so I did), and their subject matter was completely dictated by other people, by navigating whatever constraints it appeared that the field had placed on the subject.

  • Whiskey fire reviews Transformer 2 in a five-paragraph essay. As a grade I’d give it a check-minus with a ‘see me after class’.
  • Seen on Digg, Tribe of Ukrainian Fighting Women. Self-explanatory.

    (This hereby fulfills my weekly quota-requirement of linking to photos of dark-haired girls.)

  • ‘Do Something, Superpresident!’ at Cato@Liberty.

    …it’s worth worrying about the consequences of this view of the presidency. When the public views the president as the man responsible for curing everything that ails us–from bad weather, to private-sector negligence–presidents are going to seek powers to match those superheroic responsibilities.

    Nothing to add.

  • Good point made in a Ross Douthat column (via Betsy Newmark)

    This is the perverse logic of meritocracy. Once a system grows sufficiently complex, it doesn’t matter how badly our best and brightest foul things up. Every crisis increases their authority, because they seem to be the only ones who understand the system well enough to fix it.

    Coincidentally, who are the people who most strongly support such a meritocracy? Those who perceive themselves to be meritocrats, naturally.

  • McCovey Chronicles lets you decide what do do about Aaron Rowand, in the form of an expertly-crafted Choose-Your-Own-Adventure! I had hours of fun.

    If you don’t follow the Giants, you won’t understand the main subtext, which is that the Giants have for the past 20 years or so had a consistently baffling bias towards keeping “veterans” (such as Rowand, in this case) in the lineup, and being irrationally afraid to let younger players start, even if those younger players are, like, better baseball players who would help the team win more games.

  • Samizdata, of all places, helps me understand the money supply in the context of “stimulus”.
  • Cobb has a modest proposal for the symbol of the new 21st-century radical: smoke!
  • In this blogger’s humble opinion, the film Separado! looks like it very well may just be one of the finest documentaries featuring a member of the Super Furry Animals travelling to Patagonia ever to be put on celluloid.

    I really wanna see it.

  • Aretae’s Grand Unified Theory of History seems like something.
  • LOL: a personal letter from Steve Martin (via Jacob Grier).
  • Steve Sailer of all people shares some salient and interesting thoughts on power-pop. May well be the most riveting account of an encounter between a young Steve Sailer and Bun E. Carlos that you will ever read! Now if we can get him together with the Super Furry Animals guy.

Sonic Charmer’s Helpful Guide To The Big 2010 Summer Movie Season

Not sure what to watch this record-breaking movie season? So many wonderful choices for you and yours! Never to fear, Sonic Charmer is here to review** all the summer blockbusters, with helpful capsule summaries and quick takes:

  • Sex and the City 2: Dessicated praying-mantis harridan humanoids prance around in high-fashion costumes, nauseating the populace of an unsuspecting Middle Eastern country (Horror, 2010). Groundbreaking, will be studied in film schools for decades to come.
  • Shrek N (for values of N>=3): Mike Myers continues his valiant efforts to pay off what I can only assume was an inflated mortgage he must have taken out circa 2005 (and which has since been securitized and re-remic’ed into an A, B, and an X bond, you can go to Bloomberg and pull up the entire deal using SHREK 2005 Mtge VAC[GO]). But what about the film? Are there sly pop culture references in this film, you ask? Why yes! Numerous! Thanks for asking!
  • Prince of Persia: The Sands Of Time: Moviegoers who are Prince of Persia purists, and therefore hope to be treated to a thrilling scene of Jake Gyllenhaal being sliced in half by a floor-to-ceiling blade, complete with a ‘slice’ sound effect, because he didn’t hold down the SHIFT key to make sure he took a ‘walk’ step rather than a ‘run’ step, will be highly disappointed. The rest of you will too.
  • Iron Man 2: Small, thoughtful, personal, Ingmar Bergmanesque film marred only by the fact that I was totally lost and unable to follow its highly nontrivial, intricate and complex plot (never having seen Iron Man). The filmmakers here expect way too much of the audience. Not all of us are film experts! Not all of us go to the movies to ‘think’! What about those of us who just want a rollicking mindless good time? If that’s you, pass this one by. It’s really more of an art/indie flick for the festival circuit.
  • Robin Hood: Bland remake of the Costner classic, and its inferior in every way, starting with the puzzling and frankly disturbing decision to omit Bryan Adams’s timeless “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)” from the soundtrack. And no disrespect to Ms. Blanchett, but I’m sorry, I’m a traditionalist, and for me there will always and forever only be one Maid Marian. By which of course I mean Mary Elizabeth Mastroantonio (or whatever her name was).

So there you go! Hollywood’s dream factory sure has rolled out some amazing, spectacular entertainment for us this season. I’ll see you at the movie house!

