Good news for the class of 2013

via The Atlantic:

College graduation — sure, it’s an occasion to celebrate for most undergrads, but in this economy we know it’s also a time of gnawing, career-oriented dread for plenty others. Even at Harvard, where Oprah is sharing some words of wisdom at commencement today, just 61 percent of soon-to-be grads told theCrimson that they had an actual job lined up. One in ten said they had no set plans for the future. Eesh.

But hey, at least they weren’t class of 2011, 2010…or 1975. In honor of the cap and gown season, I’ve put together a brief history of the job market for new bachelor’s degree holders in charts (how else, right?). It turns out the last few lean years might not be totally without precedent. And as the job market has improved more broadly, it seems the awful unemployment rates young grads experienced post-recession really are finally fading into memory.

More:

Every so many years, the Department of Education surveys classes of college graduates about their post-campus lives, and so we have full-time employment rates dating back to the 1970’s.* The class of 2008, which graduated head on into the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the financial meltdown, appears to have had the worst time finding work of any cohort in around three decades. Things would have only gotten worse in the immediate next few years.

On the other hand, it pretty clearly wasn’t a picnic graduating into President Ford’s economy either. True, college graduates then didn’t have to worry about student debt in the same way as today, and so many might have felt more comfortable waiting for the perfect job or bumming around a bit. But that 66.8 percent employment rate for the class of ’75 at least suggests that Millennials aren’t the first generation to have trouble landing post-college work.

Why novels are better than TV

Liel Leibovitz:

Although not much of a watcher myself, I am thrilled for my friends and their TV sprees, chasing one episode with another and not stopping until their eyes throb. That is, I’m thrilled until someone mutters The Phrase.

The Phrase has many variations, but it’s always a version of this: “TV is so good now that it’s just as great as our great novels. Maybe even better!” The more discerning bother making specific cases—suggesting, for example, that David Simon is our modern-day Dickens or that Vince Gilligan, creator of Breaking Bad, would’ve felt completely at home had he stumbled into a party at Turgenev’s and was seated right next to his apparent equal, Dostoyevsky.

It’s time to stop this madness. Let the unfashionable truth ring clear: No matter how good it is, it will never be more than just TV—an unparalleled distraction, crisply shallow, full of wondrous sounds and gorgeous furies that ultimately, in the ways that are truly vital and important to human life, signify nothing. It does not now, nor will it ever, meet the same sublime depths explored by the great novels. It is, quite simply, essentially inferior.

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Dumped by Google

Tienlon Ho:

One recent Thursday morning, I logged into my email and made an alarming discovery. Instead of opening my inbox, Google directed me to a notice:

Account has been disabled . . . . In most cases, accounts are disabled if we believe you have violated either the Google Terms of Service, product-specific Terms of Service . . . . or product-specific policies . . . . it might be possible to regain access to your account.

It was like I’d gotten dumped, via text message, by someone en route to Cabo.  The vagaries left me reeling. I read the terms and policies, but they offered few clues. There were no numbers to call, no tickets to request help. I had a real problem with how things ended, so I filled out a form and sent it into the ether. What exactly had I done wrong? Had I missed the warning signs? Did Google want me or not?

At last count, Google manages a whopping 343 million active Google+ accounts (though the number of actual people using its services is probably fewer) and operates in 130 languages. Google strategically avoids the crush of users by offering little in the way of direct customer service. My calls to Mountain View HQ landed me in a labyrinth of recorded messages that inevitably led to one of a man, sounding only slightly less exasperated than I felt, shutting me down with a “Thankyougoodbye.”

A few minutes into my Google-less existence, I realized how dependent I had become. I couldn’t finish my work or my taxes, because my notes and expenses were stored in Google Drive, and I didn’t know what else I should work on because my Google calendar had disappeared. I couldn’t publicly gripe about what I was going through, because my Blogger no longer existed. My Picasa albums were gone. I’d lost my contacts and calling plan through Google Voice; otherwise I would have called friends to cry.

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Littlejohn on Between Babel and Beast

Mere O contributor Brad Littlejohn on Leithart’s recent Between Babel and Beast:

In his 2012 follow-up to Defending Constantine, entitled Between Babel and Beast: America and Empires in Biblical Perspective, Leithart starts to flesh out this positive account, and demonstrates in the process that he is every bit as willing to challenge American civil religion as Hauerwas or Cavanaugh have been. The result is an original contribution to a discussion–the theology of “empire”–that seemed to have yielded its last original insight several years ago, following the barrage of Bush-era critiques of “American empire.” Leithart’s vigorous and fluid prose is on fine display here, though in considerably more densely-packed form than we have grown accustomed–the ideas expressed here could have easily occupied twice the book’s 200 pages.

