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.