“please email your resume, academic transcript and photo to me”

Me: Stuart and Jones, I’d like to be considered for your C programmer job. I have 10+ years experience doing C, C++, and other high-performance programming work for LexisNexis, Anthem health care, and other companies. My resume is online, and highlights my experience, skills, and also includes over 20,000 lines of sample code in C: http://clownfysh.com/resume Thanks for considering me!
Him: Thanks for your response – please email your resume, academic transcript and photo to me. Thanks, Stuart stuartandjones@fast-mail.org
Me: Will you please clarify what you mean by “photo”..a photo of..?
Him: Sorry I thought my sentence…your resume, academic transcript and photo…made sense, I meant your photo, the photo of you..
Me: No thanks. I’m not applying to your job based on my looks, but on my software engineering abilities. Maybe I just don’t understand. How do you use a photo when evaluating a C programmer as a candidate?

Mathematical Poetics: Valuation


Whenever a government assesses “the” value of a property for tax purposes; whenever you project figures in a pitch to investors; whenever an accountant writes a single number on a line that isn’t referring to Cash Itself — a distribution has collapsed.

I put “the value” in scare quotes because one number can’t express an asset’s worth. Even if dollar value to me is a 1-D concept — a

Mathematical Poetics: Valuation

A history of perfection, the American Lie

Background checks, credit checks, up-your-butt investigative journalism.  Presidential records of spotlessness.  People resigning over things they did that weren’t illegal—and that didn’t affect their job!

This is all bad.

I’m not talking about putting serial killers in daycares.

I’m talking about: maybe I’ve had a restraining order filed against me.  Maybe my credit is bad.  Maybe I spent a week in the hospital because I called a suicide hotline.

Now I can’t get a job!

Would you rather I had not called that suicide hotline?  Are my options really: a) kill myself or b) get help and become unemployable?  I despise c) (the common choice) stuff down your emotions, saw off your reality, and live a desperate and neutered life, never admitting that you hurt.  That is the most common definition of adjustment in our society and I fucking think that’s sick.

In this media culture, once you’ve done cocaine or cheated on your wife, you have to hide it in order to become President.  That’s terrible.  If you take that to its simple, logical conclusion: it means that Presidents and CEOs and people who have jobs are the set of people who have made the fewest public mistakes??

That is terrible..don’t you see?  It means that the people who know the most (who are by necessity the people who have tried the most things and therefore again by necessity the people who have made the most mistakes) are the people who can’t even get a job in this country, in this economy, in this global system we’re allowing.

The people who can get a job are the people who’ve never messed up (college degree—no experience).  People who know a thing or two (and I certainly include myself), and who helped build the systems that are now in place (and I certainly include myself)..are a set of people the system no longer serves.

And it’s not just negative experience that hurts you—it’s your expertise!  When I was 20 and knew almost nothing about software engineering, it was easier for me to get a software engineering job than it is now.  Part of it is the general economic downslope, but part of it is that I know too much, and the HR person thinks I will get bored doing the job.  Or, worse: they know that I’m not naive enough to work for a pittance, or that I have enough experience and backbone to ask for fair treatment in an employee/employer relationship!  Is someone of a mere 33 years already too broad and eclectic a person to get any job?  (I’d like to think I have more development in me, more growth, more life.)  I’m underqualified to be a baker.  I’m overqualified to design web applications.  What the fuck am I supposed to do?

This country, this system, is fucked.

And also: how exactly the fuck does being a baker preclude being something else?  I recently had a shot at a great software job, but the CEO told me, when I told him I also write, that everyone there is completely focused on that project, and that he viewed it as a negative, that I might have split focus or be interested in other things—which to me means that that’s not a 50-hour-a-week job, or a 60-hour-a-week job, but a We-Own-Your-Life-type job.  I view it as a positive that I do multiple things.  I know how to focus on one thing at a time: if I didn’t I wouldn’t have written books.  But I really get the sense that part of what is happening with me in my job search is that {people looking for bakers} don’t know how to see me as a baker (even though industrial bread-baking is something I think almost anyone can learn) or as a computer programmer..because the computer programmers they know don’t do other things.  I think that is a liability, as a human being, as a baker, and as a programmer.  In order to get a job as an X, I have to have done nothing but X my whole life?  That’s just not realistic in this day and age.  And I think it demands a kind of vulnerability to a specific line of work that in this economy I don’t think is smart.  People who are happy now b/c they got a job as a “Java programmer” after adjusting their resume to claim that all they ever developed in, was Java—beware the passing fad of computer languages..what yesterday got you a job will prevent you from getting one tomorrow.

