Links: The fear, the basic house, the hard-but-popular college course, and more!

* Iran to begin enriching Uranium again. Some of you may recall my 2016 post, “Trump fears and the nuclear apocalypse,” which is relevant here.

* “Want a basic house? Prepare for a bidding war.” Businesses have begun noticing that, if individuals can reap supernormal returns by artificially restricting the supply of housing via zoning, then businesses can do the same by buying the same asset, then renting it, and waiting for increasing demand to raise its underlying value. As we all know, however, Oregon is doing something concrete about this dynamic by reforming zoning.

* Why can’t NYC control its construction costs? It also can’t do even very simple things like through-running commuter rail, which Paris started doing in the ’80s and London in the ’90s.

* “A Remarkably Hard College Course Proves Remarkably Popular.”

* “The Deepening Crisis in Evangelical Christianity: Support for Trump comes at a high cost for Christian witness.” This is something I’ve wondered about: few of us are fully internally consistent and all of us can be hypocrites at time, but the scale and apparentness of this one strikes me as odd, even by the standards of someone who’s read The Elephant in the Brain.

* “Progressive Boomers Are Making It Impossible For Cities To Fix The Housing Crisis: Residents of wealthy neighborhoods are taking extreme measures to block much-needed housing and transportation projects.” Not far from what you’ve been reading here for years, but the news is getting out there.

* “Rep. Justin Amash quits the Republic party for principled reasons.” See also the link about evangelical Christian support for Trump.

* “The Gangs of Kalorama,” on the private school and college madness. A piece that reinforces Bryan Caplan’s book The Cast Against Education.

* “US FBI, ICE using state driver’s license photos for facial-recognition searches.” Privacy? Anyone? Privacy? Anyone who is worried about Google or Facebook ought to be 10x as worried about this.

* “Live carbon neutral with Wren: Offset your carbon footprint through a monthly subscription.”

* “Americans Shocked to Find Their Rights Literally Vanish at U.S. Airports.” Yet for some reason we keep vanishing for this, too.

* “Americans Shouldn’t Have to Drive, but the Law Insists on It: The automobile took over because the legal system helped squeeze out the alternatives.” The number of people who die by the car is shocking, yet no one seems to give a damn.

* “Breaching a ‘carbon threshold’ could lead to mass extinction.” Perhaps we ought to not do that?

* The slow death of Hollywood. Did you know that “[Netflix] now routinely ends shows after their second season, even when they’re still popular?” Me neither. Or how much Hollywood has consolidated since the ’90s? I’m still annoyed, by the way, that The Larry Sanders Show isn’t available on Blu-ray, and the DVD version doesn’t look good.

Links: Death by vehicle, when it’s desirable to quit, Judith Krantz, and more!

* “It’s OK to quit your Ph.D.” Notice the publication, too.

* Why some climate scientists are saying no to flying.

* “How Chipmaker AMD Gave China the ‘Keys to the Kingdom:’ The company revived its fortunes through the deal, and sparked a national-security battle.” And for an amount of money that is, relative to the size of the companies and economies involved, quite small.

* Why US cities aren’t using more electric buses. We ought to.

* The Dark Forest Theory of the Internet?

* “Judith Krantz, Whose Tales of Sex and Shopping Sold Millions, Dies at 91.” An amusing obituary throughout. Is it possible that some popular novelists are willing to go places self-consciously “literary” novelists are not?

* Why aren’t cities running lots of electric buses yet? Considering their advantages in terms of noise and point pollution, these relatively minor challenges ought to be overcome.

* Why the soft machine (cargo bikes) will come to dominate urban transit. One can hope.

* “California and Texas have different visions for America’s future.” There are also some curious facts underneath the political rhetoric produced in each state.

* “The blunder that could cost the U.S. the new space race:” excluding scientists and engineers based on place of birth. The 20th Century was the American Century for many reasons, one underrated one being that Europe and Asia spent much of the century murdering or exporting their best people, to the U.S.’s benefit. It seems that no politicians and few voters know or remember this fact.

* Why Are U.S. Drivers Killing So Many Pedestrians? “If anything else—a disease, terrorists, gun-wielding crazies—killed as many Americans as cars do, we’d regard it as a national emergency.”

Links: The accidental criminals, the criminalizing of basic commerce, the American shoe, electric flight, and more!

* “How to Become a Federal Criminal.” It’s incredibly easy to do and you and I have likely done it.

* “Inside Backpage.com’s Vicious Battle With the Feds.” The lack of interest in this country in many forms of freedom is notable, and this article could be related to the one immediately above.

* “Democracy Is Not Coming to China Anytime Soon.” We’ll see what China’s first major recession in decades brings, though.

* The End of the Age of Paternity Secrets.

* “Why The American Shoe Disappeared And Why It’s So Hard To Bring It Back.”

* Why the age of electric flight is finally upon us.

* “I’m a Journalist but I Didn’t Fully Realize the Terrible Power of U.S. Border Officials Until They Violated My Rights and Privacy.” And somewhat bizarrely, we keep voting for this?

