Warning: Take in small doses
December 2, 2019 2:22 PM   Subscribe

Things that everyone in your field knows and nobody in your industry talks about because it would lead to general chaos. - Twitter thread started by Myk Bilokonsky.

Wide-ranging and somewhat depressing.
posted by tommasz (89 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is awesome thanks for sharing. Many of these seem more like "very interesting facts"/"you should know" type stuff rather than "things that would cause CHAOS if people knew" but still addictive to scroll through.

Very informative: This thread on how the student-debt crisis was intentional and, like many shitty things in this modern world, was a result of Reagan chipping away at Pell grants and attacking the very idea that college should be subsidized. Student loan debt is yet another problem that was manufactured in the name of making sure Welfare Queens Don't Get Things They Don't Deserve.
posted by windbox at 2:33 PM on December 2 [49 favorites]


Oh man, the shit I could say about domains and hosting. Ugh. I haye so much of my industry.

I'll say this, you don't really own your domain. You have less autonomy and control than you think. Try to always keep everything in your own name and avoid resellers and sub-contracting.

Sighs.
posted by Fizz at 2:40 PM on December 2 [9 favorites]


Skimming that thread it looks like it should read "tell me about an axe you have to grind that may have nothing to do with your industry or anything close to reality".
posted by aspo at 2:43 PM on December 2 [68 favorites]


I dunno. Some of them (like the student debt stuff) definitely ring true, but a lot of them seem pretty axe-grindy and heard-it-on-the-internet-so-it-must-be-true-ish.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:48 PM on December 2 [4 favorites]


Wow, I was not expecting a thread consisting mostly of conspiracy theories, ridiculous overreactions, paranoia, and ideological sloganeering.

But scroll down a whole lot, and eventually you will get to the actual experts dishing out the actual revelations. So if you're rolling your eyes like me, whack "Page Down" and keep on reading.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 2:50 PM on December 2 [9 favorites]


Lots of interesting things here, but certainly opinions.

"The DNC rigged the 2016 primary against Bernie Sanders despite being aware that he was the only candidate who could beat Trump, because its members preferred fascism to losing their own institutional power."

No, unfortunately Hillary was more likely to win than Bernie, and actually did get more votes than Trump, but still an interesting read.
posted by waving at 2:51 PM on December 2 [32 favorites]


I've really had it with these corrupt economics professors who suck at teaching, stream too much, write shitty code and treat women poorly.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:53 PM on December 2 [4 favorites]


Opera singers pay to audition?!
posted by asperity at 2:53 PM on December 2 [3 favorites]


Matt Yglesias dynamited the pond. BE WARNED.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 2:53 PM on December 2 [1 favorite]


waving, I think that Matthew Yglesias tweet about the DNC is a bit of trolling on his part.
posted by factory123 at 2:54 PM on December 2 [7 favorites]


Bassists are the most important part of every band
Frighteningly true. Fortunately, very few bassists can read so the vocalists are safe for now.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 2:54 PM on December 2 [46 favorites]


About ten people said "professors have basically no training in how to teach," which is true. It's so true that it doesn't seem particularly surprising if you're at all academia-adjacent, but I think it might be surprising to most students and parents.

Mine would be:

-Most media discussions of higher ed are about a tiny, elite section of the higher-ed landscape and are worse than useless for understanding the current situation or the implications of policy proposals.

-Only a tiny percentage of pre-meds will ever get into med school.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:57 PM on December 2 [33 favorites]


The ancestors actually want people to have good and fulfilling sex with good people because it is nourishing.
i found it

i found the tweet the salvages the entire "conversation"
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:00 PM on December 2 [9 favorites]


The reason "it's good enough for government work" is a real thing, and it is, is that the politicians don't want the government suing private industry.

That's a statement about corruption, not government competence.
posted by bonehead at 3:12 PM on December 2 [12 favorites]


Adding my HE stuff to A&C above:

The reward for good uni level teaching is in heaven. At least I assume so, since it for sure isn't here on Earth. Research is rewarded, or more specifically, getting hold of research funding.
posted by biffa at 3:16 PM on December 2 [17 favorites]


Everyone in programming uses Google but everyone also looks down on others for using Google.
posted by Young Kullervo at 3:18 PM on December 2 [8 favorites]



Michael McKean
@MJMcKean
·
Nov 29
Every day, enough food is wasted on movie shoots to feed the damn world.


