Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘game theory

Tuesday Links!

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* I put up my Fall syllabi yesterday, if you missed it! Courses on Tolkien, Hamilton, and “Utopia in America” this time out.

* Jaimee has two new poems out in Mezzo Cammin: “Good Women” and “Perseveration.”

* SFRA Review 321 is out, with a interview with Cory Doctorow.

* Octavia Butler, remembered by her friend Shirlee Smith.

* A bar joke. Simulationism. Dadproof. Honestly, how did you miss this?

* A nice interview with Adam Kotsko about his book on the devil.

Somewhat surprisingly, in the early centuries of Christianity, there was a durable minority position to the effect that the devil would be saved. Ultimately that view was condemned as heretical, and what interests me is how vehemently theologians rejected it—the emotional gut reaction always seemed out of proportion to me. And the argument, such as it is, always boils down to the same thing: if the devil can be saved, that misses the whole point of having the devil in the first place. It is as though Christian theology gradually came to need a hard core of eternal, unredeemable blameworthiness, a permanent scapegoat who can never escape.

* CFP: Utopia and Apocalypse (SUS 2017, Memphis). And there’s still time jump on our “After Suvin” roundtable at SUS, if you get something in to us ASAP…

* CFP: ExRe(y) 2018. Exhaustion and Regeneration in Post-Millennial North-American Literature and Visual Culture.

Gender Issues in Video Games.

* Tenure track job in carceral studies.

Professional romance novelists can write 3,000 words a day. Here’s how they do it.

Yes, Your Manuscript Was Due 30 Years Ago. No, the University Press Still Wants It.

* The backfire effect failed to replicate, so it’s safe to be a know-it-all again.

* The grad school horror story of the moment: Why I Left Academia.

Undergraduates Are Workers, Too.

“Grade Inflation” as a Path to Ungrading.

The idea of white victimhood is increasingly central to the debate over affirmative action.

* UCI has reversed itself on rescinding admissions. Good!

* “The Loyal Engineers Steering NASA’s Voyager Probes Across the Universe”: As the Voyager mission is winding down, so, too, are the careers of the aging explorers who expanded our sense of home in the galaxy.

A Trip To The Men’s Room Turned Jeff Kessler Into The NCAA’s Worst Nightmare.

* Race and reaction gifs. Race and speeding tickets. Race and dystopia. Race and police dogs.

* Privilege and video games.

Google Employee’s Anti-Diversity Manifesto Goes ‘Internally Viral.’ Google Fires Author of Divisive Memo on Gender Differences.

You Are the Product.

The guiding principle in Mr. Trump’s government is to turn the politics of white resentment into the policies of white rage — that calculated mechanism of executive orders, laws and agency directives that undermines and punishes minority achievement and aspiration. No wonder that, even while his White House sinks deeper into chaos, scandal and legislative mismanagement, Mr. Trump’s approval rating among whites (and only whites) has remained unnaturally high. Washington may obsess over Obamacare repeal, Russian sanctions and the debt ceiling, but Mr. Trump’s base sees something different — and, to them, inspiring.

We have a political problem no one wants to talk about: very old politicians.

No One Should Have Sole Authority to Launch a Nuclear Attack. No one should have that authority, period.

* Rules don’t matter anymore, stupids. What the Trump-Russia grand jury means. The very thing that liberals think is imperiled by Trump will be the most potent source of his long-term power and effects. If you want a vision of the future.

* 2018 won’t save you. Really. And obviously the Democrats won’t. Obviously.

* But sure I guess everything is fine now.

* Abolish ICE. Abolish ICE. Abolish ICE. Abolish ICE. Abolish ICE. Abolish ICE. Abolish ICE. Shut these guys down too.

* Fired/Rehired: Police departments are often forced to put officers fired for misconduct back on the streets.

* Also it’s weird how we don’t have a State department anymore and no one cares.

* After #TheResistance.

* When Trump trumps love.

* Can the subaltern vote?

Big Data Is Coming to Take Your Health Insurance.

How Trump’s FCC aided Sinclair’s expansion: Use of a regulatory loophole will allow Sinclair to reach 72 percent of U.S. households after buying Tribune’s stations.

* Y’all ready for debt ceiling? Democrats should do exactly what is described here.

