Gygax was surprised to find both of the Blume brothers in attendance

Monday, October 18th, 2021

In the fall of 1985, Gary Gygax was the most famous and powerful figure in hobby gaming, Jon Peterson explains:

October 22 was a Tuesday, and Gygax was wrapping up another day at TSR corporate headquarters on Sheridan Springs Road in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. His last appointment was a board meeting just after close of business; with 1,371 shares of stock, he held controlling interest in the company, and thus chaired the board. The meeting started late, at quarter past five. Five of the company’s six directors were present: two of the independent directors, James Huber and Wesley Sommer, and then the three principal shareholders: Gygax, Brian Blume, and Kevin Blume. Gygax was surprised to find both of the Blume brothers in attendance. Though they held a substantial stake in the company—as a family, nearly one thousand shares total—they had lost their executive positions at TSR following a reorganization the previous year.

The board proceeded to review the company’s turbulent negotiations with the American National Bank before moving on to the ostensible purpose of the meeting, a discussion regarding TSR’s royalty payments to authors. In recent internal memos, Gygax had insisted that the company allow its employees, himself especially, to retain all copyrights, trademarks, and royalties for works authored rather than assigning them to TSR; in the eyes of other directors, this was in violation of existing contracts. During the course of this discussion, Gygax mused that since it seemed the board would find it easier to afford him these privileges if he were not an employee, perhaps he should just resign.

It was of course preposterous for a majority shareholder to suggest their own resignation, but Gygax found the room coldly receptive to this course of action. The presence of the Blumes worried him. He turned to the Board Secretary, Willard Martens, to ask if his personal stake relative to the other shareholders had changed recently. At first, Martens replied only that Lorraine Williams had exercised her option for 50 shares in TSR. Williams had joined the company in April as Vice President of Administration; her options alone could not endanger Gygax’s majority.

“Have there been any other changes?” Gygax further inquired.

Martens only then volunteered, “Brian Blume exercised his option for seven hundred shares.”

Realization set in. Gary Gygax said simply, “I see.”

What did Gygax see, in that moment? He saw enough shares in play that he stood to lose control of TSR, a company he had founded and transformed into a global brand. But he surely also saw something even more dear at stake: that he might lose control of Dungeons & Dragons.

The two inferior techniques largely rely on pushing down against the water

Saturday, October 16th, 2021

Alex Hutchinson reviews a recent study on the physiology of treading water efficiently:

They put 21 volunteers, all experienced water polo players, synchronized swimmers, or competitive swimmers who self-identified as water treading experts, through a series of physiological and cognitive tests while performing four different styles of treading. The verdict: some techniques really are substantially better than others.

The four techniques are as follows:

  1. Running in the water: This one is pretty self-explanatory. Hands and feet are moving up and down in a running-like motion.
  2. Flutter kick: Your hands are sculling back and forth along the surface of the water, while your legs do a flutter kick.
  3. Upright breaststroke: Your hands are still sculling along the surface of the water, but your legs are doing the distinctive frog kick of the breaststroke.
  4. Eggbeater: It’s similar to the upright breaststroke, with the key difference that your legs are kicking one at a time instead of synchronously, producing an eggbeater pattern of alternating circles with each leg.

[...]

There were clear differences in how efficient the different techniques were, with running and flutter kick performing equally poorly, and upright breaststroke and eggbeater performing equally well. This pattern showed up in every outcome measure.

[...]

Normally VO2 measurements are adjusted for weight, since heavier people burn more energy — but in this case, wet weight was used to also account for differences in buoyancy.

[...]

The two inferior techniques largely rely on pushing down against the water to move the body upward. This has two problems: water is too thin to provide much support, and even when the pushing works you get a lot of wasted up-and-down motion. The two better strokes, in contrast, involve lateral movements of the arms and legs: your cupped hand acts like an airplane wing or sailboat sail, generating lift forces perpendicular to the plane of motion. This is more efficient than pushing on the water, and produces less wasted vertical bobbing.

