Links: Yet more on the humanities, what makes an author read, vertical farming, some unusual points, and more!

* “The Humanities as We Know Them Are Doomed. Now What?” I’d add a lot of “purportedly” to this title and article. There is also oddly little discussion of how the humanities have damned themselves, or ourselves, through the pursuit of advocacy and absurdity rather than truth or knowledge. This comic does more to explain the situation than many books.

* “Donald Trump and norms: Resistance needs substance.” Lots of context here, context that is lost in the typical discussion—especially on Twitter.

* “Through the Looking Glass at Concordia University,” which bolsters the first link: “Universities are in a state of crisis, but this crisis did not emerge overnight. It required an hospitable environment to take root. Some journalists and professors have dismissed the phenomenon as a form of moral panic, invented by right-wing provocateurs.”

* “Scholarly publishing is broken. Here’s how to fix it.”

* “Why commuting by public transport makes most people happier,” at least when the subways work.

* “A feminist makes a documentary about Men’s Rights Activists,” not the sort of thing one typically reads.

* He’s One of Brazil’s Greatest Writers. Why Isn’t Machado de Assis More Widely Read?

* “The Tunnel That Could Break New York.” I offer this for its own sake but also because it’s a sign of bad news in civic government; the U.S. better maintenance and more infrastructure, but it simultaneously needs to get costs under control and in line with other developed world countries. If costs are reasonable, voters will get on board. If not, they often won’t. The U.S. may also be suffering from the curse of “good enough.”

* Book culture in New York City.

* “Why capitalism won’t survive without socialism” is a bad title for a good interview with Eric Weinstein; he speaks of institutions with “embedded growth hypotheses” in them, and how those institutions have become dysfunctional over time:

Let’s say, for example, that I have a growing law firm in which there are five associates at any given time supporting every partner, and those associates hope to become partners so that they can hire five associates in turn. That formula of hierarchical labor works well while the law firm is growing, but as soon as the law firm hits steady state, each partner can really only have one associate, who must wait many years before becoming partner for that partner to retire. That economic model doesn’t work, because the long hours and decreased pay that one is willing to accept at an entry-level position is predicated on taking over a higher-lever position in short order. That’s repeated with professors and their graduate students. It’s often repeated in military hierarchies.

Academia suffers similarly.

* “Is Vertical Farming the Future of Your Salad?

* “On Toxic Femininity;” not at all my favorite phrase, but it’s revealing how little one hears it used.

* The Entire History of Steel.

* “Scientists assessed the options for growing nuclear power. They are grim.” Very bad news.

* The very rarely discussed dark side of Airbnb.

* The great Apple keyboard coverup. Good news: the new Apple laptop keyboards are likely resistant to the problems that have plagued models from the last two years. Bad news: models from the last two years are still prone to failure.

* American cities are drowning in car storage.

* “To Recruit Students, Colleges Turn to Corporate-Marketing Playbook.” Profs in humanities departments are probably aghast and impotent.

* Hoity lawyer prefers sexting to lawyering, although that is not the headline; still, I wonder what this tells us about the law and lawyers.

* “How Hospital Administrators Hide the Umbrella.”

* “If you haven’t read @devonzuegel’s post on North American vs Japanese zoning it will help you understand why Tokyo can be dense, highly populated, and cheap, and the US never seems to manage that.”

* How Helsinki Arrived at the Future of Urban Travel First.

Links: MacBook Pro woes, suburbs, the dark net, the puzzle around you, and more!

* “Apple Engineers Its Own Downfall with the Macbook Pro Keyboard.” I had a 12″ Macbook and returned it: the trackpad is absurdly large and, at that time, the keyboard problems were rumored more than proven.

* “Inside a Heist of American Chip Designs, as China Bids for Tech Power.”

* “The myth of revealed preference for suburbs.” Makes sense: if it’s illegal to build the housing people want to live in, they’ll have to live somewhere else.

* “A secret network of women is working outside the law and the medical establishment to provide safe, cheap home abortions.” Probably not that secret if it’s being written about publicly and widely linked online, no?

* “1896: Immigration and The Atlantic;” when it comes to immigration, the dates and specific examples change, but the basic arguments don’t.

* “California Will Be Fourth State to Sue Navient Over Student Loans.” My first impulse is to say, “Good,” but more reflections makes me hesitate; the student loan business exists because of us and fuels the growing costs of college, which in turn fuels the student loan business. We’ve set up this perfidious flywheel and have decided not to dismantle it. Strangely, too, no one or almost no one has tried to set up an academically rigorous, low-cost college. Virtually all colleges except community colleges are following or attempting to follow the Harvard model (tenure, academic “prestige” through “research,” etc.). Maybe it’s time to do something different?

* Andrew Sullivan on why we should say yes to drugs. Not just the usual.

* Grow the puzzle around you, by Jessica Livingston of Founders at Work.

