Links: An Agatha Christie resurgence, luxury beliefs, sleep, and more!

* Agatha Christie is hot?

* Luxury beliefs as status symbols, and the struggle for recognition and distinction.

* California will let teens sleep in later. Good.

* Less parking could mean more housing. Good, too.

* How San Francisco became a failed city.

* “Children are a Necessity, Marriage is a Luxury: The Psychology of the Poor Single Mom.” Perspectives rarely see, which doesn’t mean they’re correct. .

* “What Princeton Did to My Husband.” On the subject of mobs, and also why an academic career may not be ideal. AstralCodexTen also has “Advice For Unwoke Academic?“, which is not “more of the usual.”

* UkraineX: How Elon Musk’s space satellites changed the war on the ground.” Worldwide, always-on Internet is a big deal.

* “Chesa Boudin and the Debacle of Urban Left-wing Politics.” First, be effective.

* On running General Assembly, a coding bootcamp.

* “Installing Rooftop Solar Can Be a Breeze. Just Look at Australia.” Regulatory barriers to installing more wind, solar, and transmission lines are becoming a central problem.

* Finland ends homelessness and provides shelter by pursuing a “housing first” model. A large chunk of homelessness really is a housing problem.

* “The Moral Desolation of the GOP.” Seem obvious.

Links: The perils of literary “success,” taking a corporation to arbitration, and some other things

* On Colette, the French writer and provocateur of her day. Today, there are maybe no taboos left in that domain, and thus a figure like Colette can’t exist.

* A depressing profile showing how bad literary “success” can be—never mind literary failure; one should read it as a warning against pursuing a literary life, particularly because a sense of lifelessness pervades. The winners of the literary marketplace aren’t doing so well, examined along many metrics. The books they’re writing don’t seem to matter; statements like “Gessen described him as ‘probably the most eloquent expositor of Marxian economics currently writing in the English language’” have to be read as comedy. That, or “They worked on novels and Ph.D.’s., and, in 2004, along with Marco Roth and Allison Lorentzen, started n+1. The journal was wildly successful[…]” “Wildly successful?” If this is the literary scene, it’s dead, deader than a corpse in an emergency room. After reading a novel like Lonesome Dove, all of the book described in the article seem tiny. You can predict what the tone will be, how narrow the comfort zone will be, and that there will be no contrarian surprises or revelations: that may explain why so many readers turn to wilder online writing.

* There are too many scams in higher education. A similar topic: “How to really fix higher ed.” Solutions are towards the bottom, but note: “Make higher-ed institutions put more skin in the game.”

* Arguments that we’re not going to get commercial fusion in the next decade, or realistically the next two decades. Either the writer, or Helion Fusion, will be proven right.

* Guy takes a massive corporation to arbitration.

* “Amazon and the Dystopian Future of Book Censorship.”

* CO2 levels are the highest in human history.

* Good interview with VC Katherine Boyle about the need to build things. And another article on the need to be able to build things, quickly. The status quo isn’t optimal in many domains.

Links: The dynamist, love, effectiveness, and more!

* The case for the sexual revolution.

* “Much philanthropy is a routinized exchange between salaried bureaucrats.” The quote here is fairly accurate, although much of the rest of the article is not.

* “Why Do I Hate Pronouns More Than Genocide? Self-reflection on what drives moral outrage and why I am not an effective altruist.”

* Elon Musk is, politically, a dynamist.

* We Aren’t Raising Adults. We Are Breeding Very Excellent Sheep.

* “If Politics is Your Hobby Horse, You’re Riding to Nowhere.” On what might work, and what is almost certainly signaling.

* “Would the World Be Better Off Without Philanthropists?” Skepticism towards the nonprofit sector, which is warranted, but the particulars are here way off base. There is no use of the term “effective altruism,” which is a clown sign. Or, rather, its lack is a clown sign.

* Could we get drone deliveries?

* Doctors on guns as a public health problem.

* Academia then; compare as you will to academia now.

* “Feeling like a victim is a perfectly disastrous way to go through life.” Seems obvious, but is apparently not.

* Epic story about a professor and his students’ cheating.

* There are too many scams in higher education.

Links: The cruelty of the desalination rejection, the virtues of low expectations, and more!

* “California regulator rejects desalination plant despite historic drought.” This is the scarcity agenda.

* Low expectations and demands keep families together.

* America’s neglect of nuclear energy has weakened our global influence.

