Links: Dell and Linux and freedom, chestnuts, inequality and online dating, and more!

* Dell Opens Up About Its Linux Efforts And Project Sputnik. I gotta say, though, Dell’s website and comparison tools are insanely confusing. I feel like there has to be a better way. Like Apple’s way.

* On the greatness of the chestnut.

* The Northeast Is Becoming Apartment Country.

* How Europe learned to fear China. Too late, it seems.

* “Breaking up Big Tech would be a big mistake.” The problem is less with the companies involved than in us, the users.

* The anatomy of online dating has been revealed in unprecedented detail. Much of what’s been found is politically incorrect but simultaneously obvious. Also, “Attraction Inequality and the Dating Economy.” Does this sound familiar? In 2014 I wrote The inequality that matters II: Why does dating in Seattle get left out?“, and it stands up well today.

* “In L.A., Birthplace of Sprawl, Homes on Transit Fetch More.” Why would they not? Driving sucks and parking is expensive (not always in directly monetary terms, either).

* “Michel Houellebecq: Prophet or Troll?” Not the best essay and full of undergraduate errors, but parts resonate.

* “The Need That Democrats Aren’t Addressing: Candidates must challenge the public to give, not just promise the public more of what it gets.” This is consistent with my read. Likewise “How Not to Lose to Donald Trump.” A lot of what I read and hear in the media plays well to California and New York and academia and almost nowhere else, despite the fact that the vast majority of electoral college votes are in those other places.

* Linus Torvalds on social media (majority of the interview covers other topics, but I like his rant):

I absolutely detest modern “social media”—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. It’s a disease. It seems to encourage bad behavior.

I think part of it is something that email shares too, and that I’ve said before: “On the internet, nobody can hear you being subtle”. When you’re not talking to somebody face to face, and you miss all the normal social cues, it’s easy to miss humor and sarcasm, but it’s also very easy to overlook the reaction of the recipient, so you get things like flame wars, etc., that might not happen as easily with face-to-face interaction.

This rant is consistent with Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism. A lot of people seem to be living crappier lives than they otherwise would due to social media.

* “The Corruption of the Republican Party.” I’d like to see a better Republican and Democratic party, as you can probably tell from this batch of links. If you identify too much with one party or the other, you are probably not thinking for yourself enough.

* Philip Pullman on loosening the chains of the imagination. We seem to be tightening those chains.

* A striking, unusual reading of modern British life, although it is not framed that way.

* The new, good decaf, yet it can’t get any respect. Dare I admit I like it?

* Boeing’s lax, fucked-up corporate culture and how it contributes to airline crashes. This is another example.

* The Legend of Keanu Reeves?

* A college president stands up for academic freedom. That this is notable, is depressing.

* Why we stink at tackling climate change. I’ve gotten reader pushback regarding stories about technological ways to ameliorate climate change. While I get the pushback, the current trajectory seems to be, “Let’s not do much of anything,” which has problems of its own.

Links: The outrageous medical bills, the great psychedelic debates, the mystery of fertility rates, the rise and fall of nations, and more!

* “We Make Tenure Decisions Unfairly. Here’s a Better Way.” This is really a “why to end tenure and move to long-term contracts” article, though it is not pitched that way.

* How to fight an outrageous medical bill, explained.

* On the Eve of the Great Psychedelic Debate.

* Putin Exodus. Makes sense to me. Russia’s future seems bleak. For almost all of Russian history, the smartest thing a Russian person could do is leave, and today that is still true.

* Why Do Fertility Rates Rise and Fall?

* “Why I remain a Never Trumper, and what it means.” Makes sense to me.

* “The Streets Were Never Free. Congestion Pricing Finally Makes That Plain..” Seems obvious to me.

* Christensen Scorecard: Data visualization of US postsecondary institution closures and mergers.

* What the private school counseling office grind is really like.

* “#NotMe: On Harassment, Empowerment, and Feminine Virtue.” The rare reasonable and cogent essay in this field.

