Quotulatiousness

August 10, 2017

Words & Numbers: Has Tipping Gone Out of Control?

Filed under: Business, Economics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 9 Aug 2017

In 1922, famed etiquette writer Emily Post advised her readers that 10% is the standard for tipping your waiter. Since then, “gratuity creep” has been so steady that tip jars are now ubiquitous and 25-30% is considered the rule in New York City. Uber once resisted this trend, but recently added a tipping feature to its app.

What is the economic rationale behind tipping? Does the usefulness of tipping diminish the more that a certain rate becomes an expectation? At a certain point, would it be better to do without the fuss involved and simply include that portion of a service-provider’s compensation in the wages paid by the employer?

Our valiant hosts, Antony Davies and James Harrigan explore these questions and more!

“[M]ental illness is to grad students as black lung was to Victorian coal miners”

Filed under: Education — Tags: — Nicholas @ 03:00

Drew Brown on the less-salubrious aspects of getting your PhD:

There is no higher intellectual pursuit than a PhD. It offers the promise of living a ‘life of the mind’: freedom of thought and inquiry; creative control over your work; middle-class comfort without middle-class drudgery; and above all, a meaningful life in the pursuit of knowledge.

This is the ‘noble lie’ of the Academy. None of this really exists in any meaningful way for most of the people pursuing it, but it is propagated—unwittingly or otherwise—in a manner that maintains what is effectively a pyramid scheme of hyperexploited labour designed to siphon money from children.

Everyone with eyes to see and ears to hear has known for some time that there is a human cost to this arrangement, but researchers have finally given empirical grounding to our ugly suspicions. According to a study in Research Policy from earlier this year, rates of psychological distress and symptoms of mental illness are twice as likely to occur among PhD students as the rest of the “highly educated general population.” Specifically, one in two PhD students surveyed experienced symptoms of psychological distress, while one in three is at heightened risk for developing psychiatric illnesses, especially anxiety and/or depression. According to the study’s abstract “Organizational policies were significantly associated with the prevalence of mental health problems.”

The findings shouldn’t be shocking for anyone who has spent any amount of time among PhD students. Horror stories abound. In reflecting on the full-immersion acid bath called graduate school, one friend of mine quipped that “mental illness is to grad students as black lung was to Victorian coal miners.” Another who left our PhD program two years in told me that he “didn’t realize how miserable school made him until [he] was out,” and I thought about that sentence almost every day until I quit the program myself earlier this year.

H/T to Colby Cosh for the link.

The Treaty of Westphalia

Filed under: Britain, Europe, France, History, Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 20 Nov 2008

Treaty of Westphalia

QotD: The comfortable shoe revolution

Filed under: Business, Quotations, Randomness — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

When I was a kid back in the 1960s and early 1970s, “shoes” still meant, basically, “hard leather oxfords”. Ugly stiff things with a high-maintenance finish that would scuff if you breathed on them. What I liked was sneakers. But in those bygone days you didn’t get to wear sneakers past a certain age, unless you were doing sneaker things like playing basketball. And I sucked at basketball.

I revolted against the tyranny of the oxford by wearing desert boots, which back then weren’t actually boots at all but a kind of high-top shoe with a suede finish and a grip sole. These were just barely acceptable in polite company; in fact, if you can believe this, I was teased about them at school. It was a more conformist time.

I still remember the first time I saw a shoe I actually liked and wanted to own, around 1982. It was called an Aspen, and it was built exactly like a running shoe but with a soft suede upper. Felt like sneakers on my feet, looked like a grownup shoe from any distance. And I still remember exactly how my Aspens — both of them — literally fell apart at the same moment as I was crossing Walnut Street in West Philly. These were not well-made shoes. I had to limp home.

But better days were coming. In the early 1990s athletic shoes underwent a kind of Cambrian explosion, proliferating into all kinds of odd styles. Reebok and Rockport and a few other makers finally figured out what I wanted — athletic-shoe fit and comfort with a sleek all-black look I could wear into a client’s office, and no polishing or shoe trees or any of that annoying overhead!

I look around me today and I see that athletic-shoe tech has taken over. The torture devices of my childhood are almost a memory. Thank you, oh inscrutable shoe gods. Thank you Rockport. It’s not a big thing like the Internet, but comfortable un-fussy shoes have made my life better.

Eric S. Raymond, “Eric writes about the shoes”, Armed and Dangerous, 2005-09-09.

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