There’s one key difference between upright breaststroke and the eggbeater: in the former, your legs are kicking outward at the same time, while in the latter they’re alternating. This means that breaststroke produces some of that undesired up (when you kick) and down (between kicks) motion — and that effect is exacerbated if you stop sculling with your hands. In the eggbeater, there’s always one leg moving, so you get a smoother, more continuous lift that can keep you up even without your hands. The study didn’t test anything that required using your arms — but if you want to throw a water polo ball, strike a fancy pose during your synchro routine, or signal frantically to a passing ship that you need rescue, eggbeater looks like a much better bet.

Aviation mines use an acoustic-infrared sensor to identify the noise of an aircraft up to 3.2 km away and then launch a projectile when it’s within 150 meters

Friday, October 15th, 2021

Russia designed aviation mines in the late 1990s:

“Aviation mines reportedly function by using an acoustic-infrared sensor to first identify the noise of an aircraft at up to 3.2 kilometers and then launch a projectile at the identified aircraft when it is within 150 meters,” according to the U.S. Army’s OE Watch magazine, which monitors foreign military developments. “Although currently fielded Russian aviation mines can only hit low flying targets at a very short distance, their employment could greatly complicate Russia’s adversaries’ efforts to protect airfields, drop zones, and any other place where aircraft may fly low.”

The mines can be emplaced by ground troops or even air-dropped from helicopters using “a special ‘aviation’ version of the Bumerang anti-helicopter mine, with six (instead of four in the ‘ground’ version) stabilizing slings, which ensures the accuracy of the installation of anti-helicopter mines in the vertical plane,” according to an April 2021 article in Russian defense magazine Military Industrial Courier (Voyenno-Promyshlennyy Kuryer, or VPK). “These mines take stable vertical positions while still in flight, and the NVU [mine] is activated when coming into contact with the ground surface.”

The mines can be laid quickly, including a three-kilometer (1.9 mile)-long minefield emplaced in one hour by Russian sappers during an exercise in March 2018, VPK said. And they can remain functional for at least three months after placement. “The key factors influencing the duration of combat operation are primarily the temperature of the surrounding air and the number of the mine target guidance system activations,” said VPK. “Nevertheless, the minimum guaranteed time for its power source autonomous operation is 90 days.”

It’s a rejection of the casual, new money looks of the 2010s

Thursday, October 14th, 2021

Prep is back:

The aesthetic first gained a foothold among Gen Z, who took to TikTok to share “old money” inspiration: polo, croquet, lush gardens, and Italian villages. These scenes became inspiration for both fashion and decor: riding boots, Gucci crossbody bags, floral wallpaper, and lots of vintage. Meanwhile, millennials picked up leisure-class hobbies like sailing and golfing during the “solitary leisure” days of quarantine.

In some ways, it’s a rejection of the casual, new money looks of the 2010s, on display both by Instagram influencers and the hoodie-wearing millennial billionaire class. In other ways, it’s a practical consequence of how a supply shortage and a lockdown changed the economy in ways that will be permanent. And in still another sense, it’s an expression of escape: away from the traumatic events of the young 2020s and toward a nostalgia for another time.

Oxford shirts, tennis skirts, and tweed blazers are taking over social media. Gen Z is plastering Ralph Lauren campaign ads from the ’90s and vintage tennis photos all over TikTok and Instagram — and they’re spending big to recreate the looks.

Vox’s Rebecca Jennings first reported on the “old money” aesthetic in fashion, writing that Gen Z lusts after “the unapologetically pretentious Ivy League-slash-Oxbridge fourth-cousin-of-a-Kennedy country club vibe.”

TikTok users have rediscovered prep and are driving the trend, Morgane Le Caer, content lead at Lyst, told Insider. The global fashion shopping platform has seen increasing demand for preppy styles. Over the week ending on September 24, searches for leather loafers were up by 28%, pleated skirts by 16%, Peter Pan collar shirts by 23%, and pearl necklaces by 29%.

[…]

It’s also a response to the casual outfits that typifies the new millennial billionaire class: Dressing in the polished way of a northeastern socialite is ultimately a rejection of the tech CEO’s hoodie and sneaker ensemble.

The old money aesthetic has also made its way inside homes.

The posh look first took root in form of the “grandmillennial” vibe that some millennials gravitated towards pre-pandemic, rich in porcelain figurines, English antiques, chintz wallpaper, and brocade curtains. They were seeking décor inspiration everywhere from English country houses to neo-preppy brands like Rodarte.