**Editor’s note: I have not seen any of these movies and am not likely to.

Me & My Band
June 7, 2010, 12:30 am
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Readers are asking me all the time, Sonic Charmer, what do you do for hobbies? Well, I don’t like to talk about this a lot but I have been known to play a little Rock And Roll music. Here’s a clip of me playing with a little band I’m in. We go by the monicker “The White Stripes”.

“That’s not really you”, you protest. Oh yeah? Prove it.

And by the way, no negative comments about my musical abilities please. I actually think I’m a very good drummer and I CAN TOO maintain a tempo, despite what it may sound like.

Blogging Is Hard
June 6, 2010, 11:18 pm
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I looked on The Internet for some Blogs to read, as is my wont whenever I retire to my study with my pipe and martini, and discovered much to my chagrin that I had run plumb out of Blogs! Worse still, when I tried to use Google Reader’s ‘Recommendations’ function it recommended that I subscribe to the Freakonomics blog and something whimsically called ‘Insta-pundit’. Come on. Are there no more Blogs? Is that it? Is that all the Blogs we’re gonna make?

I resolved to cure this perplexing dearth by commendably writing a Blog Post of my own for others to read but that’s when I realized, that 80% of Blog Posts are about how some other Blog Post somewhere was wrong and here’s why. In other words they take the form of someone deciding to pick up and carry forth an unsolicited, unwanted debate with something someone else wrote somewhere. That’s what 80-98% of Blogging is (which is surely among the top 8 reasons why it is such a productive human activity – speaking of which, remind me to submit my ‘Top 8 Reasons Why Blogging Is Such A Productive Human Activity’ article to Digg).

So anyway I opened my WordPress, clicked on ‘New Post’, and (with a Doogie Howser-like thoughtful furrowed-brow expression, my face illuminated by the white-on-blue of Microsoft Works’s word processing program running on my 286 PC) optimistically and cheerfully typed the words

In <a href =””>this post</a>, Matthew Yglesias said that

Then of course I frantically clicked over to Matthew Yglesiases’s Web Blog to look for a suitable post to argue with (there was bound to be one) so I could grab its address and ctrl-V it in between those quotes. But that’s when I realized, there’s a reason I don’t spend my Blogging arguing with the Matthew Yglesiaseses of the world, which is because I don’t believe any of the self-serving assertions and arguments they put forth are sincere or worth arguing with in the first place! Silly Sonic! How could I forget?

What this all points to, in my view, is clearly the impending death of the Internet. If there’s one thing I am it’s a trend-setter, and so, when I find I have no more Blogs to read and no more Blog Posts to write, can the rest of the world be far behind? I think it’s high time we all get back to something else anyway, such as exclusive gentlemen’s clubs, and bridge. Now if you’ll excuse me I think I had better go Wiki ‘bridge’, so I can finish the rest of this^H

The Tragic Plight of Smokin’ Hot Foxes On Wall Street
June 5, 2010, 2:21 pm
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Via Ace, a very important story highlighting one of the most pressing social issues of our time:

Woman says she was fired from Citibank for being too hot

This seems like a joke, but the problem of Hot Women In The Workplace strikes me as a nontrivial one. The ‘feminist’ answer here seems to be that guys all just need to be professional and cannot and should not react to this woman in the way that comes naturally. That sounds superficially fair enough, unless one takes into consideration the (very real, it seems to me) possibility that if they had all indeed controlled their libidos, this woman and indeed many/most women who look like her may never have been hired into that job in the first place. So now what?

This is really unfair of me to say, because I don’t know anything about this woman, but if you had to guess what do you reckon were her major job qualifications for this banking job (whatever it was exactly)? If you had to make a bet as to what tipped the balance in her favor, over other candidates, which way would you bet?

Whether this applies to her or not, the fact is that good-looking women start out with a tremendous advantage, especially in a traditionally-male workplace such as a bank. Of course one always likes to think one hires and fires based purely on merit, on qualifications. On the other hand large consideration is also given to things such as whether someone will be a ‘team player’, whether someone will fit in with the group.

Now, what heterosexual guy doesn’t look at this woman and think to himself: Why, I think she’d fit in quite nicely around here, yes indeed.

And especially if the job is customer-facing, like in sales, then one way or another one’s personality and charisma and related qualities have got to be a consideration. But once you go down this road, how on earth do you separate a supposedly objective menu-listing of her ‘qualifications’ in that area from the fact that she’s a smokin’ hot fox who would have clients climbing over each other to have meetings with? In some businesses and contexts the latter can have a genuine, tangible, real impact. Of course the official policy of, especially, a fascistically-regulated place like a bank has got to be that such things are not taken into consideration whatsoever.

But does anyone really believe this?

