" /> Coruscation: August 2014 Archives

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August 26, 2014

Banking, cool

The Renaissance Kids typically have their pick of investment banks, and what makes them so attractive to Wall Street -- aside from their credentials, which look good on a pitch book -- is that they're interesting. They're not carbon-copy Alex P. Keatons. They read books, can wax eloquent on nonfinancial matters, and are good at male small-talk (which female Renaissance Kids also excel at). Executives look them over and imagine them schmoozing clients, passing the airport test, and eventually taking over for them at the top of the firm.

Goldman Sachs is especially desirous of Renaissance Kids, because it's always fancied itself the thinking man's investment bank. ("I think you also have to be a complete person. You have to be interesting," Lloyd Blankfein told the bank's interns last year.) But because Goldman wants them, everyone else does, too.

The problem, for Goldman and the rest of Wall Street, is that banks aren't pulling nearly the number of Renaissance Kids they once did. These firms are having no problems drawing applicants out of college, but what I've heard from senior Wall Street hiring managers is that they're not the right kind of applicants. They're second-stringers, as far as the banks are concerned. The students these firms want to attract -- badly -- are increasingly going to Google or Facebook instead of Goldman and J.P. Morgan. (Or, almost worse, going to Goldman and J.P. Morgan, working for a year or two, and then quitting to go to Google or Facebook.)

August 20, 2014

Praise of disregard

Imagine, for example, that you receive an angry email from someone and there is nothing you can do about the person's grievances. You read it. You accept your inability to change the situation. Then you delete it. Instead of leaving it in your inbox to pull your thoughts toward an irrevocable past, the symbolic act of throwing it away frees your mental energies for more worthwhile pursuits. This is a metaphor, of course. It is probably quite easy for you to delete an email that bothers your brain. But thoughts, which are as virtual as email, can be gotten rid of as well. In all their immateriality, thoughts and emails still impose an extraordinary amount of authority and influence on our actions and frames of mind. Doing away with them has the same effect as removing a concrete obstacle from sidewalk ahead of you.

he spirit of disregard I describe resembles the early Greek notions of apatheia and ataraxia, as well as the Serenity Prayer, invoked by groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference." But the distinction is that the method of disregard I've outlined asks for a systematic identification of the very specific things that take away your energy and an active effort to undo them. Rather than a simple and passive acceptance of the things you cannot control, I favor an acceptance and then a subsequent, symbolic deletion of those things.

August 19, 2014

Shaming hater trolls going to shaming hate troll

Criticism greater than pride ?

Nowadays one suspects that Joe McCarthy would have just accused his critics of "red-shaming."

Newer term, body-shaming, which Zimmer thinks was influenced by body-snarking as well as slut-shaming. The website Jezebel published one of the term's earliest uses in a 2008 headline: "No Celebrity Is Safe From Tabloid Body Shaming." Basically, body-shaming encompasses all words that people use and actions they carry out to make someone feel bad about their body. Since giving women a hard time about their bodies seems to be the American way, body-shaming is almost always directed at them.

And it has a number of more specific variations: weight-shaming, fat-shaming, skinny-shaming--basically no matter how a woman (or girl) looks, someone has a problem with it. As Stanford linguist Arnold Zwicky has pointed out, such usages of shaming have produced back formations, so you can also say someone has been fat-shamed or body-shamed.

Guys who are tired of being called creeps have absurdly claimed creep-shaming, for instance. Breast-feeding advocates are sometimes accused of formula-shaming moms. I've also seen social-media-shaming, tattoo-shaming, luxury-shaming, attendance-shaming, snack-shaming, bigot-shaming, privilege-shaming, salary-shaming, single-shaming (i.e., shaming the nonmarried or nonattached), fedora-shaming, Drake-shaming, and filter-shaming. This last word was used, with all apparent sincerity, in an article by an acne sufferer who felt "shamed" for her use of Instagram filters by "selfie queens" (a term someone else will have to unpack).

-- Mark Peters

Consider the term that may have sparked the current surge: slut-shaming. It's a striking term, one that uses the very label it is both rejecting and reappropriating. In the linguistics journal American Speech, Slate contributor Ben Zimmer defined slut-shaming--which he traces back to at least 2006--as "Publicly deriding women who engage in sexual activity the speaker considers taboo, usually to modify behavior by inducing guilt or to assign blame." Another useful definition comes from blogger Andrea Rubenstein: "Slut-shaming, also known as slut-bashing, is the idea of shaming and/or attacking a woman or a girl for being sexual, having one or more sexual partners, acknowledging sexual feelings, and/or acting on sexual feelings."

August 17, 2014

Flusty vs public space

Flusty believes the income inequality plaguing many American cities today is a direct result of decades of disciplinary architecture and interdictory space. By separating various economic classes in space, he says, cities and designers are both sustaining and enhancing a certain social order. A far better approach to designing public places would be creating the sort of open, democratic spaces envisioned by urbanist William Whyte in the 20th century. "Once you've got eyes on the plaza and eyes on the street and people interacting, these other sorts of threats are minimized by that," says Flusty. "That's a far more proactive and pleasant way to go about handling it."

"One thing that I think is universal about this design, no matter where you go in the world, is it has the effect of separating majorities of the population from relatively small affluent elite minorities of the population," Steven Flusty, who documented interdictory space in Los Angeles in the 1990s, tells Co.Design. "You can't have anything like a just or equitable society unless it includes spatiality."