* “The Rotten Core of Our Political System: In their new account of the 2020 election, two reporters reveal just how broken American democracy has become.”

* “Let’s state this plainly: Pennsylvania Republicans just nominated a full-blown insurrectionist who intends to use the power of the office to ensure that, as long as he is governor, no Democratic presidential candidate wins his state again.” That would seem to me to be bad, and peaceful transfers of power are good.

* “The twilight of identity politics? Progressive groupthink is falling to pieces.” Maybe, but seems optimistic to me.

* “Why Do We Swallow What Big Oil and the Green Movement Tell Us?” If someone claims to be interested in “the environment” or “climate” or similar, and isn’t agitating for nuclear power, that person doesn’t know much in this domain.

* “Framework’s new laptop means the promise of modular gadgets might be coming true.” I don’t own one, but it looks really impressive (the screen aspect ratio is wonderful!).

* How did the journal Nature become so prestigious? And why are we such suckers for bullshit “prestige?”

* Details about the FDA’s folly in creating the baby formula shortage.

* Ideas that lead to life fulfillment.

Links: On heat pumps, the wolf, and robot poetry (all separate topics), and more!

* The need for heat pumps and other non-methane-gas energy technologies.

* How bad government policy fuels the infant formula shortage.

* “Casting out the wolf in our midst.” Long, poetic, concerning violence and deep history, and possibly not wholly right but of great interest anyway. Not politically correct, either. I’m subscribing to Razib’s RSS feed.

* Why people can’t stop adding “lol” to texts.

* Robots are writing poetry, and many people can’t tell the difference.

* “The ACLU has lost its way:” something so obvious I’m tempted not to link it—but I also used to be a member.

* On Bayraktar drones and the man behind them. New Yorker, seems thorough.

* “The Ghost Writer’s Mistress: New York psychoanalyst and novelist Arlene Heyman recalls her youthful relationship with Bernard Malamud.” Am surprised to see this.

* Until Feb. 2022, many of democracy’s critics seemed to be gaining traction; since then, we’ve been reminded of democracy’s virtues, among them the ability to peacefully transfer power and remove insane rulers. Autocracies don’t have these features and consequently are prone to the kinds of extreme negative outcomes that generally don’t occur in democracies. Being able to correct mistakes is important.

* The mysterious disappearance of revolutionary mathematician Alexander Grothendieck.

* How to quit intensive, or helicopter, parenting.

* Some writing advice.

Links: Tribal language, hyphens, RSS, land use, and more!

* “‘Disabled’ is not a bad word. Stop telling people with disabilities it is.”

* “College Became the Default. Let’s Rethink That.” It’s nice to see the NYT catch up to things I wrote in 2017.

* How to use a hyphen. A charming article.

* Ways to increase the surface area of blogging via RSS. I approve, naturally, while noting that most indicators have been moving in the wrong direction for years. Blogging also continues to have a key advantage over other media forms: visibility to search engines.

* “Why Chinese Culture Has Not Conquered Us All.” Although I still suspect the basic, obvious, answer may be the most correct one.

* Tim Bray on riding his ebike. The bike company Specialized is going to sell appropriately price ebikes.

* Vaclav Smil on climate and other matters.

* We only hire the trendiest, or, programmer moneyball.

* “What DALL-E 2 can and cannot do,” so far.

* “America’s homebuilding trend (that isn’t).” We need to create housing abundance, but we’re not doing so, and that failure is bad. Even basketcase San Francisco, however, may be moving towards “yes in my backyard,” or “YIMBY,” abundance politics.

* An insane story about a 15-year-old girl who may have been medically sterilized.

Links: The case for seriousness, historical comparisons, and much more!

* The case for American seriousness, one of the best essays I’ve read recently and one that describes many phenomena in media, culture, and technology. Unfortunately most of us neither live nor vote for seriousness or earnestness.

* “‘That’s it? It’s over? I was 30. What a brutal business’: pop stars on life after the spotlight moves on.” I’ve read about a quarter of the source book so far, and it’s interesting, but less psychologically focused than I might have imagined, and very UK focused.

* Arnold Kling on the “Intellectual Dark Web,” with the most interesting bit appearing at the end, comparing today to 1964.

* The epistemic minor leagues, which you are perhaps experiencing right now.