Among the original contributions is a qualified biblical apologia for empire, a refusal to join the anti-imperial bandwagon of recent decades. Instead, Leithart argues that there is no primordial essence called “empire”; there are particular empires, nation-states writ large, and they are capable of both good and evil, and sometimes great evil, capable of being guardians, Babels, or beasts. The Bible treats these three differently, and so should we. We also find here a development of Leithart’s intriguing reflections on sacrifice from Defending Constantine. The chief political contribution of Christianity, he argues, was its desacralization of politics, its refusal of political unity founded on sacrificial bloodshed. In the Eucharist, the church replaces bloody sacrifice with the unbloody memorial of Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice, substituting a unity based on martyrdom for a unity based on murder. Somewhat more ambiguous is Leithart’s concept of the Church as God’s “Abrahamic imperium,” the true empire already founded and mediating Christ’s rule, challenging all earthly empires.

How to kill cable

Salon:

For those of you sick of paying ever-higher cable bills, two huge pieces of news in the last week should encourage you to take action.

First came news that two previously cable-only channels, TBS and TNT, “are about to become the first national entertainment networks in the industry to stream on-air content live across multiple platforms,” likely positioning the stations to eventually (though not yet) sell their content direct to consumers on an à la carte online basis, rather than only through traditional cable TV packages. Then yesterday came word that CNN and BuzzFeed are partnering to create a YouTube channel, allowing anyone with an Internet connection — but not necessarily a costly cable subscription — to view the new content.

The action this (and other similar news in the television world) should prompt, of course, is cutting your cable TV cord — or at least considering it.

Now, sure, your initial reaction to that idea might be apprehension or sheer fright. I get it. That was my first reaction, too. Cable TV became so common and seemingly mandatory in the pre-Internet age that it started to seem less like a luxury than a necessary utility you paid for along with water and electricity. But after decades of living in cable TV households, we finally decided to become one of the 3 to 5 million Americans who have cut the cord . Though we kept our Internet connection with our service provider, we terminated cable service — and I have no regrets. Not even close.

Derek Thompson adds a note of caution: Cable may be unpopular, but they’re doing well enough that the business won’t be changing any time soon.

The two most important reasons why cable is still making more and more money every year, despite a structural decline in cable TV subs, is that they’ve successfully gleaned more money per customer: both by charging more for television and by getting households to buy more than just TV. For example, 40 percent of Comcast customers take three products (e.g.: video, phone, and Internet) and 70 percent take two products (e.g.: video and Internet).

Mt. Everest is broken

National Geographic:

Everest has always been a trophy, but now that almost 4,000 people have reached its summit, some more than once, the feat means less than it did a half century ago. Today roughly 90 percent of the climbers on Everest are guided clients, many without basic climbing skills. Having paid $30,000 to $120,000 to be on the mountain, too many callowly expect to reach the summit. A significant number do, but under appalling conditions. The two standard routes, the Northeast Ridge and the Southeast Ridge, are not only dangerously crowded but also disgustingly polluted, with garbage leaking out of the glaciers and pyramids of human excrement befouling the high camps. And then there are the deaths. Besides the four climbers who perished on the Southeast Ridge, six others lost their lives in 2012, including three Sherpas.

Clearly the world’s highest peak is broken. But if you talk to the people who know it best, they’ll tell you it’s not beyond repair.

Local banks for local communities

Via The Telegraph:

The Government has struggled to find free-market measures to encourage growth, and has resorted to a taxpayer-funded Business Bank and a Regional Growth Fund. Germany, however, has recovered from the recession more successfully than the UK, to a significant extent because its system of local banks has revolutionised private enterprise. They are the free-market alternative to regional policy, but the Government has shown little interest, even though leaders of Germany’s national association of Sparkassen have offered to come to London to explain how to set up similar banks here.

The problem is not just that creditworthy small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can’t get loans, it’s also that much bank lending is likely to be withdrawn at short notice. In addition, banks often demand collateral, which frequently means that business leaders have to sign over their house. Germany has institutions that overcome these three problems: it is easier to get loans, they are less likely to be withdrawn at short notice, and collateral is replaced by guarantees.

More:

The significance of local relationship banks is that they empower people in local areas to solve their own problems. They take local deposits and lend them to local businesses so that individuals with energy, entrepreneurship and determination have the power to make a difference.

Losses are relatively low because customers are known by reputation. How is political corruption avoided? Sparkassen are legally required to act according to sound business principles, but there is also central control. Loans are monitored by the national association, whose officials try to protect the Sparkassen brand. The oversight is not of the “box-ticking” type favoured by UK regulators, rather it is based on the encouragement of a culture of professional service backed by draconian punishment when conscience fails. Managers who go too far, perhaps by making soft loans to political allies or friends, know that they will never work in banking again.

Brewing 101

News from UT San Diego:

Both UC San Diego and San Diego State University are starting craft beer certificate programs, teaching students to brew, market beers and manage breweries. Once, this might have inspired a six-pack of jokes (Beer Pong 101, etc.). But not now, not with craft beer a $299 million-a-year business in the county.

“This is a booming industry and there’s a lot of positions out there,” said Giana Rodriguez, program director at State’s College of Extended Studies. “Ten or 15 years ago, it might have been different. But when we proposed a program on craft beer, we didn’t have much resistance.”

Ditto at UC San Diego, which began planning its program a year ago. “We want to keep San Diego the craft brew hub of the U.S.,” said Teresa Poole, program manager at UC San Diego Extension. “There’s a need for qualified people and we’ll try to get people trained so they are ready the first day on the job.”