Links: The ills facing “creative” writing, medical news, chips and China, and more!

* “Who killed creative writing?” is the title, but also, notice this: “I have known several published authors who, struggling on the midlist in mid-career, have gone back and gotten MFAs for the sole purpose of securing a teaching job. These authors had often published multiple books and been celebrated in their time.” The economic basis for writing books, which has always had its challenges, is perhaps weaker than ever.

* Why don’t doctors study the clitoris? From the NYT.

* Human challenge trials are a good idea.

* “Was Jack Welch the Greatest C.E.O. of His Day—or the Worst?” A story reminiscent of the ones about the guys from McDonnell Douglas who financialized Boeing and destroyed a great company in the process.

* We should have COVID nasal vaccines.

* Actual mental illness is not a meme.

* Chips and China. Also: “How China Lost America,” which is a framing one doesn’t see much, but perhaps should.

* “Nobody Seems to Have an Answer for Propaganda Posing as Local News.” Which is another way of saying: “No one has a way to make local news make money.” And that’s been true for at least a decade, and likely longer.

* Philip Roth and American manhood. Not exactly how I’d frame it, but more interesting than the usual.

* “China’s weapons acquisition cycle 5-6x faster than the United States — ‘We are going to lose’ if we don’t change.” Speed matters.

Links: Casanova biography, the case for optimism, where life comes from, and more!

* “The Thoughtful Prick,” an essay on Casanova and the new biography of him.

* The Case for Energy Optimism, and I’m subscribing to the RSS feed on the strength of this essay. He notes, for example, that “Over the last few years cobalt demand estimates have been crushed by developments in cathode chemistry due to cost and performance improvements in simpler chemistries – I am sceptical that this is the last time that today’s ‘unobtainium’ becomes tomorrows chopped liver.” When you hear about fundamental resource limitation, be politely skeptical: usually that means “prices haven’t risen sufficiently to make the investment in more acquisition worthwhile.”

* “Xi Jinping, forever: China has shackled itself to…this one mediocre guy.” The last paragraph is excellent, and the Xi episode a reminder of the strengths of the system mentioned there.

* Maybe those UFO reports aren’t actually UFOs. A shame, as I wanted to believe: but I’ve seen pushback against this, too: even if most UFO reports have terrestrial explanations, some, it seems, don’t.

* Fiction in the age of screens, which is very long, and which says that written fiction is uniquely capable of helping us acquire other perspectives; but I’m not sure that this property is unique to fiction, relative to many forms of narrative nonfiction, and even some non-narrative nonfiction. The end is worth reading, although without the journey it will mean less:

But at least, if the novel falls, it won’t be because of its artistic essence. It won’t be replaced in its effects by equivalent television or video games or any other extrinsic medium. If the novel goes, it will be because we as a culture drifted away from the intrinsic world. Left without the novel our universe will be partitioned up, leaving us stranded within the unbreachable walls of our skulls. And inside, projected on the bone, the flicker of a screen.

* “The irrelevance of test scores is greatly exaggerated.”

* More about John le Carré; I think the essays are more useful than the books.

* How food powers your body, how the Krebs cycle works, and the origins of life, as well as where life might be headed if we can engineer our metabolisms better.

* “The death of god and the decline of the humanities.” This reads like a dispatch from another century; I like the anachronistic usage of “profane literature.”

* Missile defense is obviously better than the alternative and we should do it.

Links: On John le Carré, the future of masks, what remains of literary culture, and more!

* “How Smiley’s people conquered Britain:” not the usual.

* “The Masks We’ll Wear in the Next Pandemic: N95s are good. Some scientists want to do much better.” Or, will they turn out to be like condoms, in that regulation and path dependence will prevent improvement?

* A mark of the death of literary culture. I read the interview in question, which I’d call closer to anodyne than “incendiary.” Have you noticed, as I have, how pallid almost all of the American novels of the last five to seven years have been? I have.

* Why wasn’t the steam engine invented earlier? Part III.

