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Briefs

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020

technovelgy.com, where science meets fiction, and a glorious taste of the old web.

Friday, April 3rd, 2020

Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life

Sari Nusseibeh

♦♦♦♦

Nusseibeh’s central thesis (well, secondary thesis, the primary implicit one being that the Palestinian people should all along have appointed both his Dad and then him their oh-so-reluctant leaders) I too have felt almost in my bones: that Israelis and Palestinians are natural allies. Or, more accurately, that there’s a natural affinity which will enable us to be powerful allies if and when we ever get over our admittedly fundamental conflict.

Friday, November 22nd, 2019

The Smithsonian Magazine excerpts Paul Hendrickson’s Plagued by Fire: The Dreams and Furies of Frank Lloyd Wright. Among the gems:

  • “…[Wright’s] 72-year career as an architect and egotist…”
  • “…[Wright buildings] come magically out of the American ground looking for the light…”
  • “…[Wright,] the old shaman…”
  • “…There are certain moments, standing in [Wright homes], if the light is falling right, when it will begin to seem as if Whitman is singing to Emerson, or vice versa…”

Will the author spoil it for me though? Among the crisps are tonal annoyances such as beginning sentences with “Heck,”…

Tuesday, September 24th, 2019

Some rise, some fall, some climb — Robert Hunter, 78. Mister, your inspiration moved me brightly.

“By far the most important factor in determining whether a boiled egg will peel cleanly or not is the temperature at which it starts cooking.” There’s just too many quotable quotes in this first entry in a new New York Times series on the science of cooking. I think the Grey Lady has finally found a useful niche.

Joseph Epstein has a book to review on the semi-colon; that is, an excuse to treat us to a treatise on punctuation. It is “the art of rhythm, for punctuation’s second function, after its first function of helping to establish clarity, is to set the rhythm of sentences. Rhythm in prose, it turns out, is highly individual, for nearly everyone not only marches but writes to the beat of a different drummer.”

Saturday, August 10th, 2019

The words that don’t quite translate tell you the most about another culture.

Colin Marshall, “Travel is Living: How Airbnb Ingeniously Markets to Korea”

Monday, August 5th, 2019

Monday, July 1st, 2019

Thursday, June 13th, 2019

Hunger as Art is a 15-minute film by Israeli philosopher Daniel Milo, whose upcoming book Good Enough promises to be seminal. Via Venkatesh Rao’s ongoing exploration of mediocrity, Mediocratopia.

Saturday, June 8th, 2019

Sunday, March 17th, 2019

Mathieu Triay on his Marvin Visions, a reinterpretation of the 1969 font Marvin by Michael Chave.

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Jonathan Hoefler explores something that typeface designers have long known but that researchers have only now corroborated: horizontal lines appear thicker than vertical ones.

Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

Chronicling from “below the API line”, as Venkatesh Rao calls it, are Austin Murphy with “I Used to Write for Sports Illustrated. Now I Deliver Packages for Amazon” in The Atlantic and Lauren Hough with “I Was A Cable Guy. I Saw The Worst Of America” in The Huffington Post.

The depicted harshness of American work life for so many is terrible not just for those involved but for all. (Also these two share a prodigious unmet need to urinate on the job — is this the top new workplace tribulation?)

Friday, December 14th, 2018

Monday, November 19th, 2018

Thursday, November 15th, 2018

The more you keep your mouth shut, the more fertile you become.

Saul Bellow

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018

Concentration without effort is the heart of the thing.

Saul Bellow

America and I, both exceptional, would together elude prediction and defy determinism.

Saul Bellow

The degree to which you challenge your own beliefs and expose them to destruction is a test of your worth as a novelist.

Saul Bellow

Thursday, September 20th, 2018

Million Dollar Consulting

Alan Weiss

♦♦♦

This most renowned book by the engaging Alan Weiss has a tone of practical, optimistic advice. Its title however is unfortunate as the first part may come off as cheesy while the second part comes off as only applying to consultants. Its subtitle, “The Professional’s Guide to Growing a Practice”, is more accurate; I was talking with an old friend who now has his own one-man legal practice and realized that pretty much all the book’s advice applies to him.