[…]

Country clubs, yacht clubs, and old money hobbies like golfing and boating have enjoyed a pandemic boom.

During quarantine, these pastimes replaced the group activities typical of social leisure, like amusement parks, concerts, and crowded bars and restaurants. And they continued to remain popular even as the economy reopened, especially as people grew wary of indoor activities again during the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.

US boat sales hit a 13-year high last year, per the National Marine Manufacturers Association, with younger first-time boat buyers leading the way. Online resource Discover Boating saw site traffic increase by 90% year-over-year through May among those ages 18- to 24-years-old, with millennials comprising the largest number of visitors overall. Experts expect the upswing in interest to last for a long time.

A similar story is unfolding out on the green. Golf play in the US increased by 14% from 2019 to 2020, according to Golf Datatech, the largest uptick since the industry market research company began tracking the data in 1998. Even spending on golf equipment is on the rise, with retail sales up by nearly 50% in June, July, and August compared to those months two years prior, per data from The NPD Group.

More than anyone else, John von Neumann created the future

Tuesday, October 12th, 2021

More than anyone else, John von Neumann created the future:

He came up with a blueprint of the modern computer and sparked the beginnings of artificial intelligence. He worked on the atom bomb and led the team that produced the first computerised weather forecast. In the mid-1950s, he proposed the idea that the Earth was warming as a consequence of humans burning coal and oil, and warned that ‘extensive human intervention’ could wreak havoc with the world’s climate. Colleagues who knew both von Neumann and his colleague Albert Einstein said that von Neumann had by far the sharper mind, and yet it’s astonishing, and sad, how few people have heard of him.

Just like Einstein, von Neumann was a child prodigy. Einstein taught himself algebra at 12, but when he was just six von Neumann could multiply two eight-digit numbers in his head and converse in Ancient Greek. He devoured a 45-volume history of the world and was able to recite whole chapters verbatim decades later. ‘What are you calculating?’ he once asked his mother when he noticed her staring blankly into space. By eight he was familiar with calculus, and his oldest friend, Eugene Wigner, recalls the 11-year-old Johnny tutoring him on the finer points of set theory during Sunday walks. Wigner, who later won a share of the Nobel prize in physics, maintained that von Neumann taught him more about maths than anyone else.

Johnny’s plans (and by extension, the modern world) were nearly derailed by his father, Max, a doctor of law turned investment banker. ‘Mathematics,’ he maintained, ‘does not make money.’ The chemical industry was in its heyday so a compromise was reached that would mark the beginning of von Neumann’s peripatetic lifestyle: the boy would bone up on chemistry at the University of Berlin and meanwhile would also pursue a doctorate in mathematics at the University of Budapest.

All 14 systematic reviews undertaken by authors with histories of alcohol industry funding identified a cardioprotective effect of alcohol

Monday, October 11th, 2021

Researchers conducted a co-authorship network analysis of systematic reviews on the impacts on alcohol on cardiovascular disease (CVD) in order to investigate patterns of co-authorship in the literature, with particular attention given to industry funding:

60 systematic reviews with 231 unique authors met our inclusion criteria. 14 systematic reviews were undertaken by authors with histories of alcohol industry funding, including 5 that were funded directly by the alcohol industry itself. All 14 such reviews identified a cardioprotective effect of alcohol. These formed distinct co-authorship subnetworks within the literature. Of reviews by authors with no prior histories of alcohol industry funding, the findings were mixed, with 54% (25/46) concluding there was evidence of health protective effects.

We want to replace much more than 100% of current gas, coal, and oil with zero-carbon sources of electricity

Sunday, October 10th, 2021

Over the centuries, Matthew Yglesias reminds us, people have invented many different kinds of machines that help us do things and improve living standards:

But in a very general way, what most of these inventions do is let us substitute some form of power for human effort. And as long as we were totally ignoring the costs of burning coal and oil, this was a great mechanism for progress — you invent new ways to do things by burning coal and oil, so then you burn more coal and oil.

But since the mid-1970s we’ve been increasingly aware of the limits and problems with this model, and it’s put us on an energy diet. Now when we invent something cool, we often have to say “too bad the energy requirements are so high.”