* “What happens after rich kids bribe their way into college? I teach them.” Pretty close to my experience. Look at the incentives!

* “Student activists demand the punishment of a dissenting professor Samuel Abrams: The university’s response signals a worrying tendency in academia.” Remind me why we have tenure again, per link #1?

* “The invigorating strangeness of Friedrich Nietzsche.” He looks like another word game (or word salad) writer, who, when you investigate him deeply enough, you find nothing.

* The Memetic Tribes of Culture War 2.0. Much more interesting than the title implies.

* “The Corporations Devouring American Colleges.” I would frame this as college sellout more than anything else, but it is useful. I’ve been arguing for a while that colleges have incredible marketing, perhaps the best marketing of any industry in the United States.

* Another piece on why rent control fails.

* The symbiotic growth of the automobile industry and law enforcement..

* The age of robot farmers? Not quite yet, but impressive progress is being made.

* Halle Butler’s novel The New Me sounds good (review at the link) but also too depressing for me to read. If you brave it, report back.

Links: Free speech, free persons, smart is not enough, biking is fun, and more!

* “Unpopular Speech in a Cold Climate.” It’s like we have to learn all over again why we have free speech, the right to be represented by an attorney, etc.

* “Gwern’s AI-Generated Poetry.” I wonder how many people would be able to pick out “real” poems compared to AI-generated poems. I’m not sure I always can.

* How to Create Reality: “So a funny thing happened on Twitter this week, which almost changed the world a little bit. Someone sent me a beautiful 3-D mockup of a fictional, car-free city of 50,000 people, set in the scenic nook of land* between Boulder, Colorado and Longmont, where I live.”

* “Science, Small Groups, and Stochasticity.” In short, we are doing the structure of science wrong.

* “Defense Disaster: Russia and China are Crushing the U.S. Military in War Games.” Are we still fighting the last war?

* U.S. Firms Are Helping Build China’s Orwellian State.

* “The Art of Being Single,” a depressing article that is congruent with Lost Connections.

* A Big Little Idea Called Legibility. A great essay.

* “Nihilist in Chief: The banal, evil, all-destructive reign of Mitch McConnell.” He is the truest villain in modern politics, yet no one seems to notice. Also, “How Not to Lose to Donald Trump.” Lessons the left may not have learned.

* “Smart Is Not Enough: What Marc Benioff Taught Me When I Was 15 Years Old.”

* Owning a Car Will Soon Be as Quaint as Owning a Horse? I’m less optimistic, but the analogies are interesting.

* Writing Sex for Money is Hard F*cking Work.

* Funny screed against Bret Easton Ellis’s recent book, although it sounds like the reviewer is doing many of the same things Ellis is doing. Pot, kettle, black, and all that. I’m also not a fan of attacking writers based on demographic categories, though that seems to be on the rise.

* “Vitalik Buterin Is Embracing a New Role: Political Theorist.” There are either details missing in this story or I’m not fully getting it.

* “Write of Passage, a new online course on how to accelerate your career by writing online.”

* US cities need to learn from Copenhagen, stat. Likelihood of this happening? Low.

* “The corporations devouring American colleges.” Based on a decade working in them, I’d observe that colleges are businesses with extremely good PR and marketing arms.

Links: The cost of construction, writing really long fiction, computerized farms, and more!

* Why American Costs Are So High.

* “What’s Left of the Center-Left?” Depressing. Also depressing, Clinton-era centrist Democrat Brad DeLong explains why the center-left is dead.

* Charlie Stross: Lessons learned: writing really long fiction.

* “What if All the World’s Economic Woes Are Part of the Same Problem?“, and that problem is demographic: an aging workforce is less innovative, takes fewer risks, and is more sclerotic overall.

* “Leaked Documents Show the U.S. Tracking Journalists Through a Secret Database.” How is this the country we’ve ended up living in?

* “Why Do People Love to Hate Steven Pinker? By proclaiming the gospel of human progress, the Harvard psychologist has made a lot of enemies.” I see a lot of straw-manning Pinker and almost no steel-manning of him.

