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Thomas Edison’s Back Garden Jetty iPhone 4S Fort Meyers, Florida Saturday, April 20th, 2013.

Thomas Edison’s Back Garden Jetty
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Thomas Edison’s Back Garden Jetty iPhone 4S Fort Meyers, Florida Saturday, April 20th, 2013.

Bag, Coat & Hairdryer
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Bag, Coat & Hairdryer iPhone 4S Brighton, East Sussex, England Thursday, April 11th, 2013.

I Am to Not to Covet
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I Am to Not to Covet Olympus C5050 Jerusalem, Israel Saturday, August 7th, 2004.

Happy is the Man
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Happy is the Man Olympus C5050 Even Sapir, Israel Sunday, March 14th, 2004.

•••

About

Religion, meditation — all these things we do to try to be better, or live better, do better, hew closer to our nature.

Briefs

Thursday, October 7th, 2021

From the bubbling, dexterous mind of Venkatesh Rao we have two rich essays posted within two days: “Storytelling — Cringe and the Banality of Shadows” and “Remystifying Supply Chains: Supply chains are TV for matter”.

The supply chain crisis is in some ways more unprecedented than Covid itself, given that containerized supply chains, and the world of distributed, networked, computationally coordinated production they enabled, are only a few decades old.

This is the first crisis of this magnitude to hit them.

To find a comparable crisis in history you have to go back to World War 2, with U boats sinking transatlantic shipping. And that was in an era when global trade was less than a third of today’s levels if I’m not mistaken (as a fraction of GDP) and still in the ancient mode of breakbulk shipping.

Angry divides over cultural and identity-group issues often mask—in fact may be deliberately used to mask—unanimity at the top of the system when it comes to condoning or participating in corruption.

Sarah Chayes, Everybody Knows: Corruption in America

Wednesday, October 6th, 2021

Criminalizing the criminalization of politics is akin to the wonder performed by Aeschylus’ Eumenides, which turned revenge into law—high statesmanship.

Angelo Codevilla, The Ruling Class

Thursday, September 30th, 2021

More Stanford student bikers are observed wearing masks than helmets. OK now it’s just a pandemic of idiocy.

Also today I noted a pic of Israel’s foreign minister Yair Lapid stepping out of an aircraft at Bahrain’s airport. He was alone on the middle steps, his aides up top at the aircraft doors, the welcoming committee on the tarmac, yet he was masked. Covid theater undermines our public confidence in following sensible guidelines when they are actually sensible and salutary.

Sometimes you come across an essay you intended to write and somebody’s more or less done it for you, in this case an attempt to philosophize on the concept of work by Jonathan Malesic in the University of Virginia’s Hedgehog Review.

A few nights ago I considered for the first time the direct semantic connection between the troublesome English term “happy” and the less fraught “happening”; happily, there seems to be a connection between them that’s not mere happenstance. And here this essay begins to explicate that thought:

The Crow [a Native American tribe who live on the northern plains] built their culture around hunting buffalo and “counting coups”—an activity that encompasses both feats of bravery in war and recitations of stories about those feats. Once white settlers killed off the buffalo and placed the Crow under the US government’s jurisdiction in the 1880s, the basis for Crow culture was gone. “After this nothing happened,” the Crow chief Plenty Coups told a white historian decades later.

Tuesday, September 28th, 2021

Anne Helen Petersen writes about Revenge procrastinatory bedtime — I’m guilty myself of practicing it and have noticed it lately, so it’s good to see the phenom labeled and articulated:

It’s illogical and annoying and only makes things worse. But it’s also what our souls do when we refuse to nourish them. They sabotage our most perfect intentions for sleep, because sleep is not the same as leisure. Don’t get me wrong; sleep is great. It can be deeply restorative. But it also requires us to be, well, unconscious.

Sunday, September 26th, 2021

It’s tough living in a place where everyone think it’s ok to be an asshole.

Gavriel Peretz [on Israel]

Friday, September 24th, 2021

It’s the greatest gig in the world, being alive; you get to eat at Denny’s, wear a hat, whatever you wanna do.

Norm Macdonald

Monday, August 2nd, 2021

Scuzzball extraordinaire Piers Corbyn is caught on camera accepting a bribe from a bogus AstraZeneca investor with a request to focus his very righteous ire on Pfizer and Moderna. Awesome!

Sunday, August 1st, 2021

A great topic, covered well: in Wired, Clive Thompson surveys the problem with productivity software:

To-do lists are, in the American imagination, a curiously moral type of software. Nobody opens Google Docs or PowerPoint thinking “This will make me a better person.” But with to-do apps, that ambition is front and center.

Tuesday, July 27th, 2021

Tuesday, July 20th, 2021

I wanted a way in Apple Mail to list all emails from VIPs to which I’ve not yet replied. After googling, I found a nice solution at MakeUseOf: “4 Mac Mail Productivity Tips All Professionals Must Know” (2019).

So I made a Smart Mailbox “VIP Unreplied” with all the following rules:

  • Sender is VIP
  • Message was not replied to
  • From does not contain donotreply
  • Message is not in mailbox “Already Replied”

And in the “Already Replied” Smart Mailbox:

  • Message has flag: Green

This second one because sometimes a message is handled in some other way than a reply or doesn’t need one.

Sunday, July 18th, 2021

This top-draw (The New Republic) essay on James Bond and Ian Fleming is ostensibly disparaging about its subject, but author Scott Bradfield’s sheer depth of knowledge marks him a fan. Another clue: although it’s a book review of The World Is Not Enough: A Biography of Ian Fleming by Oliver Buckton, in the entire piece Buckton’s name is mentioned just once! This guy Bradfield’s clearly been chomping at the bit to write something Bondy.

Friday, July 9th, 2021

Michael Pollan writes just wonderfully of his coffee withdrawal.

In this new normal, the world seemed duller to me. I seemed duller, too. Mornings were the worst. I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep. That reconsolidation of self took much longer than usual, and never quite felt complete.

So much more to quote here; he takes a little meander into intellectual history before returning, now a bit further along in time, to his own predilection. Then on to the science.

