Links: Lightsails in space, wow, what is that?, the opening of the mind, the cost of costs, and more!

 

* Dear Millennials: The Feeling Is Mutual. Notice: “at least it means he isn’t prepared to capitulate to the icy codes of personal decorum written by people who don’t know the difference between exuberant human warmth and unwarranted sexual advances” and “Does it ever occur to some of our more militant millennials that the pitiless standards they apply to others will someday be applied pitilessly to them?”

* “Why books don’t work,” for some things, anyway.

* “‘Wow, What Is That?’ Navy Pilots Report Unexplained Flying Objects.” Also, piggybacking on that, “Multiple F/A-18 Pilots Disclose Recent UFOs Encounters, New Radar Tech Key In Detection.”

* “The Lure of Western Europe.” Rather depressing that this needs to be written.

* “Expand vs Fight in Social Justice, Fertility, Bioconservatism, & AI Risk.” Similar to the “growth mindset” theory prevalent in education.

* “Room 222: Four Seasons in Academic Hell.” More of the same, content-wise, and in keeping with iGen and The Coddling of the American Mind, both fundamental statements about current mores.

* Is the Democratic party going from being the party of formal entitlements for the poor to the party of the informal entitlement of the affluent?

* An amazing thread about healthcare in France.

* “The Reopening of the Liberal Mind: Bard College President Leon Botstein explains how his school remains free of the student outbursts that afflict similar institutions.”

* “‘If I disappear’: Chinese students make farewell messages amid crackdowns.” I’m a bit of a China skeptic, long term; I don’t think that most intelligent, high-capability people will want to live in such a regime.

* The city guide to open source.

* “Buyer’s Remorse: High Debt and Low Pay Leave Some College Grads Rueful.” You don’t say! None of these articles cite Bryan Caplan’s The Case Against Education, but they should.

* “College Enrollments Fall Again: Overall enrollment at colleges and universities is down for the seventh year in a row, continuing a trend that is putting pressure on many smaller schools.”

* “Why Your Next Home Computer Should Be an Old Xeon Workstation.”

* “The Long Road to the Student Debt Crisis: A series of well-intentioned government decisions since the 1960s has left us with today’s out-of-control higher education market.”

* Adding ‘luxury’ housing to a city reduces rents elsewhere. Supply and demand: they still function!

* What’s the Difference between LightSail 1 and LightSail 2?

Briefly noted: Delta-V, Permission, and The Stand

* Delta-V by Daniel Suarez is an SF novel with an SF novel’s typical poor writing. The second chapter begins with the scene: “The United States Senate Appropriations Subcommittee…” is in Washington DC. Two paragraphs later, “Three US senators sat…” Well, yes: would they be Mexican senators? Or Knesset members? Can’t we assume they’re US senators? Clumsy writing on almost every page made me give up, like “That meant eighteen people were definitely going into space on Joyce’s dime. Tighe hoped to be one of those people.” Suarez doesn’t need “of those people.” These basic errors are representative, not cherry-picked. Don’t be fooled, as the interesting premise can’t be sustained into a good novel because of consistently low prose quality.

There are some good moments; in one scene, on the first asteroid to be mined, two characters discuss creating metal parts via chemical vapor deposition (CVD):

“It’s existed since Ludwig Mond invented it back in 1890.”
“I’ve honestly never heard of it.”
“Back on Earth it’s less toxic to just use a blast furnace. Up here in space, though, CVD is going to be critical for precision manufacturing.”
[…] “It’s like alchemy.”
“No, it’s better than alchemy—it’s science.”

A fine point too rarely encountered, and a high end to the chapter.

* Permission by Saskia Vogel, an okay book but its timeline seems somewhat random and muddled to me. Too many novels are in the improbable reaches of the movie/TV glamor industries; people substitute “hope” for wages in those industries, with results that are often not good. In this novel, a dominatrix conveniently moves next door to a woman who becomes interested in her. Rather than what you may be thinking, more of the novel is like this: “Everything inside me, ocean. I inhaled with both my nose and mouth, greedy for air, feeling my lungs expand. My body was mostly water, but only mostly, still” than like this: “I was wearing a semi-sheer basque with a matching thong. He buried his face in my cleavage,” but there is some of both—like life, one could argue.

You have to be okay with the one-sentence paragraphs:

Only her.
Only this.
Only now.

So deep, man, right? Pass the joint. I didn’t regret reading it but am not sure it’ll stick with me, or most people. You could say that Nine and a Half Weeks got there first and is still colonizing this territory.

* I read Stephen King’s The Stand when I was 11 or 12, and it holds up better than Robert Jordan but not as well as I’d like: it has moments—a rural cop describes how his wife “neatens” the cells, for instance, the word being wholly appropriate—but it has some howlers in it too, like the doctor who says:

They are the symptoms of the common cold, of influenza, of pneumonia. We can cure all of those things, Nick. Unless the patient is very young or very old, or perhaps already weakened by a previous illness, antibiotics will knock them out.

Colds and influenzas are viruses, not bacteria, and antibiotics don’t affect them. If anyone had a cure for the common cold, they’d be a billionaire. It’s conceivable that we could today have a vaccine for the common cold, but the regulatory structure put in place by the FDA doesn’t favor it.

Still, the paranoid style in it is depressingly modern (look for all the mentions of not just government failure but active malice), although in the novel the paranoia and distrust are correct. It could be contrasted with the movie Contagion in “Bureaucratic Heroism,” a great essay with an unlikely title. Today, it feels like a product of disillusionment from the Vietnam war. But excess skepticism may be as bad or almost as bad as excess trust.

It’s also still scary, when the prose doesn’t interfere with the fear.

%d bloggers like this: