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Gus Van Horn blog

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  1. Over at Spiked is a piecetitled, "Grenfell: Don't Let the State Off the Hook." Although there are several aspects of the analysis I don't agree with, I'm glad I'm not the only person to have noticedhow eager the left has been to pin the blame for the Grenfell fire on (their misconception of) capitalism. The most poignant example of how little regard is given to social-housing tenants can be seen in the reason why cladding was installed in the first place. [The Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO)] said the refurbishment at Grenfell was an attempt to 'enhance energy efficiency and help reduce residents' living costs'. As James Heartfield has pointed out previously on [Spiked], KCTMO was in fact following the orders of the government's committee on climate change -- the refurbishment was not requested by residents. Many blocks in the area were fitted with insulating cladding, new boilers and double-glazed windows, and tenants often complained about overheating. Day-to-day life for people was made more uncomfortable in the name of achieving government-set energy targets. Tenants were effectively used as fodder in the pursuit of environmentalist goals, ordered from on-high by the state. [link omitted, bold added]Such contempt for individuals -- and not just those for whom government housing is intended -- goes hand-in-hand with that for the truth shown timeand time again by the enemies of the one social system to have lifted so many from destitution to prosperity in so short a time. -- CAV Link to Original
  2. Business advice columnist Allison Green exemplifies why I am a fan in her answer to a question regarding how a company should follow up with a job candidate who fails to show up for an interview. What I find interesting is not so much her answer to the question, which is straightforward and reasonable, but the larger lesson she sees and expands upon. Green, aware that some companies send reminder emails to interviewing applicants, goes on to say why that is a bad idea: [A]bsolutely do not send reminder emails the morning of the interview. You do not want to hire anyone who needs a reminder email for something as important as an interview--not unless you also want to send reminder emails about work each day while they're working for you. People are on their best behavior during hiring processes and they're not likely to get more responsible once they have the job. If someone would forget the interview without a reminder, that's hugely important information that you want to have about them--possibly more important than anything you'd learn in the interview. So please tell your business development manager that you want to screen out people who aren't reliable and can't manage their own appointments. Remember, there are all kinds of ways to learn valuable information about candidates during your entire hiring process--it's not just about their cover letter, rèsumè, and references...Although Green doesn't explicitly say, "Remember what the purpose of a job interview is, and apply it to all aspects of the process," it is easy to start thinking in that vein when reading the answer to her question because she demonstrates what that looks like. On top of that, I am sure I am not alone among her readers to realize that much of her advice, on top of being sound for business, is not that difficult to apply to other areas in one's life. -- CAV Link to Original
  3. Notable Commentary "Notice there is not one grievance against the king for not providing for the 'needs of the people.'" -- Talbot Manvel, in "Declaration of Independence Joined Morality and Law" at The Capital Gazette. "f you want a condensed version of events ..." -- Paul Hsieh, in "Charlie Gard Case, Summarized in 30 Words" at Forbes. "n Pennsylvania[,] a bill being considered in the state legislature seeks to force insurance companies to pay for [unproven and ineffective] therapies [for post-Lyme disease syndrome] -- against [their] scientific and business judgement." -- Amesh Adalja, in "Will Pennsylvania Proposal Sanction Improper Treatment of Lyme Disease?" (June) at Contagion Live. "Key behaviors of investors today show eerie parallels: a desire to bid on dollars with their assets, a refusal to support the gold standard, and even a belief that the dollar is money." -- Keith Weiner, in "Stockholm Syndrome -- Precious Metals Supply and Demand" at SNB & CHF. "Beyond these similarities between patents and estate interests, there are other doctrines that define the boundaries of an estate without reference to either fences or the physical invasion that constitutes a trespass." -- Adam Mossoff, in "The Trespass Fallacy in Patent Law" (PDF, 2012) in The Florida Law Review, vol. 65, no. 6. -- CAV Link to Original