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021

The Guardian posts an excerpt from Gillian Tett’s Anthro-Vision. Regarding working from home, a senior trader at JP Morgan observed:

The really big problem was incidental information exchange. “The bit that’s very hard to replicate is the information you didn’t know you needed,” observed Charles Bristow, a senior trader at JP Morgan. “[It’s] where you hear some noise from a desk a corridor away, or you hear a word that triggers a thought. If you’re working from home, you don’t know that you need that information.” Working from home also made it hard to teach younger bankers how to think and behave; physical experiences were crucial for conveying the habits of finance or being an apprentice.

Thursday, July 1st, 2021

Michael Allen Smith of INeedCoffee.com goes without drinking his beloved bean for a whole month:

For a good chunk of the month, I was extremely sad. It was like a death in the family. It was during the depths of this period that I realized that I had been using coffee as a way to avoid feeling down. And I had been doing that multiple times a day for two decades.

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

Chaos Monkeys: Inside the Silicon Valley Money Machine

Antonio Garcia Martinez

♦♦♦♦

As author Antonio García Martínez battles away as an eager newcomer at Facebook, his account jolts one awake to the somewhat forgotten power of literature: we are reminded that what will survive these times will likely not be the mammoth trillion dollar company but instead this book.

And shame on Apple, caving to those who campaigned to have Martinez fired recently from his new job there because of some gross and silly yet heartfelt generalization in the book of San Francisco womenfolk; such philistine snowflakes do little more than buttress his point, as well as forcing our author to remain up on these more commanding if perhaps less remunerative cultural heights.

Sunday, June 13th, 2021

Good Risk advice dressed up as systems thinking [via Hacker News].

A few further points. First, the dynamic of the game becomes more stark once players are eliminated; in the 3-man game is it better to be strongest, weakest or in the middle? More tactically, in the 2-man game I think it’s decisively better to abandon Australia because your defensive army is likely to be blocked and at this point you need all your offense.

Patton neglects feints, such as pretending to leave the game and letting the rather dumb AI take over your turn; as a bot, players tend to consider you less a threat and leave you alone, often to the point of weakening each other tremendously, figuring they’ll deal with the dumb bot later. A more complex feint is mimic being a newbie who does not know the principles Patton describes, though honestly I’ve not tried this and it seems difficult to pull off, as you do lose real armies being stupid, and as soon as you start behaving sensibly you may appear even more formidable; the trick here then would be to play dumb until the very end.

Perhaps more importantly is to keep in mind the pathetic fallacy, to remember that when behaving judiciously and prudently in dealing with the strongest player, relying on the self-interest of others to do so as well, they may not get it, and behave stupidly and weaken themselves against someone else, enabling the strongest player to then sweep to victory.

Excelsior!

Friday, June 11th, 2021

Via Hacker News, and in the grand spirit of Charlie Munger’s edict to “Invert, always invert,” this is Julio Merino on “Always be Quitting”.

So what does it mean to always be quitting? It means “making yourself replaceable”; “deprecating yourself”; “automating yourself out of your job” … The key lies in NOT being indispensable … Paradoxically, by being disposable, you free yourself. You make it easier for yourself to grow into a higher-level role and you make it easier for yourself to change the projects you work on.

Wednesday, June 9th, 2021

I wouldn’t want to work on anything I didn’t want to take over my life.

Paul Graham, A Project of One’s Own

Saturday, June 5th, 2021

We are so used to saying “The internet changed everything” that we have forgotten it changed everything.

Peggy Noonan, What Drives Conspiracism

Monday, May 24th, 2021

The fact that there are landscapes of mind this vast lurking on the other side of a mushroom is simply preposterous.

Sam Harris

Monday, May 17th, 2021

What are we to do with how loathsome we find our public selves? Meghan O’Gieblyn writes:

Like many people who become writers, I believed the page offered a way out, a loophole in the world knot. It was only there, with work and deliberation, that the soul became flesh and I could speak in a voice I recognized as my own.

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021

Every scientific or technological revolution tears down yet another anthropocentric conceit.

Venkatesh Rao, Superhistory, Not Superintelligence

Thursday, May 6th, 2021

Top 20 racing cheats by Preston Lerner at Hagerty, a reminder that rules are made to be… stretched.

Friday, April 23rd, 2021

There is no correlation — in fact, probably an inverse correlation — between how badly you behave and how much money you make.

Paul Graham, Billionaires Build

Thursday, April 22nd, 2021

Thursday, April 15th, 2021

Craig Mod reveals the consolations of we the web-literate as he tinkers with his servers. Plus the man walks and writes rather well and is probably tall to boot.

Friday, April 2nd, 2021

It’s hard to do a really good job on anything you don’t think about in the shower.

Paul Graham, The Top Idea in Your Mind

Sunday, January 24th, 2021

Upending the conventional wisdom that happiness does not increase beyond an annual household income of $75,000, this study, using random ongoing smartphone check-ins, demonstrates a continued increase in well-being as income rises.

Monday, December 21st, 2020

High Output Management

Andrew S. Grove

♦♦♦♦

In his careful, cogent and memorable take on effective management, Silicon Valley founding father Andy Grove places a surprising emphasis on meetings; he has the temerity to take issue with — or at least, refine — Peter Drucker’s admonition that they’re a waste of time. Grove’s issue: meetings are the very medium of management; his refinement: that there are actually two major types of meeting, routine and ad hoc, and it’s where there’s a profusion of the latter that something’s amiss.

This erstwhile CEO of Intel notes that while most management books are targeted either at the very top or the very bottom — at the CEO or at those who directly manage frontline workers — the majority of managers manage other managers, and it’s for them he mostly writes, the middle managers.

The book has the authority of someone eager to share lessons from his own extensive experience — indeed he seems to have always worked with one eye towards gaining such knowledge, in no small part because being able to convey what one knows ensures that one actually understands it; that is, managers should also write and teach.

Grove defines the aim of management as increasing the productivity of subordinates, which can be achieved in only two ways: by improving their skills and by improving their motivation. Skills are improved by training, which the manager should undertake himself, considering it not busywork but an opportunity to solidify his own understanding and role-model corporate behavior. Motivation meanwhile is improved best via one-on-one performance reviews. These measures for corporate success are bracingly clear and specific — both the reasoning behind them and how to undertake them.

