“Nurses Die, Doctors Fall Sick and Panic Rises on Virus Front Lines”

Nurses Die, Doctors Fall Sick and Panic Rises on Virus Front Lines: The pandemic has begun to sweep through New York City’s medical ranks, and anxiety is growing among normally dispassionate medical professionals” is congruent with what I have been told privately, and if it’s happening in New York (and Seattle) today, it will be happening wherever you are in 10 days. The gap between hospital administrators and doctors seems to be quite wide, with the former not having sufficient skin in the game. Ordering doctors, nurses, and others to work sick is insane, because that’s how medical workers are going to keep spreading the virus to themselves and to their patients.

Medicine has a “work sick” culture that has struck me as insane since I first learned about it. That culture needs to end and now is an excellent time to end it.

Links: Writing pseudonymously, the life of the mind, the life of Mars, chickpeas, and more!

* “Why You Should Write Pseudonymously.” I’m failing at this, obviously.

* “The Bleak Job Landscape of Adjunctopia for Ph.D.s.” Obvious, and not much has changed since 2012, when I offered my contribution to the extensive “grad school is bad” literature.

* Mitch Daniels has frozen Purdue’s tuition—at less than $10,000—for seven straight years. The fundamentals of Baumol’s Cost Disease plus the prestige and status-seeking enterprise means that improvement will be hard.

* Inside Elon Musk’s plan to build one Starship a week—and settle Mars.

* Why the US sucks at building public transit. If we could get better at this, we could slash many households’s transit costs and thus free up more money for anything and everything else.

* “My life with Oliver Sacks: ‘He was the most unusual person I had ever known.’

* More on the novel’s suppose ddecline. As long as people wonder about the human condition, I think there will be a place for the novel. But a lot of current literary culture is overly PC, rarefied, and disconnected from reality and from the human condition.

* “Why Japan is obsessed with paper.” I have complained periodically about American publishers not being obsessed with paper at all, and the crappy paper quality used in most books. The New York Review of Books books are among the notable exceptions.

* “In the Future, Everything Will Be Made of Chickpeas.” One hopes. An Instapot helps.

* “What the ‘meat paradox’ reveals about moral decision making:” Something that I have wondered about.

* On writers block. I don’t know that it’s real, but people say it’s real. More often I worry about “people block,” that is, people who continually try to bombard a writer or would-be writer with text messages, poorly timed chitchat, and that kind of thing.

* “The Accusations Were Lies. But Could We Prove It?” More on Title IX madness. These stories are not so different than the ones implied by Francine Prose’s novel Blue Angel. It’s like the people who set up these systems never thought to learn from the centuries of effort expended on setting up existing legal systems that strive to balance rights of the accused with rights of the accusers.

* No SARS-CoV-19/coronavirus talk in this batch, which might seem strange, but from what I have seen you can get all you want of that and more pretty much everywhere, so I’m going to do some of the things not being done elsewhere right now. I don’t have much novel to add: The CDC’s early behavior around testing and testing certification is appalling, as is the response, or non-response, from the Executive Branch. But these reactions are obvious for anyone who has been paying attention. Twitter, oddly, comes out looking good: the Cassandras who are usually wrong with their vaguely conspiratorial statements and insinuations were right, and early.

Links: Supposed UFOs, psychedelics and con men, and lots of history and context

* Inside the Pentagon’s Secret UFO Program. Supposedly.

“Andy Roberts’s provocative new biography of Hollingshead, Divine Rascal, suggests that there is something seriously wrong with this standard history. Roberts uncovers the fact that Hollingshead was not simply a benevolent trickster who turned people on with his beloved mayonnaise jar; he also possessed a dark side — one that does not appear in the various historical accounts of the psychedelic movement. In Divine Rascal, Roberts, an eminent historian of British psychedelic culture (e.g., Albion Dreaming: A Popular History of LSD in Britain [2012]), views Hollingshead with sober eyes.”

From “Psychedelic Pioneer and Confidence Man.” It may be that the people drawn to psychedelia are also more likely than average to be overly credulous and gullible, and wherever those people gather, con men follow.

* Machine learning for antibiotics.

* Paul Graham on “How to write usefully.” I like the implication that many of us write uselessly. Plus, Graham’s writing routines.

* The US rental housing market. If NIMBYs can use zoning to get supernormal rates of return on housing, so can large capital pools. I wonder if, or when, voters will notice and respond appropriately.

* Bryan Caplan’s case for open borders. The book looks good but I’m also prejudiced against comic books, graphic nonfiction, or whatever one may wish to call the genre.

