Links: Diamonds are too much forever for the diamond industry, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Ted Gioia conversation, and more

* Conversation with Ted Gioia; I share the Steven Pinker view, however.

* Things about Phoebe Waller-Bridge. There is not too much of the usual PC stuff, though a little bit appears.

* Age of Invention: Rise of the Mathematicians.

* Single men and women make politics more extreme?

* “Here’s the weird thing about a post-Christian Christendom.” That’s WEIRD as in Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic. We’re quite different than most people have been, ever, and we’re not properly appreciating it, or how differently we’ve been acculturated.

* “How the Insufferably Woke Help Trump: Democrats are insulting and condescending to the swing-state voters they need the most.” More of the obvious, yet here we are.

* Christianity has some aspects that are good that we don’t give it credit for. And, if you take the Christianity out of the American political right, you might be left with something closer to authoritarianism and ethno-nationalism, both of which are much worse than Christianity. By the way, I didn’t see this development coming either, and almost no one did.

* “Martin Scorsese: I Said Marvel Movies Aren’t Cinema. Let Me Explain.” Also seems obvious, though it’s nice to hear a high-status person say it.

* Apple engages in planned obsolescence. Apple also just released a 16″ Macbook Pro, for those of you in the market for such things, and it has a functional keyboard again.

* “Welcome to Culture War 2.0: The Great Realignment.” It’s ill news when too few people are willing to stand up to rationality, free inquiry, and intellectual diversity.

* “Scientists Didn’t Think Climate Change Would Happen So Fast. Now we’re facing consequences once viewed as fringe scenarios.” And the collective response is still to shrug and ignore.

* “Sometimes, Straussians hide truths in plain sight. When they do, they’re concealed in unpopular characters, such as devils, beggars, and buffoons. Pseudonymous Twitter accounts are the new Straussian philosophers, but with one important twist. Instead of sharing their names and hiding the truth, today’s Straussians hide their names, but share the truth.”

* “Government Must Have Reasonable Suspicion of Digital Contraband Before Searching Electronic Devices at the U.S. Border.”

* How California Became America’s Housing Market Nightmare.

* Diamonds keep getting cheaper.

Links: Breaking deadlock, the cultural critic’s death, how do we know what we know, and more!

* Why we should embrace nuclear power.

* “An online tool that can break political deadlock.” Seems optimistic to me and I think most people screaming online like political hatred and rancor. Most normal people don’t do a lot of Twitter or political Facebook. I tend to like people more, the less I see of them on Facebook, and for that reason I want to stay away from Facebook.

* “The death of the great cultural critic.” I also observe that many great cultural critics were caught up with grad schools in various ways that now seem pretty implausible.

* The oil age is ending. Unless that oil ends up being used in spacecraft instead.

* “Another possibility is that all the board seats and face-to-face contact are mostly worthless and that private shareholders think they are better at long-term evaluations than public shareholders, but they are wrong.” A point similar to Thinking, Fast and Slow, as well as Robin Hanson and Kevin Simler. We’re great at fooling ourselves and fooling ourselves often feels good too.

* The global population crash. Overpopulation isn’t a problem; underpopulation is.

* The SpaceX Starship is a very big deal. And so is Starlink.

* Alarming loss of insects and spiders. And we’re indifferent to it.

* “New Atheism: The Godlessness That Failed.” The conclusion is unexpected and also extremely plausible.

* The new invisible competitors, from 2007 yet still germane.

* “The Key to Electric Cars Is Batteries. Chinese Firm CATL Dominates the Industry.” Our response? To shrug.

* “The rot at the heart of American democracy: A political scientist explains the biggest threats to America’s political stability.” Many voters seem not to care.

* Two form of despair, in case you haven’t yet read enough academia quit-lit. I have, but I thought I’d pass this along for those of you who still like the genre. This one has some unusual religious infusion.

* “Those People We Tried to Cancel? They’re All Hanging Out Together.” Entertaining, but also a depressing statement about media and education culture.

* Pay attention to what people are not talking about. And you’re probably better at doing that than the average person (if you’re reading this), but could you be better? I could be.

* Amazingly boring article on the rise and fall of Booth Tarkington. Apparently he cannot be made interesting.

Links: Airbnb and culture, where do we draw the line?, money in politics, and more!

* “How Airbnb is silently changing Himalayan villages.” A deep and beautiful meditation on markets, incentives, and more. I’m subscribing to the site.

* “Every Child Can Become a Lover of Books.” The series starts with a note on how “In the next five years, most of America’s most experienced teachers will retire. The Baby Boomers are leaving behind a nation of more novice educators. In 1988, a teacher most commonly had 15 years of experience. Less than three decades later, that number had fallen to just three years leading a classroom.” But the word “zoning” never appears; in many cities and first-tier suburbs, outrageous land-use laws drive up the cost of housing and make it impractical for teachers to live a normal financial existence. There are undoubtedly many reasons teachers leave, but the financial climate is one, and it’s one we can’t easily buy our way out of—but we sure can reform land-use laws.