Although famous for advocating value billing rather than hourly, perhaps the book’s dominant concept is that you should invest your marketing energy in becoming a thought leader — in speaking and writing.

Weiss is a bit of a minor national treasure (despite hovering sometimes on the edge of bad taste — and I believe he is way sophisticated enough to understand exactly what he’s doing) and despite becoming slightly cranky in his more recent musings (not that I disagree with where he’s coming from, but political musings may be off-putting to others). He is a gifted writer in that having read his book you feel he is your friend looking out for you.

Sunday, June 17th, 2018

Michael Chabon on Finnegan’s Wake [2012].

As my year of diving languorously into the murky waters of the Wake wore on, I came to feel that it was this failure, this impossibility, this grand futility of the Wake, that constituted its secret theme, its true aboutness.

Saturday, June 16th, 2018

First she called herself a Joycean, then she realized she’s more of a Joyceaholic. A great fun rueful erudite walk around the city that is James Joyce.

This is not the first time I’ve broken up with Joyce. A couple of years ago I decided we were in a co-dependent relationship. Except how could that be true if I was the only dependent one?

Sunday, May 20th, 2018

The Closing of the Hi-Gloss Colonel of American Letters Tom Wolfe’s Eyes. The New York Times obituary by Deirdre Carmody and William Grimes.

Saturday, May 12th, 2018

Make it work, ‘cos you’ve got opposites.

Irit Levy

Friday, May 11th, 2018

“The Moment” is an occasional column/blog by novelist Amit Chaudhuri in The Paris Review.

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

Joss Whedon on making The Avengers: “There’s very little that I didn’t look at. It’s like, This is a Dr. Strangelove moment. This is The Abyss. This is His Girl Friday. It’s constant. You have to have all that stuff sort of in a blender in your head.”

Thursday, April 26th, 2018

I can’t go for a few moments without sliding back my chair and gazing with massive self-love at my library.

Geoff Dyer, on books, in Unpacking My Library

Living abroad meant a move out of quotation marks.

Geoff Dyer, on books, in Unpacking My Library

Friday, April 20th, 2018

Another nice ongoing Grauniad series, this one where authors and writers describe their typical writing day.

The Paris Review compiles interviews from its archives on writing while under an influence.

Eventually I get down to writing and then the real problems begin.

Italo Calvino

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

In this interview Ursula K. Le Guin provides a rather thorough little course on the craft of fiction, covering present vs past tense, first-person vs omniscient narration, conflict as action.

“Henry James did the limited third person really well, showing us the way to do it. He milked that cow successfully. And it’s a great cow, it still gives lots of milk. But if you read only contemporary stuff, always third-person limited, you don’t realize that point of view in a story is very important and can be very movable. It’s here where I suggest that people read books like Woolf’s To the Lighthouse to see what she does by moving from mind to mind. Or Tolstoy’s War and Peace for goodness’ sake. Wow.”

Sunday, March 25th, 2018

Craig Mod’s interview with Offscreen Magazine. “In my life, America is three locations: New York City, the Bay Area, and Asheville in North Carolina.” This writer/designer, who first impressed me with his review of the Apple Watch, lives in a small coastal town in Japan — some sort of digital-hipster James Bond. Things are very considered.

Saturday, March 24th, 2018

On artists with jobs. “That’s job jobs, the kind you hear about in stump speeches.” Speaking personally, I believe I knew a long time ago that this is a good path but I lacked the gumption to maybe be bored some of the day.

Sunday, March 18th, 2018

Enjoying a nice independent bookstore, Wilfred M. McClay suddenly feels microbetrayed by their abuse of the term “curate”. A nice little one lamenting PC language.

Friday, March 9th, 2018

Tyler Cowen has a modest proposal: polarized shopping. “You get better deals from the companies you patronize regularly, most of all from airlines and hotels. It requires only some stretch of the imagination to think that more of those programs could be organized around ideology.”

