Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Landmine of articles from The Atlantic

Where Human Workers Can Still Beat Robots (at Least for Now)

"In the physical domain, it seems that we do for the time being. Humanoid robots are still quite primitive, with poor fine motor skills and a habit of falling down stairs. So it doesn't appear that gardeners and restaurant busboys are in danger of being replaced by machines any time soon."

Let's Call the Whole Thing Off

"Cherlin believes the reason for this paradox is that Americans hold two values at once: a culture of marriage and a culture of individualism."

"In any case, here’s my final piece of advice: avoid marriage—or you too may suffer the emotional pain, the humiliation, and the logistical difficulty, not to mention the expense, of breaking up a long-term union at midlife for something as demonstrably fleeting as love."

All the Single Ladies

"The decision to end a stable relationship for abstract rather than concrete reasons (“something was missing”), I see now, is in keeping with a post-Boomer ideology that values emotional fulfillment above all else."

"In the months leading to my breakup with Allan, my problem, as I saw it, lay in wanting two incompatible states of being—autonomy and intimacy—and this struck me as selfish and juvenile; part of growing up, I knew, was making trade-offs."

Why Many in China Sympathize with Occupy Wall Street

[As an aside, the rural vs. city residential permit refers to the hukou system, which assigns people to a residential area. It's almost impossible to survive without a proper one, as basic things such as housing and medical care are all tied in with the permit.]

"I could bear the mockery of my classmates, could go weeks without eating any meat, could spend my entire weekend cooped up in a library, could come back from studying on the weekend to see boys and girls dancing, could go running at the deep of the night out of loneliness and boredom. I dreamt that one day I would graduate, and find a job in the city. I wanted to work with the city-dwellers of my generation, and like them, to become a city resident. I wanted my parents to be proud because they had a son working in Shanghai!"

"I didn't write this to complain. The terrifying thing isn't that justice is relative. The terrifying thing is to witness injustice and to act as if one sees nothing. While I was getting my masters, I once had a conversation with a girl who at the time had 3 years of work experience under her belt. She is now the HR director of a joint stock company. We were talking about a marketing strategy for Weida's paper industry. Her idea was to carve out a new market by advertising Weida's high quality dinner napkins to China's nine hundred million farmers. Surprised by her cocksureness, I asked her if she knew how farmers wipe their mouths after each meal. She returned my question with a misgiving look. I raised my hand and wiped my mouth on my sleeve."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cities and Ambition

A few years ago, essayist Paul Graham wrote a piece titled “Cities and Ambition.” I remember the path it wove around the interwebs when it was first published. The piece compared the different types of messages/mantras whispered by various cities to its inhabitants. Graham wrote, “Great cities attract ambitious people. You can sense it when you walk around one. In a hundred subtle ways, the city sends you a message: you could do more; you should try harder… A city speaks to you mostly by accident—in things you see through windows, in conversations you overhear. It's not something you have to seek out, but something you can't turn off.”

I thought of this essay after I flew home a few weeks ago. I traveled to the Bay Area, for reasons which I’ll leave for another time, when I’m ready to talk about it. All of my days were packed to the gills but I accomplished nothing substantial. I slept the sleep of the dead in a cold bed covered with stiff sheets, in a house located at the bottom of a hill and surrounded by a thicket of crickets, in a tiny town where all the stores had been replaced several times over and the cars were slow and indifferent. I wore thick socks to bed. What I did do: I followed my relatives around like a shadow and did stupid, extravagant things like scoff at my mother’s instant coffee mix and buy four croissants in one morning. I ended up leaving them (the croissants, not my relatives) on the kitchen counter because either I was not hungry at all or being sad affected my papillae receptors and they tasted like sawdust. Maybe they are still sitting there (this time, referencing both the croissants and the relatives).

Another thing I did: I wandered hospital corridors, scrutinizing sketches and watercolors and charcoals because I didn’t know what else to do. I challenged myself to memorize these paintings for the rest of my life, forever and ever, because to forget them would, somehow, cheapen the days and the details.

Everything felt new and troubling.

After a few days of puttering around uselessly, I surrendered and retreated. I scurried back to San Diego. I didn’t feel safe again until I saw afternoon harbor water.


For ten years going on eleven, I’ve been pining away, fiercely, for something that feels like home. I thought it was the Bay Area. Instead, I left feeling all out of sorts. The old unease had returned: I started to pummel myself with circular thoughts like why am I not making a million bazillion dollars in China why didn’t I start my own company already why do I have no real ambition. The city felt like a stranger and I was grieving for someone I didn’t even really understand.

I think the strong sense of disconnect boiled down to expectations vs. reality. I expected instantaneous comfort and recognition. I wanted to belong, immediately. I forgot, conveniently, that I never felt a sense of belonging, even when I lived there.

I forgot that erecting a home involves effort and investment of oneself. How could I feel at home when I visit once a year, when I put forth no real effort in coming back? To expect more is foolish and unrealistic.

Bottom line: “Some people know at 16 what sort of work they're going to do, but in most ambitious kids, ambition seems to precede anything specific to be ambitious about. They know they want to do something great. They just haven't decided yet whether they're going to be a rock star or a brain surgeon. There's nothing wrong with that. But it means if you have this most common type of ambition, you'll probably have to figure out where to live by trial and error. You'll probably have to find the city where you feel at home to know what sort of ambition you have.”

Monday, October 17, 2011

ABA Journal article: "Senators Seek Decade of Detailed Law School Placement, Bar Passage and Student Debt Data"

Two U.S. senators have asked federal educational officials to turn over detailed information about law school enrollment, tuition, finances, job placement, bar passage and student debt rates over the past 10 years.

In a statement Friday, the two—Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)—said they were acting in response to "serious concerns" that have been raised lately about the accuracy and transparency of information law schools are providing prospective students.

The letter cites media reports the senators say raise questions about the whether the claims law schools use to lure prospective students are, in fact, accurate. It also cites other stories they say call into question whether law school tuition and fees are being used strictly for legal education or for other, unrelated purposes.

The letter follows repeated calls from Sen. Boxer to the ABA, whose Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar accredits law schools, to provide stronger oversight of law schools and better access to information about the actual costs and benefits of a legal education.

The letter, addressed to the U.S. Department of Education's Inspector General, requests detailed information over the most recent 10-year window about enrollments, tuition and fees; spending on legal and non-legal educational purposes, student debt loads, bar passage and graduation rates, and post-graduate job placement data.

The senators are also asking the IG's office for a description of the methodology used to acquire and analyze the data they are seeking and to note any obstacles it encounters to collecting the information they're requesting.

The ABA's Legal Ed Section issued a statement saying it is fully committed to ensuring that law schools provide clear, accurate and complete reporting on the issues raised by the two senators. It also said it will cooperate fully with the senators' request to educational officials, and will respond to Sen. Boxer's Oct. 6 letter to the section next week.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

be still, my heart

Iceland video: