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Brilliant Bits: What everybody knows and nobody talks about

Although this blog mostly describes my life and writing, I also use it to store various things I find online. Sometimes if it’s short I’ll mention it on Facebook posts or something similar, there are enough nuggets of wisdom, I usually will save them for reference. This is especially true for Reddit and elsewhere; yesterday in fact I saw an interesting open-ended question on Twitter , Please quote this tweet with a thing that everyone in your field knows and nobody in your industry talks about because it would lead to general chaos. Here are my favorite replies; some might veer into sloppy generalization or glib observations, Also, twitter tends to skew towards geeks, artists and generally disgrunted people. So watch out!

ORIGINAL POSTER: literally everything you have ever done on the internet was logged somewhere and can be associated with you if someone is persistent enough. Hell, private investigators can buy your browsing history from your ISP now.

Many of the political petitions you sign never get delivered. They’re simply there to capture your email address. Campaigns burn through lists of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people just like you.

The vast majority of those who have become wealthy working in tech got that way not by being massively smarter or harder working than others but by being in the right place at the right time. Many of those same people do not understand this to be true.

There are 300m guns floating around in the borders of the United States

14 explosive charges of two hundred pounds in the correct places would drop the entire Unit States off power for a minimum of 3 days.

Every computer system is in a perpetual state of partial to total failure. At scale, something is always broken, often in ways that no one can every fully fix.

‘Theres no greater impediment to good communication than thinking we have already done it.’

Any test prep at all is linked with better outcomes, whether it’s a $5k course or some cheapo website, because the testing industry has manipulated your beliefs about the causality of success

Student teacher evaluations are sexist af

Within most of our lifetimes, clean drinking water will be more valuable than gold.

For rare diseases with potential non-drug treatments, no one will research the treatments because there’s no money in it, and doctors won’t recommend the treatments because there’s no research, and there may not be enough people to do a double-blind anyway.

Also United Healthcare is AARP in the background so everytime you hear AARP is against medicare for all it’s really one of the largest commercial insurances dissing the government funded plan

Losing or gaining weight once or twice is easy. Once you do it 20 times your body gets smart and doesn’t care how many calories you take in or expend, and that stupid “calories in – calories out= weight loss” equation fails. Wildly.

Most pediatric patients get better on their own.

Doesn’t matter if you spend $5k, $25k, or $85k on a car- if it was a $100k car new, it’ll always have the maintenance/repair cost of a $100k car. Be prepared for it.

No one wants to talk about where the money for their favorite publications comes from— Poetry Foundation is essentially run on money from Eli Lilly, and Catapault is owned by Elizabeth Koch.

AI” doesn’t exist, and absolutely won’t in our lifetimes, in any of the ways people either hope or fear over. it’s slightly faster math and human labor all the way down.

50% of the people who work in foreign policy are guys who just worship the book “Guns, Germs, and Steel”. They then “play” foreign policy like it is a big game of civ with nobody’s life on the line. Humanitarianism means nothing to them compared to relative gains.

If television credits accurately reflected everyone who works to get shows on screens the credits would run longer than the shows

If your volunteer base is mostly retirees, then in ten years’ time you’re screwed. Volunteer-driven charities should be aggressively recruiting young people -now-.

in 2019 deep neural network based machine translation has very quickly become as good as mediocre human translators. we’re still in denial about accidentally killing the translation industry but trust me, it’s dead.

People want boring websites.

Editors substantially rewriting writers work is and has always been very common, especially when you get to the prestige publications

Pay terms are cute but the company will pay you when they decide to pay you.

No one has any idea what combat will be like in the next war between major military powers

Scholarly publishing is fundamentally broken. Peer review is a farce. Academic publishers are somehow extorting EVERYONE even though they hold none of the cards. We could all start dumping research into open repositories tomorrow (w/ redundancy) and the world would be better off.

The price of a glass of wine at a restaurant is what the restaurant pays for the whole bottle.

At least three things went wrong in the performance of a play or musical you just saw, but chances are good you as the audience didn’t notice.

libraries dispose of books constantly, at scale, and without guilt because only a tiny, miniscule percentage of them are special

Lifestyle journalism is dominated by upper-caste, privileged people who became editors because they had contacts, and because they can survive with a low pay and zero appraisals. Also, they’re kept around because their elitism makes the brand look cool and they’re well-networked.