Is this where Judas gets a crane shot?
posted by clavdivs at 3:35 PM on December 2 [2 favorites]


92% of all recorded music is written and performed by dogs. Milli Vanilli were framed and forced out of the industry for threatening to reveal this fact.

Seems legit.
posted by asperity at 3:43 PM on December 2 [29 favorites]


It's sad this became a meme format because 'things that are uncontroversial inside of an industry that would be wildly controversial outside of it' gets far less interesting when it's conflated with 'things that are uncontroversial outside of my peer group that are in fact extremely spicy takes that none of us question'.
posted by Merus at 3:55 PM on December 2 [16 favorites]


At least 90% of species are still undescribed by science, including around four million insects and a cool *half a million arachnids*.

This tweet is lost, isn't it? it needs help finding the "extremely cool thing everyone in your industry knows that helps them wake up happy in the morning no matter what else is happening" thread.
posted by Tess of the d'Urkelvilles at 3:57 PM on December 2 [18 favorites]


Michael McKean played Lenny on "Laverne & Shirley", was a member of Spinal Tap, and most recently, played The Last of the Witchfinders* in "Good Omens". Use that information to judge the varacity of everything he puts on Twitter.

* Witchfinder General, demoted to Witchfinder Sergeant
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:58 PM on December 2 [9 favorites]


So the thing about profs not knowing how to teach...

That's often framed as a failure of the higher ed system (e.g. never got the training), which is not unfair. But I wish academics would take some of the responsibility on themselves. At many U.S. universities, there are tons of resources and opportunities to improve one's teaching, including entire centers dedicated to the art of teaching. And nearly every grad student knows they're going to teach "even" if they get a tenure track research job. So nothing is stopping them from sitting in on a well-rated instructor's class, even just for a session or two to see how it's done. Or looking up the multitude of open-access syllabi and teaching resources people post online all the time. And yet students, postdocs and faculty will often shun and avoid teaching-related resources and opportunities.

Plenty of researchers teach themselves the skills they need to succeed in high profile faculty jobs without any support or training from the system. Plenty of researchers teach themselves skills even if those skills have a low likelihood of yielding better research. Perhaps it's worth being honest that a disturbing number of professors don't learn to teach because they don't want to.
posted by BlueBlueElectricBlue at 4:14 PM on December 2 [22 favorites]


Depressing and vindicating all at the same time..

Is there a German word for that feeling?
posted by some loser at 4:22 PM on December 2 [3 favorites]


TL;DR: most of humanity sucks, and the rest are totally winging it as they go.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:37 PM on December 2 [7 favorites]


BlueBlueElectricBlue, I both agree and completely disagree.

It isn't about whether or not someone *could* learn, it's whether they are at all incentivized to.

Yes, universities do provide significant resources on improving teaching. (This is the part I agree with -- mine even sent me to a teaching workshop last summer). But no, research universities do *not* generally actually incentivize teaching well. I forget the actual supposed percentages of what I am supposed to spend on research, teaching, and service, but the actual effective percentage is way over 100, and it isn't the research that gets cut when I have to triage.

And I am one of the ones who actually cares about teaching. Ideally I would have much more time to spend on it. But I don't, and blaming me or my colleagues for the system that incentivizes us against teaching well is not a particularly useful perspective to take.

For what it's worth, how little instruction we get about teaching isn't my major complaint; mine would be more about how some supposed "geniuses" are just lucky (and yes, how some really are just that freaking smart.) Also whether or not someone is a genius has, as far as I can tell, absolutely no correlation with whether or not they are a good person worth spending time with.
posted by nat at 4:37 PM on December 2 [17 favorites]


I think it’s Leon Lederman in The God Particle who says “A tenured professor at a research university can do anything he wants—even teach!”
posted by Huffy Puffy at 4:38 PM on December 2 [6 favorites]


Here's mine - many people in community theater use music in their productions all the time with absolutely no understanding of how they're violating copyright law (or, if you're feeling less generous, they know but choose to not know). If every community theatre paid for every unlicensed song they use in a show (as opposed to before the show or during intermission, which can be covered by an ASCAP/BMI license), that would consume a significant portion of their budget. Very few community theaters want to address this because they don't want to pay the necessary royalties and don't want to pay for original music composed for the production.