* “The humanities are facing a credibility crisis.” And have been for at least, what, a decade? Maybe longer? Notice: “[T]he conflation of our scholarship and our political advocacy doesn’t improve our credibility; it undermines it. Indeed, people often assume that humanities scholars start with political commitments and backfill the evidence rather than starting with questions to answer through some relatively transparent process of inquiry. The idea that humanities scholars are activists first and only then scholars leaves much of the public skeptical of the work we do.”

* “Books Become Games: Simulation, Gamification, and the Rise of Algorithmic Capitalism:”

Most of the podcasters I’ve encountered, if I may be honest, remind me of nothing so much as the classic Onion “advice column”, from back before that newspaper was generated by AI (as far as I can tell), that consisted in a book-report on Animal Farm by a kid who hasn’t read it. It’s “well worth the $5.99 purchase price,” he wrote. “It’s so good, in fact, that if I was in Canada, I would be happy to pay the higher price of $7.99.” Similarly, questions I’ve been getting on my book, I can’t help but notice, are often drawn entirely from the sheet of promotional copy that is included with it.

Another favorite moment: “The gamification of our social life, which was honed and perfected on social media before it jumped the fence to affectivity, labor, and who knows what’s next, forces us to sacrifice free play to strategic play, and the leisurely flight of the imagination to narrow problem-solving.”

* The books that made Michel Houellebecq.

* Balaji: “Decentralizing Education with Synthesis.” Substantial education reform hasn’t worked yet, but that doesn’t mean it never will.

* “Inside the New Right, Where Peter Thiel Is Placing His Biggest Bets.” I note this, which I think is mostly wrong: “But they share a the basic worldview: that individualist liberal ideology, increasingly bureaucratic governments, and big tech are all combining into a world that is at once tyrannical, chaotic, and devoid of the systems of value and morality that give human life richness and meaning—as Blake Masters recently put it, a ‘dystopian hell-world.'”People choose big tech. People like the individualist liberal ideology. People vote for big government, on the left and the right; it’s humorous for anyone with the vaguest knowledge of what was actually done in terms of policy and budget from 2017 – 2021 to see Trump-affiliated or Trump-liking people oppose “increasingly bureaucratic governments.”

* Attempting to lower construction costs by moving to pre-fabricated pieces. Bespoke is expensive, and bespoke is the opposite of abundance. Mass manufacturing is good.

Links: The weaponization of social media, and this blog as an effort to resist it

* New Jonathan Haidt: “Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid: It’s not just a phase.” Instead, social media has supercharged a few negative human social tendencies, and we’ve not developed institutional or social antibodies to resist them. You’ll see echoes in it of “Dissent, insiders, and outsiders: Institutions in the age of Twitter.”

* “After Russians’ retreat, scarred Ukrainian village recounts month of terror.” Apart from being evil, a war crime, and so on, inflicting mass terror is likely to be counterproductive, because it means Ukrainians know they must fight to the very end—or face theft, rape, torture, and murder after. And there are more details here.

* “A 4-Year Degree Isn’t Quite the Job Requirement It Used to Be: New research finds companies are starting to rely less on the college filter in hiring.”

* “The New Campaign for a Sex-Free Internet: Sex, money, and the future of online free speech.” From A small number of passionate people can have great effects on a much larger number of less passionate people. Usually a sentence like the preceding one is meant with approval for whatever the thing is, but that need not always be the case.

* Europe is investing heavily in trains and, if we were smart, we’d be doing the same.

* “Democrats Are Facing Doom—And No One Seems To Even Have Any Suggestions.” On the contrary: people do have suggestions, like “highlight popular stances, not unpopular ones.” And “listen to voters, more than the academic/media class.” Jonathan Chait thinks “Political correctness is losing,” but is it?

* “The Punk-Prophet Philosophy of Michel Houellebecq.” The author takes a vaguely, and seemingly unwarranted, superior stance.

* “DALL-E, the Metaverse, and Zero Marginal Content.” You don’t want to be in the content business. Movies and TV seem kind of safe for now, but what happens when TikTok merges with DALL-E’s successor?

* Huge efforts to implement carbon capture and storage on a mass scale, via companies, rather than federal or state governments.

* “Exhibition of Pompeii’s sex scenes aims to decode erotica.” It’s ancient.

Links: The nature of stories and loneliness, and more!

* “You should have kids,” says Richard Hanania, in what may be a contrarian take, at least among intellectuals or “intellectuals.”