Everything I teach in a high school physics class is centuries old. It’s not even really true, it’s a technical metaphor with predictive power. I don’t tell students what things *are,* I tell them what things are *like.*

Most people who do stand up as their primary job (ie they don’t write for tv or w/e) make like 80% of their money doing private gigs at weird company parties that are almost always excruciatingly bad

No one is capable of securing large data collections over time. All major and some minor intelligence services can break into any of the major cloud services, but usually human error gets there first.

A lot of media organizations now rely on the patronage of billionaires to survive, and their editorial policies reflect those billionaires’ preferences. Others don’t criticize or investigate billionaires for fear of being sued out of existence, like Gawker.

tattoo artists mess up tattooing all the fuckin time a good tattoo artist knows how to fix it without showing any emotion so you don’t notice

Parenting is almost entirely listening and teaching emotional regulation skills. Discipline/punishment hurts kids instead of helping them.

Psychology research is experiencing a replication crisis, the evidentiary basis for most therapies is questionable, and we aren’t 100% sure on how or why many psychotropic medications work.

1. Majority of the fitness industry products & services exploit on women’s insecurities. 2. Strength training yields the most benefits (physique wise) for women, not endless sets and hours of aerobics. 3. Genetics heavily influence your ability to build muscle.

About 85% of IT is being able to adequately use Google to search for answers. And frankly? IT folks should probably get paid more for being able to craft solutions from Google queries because it is An Art.

Insurance companies in the US are going to go bankrupt in 10-12 years. It will either require a bail out or transition to a single payer system. everyone knows this and is scrambling to make as much money as possible before the system collapses

Far fewer people–especially those in ICE custody–would be deported if they were provided lawyers in #immigrationcourt, and this is absolutely why they aren’t and never will be.

When you have a diagnosis it gets a special code for tracking and billing, e.g. “bitten by a shark” is W56.41XD. But, there’s no code for deaths related to poverty, poor insurance coverage, or inadequate access leading to death.

eventually a robot will kill someone in battle in error and no one has any idea how to do accountability for it

One day, Google will have a bug in their login flow and the world will descend into chaos

Equity-based comp is usually a huge rip off that relies on employees being information-poor. But if everyone stopped believing in it, the economics of startups would stop working

Doctors on twitter are vehemently pro-healthcare reform while their hospitals and professional societies are covertly fighting it tooth and nail

Human services: We’re already desperately short of direct care professionals and the Boomers haven’t even started to need serious care en masse. The rational thing would be to pay them more, but compensation is almost all through Medicare/Medicaid waivers, so that won’t happen.

Less than 20% of people actually finish the online degrees they pay for. Training organisations know that, and actively make their courses as difficult and boring as possible so you drop out and reduce their overheads on student support.

Opera singers pay to audition. They pay just for the CHANCE to audition. Sometimes they pay the submission fee and still get a no. And companies take their fee and let them fly out and sing, with zero intention of casting them.

There are very few public health interventions as effective as giving people homes and substantial amounts of cash but those are typically politically untenable so instead a ton of lighter-touch stuff gets tested out in the hopes it has a real effect

The cybersecurity industry is both the weapons dealer and the seller of protection. Most attackers are armed by our own industry.

There’s a reason most fictional stories have a disclaimer saying: any resemblance to real people or places is purely coincidental. If you did something bad to a writer, you’re likely going to end up in their story. Like it or not.

The whiteness of the campus anti-rape advocacy world left it completely unprepared for bad faith attacks on Title IX that fabricated an epidemic of innocent Black men harmed by lying white female students.

Almost every single truck driver in the country is forced to work beyond what is safe & healthy, & we constantly have to do labor that is just flat out unpaid.

We all still sign contracts with forced arbitration clauses tied to NDAs, so that the toxic shit that goes down during every production can be paid off by the studio’s insurance company and the public never gets to hear how much “time is not up at all” in Hollywood

Grades are generally pointless because they tend to measure student compliance & organization skills over knowledge and proficiency. They’re also wildly inconsistent because everyone gets to decide what “A” work is for their classroom, school, & district.

