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.

Links: On Chesil Beach, the nature of teaching, the nature of progress, the lack of progress in the humanities, and more!

* “Karley Sciortino: the sex blogger and Slutever presenter redefining sexuality.” My read of the book here.

* “Steven Marcus, Columbia Scholar and Literary Critic, Dies at 89.”

* “Student-Led Classrooms Waste Teacher Skill.” And learning styles seem to be a myth and “direct instruction” is effective.

* “Equality Is a Mediocre Goal. Aim for Progress.” It’s also striking to me how often “inequality” refers to a single metric, when many others also matter.

* “The Redistribution of Sex,” from Ross Douthat, and one of (many) pieces that show the weakness of the Twitter model: there just aren’t enough characters for nuance and development. Which is an old criticism but still true.

* “A Dying Scientist and His Rogue Vaccine Trial.” Cool.

* “The Commodification of Learning and the Decline of the Humanities.” This is congruent with my experience but I also have to ask, awkwardly: Where’s the evidence??

* 50 Pulp Cover Treatments of Classic Books.

* “New York City Street Parking Is Preposterously Corrupt.” Parking in general is crazy: everyone ought to read the high cost of free parking.

* An interesting comment on The Case Against Education.

* The Passion of Jordan Peterson.

* 24,000 Liters of Wine in the Hold: 40 Years of Globalization.”

* The Hyperfragmentation of Retail and Why the Biggest Winners are Digital Ad Platforms. I think of companies like Outlier, which solve specific problems (in this case bike pants) that others don’t or can’t or don’t notice.

* “Sweetgreen Has a Damage-Control Plan for Its New Salads.” Another new (ish?) company that’s underrated.

* “The First Porn President,” which is better than the usual but still about half is incorrect or at least not my view.

* From the NYT, “‘Who Gets to Be Sexy?’ Technology has made it possible for just about anyone to shoot, direct and star in their own porn films. Women are leading the new guard.” Well, it is the NYT, but also the Sunday Styles section.

* Are kids the enemy of writing? Probably not.

* Ian McEwan on On Chesil Beach, the movie version, but most interesting may be this, about his son finding one of McEwan’s books in the school curriculum: “Compelled to read his dad’s book – imagine. Poor guy . . . I confess I did give him a tutorial and told him what he should consider. I didn’t read his essay but it turned out his teacher disagreed fundamentally with what he said. I think he ended up with a C+.”

Links: The Virgin Suicides, UBI isn’t feasible, Alan Jacobs, and more!

* Why The Virgin Suicides Is Still So Resonant Today.

* Universal basic income is not feasible. I think it’s a cool idea and it could one day be feasible but isn’t now.

* Alan Jacobs: a Christian intellectual for the internet age.

* Bill Gates wants to make a universal flu vaccine.

* California and liberalism’s golden dream. Note especially the part about middle-income people fleeing California, which has largely become a state devoted to the very rich and very poor. And the state is busily pursuing land-use policies that reinforce this divide.

* No, teachers are not underpaid.

* In “What happened to the academic novel?” I quoted the original author as saying, “what happens when reality outpaces satire, or at least grows so outlandish that a would-be jester has to sprint just to keep up?” Now, in “State of Conflict,” we get an absurd story that shows how academic reality outruns academic satire. In it, a nineteen-year-old Nebraska student “set up a folding table on a plaza outside the student union and covered it in pamphlets, stickers, and buttons that said ‘Big Government Sucks!'” In return, “Lawton, a 46-year-old graduate student in the English department… left to make a sign: ‘Just say NO! to neo-Fascism.’ She was so agitated that she misspelled ‘fascism’ and had to start over.” If you are a 46-year old grad student, chances are that something is very wrong. The correct response to a sign one doesn’t like is the typical response: “Most people walked by without a second look.” Lawton didn’t do what typical people do and evidently doesn’t know what fascism is, either, apart from a slur.

* “Learn to Ride: E-bikes are great—as long as people know how to ride them. Here’s how to make sure they’re safe.”

* “Pimps Are Preying on Sex Workers Pushed Off the Web Because of FOSTA-SESTA.” Likely SFW.

* “Why doesn’t the federal government protect access to affordable housing the way it does access to TV?” A great point I’d never really thought about.

Links: Outing club is outing no more, electric buses, housing, and more!

* “Medicare will require hospitals to post prices online.” This is really good and important news.

* “Penn State’s 98-Year-Old Outing Club Is No Longer Allowed to Go Outside,” which is congruent with Jean Twenge’s iGen along with everything you’ve read about absurdity in American colleges. In “What happened to the academic novel?” I posited that academia is now too absurd to be satirized. Johann Hari’s excellent book Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions has a chapter devoted to how exposure to nature is critical for human well-being—and now Penn State is apparently banning just that (at least in an organized form).

* “Electric Buses Are Hurting the Oil Industry.” It’s always nice to get unalloyed good news.

* “How Much Is a Word Worth? Declining pay for freelance writers hurts more than just the quality of the prose.” Many people have asked why I don’t freelance for magazines or do similar work in narrative nonfiction. This is why.

* “Promiscuous America: Smart, Secular, and Somewhat Less Happy.” But I don’t buy it: this relies on the General Social Survey. I don’t know if it’s conducted via phone or questionnaire response, but we do know that people lie, a lot, about this subject. See for example “Truth and consequences: using the bogus pipeline to examine sex differences in self-reported sexuality,” though there are many other studies in this vein. I’m also not sure what “happy” really means; some argue that it really means being free from anxiety.

* Democrats’ housing problem.

* Why failing to recycle electronics leaves gold mines untapped.

* “The myth of an ending: why even removing Trump from office won’t save American democracy.”

* “Don’t buy the MacBook Pros even on sale, in my opinion.” I returned a 12″ MacBook because of the absurd size of its trackpad. Otherwise a great machine, but maybe I also avoided keyboard issues. It seems to me that 2015-era Macbook Pros are going to become (or have become) golden-era machines.

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