* In 2000, Paul Krugman pointed out that rent control is bad. It’s still bad today; if you want to subsidize housing, the optimal way to do it is to build a whole lot of it, then give vouchers to the people who you want to subsidize. Local voters don’t like either: owners of existing housing want to limit the supply of it, and they don’t want to pay taxes to provide vouchers. Rent control is popular because it can be an immediate benefit to some existing renters, but the costs are enormous and bourn by the future. Mortgaging the future is a popular Baby Boomer pasttime, but it’d be nice to stop doing that.

* “Two-thirds of American employees regret their college degrees?” And: “About 75% of humanities majors said they regretted their college education?”

* “The Wild Ride at Babe.Net.” A lot could be said here about truth and reality that is not said; I am not going to say it either, for fear of the usual backlash.

* “The Boomers Ruined Everything.” Much better than the title implies and deals with the zoning problems that are immiserating millions.

* Peter Watts video on SF, climate, and other things. Also, Climeworks has started paid CO2 removal.

Links: Tin House, sugar’s dangers, the productive madness of ’80s Bennington, moon bases, and more!

* Remembering Tin House, a Literary Haven for ‘Brilliant Weirdos.’

* It’s time to treat sugar like smoking.

* “Money, Madness, Cocaine and Literary Genius: An Oral History of the 1980s’ Most Decadent College.” There’s a TV series in this entertaining article; while noting Bennington’s flaws, it’s also a reminder that almost all colleges today are trying to be the same: follow the same model, churn the students the same way, seek prestige the same way, chase the same professors. Some notable schools, like Caltech, deviate, but similarities far outweigh diversity diversity. A friend noted in an email that there seem to be few colleges with a distinctive grass-roots culture, and, that if you went to a school like Bennington back then, you were really cut off; you probably didn’t have a phone in your dorm room and only a handful of people had TVs. A different world.

* “The Race to Develop the Moon.” A bit snarkier and less technical than one would hope.

* Alone. See also Lost Connections, a book covering similar territory. Many of us individuals haven’t adequately responded to changing macro forces. We’re overweighting some factors and underweighting connection.

* The public humiliation diet. Could this be related to the links immediately above?

* “Why Don’t Women Vote For Feminist Parties?

* “Why Housing Policy Feels Like Generational Warfare.” Because that’s what it is, and housing can’t be both affordable and a “good” investment. We’ve collectively implemented the latter value over the former, particularly via 1970s zoning reforms, and we’re living with the consequences today.

* More Millennials Are Dying ‘Deaths of Despair,’ as Overdose and Suicide Rates Climb.

* The climate renegade, an interesting story about an irascible-seeming fellow right out of a Stephenson novel.

* “Oberlin College case shows how universities are losing their way?”

* “Americans Need More Neighbors: A big idea in Minneapolis points the way for other cities desperately in need of housing.” Obvious but needs to be repeated.

* Depressing: “agents and publishers want a book–any book–tied to a big name, to promote. They know that most readers don’t get past page 30. As long as there’s a commercial hook, that’s what they care about.” When I don’t get past page 30 it’s because the book is no good.

* Welcome to my secret underground layer: About building a neutrino detector. Don’t get too caught up in the day-to-day unhappiness on social media: lots of people are doing cool things, but “doing cool things” is less viral than social outrage and social virtue signaling.

* “The idea of criminalising prostitutes’ clients is spreading,” the major downside being that it seems to make sex workers less safe and doesn’t seem to have many, if any, of its intended effects. Laws against sex work are like laws against housing construction, they frequently do the exact opposite of what their proponents say they want to see achieved while remaining astonishingly popular.

* “China’s ‘Thought Transformation’ Camps:” If you look back at history and think to yourself that, during the 1930s or 1940s, you would have been one of the “good guys,” you may want to ask yourself: what should you be doing about this? (I ask myself that.)

* “Canadian permafrost thaws 70 years earlier than predicted.” Climate change models may predict change more slowly than actual change happens—it’s possible that they understate how rapidly the climate will change and is changing in response to human CO2 and methane emissions.

* “Liu Cixin’s War of the Worlds.” He of The Three-Body Problem. Comments on kindness versus cruelty at the macro level, and the relationship of that to China versus the U.S., are notable. Like many others, I will observe that China hasn’t had a substantial economic setback in 40 years (largely because it started from such a low point after implementing socialism). We’re going to see how well that model works when a recession finally hits, which it will, eventually.

* Old-school car guy and reviewer buys Tesla.

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?

Links: The story around stories, the bored and the lonely, Danielle Steel’s mania, and more!

* “We don’t really know how to tell sociological stories.” Superficially, this is about why the last season of Game of Thrones has been terrible (it is), but it applies to many other stories. Highly recommended.

* “An Interview With A Man Who Eats Leftover Food From Strangers’ Plates In Restaurants.” Pairs well with The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt; you’ll see why when he describes his “moral disgust” questionnaire that doesn’t include any harm but still elicits moral disgust from many participants. Could there be sociological elements to this story, too?