* “The Red Pill Prince: How computer programmer Curtis Yarvin became America’s most controversial political theorist.” The article isn’t a takedown, apart from the extent to which Yarvin’s ideas take themselves down. I’ve observed that social media seems to allow people to write or film their own fiction, disguised as “fact,” and he seems to be doing that; apart from the history of individuals ruling countries showing that such a structure works poorly at best over time, the present Russian invasion of Ukraine demonstrates neatly the way monarchy doesn’t work. Yarvin has a story, composed partly from facts and partly from fancy, and the story is compelling enough to spread, but “compelling enough to spread” is not the same as “correct.”

* “How Everyone Got So Lonely: The recent decline in rates of sexual activity has been attributed variously to sexism, neoliberalism, and women’s increased economic independence. How fair are those claims—and will we be saved by the advent of the sex robot?” It’s interesting and peculiar to me, the extent to which the school system and parents misallocated emphasis regarding particularly important skills, like the ability to relate to and get along with other people.

* “Hollywood Has No Idea What to Do With the Erotic Thriller: Streamers are struggling to reboot a genre that died too young.” I tried watching Deep Water, and it was incoherent; I’d try to start with basic coherence, plot, and character. It’s also hard to be both woke and transgressive. Pick one!

* “The Horror of Bucha: Russian invaders are now treating the entirety of the Ukrainian population as combatants, as dirt to be cleansed.” We’re paying the cost of failing to build out nuclear energy over the last 20 years: we’ve been funding evil petro states, from Saudi Arabia to Russia.

* “By Any Other Name: The story of my transition and detransition.” Sad, and perhaps common. The writer, “Helena,” says that she wore “Joggers, basketball shorts, and hoodies. Ugh, I cringe just thinking about it. So not my style, but I wanted people to think I was a boy. I believed once the testosterone transformed my body, I could be more creative with my outfits.” The number of men who are interested in being “more creative with [their] outfits” seems not to be large. The degree to which Reddit and Tumblr provide medical and life advice is scary; she seems to have been someone who didn’t know enough to know how little she knew, or how little those around her knew.

* In academia, supply and demand win yet again! I wrote about this dynamic back in 2016.

* “Once Again, Environmentalists Are Sabotaging Climate Progress.”

* Beans are good.

*’s DALL•E 2 art generator is amazing. Is AI really happening?

* “Scott Alexander on Dictator Book Club: Xi Jinping.”

Links: What’s happening in publishing, what’s happening in education, the housing thing, and more!

* “American education’s new dark age” is the official title, but the real question is closer to “What is college for?” If colleges aren’t specifically training reading and writing skills, those skills atrophy, or are never developed in the first place.

* On The Two-Income Trap, a book that sounds excellent on fundamentals—but has it had much impact on policy?

* “As a political biography, it’s odd, yes. But as partisan pornography, it’s undeniably fantastic.” Ignore the title, don’t read the book being reviewed here, and savor instead the review itself, which is art.

* “How American Culture Ate the World: A review of A Righteous Smokescreen” is way too long and blathery; the short answer is that Europe blew itself up not just once, in 1914 – 18, but again, during World War II, thus dooming its early lead. Everyone speaks or attempts to speak English as a consequence of those wars and their political fallout, including the foolish adoption of Communism. While Europe blew itself apart, murdering and expelling millions of its citizens, China and Russia adopted dysfunctional Communist political-economic systems. When everyone else is screwing up, it’s sufficient to not screw up too badly, and the United States was the least-crazy, most-functional country. We see Russia, right now, actively driving out whatever smart, capable, and imaginative people may be left in the country. For just about the entirety of Russia’s existence, the smartest thing most people could do was leave. It still is.

* “The Death of Authority in the American Classroom.” Pretty much. Beer & circus for all.

* Homelessness is a housing problem. The people who say otherwise usually don’t think about how a person got to be living on the street and screaming at strangers; that person’s problems are usually exacerbated by high housing costs and precarious housing.

* Granting funding is broken—something we all know—and this writer has an extremely impractical, non-scaleable way to fix it.

* Description of why “5G” is not just marketing hype, though its promise may take many years to be fulfilled.

* “Why is it so hard to buy things that work well?” Dan Luu is writing one of the most interesting blogs right now, and you should subscribe to his RSS feed.

* Russia is dying out: on the country’s demographic crisis. It’s hard to imagine the Ukraine invasion as doing anything but making this existing problem far worse.

* The many faces of literary censorship.

* Disney’s Institutional Capture.

* Brandon Sanderson on changes in the publishing industry, among other topics. He also finds that half of his sales are in audiobook format.

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