* “Progressivism and the West;” we are our own worst enemies!

* “This is Roquette Science: How computerized arugula (aka roquette) farms take over the world.”

* But at least one random writer thinks Biden will win, which sounds like a good, electable outcome to me.

* An essay against Taleb’s Antifragile.

* “The Industrial Revolution of Shame.” Does this enhance rewards to shamelessness?

* On the new translation of The Odyssey.

* Attraction Inequality and the Dating Economy.

* “US to build six nuclear power plants in India.” Total comedy given the seeming inability of the US to build nuclear power plants in the US.

Links: Breakthrough technologies, breaking technology habits, the nature of language, and more!

* How one guy ditched his phone and unbroke his brain.

* America’s Professional Elite: Wealthy, Successful and Miserable. Maybe.

* “Better babblers.” This rings true:

After eighteen years of being a professor, I’ve graded many student essays. And while I usually try to teach a deep structure of concepts, what the median student actually learns seems to mostly be a set of low order correlations. They know what words to use, which words tend to go together, which combinations tend to have positive associations, and so on. But if you ask an exam question where the deep structure answer differs from answer you’d guess looking at low order correlations, most students usually give the wrong answer.

* Related to the above, “Humans Who Are Not Concentrating Are Not General Intelligences.” This may argue for more in-depth books and articles and less Twitter.

* Thoughts on pre-Facebook, pre-Twitter Internet culture.

* “University of California system terminates subscriptions with world’s largest scientific publisher in push for open access to publicly funded research.” Unabashedly good news.

* The New ‘Dream Home’ Should Be a Condo. An obvious point to regular readers, but here it is.

* Money Out of Nowhere: How Internet Marketplaces Unlock Economic Wealth.

* “‘Men Are Scum’: Inside Facebook’s War on Hate Speech.” Some of the framing is bad but the overall article is far superior to most of its type.

* “A Radically Moderate Answer to Climate Change.” You may be getting tired of reading about nuclear power, yet we still seem as a culture not to be paying attention to it. See also “Nuclear goes retro — with a much greener outlook.” By the way, Vacant-land mythology impedes serious energy discussions, so renewables are not a panacea.

* “‘Do you ever think about me?’: the children sex tourists leave behind.” Brutal, fascinating.

* “The Era of Limited Government Is Over.” This is bad news even for people who favor greater government control.

* “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff ran $1M slush fund by diverting campaign cash to his own companies.” The greater the purity facade, the more entertaining the fall.

* “Arizona State University: From party school to global brand.” The story is poorly organized but despite that, there are interesting nuggets throughout. The story’s quality and venue may also indicate why people interested in ideas migrated away from most newspapers.

* “Markets Aren’t Buying Denial on Climate Change: Investors who put money at risk behave as if it’s not a hoax.”

* 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2019, curated by Bill Gates.

Links: Email’s evils, nuclear needs, rail reductions, Jordan Peterson talk, and debt, debt, debt

* Is email making professors stupid?

* The trouble in getting to Denmark.

* Why the United States will never have high-speed rail, or, the downsides of federalism and our legal culture.

* Conversation with Tyler, “Jordan Peterson on Mythology, Fame, and Reading People.” Lord of the Rings is mentioned. This one is a favorite and also a rebuttal to the occasional “intellectual lightweight” comments one sees online.

* “The Nuclear Option: As atomic power fades, a new band of supporters argues that it is still our best source of clean, reliable, and—yes—safe electricity.”

* “How Student Debt Dragged A Generation Down — And What We Can Do About It.” The supposed “solutions” are pretty lame and don’t solve moral hazard problems. We have a huge problem in that there is a tension between access and cost control. For example, right now many universities have zero incentive to offer programs that will pay back loans and admit students likely to be able to pay back loans. If you make colleges and universities have some skin in the game, though, they will immediately change access rules. “There is no such thing as a free lunch” is a useful rule here. We also need cultural changes: the idea that a degree guarantees a good job and high income is ridiculous, but we don’t want to confront that reality, either. In short, this writer is like 85% correct, but the other 15% really matters.