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

Many incredible software engineers are horrible at interviewing, and many incredible interviewee’s are horrible software engineers


the suburbs are facing an absolute tidal wave of aging that is already threatening to overwhelm social services, but fixes are elusive because they mostly involve getting the aging people to change their lifelong assumptions.

Psychiatrists are not therapists.

We survived the Cold War more by luck than anything else. The strong description of nuclear deterrence is a myth (folkloric sense of term) and it will eventually fail catastrophically through accident, miscalculation, or ineptitude.

We actively construct our memories and edit each time we revisit them.

a large proportion of people who graduate with degrees in acoustics work for big oil or the military and are extremely complicit in climate change bc these are the most lucrative jobs in the entire field. concert halls and aesthetics provide a useful PR cover for that.

Videogames may not cause violence but many of them are responsible for normalizing it.

Huge amounts of undergraduate teaching at university is done by underpaid and exploited PhD students who were recruited on the promise of a secure academic job which absolutely does not exist anymore.

Most TV is only shoulders up to hide our lizard tails

The majority of the policing and incarceration budget goes to pay police and correctional employees. This funding is structured by the influence of police and correctional unions. Meaningfully divesting in these things will require dismantling/disempowering those unions.

Magazine fact-checkers often have to rely on books and daily newspapers, neither of which have fact-checkers.

Dostoevsky was a raging antisemite. (wow, that really blew my mind! More here)

The top tier of art galleries are owned and run by immoral merchants who would happily sell to war criminals, as dealers, and dictators, while wining and dining them.

For every talented acclaimed author, there are 100+ exciting indie ones flying under radar & making almost no money. It’s incredibly $$ & risky to promote unknowns — unless you have a)blurbs by famous people b)paid reviews b) movie deal or if c) author is young & telegenic. (My contribution!)

Climate change is 100% real and you can tell by the changes in wine grapes over the past few decades. There’s not a single person who knows anything about wine who doubts climate change

The minimum requirements for getting a library card are a maximal barrier to those who need the library the most.

Veep is the most realistic portrayal of Washington to ever air on television.

Every assistant in Hollywood has been verbally abused, physically assaulted or sexually harassed on the job. PAs are often the first to arrive, the last to leave and the only ones on set without a union so it’s their wages, time, and health sacrificed first.

furry porn commissions are maybe the single most viable way to survive as an illustrator

Accidental nuclear war is way more likely than intentional

401(k) plans have not been around long enough to see a generation retire on them.

Renaissance Europe was more violent, destructive, & barbaric (not less) than the Middle Ages AND than it’s neighbor civilizations to the east & south. “European Civilization” class should be called “European Barbarism”

All of archaeology is based on our knowledge of a tiny fraction of a tiny % of the past

Academia is no longer my field, but: most researchers will send you their scholarly articles for free if you email them – you don’t actually have to pay for that publication (funds which don’t go to the researcher at all anyway).

Professors receive little to no teacher training while in graduate school

Bassists are the most important part of every band.

The best predictor of entrepreneurship is rich parents

If a bug is known but not fixed it means QA did great.

The publicly reported cost of a movie is around 25% lower than its actual cost – this is done to make box office profits appear larger than they actually are.

the only function of unpaid internships is to keep poor people out and let rich people in

You need a financial safety net to pursue a career in a creative field.

Academia does not want to share knowledge with the general public because that would erode their elitism (hence articles behind paywalls, using big words that could be said in simpler terms, not rewarding and even punishing folks for doing public scholarship).

Speaking a language is only half the battle. If you don’t understand the culture, it’s difficult to communicate effectively.

western civilization has no “roots” because it got invented in the early 1900s

Economics is a field where the biggest dumbest loudest assholes tend to win and that’s a big problem for everybody

I own a contemporary art gallery. Modern & contemp art markets rely on financial deregulation, income inequality & the kind of wealth that needs to be hidden in unregulated assets. If we achieve real progressive political change, brisk sales at the top end will bottom out.

There are, in fact, species of venomous snake for which no anti-venom exists

Virtually all museums are outright state propaganda & designed to shape compliant, good Modern subjects. The “Heritage Industry” was founded in & largely remains part of ideological state apparatus. This is especially apparent in US Heritage of Nuclear Weapons.

Software developer interviews are terrible because we don’t know how to assess the skills we claim we care about. Companies don’t invest in getting better at this, despite how important effective hiring is.

