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Gus Van Horn blog

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  1. Andrea Peyser hits the nail on the head regarding the rapid deterioration of the #MeToo social media campaign from "a necessary mass-rejection of sexual harassment and assault [to] absurdity and irrelevance." Peyser notes the inappropriateness of classifying actual sexual assault with less-serious behavior, as well as how continuing to do so will harm the credibility of actual victims in the future. Image via Wikipedia.[A] chorus of critics is urging [Al] Franken to resign from his seat. But in a preachy New York Times op-ed urging him to step aside, Michelle Goldberg revealed her underlying bias in the third paragraph: "Sure, Franken made plenty of sexist jokes when he was with Saturday Night Live," she wrote, "but I thought he was one of the good guys. (I thought there were good guys.)" No good guys? Come on! And so, the war on sexual offenses has been revealed to be part of a wider feminist War on Men. [links omitted, minor format edits, bold added]The same modern technology that is making it easier to publicize the likes of a Harvey Weinstein is also making it easier to see how the left operates: Find a legitimate (in this case) or legitimate-sounding cause, and take advantage of sloppy thinking on the part of many in the general public to co-opt it. -- CAV Link to Original
  2. Notable Commentary "[T]the word 'business' embodies the word 'busy,' but the great practitioners of business, historically, didn't achieve what they did or succeed financially for so many decades by a mere frenzy of senseless, haphazard activity, by working too quickly or myopically, as fly-by-night operators." -- Richard Salsman, in "Why Donald Trump Is No Big Deal (Maker)" (PDF) at RealClear Markets. "The state should have no role in promoting or decrying any particular set of ideas." -- Bob Stubblefield, in "Letter: School Vouchers Have Benefit Outside of Religion" at The Aiken Standard. "A core problem is that our intellectual and political leaders push aside the need for a serious moral assessment of the Palestinian movement's nature and goals." -- Elan Journo, in "Let's Stop Normalizing the Palestinian Movement" at The Hill. "Trump's interpretation of 'America first' is shaped by the collectivist notion of economic nationalism." -- Peter Schwartz, in "'America First:' Rethinking the Meaning of Self-Interest" at The Hill. Good News in the Fight for Freedom of Speech The following, from the response of a Harvard student to a recent ARI-sponsored event, is very encouraging: Image via Wikipedia.The fact that I don't agree with much of what the panelists said or stood for was why I got so much out of the event. Sitting down with people we disagree with is one of the bravest and most productive things we can do. I believe in hearing all sides of an argument and critically thinking about them before reaching any conclusions. I am saddened by the fact that recently, these beliefs and my progressive ones have often seemed incongruous. The fact that a 'free speech' rally in Boston drew a crowd of thousands of progressives protesting white nationalism is indicative either that the alt-right has successfully co-opted free speech, or the left has erroneously chosen to reject it. Likely both are true, and equally problematic. [bold added, link omitted]The student, Eve Driver, is nowhere near embracing Objectivism. But this event has caused her to see the value of freely and openly debating ideas, and the folly of preventing the same from happening. [bold added, link omitted] -- CAV Link to Original
  3. Or: Unintentionally Good Advice from Lifehacker Recently, Lifehacker posted a "guide" on how to tell if you're "mansplaining." Being in a perverse mood, I took a look at it and found it to be even more ridiculous than I expected. Having two young children, I found the following to be not only the most amusing passage, but also the most illuminating: Facial reactions in the person you are speaking to are a huge sign: [body language expert Tonya] Reiman said to look for things such as a clenched jaw, shifting the jaw to the side, or flaring the nostrils, which can be a sign of holding in anger. She calls moves like this "non-verbal sarcasm" because they're a way of letting your body say you're listening while your brain is in disbelief at what is being said to you. Non-verbal sarcasm in the listener can quickly shift to actual shame. If the person you're talking to shifts their gaze downward or covers their neck with their hands, that's a sign you're not only mansplaining, but have the person you're talking to has also basically given up on the conversation. "They feel shame," Reiman said. "That person is either feeling something emotional or they're feeling like they've just been hit."It is a good idea to practice being aware of signs that someone is becoming defensive and asking oneself whether it might be due to problems in one's communication style. But, given the insulting term and its source from the "microagression crowd, it is hard to take this advice as anything other than, "Walk on eggshells or shut up." I can't help but imagine myself talking to a kid in a contrary mood when I read the above -- and being expected to concede to their demands every time I see so much as a pout. (But shame? Really? If someone feels embarrassed when confronted with a differing opinion, it's on them to examine why: That's a completely different feeling than the justifiable anger about being treated badly.) Having said the above, the article is "right" by accident about one thing: If you are scrupulous about etiquette, and about how you communicate with others, and find yourself facing someone about to melt down, anyway, it probably is time to end the conversation. But this is because you are likely wasting your time. -- CAV P.S. I am old enough to remember when "woman driving" was, as this piece puts it of "mansplaining", "a thing." Even if women then were more likely to be poor drivers or, as this article indicates, men are more likely to rudely express uninformed opinions, both terms are inherently insulting and have no place in polite conversation. Link to Original