* Review of the Purism 13″ laptop. Given some of Apple’s recent foibles, as noted above, alternatives to the MacBook Pro are important.

* “Can Andy Byford Save the Subways?” Many beautiful details in this story.

Links: Reading, drugs, civility, The Deuce, the schools, and more!

* “Why We Don’t Read, Revisited,” on the American Time Use Survey and related topics. Ill news along many dimensions. See also “Reading, anyone?

* “The Quant King, the Drug Hunter, and the Quest to Unlock New Cures.”

* “‘Don’t burn the flag’ and 11 more rules for free speech.” “You have the right to do things you still shouldn’t do” is the takeaway here.

* “Sex workers vs. the Internet,” presumably SFW, and there is a novel or two in here. Also like SFW, “Pornhub is opening a futuristic, interactive art show.” Given the state of modern art, or “art,” I’d guess this to be better than the (low) average.

* “The War on Tesla, Musk, and the Fight for the Future.”

* “Florida, Full of Dread;” I ordered the book based on this review.

* “Microsoft Employees Up in Arms Over Cloud Contract With ICE.” And how could they not be?

* “‘As a human being, I can’t do that’: Worker at migrant holding facility quits over family separations.” A rare episode of apparent humanity in this despicable episode.

* “Why Women Don’t Code;” certainly not the final answer.

* “How The Deuce Turned Its Lens on a Female Porn Auteur;” it’s in Vanity Fair and so probably SFW.

* Why schools are inept at dealing with bullies—or deal with them poorly. If you guess that lawsuits have a role in this story, you are correct.

* “The trouble with Johnny Depp.” By now you’ve likely read the article, but, if not, here it is.

* “The Legacy of Interview Magazine and a Trip to 1988.”

* How to stop the decline of public transport in rich countries.

* Wendelstein 7-X achieves world record for plasma containment.

* Why alternate vehicles like bikes and scooters will conquer the city.

* Barents Sea seems to have crossed a climate tipping point.

Links: The Model 3 factory, Tolkien and Middle-earth, intra-sex competition, sugar, and more!

* Inside Tesla’s Model 3 factory.

* “Six Forces Disrupting Higher Education.” Seems way overly optimistic to me and doesn’t adequately consider alternate hypotheses.

* Conversations with Tyler: David Brooks on Youth, Morality, and Loneliness. The best line, in my view: “I would say that one of the things that’s noticeable about affluent people — and this has happened to me — is, as soon as people make money, they seem to purchase loneliness.” Not only do we buy loneliness, we then reinforce it through laws. What a bad set of choices! We really ought to stop doing this.

* “Terraforming Ourselves: What sort of world do we want to live in? Science fiction has answered the question in wildly different ways.”

* “How Tolkien created Middle-earth.”

* “The Tinkerings of Robert Noyce.” Tom Wolfe on Intel in 1983.

* “Female Intrasexual Competition: From Demons to Better Angels.”

* “Invisible asymptotes,” a discouraging title for a very good and interesting essay, especially about each tech company later on. Start with the header, “Amazon’s invisible asymptote.”

* A Scrappy Makeover for The Times Literary Supplement, a Tweedy Literary Fixture.

* “American toddlers eat more sugar than the amount recommended for adults.” See Gary Taubes, The Case Against Sugar. Chances are that however bad you may think sugar is, it’s worse.

* “How Batteries Went from Primitive Power to Global Domination:” one of these articles that is all upside and no downside.

* Why is that genre of fiction dead? If you guess the answer is “tax law,” you guess better than I do. Will the rise of ebooks and the infinite publishing capacity they offer revive some “dead” genres? Also, “Cold Equations” is about the publishing industry, and while I don’t approve of some of its framing, it is interesting.

* “The Scooter Economy;” scooter sharing is a bigger deal than is commonly understood by most people. The rise of electric scooters is also a battery story.

* “One Woman Who Knew Her Rights Forced Border Patrol Off a Greyhound Bus.”

* “On the Sad State of Macintosh Hardware.” Absolutely true and also quite strange, given how easy the situation is to rectify. Maybe most users don’t care? Related, “Dell XPS 13 (9360) Review from a lifelong Mac user.”

Links: Abusing the university bureaucracy, democracy, driverless cars, don’t be a writer, and more!

* “Title IX Is Too Easy to Abuse.” Seems obvious, but I’ll repeat it anyway.

* “Politics is bad because we use an 18th century voting system.” Similar to American democracy is doomed.

* “How Trump’s Election Shook Obama: ‘What if We Were Wrong?’“, much more interesting than the usual, especially:

But days later, Mr. Obama seemed less sanguine. “I don’t know,” he told aides. “Maybe this is what people want. I’ve got the economy set up well for him. No facts. No consequences. They can just have a cartoon.”