* “ACT scores continue to decline, dropping to lowest levels in 30 years.” I wonder how many high school students read for pleasure. See also “Computers and education: An example of conventional wisdom being wrong,” which is from 2013, but is applicable to pandemic learning losses too. I’m not sure online education works well for most people, and I still think that focus and concentration are the biggest barriers to learning for most people.

* Why was the Lyme disease vaccine tossed away?

* The appeal of Andrew Tate?

* What Alan Moore has been up to; Lost Girls may still be his most interesting and weirdest work.

* “The Environmentalists Undermining Environmentalism,” or how the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) undermines its own stated goals. Stasis is not progress, even though NEPA encourages stasis.

* In favor of the lab-leak hypothesis.

Links: Unblocking abundance, the death of literary culture, on “supplements,” and more!

* “How Americans edit sex out of my writing” is consistent with me in “The death of literary culture.” Vibrant and realistic writing isn’t likely to be found in books by mainstream / legacy American publishers any more: it’s likely to be found online, or nowhere. If you’d like more, albeit on another genre, here is a writer on the way “Formalists will define a poem by its technical elements, such as rhyme, meter, cadence and metaphor, while free-verse poststructuralists might discuss poetic elements of authenticity, voice and self-expression,” and today the latter have won: “When I later became part of the “poetry world,” however, I realized that no one cared about my ideas. Rather, audiences wanted my traumas punctuated by millennial irony and a kind of wink-wink cleverness.” Some formalists are still out there, but they’re hard to find.

* “Failing Introductory Economics: A Davidson professor bemoans the state of his classroom.” Note the comments about performance across time, although I wonder if Davidson is a school that’s suffering in the COVID era.

* “Ten years of YIMBYism have accomplished a lot.” Good. You’ve seen me touch on these topics.

* “How Trustworthy Are Supplements?” “Pretty trustworthy, actually” appears to be the answer, which isn’t what I would’ve guessed.

* “The Weakness of Xi Jinping: How Hubris and Paranoia Threaten China’s Future.”

* New COVID-19 boosters are highly effective and useful.

* “Shein and the Tech Cold War.” Note the dangers of TikTok included in there, too.

* “Unblocking Abundance.” Material that will feel familiar to regular readers, but here is another version of that which should be obvious.

Links: Math as the great secret, Paul Graham learns from users, the power of ideology, and more!

* Math is the great secret.

* “Academic Administrators Are Strangling Our Universities.” Not the best-argued thing I’ve ever read, but has some perspective.

* Are non-drone combat aircraft now worthless?

* What Paul Graham has learned from users.

* “The Ideological Refusal to Acknowledge Evolved Sex Differences.”

* “Factory Jobs Are Booming Like It’s the 1970s.”

* “And yet the wokies continue to represent students as oppressed truth-tellers and advocates, rather than as entitled consumers who expect to be handed everything in exchange for their crushing loan debt.” For more, see “NYU organic chemistry professor terminated for tough grading.” Although it’s possible that he was, or is, a bad teacher—but, if so, why did, and do, schools tolerate poor instruction over long periods of time? Speaking of length, long-time readers may recall me writing about how nothing incentivizes professors to grade honestly (as with many things I write, “what is true” and “what might be true in an ideal world” differ. You may read here a recent, improbable proposal for reforming universities.

* Interview with Alec Stapp on progress and progress studies.

* “To save downtowns, we need to embrace windowless bedrooms.” Among other things. Segregation of urban uses, apart from heavy industrial uses, was and is mostly a mistake.

Links: The end of a culture, the need for abundance, Inspector Maigret, and more!

* “The Last Member of an Uncontacted Tribe: He lived alone in the forest for twenty-six years before dying last month. What did he experience?” Moving, sad, and beautiful, especially the final paragraph.

* “The Long March of the YIMBYs [“Yes in my backyard”—persons who favor constructing more housing]: Slowly, the tide is starting to turn.”

* “Tech Companies Slowly Shift Production Away From China.” Good, if it’s true.