  4. After correctly noting that the media's objections to Roy Moore, Alabama's Republican candidate for Senator, "are the weakest reasons to reject Moore's candidacy," Scott Holleran delves into those reasons -- the ideas that motivate him to act lawlessly regarding separation of religion and state. His piece is worth a full read, and ends as follows: Hopefully, a Premature Tombstone for American Liberty. (Image via Wikipedia.)Any serious candidate who would leave doubt as to whether he seeks to enact laws to put adults to death for having consensual sex is a monster deserving total and absolute scorn and the most emphatic denunciation from statesmen, intellectuals and every moral American. Insinuating that he thinks gays deserve to die and stating clearly and explicitly that he aims to enact a religious government disqualify Moore from political office. Whatever moral transgressions he's made in his sexual past, including his alleged assault and proclivity for sex with children, Roy Moore's election to the Senate on December 12, 2017, would mark a black day in U.S. history. If Moore wins, his election will be a victory for religious statism and another chilling step toward dictatorship.At the same time, there is something to be gleaned from allegations about Moore's taste for teen-aged girls. This is because they lead directly back to his religiously-based morality, as detailed by the Los Angeles Times: Prominent conservative Reformed theologian Doug Wilson has a documented history of mishandling sexual abuse cases within his congregation. Nevertheless, he continues to be promoted by evangelical leaders such as John Piper, whose Desiring God site still publishes Wilson's work. When a 13-year-old girl in Wilson's congregation was sexually abused, Wilson argued that she and her abuser were in a parent-sanctioned courtship, and that this was a mitigating factor. There's no shortage of such stories. A Presbyterian Church in America, or PCA, pastor attempted to discipline a woman who warned home-school parents of the convicted sex offender in his congregation. (The sex offender had gone online to solicit a 14-year-old girl for sex.) Another PCA church allowed that same convicted sex offender to give the invocation at a home-school graduation ceremony. He wasn't perceived as an attempted child rapist, and he was "repentant." Growing up, I witnessed an influential religious right leader flirting with some of my teenage friends and receiving neck and shoulder massages from one of them. I've been expecting a scandal to break with him for years, but in the meantime, this man has put significant time into campaigning for anti-trans bathroom bills while deeming trans people "predators." The allegations against Roy Moore are merely a symptom of a larger problem. It's not a Southern problem or an Alabama problem. It's a Christian fundamentalist problem... [links omitted, bold added]Many non-fundamentalists and even non-religious people are sympathetic to the idea that Christian morality is a beneficial cultural influence and foundational to American law. If you are one of them, and yet have a healthy distaste for treating children this way, I ask that you question this assumption. I recommend doing so (1) starting with "which sect of Christianity," and (2) ideally continuing to the point of asking what morality is for and further asking yourself why you should take any answer as to the nature of morality on faith. The first step is to remind yourself of a fact many religious people at American's founding were well aware of: Political power in the hands of a rival sect was a dangerous and potentially deadly proposition. (The solution, separation of church and state, mimicked, but did not imply understanding of a more general principle: Religion wielding political power is inimical to liberty.) The second is an opportunity to do something these poor child brides aren't permitted and too few people avail themselves of: A chance to consider the proposition that taking other people's word about big questions is a practice that stunts one's ability to live a fulfilling life. -- CAV Link to Original
