Friday 26 February, 2021

The joys of (pre-pandemic) commuting

Quote of the Day

“Writing is turning one’s worst moments into money.”

  • J.P. Dunleavy, 1979

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Bach | Prelude | Suite No 1 for Solo Cello | Yo-Yo Ma


The Blogchain: Bernard Levin on the Luck of the Irish

In his day, Levin was one of the wittiest newspaper columnists in Britain. He was also an opera buff (and a Wagnerian of Olympic proportions). One of the things I loved about him was that he was a fan of the Wexford Opera Festival, a plucky venture that improbably prospered in my native land during my childhood. And he wrote a wonderful account of something that once happened there. Have a listen to how he told the story (as read by me) …


Long Read of the Day

The Art of Philosophical Writing: An Interview with William Lycan

This is lovely IMO. Sample:

I don’t have any views on philosophical writing; I just do it. Also, I write philosophy the way I write anything else including e-mails to the pet-sitter. (Anyone can spot me as an academic the minute a sentence comes out of my mouth. When I was 7 or 8 years old, my neighborhood friends nicknamed me “Professor,” which stuck at least through middle school.) Of course, I can correct graduate students’ bad writing habits, but that’s reactive, and I do it only when the flaws are pretty bad.

Oh, actually, here’s a rule that has massive empirical support: To write well, start reading when you are 4 or 5 years old, read incessantly from then on, and read mostly things that are well written. Not much use as practical advice to graduate students!

Facebook redactions

Facebook is currently embroiled in a lawsuit in which it’s accused of overestimating the ‘reach’ of the advertisements that its real customers (i.e. advertisers) pay for. The nub of the case seems to be that the company knew about this over-estimating but decided not to reveal it, and that this decision was overseen by Sheryl Sandberg, the company’s Chief Operating Officer (check). Facebook is desperately trying to keep Sandberg from having to testify in the case, and accordingly many of the documents it’s had to provide to the court are heavily redacted. The judge in the case, however, is not impressed and so he’s unsealed some of them with redactions removed. Here’s an example of a heavily redacted page:

And here’s the un-redacted version.

You get the picture?


HT to Jason Kint

The Death of a Retailer

Nice obit by Om Malik for Fry’s, Silicon Valley’s iconic electronic retailer.

In 1985, the personal computer was still young, but you could see the revolution was on the horizon. The center of gravity for this revolution was going to be Silicon Valley. It was the perfect place for an electronics megastore. The first Fry’s was opened in Sunnyvale and covered 20,000 square feet. At one time, Fry’s retailed over 50,000 electronics items within each store. They now call them big-box stores, and they dot the American landscape. But in 1985, it was a radical and bold idea. He also started selling shelf space to vendors, much as they did in supermarkets. It allowed Fry’s to make profits.

And then there’s this from Parker Hall in Wired:

Fry’s was one of our favorite places to go because we had free reign. It was just too big, and our interests too scattered, for us to not have a timer and a meeting place. And so, for an hour, we could mess with anything under the fluorescent sky.

All of the latest game consoles, computers, headphones, speakers, and even prebuilt gaming computers were just sitting there, waiting for our greasy fingers. Fry’s was one of the only places you could see the entire home technology revolution sprawled out before you. And you could experience most of it without spending a dime.

New technological breakthroughs would appear in my life for the first time under that domed ceiling. Fry’s was the first place I ever saw Wi-Fi, an HDTV, an Xbox. I remember seeing early VR headsets there and hearing earth-shaking surround sound for the first time. It was exciting to be able to see the future scrolling toward your feet like the next sequence on the Guitar Hero screen.

Fry’s was also where I learned firsthand that nascent technologies—in this case, a glove-based controller that my brother woefully wasted $100 on in 2002—are sometimes too good to be true.

Scott Alexander’s letter to Republicans

I hate you and you hate me. But maybe I would hate you less if you didn’t suck. Also, the more confused you are, the more you flail around sabotaging everything. All else being equal, I’d rather you have a coherent interesting message, and make Democrats shape up to compete with you.

So here’s my recommendation: use the word “class”. Pivot from mindless populist rage to a thoughtful campaign to fight classism.

Yeah, yeah, “class” sounds Marxist, class warfare and all that, you’re supposed to be against that kind of thing, right? Wrong. Economic class warfare is Marxist, but here in the US class isn’t a purely economic concept. Class is culture. You’re already doing class warfare, you’re just doing it blindly and confusedly. Instead, do it openly, while using the word “class”.

Trump didn’t win on a platform of capitalism and liberty. He won on a platform of being anti-establishment. But which establishment? Not rich people. Trump is rich, lots of his Cabinet picks were rich, practically the first thing he did was cut taxes on the rich. Some people thought that contradicted his anti-establishment message, but those people were wrong. Powerful people? Getting warmer, but Mike Pence is a powerful person and Trump wasn’t against Mike Pence. Smart people? Now you’re burning hot.

Trump stood against the upper class. You know the type of people I mean. They live in nice apartments in Manhattan or SF or DC and laugh under their breath if anybody comes from Akron or Tampa. They eat Thai food and Ethiopian food and anything fusion, think they would gain 200 lbs if they ever stepped in a McDonalds, and won’t even speak the name Chick-Fil-A. They usually go to Ivy League colleges, though Amherst or Berkeley is acceptable if absolutely necessary. They conspicuously love Broadway (especially Hamilton), LGBT, education, “expertise”, mass transit, and foreign anything. They conspicuously hate NASCAR, wrestling, football, “fast food”, SUVs, FOX, guns, the South, evangelicals, and reality TV. They would never get married before age 25 and have cutesy pins about how cats are better than children. They get jobs in journalism, academia, government, consulting, or anything else with no time-card where you never have to use your hands. They all have exactly the same political and aesthetic opinions on everything, and think the noblest and most important task imaginable is to gatekeep information in ways that force everyone else to share those opinions too.

From his (excellent) new blog

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