Just low key writing letters to people on the internet

[Copy-pasted from my email outbox]
I appreciated your recognition of an issue that I and many of my peers spend an inordinate number of waking — and sleeping — hours thinking about. It is true that by and large we lack secure career opportunities, and that despite advanced degrees and years of experience (not to mention the doggedness of student debt), we are still systemically excluded from the once-ubiquitous privilege of a permanent job with career growth potential.
But the problem of the over-educated and under-employed is hardly relegated to those seeking tenure-track academic appointments: I work with numerous PhDs who, like myself (I hold an MA in an ostensibly-marketable discipline), are currently in contracted (contingent, temporary, whatever you want to call it) roles with a major tech company. And as we all know from recent press coverage, these companies’ headcounts are double what their official narrative states. Just some back-of-the-envelope math, but that suggests that at minimum somewhere around 100,000 of my peers are in similar roles that sound good on paper but in reality offer none of the benefits, security, or advancement potential of being actual employees of these companies. And that’s just counting up the big tech companies — contingency has become entrenched in a technology-driven knowledge economy that refuses to commit because the newest, best thing has yet to come along — so it’s a low-ball estimate.
Considering the size and scope of these problems endemic to tech, a major driver of today’s economy, I also challenge your conclusion that “a disaffected army of smart, educated, angry young people doesn’t bode well for the country”. The implicit assumption here is that challenging the two- or three-tiered workforce that has materially enabled the over-valuation of tech stocks is somehow detrimental to the country, and should be avoided. This, in turn, assumes that “good for the country” is synonymous with “good, in the short term, for folks who hold stock in these companies because their revenue-per-employee metric looks ‘good'”. I don’t agree with this synonymy.
On the contrary, this “army” is potentially the only thing that enables a future with permanent careers and job security for all millennial and non-millennial workers, from security guards to data analysts to software engineers to baristas. The grad students have already figured this out — I guess now it’s time for the rest of us.

Bare Hands, Bare Feet, Crushed Skulls

I sent the following text message this morning:

"I'm getting really good at killing fruit flies with my bare hands."

It’s true; I’ve snagged two of them recently, my fist closing quickly like the tongue of a frog, and I intend to keep practicing.

But as soon as I sent it I realized how strange this usage is — had I been, perhaps, wearing gloves, I still would have made the same boast. Which in turn made me wonder, why do we use “bare hands” to mean “without tools”, but “bare feet” to mean only, literally, without shoes or socks?

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Fried Dandelions: an Ode to the Internet


The internet fucking sucks. It is terrible and is ruining everything. At least, the people on the internet are terrible and are ruining everything.

The internet itself is an amazing place. It’s the kind of place you go when someone says “fried dandelions” and you say “I’m going to go find out about that” and so you internet, and you do. Go ahead and look. It’s not quite as saturated a market as, let’s say, basil pesto, but there’s enough to go on.

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But is it authentic? A pseudo-linguistic typological framework of authenticity

Recently, I’ve been bothered by a perceived over-use of the word (and concept of) “authentic”. It’s become a potent buzz-word at least within the food media world, and I’ve noticed it increasingly, perhaps because I’m primed for it, across other conversations, as well.

I’ve been spending a lot of time mulling this over in my mind, and I’ve decided that there are some uses that bother me, and some that don’t so much. They can roughly be divided into two classes: internally-ordained authenticity and externally-ordained authenticity. This is just what I’ve come up with over several weeks of casual ruminating; the world has no shortage of other classification systems, such as those discussed here, which to some extent overlap with the way I am seeing this proposed dichotomy. And there are plenty of uses of the word that don’t really fit neatly into these two classes, either. I use them only as a proxy to discuss the way conversations about experiential (and cultural) phenomena take place and the power dynamics within them.

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Being racist is still real.

Two girls walk onto a train, talking quietly amongst themselves.

As they sit down, a woman leans out from the row behind them. “This is the quiet car.” The girls stop, taken aback.

“You don’t need to tell me that,” says one of them.

“Well you were talking …”

“We were talking to get on the train.” *Looks incredulous. I, also, felt incredulous.* They pick up their things which they’d just set down and head back out of the car.

“I was just trying to be nice!” Fruitlessly. But were you?

Pop quiz: who in this story is white, and who is black?