The latest post at SuppVersity is relevant to what I was saying about bulking from lean being more efficient (and what I’m probably going to say about macronutrient composition if/when I get around to writing about it). Lots of good crunchy data; go have a read.
I don’t have the energy to blog about the NSA’s data-harvesting the way I might once have, but that’s okay, because Mike Masnick, Mike Riggs, and some guy on Reddit have said everything I’d have said (and more). While the third link is presently lodging itself deep in my midbrain to nourish my sense of nameless, protean dread for the next few months, my frontal lobe would like to point out that Masnick’s post is the most immediately concerning (and Riggs’s post is why we’re fucked). For the next few decades, at least (although the Germans were probably saying the same thing in 1931), I’m less concerned about secret-police brownshirts rounding up political dissidents* than I am about individual shitbirds using the data for their own nefarious purposes. (Some say this is already happening.) Those of you who might protest that the NSA is “only” storing metadata might consider the mischief caused if a true-believer with the courage of s/h/its convictions extracted a list of the phone numbers of people who’d called Planned Parenthood clinics within the past few months. Other examples might occur to you.
* The “police rounding up dissidents” rant is a Drug War topic, and is ably covered elsewhere
There’s a longstanding alcohol wage puzzle: drinkers earn more than non-drinkers even after correcting for a bunch of stuff. Chris Auld found that moderate drinkers earn 10% more than non-drinkers and that heavy drinkers earn 12% more than non-drinkers; plenty of other studies have found similar effects.
Correlation not being causation, I look for upstream connections. Way back when, Psychology Today noted that intelligent people drink more, and it doesn’t take Bryan Caplan to deduce that intelligence is a half-decent predictor of income. I’d lay 90% odds on smart people not being able to get through a day surrounded by nattering nihilistic nabobs without the promise of getting soaked at the end, and 10% on an eerie Harrison Bergeron-style conspiracy in which normals are made to feel better about themselves because they can be almost as productive as I can when I’m murderously hungover.
He considers philosophy majors (in the broader context of Whether Brick And Mortar Colleges Can Survive In The Face Of The Internet), and notes that philosophy majors make (relatively speaking) a shit-ton of money… because they’re smart. I have no reason to doubt that he’s correct; the only philosophy majors I met in undergrad who were dumber than I was — I’ll note, perhaps unpleasantly, that I went on to get a doctorate — were in a bunch of required courses whose names started with “one-” and, maybe, “two-”. So yeah, the PHIL majors in my sample tended to be pretty clever.
Thoreau, however, wonders whether “[t]here is value in training capable people to attain the level of intellectual sophistication that a good philosophy program instills.”
I submit that this conundrum is a catastrophic conflation of correlation with causation. (I don’t even have an English Lit degree and I pulled off some pretty awesome polysyllabic alliteration there. Govern yourselves accordingly.)
I’ve been reading a lot of The Last Psychiatrist lately, partly because he drinks more than I do but also because he’s put a fair bit of effort into unravelling why people send their kids to college at ruinous expense (mostly, but not always, to the kids) for absolutely no good goddamn reason at all. In the first part of his epic Hipsters on Food Stamps rant — go ahead and click through, I’ll still be here in an hour when you’re done — he wonders:
I am not anti-liberal arts, I am all in on a classical education, I just don’t think there’s any possibility at all, zero, none, that you will get it at college, and anyway every single college course from MIT and Yale are on Youtube. Is that any worse than paying $15k to cut the equivalent class at State?
Now, let me tell you a story a friend of mine loves to tell, from his perspective. Text in brackets is mine.
The three of us — William [not his real name], me, and Matt, took Advanced Software Engineering last semester [or whenever]. It was basically User Interfaces In Java, although we saw the Design Patterns book for a few minutes in the second lecture. William loved that shit, so he went to all the lectures, and he got a seven [out of nine]. I didn’t really care, so I skipped most of the lectures, and somehow I got an eight. But Matt only attended the first lecture, the midterm, and the final, and he got a nine in that class.
(Yes, I’m the Matt in that story.)
I tell you that not to convince you that I’m amazing — the Ph.D. will have either done that already or convinced you irretrievably otherwise by now — but to convince you that that course was a waste of my fucking money. Not my time, I spent all of maybe twenty hours on it that semester, and I can’t say it wasn’t a little bit educational. I learned that I hate Java with the burning fire of a thousand suns, and also that 2000-vintage Swing was, while eminently hateable, better than anything else on the GUI-widget-set market at the time. Also, in the first lecture one of the other guys in the class found out the hard way that he was colour-blind, so that was a thing. I dunno what the fuck else I was supposed to have been educated upon in that course. And they gave me the highest mark they could!
So if you’re an undergraduate programme committee member — and if you really are, I’m sorry — why would you put a course like that on the required list in the syllabus? There are a lot of excellent cynical reasons, but the only pedagogical reason I can come up with is “so that every student we graduate must demonstrate, at the end of a semester of either skipping or attending class, that s/h/it knows how to make a calculator in Java.” Actually I did that in high school, but thanks for taking four months to make me prove it to you.