Most single-family homes built since the 1980s aren’t designed to last a day longer than the mortgage. (says an architect!)

If two or more people in your family or 1 doctor see you as mentally unsound they can have you locked up for 3 days there is NOTHING that can be done legally to refute this.

If you have oil, then you need democracy

The disconnect in high tech between what non-tech savvy upper management (who set policy) understands & what the people doing the actual work understand is so profound as to be terrifying. Non-tech marketing people managing tech nerds is not sustainable.

I work in X-ray and shielding (on adults) is pretty much a myth and actually often is counter-productive and causes to you take MORE radiation. People still do it so patients don’t complain because we don’t have time to convince them of the new science on it

Very few freelance journalists are now able to make a living at it. Same for most authors. But no one dare admit it publicly for fear of appearing unsuccessful. The $$$$$ accrues to a narrow journalism elite and content marketers.

The therapeutic relationship between client & therapist matter much more than the therapist’s education & training.

Performance reviews is a tool for control and to protect management. It has nothing to do with workers’ skills, growth, or happiness.

90% of the items you send to be recycled ends up in a landfill. Largely because people don’t realize that the items can’t be contaminated at all. I.e.- greasy pizza boxes placed in the recycle bin end up in the garbage.

a lot of the special deals on normally expensive stuff (like TVs) isn’t a deal, you’re buying a slightly different model number that is built more cheaply.

There isn’t a STEM skills gap. The amount (both relatively and absolutely) of STEM majors keep going up over time. The story is pushed by CEOs as a way to increasingly transfer training burdens onto public institutions- saving some money and building political clout

Experienced professional nurses save more lives in the months of July and August when new, inexperienced MD Residents start caring for patients in teaching hospitals across the country.

“Top Companies to Work For” is all about marketing, not creating a great work culture.

The “close door” button on an elevator may not have any function at all except giving you something to do.

When I was in social work school, I was not prepared for how many colleagues would disclose their personal traumas & medical conditions. Many, I learned, came to the profession because of their own experience as clients of it, but were still deep in their need for treatment

All medical procedures, prescriptions and diagnoses r mostly just betting on statistical averages and hoping the patient isn’t an outlier

Several climate tipping points have been passed and we are directed towards a world with displaced populations, massive extinctions, starving agriculture. 100s of mil of climate refugees, extremisms will rise, pseudo-elected dictators will use military force to protect borders.

Worrying about minute waste causes massive waste. Procurement processes inflate the price we pay for things 10 or 100x what it would be if we just went out and bought it – but because there’s a chance someone could skim 1% off the top we spend 10,000% on it.

Muslim scientists used their religious zeal in the 9th and 10th centuries to study, saved ancient Greek and Roman discoveries, built upon and provided the basis of modern scientific research. The Europeans used their discoveries to launch the Renaissance without crediting them.

Any kid can ruin any class any time if they understand the rules.

the easiest way to find drugs in America is walk into any restaurant and ask for the prep cook also all kitchen staff are either drunk, on coke or sleeping with each other, occasionally all three

Cybersecurity is a myth. Nothing is 100% secure. Human error, lack of funding/resources, customer requirements, and overall operation and maintenance prevents it from being realistic. All you can do is make sure your fence is a lil higher than a threat actor is willing to climb.

Amazon HR advises their hiring managers not to use the phrase “work-life balance” when talking to potential new employees.

The person who graduates last in their class from medical school… do you know what we call them? Doctor.

The mid-range restaurant industry promotes a punk-rock lifestyle among younger workers wherein drugs/alcohol are low-key encouraged to cut the edge of high stress, late nights, and low wages. There are always more students looking for unskilled work, so burnout isn’t a worry.

The SAT is basically an IQ test. (So r all other standardized admission exams.) IQ is actually v malleable, not fixed, as most ppl blv. The single best predictor of one’s SAT scores is one’s parents’ income. The correlation btwn test scores & school performance is not much >50%.

Retail workers have been instructed not to intervene when theft is happening, only to provide customer service because stolen merchandise is cheaper than lawyers, legal fees, and tort payments.