Hey Marvel, please don’t take away female Thor’s hammer. Don’t give Confederacy the benefit of the doubt.

* For the dinosaurs, ten minutes separated survival and extinction.

* On names.

* Neurolinguistic programming: how to win an argument edition.

* More on Amazon and anti-trust.

* A short film about Chris Ware.

* “Karate Kid but the bully is the hero” has been a go-to joke for years, but only Netflix could make it real.

* Disconnect your Internet-connected fish tank now.

“Adversarial perturbations” and AI.

* How close are we to a Constitutional Convention?

The Only Place in the World Where Sea Level Is Falling, Not Rising. American Trees Are Moving West, and No One Knows Why. Wildfires in Greenland. Coming Attractions. The Atlas for the End of the World.

Yes, we’re angry. Why shouldn’t we be? Why aren’t you? Why Does Being a Woman Put You at Greater Risk of Having Anxiety? Suicides in teen girls hit 40 year high.

* Your labor in the process of being replaced. Your opinion is increasingly irrelevant. Your presence on Earth will soon no longer be required. Thank you for your service; the robots are here.

* Jeff Goldblum is The Doctor in Doctor Who (dir. John Carpenter, 1983).

* The question of Klingon head ridges has officially become pathological.

* Agricultural civilization may be 30,000 years older than we thought.

* A People’s History of the Gray Force.

* A People’s History of Time Lord Regenerations.

* A People’s History of Westeros.

* The Dark Tower: What The Hell Happened?

* Pitching Battlestar Galactica.

* Littlefinger for New Jersey is tough to argue.

When Will Humanity Finally Die Out? There’s always death to look forward to.

* Smartphones and The Kids Today.

* Zero at Rotten Tomatoes.

* Twitter is bad, YA edition.

* Time for some game theory.

* More scenes from the collapse of the New York City subway system.

Africa has entered the space race, with Ghana’s first satellite now orbiting earth.

* Are you ready to LAUGH?

Reminder that Kurt Russell probably wrote the IMDB trivia section for Escape from L.A.

* I knew it.

* Same.

* And please consider this my resignation.

Written by gerrycanavan

August 8, 2017 at 10:10 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Christmas and/or Fascism Megapost Forever and Ever Links – Part One!

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* I had a great time as the guest on this week’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy talking about my Octavia Butler book, which has gotten some nice attention lately, including an interview in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel last weekend as well. I was also on Radio Free Marquette this week, talking Rogue One

* Another great Butler piece making the rounds right now: My Neighbor Octavia.

* A New Inquiry syllabus on Speculating Futures. Wired‘s first-ever science fiction issue.

Monday’s Electoral College results prove the institution is an utter joke. Original Sin: The Electoral College as a Pro-Slavery Tool. The Left and Long Shots. Trump Is Unambiguously Illegible to be President. Meanwhile, on the lawlessness beat: Gingrich: Congress should change ethics laws for Trump. Amid outcry, N.C. GOP passes law to curb Democratic governor’s power.

* Hunter S. Thompson, the Hell’s Angels, and Trump. Look, all I’m saying is let’s at least give Nyarlathotep a chance. The Government Is Out of the Equality Business. When tyranny takes hold. Now, America, You Know How Chileans Felt. It’s Trump’s America now. Time to get over our attachment to facts. And on that note: Too good not to believe.

* Not that we’re doing much better over here: Vox and the rise of explaintainment.

How to Defeat an Autocrat: Flocking Behavior. Grassroots organizing in the Age of Trump.

* Against Ivanka.

* The worst possible Democrat at the worst possible time, forever and ever amen. What the Hell Is Wrong with America’s Establishment Liberals? Of course they are. The Year in Faux Protests. And no, I’m not over it yet: The Last 10 Weeks Of 2016 Campaign Stops In One Handy Gif. How Clinton lost Michigan — and blew the election.

* My President Was Black. The Problem With Obama’s Faith in White America.

* I am terrified about where all this seems to be heading, on every level.

Colby-Sawyer Eliminates Five Majors to Stay Afloat. English was on the list.

* More on Hungerford and not-reading. Elsewhere at LARB: Graham J. Murphy on the Ancillary Justice trilogy.

* How Bad Was Imperial Cybersecurity in Rogue One? Why Jack Kirby is (Probably) the Forgotten Father of Star Wars and Rogue One. The Obscenely Complex Way the Rebels Stole the Death Star Plans in the Original Star Wars Expanded Universe. And behold the power of this fully operational alt-right boycott.

* More and more I find the unpublished and unwritten versions of stories as interesting or more interesting than the published versions — which is as true of Harry Potter as anything else.

* Dear tech community: your threat model just changed.

You were never actually accomplishing anything by watching the news.

You won’t believe how many Girl Scouts joined the Polish underground in WWII.

Milo Yiannopoulos at UWM.

In 2010, renowned string theory expert Erik Verlinde from the University of Amsterdam and the Delta Institute for Theoretical Physics proposed that gravity is not a fundamental force of nature, but rather an “emergent phenomenon.” And now, one hundred years after Einstein published the final version of his general theory of relativity, Verlinde published his paper expounding on his stance on gravity—with a big claim that challenges the very foundation of physics as we know it. Big question is whether gravity is a bug they haven’t patched yet, or if gravity is the patch.

TNT decides that a modern-day Civil War show doesn’t sound like fun anymore. But a show humanizing the KKK, sure….

* There’s only one story and we tell it over and over, sitcom edition.

* History in the Anthropocene.

* EPA: Oh, yeah, we were lying before.

Arms Control in the Age of Trump: Lessons from the Nuclear Freeze Movement. And some timely clickbait: How would you know if a nuclear war started?

* The end of Roe v. Wade.

* Trump and oxy.

* Understanding Chicago Dibs.

* Spoilers: What Really Happens After You Die?

* Fitter. Happier. More Productive. Comfortable. Not drinking too much. Regular exercise at the gym (3 days a week).

* More news from the future: Feds unveil rule requiring cars to ‘talk’ to each other.

* It can get worse, DC Cinematic Universe edition.

* Academic papers you can use: Where does trash float in the Great Lakes?

* And the war has even come to the Shire: Whitefish Bay to trap and remove coyotes.

Written by gerrycanavan

December 20, 2016 at 11:44 am

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Far Too Many Monday Morning Links, Sorry

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* The Imaginary Worlds podcast did a recent episode on the legacy of Octavia Butler.

* N.K. Jemisin has a plan for diversity in science fiction.

* The best McSweeney’s link in years, maybe ever: “A Poem about Your University’s Brand New Institute.”

* The value-added English major: Book up for a longer life: readers die later, study finds.

Cloud Atlas ‘astonishingly different’ in US and UK editions, study finds.

* Group projects in the college classroom from Ramzi Fawaz.

* Call for applications: The James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award.

* China Miéville and the Politics of Surrealism.

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 1.18.29 AM* Violence Breaks Out in Milwaukee Following Officer-Involved Shooting. More details. Sheriff Clarke and Scott Walker Call in the National Guard. And from the archives: Wisconsin named worst state for black Americans. Wisconsin Prisons Incarcerate Most Black Men In U.S. Wisconsin graduation gap between white and black students largest in the country. ‘Back in time 60 years’: America’s most segregated city. Why Is Milwaukee So Bad For Black People? Milwaukee County and the Unelectable Whiteness of Scott Walker. And a message from MUPD.



* Unprecedented flooding, again, this time in Louisiana (again).

Everything is fucked: The syllabus.

* The Republican War on Public Universities.

* Uber U.

So Your Kid’s A Medieval Studies Major? Relax.

The discovery of Hawaii Sign Language in 2013 amazed linguists. But as the number of users dwindles, can it survive the twin threats of globalisation and a rift in the community?

* One in seven U.S. households has a negative net worth.

The Average Black Family Would Need 228 Years to Build the Wealth of a White Family Today.

* Meanwhile, on the Trump beat: The Entertainment Candidate. My Crazy Year with Trump. Here’s how I’ll teach Trump to my college students this fall. A Republican intellectual explains why the Republican Party is going to die. On Decency. Inside the Failing Mission to Tame Donald Trump’s Tongue. Former supporters describe their ‘last straw’ when it came to Trump. The Ten Point Line. Even if Polling Tightens, Where Is Donald Trump’s 270th Electoral Vote? Presidential candidates leading polls at this point in the campaign have almost always won. What A Clinton Landslide Would Look Like. What would it take for the House to flip? News Organizations Ask NY State Supreme Court to Unseal Trump’s 1990 Divorce Records. Secret Ledger in Ukraine Lists Cash for Donald Trump’s Campaign Chief. I didn’t blog for a few days and the “Second Amendment People” thing already seems like a million years ago. It’s unreal.

