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.

Links: UFOs and the military, Twitter is not America, Underland, transit, and more!

* “How angry pilots got the Navy to stop dismissing UFO sightings.” From the WaPo.

* “Twitter Is Not America: A new Pew study finds a gulf between the general population and Twitter users.” Notice, “As the platforms age, their devotees become more and more distinct from the regular person. For more than a decade now, many people in media and technology have been feeding an hour or two of Twitter into our brains every single day.”

* “The End of Being a Duke Professor and What It Means for the Future of Higher Education.”

* “Breathing Dirty Air Affects Children’s Health.” The more you learn, the more designing cities and everyday life around cars seems crazy.

* “The Scruton tapes: an anatomy of a modern hit job: How a character assassination unfolded on Twitter.” See also above, “Twitter Is Not America.”

* “We Don’t Have a Talent Shortage. We Have A Sucker Shortage.” True today, true tomorrow, and probably true for as long as humans are humans.

* “A Voting-Rights Debate Reveals Why Democrats Keep Losing.”

* “The desperate race to cool the ocean before it’s too late.” We’re doing (basically) nothing here.

* What lies beneath: Robert Macfarlane travels ‘Underland.’

* “What I Saw at Middlebury College.”

* “The antibiotics industry is broken—but there’s a fix.”

* “The 2008 financial crisis completely changed what majors students choose.” How could it not?

* “You can’t judge housing affordability without knowing transportation costs.”

* “Lambda, an online school, wants to teach nursing.” Good.

* On Oliver Sacks’ Obsession With Weightlifting.

* What the retiring French ambassador really thinks, another of the pieces that’s much more contentful than the title implies.

* A Quest to Make Gasoline Out of Thin Air: Prometheus.

* Everything I’ve written on Grant Writing Confidential.

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.

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