Transit bus drivers run on schedules that are routinely so out of date (designed years ago when your town’s population & traffic was a fraction of what it is now) that they get 20 minutes later every half hour. When they get late enough, they park, wait to start on time, get late

In mental health field, “evidence-based therapy” does not mean patients who get the therapy get well. Only that the therapy has been studied using a certain research design. Eg, 70% of people who get “evidence-based therapy” for depression don’t improve or relapse quickly.

Homework prior to the 10th grade has no verifiable statistically significant value. And in the last 60 years, there have been fewer than 12 actual experimental studies in primary school aged students on this front..

Avoid buying the new 5G phones. Any maker. True 5G won’t be available for 2 – 3 years. You’re wasting your money.

The corn belt is running out of water Forever.

Not my field, but… AA doesn’t work as well as advertised. No stats, no tracking, no proof. Yet doctors & courts still funnel addicts into that pipeline, their literature makes false claims about how effective it is & it allows gov’t underfunding of fact-based treatments. (FOLLOW UPS):

  • Courts push AA because it’s self supporting organization. The govt has to contribute zero dollars to the often court mandated program. It’s the govt passing on financial responsibility to the community because it doesn’t want to pay for comprehensive treatment programs.
  • My husband had real success using rational recovery. Made sense intellectually & no “higher power” BS getting in the way. He still notes & calls out his addictive voice. It gave him tools to change, where sitting at AA meetings one-upping each others’ drunk stories didn’t.
  • If you have a method that works better than AA, let the world know. IMO all the arguments against AA are based on misunderstanding or misrepresentation of the principles. It does have a low success rate, but has more sober members than other groups. There’s no cure yet. 29 yrs.
  • Alcoholism and recovery is very much my field. Alcoholics Anonymous does not work consistently or for everyone. We know that, have since shortly after the ink was dry on the first Big Book. It’s a non-coercive community effort based on mutual trust and aid and works for some.

The perfect job candidate does not exist. Job application technology weeds out perfectly suitable candidates and most positions are filled via word of mouth or recommendations.

Psychiatric hospitals do not actually help patients get better and can make them worse

Your gifted child most likely isn’t really ‘gifted’. They just read a lot more than their peers (which is a good thing) and are of otherwise average innate ability.

But labeling kids “gifted” is how we keep upper-middle class families engaged with the public school system, instead of constantly fighting for public funds to pay private tuition.

You know those professors you absolutely loved in college, who really cared about teaching and their students? Most of them were on temporary contracts and had to leave. Their popularity means nothing for their long-term employment, because students aren’t first consideration.

Also most journalists are centrists who side with the elite, acting as a propaganda arm of the status quo. That’s true from national to small town scale.

90% of machine learning models in production are bullshit and are based on bad statistics and bad understanding of the underlying data, but they are able to survive because either no one is checking the results, or the results can’t really be checked.

Adding corn-based ethanol to gasoline is both environmentally and fiscally counterproductive. It’s happening only because Iowa has the earliest presidential caucus.

There are an infinite number of ways for your body to break, and an **extremely** limited number of ways to fix it after it does.

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. (Thread)

Your cellphone pings a cell tower every 40s. Companies sell that data to advertiser who effectively know where to geolocate you and serve you a « relevant » ad. Whenever we are online on laptop/mobile, we create value and corporations, not us, make A LOT of money from it.

Married men graduate with PhDs faster than any other (funded) demographic because they have wives. They climb up they academic ladder faster, because they have wives.

I always tell people that, looking back, even the most lackadaisical homeschooling would have been better than middle school for our kids. If you’re rich, a private tutor. The bullies, the insane peer pressure, the insecurities, the apparent busy work. Ugh. It gets better later.

An MD friend once said “90% of being a doctor is holding the patients hand. The other 10% is really, really important.”

I scored writing tests for Pearson for a while. The way to get the top score? Make it longer. That’s really all there is to it

Many PhDs have no real training in pedagogy and teaching. 🙂 Freaks my students out every time.

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.

NOTE: I realize that I am not giving credit to the original posters; pardon me, it’s just too time-consuming to write them down. If you need to know a source and can’t find it, just comment here and I’ll find it!

See also my other mega-compilations: Fake AP Styleboook (also from twitter), Obnoxious NY UGC, Caterpillar in the Pudding (idioms for a new age), Best Marriage Proposals on Youtube, Complaints by Adjunct instructors (heart-breaking!) and Quiz: Are you a real writer?.


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