I collect data points constantly, and I index them by topic, and I always hope that they will come together in an interesting, useful way. Lots of times, that doesn't happen, and I just have to throw ideas away, because I have a rule for myself that I have to be useful in every post.

But today I'm trying something new. I'm doing a post that is useless to you. Here are four ideas I was just about to toss out as incurably useless, but instead, I bring them to you:

1. Law firms are making concessions for women.
One of the top law firms in the world, Allen Overy, just announced they are letting people become part-time partners. This would be news if no one had tried it before. But many firms that have already done this in response to the extreme brain drain in the legal profession due to women leaving law firms because they are so inflexible.

So now there is the idea that there can be a part-time partner. Fortunately, like most things in workplace reform, Gen X-ers have already been the guinea pigs. My friends, in fact, have tried this. And it turns out that if you give a lawyer a part-time job, she ends up working 50 hours a week instead of 80, and gets part-time credit, which isn't exactly encouraging.

2. People live together instead of getting married.
This is not news you can use because you already know it. This is what I said to Hannah Seligson, who asked me to write about her new book, A Little Bit Married: How to Know When it’s Time to Walk Down the Aisle or Out the Door.

I like Hannah. She wrote a great piece for the Daily Beast, about the orgasm gap between men and women. I also like Hannah because when I told her that I thought her book was not news, she exhibited a charming relentlessness about publicizing her book, and she told me:

– Co-habitation is a bigger step in the marriage direction for women than men.

– Women are ready to get married before men, even when they’re already living together.

This mostly seems like things have not changed. In fact, the most surprising thing about this news is that women are earning more than men, and men have seen a generation of women with fertility nightmares from putting off having children in favor of building their career, yet still, nothing changes in the marriage equation.

So I don't know about this book. I'm not sure how useful it is. And I think a book on the orgasm gap would have been more useful, but maybe Hanna’s got a few orgasm pages tucked into this book…

3. Texting while driving is bad.
Already 19 states prohibit texting while driving, so that's gotta make you think twice about doing it in the other 31. Also, it's clear that even if you're great with just one-finger on the keyboard, texting while driving is more dangerous than driving drunk.

I would never drive drunk. But I text in car all the time. I tell myself not to, and then I do just one more quick one.

Which is why this falls into the category of news you cannot use: Texting while driving requires the same rules for oneself that driving drunk require. We each self-police, and it's an issue of self-respect, but also, a social contract with the other people on the road that we will not endanger each other's lives.

You decide where you are and then no amount of scaring you changes you. So, I read the data, and then I texted that very day. I know I'm a terrible person. But I'm not ready to make the change.

4. Pig sex is on the demise.
The farmer went to grad school for pig genetics, and he has a lot of pigs on his farm. The farmer buys boy pigs to impregnate the girl pigs. But the last batch of boys he bought did not know how to have sex. They would mount the girl pigs, but their penis didn't go in where it was supposed to. The farmer tells me that so much of pig reproduction is by artificial insemination now that farmers aren't breeding for pigs who know how to have sex. This is amazing to me. Though I cannot think of how to use the knowledge in any work except farm work.

Okay. So we're at the end of my post. I thought it would be fun to write about stuff I wish was useful but it is not. I thought it would be fun to break the rule that I have to be useful. But you know what? It wasn't fun.

My blog is about me doing something nice for you, and then, in turn, you doing something nice for me, by talking about what I want to talk about. But if I am not trying to be useful to you in some way, then I'm not really in a relationship with you. I’m just writing like it’s my diary.

There is something really fulfilling about being useful. So here’s my tip: You should be useful to readers each time you post. It feels better. For everyone.


This post is supported by San Diego Defense Lawyers: Find the best San Diego DUI Attorney for professional help and expert advice.

129 replies
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  1. Marjory
    Marjory says:

    I thought about you and your farmer as I read The Guernsey Literary and the Potato Peel Pie Society. Check it out.