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

Tyler Cowen’s work habits while traveling. “Go somewhere — perhaps somewhere dangerous or disgusting — and simply plan to spend your full, normal work/writing day there.” Because: “By the end of the trip it will feel like a full vacation anyway, that’s how silly your memory is.”

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

The em-dash, “a talented mimic impersonating other punctuation…” [via Adactio]

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

City Journal has a nice new design by Goodfolk of Chicago. Dig the topics list, both the titles and their order. And on mobile at least the article titling over the imagery is intense.

Friday, November 24th, 2017

Jon Stewart with Howard Stern for some 90 minutes; they cover family, showbusiness, animal welfare. Two fine Yiddle, unlocked.

Tuesday, September 5th, 2017

I disagree with his conclusion as I love the new translation (and I disavow anything else on the same site, I disavow!), but here Dr. Joshua D. Wilson, a Baptist pastor, analyses the grammar behind the rather radical recent change in English translations of בְּרֵאשִׁית 1:1 from “In the beginning…” to “When God began…”

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

What an internet treasure. Standard Ebooks is — according to their web site — “a volunteer driven, not-for-profit project that produces lovingly formatted, open source, and free public domain ebooks.” These are some beautiful, consistently-designed ebooks. The epub version works a charm in iBooks.

Monday, June 26th, 2017

“A wordy kind of Kardashian Instagram feed, without the self-awareness.” In this perfectly pitched skewering of Michael Chabon, Ayelet Waldman & Dave Eggers et al’s confrontation of the Occupation in the West Bank, Matti Friedman wonders what it’s all actually about. All this, plus: I don’t think I’ve ever seen such skilful use of the exclamation mark!

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

If you happen to be on the lookout for a fresh homey brief humanistic web site, The Saunterer is by H. Charles Romesburg, Professor in the Department of Environment and Society, Utah State University.

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

Three hours a day will produce as much as a man ought to write.

Anthony Trollope

Saturday, March 18th, 2017

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

What sets you apart in high school at 17 makes you a cliché in Brooklyn at 27.

Christian Lorentzen , “Toward a Unified Theory of Joan Didion”

index topics writing writing

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

No matter the screen size, a web site should feel like itself, even if it doesn’t look it. So 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)

Sunday, July 5th, 2020

Trump at Mount Rushmore: “We are the nation that gave rise to the Wright Brothers, the Tuskegee Airmen, Harriet Tubman, Clara Barton, Jesse Owens, General George Patton, the great Louie Armstrong, Alan Shepard, Elvis Presley, and Mohammad Ali.”

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

Amalgamated from a dialog in the comments at a Marginal Revolution post “How to Live in a World Gone Mad?”:

The mob is saying silence is violence. Funnily enough, the mob also says speech is violence. They also say violence is not violence.

Fun, fun, fun!

Monday, June 29th, 2020

Cancelled Canadian Hal Niedzviecki is still at it, as deliciously elucidated in the rather literate comments.

Jordan Peterson is back, warning that the hard sciences are next.

Thursday, June 18th, 2020

Wednesday, June 17th, 2020

Theodore Dalrymple on “Silence is violence”, “No justice, no peace”, and other ominous bits of what he coins moral thuggery.

Monday, June 15th, 2020

Capping off a triumvirate of essays I’ve come across in the past few days that elucidate the current moment is Ross Douthat on the successor ideology.

David Goldman produces a fact-filled yet overarchingly-theoried analysis of the mid-pandemic race-themed disturbances. Like for Palestinians, he argues it’s about humiliation. Goldman is sympathetic but not sycophantic, analytic but not caustic.

Sunday, June 14th, 2020

Thursday, June 11th, 2020

The problem is that you have people who are so exhausted from their lousy diets and poor lifestyles, that the idea of putting any effort into anything is overwhelming.

Alan Goldhammer, Is Water Fasting Safe? In-depth Interview w/ Dr. Goldhamer & Dr. Group

Most of the food in the grocery store is nothing more than a few heavily subsidized grains like wheat, corn and soy cooked with oil, salt and sugar, and smashed together in different forms — that’s essentially what people are eating.

Alan Goldhamer, Is Water Fasting Safe? In-depth Interview with Dr. Goldhamer & Dr. Group

Sunday, June 7th, 2020

Saturday, June 6th, 2020

“Who is an Arab Jew?” is an essay by Albert Memmi written in 1975.

Thursday, June 4th, 2020

Rejecting “false equivalency between rule of law and rule by law”, the USA has published its Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China.

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020

“Opposing an aspiring Eurasian hegemon is the American prime strategic directive.” Donnelly’s back!

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.

Wednesday, May 27th, 2020

“We’ll be lucky if we just get a cold war.” Nouriel Roubini seems on the money that we’re outta money.

He says it’ll be a decade of depression, but why even only a decade? Covid-19 aside, massive change is coming, because Peak Stuff.

So a thought: why must retail be the heart of the economy? What if we were to become a civilization not of shopkeepers, nor even of marketers, but researchers?

Marketing could move from the core to the margins, with us only buying what we need, which is a lot less than what we’ve been buying to date, while taxes — collected on the profits gathered by a select few conglomerates manufacturing super efficiently with automation — pay for tons and tons of scientific research.

Most people being scientists: perhaps less chimera than inevitability?

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020

John Gruber awakens me to the difference between coding and programming. Coding is a means to a more distant end, the software product, whereas programming has a nearer end, a program.

A program is a thing worthy itself of attention and appreciation, whereas code, lacking the definite article, is not.

technovelgy.com, where science meets fiction, and a glorious taste of the old web.

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.”

Friday, May 22nd, 2020

Launch

Jeff Walker

♦♦

So now I understand the source of the myriad of preposterously-priced online courses I come across with preposterous limited-time-only sign-ups. Preposterously-priced because they are book projects broken up into series of articles or videos then priced an order of magnitude or two higher than a book; and preposterously time-limited because these are digital products and so can be purchased at any time. They are from the “secret formula to sell almost anything online” from this book Launch by Jeff Walker.

To be fair, Walker stresses that limited-time-only purchasing should be a genuine constraint resulting from the nature of the product, even if many acolytes seem to ignore this part. And his general admonition that a product launch matters and requires much preparation is something to take seriously. But I think regarding a SaaS, launches can be multiple and almost irrelevant to the product itself; launches are marketing activities that can be about any new feature no matter how trivial.

But I’m not responding directly to the book here, rather to my irritation at what it spawned. There is some good marketing advice here certainly, it’s just that I don’t find marketing very interesting. More fool me.

Thursday, May 21st, 2020

SARS-CoV-2 apparently interferes with the body’s one-two process of knocking out a virus, reports Stat News on discoveries made by Benjamin tenOever of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The virus blocks the production of interferons by infected cells, which slows down viral replication. But the signal to bring in killer cells goes unabated. The result is an arms race of virus and inflammatory cytokines within the lungs. Ingestion of interferons could redress this problem.

Monday, May 18th, 2020

Hail Freedonia, a Covid-19 vaccine is in sight! Hail Moderna, hail Massachusetts!

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

The comfort of having an organization is largely illusory; it still comes down to one programmer in the end.

Jordan Mechner, The Making of Prince of Persia

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

Jordan Mechner, The Making of Prince of Persia

Monday, May 11th, 2020

What a fandango by Tel Avivi Hagai Farago.

Saturday, May 9th, 2020

Writing in The New Atlantis, Yuval Levin explicates in “Prudence in a Storm” the terrible opportunity cost of the politics of partisan catastrophizing:

We should be capable of seeing the difference between a crisis rooted in a chronic problem that demands to be addressed within the normal bounds of our political culture and a rare, extreme emergency that requires us to suspend some of the usual frameworks of our politics and mobilize massively but temporarily to respond.