  4. From a recent reading of Marshall Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication comes the following amusing lesson about using positive language to make requests (be they of others or oneself). The author, disappointed in himself for failing to use his own communication techniques during a televised debate, had vowed never to repeat his mistakes again: A chance to redeem myself came the very next week when I was invited to continue the debate on the same program. All the way to the studio, I repeated to myself all the things I didn't want to do. As soon as the program started, the man launched off in exactly the same way he had a week earlier. For about ten seconds after he'd finished talking, I managed not to communicate in the ways I had been reminding myself. In fact, I said nothing. I just sat there. As soon as I opened my mouth, however, I found words tumbling out in all the ways I had been so determined to avoid! It was a painful lesson about what can happen when I only identify what I don't want to do, without clarifying what I do want to do. (loc. 1468)This reminded me of advice I received early in my stint in the Navy: When filling out your preferences for Permanent Change of Station Orders, only list where you'd prefer to go. Why? Because if you said where you didn't want to go, whatever that place was, is what would be in the mind of whoever later processed the form. Rosenberg's anecdote, amusing and instructive on its own merits, is so in another way, but unintentionally: The author clearly failed to follow his own advice when naming his book. I blame his altruistic moral philosophy for that oversight, along with many other shortcomings of his nevertheless valuable book. The influence of altruism on Rosenberg's thinking was so pervasive that at every level, it was often necessary to think carefully about what made a given point good or bad. This is on top of the fact that the author never defines what he regards as "violent": The closest he ever got was, towards the end of the book, was when he referred to the way most people communicate as, "life-alienating communication" (loc. 3646). So communication is supposed to further "life", but since Rosenberg is an altruist, he skirts around lots of points that would really hit home if expressed in egoistic terms. (Instead, he either misses or evades lots of connections that someone familiar with Ayn Rand's ideas will often make without much effort.) It is somewhat fitting, then, that the author also misses out on a positive title, which might have been something like, Mutually Beneficial Communication. -- CAV P.S. For anyone familiar with Nonviolent Communication or interested in Marshall Rosenberg's work, I am passing along, with permission, the following announcement from the Thinking Directions Weekly newsletter: II. Free Webinar Rationally Connected Conversations Sunday, July 23, 2017 3:00 - 4:00 p.m. Eastern (12 noon PT, 1:00 p.m. MT, 2:00 p.m. CT) Defensiveness on either side of a conversation kills the connection and dooms communication. In this talk, Jean Moroney will introduce a method for unilaterally eliminating defensiveness from both sides of a conversation. The method is egoistic interpretation of the work of Marshall Rosenberg. When one person uses it, it brings out the rational best in both people. Register here: https://www.mcssl.com/WebForms/WebForm.aspx?wid=0293f3c6-88ad-4cb9-9b8b-796fe2c04bf7 Do note the even more egoistic title than I came up with in the post above. I first heard about Nonviolent Communication from someone who had learned about it from the Thinking Directions site. After benefiting from other books I'd heard about there, I knew it would be worthwhile and am glad to have read it. This should be an interesting and valuable webinar.Link to Original
  5. The Los Angeles Times carries a storyabout why Best Buy, which looked like it would succumb to Amazon only a few years ago, has returned to profitability. The strategy looks like an interesting mix of (1) better exploiting any advantages they already had over Amazon, (2) eliminating any advantage Amazon had that they could do something about, (3) learning new ways to serve customers from Amazon, and (4) devising new ways to outdo Amazon. One of the first moves by Hubert Joly, appointed CEO in 2012, was to match Amazon's pricing. This both eliminated one of Amazon's advantages and turned "showrooming" into an advantage for electronics customers: They could look at potential purchases and even get advice from a human being -- and then not have to wait for delivery. But Joly very wisely didn't stop there: "We don't see ourselves as a brick-and-mortar retailer, we're a multichannel retailer" that combines the stores, Best Buy's website and its phone app to boost sales, Joly said in an interview. And he's planning to expand Best Buy's services, including its Geek Squad support arm, to generate more product sales.Joly makes Amazon sound one-dimensional to me, here, and it is clear that I'm hardly the only one to have noticed. The article later mentions something I'd already been hearing about off and on lately: Amazon's forays into brick-and-mortar stores and customer service. Like Sears before it, Amazon is hardly killing retail: It and its successful competitors are revolutionizing it. -- CAV Link to Original