  2. Scot
    Scot says:

    Not fun..? Of course it was fun and very usefull. You’ve given me fodder for conversation at my next cocktail party…okay maybe after I’ve had a few too many and fallen down drunk..

    You’re right…it wasn’t fun…

    Oh well…that’s OK. Your other posts are awesome! Keep ’em coming.

    Last thing Penelope: Ask farmer what’s a chicken diaper? (more cocktail party fodder…)

    • Linda in Chicago
      Linda in Chicago says:

      I doubt a true farmer would know what a chicken diaper is! They are mainly used by people so crazy about their pet chickens they can’t stop themselves from bringing the chicken into their house. I have 4 chickens (hens) in my backyard, but none of them come inside, so no need for chicken diapers. I did put a chicken saddle on one of my hens, though, as the rooster I (unintentionally) had for a while did some damage to her. Apparently he knew more than those pigs the farmer got. ;-)

  3. Lori
    Lori says:

    yes, we should all stop texting while driving. this really is serious and we should all know better. i am making huge efforts to do just that but its difficult. we just had 2 cases locally in which people died bec/ of cell phone use while driving, and it scared me to try to stop.

    but WHY isn’t anyone else upset about Seligson’s orgasm story?? am i the only 44 year old woman who sees this as just another facet of lower respect for ourselves (speaking to women)?? why isn’t this talked about? mothers teach your daughters to take care of this!

    • Caitlin @ Roaming Tales
      Caitlin @ Roaming Tales says:

      @Lori I’m not angry about it because it’s partly driven by biology. It is typically far easier for a man to climax than a woman. Also an orgasm is not the only source of enjoyment.

      Of course, it’s a problem if one partner is the giver and one partner is the taker in bed or anywhere else. I’m sure this happens more than it should.

      I think both partners should absolutely give equally in bed, but I don’t think this necessarily results in equal numbers of orgasms.

  4. EleanorJ
    EleanorJ says:

    Many people will admit that texting while driving defies common sense and do it anyway. Recent research suggests that we are becoming a society of text addicts, stuck in a dopamine-driven loop of seek-fulfillment-seek – see this Slate article http://www.slate.com/id/2224932/.

    If you’re trying to break the habit – and I do hope you will decide you’re ready to soon, especially if you’re serious about upholding your end of the social contract – then ZoomSafer http://www.zoomsafer.com can help. It’s software for your phone that automatically activates so you can’t give in to the urge to text or email behind the wheel.

  5. John Wilder
    John Wilder says:

    The more that I get to know you, the more self centered and selfish you appear. Texting while driving, why not just pull over and stop? You will likely kill your kids and/or someone else’s kids, but then you have already reveealed that you have no problem killikng unborn kids so why should kids intrude on your fun? Asperbergs is one thing, being totally self centered is something else again.

  6. Caitlin @ Roaming Tales
    Caitlin @ Roaming Tales says:

    Texting while driving is still illegal in the other 31 states. There doesn’t have to be a specific law against it – it comes under reckless driving.

    I think the info about part-time partners is interesting, especially your insight about why it doesn’t work. It could be useful for someone who is thinking about going part time themselves or offering it to their staff.

    Waning pig sex – just another thing that’s wrong with modern agriculture. Turkeys no longer have sex either – but pigs are far more intelligent than turkeys.

  7. Jay
    Jay says:

    The pig news surprises me for two reasons:

    1. Pigs are supposed to be very intelligent. Surely that includes knowing where to put it.

    2. Pigs reputedly have six minute orgasms (Source: Washington Post, Style section, Oct or Nov, 1979; close as I can get you.)

    I used to use this factoid in my standup act.

    First I’d say: “Do you know pigs have six minute orgasms?”

    Then I’d snort a couple times.

    Then I’d say: “You gotta practice.”

    Usually got a laugh. ‘Course, joke debuted when I was a student at U of Iowa, Pig Capital, USA.

