the thirtieth digest post
This Week’s Posts
Monday, December 6th - Perhaps You Should Not Spend All Day Ridiculing Others From Afar
On the strange phenomenon of behaviors that no one thinks are mature or healthy but people just refuse to stop doing.
Tuesday, December 7th - You Don’t Have to be a Marxist
I am a Marxist. But perhaps you should think about whether you really want to be.
Wednesday, December 8th - Yes, Sabermetrics Ruined Baseball
Friday, December 10th - Everybody Should Go To Yosemite, At Least Once (subscriber only)
It’s a magical, unreal, inspiring place.
I did a little more complaining about the Graeber and Wengrow book, and we got a new chapter of my serialized novel. Regular book club returns soon.
From the Archives
Song of the Week
The Graduate School Mess, Leonard Cassuto, 2015
The grad school/academic job market frog has been bubbling for a long time, but lately it seems like it might finally boil over, not because of any one thing but because the situation has become so crazy and the discontent is now so large. Back in 2015 I interviewed Cassuto as part of the promotion for this book (sadly lost to the fates) and he was very eloquent and sharp. There’s tons of good information here, as well as some necessary dispelling of illusions. (It’s essential that people understand that, outside of one generation of PhDs who graduated when our universities were swelling with Cold War cash, there’s never been full academic employment and the purpose of a PhD was not seen as necessarily putting people into academic jobs.) My own PhD program has just been more or less killed off, which I will write about soon. A mess indeed.
NFL Picks of the Week
We’re scuffling in the homestretch. 0-3 last week, and not particularly close in any game. Yeesh. Well, let’s see if we can turn it around.
I like the Raiders (+9.5) to keep it close against a Chiefs team that’s better than they looked in the first part of the season but worst than they’ve looked the last couple months. (Patrick Mahomes just fell out of the Pro Football Focus top ten of highest-rated QBs this season. The top ten!) I like the Washington Football Team (+6.5) over Dallas; I just like the value there with that spread and don’t trust the Cowboys. Also Tony Pollard might be out, which is quietly a bigger deal than you’d expect of a backup running back. Finally while I know it’s asking a lot to get good performances out of the Detroit Lions (+11.5) two weeks in a row, I don’t know why this Denver Broncos team should be laying that many points to anyone, even at home.
Comment of the Week
I spent a single night in Badlands NP a year ago this month, on the first night of a cross-country drive to see a woman I fancied who I hadn't seen for a decade. That night *almost* beats falling in love with her. You're right, it is like the surface of the moon, and so much better. In the morning, meandering back to the car from the off-the-beaten-path patch of grass where I'd pitched my tent, I turned the corner and looked up and stopped short about 30 yards from a solitary bison eating the dewy grass. It noticed me after a minute, gave me the slowest stare, and went back to grazing. After about 20 minutes of letting me to watch, it sent a little puff of air out of its nostrils to let me know it was time to move on. And so I did. Maybe I'm too romantic about it, but gd if it didn't move me. - Jonathan Isaac
I got my Ph.D. in mathematics in 1972. I never worked a day in academe after that. The market was already closing, and tenure-track positions were very competitive. In fairness, one of our professors when I was an undergraduate in physics (1965 or thereabouts) had warned us that there was a surfeit of graduate physicists. (Physics was the prestigious field after Sputnik, and all the bright boys headed there.
Getting work in the private sector was easy and proved rewarding (first transportation and then telecommunications). True also for most of my classmates. So the current crisis is nothing new.
"I want to offer an alternative: it’s OK to want to be left of liberal and to not be a Marxist. It’s OK to favor revolutionary social change and to not be a Marxist. It’s OK to envision a more humane, more progressive, more nurturing economy and society and to not be a Marxist. It’s OK to demand an end to capitalism and imperialism and to not be a Marxist. It is OK to be the left wing of the left wing and to not be a Marxist. It’s OK."
No, it is not OK. It is not OK, because it is a collection of ideas that don't fucking work. If they did work, given the rich history of human existence to test and try all versions of systems, they would be the dominant system today. Not only are they NOT the dominant system, but they have proven to be unsustainable systems of failures. They are failures for the very reason that nerds are nerds and should never design our human systems... because they suck at understanding and factoring real human nature.