* Twitter, or, a honeypot for assholes.

Polls suggest Iceland’s Pirate party may form next government.

* The four basic personality types, by way of the Prisoner’s Dilemma.

Why Did a University Quarter Police and Soldiers in Its Dorms? Stay for the paean to the Third Amendment. It’s making a comeback, my friends!

The drug war has enabled civilian police forces to militarize their tactics and technology up to the level of the armed forces. Police departments are now standing armies of “warrior cops” that largely crusade against Black low-level drug dealers and their Black consumers, with little regard for their non-Black suppliers. These militarized police officers are Third Amendment “soldiers” by any reasonable construction.

* New detail emerge on Star Trek: Discovery. I’m really not in love with the pre-TOS prequel angle — didn’t they already make that mistake? — but the rest seems reasonably promising. Meanwhile, in the next universe over: The Star Trek TV Shows That Never Happened.

The researchers calculated that the ship could reach five percent the speed of light (0.05 c), resulting in roughly a 90-year travel time to Alpha Centauri. The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963, which forbade nuclear explosions in the atmosphere, and the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which forbade nuclear explosive devices in space, effectively ended Orion. 

An Earth-like Planet Might Be Orbiting Proxima Centauri.

NASA unveils 6 prototypical deep space human habitats for Mars and beyond.

A mysterious object has been discovered beyond Neptune with an inexplicable orbit. I’ll be honest: I’m all in on Niku.

* All alone in No Man’s Sky, an incomprehensibly vast universe simulator.

It’s So Hot Out Cockroaches Might Start Flying in NYC.

This “proton radius puzzle” suggests there may be something fundamentally wrong with our physics models. And the researchers who discovered it have now moved on to put a muon in orbit around deuterium, a heavier isotope of hydrogen. They confirm that the problem still exists, and there’s no way of solving it with existing theories.

* Dystopia now: The latest technological innovation for data-hungry hedge funds is a fleet of five dozen shoebox-sized satellites.

* The Hidden Hawaii.

The Invisible Labor of Women’s Studies.

* Perhaps it might be time to abandon altogether the idea of childbirth as a moral experience? Resisting the application of prospective and retrospective judgment, appraisal, and categories of “good” and “bad” altogether: can we imagine birth outside of these assignations? Is there a way for us to hold on to the monstrosity of childbirth? To look directly at Winthrop’s descriptions, refuse his hateful moralizing yet cradle those monstrous lumps?

When mental health professionals systemically misdiagnose patients of color, treatment looks more like punishment.

Lawns are a soul-crushing timesuck and most of us would be better off without them.

Study Links Police Bodycams to Increase in Shooting Deaths.

* “When you realize that *all* faculty meetings follow the CIA’s Sabotage Field Manual.”


* Homeless at college.

* Politeness and the end of democracy.

* Rethinking family leave policies in academia.

* Chernobyl in the Anthropocene.

* A place called Mebane.

* Ice and American exceptionalism.

* Olympics minute! Saluting race-walking. Why Aren’t Long Jumpers Jumping Longer? The Olympics and climate change. This Is Why There Are So Many Ties In Swimming. There’s never been a state-controlled doping system that we know of, of this size. Why does Puerto Rico have its own team? Why bronze medalists are happier than silver medalists, and other things the Olympics teaches us about human emotions.

* Prime real-estate on the Moon (and how to seize it).

But even as new insights emerge from both the physical and social sciences, a longstanding argument over whether or not addiction is a disease prevents researchers from identifying effective treatment strategies. The “disease model” remains dominant among medical researchers as well as in the treatment community. But it is not universally embraced, and some researchers think it gets in the way of fresh ideas about how to help people.

An Open Letter to My Future Daughter.

* 8/11 is 72 cents on the dollar, please cite me in all future thinkpieces.

* Teach the controversy.

Cost of Lead Poisoning in Flint Now Estimated at $458 Million. It was reported last year that the problem could have been entirely avoided with water treatments on the order of $100/month. Millions Of Americans May Be Drinking Toxic Water, Harvard Study Finds.