In fact, most community theaters don't really get how theatrical copyright works and would be shocked - SHOCKED - to learn that the three lines they cut or character they added so Little Johnny can have a role are a violation of their licensing agreement.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:43 PM on December 2 [9 favorites]


I think I said this on the previous thread about the electronic medical record, but

Documentation is not communication.

Seriously, 90% of what your doctor or nurse does on the computer is clinically useless, and another 5% is actively harmful to patient care. There is sometimes, but not always, a meaningful sentence or two buried in a 10 page "document" barfed out by the EMR. The bloat happens because insurance companies won't pay unless enough boxes are checked, even if the information in those boxes is inaccurate.

I fantasize about a system-wide boycott of the EMR and can't wait until I save up enough "Fuck you" money to be able to lead the charge. I'd have people use it like a giant Word document, no macros or self-propagating lies. In other words, as an actual medical record, not a justification for overbilling. One day....
posted by basalganglia at 4:50 PM on December 2 [33 favorites]


Nat, I realize it's impossible to "ask to take responsibility" without "blaming", but I was hoping to walk that line anyway. And I'm a professor at a research university, so I'm throwing stones at my own house.

I'm merely noting that a lot of academics choose to spend their "work hours" on skills beyond or orthogonal to the ones that are incentivized in their job. (As a trivial example, it's not uncommon for STEM grad students to register for language classes for languages that will never be relevant to their jobs.) Given that, it's disappointing to me that so many people who choose teaching jobs have so little intrinsic motivation to seek resources/skills related to teaching. As you implied, caring about teaching makes you an anomaly among your fellow teachers.

Apologies if this is approaching a derail - I'll hush up now!
posted by BlueBlueElectricBlue at 5:08 PM on December 2


tl;dr none of us have the faintest idea what we're doing, and we blithely forge our own path forward every day, living in constant fear that we'll be exposed by our colleagues or superiors for knowing nothing of any use. Meanwhile, our colleagues and superiors experience the same crushing doubts.

And yet the flotilla somehow manages to stay afloat. Fake it till you make it, guys.
posted by Mayor West at 5:11 PM on December 2 [33 favorites]


Seriously, 90% of what your doctor or nurse does on the computer is clinically useless, and another 5% is actively harmful to patient care. There is sometimes, but not always, a meaningful sentence or two buried in a 10 page "document" barfed out by the EMR. The bloat happens because insurance companies won't pay unless enough boxes are checked, even if the information in those boxes is inaccurate.

God this is so true. EMR is for insurance companies, not your health.
posted by Lutoslawski at 5:25 PM on December 2 [2 favorites]


Hello, I am one of those people employed by a university to help faculty teach better! Honestly, I see all sorts. I have a lot of clients who really put forth their very best effort to learn and grow as teachers, despite the fact that it is often not prioritzed by their departments. Many are curious about new methods, research and technologies. While they may not have the time to really go deep on it or immediately put what they've learned into practice, it's not for lack of a desire to teach better. There is a lack of prioritization and incentives for high quality teaching, outside of a few random institutional grants. I have enormous respect for the faculty who come to us, even for little things. Every little improvement is, well, an improvement. Iterative, incremental change is still change. We develop years-long relationships that I really treasure.

(This can be very tricky work sometimes because if you give the wrong piece of advice at the wrong time to the wrong person, well, we're just staff who the hell are we to tell tenured faculty what to do! Many of us don't even have doctorates! The nerve! I do have a master's degree in teaching, but, well, you know.)

I honestly don't know what the solution is to the lack of institutional support for teaching. The standard methods institutions have for evaluating teaching at scale are...not great? And because teaching has been devalued for so long, there's a lack of knowledge about what good teaching looks like. How do a bunch of people who never learned how to teach go about hiring good teachers? I think a lot of people on hiring committees are just going with what they know, and thus the cycle continues.

Anyway, tl;dr: we're your friendly neighborhood center for teaching excellence, and we love it when you call us :D
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:42 PM on December 2 [21 favorites]


> n fact, most community theaters don't really get how theatrical copyright works and would be shocked - SHOCKED - to learn that the three lines they cut or character they added so Little Johnny can have a role are a violation of their licensing agreement.