A refugee from Nazi Europe, Grove may be a legend yet the book is suffused with a democratic humility, a great American sense that success can be approached by all as an engineering problem. A book among books.

PS — A high testament: I actually remembered all these points without reopening High Output Management. I don’t think that’s ever happened before.

Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

Ross Douthat in his typical perfect way essays on American childbearing in the really nice magazine Plough.

Tuesday, November 10th, 2020

There’s a big difference between nothing and almost nothing, when it’s multiplied by the area under the sun.

Paul Graham, General & Surprising

Thursday, August 20th, 2020

Saturday, August 15th, 2020

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

Jordan Peterson

♦♦♦♦

Jordan Peterson has huge charisma, period, and his recent travails serve to render him even more human. His efforts to ground our current unmoored times (the chaos referred to in the title) in the fertile garden of our intellectual and spiritual heritage (the curative order) are the work of the angels.

The first of his 12 Rules for Life is Nietzschian, an evolutionary biological backgrounder for the maxim to fake it till you make it. The second is Rousseauian: we must love ourselves with amour de soi rather than amour-propre. But the whole thing — and particularly this second rule — is peppered with discussion of founts fundamental to me — Genesis, Taoism, Jung — so that the book feels like it fell out of my own mind, albeit a more disciplined, erudite, deeper version.

Either because of this over-familiarity or because the book is in fact junk food, I cannot remember anything of it as I revisit a few weeks later to write this. Is Peterson merely an Alain de Botton of the Right, a popularizer / informal codifier of what every self-respecting Westerner already knows? Either I need to pick up the book and start again, or perhaps stop reading everything else and get back to the Bible, Plato and Aristotle.

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020

We’re humans; fun matters.

Derek Sivers

Tuesday, July 21st, 2020

In an artificial world, only extremists live naturally.

Paul Graham, “You Weren’t Meant to Have a Boss”

The essence of programming is to build new things.

Paul Graham, “You Weren’t Meant to Have a Boss”

A normal job may be as bad for us intellectually as white flour or sugar is for us physically.

Paul Graham, “You Weren’t Meant to Have a Boss”

Monday, July 20th, 2020

For those who care to be reminded, Edward Feser writes in The American Mind a straight-shooting review of Plato’s political thought.

The first thing to keep in mind in order to understand Plato’s analysis of democracy is that he is not primarily concerned with procedural matters, such as the way in which people are elected or policies decided upon. What he cares about, again, is the character type that predominates in a society.

Thursday, July 16th, 2020

Thank you, The Atlantic, for daring to publish John McWhorter’s eminently sensible review of Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility. My faith is somewhat renewed.

McWhorter holds back more than on the freewheeling The Glenn Show, where he calls it “one of the worst books ever written”.

Saturday, July 11th, 2020

A nice straightforward yet telling piece in Prospect Magazine on ambivalence towards domesticity.

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

Saturday, June 6th, 2020

Saturday, May 30th, 2020

The editor of Spiked castigates the media for misreporting facts on Dominic Cummings’ lockdown behavior. But Brendan O’Neill’s focus on possibly disingenuous facts misses the larger disheartening truth.

Which is that a senior head needs to roll for the UK Government’s humiliating and deadly botching of its initial response to the pandemic. (That many of the leaders themselves contracted the disease is emblematic of this failure.)

Since elections will not be held for years, the next best thing to the PM’s head is that of his high-profile advisor. And this is fitting: as the great visionary and strategist, Cummings should have been the one who got the PM to take the pandemic seriously in good time.

So the details of Cummings’ hypocritical behaviours under lockdown are merely the pretext for some just humiliation for him and this Government. His firing would be the catharsis that marks entry into the next phase of this pandemic; indeed these are political norms. Instead however we slouch further into uncharted territory — political as well as medical and economic.

Thursday, May 28th, 2020

Sauna: The Finnish Bath

H J Viherjuuri

♦♦♦

Even in English translation, this relatively slim definitive work on Finnish sauna is filled with the dignity that seems to come with everything Finland. The author notes that the Finnish way of hot bathing — heating rocks and occasionally pouring water on them to produce steam — is the only one that can be both dry and wet.

Something new to me is that feet can take — and require — more heat than the rest of the body, so that not only should one be mostly prone in the sauna rather than sitting in order to heat the body equally (the hotter parts of a sauna are closer to the ceiling), but the feet can be even higher, so that a ledge or feet stirrups might be good.

Monday, May 25th, 2020

Deep Work

Cal Newport

♦♦♦

I’m doubt there’s much in Deep Work by Cal Newport that I didn’t already know, but I nonetheless had a hankering to see these ideas conveyed in an organized and impassioned way. My own way of working is already akin to what Newport suggests — for instance I disabled push email on my laptop years ago, and stopped using social media a couple of years ago.

Although he refers quite frequently to David Allen and GTD, one thing he does encourages that is not a GTD emphasis is setting time limits to work sessions with a view to working quicker — like say the Pomodoro Technique but not necessarily stuck on 25-minute periods.

I personally have eschewed this because I feel that with my work, you keep plugging away until the problem is solved. But I do see that there are many benefits to limiting the time on a task, one of them being (though I don’t think Newport mentions this) that it can make the task feel less onerous and intimidating if you know you’re only going to need to work on it for a limited period of time.

One immediate application for me was to start working on a somewhat mindless administrative task that normally takes me one or two full boring days. I realize that if I work on it an hour a day for a week or so, it will be all in all less onerous (and on time).

Sunday, May 24th, 2020

An anonymous employee beneficiary of Twitter’s IPO: “I think a lot of [people in Silicon Valley] care about basic income for everyone, because we’ve lived with it ourselves.”

Sunday, May 17th, 2020

The Making of Prince of Persia

Jordan Mechner

♦♦♦

Video game maker Jordan Mechner wrote a rich diary of his life in the mid-1980s. This book covers the creation his second hit game, Prince of Persia, so we gain access of unique immediacy to the heroic tale of producing a universe-dent-making hit.