    Well, not the U of Iowa, IOWA.

    But still got laughs in DC, when I moved back to Capital Metro Area.

    So this post has been useful, Pen.

    Because laughter is useful. It’s a symptom of joy.

    And joy is priceless.


  8. rebecca
    rebecca says:

    i love your blog. and the way my mind works, too much linear thinking makes me tune out. i like finding the thread in a diversity of ideas, and while that thread didn’t appear in your post, i’ll enjoy discovering how it’s relevant in the days ahead. I’m sure the pieces will fit somewhere….

    thanks penelope.

  9. Ariella
    Ariella says:

    Here, I can comment on TWO of your topics:

    1) I am a lawyer and while there may be the option of so-called “part-time” partnership in BigLaw, it does not exist in SmallLaw. And SmallLaw is where 90% (or more) of lawyers end up. Shocking, huh? I sometimes wish you wouldn’t lump law in with the corporate jobs on which you comment because being a lawyer is NOT like being an employee in a corporation and law firms do not run like corporations. In fact, law firms are usually poorly managed (especially the small ones) because they are run by lawyers and not by business-people. So there’s that.

    2. And now I can combine my job with your texting blurb. I just got a new case in. The case is this: Plaintiff’s estate is suing my client and the client’s auto insurer for texting while on I-94 on the way to Milwaukee. Texter was not paying attention to the road, crossed the centerline, lost control of the vehicle, and hit another car head-on. Everyone in plaintiff’s car, with the exception of a baby, died. Texter died, texter’s passenger suffered major internal damage.


  10. Linda in Chicago
    Linda in Chicago says:

    Maybe we’re not understanding what you mean by texting while driving. Does this mean you are texting while the car is actually moving?

    In Illinois it is now illegal to text while driving. With Chicago having some of the worst traffic in the nation, I do get bored sitting in my running car not moving at all, or moving very, very slowly (5-10 mph). What’s wrong with doing something else at that point? Am I likely to hurt or kill anyone in such a situation? Unfortunately, there has to be a blanket “never do that” aspect to laws such as this.

    I personally don’t think it’s a problem to be otherwise occupied when you are sitting in the drivers seat but don’t have the option to actually operate the car in anyway. The only difference between doing this and pulling over is that you don’t have to wrestle your way back into the traffic queue.

    As for the cohabitation/marriage issue, I think there has been a lot of examination of what defines a marriage in the past few years. I was married for 11 years and don’t see any reason to get married again. A couple can have great commitment to each other without getting married. Marriage simply makes it easier to do certain legal things and get health benefits.

  11. LaneEllen
    LaneEllen says:

    The pig thing is interesting to me: This American Life live show had an episode where they filmed a commercial pig farm. The artificial insemination was part of this episode. It makes sense that pigs would lose the understanding of how to procreate.

    Since then, I have done my best to not eat any pig products unless I know what farm they came from. They always taste better from a small farm, anyway.

  12. Dan
    Dan says:

    I suppose utility is in the eye of the beholder. I read your blog because I find you entertaining and I am also interested in how a woman with Asperger’s Syndrome manages her life (my daughter was recently diagnosed with AS). It looks like I’m a career governemnt worker so much of what you write is not evidently useful to me in my workplace. However, it seems to me knowledge in general can be useful even when applied in unintended scenarios. Isn’t that the whole idea of higher education? Immerse the students in a lot of seemingly irrelevant information thus making them well-rounded?

    Seriously? Can a pig forget how to have sex? Isn’t this an instinctual thing? Well, I suppose some trial and error is involved. . .I mean, if I hadn’t read the manual, I suppose I wouldn’t know exactly what to do (with humans that is). . .sounds like the pigs are having mostly error. . .maybe there’s some anatomical shortcoming?

  13. Emily
    Emily says:

    I suppose I won’t be the first commenter to point out the “useful is in the eye of the beholder”. I’ll do it anyway.