  6. A Wall Street Journal story about an estimated "subsidy" of $1.46 per Amazon box delivered by the U.S. Postal Service brings up the common conservative lament about the government "picking winners and losers" when it meddles in the economy: I do not know which stores in my neighborhood will be gone five years from now, but I am certain my household will continue to receive numerous boxes from Amazon. I also believe that society would be better off if competing retailers, online or brick-and-mortar, continue to thrive. Congress should demand the enforcement of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, and the Postal Service needs to stop picking winners and losers in the retail world. The federal government has had its thumb on the competitive scale for far too long. [bold added]I agree that the government should stop "picking winners and losers," but simply enforcing a rule about the operation of an agency that shouldn't even exist isn't the way to do this. Why? Because anything the government does outside its proper purpose of protecting individual rights constitutes "picking winners and losers." When the government, in violation of the right to contract, establishes a monopoly in some enterprise, the principle that adults should be free to exercise their best judgment loses. Consequently, those who might innovate in that industry are impeded or thwarted along with their potential customers -- and those who fear competition on merit win. When government subsidizes an enterprise (like the post office), it compounds the same sins with theft at the expense of the productive -- leaving the unproductive as winners. Do note that, due to the nature of principles, there are always more losers than meet the eye (and, thanks to precedent and the fact that controls breed controls, vast potential for more losers). This pool of losers often includes the "winners," whose gains may be illusory and, in any event, are not protected by the now-violated principles. Furthermore, any material gains are wholly dependent on the continued prosperity of those now hobbled by legal parasitism. For example, I can't help but wonder, in this story, about whether this "gift card from Uncle Sam" even begins to make up for all the taxes Amazon, the "winner" in this story, is paying. (Clearly, if the author gets his wish, even that wouldn't be for long.) It does not matter whether Amazon lobbied in some way to continue getting this "gift card" or it is simply taking advantage of a dumb state of affairs not of its own making: Anyone truly serious about the government getting out of the business of "picking winners and losers" should question the whole premise of the government entanglement with the economy. The problem isn't that (at worst) a company that would get along fine without a "subsidy" is getting one, it's that we are being ordered around, and having our pockets picked for the privilege. Those subsidies come from somewhere, and, since money doesn't grow on trees, that means they come from someone. I'd happily pay a little more for the convenience of shopping at Amazon, but I suspect that shipping might actually be a lot cheaper without (for example) the government forcing us to support the Post Office or strangling new technologies, such as commercial drones, with the uncertainty of bureaucratic regulatory whim. -- CAV P.S.: For yet another equally ridiculous conservative effort to "level the playing field", please refer to my old column on "efairness". Oddly enough, Amazon is the persecuted minority there, too. Link to Original
  7. In a book review of Russell Redenbaugh's Shift the Narrative, John Tamny notes that its author, blinded during high school, might not have had much of a chance to prosper had the Americans with Disabilities Act been law shortly after his graduation: arriers to Redenbaugh's self-reliant, working narrative continued to reveal themselves. While his fellow classmates were inundated with suitors during year two, Redenbaugh "had forty-nine job interviews and not a single offer." Finally Cooke & Bieler, a then small investment counseling firm in Philadelphia made him a Wharton-style hard pitch: they offered him a job while telling Redenbaugh that "if it doesn't work you'll have to leave." By the 1970s, Wharton's first blind MBA was the firm's chief investment officer, partner, and its biggest revenue producer. Interesting here is that Redenbaugh notes how the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) would have rendered illegal Cooke & Bieler's conditional offer. Despite that, he laments the ADA's passage. Redenbaugh believes a principal driver of rising unemployment for the disabled springs from firms being reluctant to take risks on them in the