The Beginning of the End of Government Suits?

Despite my advice in yesterday’s post, sometimes you can wear whatever the hell you want to a job interview. Wired calls attention to a the White House’s attempt to recruit IT talent to its new U.S. Digital Service—a project led by ex-Google engineer Mikey Dickerson. A point this video returns to over and over is the government’s accommodation of coders’ traditionally lax dress code: Dickerson seems to favor nondescript, untucked cotton button downs and khakis, while most of the President’s men are all suit all the time. In one segment Dickerson is wearing a jacket and tie—he jokes that it’s only because the President is in the room; Dickerson’s dress shirt appears to be made of denim.

The often-stereotyped uniform of the computer programmer/IT guy/coder is really the politician’s “can’t look like I care too much” uniform taken a step further: politicians won’t wear clothes that might be perceived as flashy because they could signify vanity, conspicuous wealth, or a lack of seriousness. They want you to know they have more important things to worry about. The Silicon Valley aesthetic’s rejection of, uh, aesthetics is more about, as Jesse put it, creating the facade of meritocracy: “Whoever hacks best wins.” Politicians want the approval of everyone, or at least 51% of everyone, and enough people still believe that SERIOUS BUSINESS requires a suit and tie to justify them. Tech guys’ attitude is a rejection of needing any approval at all. “This is what I feel like wearing. You need me. Take it or leave it.”

The implication of the video is great: that the government is worried its missing the opportunity to hire the best people for the job because those people wouldn’t even consider taking a job where they’d have to wear a suit.


A natural component of filmmaking is the struggle to find money. It has been an uphill battle my entire working life… If you want to make a film, go make it. I can’t tell you the number of times I have started shooting a film knowing I didn’t have the money to finish it. I meet people everywhere who complain about money; it’s the ingrained nature of too many filmmakers. But it should be clear to everyone that money has always had certain explicit qualities: it’s stupid and cowardly, slow and unimaginative. The circumstances of funding never just appear; you have to create them yourself, then manipulate them for your own ends. This is the very nature and daily toil of filmmaking. If your project has real substance, ultimately the money will follow you like a common cur in the street with its tail between its legs. There is a German proverb: “Der Teufel scheisst immer auf den grössten Haufen” [“The Devil always shits on the biggest heap”]. So start heaping and have faith. Every time you make a film you should be prepared to descend into Hell and wrestle it from the claws of the Devil himself. Prepare yourself: there is never a day without a sucker punch. At the same time, be pragmatic and learn how to develop an understanding of when to abandon an idea. Follow your dreams no matter what, but reconsider if they can’t be realized in certain situations. A project can become a cul-de-sac and your life might slip through your fingers in pursuit of something that can never be realized. Know when to walk away.
They can do whatever they want with pricing and compensation; they can deactivate you as a driver whenever they want,” said a man who drives for three ride-sharing services in San Francisco and asked that his name be withheld for fear of being blacklisted. “Nobody has my back.

In the Sharing Economy, Workers Find Both Freedom and Uncertainty - NYTimes.com (via iamdanw)

What was that Paul Graham quote about Uber being so virtuous that you can measure how corrupt cities are by their resistance to it?

Here’s the problem with bigger numbers and endless possibility: They don’t go well with humans. We don’t have the processing power. Dating is not simply about finding like-minded people, but about limiting your potential set of choices. When we’re making a selection from what sociologists call a bounded set of choices, we can “satisfice” — that is, reach a kind of threshold of satisfaction. Once we find something above that level, great, let’s try it.

When the number of options increases, we become maximizers — unsatisfied with those options, and wanting more. On Tinder, we can judge, swipe and date as if there is an unlimited number of matches. When faced with boundless choices, can we ever choose?

When read alongside Ianni, what is striking about Goffman’s book is not the cultural difference between being an Italian thug in the early part of the twentieth century and being an African-American thug today. It’s the role of law enforcement in each era. Chuck’s high-school education ended prematurely after he was convicted of aggravated assault in a schoolyard fight. Another boy called Chuck’s mother a crack whore, and he pushed his antagonist’s face into the snow. In a previous generation, this dispute would not have ended up in the legal system. Until the nineteen-seventies, outstanding warrants in the city of Philadelphia were handled by a two-man team, who would sit in an office during the evening hours and make telephone calls to the homes of people on their list. Anyone stopped by the police could show a fake I.D. Today, there are computers and sometimes even fingerprint machines in squad cars. Between 1960 and 2000, the ratio of police officers to Philadelphia residents rose by almost seventy per cent.

The Gangster’s Guide to Upward Mobility

Not always the biggest Malcolm Gladwell fan, but this piece was pretty prescient in advance of the events in Ferguson, Missouri.

The problem, it seemed to me on that day, was that Clinton is a little haphazard at picking what to care about and whom to share it with. (This turned out to be, as insights go, an understatement.) He had made an unlucky Vulcan mind-meld with me on the subject of Bangladesh. And then he turned to Hunter Thompson, of all people, and said with wholehearted fervor, “We’re going to put one hundred thousand new police officers on the street.”

I was up all night persuading Hunter that this was not a personal threat.

The Atlantic | Feb 2001 | Bill Clinton and His Consequences | O’Rourke

In light of the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, I was reminded of this Hunter Thompson/Bill Clinton anecdote, which I found hilarious at the beginning of my think-piece reading career in 2001 and still find pretty amusing today.

In Gordon, for instance, it found a complex character whose ambition was both sympathetic and alienating; the heartbreak of failing with his and Donna’s first computer, the Symphonic, has curdled in him. For a while, the push to bring the Giant to life revives his idealistic drive to make something great. But idealism is hard, it’s tiring, and eventually it becomes more important above all that he simply not lose one more time–even if winning this time just means making a widget slightly better and quicker than the other guy’s widget.