I saw a play performed at a local high school last week, and it included a line about Disney+. I'm curious if they ran that past the copyright holder, since it couldn't've been in the original script. The drama teacher had spoken before the play started asking people not to film the performance because not only is it really annoying for the people around you but it violates the agreement they have, so I presume he knows perfectly well what changes can be made.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:52 PM on December 2 [2 favorites]


Here's mine: OUR CURRENT UNDERSTANDING of genetics accounts for very little of our understanding of how inheritance is associated with most diseases, genomics accounts for much more but is still not anywhere near predicting how you will die or anything else.
TLDR: don't pay to have your genome analyzed unless you are looking for a very, very specific answer within your pedigree.
posted by waving at 5:55 PM on December 2 [7 favorites]


Finally, the truth about bassists.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:15 PM on December 2 [6 favorites]


It's so obvious that I'd be surprised if it hasn't been done already and I just don't know about it, but along the lines of The Whelk's pitch for a sci-fi universe with humans as frighteningly successful domesticators of hostile creatures, I like to imagine a universe where other sentient species are both appalled at and resentfully impressed with our jankiness. Like, they're all sharing "hold my beer and watch this" memes with each other, but about our entire species, because we'll happily strap a warp drive onto a lawn chair or put an AI in charge of planetary defense without having the barest inkling of how it works.
posted by invitapriore at 6:16 PM on December 2 [6 favorites]


the earth is hollow like a Kinder Egg
posted by thelonius at 6:24 PM on December 2 [5 favorites]


invitapriore: Humans are space orcs and Earth is Space Australia.

Searching those tags on tumblr will also scratch your itch, I think.
posted by stet at 6:34 PM on December 2 [9 favorites]


(As a trivial example, it's not uncommon for STEM grad students to register for language classes for languages that will never be relevant to their jobs.)

*rapid blinking* Who does this?! I've never, ever heard of this in my entire eight-year PhD. Who has the time?! I've taken a few undergrad courses here and there, and those are enough of an energy suck; I can't imagine taking a class for a grade just for fun while trying to finish my PhD.
posted by sciatrix at 6:42 PM on December 2 [9 favorites]


The one about project management and estimates being at best 200% margin of error rang really true to me.

But try going to the CEO and say "It could be done in two months or in ten months" and see how quickly you're packing your cube in favor of somebody who will lie better than you did.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 6:46 PM on December 2 [11 favorites]


Is there one about psychologists also being completely disillusioned with diagnosis and the DSM? Because yeah, we all hate it, but no one knows what to do instead, so we don't talk about it, and most of us go into therapy or research to avoid the whole sticky mess that is assessment.
posted by brook horse at 7:07 PM on December 2 [18 favorites]


> Every day, enough food is wasted on movie shoots to feed the damn world.

Colossal amounts of food are wasted in business settings, period. Have you ever set foot in a fancy law firm or Silicon Valley office? Or gone to a college recruiting session or professional meetup where they're begging people to take catered food home at the end of the night?

I'm sure that some of that food is donated or at least turned into a midnight snack, but a lot is just discarded.
posted by smelendez at 7:34 PM on December 2 [7 favorites]


Who does this?! I've never, ever heard of this in my entire eight-year PhD. Who has the time?! I've taken a few undergrad courses here and there, and those are enough of an energy suck; I can't imagine taking a class for a grade just for fun while trying to finish my PhD.

Hi, I did this. Well, I think I always took them P/NP, but I took Danish and an upper level German class (that I had to write papers for and everything; German was arguably relevant but not that class). Oh and I took guitar one semester, but that was like 1 unit. I did French one semester (I think I audited), but that was arguably relevant to my degree. Basically, it was a way to carve out time where I was absolutely not supposed to be doing math, whereas it was possible to feel guilty about not doing math literally any other waking moment. In my department, you eventually ended up in a "low fringe job code" where you couldn't register for random classes. But for the first several years, you could register for something like 15 units and math only took up like 8.
posted by hoyland at 7:36 PM on December 2 [4 favorites]


Oh, and, funnily enough, I have actually used all those languages in my job. I did, however, leave academia. I did read papers in French, though admittedly reading math in French requires little to no actual knowledge of French.
posted by hoyland at 7:38 PM on December 2 [6 favorites]


Everyone in programming uses Google but everyone also looks down on others for using Google.