* “Why Did the Coronavirus Outbreak Start in China?” On the weaknesses of China’s government.

* “A Bellow from France,” which has a great first line: “‘Fatalism and Fellatio’ is the title the Süddeutsche Zeitung gave last fall to a scathing essay about Michel Houellebecq’s seventh novel, Serotonin.” “Great title” does not necessarily mean “accurate title,” however.

* The perverse panic over plastic. Most recycling efforts are a waste of time but make people feel good. Substantial changes that would be useful are mostly being avoided, like congestion pricing, zoning reform, not flying, or signing up for Climeworks carbon burying. What should we infer about human nature from this?

* The health system we’d have if healthcare economists ran things. It doesn’t look that different from the one we have now: there is no such thing as a free lunch.

* “Thoughts about transparency in college admissions.” It is amusing how many heavily marketed schools squawk about equality, diversity, helping the poorest, and so forth, and how many of them actively practice policies that do the exact opposite.

* History of the distribution of sex-related information and contraception. Familiar to some of you already, no doubt.

* The dating “market” is getting worse? Maybe? Maybe the paradox of choice is real, but the data cited here aren’t totally convincing.

* “Venezuela Is the Eerie Endgame of Modern Politics: Citizens of a once-prosperous nation live amid the havoc created by socialism, illiberal nationalism, and political polarization.” Voters can make awful choices; Chávez was originally fairly democratically elected. In the U.S., voters have put McConnell in the Senate and helped elevate him to Senate Majority Leader. Regarding the executive branch, see this.

* Israel’s Rihanna, Nasrin, Is Arab and Jewish. Maybe pop music and culture unites the world, or can.

* Book Review: The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work.

* Nuclear Tests Marked Life on Earth With a Radioactive Spike.

Links: Building into the good life, family structure, Red Scare, encryption, and more!

* “Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build Build: When California’s housing crisis slammed into a wealthy suburb, one public servant became a convert to a radically simple doctrine.” This is the actual NYT header and sub-head.

* “Was the nuclear family a mistake?” This one appeared in the last links post too, but it’s really good. Also, “What Comes After the Nuclear Family?” I don’t have answers. If the great novels of the 19th and 20th Centuries are about individuals chafing against the confines of communities, will the great novels of this century be about community building, or re-building?

* “Jonathan Haidt, Ezra Klein and the Nature of Wicked Problems.” Arguably we should work on problems that can be solved, like lowering barriers to scientific progress and reforming zoning.

* “Meet the ‘ladies’ of Red Scare, the most gleefully offensive podcast on the internet.” I have listened some and it’s pretty tame; “gleefully offensive” is way too exaggerated.

* Inside Critics’ Circle by Phillipa K Chong review – rickety scaffolding. The review seems much funnier and more useful than the book.

* “The CIA secretly bought a company that sold encryption devices across the world. Then its spies sat back and listened.” A very long story; one lesson may be, “Don’t trust Huawei with telecom infrastructure.”

* Peter Thiel on the new Ross Douthat book: “Back to the Future.”

* The way we read now: another elegy for the novel. I like the first half better than the second. Novels will continue to be written and read as long as things can be said and explored in them that can’t be said or explored in other media.

* A watershed moment for protein structure prediction.

* Mark Zuckerberg’s lost notebooks.

* Could micro-credentials compete with traditional degrees?

* “The new dot com bubble is here: it’s called online advertising.” One could alternately ask, “What do we really know about the effectiveness of digital advertising?” The answer seems to be, “Not much.” The idea that many companies throw away tens or hundreds of millions of dollars annually, and in some cases more, seems barely believable.

* Humanity’s Methane Problem Could Be Way Bigger Than Scientists Thought.

* January was the warmest January on record.

Links: Some politics stuff, Chinatown, fame, what’s really real, and more!

* “If Elizabeth Warren really wants to unrig the system, she should focus on the Dream Hoarders.” The big problems are restrictive, exclusionary zoning and restrictive, exclusionary occupational licensure—both things that large swaths of the upper middle class really like and fight to entrench. Warren will not alienate her own base with real change, when there are convenient bogeymen to attack instead. It is always appealing to make someone else the villain and ensure us that we’re the good guys and we just need to get those bad guys over there.

* Forget It, Jake: It’s the Definitive Book on Chinatown.

* Reasons not to become famous, by Tim Ferriss.

* Let’s quit fetishizing the single-family home. The author has had some bad takes that demonstrate a lack of intellectual curiosity, but this one is good.