But as Ryan Avent (from whom I borrowed that chart) and others have written, this is a backward way of looking at things. The turn toward conservation and efficiency was a necessary evil in an era when we couldn’t come up with a better way to deal with geopolitical instability linked to oil and pollution linked to all forms of fossil fuels.

Instead, we should raise our clean energy production ambitions. We don’t want to replace 100% of our current dirty energy — we want to generate vastly more energy than we are currently using and make it zero carbon.

What difference does it make in how you look at it?

In the “energy is a necessary evil” frame, we look at our current electricity needs and then ask, “How can we generate all that from zero-carbon sources?” In the alternate framing, you say that to the extent we can develop affordable, zero-carbon sources of electricity, we want to generate tons and tons of electricity. Ideally, we would want to replace much more than 100% of current gas, coal, and oil with zero-carbon sources of electricity and use that to literally power a bold new era of rapid economic growth.

I find that this vision tends not to be intuitively compelling to a lot of people who are accustomed to living in the efficiency era. But let’s just imagine a world with small modular nuclear reactors and advanced geothermal energy production — a world in which we have plenty of baseline power. As our ability to make batteries gets better and better, we can put them all in vehicles rather than using them to address intermittent renewables. Then when the sun shines or the wind blows, we have even more power that we can use for stuff that doesn’t need to be on all the time. It’s a world of energy abundance — Lewis Strauss’ dream of electricity that’s “too cheap to meter.”

John Lennon was embarrassed by his former radicalism

Saturday, October 9th, 2021

Today is John Lennon’s birthday, and I’d like to once again remind people that by 1979 Lennon was embarrassed by his former radicalism — at least according to Fred Seaman, who was his assistant at the time:

John, basically, made it very clear that if he were an American he would vote for Reagan because he was really sour on Jimmy Carter.

[...]

I also saw John embark in some really brutal arguments with my uncle, who’s an old-time communist… He enjoyed really provoking my uncle… Maybe he was being provocative… but it was pretty obvious to me he had moved away from his earlier radicalism.

He was a very different person back in 1979 and 80 than he’d been when he wrote Imagine. By 1979 he looked back on that guy and was embarrassed by that guy’s naivete.

He would not respect rules and regulations that threatened to prevent him from achieving his mission objectives

Thursday, October 7th, 2021

The troops and officers from some of the least belligerent nations in the world — namely, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway — turned out to be quite adept at both using force and playing the odds in the high-stakes political game played in Bosnia:

In late 1993, a reinforced Swedish-Danish-Norwegian mechanized battalion (Nordbat 2) deployed to Bosnia as part of an ongoing UN peacekeeping mission, known as UNPROFOR (United Nations Protection Force). The battalion was under Swedish command, and with the exception of a Danish tank company and a Norwegian helicopter detachment, was comprised of Swedish former conscripts, led by active-duty officers. The former conscripts had volunteered to return from civilian life to serve in a professional capacity. These Swedish troops, coming from a nation that had not experienced war for almost 200 years, faced a rigid UN bureaucracy, an unclear mandate, and the UN-imposed rules of engagement bordered on the absurd. However, the Swedes had one thing the others didn’t: a culture of mission command that had grown and developed for decades.

[…]

The Swedish Armed Forces were consequently trained to respond to a massive Soviet invasion force, which was expected to attack over land (via Finland), across the Baltic Sea, and by deploying airborne units. The Swedish Army estimated that a breakdown of command and control was a likely scenario as the Soviets would inevitably disrupt communications, destroy command centers, and seize territory, thereby isolating segments of the Swedish Army. In order to cope with this contingency, all units were trained to engage in what was known as “the free war,” (i.e. autonomous operations against local targets, without centralized command). The free war was intended as a last resort, which would only end when the invader had finally retreated. The official doctrine stated that all Swedish citizens were to, without exception, consider any order to surrender to be false, regardless of its origin. This was even printed in all phone books, which also contained instructions for the civilian population in case of war.

Considering that all Swedish Army units were expected to be able to operate autonomously, the culture of mission command completely permeated the entire organization. The officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs), all the way down to the lowest-ranking enlisted men, were taught that the only truly mortal sin was to hesitate. To seize the initiative and act was the primary imperative. There was no priority higher than that of achieving the mission objectives at hand. Orders could be disobeyed, rules could be broken—as long as the mission was successful.