* “Why young South Koreans aren’t interested in dating,” a hugely depressing but also fascinating article. What do people think they are getting educations for? Jobs for? No wonder there are a lot of bored, lonely, isolated, and depressed persons out there. Does no one go one or two steps beyond whatever they’re told by their society to do?

* “Nuclear War Is Still Very Possible and Very Scary: Worry about nuclear weapons has faded, but the threat has not.”

* How the Hell Has Danielle Steel Managed to Write 179 Books? Speed, determination.

* Why books and lectures don’t work, but I’d ask what most people read books for (a common element in many of these links). This podcast with Michael Nielsen is also great, as he discusses spaced-repetition software like Anki and how it can be used to memorize great quantities of information. Raw memorization is presently underrated in the culture and education systems.

* “There’s a high cost to making drugs more affordable for Americans.” Almost no one is talking about this. We can likely force the cost of today’s drugs and treatments lower, at the cost of not having new drugs and treatments tomorrow. This seems like a poor tradeoff to me, but that’s a philosophical point. The interesting thing is that no one advocating for price cramdowns admits the tradeoff.

* Red Pills and Red Hats. See also my earlier comments about how the appeal of “Red Pills” is a failure of socialization, among other things.

* Dr. Ruth, “The Goddess of Good Sex,” probably the most amusing piece in this patch and relevant, at least, to links #2 and #6, above. I’ve never read any of her books.

* “Climate Stasis: German Failure on the Road to a Renewable Future.”

* U.S. 2018 Births Fall to Lowest Level in 32 Years. Kinda depressing.

* Is it possible to make academic philosophy worth a damn? Probably not, I’d guess, but maybe I’m wrong.

* This essentially explains why Apple no longer gives a shit about Macs.

* Memes, Genes, and Sex Differences—An Interview with Dr. Steve Stewart-Williams.

* “Resistance to Noncompete Agreements Is a Win for Workers.” This is an area where the left and right are aligned: the left worries about worker rights, and the right (putatively) worries about free markets.

* Anarchy is [even] worse than socialism.

* “Can ‘Indie’ Social Media Save Us?” No. It’s not addressing the problem as most people experience it; most people want a way to share

* When Boris Yeltsin went grocery shopping in Clear Lake.

* The New Right Is Beating the New Left. Everywhere.

* Impossible Foods’s empire of lab-grown clean meat. I tried Beyond Meat burgers and think they’re pretty good.

Links: Literary freedom, freedom of thinking, gigging, boredom and loneliness, code, and more!

* “The WIRED Guide to Open Source Software.”

* The U.S. Has a Battery Problem in the Race for Electric Car Supremacy.

* “Karl Ove Knausgård on Literary Freedom.”

* “Bret Easton Ellis Nails Contemporary America?” Unconvincing, but one never knows.

* “Down and Out in the Gig Economy: Journalism’s dependence on part-time freelancers has been bad for the industry—not to mention writers like me.” Journalists are taking part of their income in glamor, like actors, musicians, etc. When I graduated from high school, it was obvious that the Internet would fillet the journalism industry. What was obvious then is still obvious now.

* “UFOs Won’t Go Away,” due to radar and pilot sightings.

* “Maybe Europe Can’t Recover From the Financial Crisis.” It’s not just financial.

* “‘The Adjunct Underclass’ Review: Teachable Moments: College teaching has become a pickup job, like driving for Uber, for small stipends and little or no guarantee of permanence.” Or, as I wrote, “Universities treat adjuncts like they do because they can.”

* Bored and lonely? Blame your phone.

* The Coming Obsolescence of Animal Meat?

* A World Run with Code, by Stephen Wolfram of Mathematica fame.

* “What Explains the Resistance to Evolutionary Psychology?” and “The New Evolution Deniers.” Scientific ideas that conflict with deeply held beliefs about human nature or the human experience tend to be attacked.

* “Facebook’s Unintended Consequence,” better than 99% of the material you’ve read on the company.

* “Selective Blank Slatism and Ideologically Motivated Misunderstandings.” I read this piece after writing the tagline to the link two above.

* “‘Deep Sleep’: How an Amateur Porno Set Off A Massive Federal Witch Hunt.” Probably the most entertaining story of this batch.

* “Don’t Let Students Run the University.” Pretty obvious, but here we are.

* “Amazon Prime Pulls Back the Curtain on China’s Propaganda.” Odd that no one talks about this.

* “There’s a high cost to making drugs more affordable for Americans.” No one talks about this, either.

* On Tolkien’s story “Leaf by Niggle.”

* NuScale power’s nuclear plant design.

* They Got Rich Off Uber and Lyft. Then They Moved to Low-Tax States. Makes sense to me; California and New York are increasingly inhumane places to live.

* After Academia. Also, “Quit Lit,” another of those stories about people quitting academia. Somewhat boring by now, but word doesn’t seem to be quite out.

* “Private Colleges Offer Record Discounts as Tuition Costs Rise.” The complexity and secretiveness of the financial aid system is one of the unstated ways superficially progressive schools aren’t so progressive.

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