When I’m smarter and more capable than the person I’m trying to get a job from, and I can’t get a job—the system is fucked.  Hard work and intelligence do not pay off.  Knowing someone who is already in power pays off.  Having rich parents pays off.  Fraudulent billing pays off.  For the rest of us, it’s playing the lottery.

And of course saying what you think, what you know, and what we all know—say in this blog post for instance—that won’t help.  Because hiring, like everything else in this damn place, is based on fear: they want to hire the candidate they’re least afraid of..which is to say the one who won’t rock the boat (which is to say the one who is a fucking idiot).

Do I have emotional problems because I express my feelings?  No.  I disagree with that.  I think the fraudulent CEO, who rarely expresses anything, who sunk a functioning employee’s job into the dirt..I think I’ll go with him having emotional problems and me and my current anger being a rational symptom of systemic bullshit.  I’m not taking this shit on, anymore, personally.  I didn’t create this economy.  I fucking showed up at work every day and did brilliant work.  That’s what I did.  That I can’t find a job is ridiculous..it has nothing to do with me..so while the ship sinks I’ll at least afford myself the dignity to speak about the waves from my place on the bow.

Either way I’m in a shitty position: if I shut the fuck up and get a job with no benefits and no stability and no honesty from the company owners (a couple of my past jobs can be described this way)..or I put myself at [only slightly] greater risk by having a blog and saying: hey! it sucks to work as a programmer and not get health insurance! Or: hey: you’re a fucking fraud!  Either way, economically, I’m pretty much sunk!  So I might as well speak my mind.  Ten years ago, when I made good money and got relatively honest treatment from the “leadership” of, say, a LexisNexis, it was worth it to keep quiet, to be tame.  Now: these jobs don’t offer livable pay or health insurance (which is just an anti-capitalist price fixing scheme), and the jobs aren’t stable..so..what’s the fucking point?!  They’re not offering anything anymore.

I honestly have half a mind to go live in the woods, eat people’s trash.

And I’ll say this too: (and I’m not suicidal and by default I’m not a revolutionary, but:) I think that suicide and revolution are rational options in such a culture.  The American Lie isn’t so good to me these days.  And as someone of very high IQ-type intelligence, I’m telling you that I don’t think it is a rational decision to work for a pittance, to stay silent out of fear..and yes—(as much flack as I may get for this) (and if you were considering suicide, don’t use me as your excuse, but)—I consider that massive change, or massively giving up (in some cases) are not-ideal, but rational choices in such a dismal, dismal world.

I dreamt that I was being tased.

Let’s forget for a moment about what this might mean, from my subconscious, and lament the fact that tasers, tasing, tasering are even concepts my brain has at its disposal when constructing nightmares.

My dream was that I had been unjustly decided upon as the guilty one in some supposed and minor infraction in a mall (it had to do with re-placing a phone on its cradle—it was a minor infraction which not only had I not done..it hadn’t happened).

Then security guards held me down and when I asked them to stop tasing me, they kept tasing me, over and over, and telling me that they would keep doing it until I recognized that they had the power to do whatever they wanted.

I’ve never been tased in waking life, but obviously so many have been tased, arrested, persecuted, and executed unjustly, by corrupt governors, corrupt wielders of corporate power.

We need to take a step back from martial law.

America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard, ‘It ain’t no disgrace to be poor, but it might as well be.’ It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: ‘if you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?’ There will also be an American flag no larger than a child’s hand – glued to a lollipop stick and flying from the cash register…

Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say Napoleonic times. Many novelties have come from America. The most startling of these, a thing without precedent, is a mass of undignified poor. They do not love one another because they do not love themselves.

Kurt Vonnegut (via whiporwill)

Guns don’t kill people. (The toothpaste argument)

Um.  I know some educated people who vehemently defend the “guns don’t people” idea as logical..who claim it is so.  Gun’s don’t kill people—people kill people.

Lol.  I sincerely don’t think the cogency of this statement, this argument, this general idea, is merely a matter of opinion and politics.

I’ve tried many tactics to try to get my side of this point across:

I’ve investigated how much urban living the person saying it has done.  It’s easier to understand keeping handguns legal when you haven’t lived in a big city.  Rural-living people tend to more vehemently fail to see the need for sensible gun laws.

I’ve tried the theoretical what would happen if there were no guns argument.  Which is the favorite argument of people who support the pro- side of this idea.  They say: without guns, people would still be killing people.  And I say: yes, and they would be killing them at a slower rate.

