Monday, May 31, 2010

Comment on Networking

[I have elevated this comment on my last post to a post so that readers will see it.]

Yes, The issue here is not networking perse but its place and use relative to other factors. Networking in a useful sense is collaborating with people to gain insight share resources and do anything that results in a more productive outcome. However the problem arises when networking surpasses functional things in importance. When you connections are more important than your work or ideas or your advertising is more important than product your are selling then there is a problem. In a sense it is an odd commentary of sorts on the level of rationality our society possesses. As much as we like to consider ourselves products of the enlightenment we really are sort of primitive if not mystical about many of our decisions. Of course instead of the sun god we worship "the market" brand loyalty and the ivy league.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Networking or Substance?

A comment, which I urge you to read, to my last post inspired this one.

I am not sure how to create a Venn diagram on this blog but I'll describe it. One is the universe of all law professors who are big on networking. They are at every conferences, give lots of talks (typically the same one), email and call others usually to make known what they have doneunder the guise of complimenting the person they are calling. At the extreme they are relentless name droppers.

The other big circle is of those law teachers who produce articles, books, think hard about things, and let their work largely speak for itself. They also spend time preparing for class.

These groups are far from mutually exclusive and so there is what I think is called the intersection. The circles overlap -- networkers can be substantively productive but many are not. Instead they, well, network and it becomes in the eyes of others a substitute for production.

For example, when I first took one of the jobs I held I was told all about the person I had replaced. He did this! He did that! and so on. After hearing this for weeks I did a literature search and discovered almost nothing. But somehow he had taken the small amount he had done and made a mountain of a molehill.

The internet has now made networking even easier and that's good because networking is not per se a bad thing. When it substitutes for substance is it. Or when it becomes exclusively self-promotional it is. One thing that seems pervasive about networkers in certain areas is that they cite each other. In fact, there is seems to be reciprocal citing. Little and big cliques arise that tend to retard rather than advance the scholarship in that area. Why? Because if you network enough, no one will criticize because to so so would be to lose a reciprocal cite.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Watchin Obama Sink

[Posted this yesterday. Now watching Obama's press conference -- very weak, aloof, unresponsive.]

Have you ever driven by an independently owned restaurant and estimated how long it would take for it to fold? It actually happens all the time. Having enough money to open a restaurant is apparently unrelated to good judgment and common sense. The roads are littered with these sad efforts.

Just as obvious to me is how badly Obama is handing what is generally known now as his Katrina. Today in the new debate about whether he is doing enough, I actually heard a spokesperson say "he understands how they feel." Now let's suppose there is nothing, absolutely nothing that the government can do. Nothing the Navy could do to stop the spread and no one who could subcontract the clean up process to the Dutch who are fairly good at at.

Assuming all this, would a political adviser with even a ounce of sense really not advise Obama to put on a windbreaker and get his butt down to the Gulf at least one every 10 days. I am not talking about cleaning anything thing up. I am talking about pure politics -- getting reelected even while screwing up. Put him on the news walking among the people. Create photo ops of him listening grimly.

Is this a sign of surrounding himself with "yes" men and women who are afraid to deliver a message he does not want to hear. Is it his personal arrogance based on what increasingly appears to be an ability to get ahead by simply talking? His ship is sinking in a sea of oil.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Virgin Summer Snack

I've never understood what virgin olive oil means. But on top of that you have extra virgin olive oil. Virginity is a yes or no thing, isn't it?

Nevertheless here is a wonder summer snack that will put a smile on your face.

First get some french bread of a 2 inch diameter and slice it in about 1/2 inch slices. Also, round up a cucumber and slice it in about 1/3 inch slices. Put those aside.

In a dish pour some olive oil of any degree of virginity. Add to it a bunch of salt and pepper. In other words just like in some Italian restaurants in the USA. (By the way some of my Italian relatives think USA is one word and they pronounce it OOO-SA. I wish that would catch on.)

Now put a slice of cucumber between two slices of the bread and drag it through the olive oil mixture. Do not dip. I mean drag it so the is massive absorption of the olive oil and a hefty amount of salt and pepper.