    I wonder which set of readers you’re thinking of when you define what will be useful to them?

  14. Robert
    Robert says:

    Thanks for the interesting trivia, though I confess to thinking this isn’t your most interesting blog, It did make me think of a few issues I would love to see you write more about, such as:

    1) Have you ever been confronted with people at work with wildly different spiritual/religious/social beliefs than yours, and how well did you work with them or they with you?

    2)Do you think this whole pigs not being breed to know how to have sex has any merit as metaphor for how people are training themselves?

  15. Carol G
    Carol G says:

    I did not think you would get slammed that hard on the texting. I mean, I am not pleased that you are texting while driving. I will say, “It is very dangerous. Please try to stop.” Now my job is done. I think the readers should at least give you credit for being honest about it.

  16. Cagey
    Cagey says:

    I am so tempted to talk on the phone or text while driving my three children all around the universe, but unlike you, I have been scared straight by the statistics. To prevent myself from making the potentially harmful choice of using the phone while driving, I put the phone in the backseat. Done! Check! Try it. Please.

    Also have to say that it’s nice to be without that distraction–better for my relationship with the kids, better for my own state of mind and relaxation.

  17. Masha Keeffer
    Masha Keeffer says:

    I love this kind of post because of the broad array of topics. I’ll use it somewhere, sometime – or it will inspire something. So, yes, I gained something Penelope – thanks.

    No more texting while driving, please. I’m being selfish and would like to continue to read your blog.

  18. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    They have text dictation now. It’s an Iphone app. Dragon speak I think? It works well and is fun to play with!

    I thought #4 was really interesting and a bit horrifying.

    I saw you mentioned you use excel up there to organize data points. I’d be really interested in a post about e-organizing or to even hear anyone else’s thoughts on hwo they keep all their things organized (inboxes, tags, etc..).

  19. Jamie
    Jamie says:

    Texting while driving is bad.. well.. if they say so, EVERYTHING while driving is bad. Getting your hands on the radio, searching for your cigarettes, searching for the lighter, drinking water or searching for the bottle! :D

  20. Jens Fiederer
    Jens Fiederer says:

    Ravel – not even close. I’d have to nominate “setting off nuclear weapons in a highly populated area” for that spot, but I’m sure there’s competition (altering the earth’s orbit to take it very close to the sun is probably worse, but not really feasible with the current state of technology).

    Texting while driving is highly irresponsible when done at high speeds on a busy highway, much less irresponsible when you are driving during the daytime on a Texas road where there’s nobody else visible up to the horizon, and completely forgivable when you are stopped at a traffic light.

  21. Jens Fiederer
    Jens Fiederer says:

    Confession time for me. I’ve texted while driving (actually moving) on rare occasions myself, obviously not taking my eye off the road for as much as a second at a time – but still definitely a bit distracted.

    I do resist. Once I had lunch with a friend of mine and she mentioned that pretty much everybody had seen topless pictures of her. I commented that I hadn’t. As I was driving home, I heard the tone for “received multimedia message”. I waited until I got home, very proud of myself for that one.

  22. Holly
    Holly says:

    Texting while driving is so dangerous. These comments asking for Penelope to stop DWT are really just a unanimous shout-out asking ALL of the readers here to stop!

    I am another one who has texted while driving, and I can keep my eyes on the road just as well (or poorly) as the next driver. But believe me, there have been some CLOSE calls. I don’t do it anymore…

    And please, readers, don’t try to convince us that when you are going 5-10 mph in a traffic jam that it’s safe to text. Haven’t you ever had that inattentive driver right behind you who slams on her brakes at the very last second!? Haven’t u ever done that!?

    I ran head-on into a 200 lb. buck on a dark and rainy night with my 9 y/o in the car. Was I distracted because I heard my favorite song on the radio and had decided to turn it up just a split-second before the crash? I dunno. Point is, distractions while driving aren’t entirely avoidable, except when it comes to the texting. We just don’t want to have to say, “I told you so.”

