Monday, May 18, 2015

Bureaucracy and Violence

This essay is not just ... about bureaucracy.  It is primarily about violence.  What I would like to argue is that situations created by violenceparticularly structural violence, by which I mean forms of pervasive social inequality that are ultimately backed up by the threat of physical harminvariably tend to create the kinds of willful blindness we normally associate with bureaucratic procedures.  To put it crudely: it is not so much that bureaucratic procedures are inherently stupid, or even that they tend to produce behaviour that they themselves define as stupidthough they do do thatbut rather, that they are invariably ways of managing social situations that are already stupid because they are founded on structural violence.

David Graeber, The Utopia of Rules, p57

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Rain-shortened games screw up the graphs

The Dodgers held a 2-1 lead from the first inning, and did not score again, so the only thing they did in the sixth to push their win chance to 100% was continue to exist while the umpires called the game.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Pomona College, the future, and (the) Doms Lounge

I enjoyed my college reunion. Pomona runs a very thorough and all-encompassing reunion program and makes everything easy and comfortable. And I have plenty of nostalgia for the campus. I did have misgivings, perhaps best expressed by Freddy deBoer:

And I am even more upset by their parents, who crowd the halls on the endless campus tours and constantly ooh and ahh over the 55-vertical feet of climbing wall but seem not to care about the fiscal future of their children. ...  

I am amazed that these appear to be the two options now: Disneyworld plus maybe some classes if you feel like it, or sweating in your basement while you cheat on a test “proctored” by a beleaguered adjunct teaching 5,000 students a semester for $11 an hour. Why hasn’t some established college decided to make its reputation as a stripped-down, efficient, inexpensive place where teaching and learning are valued ahead of a luxury dorm experience? Where are the colleges saying “Look, we won’t have the badminton team or the lazy river pool ... but ... we’ll get you out of here on time with minimal loans, ready to start your young life with a quality education and without crushing debt”?

Our class dinner was in Doms Lounge (not Dom's Lounge, mind you.  It's a good thing it was built after my time on campus or I would have had to mention Doms Lounge at least once a day for four years), part of the sprawling mass of brutalist-detailed, neo-classical-styled concrete comprising the Smith Campus Center.  Here are the bookable spaces:

Hart Room 201 (Capacity: 60)

Available only for very special functions, this grand room has a vaulted ceiling, large tables which can seat up to a total of 60, depending upon arrangement, and an informal seating area. Various setups available. Some built-in A/V.

Room 208 (Capacity: 100)

This lecture style room has movable seating and is ideal for presentations or lectures. Various setups. Built-in A/V.

Room 212 (Capacity: 20)

This formal room is designed for intimate gatherings and has a mix of tables and chairs and soft furniture ideal for small receptions or meals.

Room 217 (Capacity: 25)

This room features a large hollow-square table with seating.  There is a built-in screen, video projector and computer input, along with a corkboard/white board.

Room 218 (Capacity 12)

This room features a conference table and seating and includes a built-in screen, video projector and computer input, along with a corkboard/white board.  The room also has an upright piano for rehearsal and practice.

Room 235 (Capacity: 40)

A mix of soft furniture and tables in this room can allow for comfortable receptions, small meetings or larger meetings. Various configurations available.

SCC Social Room - Room 018 (Capacity: 165)

This large space in the lower level of the Smith Campus Center is ideal for parties, social events, and small band performances. The space is furnished with soft furniture and a small stage.

Doms Lounge (Capacity: 185)

The room contains a stage, intricate lighting, a "plug and play" sound system, as well as a built-in bar. The Lounge is accessible through a stairwell off of the Campus Center's main breezeway, Ulf Walk, as well as from the south side of the building (Stover Walk). An outdoor patio features tables and chairs, tiered seating and an inclined grassy area.

Rose Hills Theatre/Rose Hills Theatre Lobby - Room 015 (Capacity: 200)

The Located in the lower level of the Smith Campus Center, this state of the art presentation space features video, 35 mm film, slide and computer projection as well as a built in sound system. This is an ideal space for lectures, films or multi-media presentations. The lobby offers a convenient location for pre or post-event receptions. Audience seating. Built in A/V.

Edmunds Ballroom - Room 155 (Capacity: 350 - 900)

The largest space in the center, the Edmunds Ballroom can seat 300 at round tables for dining events, 500 in audience row seating and up to 900 if cleared. There is also a portable stage available for performance. Please be sure to discuss setup needs with a staff member of the Smith Campus Center. Various setups available.

Courtyard (Capacity: 800)

This beautiful courtyard features outdoor umbrella tables and chairs. Elegant aspects of the space include landscaping, the Smith Fountain and a commanding view of Marston Quad. Please note however, that this is a public space and although it can be reserved, access to the Sagehen Café, the Coop Fountain, the Coop Store, student mailboxes, and the ATM cannot be restricted.

Steele Forum (Capacity: 50)

This two story space is located just outside the entrance to the Edmunds Ballroom and is perfect as a reception area for large events in the ballroom. It is located along one of the main traffic pathways through the building making it an ideal location for presentations or vendor fairs as well.