I don't look down on Google use. Answering an interview question with an overview demonstrating you understand the concepts followed with "and then I'd google [detail it's nuts to bother memorizing]" is an A+ in my opinion.

The "R" in R&D does stand for something. Reading various sources, synthesizing, and then producing a result is basically the job description.
posted by tocts at 8:42 PM on December 2 [3 favorites]


“The precise location of General Chaos’s secret base”
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:47 PM on December 2 [2 favorites]


Academic life science labs have hand-me-down freezers that are unlikely to have a mandatory cleaning schedule and we’re probably installed in the 70s or 80s before becoming the Fridge of Theseus.

It’s that 70s detail which got NIH labs into a “clean sweep” schedule.
posted by Slackermagee at 9:02 PM on December 2 [4 favorites]


A lawsuit will never, ever make you whole.
posted by praemunire at 10:21 PM on December 2 [12 favorites]


This whole thing needs something like the "Nice try, officer" stock response - anyone with a real answer is keeping their mouth shut.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 10:43 PM on December 2 [7 favorites]


Everyone in programming uses Google but everyone also looks down on others for using Google.

Being a rank-and-file programmer is about 20% knowing the language/library/framework you're using, 30% putting together abstract structures mentally and 50% knowing where to look things up really quickly and absorb them.
posted by WaylandSmith at 11:18 PM on December 2 [6 favorites]


Julia Ferraioli:
Most of technology is held together with the digital equivalent of masking tape. Not duct tape. Masking tape.
Spot on. Entrusting your safety and/or privacy to software-dominated systems developed to typical commercial standards is increasingly risky. Don't do it without a low-tech backup plan.
posted by flabdablet at 11:18 PM on December 2 [13 favorites]


Can someone explain the quelle horreur of STEM degrees picking up another language while at, of all places, a university for me? Is this just Not Done outside the humanities? Because having a broad education while it’s available to you doesn’t seem like a weird secret it seems like...a good time to learn Latin or whatever, if you’d been meaning to.
posted by zinful at 11:46 PM on December 2 [6 favorites]


That’s not what’s going on here, zinful. The system is deeply exploitative of grad students, who are expected to work ridiculous hours for little or no pay and then to compete with each other for a tiny number of jobs, which they will not get on the basis of their training in teaching. Hiring committees don’t care whether you put effort into learning to teach, and they will choose someone who published an article over someone who honed their teaching skills. So what the poster is saying is that grad students should learn to teach anyway, even though they are stuck in a profoundly exploitative system that disincentives it, because personal responsibility. And the evidence that this is reasonable is that graduate students occasionally do other things that are not incentivized by the system, so clearly they have the time and energy to do this thing for which they will not be rewarded. It’s an awful argument. I am all for personal responsibility, but let’s talk about the personal responsibility of the system’s few winners to fix what’s systemically broken, rather than off-loading the problem onto people who have no power and few resources.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:16 AM on December 3 [8 favorites]


Because if you are getting your masters in electrical engineering, you already don’t have enough time to do things such as study enough about electrical engineering, to say nothing of eating and sleeping. You definitely don’t have time to fuck around learning dead languages.
posted by sideshow at 1:17 AM on December 3 [1 favorite]


I mean, you might, in which case more power to you. I knew a guy who trained for a marathon while he was studying for comps. He was a little unhinged and didn’t sleep very much, but it seemed to work for him. But that’s not relevant to the question of why professors don’t have training in pedagogy, which is the context in which this came up.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:22 AM on December 3 [2 favorites]


Willa Goodfelow:
Antipsychotics cause loss of brain matter. The only variable is dose. The more/longer you take, the more you lose. After the National Science Award winner demonstrated it, her funding evaporated.
posted by jamjam at 1:24 AM on December 3 [3 favorites]