The battalion commanders who deployed to Bosnia to take charge of Nordbat 2 had spent their entire professional lives in this culture, and their men had known it since the earliest days of their own military training. To them, it was as natural as breathing.

[…]

Shortly after it had been deployed to Bosnia in December 1993, Nordbat 2 found itself in its first serious hostile encounter. A Swedish platoon was sent to relieve a Canadian company which was providing security for a mostly abandoned hospital compound in a remote area. As soon as the Canadians left, a Croatian battalion-sized unit showed up and promptly mined the only road leading to the compound, ensuring that the Swedes would be unable to receive reinforcements.

Then they issued an ultimatum: hand over the three Muslim nurses, and we will leave you alone. The Swedish platoon leader, Captain Stewe Simson, radioed battalion command, and was told that it was his call to make, since he was the one in charge at the location. Captain Simson refused to hand over the nurses and instead ordered his men to prepare for combat.

Vastly outnumbered and outgunned, Captain Simson realized that it was unrealistic to expect that his unit would survive a full-out assault. Nevertheless, he was determined not to give in. The Croats started to fire mortar rounds, but the Swedes held their positions. After a few hours, the Croats issued a new ultimatum: the nurses could stay if the Croats were granted free passage to the compound. Again, Captain Simson refused. The situation remained tense throughout the night, with the Swedes maintaining full combat readiness. In the morning, the Croats negotiated with the Swedes and eventually left, quietly dropping their ultimatums. Nordbat 2 had shown resolve even in the face of hopeless odds, achieving a strategically important victory as a result of a decision made by a platoon commander.

Other incidents followed. When fired at, Nordbat 2 often shot back, frequently disregarding the UN rules of engagement. Colonel Henricsson made it clear that he would not respect rules and regulations that threatened to prevent him from achieving his mission objectives. When his own government tried to rein him in, he simply told his radio operator to pretend that the link was down until he had a fait accompli to present to Stockholm.

In one particularly infamous incident, the Bosnian Serb Army set up an ambush for the battalion’s Danish tank company. By launching a feint attack against a remote outpost, the Bosnian Serb Army lured a detachment from the tank company to drive straight into a trap. Anti-tank missiles and heavy guns opened up from concealed positions. Once the Danes started to take fire, their response was furious. The detachment commander simply told his crews to neutralize the anti-tank positions. The Leopard tanks directed accurate and deadly fire against the Bosnian Serb Army positions, using up no less than 72 main gun rounds. One by one, the anti-tank missile batteries and gun positions fell silent. During the fight, a Bosnian Serb Army ammunition supply was hit, resulting in a large explosion. After the engagement, Nordbat 2 estimated that as many as 150 troops may have been killed, although the Bosnian Serb Army denied this.

The incident greatly upset the UN regional command, which threatened to relieve Nordbat 2′s battalion commander and have him sent back to Sweden. Nevertheless, Nordbat 2 had once again refused to let the parties to the conflict dictate the terms of its deployment. In several other incidents, Nordbat 2 personnel intervened to protect refugees and took action to prevent the cover-up of ethnic cleansing operations. On several occasions this took the form of forcing passage through roadblocks. During one such event, the battalion commander himself forced a sentry to remove the anti-tank mines used to block passage by threatening to blow the sentry’s head off with a heavy machine gun.

(Hat tip to Dominic Cummings.)

The lithium-metal battery with this architecture had an energy density of 560 Wh/kg

Monday, October 4th, 2021

One of the more promising possibilities for improving lithium-ion batteries involves swapping out the graphite used in one of the battery’s electrodes for pure lithium metal, a material that can hold as much as 10 times the energy:

The researchers started off with what’s described as a cobalt-poor, nickel-rich layered cathode (NCM88) and a commercially available organic electrolyte called LP30. While the cathode reached high energy density, instability soon took hold and storage capacity decreased as the battery was cycled.

“In the electrolyte LP30, particles crack on the cathode,” explains Professor Stefano Passerini, Director of HIU. “Inside these cracks, the electrolyte reacts and damages the structure. In addition, a thick mossy lithium-containing layer forms on the anode.”

So the team swapped out the LP30 electrolyte for an alternative, and one that brought about profound gains in performance. Described as a non-volatile, poorly-flammable, dual-anion ionic liquid electrolyte (ILE), this ingredient proved to largely avoid the structural defects on the cathode and saved the battery from the fatal electrochemical reactions.

[…]

The lithium-metal battery with this architecture had an energy density of 560 Wh/kg. For context, there are research consortiums dedicated to breaking through the 500-Wh/kg density threshold in order to power next-generation electric vehicles, while today’s best-in-class lithium-ion batteries have energy densities of 250 to 300 Wh/kg.

Forty-nine are cute quirks, and one is destroying civilization

Sunday, October 3rd, 2021

Julia Galef, author of Scout Mindset, earned her celebrity status honestly, Scott Alexander quips, through long years of hard labor in the rationality mines:

Back in ~2007, a bunch of people interested in biases and decision-making joined the “rationalist community” centered around the group blogs Overcoming Bias and Less Wrong. Around 2012, they mostly left to do different stuff. Some of them went into AI to try to save the world. Others went into effective altruism to try to revolutionize charity. Some, like me, got distracted and wrote a few thousand blog posts on whatever shiny things happened to catch their eyes. But a few stuck around and tried to complete the original project. They founded a group called the Center For Applied Rationality (aka “CFAR”, yes, it’s a pun) to try to figure out how to actually make people more rational in the real world.

Like, a big part of why so many people — the kind of people who would have read Predictably Irrational in 2008 or commented on Overcoming Bias in 2010 — moved on was because just learning that biases existed didn’t really seem to help much. CFAR wanted to find a way to teach people about biases that actually stuck and improved decision-making. To that end, they ran dozens of workshops over about a decade, testing various techniques and seeing which ones seemed to stick and make a difference. Galef is their co-founder and former president, and Scout Mindset is an attempt to write down what she learned.

Reading between the lines, I think she learned pretty much the same thing a lot of the rest of us learned during the grim years of the last decade. Of the fifty-odd biases discovered by Kahneman, Tversky, and their successors, forty-nine are cute quirks, and one is destroying civilization. This last one is confirmation bias — our tendency to interpret evidence as confirming our pre-existing beliefs instead of changing our minds. This is the bias that explains why your political opponents continue to be your political opponents, instead of converting to your obviously superior beliefs. And so on to religion, pseudoscience, and all the other scourges of the intellectual world.

But she also learned that just telling people “Hey, avoid confirmation bias!” doesn’t work, even if you explain things very well and give lots of examples. What does work? Research is still ongoing, but the book concentrates on emotional and identity-related thought processes.

[…]

Instead of thinking “I’m sure global warming is fake!”, try to think in terms of probabilities (“I think there’s a 90% chance global warming is fake.”) Instead of thinking in terms of changing your mind (“Should I surrender my belief, and switch to my enemy’s belief that global warming is true”), think in terms of updating your probabilities (“Now I’m only 70% sure that global warming is fake”). This mindset makes it easier to remember that it’s not a question of winning or losing, but a question of being as accurate as possible. Someone who updates from 90% to 70% is no more or less wrong or embarrassing than someone who updates from 60% to 40%.

[…]

A lot of the best rationalists I know instinctively apply these tests to everything they think. One technique for cultivating this practice (not the book’s recommendation) is to go on Twitter, where the adage is “there’s always an old tweet”. Argue that people who say racist things should be cancelled, and someone will dig up your old racist tweet and make you defend why you shouldn’t face the same consequences. Argue that it’s disgraceful when the other party uses extreme violent language about their outgroup, and someone will dig up an old tweet where you used even more extreme language about yours. Demand that the Republican senator resign for sexual misconduct, and someone will find the old tweet where you said the Democratic senator should tough it out. Eventually, if you want to maintain any dignity at all, you learn to double-check whether your beliefs are consistent with one another or with what you’d believe in vaguely similar situations.

Scout Mindset says: why not try the same thing, even when you’re not on Twitter, just to determine what’s true?.

And one very likely answer is: because it would hurt.