* I’m a notorious Jessica Jones Season Two skeptic, but this is promising.

* The future of street signs.

* A Brief History of the Traffic Stop (Or How the Car Created the Police State).

* How to be rich.

* Is God Transgender? Fascinating op-ed.

* The Ballad of Merrick Garland.

* The Ballad of Mayor McCheese.

* The Ballad of Ray Kurzweil.

* The Man Who Created Bigfoot.

The secret life of a trade union employee: “I do little but the benefits are incredible.”

Your Coffee Table Needs This Lavish Collection of Retro UFO Pulp Fiction Art.

Unsung Architecture Of 1990s Anime.

The Chimera Quandary: Is It Ethical To Create Hybrid Embryos?

* Eight low-populated U.S. states as boroughs of New York City, or, abolish the Senate.


Some Editions Of The First Harry Potter Book Contain A Valuable Mistake. I’m a two-wand truther. This is canon and explains everything.

* Creating The Night Of.

* Making a Murderer‘s Brendan Dassey’s conviction gets tossed, pending the State requesting a new trial.

* MetaFilter vs. the PT Cruiser.

‘Hot’ Sex & Young Girls at the New York Review of Books.

Generate your own random fantasy maps. @UnchartedAtlas.

Six Proposals for the Reform of Literature in the Age of Climate Change.

The Moral Machine is a website from MIT that presents 13 traffic scenarios in which a self-driving car has no choice but to kill one set of people or another. Your job is to tell the car what to do.

* Why does DC Comics hate Lois Lane?

Why has this summer blockbuster season been so bad?

‘Suicide Squad’ suffers major drop in second weekend, still wins box office. And a perverse provocation: Suicide Squad is an artistic statement, “The DC Cinematic Universe Finding Its Voice.”

Ghostbusters sequel unlikely as studio prepares to eat $70 million loss.

This Open Letter by an Alleged Former Warner Bros. Employee Rages at Top Executives.

The Three-Body Problem Play Adaptation is a 3D Multimedia Spectacle for the Stage. More here.

I Made a Shipwreck Expert Watch The Little Mermaid And Judge Its Nautical Merits.

* Paul McCartney: The Rolling Stone Interview.

* The Thiel saga continues: Ex-Gawker Editor On The Verge Of Bankruptcy After Hulk Hogan’s Lawyers Freeze His Assets.

* Rest in peace, R2.

* Years late, this week I finally finished reading Chris Ware’s The Last Saturday, which I loved (of course).

* On Moirai, the experimental mini-game of the moment.

* Listen, man, animals have a lot of problems.

* Some people just see farther.

* And it’s all I think about now, too.

Written by gerrycanavan

August 15, 2016 at 9:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Tuesday Links!

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The Paradox of New Buildings on Campus: Even as long-neglected maintenance threatens to further escalate the price of higher education, universities continue to borrow and spend record amounts on new buildings.

The “terminal” sabbatical eases the aging academic into “retirement,” the meat grinder admins use to nourish new administrators.

Visual Proof That America’s Weather Has Gone Completely Insane.

* Our friend Nina Riggs writes of her family’s history of cancer.

* The New York Times reviews Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Game Theory Is Really Counterintuitive. And from Cracked: 20 Paradoxes Most Human Minds Can’t Wrap Themselves Around.

* Jessa “Bookslut” Crispin has a book! Why I Am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto.

Just in time for another convention, Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72.”

* It’s not enough to just turn over your lunch money; you have to enjoy it.

A final response to the “Tell me why Trump is a fascist”.

* Weird science: MIT Experiment Proves Quantum Mechanics Still in Effect at Over 400-Miles.

* Twilight of the VCR. A nation remembers.

* Disability in Abramsverse Star Trek.

* UnREAL probably is going to be bad from here on out.

* Trying to understand the data on desistance in transgender kids.

* What I’ve Learned From Having A Trans Partner.

* Brain metaphors in the Age of Trump: Is Your Nervous System a Democracy or a Dictatorship?

* Elsewhere on science corner: What high heels say about the massive gap between the rich and the poor. Ancient Campfires May Have Unleashed Humanity’s Top Bacterial Killer. Proton Gradients and the Origin of Life. This map shows how many people are getting high near you. Watch language evolve as little sims wander around a grid of islands. Personality Change May Be Early Sign of Dementia, Experts Say.