If I had told my PhD advisor that I was taking a language class, I suspect that the ensuing screaming would have been audible from France (probably something along the lines of, 'do you not have enough things to do, etc'). Interestingly, during my father's SciD, I am told that there was a language requirement; this was evaluated by giving him a highly technical paper in his specialty in French, then quizzing him on this technical paper in his specialty. Since he was able to answer the questions, obviously he had just demonstrated his knowledge of French.
posted by Comrade_robot at 3:04 AM on December 3 [3 favorites]


Marina Starkey:
Good cooking is just butter and salt


QFT
posted by myotahapea at 3:29 AM on December 3 [11 favorites]


I mean, you might, in which case more power to you. I knew a guy who trained for a marathon while he was studying for comps. He was a little unhinged and didn’t sleep very much, but it seemed to work for him. But that’s not relevant to the question of why professors don’t have training in pedagogy, which is the context in which this came up.

Last night, I didn't comment for a third time a row, but it did occur to me that my grad school language learning thing was basically a version of the grad student distance running thing (it's a thing, at least in math). In other words, like I said last night, all about doing something that isn't you subject/work-related and therefore decidedly unrelated to whether grad students have bandwidth for pedagogical training. Never mind that compulsory pedagogy seminars aren't exactly unheard of. Of course, ours used the only book available on the subject which featured some racism. They ditched the book the next year. (This guy had also written the only subject-specific advice on writing letters of recommendation. Where he randomly tells you to out trans people.)

I'll also note that the single most badly designed undergraduate course our department offered had been lovingly crafted by someone deeply invested in good teaching. It was ahead of its time in many ways--an attempt inquiry-based learning from before anyone came up with the term (yes, math has the Moore method so it's not a big jump)--but the course ultimately rewarded being able to do computation by hand quickly (which is perhaps not a terrible skill for an engineer in 1970 to have, but doesn't really reward understanding).
posted by hoyland at 6:55 AM on December 3 [1 favorite]


Good cooking [for white people in America] is just butter and salt

Fixed that for her.
posted by joyceanmachine at 7:28 AM on December 3 [5 favorites]


The few of these that I know are either wrong or only apply to such a tiny subset that they are effectively wrong.
bassists important
401ks not around long enough
houses built to last as long as mortgages
academia/elitism thing
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:31 AM on December 3


bassists important

Now, while every band I left collapsed like a house of cards, and I don't want to disrespect my craft, I'm not sure if the drummer is not possibly more important. If I had to have a band with a weak bass player or a weak drummer, I think the one with a weak drummer would be worse. But if you are saying, sincerely, that it is just wrong that bassists are important to a band being good......I don't really know what to say to that.
posted by thelonius at 7:40 AM on December 3 [4 favorites]


along the lines of The Whelk's pitch for a sci-fi universe with humans as frighteningly successful domesticators of hostile creatures

See also, and (with some overlap, some even closer to your idea, and some a bit off-topic) see also.
posted by solotoro at 7:42 AM on December 3 [2 favorites]


just wrong that bassists are important to a band being good......I don't really know what to say to that

The statement was that 'bassists are the most important member of a band', which is false. That doesn't mean they aren't important, just that they aren't most important.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:51 AM on December 3


HTML Tables were just fine for layout, and millions of person-years were wasted trying to do layout in CSS because it was fashionable.
posted by alasdair at 8:24 AM on December 3 [10 favorites]


trying to do layout in CSS

The best thing I have heard about that is that it would make you wish you could do page layout in Java Swing instead
posted by thelonius at 8:28 AM on December 3


I'm just grateful the climate scientists decided to sit this one out.
posted by MrVisible at 8:29 AM on December 3 [4 favorites]


Here's mine - many people in community theater use music in their productions all the time with absolutely no understanding of how they're violating copyright law (or, if you're feeling less generous, they know but choose to not know).

That's a good thing, no? Copyright law is an extremely cursed legal matter. In every instance that isn't an independent having their work stolen without compensation by a major player copyright bully, well, it's shit that holds us back as a species along with the gnarly systems it's in support of.
posted by GoblinHoney at 8:41 AM on December 3 [3 favorites]


I've played in a lot of bands with a lot of people of varying skill levels, and in my experience, as long as everybody in the band is at least okay, a really good bassist is the thing that can kick the band up a level. Really good guitarists and vocalists aren't as important as they think they are, and really good drummers seem to often just lead to weird mismatches. But a good bassist seems to improve everybody's performance.
posted by Daily Alice at 10:18 AM on December 3 [6 favorites]


It's subtle, but there's more to this open-ended question than there appears to be.