* “Postmodern Philosophy is a Debating Strategy,” and not an accurate description of much of anything.

* “Climeworks: The Tiny Swiss Company That Thinks It Can Help Stop Climate Change.” Not just the usual.

* From Literature to Web Development: My first 6 weeks at Lambda School.

* “What Happens When Techno-Utopians Actually Run a Country” is not a good title, as the article concerns Italy’s political scene and what happens when the revolutionaries win the power, but the article itself is interesting and makes me wish Umberto Eco were still alive and writing.

* Betty Ballantine, Who Helped Introduce Paperbacks, Dies at 99.

* “Accused College Students Deserve the Presumption of Innocence: Nineteen attorneys general are lobbying against extending that right in Title IX cases on campus.” The current situation is bizarre—and does not reflect well on universities.

* China Will Likely Corner the 5G Market—and the US Has No Plan.

* The evolution of America’s apartment buildings.” Most of these look good to me; I’d move in.

* The Story of Storytelling.

* The state of culture on the Internet, albeit disguised as a different topic.

* “A tale of two 20003s: high rises or high rents.” Fairly obvious and yet strangely opaque to many people.

* System76 Thelio: A Review.

* “I Ditched My Phone and Unbroke My Brain.”

Links: Reading, distraction, Soundcloud rap, Lionel Trilling, bleak Instagram, and more!

* How SoundCloud Rap Took Over Music. I have no idea if any of this is true, but I laughed consistently throughout.

* I prefer the Arts & Letters Daily title, “Lionel Trilling belonged to the last generation of academics who believed that they had something of social importance to communicate.”

* “If San Francisco is so great, why is everyone I love leaving?” This author manages to write a couple thousand words without mentioning “zoning” or “supply” or “demand,” demonstrating that she actually has no idea what’s going on.

* Cal Newport on Why We’ll Look Back at Our Smartphones Like Cigarettes.

* White gold: the rise of alternative milks.

* “‘The Linux of social media’—How LiveJournal pioneered (then lost) blogging.” Interesting that LiveJournal couldn’t turn itself into WordPress or Facebook. In some ways, this is a mismanagement and missed opportunities story. Despite all the Facebook hate in the media, LiveJournal’s story shows how many things Facebook got right—whether you like the company or not, its users sure seem to like it.

* The Oxford Bodleian Library’s ‘secret trove of obscene material.’ In the Times Literary Supplement, so it’s likely SFW. Similarly, “Psst, want to see some dirty books? Try the British Library.”

* The bleak reality of the Instagram experience.

* “Why Have Other Countries Been Dropping Their Wealth Taxes?” Pay attention to reality, not to the slogans.

* The article about Ursula K. le Guin.

* “The Throwback Democrat: Sherrod Brown could help his party win back white working-class voters—but he’s out of sync with the mercilessness of American politics.” Do Democrats want to be Twitter woke, or do they want to win?

* A Sensible Climate Change Solution, Borrowed From Sweden.

* “Public Education’s Dirty Secret.” Matches what I’ve heard. One advantages colleges have, which I rarely see mentioned, is that people actively hostile to the classroom experience leave or are made to leave.

* “Since when is reading James Baldwin out loud in class an academic crime?” Academia parodies itself so effectively that the need for academic novels seems to have dropped.

* “Is the Revolution of 3D-Printed Building Getting Closer?” Let’s hope so, as that would likely substantially decrease construction costs.

* Japanese urbanism and its application to the Anglo-World.

* “Tyler Cowen’s Gospel of Prosperity,” an interview as marvelous as the book that generated it, Stubborn Attachments.

* Reading in the Age of Constant Distraction.

* “The Twitter Takeover of Politics Is Just Getting Started.” Depressing and important. See also The Revolt of The Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium.

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