* “The Case for Abolishing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).” Like the “Patriot Act,” which is not patriotic, NEPA actually harms the environment, rather than helping it. Notice: “If you think a two year, million dollar, 1,000+ page environmental report simply to build new bike lanes in an already developed city seems absurd, you’re not alone.” And, also: “America is absolutely drowning in process, forms, and reviews.”

* “How Europe Stumbled Into an Energy Catastrophe.” “Not building out nuclear power” is the short answer. Notice how many of the plans think about the next months, rather than the next decades. It’s obviously necessary to survive in the short term to get to the long term,

* “The Mysterious Case of Inspector Maigret:” on Georges Simenon and his creation.

* “A Chinese Spy Wanted GE’s Secrets, But the US Got China’s Instead.” On modern spy sagas, which appear to be industrial as much as anything else.

* “I Have Yet to Hear a Satisfactory Answer For Why Adults Care What Young People Think.”

* “The Immorality of ‘The Godfather’.”

* “Transcript: Ezra Klein on the New Supply-Side Economics.” Note: “I come from California, I grew up in Irvine, California. So to watch how liberal, how blue California is and how badly it fails at a lot of the basics of progressive outcomes of making a middle class life affordable for people is to really force yourself to reckon with some things that have gone pretty profoundly wrong in liberal governance.” And also: “Once you begin looking at the paucity of ambition on the supply side, it becomes a little bit hard to stop seeing it.” We’re paying for the scarcity agenda of the last few decades, and we should instead make a lot: in housing, in energy, in education, in subways—and not just in consumer goods.

* “How to Deal with Criticism: 10 Tips for Musicians (and Everyone Else).” Great advice, especially regarding the tension between the need to be able to listen to honest and authentic criticism, while simultaneously ignoring large amounts of bullshit.

* Even at Jacobin mag—not the best venue by any means—they’re figuring out that To Solve the Housing Crisis, We Have to Increase the Housing Supply.”

Links: What it takes to get to genuinely low carbon, the use of cryptocurrencies, and more!

* “The green war on clean energy.” Notice: “But what if nuclear research and plant construction had continued to advance at the pace seen in the 1970s? One Australian researcher concluded: ‘Had the early rates continued, nuclear power could now be around 10% of its current cost.’” And: “Yet it was environmentalists who led the campaign to halt the rollout of the cleanest, and greenest, of all power sources.” Innumeracy makes fools of most of us. Similarly: an article on the need for infrastructure permitting reform. Ignore the given title, which is dumb and clickbait, because the article itself is good. I also recently wrote “Permitting is the big barrier to wind energy right now.”

* On the publishing industry’s brokenness, although I think the truer answer is that the publishing industry, like many glamor industries, has relied on trust funds, rich families, and generalized glamor for decades. A veneer of woke doesn’t change the underlying market dynamics, which is that publishing needs the children of the rich to take low salaries in order to function. Get this: “Though some publishers have raised entry-level salaries to around $45,000 per year…” Per year, in New York City. And “The median salary for those in management in our 2021 survey was $130,000.” $130,000, after a decade plus in the industry, in New York City? Median rent in Manhattan is now above $4,000.

* “Inside the crypto black markets of Argentina.”

* “New malaria vaccine is world-changing, say scientists.”

* “What Schools Are Teaching Your Kids About ‘Gender’.” Maybe.

* “How Reagan Almost Crushed Wokeness.” “Almost” is doing a lot of work in that title, but the review of how civil rights law evolved is useful.

* “Climate Tipping Points May Be Triggered Even If Warming Peaks at 1.5C.”

* The male monkey dance.

* “The Weakness of Xi Jinping.” Ideas rarely, but more commonly now, heard.

* How Mathematics Changed Me. Can be read in tandem with “How I Rewired My Brain to Become Fluent in Math: the building blocks of understanding are memorization and repetition.”

* On the new Ian McEwan book.

Links: Methane rising, permitting and wind energy, UFOs and the Fermi Paradox, and more!

* “Methane hunters: what explains the surge in the potent greenhouse gas? Levels of the gas are growing at a record rate and natural sources like wetlands are the cause, but scientists don’t know how to curb it.” This is, unfortunately and dangerously, consistent with the Clathrate gun hypothesis.