first place. It's difficult to hire those whom it's similarly difficult to fire. Like countless unskilled workers who are willing to compete on price and are shut out of the labor market by minimum wage laws, disabled Americans (and their potential employers) are being robbed of opportunity by being legally barred from making themselves more competitive. That the government feels the need to stick its nose into any contractual agreement between consenting adults (that doesn't violate individual rights) is bad enough. The fact that it does so in the name of "helping" someone with a disadvantage -- and makes things worse than they already are -- is an outrage. -- CAV P.S. In the name of even-handedness, I must acknowledge the following:[T]he architectural standardization brought on by ADA requirements, he mentioned, which tend to put things like door handles (easier to manipulate than knobs) in rote places, were a boon for unauthorized entry. So, to be fair, the ADA actually does create opportunities for some people. Link to Original
  8. Four Things 1. Awhile back, I hit upon a (probably temporary) solution to variants of "Are we there, yet?" Most days, I pick up my four-year-old son from daycare before my daughter, who, by that time, is working on her reading with the aid of an iPad app. This means I'm in a small waiting area having to entertain him for an eternity of five to ten minutes' duration while Pumpkin finishes up. Needless to say, he started repeatedly asking me if she was done yet. Fortunately, in only a couple of repetitions, I realized I could help him answer the question himself and put him to work for me. I explained to him how he could tell for himself: As long as his sister was sitting down in front of an iPad, she wasn't done. Then, I had him check for me. Now, he takes a look every few minutes and updates me on her status, which is cute, rather than annoying. Sometimes, when we get there, I'll ask him if she's done yet to set the tone. 2. Here's a clever idea I hadn't thought of myself: [E]very time I make an appliance purchase -- vacuum cleaner, dishwasher, car -- I go to a repair shop [for advice]. They're always excited to talk to someone who will listen. They may even have a used model that will last you for years. [bold added]And if they don't have a used one, they tell the author which models are durable enough to be worth repairing. Preceding this paragraph in the whole post is the insight that will make sense of the advice, and so make it stick. 3. The following, from an A. V. Club article on Pilsner, makes me think of the explosion in popularity of "big" craft beers in the United States over the past couple of decades: Pilsner was invented by accident. The beer-obsessed Czech Republic town of Pilsen built a new state-of-the-art brewery during the industrial revolution. In the 1840s, a man named Martin Stelzer oversaw the construction, drawing inspiration from the latest innovations of Bavarian breweries. He also recruited a Bavarian brewer named Josef Groll to the project. Legend has it the town expected Groll to brew a brown Bavarian lager, but the first batch came out golden and effervescent, with a creamy head of snow-white foam. In a time of thick, turbid beers, this refreshing brew from Pilsen was a revelation. [bold added]Similarly, the advent of craft brewing came against a backdrop of "lawnmower beers." (HT: Snedcat) 4. I'll end with the following inspirational quote: "If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you're not sure you can do it, say yes -- then learn how to do it later!" -- Richard BransonThis comes by way of a Forbes articletitled, "9 Simple Ways to Make More Money in Your Current Job." -- CAV Link to Original
  9. Two writers (one of whom is an academic) at Fast Company take Nancy Pelosi's misleading description of our mixed economy as "capitalism" and run with it in an article titled, "Are You Ready To Consider That Capitalism Is The Real Problem?" As an advocate of capitalism, let me first concede that I might -- if I also accepted this assertion as my idea of "capitalism." But my scholarship -- hell, my mental hygiene -- is better than that. (Do note that this description comes from the same woman who urged us to pass ObamaCare unread so we could "find out what is in it.") I am not going to waste my time on a point-by point rebuttal of this smear piece, which, for example, uses a deadly fire -- in a government-operatedhousing block -- in London as part of its fact-free indictment. (Oddly enough, the article at the link repeatedly cites the higher-than-government fire safety standards of an American organization funded in large part by insurance companies strangely interested in not having to pay out fire claims. To read the Fast Company article, you'd think those fat cats would fry their customers after collecting their premiums, if only they could get away with it.) That said, what Jason Hickel and Martin Kirk take as the "prime directive" of capitalism