My summer began in earnest this week. I am writing this from a hotel room in Kansas City where I am spending the next week rating AP exams, hanging out with a few people I know, and fitting some writing and reading in around the margins. I have a lot of thoughts about AP tests and the current state of pedagogy based on my experience at these events, but the week itself is almost mind-numbingly dull. Nine hours, less an hour for lunch and two fifteen minute breaks reading answers to the same question over and over again. Some answers are insightful, some are clever, but most just blur together. And then you do it again the next day, until however many thousand exams have been scored. I find that it is useful to remind myself that I’m not grading this as I would my class: these are neither my tests nor my students.
This schedule also makes it the least interesting among the next six week stretch, of which I’ll be living out of a suitcase for five. I have once again managed to fill my summer schedule this year, but I am exciting that I’ll be getting to do more travel than I have in some time. And it all begins this week. At least Kansas City has some great food.
This week’s varia:
- Archaeologists discovered two Ming-era shipwrecks beneath the South China Sea that were traveling in opposite directions when they sank. I will reiterate my stance that maritime archaeology is just the coolest.
- The Senate voted to block President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program. I understand the politics behind Democratic Senators voting for the block and it is tempting to reduce everything to the political horse race whether arguing for or against the program, but when the discussion of the systems being broken fall out of the conversation and the bill includes provisions to retroactively assess the interest during the period of a freeze during the latest economic crisis, it often seems that the point is more cruelty than political calculus.
- In Esquire, Rainseford Stauffer explores the tension a lot of writers feel, whether their writing is part of a larger career or merely a hobby. Her question is a little bit different than the question “am I writer” because the question to that is undoubtedly “yes.” Rather, I think it is interesting because it speaks to how people in the United States, at least, are often led to conflate their adult identity with their career and their career with whatever job(s) allow them to pay their bills.
- DC has a plan to cancel millions of dollars of medical debt. This story reminds me of what I see as one of the most damning features of modern capitalism: that debt itself is a commodity that can often be purchased for cents on the dollar, just not by the person who owes it.
- A lawyer in New York is facing discipline because he used ChatGPT to produce an affidavit. Naturally, ChatGPT produced six fictional cases, complete with quotes and internal citations. The lawyer apologized, saying that he had never used the the tool before and was “unaware” that it could produce false information. I’ll just reiterate that my biggest problem is that there is a wide gulf between what it can do, and what people think it can do. The latter is where most of the non-ethical (read: non-environmental, labor, or intellectual property) problems lie, whether the eye of the beholder belongs to students, workers, or management.
- Tim Boucher wrote 97 books in nine months with the help of AI. Boucher has also been commenting on the story and social media backlash on his blog, pointing out, for instance, that he has never claimed that these are “novels,” as some stories have claimed since each one is only between 2,000 and 5,000 words, which is to say not an impossibly large number of words for an author. Nothing he has written on the blog has made me any more inclined to read these books, and my initial level of interest was approximately zero, but the project does make more sense with the context.
- President Biden struck a deal with Speaker McCarthy to raise the debt ceiling. The deal seems to me to be in keeping with Biden: always putting things I think he needs to do more to defend up for negotiation (here, e.g.: food assistance) while also taking a stand for things I’d rather he not (increased military funding; oil pipelines), but also significantly more effective than I dare hope.
- A Washington Post investigation looks at hiring patterns that point to “red” states hiring more quickly on average than “blue” states. They found that the hiring gap didn’t lead to a difference in job growth, but instead correlated to “quits,” suggesting that people in those states bounce from job to job more frequently, both because of the types of industries in those states and because of structural factors like right to work laws.
- This essay at Sapiens about an anthropologist who took a job at an Amazon warehouse so that he could study it actually is less horrific than some of the social media commentary made it out to be—even while the author uses Amazon as a window into the gruesome exploitation that leads to soaring corporate profits.
- Slate has a report from the Car Dealer trade group’s annual convention that explores both their resistance to Tesla and other EVs and how the group has become a bastion of the conservative movement.
- Our collective obsession with beef is destroying the planet, or at least the Amazon where 800 million trees were cut down to make way for grazing land in the last six years.
- Padma Lakshmi is leaving Top Chef. Despite some issues with the show, it has become one of my go-to favorites in the last few years, in large part because of the vibe that Padma helps create.
- A bear in Connecticut broke into a bakery and ate sixty cupcakes. The potential danger of bear-human interactions is no laughing matter, but this makes for a cute headline.
- It isn’t really summer until you’ve had your first creemee, at least in Vermont. For the uninitiated, creemees are a special type of soft serve ice cream made with at least 15% butter fat. Good thing that the Vermont Digger has a database to find your favorite. Personally, I’d recommend the maple-vanilla twist at Bragg Farm in East Montpelier.
Album of the Week: Allison Krauss and Union Station, New Favorite (2001)
Currently Reading: Cathy N. Davidson and Christina Katopodis, The New College Classroom; Traci Chee, A Thousand Steps into Night