Friday Links (9/14/12)

Posted: September 14, 2012 in Friday Links

It’s been a busy week for me: another birthday gone, my daughter’s first full week of school, and various business-related snafus.  So, this week’s links are going to be brief and light on my commentary and heavy on quotes, and, as usual, I’m going to avoid all the more obvious things most people already read about (9/11 anniversary, unrest in Libya and Egypt, teacher’s strike in Chicago, the US election year circus, the debut of some new Apple device I don’t care about, Chris Brown still having a career/being newsworthy, et cetera).


For the academics and former academics out there:

An Update on Colorado State’s “No Olds Need Apply” Ad” – JC (From Grad School to Happiness, 9/12/12)

This story has been all over academic news/blogs (ie, Inside Higher Ed).  I first heard about it via JC’s prior post, and I like the direct, honest approach s/he takes here:

“These days, someone looking to break into an entry-level tenure track job in the humanities could either be: (1) someone who is currently ABD but graduating in May 2013 or (2) someone who graduated in 2008 and has been cobbling together part-time adjunct gigs at multiple schools, barely bringing in $20k per year while leaving no time for research or a personal life. Neither of these people have ‘as much as six years’ more experience’ than the other. Both of them are just barely scraping by while trying to find that first, entry-level tenure-track job that they’ve been dreaming about since the moment they first showed up at their grad school’s doorstep.

Do you understand that, CSU?? Both of those people are entry-level candidates. Neither of them have gotten started in their academic careers yet. Either of those people would probably jump at a chance for an “entry level” tenure-track job. Because they are BOTH “entry-level” applicants.

But your ad only excludes one of them.

And it does so in a way that confirms many people’s suspicions – that long-term adjuncts are seen as damaged goods and are not seriously considered for tenure-track jobs.

Maybe that’s not what you intended to communicate … but it IS what you communicated. And if that’s not what you intended? Then I have to admit, I’m a little terrified to see that the head of a major university department has such a shocking lack of understanding of the status of the current job market in English.” [emphasis added]

And I’d add that it shows not only a lack of understanding of the current job market, but a really poor understanding of effective communication and rhetoric.  I suppose it at least saves long-term adjuncts (and other non-tenure track PhDs from before 2010) the time and energy of applying when their materials won’t even get looked at by people who largely consider them worthless.

Also, it’s great to see such a large number of people like JC and those cited in the IHE article writing on how fucked up academia is these days, especially in terms that don’t cower to entrenched power and call out the kind of out-of-touch nonsense seen here.  It would be a nice turn of events if more tenured/tenure-track faculty followed suit, but I’m not holding my breath on that.


On that next round of food riots and global instability in general:

We Are Now One Year Away From Global Riots, Complex Systems Theorists Say” – Brian Merchant (Motherboard, 9/10/12)

“In a 2011 paper, researchers at the Complex Systems Institute unveiled a model that accurately explained why the waves of unrest that swept the world in 2008 and 2011 crashed when they did. The number one determinant was soaring food prices. Their model identified a precise threshold for global food prices that, if breached, would lead to worldwide unrest.

. . .
But how accurate is the model? An anecdote the researchers outline in the report offers us an idea. They write that “on December 13, 2010, we submitted a government report analyzing the repercussions of the global financial crises, and directly identifying the risk of social unrest and political instability due to food prices.” Four days later, Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire as an act of protest in Tunisia. And we all know what happened after that.”

One doesn’t really need a complex systems analysis to realize that increased food prices are a primary trigger in civil unrest, but the threshold they outline and the prospects for the near future are intriguing and scary (especially with formerly abnormally hot summers becoming the new normal).  It is also worth keeping in mind how much of this is a direct result of the failures of globalization and how rich nations and industries basically forced others out of relatively self-sufficient lifestyles and into reliance on a global food racket market.


Some bad news on the impact the otherwise-hilarious state of facebook stock’s performance will have on startups:

Why the Social Media Revolution Is About to Get a Little Less Awesome”  – Derek Thompson (The Atlantic, 9/10/12)

“Look at your smart phone or your tablet. Some of the best apps out there are free programs that bring down walls, connecting you to businesses and information that generally makes you life easier or more enjoyable, whether it’s finding transportation, ordering dinner, or naming a song. Many of these companies either have no business model, or have a business model so thin as to be practically imperceptible to its users. In some corners, this is a mockable fact, but rather than mock it, you should stop and appreciate how amazing this is: Some of the smartest and most creative entrepreneurs and developers of our generation are dedicated to making awesome stuff for you, and, bankrolled by deep-pocketed venture capitalists, their determining business metric was not “How will you make money from credit cards and marketing departments?” but rather: How many millions of people are you delighting with your exceptionally cheap product? It is hard to imagine an industry built on a more satisfying premise for customers.”


That study that trumpeted how organics weren’t more nutritious vitamin-wise (duh) than chemically-grown food last week?  Yeah, big surprise:  “Big Ag Directly Funded Anti-Organics Stanford Study: Report” (Common Dreams, 9/13/12)

September is “National Preparedness Month,” and FEMA and others are promoting their inadequate little lists of what you need to survive a disaster . . . for the entirety of 3 days (at which point you should expect someone to come and save you).  Do more than that, please.  Which made me think of this NBC doc I recently watched where they go inside the LDS church and document why, if I were going to join a church (I’m not), it would be this one:

“Mormons stash away for social safety net” (Rock Center, 8/22/12)



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