is simply ridiculous: [T]here's something fundamentally flawed about a system that has a prime directive to churn nature and humans into capital, and do it more and more each year, regardless of the costs to human well-being and to the environment we depend on. Because let's be clear: That's what capitalism is, at its root. That is the sum total of the plan. We can see this embodied in the imperative to grow GDP, everywhere, year on year, at a compound rate, even though we know that GDP growth, on its own, does nothing to reduce poverty or to make people happier or healthier. Global GDP has grown 630% since 1980, and in that same time, by some measures, inequality, poverty, and hunger have all risen. [links omitted]Really. This might describe the end-result of the less-capitalistic aspects of Pelosi's status quo, but that's not what I got from Ayn Rand's Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, which at least offersa definition of the term: Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned.She and others argue at length why a system that protects individual rights is actually the best protection against people being taken advantage of (as alluded to above) or being made into cogs of some sort of GDP machine. But it was the mention of GDP that triggered my memory of another excellent book on capitalism, by Yaron Brook and Don Watkins of the Ayn Rand Institute. Within that book, Brook and Watkins demolish what they call the "argument from greed," an attack on the ethical base of capitalism that implicitly motivates much of the Fast Company piece. Towards the end of Free Market Revolution, they note: The attack on selfishness is an attack on the pursuit of happiness, and it is over the pursuit of happiness that the battle for America's future will be waged. We need to fight for economic freedom not on the grounds that it promotes GDP, or the "public interest," or any other collectivist ideal. We need to fight for it on the grounds that your life belongs to you: Each of us has an inalienable right to act on our own judgment, to produce and trade free from force, for the sole purpose of making our own lives as successful and joyous as they can possibly be. We have to be unequivocal in rejecting the notion that we are a means to the ends of others -- or that others are a means to our ends. [bold added]Hickel and Kirk pose as defenders of the individual, but it is against a tired, old caricature of capitalism. Whether or not they know or care, or most of their reader notice, they drop such a pretence as soon as they start advocating massive theft of private property. See the bolded sentence above, and imagine someone taking something from you on the basis of someone else not having it. But they are right about a single aspect of their proposed solution, which they intimate wouldn't look like every other socialist cesspit in history despite their egalitarian/confiscatory rhetoric: "None of this is actually radical." Yep. It's the same old altruism-collectivism that pervades our culture, hold the facts, and add a dash of wishful thinking. Hence the title of Brook and Watkins book. Try reading that if you share my disgust with the status quo, need inspiration, and want leads towards a real, radical, and effective solution. -- CAV Link to Original
  10. Francis Menton, aka the Manhattan Contrarian, takes a look at a Wall Street Journal articleabout a recent blackout in Adelaide, Australia. Part of Menton's criticism focuses on the print headline: "The Energy Shortage No One Saw Coming," but the internet headline ("How Energy-Rich Australia Exported Its Way Into an Energy Crisis") bears mention, too, and for similar reasons. As a reading of Menton's post will show, the real cause of the shortage was central planning guided by an emphasis on the kind of "renewable" energy sources fossil fuel advocate Alex Epstein has more accurately described as "unreliables": ... Has environmental religion penetrated even the Wall Street Journal's news pages to such an extent that they can't give an honest account of what is going on? Sure the gas plant's unavailability that day was the immediate precipitating cause of the particular problem. But what goes unmentioned is that the South Australians have painted themselves into a corner where one after another of such situations is inevitable, and if they didn't see it coming they are really blinded by their environmental faith. First they increased renewable capacity, particularly wind, to the point of getting over 50% of their power from wind when it blows. Then they forced closure of all coal capacity. Then they prioritized the power from wind in the dispatch scheme, leaving the few remaining natural gas plants sitting idle much of the time and having no clue when they might be required to crank up at a moment's notice -- a regime under which the gas plant operators can't make money. And finally, they claim to be "surprised" when the wind suddenly stops blowing and the gas plant