Scout Mindset tries to differentiate itself from other rationality-and-bias books by caring a lot about this. It argues that, while other rationality books just told you what to do, most people wouldn’t do it; they’d be too emotionally attached to their existing beliefs. So after giving a few intellectual suggestions, it goes on a deep dive into the emotional side.

[…]

It reminds me of C.S. Lewis — especially The Great Divorce, whose conceit was that the damned could leave Hell for Heaven at any time, but mostly didn’t, because it would require them to admit that they had been wrong. I think Julia thinks of rationality and goodness as two related skills: both involve using healthy long-term coping strategies instead of narcissistic short-term ones.

[…]

Julia is trying to normalize changing your mind, to assure you that lots of great people who you respect do it, that there are whole communities out there of people who do it, that she does it and she is a TED-talk-having celebrity who you implicitly trust.

Big money for container carriers

Saturday, October 2nd, 2021

Two years ago, a 40-foot container cost less than $2,000 to transport goods from Asia to the U.S:

Today the service fetches as much as $25,000 if an importer pays a premium for on-time delivery, which is a luxury. That’s translated into big money for container carriers, with the industry on track to post $100 billion in net profit this year, up from about $15 billion in 2020, says John McCown, an industry veteran and founder of Blue Alpha Capital.

Harden’s Folly

Friday, October 1st, 2021

Steve Sailer describes Kathryn Paige Harden’s The Genetic Lottery as Harden’s Folly:

After years of trying out on the science conference circuit her arguments for why the Woke shouldn’t be so anti-genetics, The Genetic Lottery is finally here. It turns out to be an elaborately contrived triple-bank-shot attempt to head off growing Ibram X. Kendi-style science denialism by claiming that ignoring the influence of genetics upon human differences just enables the Real Bad Guys, led by archvillain Charles Murray, to easily dunk on the libs:

When social scientists routinely fail to integrate genetics into their models of human development, they leave space for a false narrative that portrays the insights of genetics as a Pandora’s box of “forbidden knowledge.”… Why would we want to hand people opposed to the goals of social equality a powerful rhetorical weapon, in the form of a widely prevalent and easily understood methodological flaw in social research?

[…]

The Genetic Lottery is all over the map. Some people try not to get canceled by adopting an obscure prose style. Harden, instead, artlessly expresses herself, and then goes back and says the opposite later.

[…]

Harden is proud of her book’s title:

A lottery is a perfect metaphor for describing genetic inheritance: the genome of every person is the outcome of nature’s Powerball.

But, except for the potential big payoff, lotteries are boring. In contrast, how a particular baby gets made is fascinating on multiple levels: scientific, sociological, romantic, and erotic. A less bad metaphor for how humans are conceived would be poker, a game that combines luck, strategy, and psychology. Murray, by the way, plays poker.

Moreover, Murray is an Aristotelian. The Greeks valued excellence not just for what it could do for the poor, but for its own sake.

This can lead to excessive Nietzscheanism. Yet, Harden’s Rawlsian conviction that society must be organized around helping the lowest potential people narrow gaps seems comparably unbalanced. The old Benthamite notion of the greatest good for the greatest number seems more sensible (but is out of fashion for its majoritarianism).

Harden propounds a sophomoric view that intelligence is “socially valued, not inherently valuable,” and follows that up with a conspiracy theory that early-20th-century eugenicists plotted to get us:

…to see intelligence (as measured on standardized IQ tests) and educational success, perhaps more than any other human phenotypes, in terms of a hierarchy of inferior and superior persons is not an accident. It is an idea that was deliberately crafted and disseminated.

In truth, intelligence has been viewed as valuable for a lot longer than that. For instance, the most famous work of ancient philosophy, Plato’s Republic, is basically about why philosophers deserve to be kings.

More reasonably, the Greeks felt it smart to invest the most in the education of the highest potential students. Thus, it used to be seen as a good thing that Plato had Socrates for a teacher and Aristotle for a pupil. Similarly, society invested heavily in the young Harden’s potential, granting her a full ride to a private college due to her high test scores.

The ideology of The Genetic Lottery seems motivated in sizable measure by Harden’s maternal feelings for her two very different children. One of her children is healthy and bright, while the other, to whom Harden devotes more of her efforts, was born with a congenital defect.