Now eat. Yum. You will smile.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Quick Power Breakfast

Here you go. To get you started in the morning.
Take one or two slices of bread. I personally like one thick slice.
Toast it or not, it's up to you.

Spread it with butter, margarine or one of the low cholesterol spreads.

Now sprinkle all over it dry roasted sunflower seed kernels. Lots of them! The stick nicely to the spread.

Finally, jam, jelly, honey or what every you like on top. If you want to you can skip the underlying spread and the jam and just use Nutella and put the sunflower seed kernels on top.

A wonderful breakfast that will supercharge your for the day.

Nutty and sweet -- just like some people I know.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Efficient Pasta

Here is a fool proof way to make great pasta with the minimum time and mess.

First, put your pasta on to boil.

While waiting for it to boil find a bowl and sprinkle the bottom with parmasean cheese.

On top of the cheese pour your favorite sauce.

When the pasta is al dente, take it off the heat, drain it and dump it into the bowl.

The hot pasta heats the sauce and melts the cheese.

Invert the bowl over a plate.


Monday, May 10, 2010

No Place for the Working Class

The nomination of the Elena Kegan reminds me once again that there is no political party that is comfortable for working class people although they are often fooled into thinking otherwise. Clearly working class people are the new Invisible Men and Women. Now the Democrats appoint another North Eastern elitist to the Supreme Court. The love affair of Clinton and Obama with these people tells you all you need to know about their pandering to the elites. Remember Clinton and Kimba Wood, Zoe Baird and Lani Guinier.

I share the values of more Democrats than Republicans but not for the same reasons. Consequently, I don't trust their values. Take Kagan who was so solidly against military recruiting while at Harvard but evidently not so against it that she would not serve the President who originated it. What's the difference? At Harvard nearly everyone agreed with her. To have the guts to condemn Clinton would have meant a huge career detour. Like so many law professors it is all about self interest. Just watch them when a Supreme Court justice they rail against visits campus.

The Republicans, on the other hand, appoint people who would have the police living in our bedrooms and oil gushing onto our beaches. Unlike the Democrats, the Republicans do seem to have some core values but, at the extremes, many are just plain scary. Working class people, to whom they appeal so cynically, are just means to an end. Hopefully working class people will figure this out on their own because Democrats do everything to demonstrate their own indifference to the working class.

The opposition to allowing recruitment by the military services on campus is particularly irksome. What an easy cause for a North Eastern elitist. Few or none of the people opposing those interviews would be caught dead actually being in the military. Why? Because the military has traditionally been the place for working class and minorities to have what is as close to an equal opportunity as can be found in the USA. To be sure it cannot be found on any elitist campus. I don't get it. No one is forced to go to a military recruiter. Just who are people like Kagan protecting? And if people like Kagan want to change the policy then kissing up to the President who signed off on it is hardly the way.

Just once I'd like to see a nomination that shows some imagination.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Lucky Jim: Summer Sequel

I generally prefer Martin Amis to his father Kingsley but no book captures class bias more accurately that Kingsley's 1953 book, Lucky Jim. It is a humorous book and brilliant book. I think brilliant because even those who do not occupy either side in the world of academic class warfare can enjoy it. The book centers around Jim Dixon, woefully out of place in the British upper classes of academia and knowing it. In the edition I have there is an interesting preface by David Lodge. How appropriate.

The photo is from the film version. Can you tell which one is Jim? It was a bit of a flop at the time but deserves a look today. You can find it on Amazon but it's a bit pricey.

My favorite nugget from the book --not sure it is in the film -- is Jim's description what he teaches as "along the knife-edge dividing the conceivably-just-about-relevant from the irreducibly, immitigably, irrelevant." What an admirable use of hyphens and the word immitigably. Actually, I think the most interesting things are on that knife edge because you never know when they may fall into one category or the other.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

No More BP

Maybe it is irrational but I have not bought Exxon since the Valdez. Now I am adding BP to my list. It's unfortunate since it is closest to my house and I usually drive around on empty but if the market works at all I will do what I can to signal my anger.