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April 19, 2014 / Jake Seliger

The links we click tell us who we are—

The most-clicked link in “Men are where women were 30 years ago?” comes from this sentence: “In addition, a lot of early socialization about sex and dating is so bad that men and probably women too need to learn how to overcome it.” Usually readers follow more links from the beginning of posts than the ends of post, and the fact that relatively many found this link compelling may tell us something important about what people in general or at least readers of this blog want to know.

I think there’s a level of systematic dishonesty or at least eliding the truth about gender relations and sexuality when many people are growing up, and as a consequence a lot of people hunger for real knowledge. But even as adults that knowledge is still often hidden behind ideology or signaling or wish fulfillment fantasy.

April 17, 2014 / Jake Seliger

How is this different from academic journals?

Software is not only taking a shot at writing essays but also grading them and providing instant feedback on student work in progress, analysis that is well beyond grading multiple-choice quizzes. These programs still need to work out some bugs (a clever student can game them with coherent-sounding nonsense), but they are much further along than we had been expecting five or ten years ago.

(Emphasis added.)

That’s from Tyler Cowen’s Average is Over.

A surprisingly large number of papers and books in the humanities, as well as grant proposals, are filled with “coherent-sounding nonsense,” and at least in humanities papers I’ve read a lot of incoherent-sounding nonsense (which may help explain declining enrollment in humanities majors). The market for coherent-sounding nonsense is surprisingly robust.

EDIT: Relatedly, much later Cowen writes of the way that in economics “Newly minted PhD candidates are extremely proficient with data, but a lot of them don’t have much microeconomic intuition. [. . . ] Overall, the profession is producing more first-rate empiricists than before, yet theory hasn’t progressed much in twenty years or more. Theory is increasingly ignored” (225). If one could make a similar statement about English the field was a whole would be better. In some ways, perhaps one can: the growth of MFA programs and undergrad writing classes is some in sense the move from a theory of literature to the practice of it.

April 17, 2014 / Jake Seliger

Men are where women were 30 years ago?

In “Studying U.S. Families: ‘Men Are Where Women Were 30 Years Ago’,” Stephanie Coontz makes some interesting points but, it seems to me, is missing some of the important forces acting on men. She says, for example, that

In some senses, men are where women were 30 years ago. Fifty years ago, women were told, this is your place, stay in it. But about 30 years ago, it was, yes, you can do other things [. . .] Men are at the point where they’re beginning to discover that there are things beyond the old notion of masculinity that are rewarding.

I think the basic issues are simpler:

* Most people have no pre-defined roles in gender or work; this is good in some ways but has costs in others and leads to a lot of confusion, especially given some of the predominant ideology in schools and elsewhere.

* At some point, probably around 1980 or so (1973 could work, though this wasn’t widely recognized at the time) we entered a period of greater societal, technological, and social volatility. It is hard to predict what the future will look like and what skills and roles will be valuable. My only guess about what will be perpetually valuable is read, writing, and math.

In addition, there is a large number of people (certainly a minority but a reasonably substantial minority) brought up in religious environments that they accept uncritically but that don’t map well onto the modern social world and onto modern hypocrisy. Someone like Dalrock is the consequence (not that I don’t endorse everything he writes or even a plurality of what he writes, but he does criticize many of the social-sexual currents in contemporary Christianity).

* All Joy and No Fun is an interesting book for many reasons, but one is its point about raising contemporary children: many if not most of us don’t know what we’re raising them to do, or be. This makes the task inherently difficult.

* When writers say things like this:

It’s so hard to continue the revolution in family life in a situation where there’s so little support for family-friendly work policies, where there’s not good child care available, when there isn’t parental leave. Why don’t we have them?

They actually mean that they want stuff other people are going to have to work to pay for. Not surprisingly most of us want something for nothing. We also have a problem in that lots of old people vote, so their interests are well-represented among the allocation of the federal budget, but not a lot of children do. It’s easy to call for handouts and hard to pay for them.

