Links: The nature of expression, the best books of 2020, the social reality, and more!

* Tyler Cowen’s very best books of 2020, and I’ve found this as well: “Finally, I will note that the ‘best books lists’ of other institutions have grown much worse, even over the last year. A good list has never been more valuable, and please note my recommendations are never done to fill a quota, ‘achieve balance,’ right previous wrongs, or whatever. They are what I think are the best books. Scary how rare that has become.” Book reviews, including the NYT’s, have become dramatically less useful in the last few years, and book bloggers have mostly disappeared (do you know of any I ought to follow?). Goodreads has never been a favorite for me, and it’s been widely neglected by Amazon.

* Data suggests significant COVID-19 protection with some vaccines, even without a second shot. If studies prove that’s true, it could be a game changer. This should obviously be studied, now. “First doses first” makes a similar point: given the efficacy of the first dose, we should get first doses to as many people as possible, then worry about second doses. If we had a two-dose regimen that was “only” 90% effective, or even 80% effective, we’d still be ecstatic.

* “When I went to college, almost every course was serious. Even ‘Physics for Poets’ was intended to convey important knowledge. Now if you want a rigorous education you have to select courses carefully.” See also Paying for the Party, an essential book for understanding higher ed, which makes a similar point although in different words and using different emphases; Academically Adrift is also good, and I’ve not seen serious rebuttals to it.

* “The Veterans Organizing to Stop Trumpism.”

* “ How and why I stopped buying new laptops.” A reasonable and interesting point in many respects, but, at the same time, having a computer die unexpectedly is annoying, common, and disruptive. And high-definition screens are amazing: mine, for example, is 5120 x 2880.

* Congress is about to ban most surprise medical bills. Good. I’d love to see price transparency but there seems to be almost no constituency for healthcare price transparency, outside of nerds and economists.

* “The Internet is for Porn,” and note that this is an essay. The stigma around the subject still exists, though, and stigma around a popular field means opportunity. It’ll be interesting to see whether the credit card processors’s actions help drive the cryptocurrency economy, as some have predicted.

* “100 Tips for a Better Life.” I notice: “Deficiencies do not make you special. The older you get, the more your inability to cook will be a red flag for people.”

* Eyes Wide Shut, explained. Explaining it may not make it a good movie, however.

* If you think the CDC has been incompetent, if not abysmal, here is more evidence supporting that thought.

* “Tell Only Lies: Americans are increasingly afraid to express themselves honestly.” Maybe, but can’t we express ourselves anonymously more easily than ever?

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