I wanted this book, which I discovered via Tyler Cowen’s most recent What I’ve been reading, as inspiration during a small lull in morale as I work on a digital product of my own.

Thirty years on there is some poignancy in that this early period of Mencher’s life was the peak: after graduating Yale, already dreamily successful, he shuttles between San Francisco and Hollywood creating video games and pushing screenplays, a digital Orson Welles (in his later game The Last Express, Mechner combines these passions, relying on cinema to produce an impressive commercial failure).

That said, perhaps it is no failure at all that one can point to the creative peak of a life — Mechner’s arguably was working within the memory constraints of the Apple II to create a foe, Shadow Man, based on the hero character. Here I’m reminded of Ken Kocienda’s not dissimilar Eureka moment when up against a constraint, that of using a dictionary to help create the iPhone keyboard.

Perhaps it would have been a better book if he had fleshed out the journal with an italicized retrospective written now, but count me a late-arrival Jordan Mechner fan. And don’t get the Kindle edition lacking the illustrations; I think I’m gonna need to buy the actual book.

Thursday, May 14th, 2020

In the morning I put in the stair-climbing, and in the evening, the sword-sheathing.

Jordan Mechner, The Making of Prince of Persia

index topics self-management self-management

Arab Insanity Eroding

What shame, to have tainted with one’s own madness such benevolent bodies as civil aviation, non-combatant status in war — even United Nations human rights bodies.

Denver Met

My intent here is not only to participate in a conference but to suck up myriad Americana as a thirsty exile catapulted back in for a primer.

Yes

It’s a Somewhat Rauschenberg World

I don’t like this use of animals, like Damien Hirst’s. The artist could not have asked the goat for permission so should not have assumed it was granted.

Black Tracks the Presidents

The great virtue of Conrad Black’s Flight of the Eagle is its steady track across the entirety of the nation’s history, treating each president equally under its own law and order.

Homepage Design 2016

Even if a web site appears differently at different screen sizes, it should still feel like itself. On a larger canvas more expression abounds; distill this into the smaller screen and get more personality; do “mobile first” second.

Yes

From iPhone 4S to 6S: An Appreciation

The increased size, something I was so hesitant about, feels fine to me now. And because it’s thinner it feels less obtrusive in my pocket.

Spectreview

With the villain’s quasi-sibling bond to the hero, 2015’s 007 movie deflates to an incestuous Möbius Strip.

In Gaza, Israel Should Own its Terrible Tactic

Although such excoriating labels as “collective punishment” and “state terrorism” aren’t entirely wrong regarding Israel’s application of the Dahieh Doctrine in Gaza, history does suggest that the method is effective in fighting a fundamentally defensive war.

Go Deny Yourself

This four-letter little word undermines our modern values of tolerance and presumption of innocence.

Some Consumer Affairs

I’ve tried to enjoy schlepping water, thinking that it serves to keep us to some human roots.

Yes

From Nokia N95 to iPhone 4S

Annoyances and upsets with the iPhone 4S have been more than offset by its screen, the silkiness of its surfaces, the camera, and the third-party market for both software and hardware.

2001: A Space Odyssey: Dry, Juicy, Linear, Luminous

The dancers in the ape-suits; how they move is an incredibly energetic output for us. Contrast their physical reaction when witnessing the monolith to that of the astronauts in the newly-minted 21st century.

The Mouse and the Cantilever

Steve Jobs we lost at the age of 56; when Frank Lloyd Wright reached that age it was 1923, the time of merely his second comeback with Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel.

Friendship is for Weenies

It’s amazing, given the adulation he enjoyed elsewhere, that the Israeli public knew from the start not to trust US President Obama.

Before the Setup

It’s 1983: Go for the Apple IIe with 64k that could be opened up as a hobbyist machine? Or the smaller, sleeker and newer IIc with double the memory but a closed case?

At Modi’in Mall

There’s nothing else around here except empty desolate pretty hills. The Israel Trail passes by a bit to the west. The shops are mostly franchises, almost all homegrown: Super-Pharm, Aroma, Tzomet Sfarim, Cup O’ Joe’s, LaMetayel, Mega, Fox, Castro, H&O.

Yes

The Israel I Love, the Bad So Far

If the signage were a bit more effective, the staff’s diction and demeanor more professional, then we might have avoided this testy altercation.

Shanghai Europe

So, finally, we stopped yesterday; the Israeli assault on Gaza of late 2008/early 2009 is over. With it, Israel lost moral purity and made vital strategic gains.

Yes

Panning for MacBook Pro

Even if it did nothing, was just a prop in a futuristic movie, the MacBook Pro would be impressive; it’s like a sculpture of my previous computer, the MacBook, except it’s actually an improved computer!

Stop Yesterday

Is the goal of Israel’s current assault on Gaza to discourage Hamas from firing rockets or to render them incapable of doing so? These are two quite different projects.

Short-circuiting Place-based Longing

If there’s one tangible benefit to having lived in a variety of places it’s that it furnishes evidence of the futility of longing to be elsewhere.

A Crawl Across Crawley, Part 1

Irit, the Jam and I walk from Brighton to Gatwick Airport.

Clash of the Midgets

I was annoyed to have my sauna moments despoiled and dominated, reverberating with this old geezer’s most naff yap.

Yes

Israel’s Greatest Victory Since Osirak?

If Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza was part of a masterplan to staunch the damage done by the victory of the Six Day War in 1967, then today we see another step in its unfolding.

The Small Adventures, Part 2

There in the empty restaurant by the water at Dieppe I had toast with foie gras, a carafe of red wine, a huge plate of mussels and chips, and finally a crème brûlée. Somehow, though I’ve eaten in restaurants hundreds of times, I felt grown up.

Yes

The Small Adventures

Late for the 11pm train to Milan, we enquired frantically among the taxis for one who’d accept the two dogs and take us to Termini Station so I could begin our journey to Britain.

Tony Blair and the Four-State Solution

Ariel Sharon’s disengagement policy reflected an understanding that ownership of the Palestinian issue is shared with Egypt and Jordan. If Tony Blair were to acquire this view, perhaps he really could help facilitate an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A Restoration and Return

There she was, sitting outside the apartment block! How did she do it? Dogs—or at least Jam—must have some sort of navigational sense we don’t understand.