operators can't or won't come on at a few minutes' notice. Why should the gas plant operators contract to buy gas that they may never need at prices that they can't recoup? [emphasis in original, minor format edits]In other words, this shortage was quite predictable, and exporting natural gas was hardly to blame. Menton quite ably nails that point to the wall. But there is another theme that bears mention, even if it lies outside the scope of Menton's analysis, and it is this: The religion of central planning has so penetrated Western culture for so long that its role in this mess may entirely escape notice. I don't blame Menton for missing this (if he did), because relatively early in the evolution of electric utilities, central planning snuffed out once-vigorous free market competition. In his book, The Innovator Versus the Collective , Brian Phillips notes the following from a study in 1938: Six electric light companies were organized in the one year of 1887 in New York City. Forty-five electric light enterprises had the legal right to operate in Chicago in 1907. Prior to 1895, Duluth, Minnesota, was served by five electric lighting companies, and Scranton, Pennsylvania, had four in 1906. ... During the latter part of the 19th century, competition was the usual situation in the gas industry in this country. Before 1884, six competing companies were operating in New York City ... competition was common and especially persistent in the telephone industry ... Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis, among the larger cities, had at least two telephone services in 1905. (p.54)Phillips, who notes that, "Clearly, entrepreneurs and businessmen across the country thought that they could make a profit in utilities," then notes the effects of an alliance between "businessmen" who wanted government protection from competition and power-hungry "progressives": In America's Electric Utilities: Past, Present, and Future, economist Leonard S. Hyman notes that standard texts assume that utilities became regulated because they were monopolies. But he questions this assumption, citing a study that concluded that "the concept of state regulation was both compatible with the ideas and political needs of progressives [who were calling for more government regulation of businesses] and expedient for safeguarding the material interests of the utilities. From 1907 to 1913, philosophical compatibility and commercial expediency combined to produce a political necessity."[48] The political goals of progressives -- government control -- served the financial interests of the electric utility companies -- guaranteed profits through a prohibition on competition. (p. 55)Consider for a moment what might have happened in an Adelaide powered in a free market. Among the possibilities would have been several companies competing on merit at once or a small number that rose to the top on merit. I have a hard time imagining a company that has to compete for customers, in part by maintaining a reputation for reliability, making the kind of mistake we saw here. (And if it did, customers could and would jump ship, an option they don't have here.) In any event, nothing would stop a company from investing in wind power, if it could be made sufficiently profitable, and nothing could force an entire city to "rely" on it, either. Adelaide's blackout wasn't at all a result of Australia's exporting of natural gas, nor was it simply because it has incompetent central planners who imagine "unreliables" can be trusted to power a modern grid: It would have been nearly impossible in a free market. -- CAV P.S. Economist George Reisman has some choice words for anyone who imagines that central planners can even be competent. Link to Original
  11. In the past few days, a couple of stories over at Free Range Kids have highlighted how difficult it can be for parents to foster independence in their children these days. In one case, a mother was arrested for permitting her toddler to play in a sandbox with other children while she watched from afar. In another case, the mother of a ten-year-old was also arrested for letting her son shop in a Lego Store in one part of a mall while (gasp!) she shopped in another store. It is disturbing, to say the least, that people seemed so eager to call the police in each case. This reflects a cultural trend I have already commented on here. Lenore Skenazy's commentary about the Lego case indicates another factor which may be contributing to the rash of parents being arrested while using common sense: Busybodies are getting a big assist from the perception (accurate or not) of a legal system that makes lawsuits easy and attractive: The Lego corporate press office has not responded to my request for comment. The manager of the Eastview Mall Lego store, Dan Prouty, told me that he could not comment on whether or not someone at his store called the cops. But Prouty did acknowledge that there's a sign in his store's window that