* Me on how “Permitting is the big barrier to wind energy right now (beyond batteries and fundamental research).” Given what’s happening in Europe, and in parts of the U.S., it would be good to start seriously preparing for problems now. Actually, it’d have been better to start ten or twenty years ago, but now is better than tomorrow; Elon can tweet, seriously, “Order a Tesla Powerwall battery for blackout protection!”, and his advice is good.

* Taking UFOs / Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon (UAP:) seriously, as a solution to the Fermi Paradox. “UAP” is the latest Russell Conjugation of “UFO,” since UFO has become too low status, and thus we need an acronym for the same thing with less status baggage.

* “AI Revolution – Transformers and Large Language Models (LLMs).” Don’t be dissuaded by the title: it’s good, thorough, and visionary, particularly at the end.

* “Shruti Rajagopalan talks to Daniel Gross and Tyler about Identifying and Predicting Talent.” Better probably as audio than text, but good as both, and I notice that a podcast I listen to and whose transcript I read get “processed” differently in each medium. I’m not sure what to do with that, but it’s noticeable.

* The rise of liberal hawks, which is deeper and more interesting than it sounds.

* Echopraxia is great and you should read it.

* Profile of Ian McEwan, though I think he’s not willing to admit what seems to be true.

* Consistent with the McEwan profile above: “How Woke Put Paid to Publishing.”

* “The distinctiveness of human aggression,” by interesting man Rob K. Henderson.

* Joyce Carol Oates interview with Philip Roth.

Links: Rome and an Industrial Revolution, economies of scale in construction, and more!

* Maybe Rome was pretty far from an Industrial Revolution. Sadly. I’d thought “lack of printing press” a big precondition, too.

* Is America falling behind China in science?

* Podcast interview with a pseudonymous recent Harvard grad; there is a transcript, too. The material in the first 15 minutes is boring.

* “Why are there so few economies of scale in construction?

* “Workplace diversity programmes often fail, or backfire: Many may do more to protect against litigation than to reduce discrimination.” It may be that what we choose to foreground has important consequences.

* “Is “Woke” just PC with faster internet?” A usefully historical take.

* “Nature: Manuscripts that are ideologically impure and ‘harmful’ will be rejected.” In case you’re wondering whether the sciences are immune to ideological fads.

* A guide to writing online.

* “On Joseph Tainter: The Collapse of Complex Societies.”

* Arguments in favor of intellectual freedom and the University of Austin.

Links: Effective altruism things, skill development, new Puritans, and more!

* “The Reluctant Prophet of Effective Altruism: William MacAskill’s movement set out to help the global poor.” Are most of us practicing ineffective altruism, if we’re practicing altruism at all?  I’d say that high U.S. housing and transit costs reduce the amounts of money normal or normal-ish people might be able to donate, or to send internationally. We’re beggaring ourselves through housing scarcity and that’s bad, along a variety of axes.

* “Guru Overload: Moving on from the figureheads of the latest culture war drama.” On the failures of what was sometimes called “The Intellectual Dark Web.”

* “Can the Visa-Mastercard duopoly be broken?” One hopes.

* “Skills Plateau Because Of Decay And Interference?” Does this argue for breadth in skill development and acquisition, over pure “depth?” I’ve wondered about this topic and now see I’m not the only one who has.

* “How Social Justice Became a New Religion: Our society is becoming less religious. Or is it?” I’m not sure the “How” question is answered, let alone the “why” question, but it is of interest.

* Related to the above: “The progressive puritans will fail: They are preaching to a choir in an empty church.” An argument in favor of fun, which has fallen out of official favor.

* “The Suicide of the American Historical Association?”

* Reasons Ted Gioia is publishing his next book on Substack.

* Cracker Barrel leaders realize the utility of ignoring Twitter mobs.

* “Suketu Mehta: ‘As goes India, so goes democracy’.” And a take on democracy falling in India.

* “‘Rings Of Power’ Showrunners Clarify That Any Resemblance To The Works Of Tolkien Is Purely Coincidental.”

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