Curs to Fate

Yesterday I lost Jam in Villa Borghese, the central park here in Rome, some five miles from Talenti, the neighborhood where we’re staying. She has not turned up since.

Yes

Jam and Bread, Jam and Bread!

My dog Jam has spent over a third of her time here in Italy as her fixtures have fallen away—first Maddie, then me. But now I’m back!

Yes

This Trip’s Last Day

I went to Astor Place Haircutters. I crossed Manhattan Bridge on foot. I walked west along Canal St, seeking a bamboo steamer.

I, Thou and Pastor Bob

At the Calvary Church here in Fort Lauderdale the Biblical locations feel so far away that they can be abstracted and spiritualized. There is religious energy here.

Yes

The Big and Easy

The American stage is grand, as are the achievements and ambitions, but daily life seems lamed by a compulsive denaturing.

A Drop in Time

The camera hit the ground lens first, bashing it in so that it would no longer wind in and out, and couldn’t switch on. Without it, my perception of an important personal era was degraded.

A Ride to Gatwick Airport

Airports. They’re so charged, so symbolic, and so empty once you’re at one; I dream of them so often.

Only the Rustle in the Trees

Grief, loss — these are the great teachers surely. What one has will pass.

A Cabaret, Old Chum

It’s a last bastion of civility, being allowed to drink at Penn Station, Brian mused ruefully as we carried our beers to his train home to Great Neck.

Fatahland and Hamastan

Now Israel has a dog in a real Palestinian fight: the nationalists rather than the Islamists.

Yes

Stars, Stripes & Superlatives

Here in Los Angeles I am bombarded with superlatives. Daniel’s record collection. The Bikram Yoga College of India world headquarters. Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. All mixed in with the most ravaging mediocrity.

Shite on Brighton

“Like many provincial towns,” the Private Eye reviewer stabs, “Brighton, as depicted in this hacked-together tribute, defines itself more by what it isn’t than by what it is. It’s not London, for one thing.”

Daily Yin

For my first test of the day as day, I open the back door and step outside to the little patio to see the sky and feel the air. I realize not everybody does this, so if people tell me I’m a miserable bastard then perhaps this little habit will correct their impression.

Mind the Dream

Dreaming about our passed companions as if they are alive requires tricks to the dreaming mind to overcome what it believes and knows to be true.

The Dharma Tits

Buddhism is the philosophy and psychology closest to Cognitive Therapy and vice versa.

Yes

Still Got the Jam

Jam was one of Maddie’s nine puppies, the one who remained after the others were all taken. That was always my plan, to keep the runt.

Such a Tramp

Maddie, who died 18 months ago today, was a mangy mutt and stank, but she was also among the most beautiful dogs I’ve ever seen and for me the longest, richest, widest, deepest streak of feeling lucky.

So You Noticed

I have had something very flattering: a request. Juan Carlos has asked me for comments on Casino Royale.

Reminds Me of Tel Aviv

You get to a stage in life where you are already formed by the past. Thoughts and dilemmas about place are either central questions or a distraction from real issues.

Fly the Blag

Ryanair has brought wretchedness to the skies. Rather than existing on a privileged plane, you stew in a poisoned atmosphere.

Approaching Infinite Justice

Immediately after 9/11, the burgeoning war on terror was named “Operation Infinite Justice”. Within days it was renamed “Operation Enduring Freedom”, but is the new name a mere cloaking of the first?

On the Seventh Day

The Mrs is skeptical of David Allen’s Getting Things Done self-management system because it eschews the rigors of time management in lieu of what feels right. But GTD is about informed feeling.

Don’t Panic!

An academic romp through Jewish American comedy starts out as a veritable rollercoaster ride, but grinds to halt with its obsession with one Bob Dylan.

Photographing a Handsome Old Man

I want to get people in my pics, but it’s tougher when you’re no longer a wide-eyed teenager, because people generally don’t like to think they are a spectacle.

The Beauty of Rain

Rain makes the rocks shine. It puts in motion things that are otherwise static. It illustrates gravity most prettily.

Ode to Salame

It’s supposed to be the arsehole of Tel Aviv, Salame Street, running east-west at its southern tip, but it always does me darn good.

I Love Laundry

How pleasing it is to have my own washing machine. If all isn’t right with the world, not even in my world, at least the laundry cycle is functioning.

Lovely Scenery, But Walks Getting Boring

Unless I drive somewhere new, it’s not much fun to just step out the door and wander. But driving to go for a walk seems a tad ridiculous.

For Love of Economy

It disturbs me to be driving a car that gets fewer kilometers to the shekel than did my previous.

Shinui and the Seven-Year Itch

How refreshing to see Asian faces out shopping in Tel Aviv, or Africans riding the bus to Ra’anana. With them Israel is given fresh wellsprings of culture.

Allah Help the Jackals

While it’s obvious that overplaying your power can result in a downfall, it’s less obvious that underplaying it also leads to trouble. America did this in the 1970s under Carter. Israel seems to have done it almost perennially.

Yes

For Tel Aviv, Better a Skylift Than a Subway

Rather than copycatting a transportation system from the 19th century, Israel could inject into its civic planning the same audacity and resourcefulness that it has historically brought to agriculture and defence.

Yes

Canada Obscura

There’s not a patch of water to be seen—the most liquid thing is the word “Coffee” on one of the low-slung strip-mall buildings. It’s a scene more artful than art itself.

Tour of Kitchen Duty

There was yelling and spray and I raced to keep up. One can enjoy, briefly, the company of men.

Shiny Bright Toadstool

In Israel’s case, burgernomics don’t add up because significant factors contribute to the 30%-odd surcharge on a Big Mac.

The Fresh Jewels of Spring Mound

Quality of life in Tel Aviv is fundamentally enhanced by two simple factors: trees are everywhere, and so are apartments.

Independence Park Up for Grabs?

To this day men of many ages walk these bushes, they delicately lurk these bushes, and stand in places odd to choose.

We Tri Harder

A land could be governed not only by the three separate arms of government, but by three sovereign states.