Lower Level Lobby (Capacity: 50)

This is a spectacular space with stunning art pieces. It is located on the west end of the building, just outside the entrance to the Rose Hills Theatre. Please note that this too is a public area and often a busy traffic route.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Print is dead

photo of Matier and Ross in pompous poses
The last straw for my Sunday San Francisco Chronicle subscription was the literal love letter to Chevron (actual title: "The power of love: Despite everything, we heart Chevron").  That they publish Willie Brown's self-parody of corruption didn't help.  Nor did the tone-deaf editorials by middle-aged white men.  And the generally shoddy journalism was not so compelling.  Ultimately, the problem with the Chronicle, though, is that as far as I can tell it's anti-journalism, comforting the powerful.  San Francisco liberalism is largely, though not completely, phony. The San Francisco establishment is about money and power the same as anywhere else, with progressivism kept in strict boundaries; "liberal" Jerry Brown's power base seems to be real estate developers; "liberal" Feinstein rubber-stamped everything the NSA and CIA did until they attacked her personally, etc etc etc.

So I tried to get the Sunday San Jose Mercury News, which did at least publish the series about the CIA dealing crack cocaine, even if they later betrayed their reporter.  Sadly, they only actually managed to deliver a Sunday newspaper two or three times out of seven Sundays or so.  I reported all the missed deliveries and I think they succesfully redelivered once.  I finally called, was assured it would be taken care of, never got the redelivery, and when the following Sunday was missed, I cancelled.  Print is dying because print is incompetent.

A few days later, a sales rep called.  Roughly:

"Hi, I'm calling to see if we can get you the San Jose Mercury News!"
"Historical evidence suggests you cannot."
"... I'm looking at the record ... seems like you had some delivery problems ... how about the digital edition!"
"No, thanks, I specifically wanted a physical paper for Sunday mornings and you missed five out of seven deliveries."
"I can get you a reduced rate!"
"So I can pay less to not get the paper?"

photo of Matier and Ross in pompous poses
Full disclosure: Since the call was (allegedly) recorded, I should mention that this reconstruction may be slightly improved from the original.  Also, I do pay for the NY Times Sunday, although it presents deeply flawed journalism on its best days.  I did pay for Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish (also deeply flawed, albeit amazing in some ways) until he shut it down, and I paid for Talking Points Memo until they started publishing advertorials, and I still pay for the San Francisco Public Press, although they print maybe quarterly.  I will pay for quality journalism.  Anybody got some to sell?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Sex = Death

This skit from Inside Amy Schumer
Louis-Dreyfus: Like, believe me, no one was more surprised than me that they let me stay fuckable throughout my 40s and the fact that it continued into my 50s.
made me think of this data:

(source of data)

Monday, May 4, 2015

BMWs getting tickets, #5

So this isn't a BMW and maybe it's time to rename this series "luxury car drivers getting their just desserts".  But I'm not ready to go into the semiotics of brand selection just yet, so here's a pretty yellow Porsche getting service from a pretty yellow AAA truck.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Taxi registration

Whenever I see a black SUV or Prius make an especially aggresive and dangerous maneuver I check the bumper to see if it has a TCP number.  I can't remember what TCP stands for, but it's for limos and such and it means the driver is probably going to do something illegal.  Staring at bad drivers is definitely a bad habit that serves me ill and doesn't improve the world, but I have trouble letting go of my astonishment at drivers trying to, for example, turn left across three lanes of heavy traffic.  I'm not quite enough of a busybody to call in complaints or anything, but in the case of this vehicle it would have been futile anyway:

Maybe a) they shouldn't allow cursive script for TCP license numbers and b) they shouldn't let the drivers apply it themselves, lest they do as bad a job applying stickers as they do navigating traffic.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Notes on Capital in the 21st Century

I started reading it six months ago, I'm finally halfway, and here's a notes dump.

  • Income from labor and income from capital are both very unevenly distributed in every society at every time in history
  • Income from capital is always more unevenly distributed than income from labor
  • Typically, the top 10% of laborers earn 25 to 30% of all labor income, whereas the top 10% of wealthy always own at least 50% of all wealth in a society.
  • The bottom 50% of laborers always "receives a significant share of total labor income (generally, between one-quarter and one-third) but typically owns between 0% and 5% of the wealth.
  • "Wealth is so concentrated that a large segment of society is virtually unaware of its existence" [in a typical rich European country today] p225
  • In Europe 1900-1910, "there was no middle class in the specific sense that the middle 40 percent of the wealth distribution were almost as poor as the bottom 50 percent" p227.  This is a typical distribution throughout history.
  • The relative equality of the post-world-war 20th century in many countries is a historical aberration, probably caused by a combination of external factors unlikely to repeat.  The most equal societies have had a middle 40% that actually earned 35 to 40% of the income, e.g., a fair share, a middle class, but this is very rare historically.
  • Historically, r, the rate of return on capital, has almost always been about 5%.  g, growth, has almost always been about 1 to 1.5%.  During much of the 20th century, r was much lower and g was much higher.
  • Piketty theorizes that the discrepency between these two numbers explains or correlates with inequality.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Pop Quiz

Who needs the biggest hug?

a) Someone who is alone and forsaken by fate and by man
b) Someone who just realized she'd never ride/Through Paris in a sports car/With the warm wind in her hair
c) Trent Reznor