weekly roundup – January 15th

One of the best things I saw this week was Jerry Seinfeld and President Obama in Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Both of these men are personable, and I enjoyed their conversation. Having Obama open up about what it means to have power is interesting, and his advice to the candidates about making sure they’re running for the right reasons (or rather, not running for the wrong reasons) made me think about the reasons behind the choices I’ve made in my own life.

In law school, we learned about arbitration, but there wasn’t a big emphasis on it. It was something that was relegated to consumer contracts, but even there, it wasn’t used by all of the companies. In the last few years, however, arbitration clauses have popped up all over the place, and the Supreme Court has upheld even the most extreme of them. This article does a good job of explaining the rise of arbitration clauses and the influence the Chief Justice had in creating the winning argument while he was practicing law. I’m not a proponent of arbitration. My arguments against it are nothing new, but I am particularly against it in employment contracts. Cerner gave its employees an ultimatum late last year: sign an arbitration contract or lose the ability to get merit raises. It prohibits class action suits, which can be effective to change corrupt or improper practices by companies. And it’s just unfair. The way that our country and justice system seem to be run by companies rather than people really gets to me.

A New York Times Magazine article addresses the Russian media trolls who put out pro-Russia articles and comments that disparage, well, anyone who criticizes Putin or Russia (or looks too hard at the trolls themselves). It’s an interesting bit of investigative journalism that culminates in the journalist himself being trolled.

Another article about the dark side of technology is this article about the Silk Road and its founder. It’s a long, two-part read, but it goes through the founding, running, and downfall of the Silk Road and the efforts law enforcement made to try and shut it down. In the end, it’s a pretty classic case of getting too big for one’s britches. Ross Ulbricht, the mastermind, became arrogant and a little careless, which was enough for law enforcement to get a toehold. There are so many examples of this extreme hubris, and the article was in part fascination with a dark world and part schadenfreude at seeing the end result.

I didn’t play any games this week, but I’m going to a board game convention this weekend, so I’ll have lots to report next week!

Personal thoughts: I’ve been applying for jobs, which is somewhat disheartening. I’m educated, curious, driven, and eager to work, but I think my JD scares off potential employers who think I’m going to expect a lawyer’s salary while not doing legal work or who think that I’m not right for a software job. It’s frustrating. But I’ve come to realize that majoring in math in addition to music was one of the best decisions I could have made in college. I wanted to graduate with more than a degree in music (I knew I didn’t want to do music professionally), and I enjoyed math and was pretty good at it. It turns out that a lot of software jobs require a technical degree or a math degree, so yay! Trying to figure out my future (career-wise) makes me feel so young and inexperienced again, but it’s essential.

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