says, in his words, "children under the age of 12 are not allowed to be unattended in the store -- that's paraphrased a little bit."Skenazy soon after quotes the following, from the admission rules of Legoland in Toronto: Please note: Children 17 and under must be accompanied by an adult supervisor 18 years of age or older. Adults (18+) will not be admitted without a child, with the exception of Adult Only Nights.Skenazy calls Lego "obsessed with age liability," and she is probably right -- but I suspect that that is due at least in part to another problem, which is that insurance companies, fearful of having to cover large payouts from extremely rare (but always well-publicized) lawsuits, are pressing companies like Lego to have and enforce such policies. (An attorney quoted at the last link suggests self-insurance as a way to fight back, but I think this needs to be a tool in part of a larger campaign to push back against pervasive meddling.) This, of course, trickles down to low-level employees who get to decide whether (1) they'll turn a blind eye to occasional violations of such policies; (2) send kids out of their stores and into the mall, where legend has it they'll be abducted instantly; or (3) throw the problem (and the responsibility) at law enforcement. And then, of course, parents get to worry at every corner about running afoul of some policy or other that defies common sense, as if the real challenges of parenthood aren't enough. Please refer to the second quote, by Tara Smith, here. -- CAV Link to Original
  12. A while back, Unclutterer took a new term as its point of departure for a collection of tips for a subset of office workers. As if the popularity of the open office weren't bad enough, some businesses are now telling their employees to hot desk. (The term correctly reminds me of the submarine slang term, hot racking.) This struck me as a great way, from an employee's point of view, to combine the worst of the two worlds of working in an office and working remotely -- and the mention of Febreze from a commenter there told me how right I was. In any event, since I always have an ear out for advice on working remotely, I took a gander and found it worthwhile -- although the following reminded me of another relatively new term: In some hot desk offices, employees may have lockers where they can store their computers and a few personal belongings. If you do not have a locker, you should invest in a durable briefcase that is easy to carry around, holds all of your items, and can be locked when needed. [bold added, link omitted]The idea that you might need to be able to lock a briefcase reminded me of the term, office creeper, which Word Spy defines as, "A person who sneaks into an office building during business hours to steal personal items and equipment." Such people would, I am sure, have a field day in a hot-desking office. Perhaps, if you need to bring a lockable suitcase for such an arrangement, a bicycle lock would also be a good idea. -- CAV Link to Original
  13. Four Things 1. Here's an amusing and instructive example of no-holds-barred brainstorming:For example, if you needed to advertise your home business but you had no budget for advertising, someone might say, "Call the local news and tell them you're going to burn your house down if you don't get some business soon." Where's the merit in that idea? The free publicity. Now you have to find a better way to get it. (p. 309)This comes from Barbara Sher's I Could Do Anything if Only I Knew What It Was. I second the original recommendation. 2. Kindle owners rejoice! Amazon has recently improved the format of its cloud-accessible "Notes and Highlights" feature. My favorite improvement is that page and location numbers are shown, saving me from having to search for the highlighted quote in order to refer back for more context or to cite it properly. 3. A man automates his own job. Should he tell his boss?... I've been doing it for about 18 months and in that time, I've basically figured out all the traps to the point where I've actually written a program which for the past 6 months has been just doing the whole thing for me. So what used to take the last guy like a month, now takes maybe 10 minutes to clean the spreadsheet and run it through the program.Read herefor more context and the discussion. 4. Around since the time of the dinosaurs, the horseshoe crab also graces many an aquarium petting tank. But did you know it is also of major medical importance?When she's done with the show and tell, [Meghan] Owings squirts the contents of the syringe back into the tank. I gasp. "That's thousands of dollars!" I exclaim, and can't help but think of the scene in Annie Hall when Woody Allen is trying cocaine for the first time and accidentally sneezes, blowing the coke everywhere.I'm not crazy for my concern. The cost of crab blood has been quoted as high as $14,000 per quart. [link in original] Keep reading to learn what that blue blood is being used for. -- CAV Link to Original