    • Denise
      Denise says:

      “These comments asking for Penelope to stop DWT are really just a unanimous shout-out asking ALL of the readers here to stop!”

      I agree…except that the shouters here seem to be yelling at Penelope as if she’s the only one who texts while driving. Let’s be clear, here – she’s the only one who is HONEST about texting while driving. I don’t know what the statistics are, but I imagine a great percentage of Americans text and drive (and I am one, on occasion).

      So. One piece of this blog that is useful is the thinking process P shares here about WHY she continue(d) to text and drive…how do we each rationalize? What does it take for each of us to stop? I know – for me – this conversation will probably do it. However (just for the record) any change I make is NOT in response to the strident, holier than thou crowd, but rather because the thoughtful responses made me rethink.

  23. Mariana
    Mariana says:

    Apparently Gretchen Rubin from The Happiness Project Blog thought “A Little Bit Married” was worth reading, she interviewed the girl. And that’s why I keep coming back to Brazen Careerist: you are authentic enough to say what you really thought about the book. Well, at least by reading the interview I could confirm there wasn’t anything new there…what a waste!

  24. Vicki
    Vicki says:

    The most interesting thing that has come out of this post for me is to understand how people organize their information to use for blog posts or discussion later on. I usually also do the Gmail thing of putting links in separate messages but often don’t label them, resulting in a mess.

    Although I was skeptical/underwhelmed with Tyler Cowen’s book when I reviewed an advanced copy (http://bit.ly/bjPjoY) I’m starting to think this information organization/synthesis process is key to interesting blogs.

  25. Grace
    Grace says:

    This can apply to careers. So many people seek to be interesting or visable in the workplace. But it is all for naught unles your are helpful.

    Or, how can we join all this random information?

    Women are not buying this part-time partner thing in the workplace because they still end up working full-time, just with less recognition when what they would rather be doing is focusing on their relationships (which is why they agree to co-habit) which requires communication (which is why they text), but since no one has time to communicate,they text while driving to make the most of every moment which is necessary because of our hectic schedules, but they are so busy, they have forgotton how to enjoy the moment, even in the area of sex – like the pigs, they just go through the motions of it because it becomes another thing on the to-do list.

    Nope. Even more random.

  26. Samantha Parvin
    Samantha Parvin says:

    Sometimes information for the sake of learning is enough reason to share. But almost always we can learn just from hearing (or seeing) information we are already aware of from the perspective of someone else.

    Damn, I may be screwed if our blogs should all include USEFUL information!

    Thanks for sharing, as always!

  27. adelaide dancing
    adelaide dancing says:

    i know a few people who got married without having lived together first and it really didn’t work out for them, while there is no guarantee i find it silly that people don’t live together at least for a while before getting married, i mean, when you live with someone that is when you start to really know what they are like!

  28. Bock
    Bock says:

    The fact txting while driving is more dangerous than drunk driving makes me think of the billboards that say Report Drunk Driving followed by a phone number…

  29. amy
    amy says:

    I would disagree a little about the law firms having part-time partners… I think when we see flexible work arrangements in the stodgiest of industries, that starts to really change the norm.

    Love ya!