* Feminism has had a marketing and perhaps a content problem for decades. Among my female students at the University of Arizona, virtually none wanted to be identified as feminists.

* Things that are adaptive in short-term relationships may be maladaptive in long-term relationships and vice-versa, yet I too seldom see this point.

* Men notice the kinds of men who women tend to be attracted to, and a lot of the men women are actually attracted to don’t appear to be the kind who Coontz probably thinks they should be attracted to. In addition, a lot of early socialization about sex and dating is so bad that men and probably women too need to learn how to overcome it.

* It should be obvious by now that what people say they want and what they actually do are often quite different.

April 15, 2014 / Jake Seliger

Links: Drunk idiots, helping guys with sex and women, the great douchebag non-mystery, Japan, and more

* “On the Positive Features of Drunken Idiots“—another response to the Flangan frat piece; mine is “If you want to understand frats, talk to the women who party at them.”

* Tucker Max: “It’s Time To Help Guys Understand Sex, Dating And Women, Part 1.” I needed this book when I was 14.

* “One big reason we lack Internet competition: Starting an ISP is really hard.” If I had Zuckerbergian money I’d fund ISPs.

* “Judge says prosecutors should follow the law. Prosecutors revolt.” File this as another example of insiders being unhappy when they’re held to the same standards everyone else is.

* “Is an internship worth more than majoring in business?” I’ve often expressed skepticism about majoring in business: How many large companies want someone who knows generic “business?” What is a random 22-year-old going to know about someone’s business that a person working in said business for 20 years isn’t going to know already?

* A hilarious anti-Game of Thrones screed. I find the books uneven but not quite as bad.

* “The Great Douchebag Mystery,” solved, or, “People respond to incentives.”

* “What Does the Book Business Look Like on the Inside?” Apparently it’s about as crazy as it looks from the outside.

* How Japan Copied American Culture and Made it Better, which seems like it should be stupid but isn’t; has craftsmanship returned as a value?

April 7, 2014 / Jake Seliger

How I learned about assertiveness and reality from being a consultant

Like many people with such businesses, some friends with a design consulting business say they’re getting jerked around by potential clients, they’re worried about offending potential clients, and most importantly they’re discovering that the lessons they’ve taken from school and every day life are wrong or at least not optimal. So I described my own experiences as a consultant and how that taught me about reality and money.

A lot of people—including me—are told from an early age to be polite, take turns, be considerate of other people’s feelings, etc. This is good advice in many but not all circumstances. In the business / consultant worlds it often leads other people to take advantage of you. Consultants need one very important skill: they need to figure out who is going to give them money and who isn’t, and they need to do so relatively quickly. Clients will often press to get as much free stuff—often in the form of time and opinions—as they can. They lose nothing by dallying and often gain stuff. Consultants need to learn the killer instinct necessary to know when to stop and say “send me a contract and check or don’t call me until you want to.”

(c) Victor WeFoto.com

(c) Victor WeFoto.com

“Talk is cheap” is a cliché for a reason: it doesn’t mean anything. Any talk that’s not a billable hour should be leading, rapidly, to a billable hour. At some point—a point sooner than most novices realize—it’s time to pay or go away. Money talks (and it isn’t cheap): I’ve been on numerous calls about “collaborations” and what not, when the real thing happens is through subcontracts. Show me the money, or it doesn’t exist.

Someone who wants to hire you knows relatively quickly whether they want to hire you. Anything other than “yes” means “no.” “Maybe” means no. That’s a hard thing for many of us to accept. My parents founded Seliger + Associates 20 years ago and they certainly had to learn such lessons the hard way; a lot of potential clients will dangle work that never arrives and waste a lot of valuable time and energy in the process. That means consultants have to get to “no.”

Getting to “no” is actually quite useful and a big improvement over a nebulous maybe.