The question isn't just asking for interesting facts, or blow-your-mind insider baseball.

The question is asking about the discrepancy between what people in the field know, those actually doing the work, and the CEO's, managers and bean-counters who run the industry.

The example that illustrated this best is "students are not customers". Something that teachers know in their bones, but runs completely counter to how higher education is run as an industry.
posted by Wetterschneider at 10:27 AM on December 3 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure if the drummer is not possibly more important. If I had to have a band with a weak bass player or a weak drummer, I think the one with a weak drummer would be worse.

As a bassist, I concur.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:08 AM on December 3 [4 favorites]


Really good guitarists and vocalists aren't as important as they think they are, and really good drummers seem to often just lead to weird mismatches yt .

It's pretty weird on the occasions when the bass player actually is the most important player in the band, ie: Primus and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:29 PM on December 3 [1 favorite]


What you all are trying toavoid admitting is that the most impo rtant band member is the dog that writes the music.
posted by happyroach at 1:50 PM on December 3 [5 favorites]


No,
posted by zardoz at 2:20 PM on December 3


the discrepancy between what people in the field know, those actually doing the work, and the CEO's, managers and bean-counters who run the industry.

Nothing that isn't a business should be run like a business, and there's nothing inherently great or profitable about running a business?
posted by aspersioncast at 2:24 PM on December 3 [4 favorites]


To be fair, *a band* as an entity is technically the thing that's "most important". There are only a tiny number of instrumental musicians (including maybe 3 bassists) who could play solo and still get a paying audience to come see them. Also, this has been kind of a weird derail - but hey, bass players, woo....
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:24 PM on December 3 [2 favorites]


Agreed. As a fellow bassist, I have been in several bands without bass guitarists, but never a band without some form of drummer. Bass guitar is really only important for pretty specific types of band.
posted by aspersioncast at 2:28 PM on December 3


And indeed, salt is pretty universal, but most of the world's cooking doesn't use butter.
posted by aspersioncast at 2:31 PM on December 3 [1 favorite]


How about the generic fat instead of "butter"?
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:35 PM on December 3 [6 favorites]


Good cooking is just butter and salt

You forgot garlic, and acid. Can't even count how many times the "little something" a dish needed turned out to be lemon or lime juice.
posted by capricorn at 8:12 PM on December 3 [2 favorites]


Sorry to continue the derail but as a bass player — the drummer will often make the difference between ME doing well or not. Being able to TRUST the drummer and relax that part of my brain makes me waaaay better. (I’ll think of a dirty secret about either touring bands or....databases...to make up for adding to this derail.)
posted by capnsue at 8:51 PM on December 3


HTML Tables were just fine for layout, and millions of person-years were wasted trying to do layout in CSS because it was fashionable.
While this was absolutely true 10 years ago, the amount of devices we view websites on now has exploded, and screen sizes go from 5" phones, to tablets, to baby laptops, to normal(ish) desktops & laptops, to super monitors, to TVs - any good website should be readable on all of them. So the old tables way meant you'd have multiple designs for different screen sizes - or just pick one that fitted on potato PCs, which left huge acres of white space on larger ones, usually with teeny text, and good luck on your phone.

CSS allows the true split of web design to be true; HTML for content and CSS for design, so you can make the design fit the circumstances without re-doing the content.

I'm not going to start on how we ended up with javascript as the lingua franca of active web design because it was the lowest common denominator. We've done amazing things, but it wasn't the best place to start. On the other hand, it's better than PHP.

And in the spirit of the original; 90% of being in IT support is reading google and doing what that says, and remembering it for next time. The only real skill there is being able to work out which of the first few results is the one to follow. You can fix most problems yourself, if you can a) read and b) follow a short list of instructions. I am continually disappointed at the amount of people that appear unable to do either.

The 10% where that isn't true, is usually preceeded by us going 'Hmm. That's weird.' That means we have no idea why it's doing that, and finding it out will take more time in google. If you're paying, it will likely be expensive as we're effectively learning a new skill on your time.

I suspect this to be true for many professions.