* #TheWisdomofMarkets: Nintendo shares plummet after investors realize it doesn’t actually make Pokémon Go.

* Details emerge about the new Nintendo system that I will almost certainly be buying my child sight unseen.

* Interesting details about the accident that hurt Harrison Ford on the set of The Force Awakens.

* Your policy, not mine: Pokémon Go players urged not to venture into Fukushima disaster zone.

* “You are surprisingly likely to have a living doppelgänger.”

* “Mysterious green slimy foam emerges from Utah sewer.”

* And I suppose you do have to admire it.


Spring Break Forever Links

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* Hey look! LARoB reviewed Green Planets.

* Another science fiction studies research opportunity: The 2016-2017 Le Guin Fellowship.

Notes from ICFA roundtable on The Force Awakens, on cast, nostalgia, and franchise. This was a great panel; I’m so glad we did it.

* Will we ever learn George Lucas’s original Plan for Star Wars Episode 7?

What a Funding Fracas Could Mean for the Future of CUNY.

* They’ve finally diagnosed my unusual condition.

* Snubbed again! Here Are 15 Indispensable Academic Twitter Accounts.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Batman and Superman. Meanwhile:

* In other words, bad food becomes linked to good memories, and to our sense of who we are and where we come from. To give up that food would be to give up not only a piece of our childhood, but of ourselves. “When we hear someone suggesting that we stop eating our favorite brand of ice cream or potato chips or sliced white bread, we feel a knee-jerk hostility,” Wilson writes. “It’s hard to let go of these foods and find a better way of eating without a sense of loss.”

In this formula, the president implies that with hard work everyone can get a good job. This is the premise for a lot of public education rhetoric, and it is 100 percent false. It may be technically true that in the American system anyone can get a good job, but that doesn’t mean most people aren’t out of luck. Anyone can win the lottery, but everyone certainly can’t. America is still a class system, and by design, most people—no matter the average level of education or job skill—will have to sell their labor to property owners in order to feed and house themselves. Those property owners are the same people that have spent the past hundred years shaping the education system and scientifically reducing labor costs.

* What a weird coincidence, ten straight record warm months in a row.

* Appalachia in the Anthropocene: When mining a century’s worth of energy means ruining a landscape for millions of years. Ice in the Anthropocene. Oil in the Anthropocene. Boulder-Hurling Megawaves in the Anthropocene. Cli-Fi in the Anthropocene.

* “There are no plausible scenarios in which climate stabilization is compatible with a pace of capital accumulation required for economic and political stability under a capitalist system.” Capitalism, Climate Change and the Transition to Sustainability: Alternative Scenarios for the US, China and the World.

How are the political effects of “terrorism” produced?

Cdwgg6MWEAA65gz* #altac

A Video Game About Changing What Happens In Shakespeare’s Hamlet Using Time Travel. Sold!

* Zootopia and ideology.

Up Against the Centerfold: What It Was Like to Report on Feminism for Playboy in 1969.

* Today in the charter school scam.

The Christians, the Soviets, and the Bible.

It’s Over Gandalf. We Need to Unite Behind Saruman to Save Middle Earth from Sauron!

* Game theory and the GOP nomination. Can’t #StopTrump? Third parties: a beginner’s guide. Of course, there’s always Plan B. Or Plan C.

I, Cthulhu, endorse Donald Trump.

* BART Social Media Intern ’16.

* Legalize everything.

“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

* A Brief History of Sabotage.

* Twilight of Gawker: Hulk Hogan Awarded $115 Million in Privacy Suit.

* Sea World Promises to Acquire No New Orcas. Why SeaWorld is ending its killer whale program, in one brutal chart.

Why We’re Opting Out of Testing.

* Junot Díaz on time travel and colonialism.

* Daredevil and Catholicism.

* A book length history of abolition.

* More from the death of psychology.

* Well, he tried: the Obama legacy.

The Republican Party Must Answer for What It Did to Kansas and Louisiana.

* The stock market is a sucker’s bet.

* What we talk about when we talk about jobs.

These measures seem harsh, but if Trump really is a sui generis evil, then unprecedented and difficult measures are called for. If we’re not willing to make and carry through with such threats, does that mean that we don’t really view him as a sui generis evil? That this is just the latest thing we’re willing to humor for the sake of family peace and avoiding social awkwardness?