* “As Uber and Tesla struggle with driverless cars, Waymo moves forward.” Things I had not realized.

* “The Diversity Staff at the University of Michigan Is Nearly 100 People.” I wonder how much diversity that amount of money would buy in terms of raw tuition.

* “How much are words worth?” Though I think this underestimates, dramatically, what many are making; consider e.g. Stratechery, which charges for its newsletter / daily access. Or the many for-profit trade pubs out there. Nonetheless, “Don’t let your kids grow up aspiring to be writers” is good advice.

* What if I’m just a minor writer?

* “Evolution’s Worst Mistake? How About External Testicles?” Article better than the title implies.

* One Reform to Save America.” I’d not heard of the four-party, mid-century concept, but it makes sense. And “There are over 6,000 breweries in America, but when it comes to our politics, we get to choose between Soviet Refrigerator Factory A and Soviet Refrigerator Factory B” is a good point. This is the core of the proposal:

The way to do that is through multimember districts and ranked-choice voting. In populous states, the congressional districts would be bigger, with around three to five members per district. Voters would rank the candidates on the ballot. If no candidate had a majority of first-place votes, then the candidate with the fewest first-place votes would be eliminated. Voters who preferred that candidate would have their second-choice vote counted instead. The process would be repeated until you get your winners.

Sounds like an improvement to me. Political scientists can explain why the current U.S. system doesn’t work (see also the link above).

* “Here’s How Higher Education Dies: A futurist says the industry may have nowhere to go but down. What does the slide look like?” I’d call this speculative; I’ve seen so many essays like it, none of which have come to fruition. This line of argument seemed more reasonable from 2009 – 2013 and seems less plausible today.

* “Pedal power: the rise and rise of cargo bikes in Germany.” I wonder if it’s true or a bogus trend story.

* “Equipment for Living: Losing and recovering oneself in drugs and sobriety.” On psychedelics, ritual, and more.

* “Billions in U.S. solar projects shelved after Trump panel tariff.” The phrase “own goal” comes to mind, for both this and the 2016 election more generally.

Links: Police and bikes, Tom Wolfe and endings, and context, context, context

* “Why Did Police Run This Cyclist Off His Bike? Two NYPD officers veered into Heins Rodriguez and threw him from his bike, but he never faced any charges besides ‘resisting arrest.’ Now, he’s suing the department.”

* “Whither the Slut? Mandy Stadtmiller and Karley Sciortino Reveal All.” The New Yorker on Slutever.

* “The Greatest Gym You’ll Never Lift At,” likely congruent with The Temple of Perfection.

* Getting the ending out of Tom Wolfe.

* “2018 has been deadlier for schoolchildren than service members.” Makes you think but will probably not lead to policy changes.

* “Cycling changed my life, and I never want to own a car again.”

* “How Tech Can Turn Doctors Into Clerical Workers.” Much more moving than expected from the title.

* “Postmodernism and the Decline of the Liberal Arts.”

* “How did music become so unimportant?” Interesting throughout.

* Can Things Be Both Popular And Silenced?

* Why are new antibiotics so hard to find?

* That moon colony will be a reality sooner than you think.

* The new passport-poor, on passports, travel, human freedom, Casablanca, and many other topics.

* “The Engineer vs. the Border Patrol: One man’s quest to outlaw Customs and Border Protection’s internal, possibly unconstitutional immigration checkpoints.”

Links: Threatened democracies, “Friends” and Western Civ, Robin Hanson, campus zealots, and more!

* Actually, American democracy has faced worse threats than Donald Trump: The golden age of American politics was illiberal, undemocratic, and bloody. Still, success in the past is not a good reason for complacency in the present. There is a good essay collection Tyler Cowen contributed to, Can it happen here?, that I’ll write about at some point.

* How Friends Triggered the Downfall of Western Civilization; I think this essay is satire.

* “Jordan Peterson Is Not the Second Coming.” Seemingly everyone now has a Jordan Peterson thinkpiece and this is Reason‘s.

* Excellent NYT reporting on why NYC’s subway is so terrible.

* Scott Aaronson on the Robin Hanson brouhaha that ought not to be a brouhaha. I’m reminded of Paul Graham’s principle that we ought to look “at what people call ideas they disagree with besides untrue.” If someone calls an idea or person something other than “untrue” or “mistaken,” the person or idea labeled is often worth a second look (“often” is not always!).

* “‘It Was Cataclysmic’: Can Snapchat Survive Its Redesign?

* “The Lights Have Gone Out in Caracas.” #socialism.

* How the 50mm lens became normal. Almost anyone who becomes interested in photography buys a cheap-but-good “nifty 50.”

* Is the United States becoming too big to govern? Related to link #1.

* “How my lame joke saw me fall foul of the campus zealots.”

* “College may not be worth it anymore,” a point that I’m amazed it’s taken so long to propagate.

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