In a way I’m glad that I’m neither feminist nor politically correct because I don’t have to control or edit how I react to stories such as this. For the PC, of course, this is a Civil! Rights! Issue! Except that, what if this woman got where she was because of her looks, and there’s some ugly but bright woman sitting at home unemployed right now because she didn’t get that job. Isn’t that also a Civil! Rights! Issue? And now this woman is complaining that the bank found her ‘too sexy’ – how does that make the less-sexy female colleagues feel, do you reckon? (Civil rights issue!) On the other hand if (as is highly plausible) this woman was genuinely subjected to intrusive, demeaning, sexualized comments on the job all day long, that can’t have been pleasant for her (Civil rights issue).

I’m so relieved I don’t feel the need to take sides here. I’m happy enough just to sit this one out. And observe. Let’s observe some more:

My Favorite Female Pop Star
June 4, 2010, 12:02 am
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My favorite female pop star is that one whose voice is nothing to write home about but that’s ok because they clean it up in the studio, and her main appeal is not even the music per se anyway, but rather things such as the way she dances in skanky ways while scantily-clad in music videos, the regularity with which she changes her look/hairstyle, and the seedy aspects of her personal life that make it into the tabloids.

That particular female pop star is awesome.

Why I Will Never Be A Great Trader, I’m Afraid
June 3, 2010, 10:05 am
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I like to think of myself as kinda like the DiCaprio character from Catch Me If You Can, only, without the charm. But really I’m more like The Pretender, only, more inept. The Pretender, you probably don’t remember, was a short-lived post-X-Files pre-Alias ’90s TV show in which an ex-child genius who escaped from an evil top-secret government-military-industrial project, knowing very little about the real world, roams around the country ‘pretending’ – slipping easily (due to his genius) in and out of lives and jobs trying to solve problems-of-the-week. And then there was Miss Parker, the sexy cigarette-smoking lady in the miniskirt who was always trying to track him down for some reason, but let’s not get sidetracked.

You see, ‘pretending’ is something I have to do too each time I switch careers (which I seem to do more than most). In this week’s exciting episode, somehow I’ve become a ‘trader’, and I’m not sure how/why. (I assume it’s to solve a mystery or right a wrong of some sort; I should check the newspapers like Pretender-guy always did.) But as a result of all this practice trying and failing at other careers too, I feel as though I’ve developed a healthy sense of my limitations. I’m never going to be a great trader. Here are some reasons.

Trading, at least the type I’m in, is done mostly in chat rooms. To a first approximation what traders do all day resembles nothing more than spoiled teenagers sitting in their room chatting with their friends. (In fact, I reckon that by now, just a few years ago most of these guys were spoiled teenagers sitting in their room chatting with their friends.) And then going behind their backs to chat with other friends in other chat rooms. And so on. This basically goes on all day, at least for a ‘flow’ trader. Now, I don’t like chatting (I barely like friends). All that nonstop interaction leaves me no time/energy to actually think.

You see, (this, my?) trading is social and it is about networking. One problem with all the phone calls and chats is that people become just names on a computer screen if you don’t actually know them. Hence going out and meeting clients becomes a big and, sad to say, crucial part of the role. You have to do it to build up your franchise. People who are good at trading appear good in part simply due to knowing a lot of people – they know a large number of people to turn to try to source or sell risk, and they know/trust that those people on the other end will be good/reliable counterparties. This is done through personal relationships. Without the leg-work to develop and maintain those relationships, you’re left pretty much just spamming and hoping for random hits.

So traders end up being a sort of club unto themselves. Everyone knows everyone, everyone gossips about everyone, everyone has worked with someone somewhere or knew someone who worked with them. The club is maintained at least in part by everyone going out to dinner and drinks and whatnot with each other. To me, there is nothing more awkward and strange in the world. It’s like having a date with other dudes. You either have to enjoy this, or successfully pretend to enjoy it. I do neither.

So inevitably I end up including myself out of the club. I guess I’m not a good Pretender in this episode; I’d be caught by Miss Parker in a heartbeat.

Why was she trying to catch him, anyway? And why didn’t he just let her? Good show.

Unclear On The Concept
June 3, 2010, 1:48 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

The new album Shadows by Teenage Fanclub is supposed to be released on iTunes on June 8. You can Pre-order it there. This raises the question: why would one need to?

Now What?
June 1, 2010, 12:28 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

I subscribe to some 400+ RSS feeds in Google Reader, which means that most of the time the number of unread items remains safely above the “1000+” level that is the maximum reported, and I usually have unread items dating back at least a couple weeks or more at all times.

However, there are occasions where I actually go through and clean out my unread-items (not by reading them all, mind you, but primarily by scanning the post titles from this or that blog or category of blogs, reading maybe 0.5% of them, then hitting ‘mark all as read’). Today is one of those times: my Google Reader is now empty. At least for the 2-3 hours it’s inevitably going to take to fill it back up to 1000+.

Now what shall I do?


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