Solar Power Plant Also an Oven

This seems to have taken some proponents of the project by surprise, and we’re warned that “it’s far too early in the process to draw any definitive conclusions about long-term impacts” of these immense solar plants (which use square miles of mirrors to focus solar energy against a 40-story high boiler, sort of like a reverse magnifying glass) “on avian or other species.”

But judging by the rapid accumulation of dead birds with “singed or burned feathers,” the short-term impacts of heating the nearby atmosphere to about 1000 degrees Fahrenheit seem to be pretty much what one would expect.

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Conflicted Policy Preferences of the Tech Community

I submit that:

  1. The tech community favors libertarian policy outcomes.
  2. The tech community endorses liberal policies.

Restated, the tech community favors accomplishing free-market outcomes through government regulation of markets.

I have a few ideas about what’s going on here, but principally I think the reason for this is that the experiences of many tech professionals with non-technological social orderings are almost entirely theoretical. As a result, they apply ill-fitting theories derived from e.g., approaches to software development to government policy and arrive at nonsensical results.

Not Tomorrow, But Soon Enough

Among the articles we may expect to see in the coming troubles:
1. Rolling Stone, Communism: The Revolutionary New Idea That’s Saving the World and Making Us Hip Again (2015) (“The solution to all society’s problems may be as simple as abolishing the private ownership of property, says groundbreaking theory’s youthful founder and proponent.”).

Do Grades Matter?

1Ls received their grades in January, and it seems to me that I’ve not said anything about grades, so now may be a reasonable time to do so.

Grades do matter. To get an idea of how much, start with a baseline determined by the job you’re looking for, then factor in any advantages you might have (usually, connections).

If you want to work in Biglaw (defined for our purposes as the firms paying salaries at the market rate for your city — $130k-160k for the most part), grades are by far the most important factor (unless you have hardcore connections). The class rank % required for you to be a viable candidate depends on your school and is relatively easy to determine.

Find out what percent of people in your school get legal jobs paying over $130k their first year out of school. Assume that the vast majority of your people were at the top of their class. Multiply that percentage by 1.5. (if 10% of students at your school got such jobs, multiply that to get 15% — it’s a safe bet that 80-90% of the people who got such jobs were in the top 15%). Furthermore, for schools outside of the T14, being in the 9.5% is >>>>> 10.5%, because most schools will release GPA cutoffs for the top 10% and the top 25%, but nothing in between.

The very most competitive jobs (V15 law firms in NY/DC/Chicago, AUSA in S.D.N.Y. or Chicago, etc.) recruit almost exclusively from the top of the T14. To have a shot from another school you probably need to be in the top 5% of your class, and in some cases that won’t be enough. (Actually, the very most competitive jobs — Cravath or Wachtell — are so exclusive that general recruitment guides don’t even list them.)

Other than this, you can work your way down the scale, but you should be aware that it’s not a smooth decrease: once you are out of this range, your likely salary will be about 50% less (that is, outside of biglaw, the high salary for first years is usually around $70k-80k). For most people, that will make a significant difference in the economic utility of a law degree.

Inverse Nominalization — Nouns-as-Verbs

Most of us have heard that “active tense” is usually (many will say always) better than “passive tense.”

“A negligently drove his car against B” is typically clearer and more readable than “B was injured in a car crash as a result of A’s negligence.” The emphasis of the sentence ( modeled on a form pleading) coincides with the writer’s focus — the negligent actor A and his conduct.

But the preference for active tense isn’t a hard and fast rule because action is not always the focus. A doctor treating B, for instance, would probably be concerned with the car accident only insofar as it was relevant to the nature of B’s injuries: he would probably say something more like “B’s injuries were sustained when he was struck by a car moving at 30 miles per hour.” In this case the injuries are the focus and the “hidden subject,” A, is irrelevant.

The principled rule is: “Use active tense unless you have a reason not to.”

There’s another side to this issue that isn’t just a matter of good writing, which you can see in pieces like “The Dark Side of Verbs-as-Nouns.” This author frets that the nominalization “take-away” “seems to represent education as a product rather than a practice. It invites an answer that’s a sound bite, a Styrofoam-sheathed portion of spice, a handy little package to be slavishly reproduced.” Worse still: “Such phrasing also curtails the lecturer’s role, making him or her not so much a source of ideas and a repository of intellectual trust as a purveyor of data packets.”

Now the “lecturer,” already convinced that his tenured and tenure-track colleagues sneer behind his back, is reduced to a nullity — an invisible “purveyor of data packets.” An academic’s worst nightmare, indeed!But what of the opposite trend (and really, academic writing lately overflows with this) — the conversion of nouns into verbs?

Two examples: “banked” (meaning “has access to banking services”) and “housed” (“has a house”). Most often these terms are preceded by “un”: “unbanked”; “unhoused.” Banked and  housed are slight variations on a theme: “unhoused” is replacing “homeless” in academic discourse, while “unbanked” is as far as I can see a new concept, or at least half of one.

Why though, is the verb form preferred? I believe the answer is that it shifts the focus from the individual described to the implied but unseen actor; that is, the party not “housing” a person.

“Homeless” is an individual condition; “unhoused” is a societal failure. This is called “question-begging” and “assuming the ground in conflict.”