Yes

Tira Saunters

The one-lane road is empty; down below is the Sharon Plain, looking vast. Israel may be a small country but we’re still speaking here of land.

A Call to Thumbs

When you hitchhike it’s out of your hands, and that’s therapeutic. Paradoxically, you also see how much control you do have.

 

Briefs (cont’d)

Saturday, October 16th, 2021

David P. Goldman blames the Web technocracy for the end of the American era, comparing it to how Britain lost dominance through the corruption of empire: by eschewing the true wealth creation of manufacturing.

Britain’s best and brightest left Eton and Harrow and went into colonial service, and made fortunes on the sale of British textiles to India, Indian opium to China, and Chinese tea and silks to the West. Britain’s country houses were built on the quick money to be earned from empire, and the British upper class eschewed the dirty work of manufacturing in favor of the faux-aristocracy of the nouveau riche masquerading as landed gentry.

The estimable Goldman is somewhat wrong here I think; web software is much more about conjuring up something from nothing, albeit an intangible digitized something, than it is just shunting stuff around at gunpoint, as he says late-Empire Britain did.

Thursday, October 14th, 2021

Wednesday, October 13th, 2021

I think that if we were told 40 years ago that Bill Shatner would actually go into space at age 90, we’d think things turned out pretty well.

Monday, October 11th, 2021

National treasure David Mitchell knocks it out the park with his (SPOILER WARNING) review of No Time to Die.

The main spoiler is: they’ve spoiled it. The producers of No Time to Die have spoiled Bond – either a bit or totally, only time will tell.

Another darn piece that expresses perfectly what I was thinking and that I didn’t write myself. This is one where I feel: no matter what, I couldn’t have done it quite this well, this straightforwardly.

Friday, October 8th, 2021

I had to read this snooty bit of exhibitionism at Gawker (must the devil have all the good web design?) slowly to keep track of what and whom the reader is supposed to consider virtuous versus vile. One through-line that helped was, like in a Hollywood movie, the bad guys have British accents.

Regarding the author’s complaint of British transphobia, one possible cause: due to cultural proximity and thirst, the Great Leap Forward emanating from the USA arrives first at Britain’s more grounded doorstep, with the resulting crockery-dropping rejection most clearly heard when ricocheting back across the pond.

Thursday, October 7th, 2021

Human egalitarianism was a social revolution within the primate order.

Sarah Chayes, Everybody Knows: Corruption in America

Geoff Boeing at Department of Urban Planning and Spatial Analysis, USC, on the griddiness of cities — what an awesome topic for a rigorous paper!

All 16 cities with the lowest entropies are in the US and Canada. Outside of the US/Canada, Mogadishu, Kyoto, and Melbourne have the lowest orientation entropies. Surprisingly, the city with the highest entropy, Charlotte, is also in the US. São Paulo and Rome immediately follow it as the next highest cities. Chicago, the most ordered city, has a φ of 0.90, while Charlotte, the most disordered, has a φ of 0.002.

Venice, Mogadishu, Helsinki, Jerusalem, and Casablanca have the shortest median street segment lengths (indicating fine-grained networks) while Kiev, Moscow, Pyongyang, Beijing, and Shanghai have the longest (indicating coarse-grained networks).

From the bubbling, dexterous mind of Venkatesh Rao we have two rich essays posted within two days: “Storytelling — Cringe and the Banality of Shadows” and “Remystifying Supply Chains: Supply chains are TV for matter”.

The supply chain crisis is in some ways more unprecedented than Covid itself, given that containerized supply chains, and the world of distributed, networked, computationally coordinated production they enabled, are only a few decades old.

This is the first crisis of this magnitude to hit them.

To find a comparable crisis in history you have to go back to World War 2, with U boats sinking transatlantic shipping. And that was in an era when global trade was less than a third of today’s levels if I’m not mistaken (as a fraction of GDP) and still in the ancient mode of breakbulk shipping.

Angry divides over cultural and identity-group issues often mask—in fact may be deliberately used to mask—unanimity at the top of the system when it comes to condoning or participating in corruption.

Sarah Chayes, Everybody Knows: Corruption in America

Wednesday, October 6th, 2021

Criminalizing the criminalization of politics is akin to the wonder performed by Aeschylus’ Eumenides, which turned revenge into law—high statesmanship.

Angelo Codevilla, The Ruling Class

Monday, October 4th, 2021

Sunday, October 3rd, 2021

Leaked papers reveal King Abdullah of Jordan has spent some $106m on Anglospherian homes. While it’s nice he chooses Malibu and London — and why not — might the story spur domestic unrest?

What a great piece on the dysfunctionality of online advertising at the now-defunct The Correspondent, “The new dot com bubble is here: it’s called online advertising” [2019] by Jesse Frederik and Maurits Martijn.

Picture this. Luigi’s Pizzeria hires three teenagers to hand out coupons to passersby. After a few weeks of flyering, one of the three turns out to be a marketing genius. Customers keep showing up with coupons distributed by this particular kid. The other two can’t make any sense of it: how does he do it? When they ask him, he explains: “I stand in the waiting area of the pizzeria.”

Saturday, October 2nd, 2021

As rather beautifully cogently introduced by The Center For Peace Communications, Yossi Klein Halevy has written a book that invites replies, and which serves, uniquely as far as I know, as the exquisite Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor: A New Conversation About Narratives and Peace website.

Thursday, September 30th, 2021

More Stanford student bikers are observed wearing masks than helmets. OK now it’s just a pandemic of idiocy.

Also today I noted a pic of Israel’s foreign minister Yair Lapid stepping out of an aircraft at Bahrain’s airport. He was alone on the middle steps, his aides up top at the aircraft doors, the welcoming committee on the tarmac, yet he was masked. Covid theater undermines our public confidence in following sensible guidelines when they are actually sensible and salutary.

Sometimes you come across an essay you intended to write and somebody’s more or less done it for you, in this case an attempt to philosophize on the concept of work by Jonathan Malesic in the University of Virginia’s Hedgehog Review.

A few nights ago I considered for the first time the direct semantic connection between the troublesome English term “happy” and the less fraught “happening”; happily, there seems to be a connection between them that’s not mere happenstance. And here this essay begins to explicate that thought:

The Crow [a Native American tribe who live on the northern plains] built their culture around hunting buffalo and “counting coups”—an activity that encompasses both feats of bravery in war and recitations of stories about those feats. Once white settlers killed off the buffalo and placed the Crow under the US government’s jurisdiction in the 1880s, the basis for Crow culture was gone. “After this nothing happened,” the Crow chief Plenty Coups told a white historian decades later.

Brian May with Rick Beato for an hour. Beato is like the Charlie Rose of music if Rose had been head of CIA or something — Beato’s been a session musician, music professor, studio owner, etc. And like the meticulous mega-talented pros they are, just as the interviewer covers his topics so the guest does all the talking (and glorious playing).

Tuesday, September 28th, 2021

Graffiti at Melbourne IKEA: NO JEW JAB FOR OZ, as reported by The Algemeiner. People can be so demented.

Scit-scat and a motherfuckin’ scats. “Tenacious D’s “You Never Give Me Your Money” with music vid by Taylor Stephens. The End.

Anne Helen Petersen writes about Revenge procrastinatory bedtime — I’m guilty myself of practicing it and have noticed it lately, so it’s good to see the phenom labeled and articulated:

It’s illogical and annoying and only makes things worse. But it’s also what our souls do when we refuse to nourish them. They sabotage our most perfect intentions for sleep, because sleep is not the same as leisure. Don’t get me wrong; sleep is great. It can be deeply restorative. But it also requires us to be, well, unconscious.

Sunday, September 26th, 2021

Safari in iOS 15 is enough of a redesign to warrant reading a primer. Thanks, TidBits, for Josh Centers’ “Hot New Features in Safari in iOS 15 and iPadOS 15”

Want to close all open tabs so you can start fresh with Tab Groups? Press and hold the Done text label to reveal the secret option. Why Apple hid it there is baffling, and there’s zero indication that “Done” would have any secondary function.

The ruling class’s campaign regarding public health, global warming, race, the rights of women, homosexuals, micro-aggressions, the Palestinians, etc. etc. have far less to do with any of these matters than with seizing ever more power for itself.

Angelo Codevilla, “The Covid Coup”

It’s tough living in a place where everyone think it’s ok to be an asshole.

Gavriel Peretz [on Israel]

In what turned out to be his final essay, “Graveyard of Narratives”, Angelo Codevilla excoriates America’s response to 9/11, even going so far as to point out that it wasn’t really fully clear just how involved Osama Bin Laden was. Codevilla:

Since WWII, whether in the name of anti-communism, anti-terrorism, democracy, or humanitarianism, it’s always the same: dismiss the substance of local quarrels; recast the local scene in terms of American elites’ concerns…

Saturday, September 25th, 2021

David Goldman eulogizes Angelo Codevilla, strongly hinting his belief that the 78-year-old geostrategist’s death by drunk driver was no accident. The two men had been corresponding, and were in agreement that America is in trouble, though Codevilla was at pains to point out that regardless of its own mindblowing fecklessness there are certain realities in America’s favor:

As currently important and as pregnant with long range consequences as the new realities are, to what extent do they override, FOR RUSSIA the reality that CHINA is ten times as populous and thrice as productive per capita, and racially incompatible, and next door? Let us put ourselves in Putin’s icy shoes: Up to what point is American decline in Russia’s interest? Does he really want China to be the Western Pacific’s undisputed mistress?

Friday, September 24th, 2021

A new iPhone, a new Austin Mann camera review, this time in Tanzania:

Although the iPhone 13 Pro still only has three lenses, the addition of macro capability is like adding a new lens altogether, and for the serious photographer I think it’s perhaps the strongest advancement in this year’s camera system.

It’s the greatest gig in the world, being alive; you get to eat at Denny’s, wear a hat, whatever you wanna do.

Norm Macdonald

Tuesday, September 21st, 2021

Concentration is a systemic feature of the American political economy.

Matt Stoller, “This is Not a Democracy, It’s a Cheerocracy: The Cheerleading Monopoly Varsity Brands”

Sunday, September 12th, 2021

A pilot’s account of the first American flight into Newark after 9/11, originally published September 2004.

My eyes, as though drawn by some magnetic force, strain to view the skyline. My mind flashes to the horrific scene of an exploding airplane penetrating the World Trade Center building. I know I had flown that very airplane. I had used that airplane to unite families, friends, and business people. It had become a weapon of mass destruction. I feel violated.

This graphic in Scientific American details dozens of autoimmune diseases and the bodily systems they target.

If there’s one thing to read on this 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, perhaps this is it, a narration of the 9/11 film “by Jules Naudet, a French-born documentary filmmaker working with his brother Gédéon on a film about a rookie firefighter at a station in Lower Manhattan.”

One of the men sent up the stairs by Chief Pfeifer is his younger brother, Kevin. He will never see him again. As Jules Naudet’s camera pans over the faces of the firefighters in the lobby of the North Tower, you realize with shock that his footage, which includes Kevin Pfeifer, is the last time many of them will be captured for posterity.

This is so full-throated by David Horowitz (posted by John Hinderaker at Powerline). Entitled “The Read Existential Threat”, it rings very true to me, given the unforced error that is the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Anti-white racism, and ignorant attacks on the American founding – these constitute the greatest existential threat to America. And the fact that Black Lives Matter fictions make up the crippling doctrine of our military leaders should wake everyone to the menace we face. There never has been a greater threat to our patrimony and freedom since the darkest days of the Civil War.

Gordon Brander thinks seriously about the Web vis-a-vis mobile.

By now, the web’s network advantage had evaporated. The iPhone’s native apps were internet apps, sandboxed, and talking HTTP, just like a web app. The iPhone was designed for a world that included the web. The web was not designed for a world that included the iPhone.

Saturday, September 11th, 2021

Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World

Clive Thompson

♦♦

I enjoyed Clive Thompson’s Wired piece “Hundreds of Ways to Get S#!+ Done—and We Still Don’t” wherein he considers task management software as a kind of religious devotion:

To-do lists are, in the American imagination, a curiously moral type of software. Nobody opens Google Docs or PowerPoint thinking “This will make me a better person.” But with to-do apps, that ambition is front and center.