* “Something Is Happening to Norway” Climate change is here, now, and our collective response is to shrug.

* Over-long piece covering the decline of journalism. I’ve read too many like it, but this is another.

* Ross Douthat’s new book on the age of decadence. Recommended.

* No one seems to have a good theory about why the economy is still relatively strong.

* “‘We’re losing our damn minds’: James Carville unloads on the Democratic Party.” A useful piece and congruent with my thinking.

* “Librem 5 phone hands-on—Open source phone shows the cost of being different.” I like the Librem 5 as an idea but it is still very far from being usable.

* Mozilla’s plan to fix internet privacy.

* Was the nuclear family a mistake? A fascinating essay on loneliness, community, zoning, and many other topics.

* Will Spotify ruin podcasting?

Links: Educated fools, appeals to the center, the social media trap, the enemies of writing, and more!

* I was a ’60s socialist. Today’s progressive’s are in danger of repeating our mistakes.

* “America’s Radioactive Secret: Oil-and-gas wells produce nearly a trillion gallons of toxic waste a year. An investigation shows how it could be making workers sick and contaminating communities across America.” And yet the uninformed are wrongly worried about nuclear.

* “Why Democrats Still Have to Appeal to the Center, but Republicans Don’t.” In short, geography and demography mean that Republicans can appeal to a smaller number of people, especially in terms of senators, and still hold power.

* Carbon Capture and Storage is necessary to keep global warming below 2°C. A good way to participate in this yourself is via Climeworks. That almost no one is participating, tells us important information.

* Bookstores are doing better, and there’s some positive news around reading.

* On the Chinese education system and philosophy. See also me on Bringing Up Bébé.

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* “What polarization data from 9 countries reveals about the US.” Polarization, if this data is correct, isn’t coming purely from the Internet.

* Review of Ross Douthat’s new book. Doesn’t have enough to say about how housing costs are distorting households and politics but is useful overall.

* The social media trap.

* Starlink is a big deal. Most people don’t appreciate or get this.

* Ezra Klein on Why We’re Polarized, among many other topics.

* The Enemies of Writing. See also Wokeademia, about how some enemies of writing have gotten enmeshed in the university system, among other things.

* “Against Against Billionaire Philanthropy.” Donations by rich people are better than not, and criticism is misguided.

* Classics loved and hated by Goodreads users.

* How negativity can ruin relationships.

* The Chinese population crisis: underpopulation is the real problem there, as with most other countries.

* The latest James Wood collection.

* “Educated Fools.” One sample: “it’s unthinkable that the college-educated base of the party would trust a high school graduate without a four-year degree to run for or hold a serious office. We don’t trust them, and would never vote for one of them. Why should they trust or vote for one of us?

It used to be otherwise.”

Links: The diversity mafia, research blogs, learning, moving, and more!

* “Guy Gavriel Kay: ‘I learned a lot about false starts from JRR Tolkien.’

* “The National Book Foundation Defines Diversity Down.” You may notice (or not notice) that I stopped following book awards a long time ago: most of them are way too political and yet simultaneously intensely boring. Notices of most book awards on book covers put me off. Fiction sales have been falling since 2013 or so—around the time smartphones became ubiquitous. This seems bad to me in various ways, but we also seemed to be locked in a cycle where the bigger publishers focus on a narrower set of reading constituents, so other potential reading constituents don’t read as much, which tells publishers not to focus on them. Or we could just be seeing a secular change in how people deploy time.

* “Why New York Times Readers Love to Hate Bret Stephens: What the columnist writes is not what his detractors read.” Moral pollution and the desire for moral purity makes us disdain ideas we ought to entertain.

* “Why I keep a research blog.”

* How we lost the right to move freely.

* “The Twitter Electorate Isn’t the Real Electorate.” Our cultural and institutional immune systems need to develop antibodies against the tyranny of the minority. So far they haven’t.

* “The hottest new thing in sustainable building is, uh, wood.”

* On Napoleon Chagnon.

* Home ownership is the West’s biggest economic-policy mistake.

* Deceit, Desire, and the Literature Professor: Why Girardians Exist.

* “A ‘radical proposition’: A health care veteran tries to upend the system and bring drug prices down.”

* “Why Twitter May Be Ruinous for the Left: It’s a machine for misunderstanding other people’s ideas and identities. How do you even organize that?”

* “Internet use reduces study skills in university students.”

* Talk about book reviewing and book reviewers. I’ve read too much on the topic, but this is pretty good.

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