Links VII: baseball stars, birthday songs, and bloggers

Argument culture

Kate Heddleston has some interesting thoughts about tech companies’ penchant for “argument culture.”

First, let me explain what I mean by an argument culture. An argument is the use of aggressive opposition to weed out weak logic, keeping the strongest ideas possible. The philosophy behind using arguments for problem-solving is that attacking the weak parts of an idea will leave the best solutions. The metaphor for argument in our culture is war. We think of people we argue with as opponents, we attack their position and defend our own, we can gain or lose ground, and ultimately we can win or lose arguments—just like battles. Arguments are combative and competitive interactions, and can lead to aggressive behavior between opponents. As Deborah Tannen says in her book The Argument Culture, “[An] argument culture urges us to approach the world—and the people in it—in an adversarial frame of mind.”

I totally don’t endore argument culture, and I think there are plenty of ways to defuse it—yet I still find myself slipping into it pretty frequently at work.

The van man

Some apparently impressive baseball pitcher for the Blue Jays lives in a van on $800 a month.

Before the Blue Jays understood his convictions, Norris felt like the team had trouble making sense of his unpredictable life — coaches, teammates and executives asking him questions that indicated a measure of unease. Why, with seven figures in the bank, did he take an offseason job working 40 hours a week at an outdoor outfitter in his hometown of Johnson City, Tennessee? Would it do permanent damage to his back muscles to spend his first minor league season sharing an apartment with two teammates in Florida and sleeping only in a hammock? Why had he decided to spend his first offseason vacationing not on a Caribbean cruise with teammates or partying in South Beach but instead alone in the hostels of Nicaragua, renting a motorcycle for $2 a day, hiking into the jungle, surfing among the stingrays? And was that really a picture on Twitter of the Blue Jays’ best prospect, out again in the woods, shaving his tangled beard with the blade of an ax?

This man clearly has some important part of the EA spirit in spades.

Hiring sucks

Thomas Ptacek lays out the numerous problems with the ways tech companies hire.

Our field selects engineers using a process that is worse than reading chicken entrails. Like interviews, poultry intestine has little to tell you about whether to hire someone. But they’re a more pleasant eating experience than a lunch interview.

Typography advice

Want to learn how to make things look pretty, but intimidated by the complexity of design? I am! Butterick’s Practical Typography offers a great place to start, a fairly comprehensive overview of the dos and don’ts of type in the modern computer era. Complete with HTML/CSS advice where necessary and some useful “street fighting typography” sections (Typography in Ten Minutes and the Summary of Key Rules).

Eric Whitacre sets “Happy Birthday”

This exists. It’s exactly what you’d think.

Depressing facts about drug ratings

Scott Alexander does something that, curiously, nobody else seems to have done, and correlates doctor ratings and patient ratings of the same psychiatric drugs. The result? A highly significant, sharp anitcorrelation. The drugs doctors like better are, on average, the ones patients rate worse.

Otium is back!

Sarah Constantin returns to blogging. If you don’t read her yet, you should.


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