Fortunately I am now in management, where the one truth is that we have no more idea what we're doing or where we're going than those we manage, but we do get paid more. I believe the main difference between a good manager and a bad one is the former is an umbrella for shit from above.
posted by Absolutely No You-Know-What at 12:01 AM on December 4 [8 favorites]


(If you really long for table layout, you can code HTML email. Oh and you also have spacer .gifs and font declarations all the way down. I did that for about a year before I made them hire an agency to do it because it drove me mad.)

And yeah, I am glad the climate scientists are sitting on their hands, because I am not mentally ready for their open secrets.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 3:26 AM on December 4 [1 favorite]


CSS allows the true split of web design to be true; HTML for content and CSS for design, so you can make the design fit the circumstances without re-doing the content.

Seems to me that that would indeed be a split worth preserving, if most of what was on the web was still static web pages. But in 2019 it's pretty damn rare to find a site presenting significant amounts of content that isn't sourced from some kind of back-end database and beaten out into HTML+CSS on demand by some kind of automated templating engine.

And that makes the distinction between the purpose of HTML and that of CSS much, much blurrier. Both of them are generally now lumped in together under "horrible broken legacy markup that the framework deals with, not me, thank Christ" until the framework is seen to produce astonishingly ugly results on some obscure device or other; at which point there comes on, to quote one of the genuinely original poets of the modern age, "wires, breakers, wire nuts, chicken stick, cross threaded screws progressing to hot glue, cracked valences and a torrential storm of red-hot electrocution-fuelled obscenities..."

...because trying to nut out how any of the modern frameworks goes about translating what you're asking it for into something that actually works on every browser your users could consume it with is, in 2019, damn near impossible. I keep hearing rumours about people doing it, but I've peered at a lot of that code and those are clearly just wishful fabrications.
posted by flabdablet at 8:54 AM on December 4 [1 favorite]


You can fix most problems yourself, if you can a) read and b) follow a short list of instructions. I am continually disappointed at the amount of people that appear unable to do either.

I am too; but on the other hand that helps keep me gainfully employed, so...
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:00 AM on December 4 [3 favorites]


How about the generic fat instead of "butter"?

I mean, yes, it gets to the fact that butter is a very Western ingredient, but that formulation still skips over how different cultures prize different things in food.

For example, in Cantonese Chinese food, texture is indispensable. It's why jellyfish tentacles and shredded pig's ears are a standard appetizer at banquets, why plain deboned duck's feet are eaten, and why 30 years later, my mother still thinks about the chicken her mother used to make, exquisitely poached with barely any salt. The whole point of stir-frying is to deliver a mix of things -- meat, vegetables, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts -- just cooked, so that you have a variety of textures unified by a sauce.

And I've been eating a lot of Southern Indian food lately, and there is fat and salt, and they are important, but spices are first and foremost. My understanding is that the true measure of a South Indian cook (and a lot of Indian cooking for Indian palates, tbh) is the depth and balance of basically every flavoring agent besides the salt.

So characterizing good cooking as just "butter and salt" is a very white American way of looking at what appeals to people in food. And expanding the field to "fat and salt" takes away some of the ethnocentrism, but not all of it.
posted by joyceanmachine at 10:03 AM on December 4 [2 favorites]


To my mind it's not just fat and salt, but I don't know of a cuisine that doesn't consider them pretty key ingredients in general - with the caveat that my own amateur cooking experience is mostly limited to American, Mexican, western-European, and a smattering of various Asian cuisines.

However it's also true that a lot of American restaurants especially use butter and salt in higher quantities than a lot of home cooks would, with the express aim of boosting the other flavors in the dish, which I'm guessing was probably the point the original person was trying to make.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:41 PM on December 4 [1 favorite]


But try going to the CEO and say "It could be done in two months or in ten months" and see how quickly you're packing your cube in favor of somebody who will lie better than you did.

I think it was the indie film-maker Jim Jarmusch who coined the phrase: "Good; cheap; fast - pick two because you sure can't have all three."

No matter what your own job or project might be, that principle holds true.
posted by Paul Slade at 5:00 AM on December 5


I dunno. I've been quite impressed lately with how easy it's become to obtain good, cheap, fast Chinese IT gear.
posted by flabdablet at 7:24 AM on December 5


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