But to trump all of those half-assed ways of trying to get people to see the illogic of this argument, which still persists in some otherwise-cogent people’s minds, I present you, now, with the toothpaste argument:

I propose that if {guns don’t kill people, people kill people} then {toothpaste doesn’t get your teeth clean, people get their teeth clean}.

Or more succinctly: toothpaste doesn’t clean teeth, people clean teeth.


See what I’m saying?

A lack of toothpaste might not prevent people from cleaning their teeth, but their teeth certainly aren’t as clean without toothpaste.  If people can get their teeth clean without toothpaste..then why do we allow companies to advertise that toothpaste gets your teeth clean?  ..Because it does.  The corollary theoretical argument from guns to toothpaste would be: well, without toothpaste, people would still clean their teeth, they’d just do it using a different tool—they’d use sound waves or something.

And here’s where our anti-gun-control people make their logical fallacy.  You can’t say what might happen, in an argument, because you can’t predict the future.  It’s not the case that an even number of people are being killed each year by guns and then also by knives.  It isn’t true that toothpaste has existing, equally-convenient alternatives serving as evidence that people don’t depend on toothpaste in order to clean their teeth as well as we do now.


When I brush my teeth, if I use toothpaste, and I get my teeth clean, then toothpaste is helping to get my teeth clean.

If I attack someone, by shooting them with a gun, and they die, then the gun is helping to kill the person.

Is the gun the total factor?  No.  Is toothpaste?  No.

But to say that toothpaste isn’t a first-class factor in getting your teeth clean, cooperating with human will and other factors, or that a bullet and a gun aren’t first-class factors in killing people via shooting them, I believe is beyond the level of simply annoying, and squarely in the realm of non-cogent.

If {guns don’t kill people, people kill people} then it must be the case that [informal] advertising (or belief) around guns is incorrect.  Is it not the case that when I buy a gun, I expect that it will function, in killing?  If it didn’t, what would be the purpose of buying a gun?  (Opponents of this will say that guns, without shooting them, can be a deterrent to crime, etc—bullshit: if no gun was ever used, then they wouldn’t be a deterrent.)  Clearly the promise, to a purchaser of a gun, is that it will be a lethal deterrent (or worse) in exactly the same way that getting your teeth clean is the promise made to a purchaser of toothpaste.

The promise of any product is that you need to have it in order to do what it claims to help you do; that it will do what it claims to do; and that, with it, you will be better able to do or be something, than without.

If {guns don’t kill people, people kill people} and {toothpaste doesn’t clean your mouth, human will and ingenuity clean your mouth} then the advertising and beliefs around both toothpaste and guns are wrong.  When we advertise these two items, we are most certainly not saying: well, these tools don’t really work any better than any theoretical tool that might kill people or clean teeth, but we’re going to sell them to you even though (or anyway, because) if the manufacturers of these items weren’t here, you’d be doing just as well killing people and cleaning teeth than if these items weren’t here.  No.  Obviously that’s not the situation.  (If it was, then it wouldn’t be possible to orient a business around the selling of either item.)  With both toothpaste and guns, the belief and advertising about the item’s use is that the product will vastly improve your ability to do what you want to do, versus not having it.

So {guns don’t kill people} adherents are necessarily saying that a gun, as a product, doesn’t solidly occupy a space of usefulness, as a critical tool for accomplishing its particular aims.  They have to claim that, they by necessity must be claiming that to say that guns are such a minor factor in murders performed using guns, that without them, murders performed using guns would be taking place at the same rate.  What I’m showing here is that if {guns don’t kill people, people kill people} is true, then it’s also true that the advertising and belief around guns is false..if guns don’t kill people, then guns are useless, they are ineffective, they are no more effective than the next, existing, available option for killing your neighbor.  That is clearly false at the present time, given that more people die by guns than by knives or bows and arrows, etc, when a person kills another person (at least in the United States).  So, by symbolic logic, we have an {if a, then b} situation, where b is false.  Hence, a is also false.

(If a {guns don’t kill people, people kill people} then b {guns are no more available and effective than existing alternatives for small-scale murder}.  If a then b.  b is false.  Hence a cannot be true.)

You know, it may be that the US needs to have different regulations for urban areas and rural areas, or some other more nuanced way to interpret the Second Amendment.  That’s a whole other, political, argument..one other people can have.

What I’m absolutely tired of, is educated people ignoring simple logic when using this clearly false, yet catchy, slogan, to make their political points.  Make your political points, please—but do it logically.