This is not to say that I got no knowledge or skills of value from my undergrad. If nothing else, the compilers course was worth the price of admission (and if you’re a CS student reading this blog, for fuck’s sake take a compilers course, it will change your life). But I kind of doubt that I had to go to university to learn any of this stuff… maybe I had to go to university to be persuaded to study LL languages before attempting to write a compiler, but if you’re reading this sentence you don’t. In any case compilers wasn’t a required course; I selected into it (as did both of my friends from the anecdote above). And, of course, I got a B.Sc. and a GPA that convinced a grad school to admit me, whence I got a Ph.D. and a bunch of publications, whence I got a useful job.
…though reading the first few comments made me wish I’d done something more pleasant with that ten seconds of my time, like set fire to my penis.
My claim: People who tell you to follow your passion aren’t giving you advice, they’re humblebragging. Smile widely and roll your eyes a lot; passion-followers love that. It’s a sign of respect in their culture.
It’s fairly short, so you should go read the whole thing, but I’m a big fan of this bit:
Many see ads as unwelcome persuasion, changing our beliefs and behaviors contrary to how we want these to change. But given a choice between ad-based and ad-free channels, most usually choose ad-based channels, suggesting that they consider the price and convenience savings of such channels to more than compensate for any lost time or distorted behaviors. Thus most folks mostly approve (relative to their options) of how ads change their behavior.
I’ve been arguing for some time that the news media exist primarily to sell advertising space and only incidentally to provide whatever acts of journalism they may inflict upon innocent consumers. If you want a paper without ads, you probably want a paper that costs twenty bucks a copy (and for which there’s no market, which is why you can’t get one). Oh, are you one of those clever fellows who uses something like Adblock Plus? Congratulations, you’re a moocher! Savvy folk like you evade online ads, but the sites that depend upon ad revenue don’t get any less dependent — so they make ads ever more intrusive, to the detriment of people like your grandmother who aren’t quite as savvy. Dick.
But if most people dislike ads, it’s interesting to ask why. Robin has some ideas:
One plausible reason is that ads expose our hypocrisies – to admit we like ads is to admit we care a lot about the kinds of things that ads tend to focus on, like sex appeal, and we’d rather think we care more about other things.
Another plausible reason is that we resent our core identities being formed via options offered by big greedy firms who care little for the ideals which we espouse. According to our still deeply-embedded forager sensibilities, identities are supposed to be formed via informal interactions between apparently equal associates who share basic values.
Permit me to offer a couple more:
First of all, the story that “ads are an evil destructive manipulative force that exists only because big bad firms run the world, and use ads to control us all” isn’t just a great piece of anti-corporate, pro-the-rest-of-us in-group signalling (which is useful by itself, as you’ve noticed by my use of the word “signalling”). It’s also a great way to abrogate responsibility. ”Oh, it’s not my fault that I just devoured a large cheese-crust pizza and washed it down with two litres of Coke – teh ebil corporate ads brainwashed me into thinking I wanted it!” It’s a fantastically (heh) effective fairy tale to tell when cognitive dissonance rears its ugly head: If someone (or some group) is behaving in a way that’s inconsistent with your world-view, it must be because an evil corporation or special interest group or even the Goddamn Liberal Media has advertised to them.
Were that the case, I don’t doubt that McDonalds and&c. would have brainwashed us all into believing that soyburgers are the tastiest things on the planet — surely it’s more profitable to turn soy directly into a burger patty and sell that to the consumer than it is to run tons of it through a cow first. The fact that they haven’t — indeed, fast food menus are chasing consumer preference rather than creating it — suggests to me that advertising isn’t quite so goddamn powerful as we like to pretend. But rather than acknowledge an unpleasant truth, we prefer to double down (heh) and impute to ads ever more astonishing powers of persuasion.
My second suggestion is unrelated: We feel cheated by ads. Here I am, trying to watch a football game on a cable channel I’m already paying for. All of a sudden, play stops, and General Motors is trying to sell me a Buick on the startlingly unlikely premise that the fucking thing’s sporty. This isn’t what I bought! I bought a (subscription to a (cable package which includes a)) sports channel! Get the fuck off of my TV, General Motors, you parasitic wretch, and get back to the bittersweet spectacle of the Bengals breaking my heart again!
Nobody subscribes to a basic cable and ads package, or reads a blog for political commentary and ads. The ads tag along in an unwelcome symbiosis. The only exceptions that spring to mind are movie trailers and Super Bowl ads — welcome and expected parts of either experience.
(I’d add something about most ads landing somewhere in the realm between banal and idiotic — no, AdSense, I don’t need to know the one weird tip that a mom discovered to give me striated glutes — but people read Buzzfeed and watch Two And A Half Men, so I’m not convinced that the ads are any worse than the content.)
In any case, if you’re not paying through the nose for some content you enjoy, you should probably thank advertisers for the privilege.