  14. Although I was glad to see President Trump decide to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, I have regard the decision as an example of breathing room for freedom, rather than the kind of fundamental change we really need. That assessment is partly because Trump does not have a coherent political philosophy (much less the kind such a change would require), and because our culture is not conducive to such a change, anyway. Similar to the withdrawal is Scott Pruitt's decision to launch a program to "critique" climate science. This is well-intentioned, but will also not go far enough. The program will use "red team, blue team" exercises to conduct an "at-length evaluation of U.S. climate science," the official said, referring to a concept developed by the military to identify vulnerabilities in field operations. "The administrator believes that we will be able to recruit the best in the fields which study climate and will organize a specific process in which these individuals ... provide back-and-forth critique of specific new reports on climate science," the source said.The good news about this is the same as part of the bad news: a combination of law and court decisions requires the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. The good of this, such as it is, is that I am confident that science does not support the doomsday scenarios used to justify the severe rationing of the fossil fuels our economy requires. The bad news is that the law straitjackets the government into doing this when rationing fuel isn't at all one of its proper purposes. Stand by for this discussion to dominate the news and countless bull sessions among non-experts on both sides of the discussion -- and just wait for warmists to nitpick every point or dismiss findings they don't like altogether.) This will be a shame since the conversation we really need should move beyond this circumscribed question in two important ways: (1) Regarding the question of fossil fuels, we should, as energy activist Alex Epstein has pointed out, discuss all of the positives of continuing to use fossil fuels and all of the negatives of reducing their use. (Likewise for alternative fuels.) Note that positives of fossil fuels and negatives of alternatives are strangely absent or downplayed in most discussions. (2) We should also be having a discussion about the proper role of government. This is scarcely happening at all, with everyone on both sides of this debate assuming that the government ought to do something or not just on the basis of the scientific question -- and without regard to the proper purpose of the government or the larger context of the rest of our knowledge about energy. Until and unless our conversation about the EPA is only about how we will abolish it, we are nowhere near winning this war on industrial civilization disguised as a scientific debate. -- CAV Link to Original
  15. It's an old essay, but quite thought-provoking. Venture capitalist Paul Graham considers why it is that "nerds" are so unpopular in middle school and high school. The below excerpt, from about midway through, gives an indication of what to expect, but the whole thing deserves a read. Because I didn't fit into this world, I thought that something must be wrong with me. I didn't realize that the reason we nerds didn't fit in was that in some ways we were a step ahead. We were already thinking about the kind of things that matter in the real world, instead of spending all our time playing an exacting but mostly pointless game like the others. We were a bit like an adult would be if he were thrust back into middle school. He wouldn't know the right clothes to wear, the right music to like, the right slang to use. He'd seem to the kids a complete alien. The thing is, he'd know enough not to care what they thought. We had no such confidence. A lot of people seem to think it's good for smart kids to be thrown together with "normal" kids at this stage of their lives. Perhaps. But in at least some cases the reason the nerds don't fit in really is that everyone else is crazy. I remember sitting in the audience at a "pep rally" at my high school, watching as the cheerleaders threw an effigy of an opposing player into the audience to be torn to pieces. I felt like an explorer witnessing some bizarre tribal ritual. [bold added]Much of this will remind anyone familiar with Ayn Rand of her concept of second-handers, and rightfully so. And many of these might be tempted, as I was at first, to indict the state of our culture and government schools for this entirely. (It's not entirely to blame, but as Graham indicates, it deserves the lion's share.) That said, I think some aspects of the phenomenon stem from the transition any child has to make from dependence on his parents to independent adulthood. As a parent, I am glad to have encountered this piece again, and will keep it in mind, now that I am a parent. -- CAV Link to Original