  30. jen
    jen says:

    A year ago I wrote a post about the things I learned during the worst ice storm in Oklahoma history. And, then it set in a file for, well, a year. Now, this week comes news of a similar approaching storm. So, I pull out the 11 things I learned in the worst ice storm ever post – and posted it and tweeted it and facebooked it – and today, a record # of RTs and twice as many hits as normal. but, i still prefer writing in my diary to being useful…

  31. Isobel Joaquin
    Isobel Joaquin says:

    I’m also guilty of breaking the social contract with others on the road… putting it in that perspective makes me think. I’ll see about kicking the texting-while-driving habit, so this post won’t be totally useless ;)

  32. Jens Fiederer
    Jens Fiederer says:

    Tiffany – that article does make certain assumptions. The Y chromosome can be tracked (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Y-chromosome_DNA_haplogroup for how we are divided into haplogroups by the y chromosomes of our fathers – there is a similar grouping of mtDNA haplotypes that covers the matrilineal descent), but the bit about European women welcoming the farmers with open arms assumes these women had a choice in the matter. We know the genetics, but not the history….and farmers and herders can support higher population density, and thus larger armed forces, than hunter-gatherers.

  33. Leroy Butler
    Leroy Butler says:

    Can’t tell the difference between this post and your other posts. Haven’t found many posts that can be useful in the workplace.

  34. Nora
    Nora says:

    You’d think that a company with one “Overy” at the top would have no problem with people with two ovaries at the top, even if they work half-time (40 hours a week).
    Does one “Overy” = 2 ovaries/2?


  35. Funny
    Funny says:

    Because the pigs aren’t bred to have the inate ability to have sex, they lose it? Hilarious! I would have never thought about that in a million years. Too funny.

  36. Marina
    Marina says:

    Does entertainment count as being useful? I foresee that comment about pig sex being a conversation starter once or twice.

  37. Heather
    Heather says:

    Interesting trumps useful 72% of the time. OK, I just made that up, but interesting is important.

    The people that subscribe to your blog probably care a lot about interesting. The people that find blog posts matching their search terms probably care more about useful.

    Or I could be oversimplifying. Because I care so much more about interesting.

  38. Joselle
    Joselle says:

    Not enough people are telling you not to text while you drive. Stop texting while you drive. Fine, you came clean. Now stop. You will kill someone. And I guarantee you generally suck as a driver. Every time I see someone do something stupid on the road, they are on the phone/texting. Stop. Besides, don’t you have trouble with directions and navigation because of your AS? Stop!!!!

  39. Mr. Steele
    Mr. Steele says:

    Re texting while driving……What is your reaction to the drinker who says, sure, I understand the issue but IIm going to drink and drive anyway? i won’t be the one to cause an accident because (blah, blah, blah)

    Next time you see a bad crash get out of your car and see if you can get close enough to look at a body. Really look.

  40. scot phelps
    scot phelps says:

    Don’t think that, just because something was not immediately useful or doesn’t relate to something else, that it wasn’t useful. Knowing three facts about a lot of things makes it a lot easier to get through life.


  41. versos amor
    versos amor says:

    In my point of view women should work just like men do, and that becomes a reason to less marriages and more singles. As you referred in the post real marriages became less and living together more. Living together is simply easier.
    Funny post, but true.

  42. Shelby Park
    Shelby Park says:

    Haha, “farmers aren’t breeding pigs that know how to have sex.” That’s a beautiful line. The part-time law partner idea is pretty interesting to me. We and my partner just started our law firm and the whole “part-time” idea is sounding pretty good at this point! :)

    Oh and I love the blog, gonna keep checking back.


  43. Marty
    Marty says:

    Pig Sex on Demise! That one surely amazed me. Pigs not knowing how to have sex. You posts always tells me (and my fellow followers for sure!)something that I don’t know.

    Oh Yeah! And about the texting while driving, I totally think we need to control ourselves. I myself does it, sometimes I go out of the house telling myself not to text while driving but the moment my phone beeps, I just cant help it.

    P.S. It would be great if you can post tips on how to stop this seemingly safe but extremely dangerous texting while driving thing? I just cant self-police myself!

  44. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I enjoy the “news you can’t use” just to change things up here once in awhile if nothing else. Maybe it could become a series labeled “useless facts for cocktail parties” or something similar. Maybe then the news wouldn’t be so unusable.
    The most interesting thing about this post is it was assigned to three categories … but remember it’s news you cannot use!

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