* “A Million People Are Jailed at China’s Gulags. I Managed to Escape. Here’s What Really Goes on Inside. Rape, torture and human experiments. Sayragul Sauytbay offers firsthand testimony from a Xinjiang ‘reeducation’ camp.” And this gets little media coverage.

* “The Nazi Party: IBM & ‘Death’s Calculator.’” Given recent news, how many companies do you suppose are asking themselves, “What’s my limit?”

* “Apple’s new Catalina operating system won’t run old versions of Word.” We have been thinking about migrating off Macs at some point; Windows seems to be better than it used to be, and Windows laptops were almost universally terrible ten years ago. Today, the Dell XPS line and Microsoft’s Surfaces both look really nice. Many of the “Just works” aspects of OS X (or, today, MacOS) seem to have declined or disappeared.

* A long piece on Facebook and its dilemmas, that conveniently forgets the role of the media in the 2016 election (remember those thousands of “Clinton email” stories?).

* “I Almost Flipped a Deep Red District. Here’s What I Learned.” We still live in a center-right country, but almost the entire media infrastructure in concentrated in New York and LA—two of the left-most metros in the entire country.

* Inside the collapse of Dyson’s electric car dream. Making cars is really hard.

* “Even the Chinese find it difficult to manufacture in the United States.” I’d add a “Maybe” tag to this one.

* Is there not really much “money in politics,” contrary to what’s often, and thoughtlessly, asserted?

* “Why don’t rich people stop working?” And do what instead? The quality of the thinking here isn’t very high but the question is interesting. Besides, what’s the best way to change the world today? It’s probably not journalism and the media, and that idea helps explain why we have the media we do.

* “Harold Bloom warned America that the literary culture that sustained him was in the process of being sacrificed on the altar of social justice.” And that project has pretty much been completed.

* Why the novel matters. The crux:

It disregards what we would like to say, and be, and appear to be. Tolstoy complained that with Anna Karenina, he sat down to write a condemnatory tale about a woman incapable of self-restraint but that she herself would not permit it. She demanded the more difficult, socially unacceptable and errantly human truth about herself be heard instead. Luckily Tolstoy’s talent proved equal to the challenge and knew he had to follow where she led.

This is why the novel matters, why it always has and why, in dark times, it matters more than in cheerier ones. By its nature the novel cannot be a rush of lights and pictures and noise.

If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound? If so few people read novels, do they “matter” in a larger, global,

* Boeing is now a finance-guy culture, not an engineering culture, and that’s the root cause for the 737 MAX failures.

* Weak arguments for why we need English majors. “Need” is doing a lot of work here, and I’m not sure how good that data on mid-careerist is.

* We Need to Dream Bigger Than Bike Lanes.

* “‘Watership Down’ and the Crisis of Liberalism.”

* “Meghan Daum’s merciless take on modern feminism, woke-ness and cancel culture.” Looks a little boring to me, and better cited than read, but some of you may like it.

Links: Political dissidents in the news, Lockwood on Updike, boredom and revolution, pricing, and more!

* “He Never Intended To Become A Political Dissident, But Then He Started Beating Up Tai Chi Masters.” On China and many other topics.

* Patricia Lockwood on John Updike, which is much better than I thought it’d be (like Updike she does great sentences), and the title, “Malfunctioning Sex Robot: Updike Redux” is funny too. But there’s still too much air-of-superiority-don’t-we-all-agree-about-everything.

* We’re on the cusp of radical change in agriculture? Maybe.

* Where a lot of PC ideas come from.

* Xu Xiaodong Never Intended To Become A Chinese Political Dissident, But Then He Started Beating Up Tai Chi Masters. Much funnier than you might think. All the Cold War novels of dark repression comedy are becoming or have become relevant again.

* Death By 1,000 Clicks: Where Electronic Health Records Went Wrong. I do a lot of work for Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and hang out with a lot of doctors. Just about all doctors and healthcare people hate FQHCs. EHRs also seem to have the same problem as a lot of enterprise and education software: people who choose the software are not primary users of the software and thus judge it differently than primary users.

* How do we move the needle on progress? Many of the themes will be familiar to regular readers.

* The end of sex? Not something commonly seen and also something some of you aren’t going to like.

* The China Cultural Clash. Better than the other pieces on this issue.

* “Sea ‘Boiling’ with Methane Discovered in Siberia.” Expect a lot more of this as global warming accelerates. Also, Fracking boom tied to methane spike in Earth’s atmosphere. We are not working hard enough on nuclear energy.

* How not to be alone.

* Nasa works hard to get probes to land on Mars.

* Pricing niche products: Why sell a mechanical keyboard kit for $1,668?

* “The Deadly Boredom of ‘A Meaningless Life’.”

Links: The financial dangers of college, losing my religion, His Dark Materials, and more!

* “A Very Dangerous Place for a Child Is College.” Yes, and yet we’re not really discussing it.

* More vegetarian options make more people choose vegetables.

* Related to the above: Impossible foods and its efforts to replace burgers.

* America’s New Sex Bureaucracy. And we somehow like this?

* “Three decades ago, Americans lost religion. Why?” The short-term political expediency of twining one political party with religion may have bad long-term consequences. We also seem to have taken up new religions—a common theme on this blog.