Emory Students Express Discontent With Administrative Response to Trump Chalkings. I’m currently in the process of filing a request with the chalk administration office so I can respond to this with the detail and attention it deserves.

What if physical activity doesn’t help people lose weight?

* Duke’s non-tenure-track faculty have unionized.

* They found Himmler’s occult book stash.

* “Kansas Bill Would Pay Students A $2,500 Bounty To Hunt For Trans People In Bathrooms.”

Inside the Crazy Back-Channel Negotiations That Revolutionized Our Relationship With Cuba.

* Somehow, Telltale is going to continue its Walking Dead series after radically fracturing the outcomes at the end of Season Two.

Hackers ‘could take over your dildo and make it go berserk’, expert warns.

* Reading Calvin and Hobbes in Korea.

* I’ll be 100% honest, you had me at hello.

* And the best fantasy series you’ve never heard of is getting a second chance at a film franchise. This time it will work for sure!


Written by gerrycanavan

March 23, 2016 at 9:00 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Meritocracy, Lottery, Game: Notes on the Academic Job Market

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I’ve been puttering around on Twitter this afternoon thinking through my sense that framing academic job searches as a “lottery” might actually encourage, rather than combat, the cruel optimism involved in the process. The commonplace description of the market as a “lottery” has emerged in response to the framing of academia as a “market” or even as a “meritocracy,” both of which suggest some rationalistic evaluation of a candidate’s value vis-à-vis the other candidates, with the “best” candidate ultimately being selected. The market/meritocracy framing is naturally a source of anxiety for academic job-seekers, to which the lottery framing is experienced as a relief (especially for those who have been through one or more cycles without finding tenure-track employment): not getting a job isn’t “failure,” it’s the arbitrary outcome of a random and capricious system. That the applicants-to-job ratio for the most desirable jobs is now in the many-hundreds-to-one undoubtedly fuels this pervasive sense that all you can do is hope your name is the one that gets pulled out of the hat.

But the lottery framing, despite its comforts and its useful provocations, also has its limits, including some conceptual problems that may cause more harm than good in prospective job seekers. Some of this can be seen from the thought experiment of simply taking the lottery idea seriously. People use the idea of the lottery as a critique of a logic of merit and moral desert — but, perversely, nothing could be more fair than random allocation by lottery. (This contradiction is why many people who call the academic job market a lottery in practice describe something more like an anti-meritocracy: only the worst, least-deserving people get picked.)

In reality, academic jobs aren’t really distributed at random at all, but according to a network of preexisting conditions that are both “earned” and unearned; some of these conditions look a lot like “merit” (that’s great that she got hired, she does such good work!) while other parts of it look a lot like “privilege” (of course he got that job, he’s wealthy, white, and able-bodied from an Ivy). While of course it is impossible to predict the outcomes of any individual person on the market — in no small part because there are now so few jobs that no one, no matter how talented or privileged, is a “sure thing” — it’s nonetheless obvious that some people have skills, advantages, resources, and networks to draw on that others don’t, and that academic job market outcomes reflect these inequities. To the extent that the academic job market is a lottery, then, it’s a cosmic one, as much about the luck of birth and brain chemistry and the quirks of your personal history as anything else.

It just as surely isn’t absolutely irrelevant what you do on in your job letter or application materials, as it would be if the academic job market were a lottery; in fact an entire industry has now sprung up around giving panicked Ph.D. job applicants advice on how to perfect their applications. Again, in a market this bad there are no sure things and no silver bullets, but there are still things in preparing your application (and in building your teaching and research profile more generally) that can be done better or worse. On the other side of the search committee people are making decisions based on what they think will improve their situations in their departments; as an applicant you can make appeals to those people in ways that are more or less likely to be successful.

So as a job market applicant you start with a base of resources and strategies that give you better or worse “chances” than others. This is then all filtered through the genuinely random matrix of whatever departments happen to be hiring in your particular subfield in a given year, repeated each year until the candidate is either hired for a sustainable job or else quits the profession. This kind of truly blind luck now structures the process to such an overwhelming degree as to threaten to swamp resources and strategy altogether (hence, again, the appeal of the lottery framing) — after all, there’s probably no amount of preparation or pedigree as good as having your advisor’s best friend in the world on the search committee, especially in a world with so many qualified applicants where the number of jobs has constricted this tightly. But it’s a mistake to think that because the market is conditioned by luck it’s reducible to luck, or absolutely irrational in some maximum sense. There’s a lot about the way the academic job market functions that is quite rational, including (yes!) some genuinely meritocratic elements along the way.