Drawing a clear line can actually turn some “maybes” in “yeses.” Clients will respect you more if you eventually stop negotiating or talking unless they pay up. Because of the issues described in the paragraphs above, anyone experienced learns when to stop talking and say “money or nothing.” That means continuing to flirt without cash in hand is also a signal of being inexperienced. The line between being brusque and being direct is thin but when it doubt err on the side of directness rather than meekness.

Directness can actually be a kind of politeness. “Professional courtesy” has an adjective before “courtesy” because it’s different from regular courtesy; professional courtesy is there to indicate that there is a different way of being courteous than the conventional way, and one aspect of professional courtesy is there to avoid time wasting people.

That being said, it can be worth exploring new ventures even when those new ventures aren’t immediately remunerative. But money and contracts separate exploration from reality.

These lessons aren’t only applicable to consultant. They apply to almost any form of business and for that matter in dating: if she says “I like you but not in that way,” she means no. I think men tend to learn this faster then women do.

(c) looking4poetry

(c) looking4poetry

My friends are women, and from what I’ve observed guys in their teens have to learn to approach women and risk rejection if they’re going to get anywhere, and a lot of women wait for guys to approach them. Consequently guys who want to get anywhere have to get used to rejection in a way a lot of women don’t, and that socialization is probably part of the reason why women like Sheryl Sandberg write books like Lean In. Men figure out relatively early that they have to lean in—or suffer. Like a lot of guys I spent time suffering. I also learned, however, that with women too anything other than “yes” means “no” and that I should move on quickly. Sticking around to beg and plead only worsens the situation.

Disengagement is underrated. In many endeavors one important ingredient in success is fire and motion.

April 4, 2014 / Jake Seliger

Links: Happiness Advice, Writing Tips, Nymphomaniac, Legal Drugs, “Rape Culture” Hysteria, and more

* “The dream-crushing grind of the academic job market;” I really ought to stop reading (and posting) articles like this but the same almost subconscious impulse that draws the eye to car crashes and nude photos draws mine to them.

* “Advice for a Happy Life by Charles Murray: Consider marrying young. Be wary of grand passions. Watch ‘Groundhog Day’ (again). Advice on how to live to the fullest,” most of which may apply most to the author than to everyone.

* “101 Practical Writing Tips From Hollywood Screenwriter Brian Koppelman.”

* “Lars’s Real Girl: Charlotte Gainsbourg on Nymphomaniac and Working With von Trier.” Unfortunately, the movie adds up to very little.

* My Amazon review of Madison Young’s surprisingly dull book, “Daddy: A Memoir.”

* “The Drugging of the American Boy: By the time they reach high school, nearly 20 percent of all American boys will be diagnosed with ADHD.” Most diagnoses are probably wrong.

* “The Value Of An Engineering Degree.”

* Someone found this blog by searching for “swear word count in book asking anna by jake seliger.” I can’t imagine why anyone would want to know this. Someone else found this blog by searching for “gandalf sex,” which may make even less sense.

* Crowd funding is market research.

* “It’s Time to End ‘Rape Culture’ Hysteria.”

April 3, 2014 / Jake Seliger

Briefly noted: Decoded – Mai Jia

Decoded suffers in comparison to Cryptonomicon, a novel whose explanations of cryptography are brilliant. Both novels, interestingly and perhaps significantly, start with the parents or grandparents of the nominally central characters. There are comments about the nature of stories:

It all happened so long ago that everyone who saw her suffer and die is now dead themselves, but the story of the terrible agony that she endured has been passed down from one generation to the next, as the tale of an appalling battle might have been.

How much are we to trust stories “passed down from one generation to the next?” Maybe only as little as we are to trust that cryptographic protocols have been properly implemented. The woman giving birth in this passage was part of a rich clan that, like most rich clans, can’t maintain its structure over time, since, “very few of the young people who had left were interested in returning to carry on the family business.” The family doesn’t get enmeshed in the new government, either, at least until the “hero,” Rong Jinzhen, comes along.

I’m looking for some evocative quote to give a sense of the writing, but it feels flat and there is very little dialogue. Perhaps I’m missing something as Tyler Cowen finds its compelling.

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