* “How climate change is melting, drying and flooding Earth – in pictures.” Source is not bogus, either.

* Research and “gender wars.” I don’t think most of the rhetoric has anything to do with facts or research; it’s mostly tribal and value signaling, so I’m not real optimistic on this one. When an issue takes on tribal valence, quality of discourse and thinking tends to decline.

* “The Atavism of Cancel Culture: Its social rewards are immediate and gratifying, its dangers distant and abstract.” Another of these, “And we somehow like this?” articles.

* “Why It’s So Hard for Entrepreneurs to Get Really Rich in Europe.” I’d frame it differently: “Another reason it’s so hard to scale businesses in Europe.”

* The Fallen Worlds of Philip Pullman. His Dark Materials is great and if you haven’t read it, you should.

* The Seven-Year Auto Loan: America’s Middle Class Can’t Afford Their Cars. The response ought to be to reform zoning laws and support the construction of more and better mass transit, but the likely response will be “business as usual.”

Links: Cycling like the Dutch, the culture war comes for NYC kids, smartphones and culture, and more!

* “How I Learned to Cycle Like a Dutchman.” This seems so much more pleasant than the American alternative, and simultaneously much less likely to kill and maim people.

* “When the Culture War Comes for the Kids.” The subtext is, “If you’re a normal person, get out of New York.” The city is fine for the very rich or very poor and terrible for most people in between; the very rich can buy their way out of the crazier aspects of the culture war, if they choose, but those who are barely covering rent and onerous taxes cannot.

* Progress, but not fast enough, on Gen IV nuclear reactors.

* Mom won’t buy her teenagers smartphones. See also iGen and also The Coddling of the American Mind for related ideas.

* “The myth of the wealthy welder.” Provides useful perspective but for many people, the choice is between something like welding or poverty, not welding and a successful degree in a remunerative subject from a four-year school. We need a lot more apprenticeships and vocational education and a lot less standard-issue four-year college.

* “The Story of Caroline Calloway & Her Ghostwriter Natalie.” Like the second link, the meta lesson is get out of New York / LA. Moreover, going to expensive private schools has significant downsides, especially when one majors in the humanities in them.

* “‘Ecological grief’ grips scientists witnessing Great Barrier Reef’s decline.” Collective response: nothing.

* Greedy hospitals fleecing the poor. And not just the poor, either, as I’ve discovered.

* Why the Fossil Record Is Mostly Males. One of the many stories that may make you doubt some contemporary social-culture-media norms.

* Did you know peer review wasn’t ubiquitous until the ’70s? This should give reformers heart.

* Can innovation be sped up? Maybe not, in this reading. I’d argue we’re not even seriously trying.

* “George Washing University (GWU) aims to get smaller and ‘better.'” “Better” is a weird metric here. The president “wants to expand programs in science, technology, engineering and math.” It’s telling that the humanities are absent from that list: I wonder how many humanities professors are working to make the field more rigorous and less ideological.

* Social media could make it hard to grow up? Flatters my existing prejudices, so beware.

* Why do some people become readers?

* The widely discussed Boeing 737 Max article, but it’s about a whole lot more. Killing Bombardier looks pretty dumb today. Boeing is dysfunctional and yet there’s no practical alternative to it.

* How to reform the economics PhD. Econ is not the only field that could do with similar reforms.

* Speaking of schools, a pdf on the effet of being the child of an alumni, an athlete, or the child of a faculty of a faculty member on Harvard admissions, based on data thrown off by that lawsuit about how Harvard discriminates against Asians.

* Will America’s debt doom us? Remember, the sign of the crisis is the crisis.

* The college admission trilemma.

* “A Decade Later, the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Has Left an Abyssal Wasteland.” It’s curious that we rarely take such things into account when considering urban policy.

Links: The electric scooter, the comfort college, stamina succeeds?, and more

* “The rise of the electric scooter.” Which is awesome and underrated in the media.

* The rise of the comfort college. Depressing and consistent with my classroom experiences. Strangely, the New York Times Book Review just published a letter to the editor on related subjects.

* Does poetry have street cred? Does it just need to focus on being more structured and less boring?

* Are too many people going to college? It’s strange that these ideas aren’t also more common.

* Apple stacked the app store with its own products. If there’s a monopoly problem in tech companies right now, it’s almost certainly with Apple, not with the usual suspects.

* “The One Thing No Israeli Wants to Discuss.” The contemporary discourse around the Middle East is frequently missing precisely this history—it’s as if someone is trying to understand some aspects of contemporary American politics without mentioning 9/11.

* Universities say they want strong academics and diversity, but they really want rich kids. I can only say that I’m shocked, shocked to find gambling going on in this cafe.

* Stamina succeeds?

* Why industry is quietly going green. Amusing and counterintuitive.

* “Malaria breakthrough as scientists find ‘highly effective’ way to kill parasite.” This is likely to be bigger news than anything else you read this month, if it’s true.

* Food innovation news.

* “Why Are American Homes So Big?” A lot of them are too big and located in the wrong places.

* The rush from judgment. Views rarely heard, except sometimes from Bryan Caplan.

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