If the rejected thesis is that the academic job market is meritocracy, and the failed antithesis is that the academic job market is a lottery, my suggestion today was that perhaps the proper synthesis here is conceptualizing the academic job market as a game. Outcomes in games are structured by resources, strategies, and luck; games involve competition between parties with differing capabilities, using different strategies, interacting with a set of rules that may not make sense, much less be desirable, rational, or fair. In RISK you array your given armies from an arbitrary starting position as best as you can, and then you start to roll the dice. In poker you play the hand you draw as best you can, given your strategy and skill level and the odds of success. In many games navigating the ruleset — working the refs — is itself the crucial part of the competition; in other games, cheating is allowed, as long as you do it right (like our corrupt search committee filled with advisor-BFFs).

With the people I was chatting with I passed through a bunch of games on Twitter, including Settlers of Catan, Dungeons and Dragons, Oregon Trail, even beloved-catastrophe-machine-of-my-childhood Fireball Island. But I’d propose tonight that the game the academic job market is most like may be Scrabble. Players in Scrabble have preexisting resources (a vocabulary, which is built out of everything from the socioeconomic profile of your childhood home to deliberate, calculated memorization of the official wordlist), a tile-placement strategy (play the biggest word you can each time vs. limiting your opponent’s options vs. holding out for bingos or bonus tiles, etc. etc.), and blind luck (even the best player in the world can draw IIIEEUU.) The rules in Scrabble are fair, but totally arbitrary, with letter distributions and relative values that make little internal sense, tons of legal words that should be disallowed, and tons of disallowed words that should be legal. For some players Scrabble is a game of pure intellect; for others it’s the art of the bluff.

The game framing has, I think, a couple of advantages over the lottery framing for discussions of the academic job market. First, it’s simply a more accurate representation of how the academic job market works — no small thing. Second, it suggests the genuine importance of starting position and strategy in pursuing academic jobs without tipping us back into meritocracy, because games don’t reflect some transcendent value or essential “merit,” and because no matter how “good” you are or think you are you still need to know the rules and get some good rolls of the dice if you hope to “win.” (TINY UPDATE: I make this point a bit more strongly in the comments, I think: One of the things that I think is most valuable about the “game” frame for the academic job market is that you can do everything right in a game and still lose.) Third, games call our attention back to probability and prediction as they manifest in the academic job market; there are always outliers, upsets, and million-to-one lucky breaks, but all the same we can look realistically at a person’s poker hand and evaluate whether they should raise, see, or fold. Sometimes we find ourselves in gaming positions from which we just can’t win, and there’s no amount of either luck or “merit” that can save us. Likewise, calling the academic job market a lottery totally erases the real costs of entry, because lottery tickets are cheap and there’s another drawing every few days — while re-understanding it as a game reminds us that the process takes a long time, takes a lot of work, is a competition but not a fair one, doesn’t say anything meaningful about your ultimate value as person, and it isn’t worth continuing if it makes you miserable. You might as well go ahead and enter a lottery, why not; you only play a game if you’re going to get something out of the experience.

If I had an overarching piece of meta-advice for job applicants I think it would be to try to analyze the academic job market and your position within it as a player in a game: know the rules, understand your position, figure out how to get the best possible outcome from your current position and then make your next moves accordingly. That could mean staying on the path you’re already on, it could mean doubling down on a risk you think might pay off, it could mean “folding” and finding another line of work entirely. Maybe it means forging new alliances with other players; maybe it means changing the rules, finding loopholes, knocking over the table. For the would-be grad student, it could mean that the only winning move is not to play. But apprehending the academic job market through the lens of games, I hope, might push us back from the conceptual errors of both meritocracy (it’s just about working really hard and being the cream of the crop) and lottery (there’s nothing you can do, it’s all just random) towards a recentering of pragmatism, agency, and strategic thinking. The idea, in any event, seemed to be worth writing up, if only to think about it some more.


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