This bringing of theology and things of the spirit into the seemingly more mundane world of computing reminded me delightedly of Umberto Eco’s whimsical comparison of Mac vs Windows as Catholicism vs Protestantism.

So I was hopeful for Thompson’s book Coders, especially after reading the fun first Amazon Kindle sample chapter, and because I am increasingly embracing the identity of coder, given that it’s what I’ve ended up doing almost all my 21/2-decade professional life, and want to know just how much I fit the profile.

Well. I’ve come across writers before whose magazine articles impress but pall at book length. Mr Thompson’s interviewees so often “sigh” as they are clunkily pulled out of the aether to buttress his current argument, and I found particularly jarring that a provocative thought by one fellow — Dijastra, no less — is quoted using “he hissed” — though by then the mechanics of the book were transparent enough to predict the desultory “he has a point”-esque follow-up.

In thematic tandem with the book’s stale style, it degenerates into a long squawk of racial social injustice obsession. What pops into mind is the searing tedium of hearing Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” at every gas station across America.

So come rain or shine, this one’s going out on the street, and tech chronicler Clive Thompson will need to re-earn his welcome.

Tuesday, August 31st, 2021

In googling what appears to me the flimsiness of the Jewish edict to not eat milk with meat, I came across Michael Harvey’s Times of Israel blog post “Why Separate Milk and Meat?” in which he argues it’s all a misreading of the word “milk” in “You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.”

The word for milk features certain vowels underneath to make the sound of chalev, distinguishing the word from others. Why is this important? Well, there happens to be another Hebrew word with the exact same letters, Chet, Lamed, Vet, but is pronounced, instead of chalev, chaylev. And that is the word for fat, as seen in such passages as Leviticus 7:23: “You shall eat no fat of ox or sheep or goat.” Could this commandment have actually been referencing fat instead of milk?

Thursday, August 26th, 2021

The new Nike spin on “Just Do It,” is basically, “At Least You Tried.” Sports journalist Ethan Strauss launches a Substack newsletter.

Wednesday, August 25th, 2021

To understand post-vaccination Covid, read “Israeli data: How can efficacy vs. severe disease be strong when 60% of hospitalized are vaccinated?” by Jeffrey Morris, a statistical data scientist at the University of Pennsylvania. [via Marginal Revolution]

Saturday, August 21st, 2021

A tour de force from lest we forget Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan on, well, nothing less than the current American moment.

Friday, August 20th, 2021

Rather nice if you have some moments: “Art Deco jewellery: a revolution in form and function” at Christie’s, each pagescroll another exquisite or at least colorful thing.

Friday, August 13th, 2021

An interview with Bret Stephens — Ha, I know of at least two falsehoods here. Some fun comments too.

What’s with Bahrain’s DERASAT thinktank signing an agreement not just with an Israeli counterpart, Jerusalem’s JCPA, nor even with two, also Herzlia’s AEI Abba Eban Institute for International Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center, but now with three, adding Tel Aviv’s INSS. That doesn’t seem right to me; pick a counterpart.

On the INSS web site, the visit warrants not just the top story position but the heading “Special Announcement”. At JCPA it’s no longer the top story but the headline is prefixed “History:”. The Abba Eban Center doesn’t seem to have a news facility. Yet over at DERASAT, the post about the agreement with the JCPA (which a few days later is no longer even discoverable on their website) did not contain the word “Israel”. And there’s no mention at all of the two more recent agreements.

Wednesday, August 11th, 2021

On an Israeli TV news panel, here is Issawi Frej in career-defining, full-throttle top-flight impassioned co-existence mode, making religious Yesh Atid MK and former Minister of Education Shai Piron choke up on air.

An introduction to Issawi Frej, Israel’s Minister for Regional Cooperation, on YouTube by The Khaleej Times.

Base metals can be transmuted into gold by stars, and by intelligent beings who understand the processes that power stars, but by nothing else in the universe.

David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity

Sunday, August 8th, 2021

La Maison Xun, a restaurant in Beijing by LDH Architects, featured in Archinect.

Saturday, August 7th, 2021

In this Al-Jazeera coverage of the protests comprising the anniversary of the Beirut explosion, the word “Hezbollah” doesn’t appear at all.

Thursday, August 5th, 2021

Is this a new method of diplomatic forum? Israel seems to have hosted its own mini-United Nations Security Council meeting by presenting to a gathering of ambassadors from the sitting UNSC countries; it’s bloody genius. Is that Lapid taking his current job seriously and imaginatively? Looks like it.

Wednesday, August 4th, 2021

John McWhorter on “Black Fragility”:

DiAngelo, you may have heard, has a new one out. But do you really need to read yet another book about how white people just don’t get it? After all, roll the tape again and the main theme of intelligent black thought might not be so obsessed with this notion that black America must sit mired in charismatic anomie until white people “get it.” Imagine a black America all about not “Why don’t they get it?” but “How do we get ours regardless?”

As Israel finally passes a budget, Mansour Abbas, leader of the Islamist Raam party, appears to have been the kingmaker, is budgeted an unprecedented $16b for infrastructure, crime, healthcare, education and transport.

 
 

•••

Newsroll

A quarterly magazine of urban affairs, published by the Manhattan Institute, edited by Brian C. Anderson.

experiments in refactored perception

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    A key insight recently struck me, and it is one that I should have worked out and written up earlier, but I didn’t think of — one of the biggest reasons mediocrity gets a bad rap is conflation with what I call Somebody Else’s Optimality, or SEO (the rest of this post is just me […]
  • Storytelling — Cringe and the Banality of Shadows

    Thinking about cringe comedy recently, it struck me that the genre is built around characters who are entirely driven by their shadows, and draws its comedic power from the sheer banality of the unconscious inner lives thus revealed. An example is the character of Mick played by Caitlin Olson on The Mick. Olson played a […]
  • MJD 59,487

    People who have a literal-minded interest in matters that extend beyond their own lives, and perhaps those of a couple of generations of ancestors and descendants, are an odd breed. For the bulk of humanity, these are zones for mythological imaginings rather than speculative-empirical investigation, if they are of interest at all. For the typical […]