Despite its checkered history, disciplinary architecture has the potential for social good. Jittery design outside an urban senior center, for instance, might not only prevent crimes against the elderly but also alert officials of falls or health emergencies. Dan Lockton, who studies what he calls "design with intent" at the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, says a lot of the problems would be solved if designers imagined themselves as the target of the intervention.

"Everyone who's involved in it believes that a design is serving a 'good' purpose, from their perspective, whether that's stopping homeless people sleeping in doorways, or stopping protestors attaching posters to lamp-posts, or trying to persuade obese people to exercise," Lockton tells Co.Design. "Very few people ever believe that their design has 'poor' intentions."

Wow, is this a superficial and unclear piece of writing! It's not exactly clear what type of space the author presumes would be good, except that it wouldn't be crusty or jittery. It's also not clear why these flaws in public space exclude "welfare" more than "well-off'; the design problems he cites would appear to discourage everyone equally.
While grasping at this thin rationale for class outrage there's a subtext of fantasy that there might be a condition of a public space that succeeds with no oversight - but all public spaces that are successful have someone maintaining and caring for them. And is it not true that the general enjoyment of all income levels is supported with less crime and fewer vagrants?
There is abundant deeply humane research on how to achieve all these goals in public space, none of which is reflected here, except a passing citation of William Whyte's name. There might be a way to talk about this subject in a quick article, but this isn't it.

August 12, 2014

Automated charlatans

Now come socialbots. These automated charlatans are programmed to tweet and retweet. They have quirks, life histories and the gift of gab. Many of them have built-in databases of current events, so they can piece together phrases that seem relevant to their target audience. They have sleep-wake cycles so their fakery is more convincing, making them less prone to repetitive patterns that flag them as mere programs. Some have even been souped up by so-called persona management software, which makes them seem more real by adding matching Facebook, Reddit or Foursquare accounts, giving them an online footprint over time as they amass friends and like-minded followers.

Researchers say this new breed of bots is being designed not just with greater sophistication but also with grander goals: to sway elections, to influence the stock market, to attack governments, even to flirt with people and one another.

Dating sites provide especially fertile ground for socialbots. Swindlers routinely seek to dupe lonely people into sending money to fictitious suitors or to lure viewers toward pay-for-service pornography pages. Christian Rudder, a co-founder and general manager of OkCupid, said that when his dating site recently bought and redesigned a smaller site, they witnessed not just a sharp decline in bots, but also a sudden 15 percent drop in use of the new site by real people. This decrease in traffic occurred, he maintains, because the flirtatious messages and automated "likes" that bots had been posting to members' pages had imbued the former site with a false sense of intimacy and activity. "Love was in the air," Mr. Rudder said. "Robot love."

Mr. Rudder added that his programmers are seeking to design their own bots that will flirt with invader bots, courting them into a special room, "a purgatory of sorts," to talk to one another rather than fooling the humans.

Marketers and political groups are in on the game, too. Last year, researchers at the Health Media Collaboratory of the University of Illinois at Chicago found that e-cigarettes were being heavily marketed on social media largely through bots dispersing messages about weaning people from regular cigarettes.

August 10, 2014

Every job ever

The grunt work of programming--probably like the boilerplate in a brief: you have to understand the situation and know the customs, but you're not really solving a puzzle. The thinking gets sprinkled in when there's something in the situation that's novel or unusual.

August 9, 2014

New York speaks

Local languages via BI and .



August 7, 2014

Saint Louis dialect

You might think your high school French or German will be enough to get you by in St. Louis, but don't bet on it. St. Louisans have their own unique local flare for some traditional French and German words. For those new to the area, consider this an unofficial guide to some local variations.


Gravois is the French word for gravel which is appropriate since Gravois Avenue runs along the gravel bluffs. Although "Grav-wah" may be the correct French pronunciation, this main street is pronounced "Grav-oy" or occasionally "Grav-oize" in St. Louis.

Creve Coeur

The city name Creve Coeur (meaning heartbreak in French) derives from Creve Coeur Lake, which was named for the tale of a lovelorn Indian girl whose broken heart led her to suicide off the famous dripping springs. While the formal french pronunciation is "Crev-Cure", a native St. Louisan know that "Creeve-Corr" is the only way to say the name of this city.


This ones a bit confusing... The formal German pronunciation is "Spur-duh", while locals say "Spay-dee."


Chouteau Avenue was named after Auguste Chouteau who was the stepson of Pierre LaClede. The French pronunciation of Chouteau is "Shoo-toe", while St. Louis natives say "Show-toe."

Lemay Ferry

An outsider might mistake this road for "La-may Ferry", but St. Louisans know to add a couple extra vowels - "Leeemay Ferry."

DeBaliviere Place, a neighborhood of St Louis, is pronounced "Duh-boll-uh-ver" by the natives and "Duh-bah-liv-ee-air" in French.

Bellefontaine Neighbors

Bellefontaine Neighbors, pronounced "Bell-fount-in" in St Louis and "Bell-fon-tayne" in French, is a suburb city in St. Louis County. At 22 letters, it has the longest name of any incorporated place in the United States.


"Gurr- tah" in German or "Go-thee" in St Louis, Goethe Avenue was named in honor of the German poet and novelist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

August 5, 2014

Thinking like an economist

Take your smartphone on a date, and it might vibrate in your pocket to indicate "Kiss her now." If you hesitate for fear of being seen as pushy, it may write: "Who cares if you look bad? You are sampling optimally in the quest for a lifetime companion."Those who won't listen, or who rebel out of spite, will be missing out on glittering prizes. Those of us who listen, while often envied, may feel more like puppets with deflated pride.

-- Tyler, being Tyler.