Wednesday, May 6th, 2020

Tuesday, May 5th, 2020

Saturday, April 25th, 2020

The biggest balagan ever, the USA’s flailing then failing pandemic response:

By the time the virus broke on American shores, the problem was not that the United States didn’t have a single plan for an international pandemic. The problem was it had dozens of plans, totaling thousands of pages, issued by different agencies and by different administrations, apparently with little thought to how they would be combined or who would implement them.

Friday, April 24th, 2020

Some reflections on the pandemic by Yuval Levin:

Rather than a sense of mutual dependence … we might walk away from this crisis as even more capable loners.

Thursday, April 23rd, 2020

More people will die from Covid-19 because we cannot study drugs more quickly, writes Matthew Herper in STAT.

Yes. Anonymized data from all patients should be accessible to all. The social media giants have demonstrated that it can be done — data entered from all over the world into a single system that produces meaningful output. Indeed, the web is the perfect medium for it. Rather than setting up trials to evaluate the efficacy of a treatment, researchers could instead be checking the global treatment knowledgebase.

Using their web-connected devices, registered medical practitioners would log each step of a patient’s treatment as it happens; in medicine a new understanding would take hold that the practice is to both treat the individual at hand and publish that treatment because every facet of every case history can contribute to a myriad of studies.

A standards body could set the data model that is a medical case. Presumably the model would emanate out to include such information as the identity of the treating hospital, so that, eg, the geographical locale can be factored in by researchers.

One problematic aspect of a case is the patient’s anonymized identity, required for factoring in pre-existing conditions. A new price of our medical care would be its worldwide publicization, and the understanding that motivated organizations could connect even anonymized medical data with other aspects of a person’s life, such as a cessation of credit card use during hospitalization. Yet given what we now see is the catastrophic fallout of a pandemic, we will surely come to accept this cost, just like say driving licenses. Moreover, perhaps this could justify to Americans why healthcare should be free: one is contributing one’s medical biography to the knowledgebase.

Such instant availability of global treatment data would be useful not only to researchers but also — and possibly primarily — to doctors devising treatments in the moment.

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020

Cool made with Zoom music video (though if this is the state of contemporary pop music, count me out of the tune).

Sunday, April 19th, 2020

The eleven days in question are 12th–23rd March. Eleven days in which the [UK] government decided to give up with contact tracing and do, well, nothing. Mass gatherings were still allowed (because “science”). Concerts and racing and Champions’ League football. Pubs. Public transport. Everything. The over-70s, it must be conceded, were advised to avoid cruises.

Friday, April 17th, 2020

A brief survey of Israeli exit strategies for coronavirus lockdown, including the 5/2 and the alternate week plans.

Forbes lists Israel as the #1 safest country from the Wuhan. Germany then South Korea are next. The USA and UK aren’t even in the top 40.

The Bar-Ilan alternate week lockdown strategy by Dror Meidan, Reuven Cohen, Simcha Haber & Baruch Barzel.

We propose an alternating lock-down strategy, in which at every instance, half of the population remainsunder lock-down while the other half continues to be active, maintaining a routine of weeklysuccession between activity and lock-down. All symptomatic individuals continue to remainin isolation. Under this regime, if an individual was exposed during their active week, by thetime they complete their lock-down they will already begin to exhibit symptoms. Hence thisstrategy isolates the majority of exposed individuals during their asymptomatic phase.

Monday, April 13th, 2020

 
 

•••

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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    In politically turbulent times, when it is not clear which way the arc of history will bend, it is useful to reframe the question of political futures in terms of built-environment futures. Instead of asking, what kind of milieu will we inhabit, you ask the potentially easier question, what sort of built environment will we […]
  • Two Spooks

    It may or may not be true that there are no extant photographs of Johann C. Schmidt, aka Max Stirner. The ones I may know of lack the auratic power of the two penetrating character sketches Friedrich Engels did of him: the first, a remarkable, vulpine profile he drew from memory for John Henry Mackay, […]
  • A Spectre Is Haunting The West

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