  5. I'm a bit late to this party, but let me recommend one last look at Communism on its centenary, this one by Robert Tracinski of The Federalist. Here are the closing paragraphs: A few victims of a political ideology that has become fashionable in America. (Image via Wikipedia) The only person who fully grasped these lessons was the Russian émigré Ayn Rand. She escaped the Soviet Union and set out to revive individualism and build a philosophy that redefined the meaning and moral status of individual self-interest. She would later explain: "Stalin did not corrupt a noble ideal ... . If service and self-sacrifice are a moral ideal, and if the 'selfishness' of human nature prevents men from leaping into sacrificial furnaces, there is no reason ... why a dictator should not push them in at the point of bayonets -- for their own good, or the good of humanity, or the good of posterity, or the good of the latest bureaucrat's latest five-year plan. There is no reason that they can name to oppose any atrocity. The value of a man's life? His right to exist? His right to pursue his own happiness? These are concepts that belong to individualism and capitalism." If Communism represents the full implementation of a commonly accepted view of morality, we can understand the compulsion to make excuses for it, to claim it's never really been tried, to forget its disasters and atrocities, to allow only a gauzy airbrushed version of its history, and to desperately wish that if we just tried it one more time and really did it right, we would finally reach the promised paradise. We've done that for a full century, and even longer. After all, Communism was tried on a small scale, in voluntary utopian communities, for more than a century before it failed upward and took over entire countries. It's time to start grasping the moral lessons before we're forced to live once more through the nightmare of chasing the Communist dream. [bold added]Read the whole thing, particularly if you or someone you know is fond of saying that Communism "doesn't work." -- CAV P.S. One more. I'll pass along word of a lecture I plan to listen to, "Socialism's Legacy," by Alan Kors, which was delivered at Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism. It's an hour and a half, but I am confident based on the source of the recommendation that it will be worthwhile. Kors, by the way, wrote the following, as quoted by Glenn Reynolds: No cause, ever, in the history of all mankind, has produced more cold-blooded tyrants, more slaughtered innocents, and more orphans than socialism with power. It surpassed, exponentially, all other systems of production in turning out the dead. The bodies are all around us. And here is the problem: No one talks about them. No one honors them. No one does penance for them. No one has committed suicide for having been an apologist for those who did this to them. No one pays for them. No one is hunted down to account for them. It is exactly what Solzhenitsyn foresaw in The Gulag Archipelago: 'No, no one would have to answer. No one would be looked into.' [italics in original, bold added]None of this will occur until knowledge of a proper ethical alternative to altruism becomes better known and respected. Link to Original
  6. I wanted a woman who could get me out of a third-world prison. -- Jeff Bezos Over at TechCrunch are tips on success gleaned from an interview of Jeff Bezos by his younger brother, Mark. It's a short, enjoyable, and down-to-earth read, as the above quote might indicate. And don't be fooled by the gross, yet humorous story about his grandfather's thumb: The interview has several thought-provoking points, like the following: Image via Wikipedia. On how to establish work-life balance: "I like the phrase 'work-life harmony'", Jeff says. "Balance implies there's a strict trade-off." If he feels like he's adding value and is a productive member of a team at work, "it makes me better at home. If I'm happy at home, it makes me a better employee, a better boss." Don't be someone who drains energy out of their co-workers or family. He believes it's not just about how you allocate hours in the day, but whether you have enough energy to participate with enthusiasm. [bold in original]Yes. It is definitely a mistake to regard one's home and work life as things that detract from one another rather than things that can complement each other. That mistake can both detract from one's enjoyment of each and blind one to the possibility of each benefiting the other, or of finding ways to integrate the two. Other highlights include advice on making big decisions, his approach to "multi-tasking", and the genuine, benevolent tone of the interview. For some good thoughts on how to achieve success and a chance to meet the man behind Amazon, head over there. -- CAV Link to Original
  7. Four Things 1. Here's Item 2,598 from the "When Government Does Everything Except What It Should Be Doing" file: Image courtesy of Consumer Reports via Wikipedia.There's a drinking game played by people who have worked at the Department of Agriculture: Does the U.S.D.A. do it? Someone names an odd function of government (say, shooting fireworks at Canada geese that flock too near airport runways) and someone else has to guess if the U.S.D.A. does it. (In this case, it does.) Even people who have worked at U.S.D.A. for years wind up having to chug. So it's no use pretending that I can actually explain to you everything the place does. I was looking to get a sense of the big risks that increase when a limb of the federal government is neglected or misunderstood or badly managed. [bold added]The whole piece -- "Inside Trump's Cruel Campaign Against the U.S.D.A.'s Scientists" -- is interesting, although definitely in favor of improper government. Advocates of limited government would do well to read it in full and understand that this is what we're up against. The piece well illustrates two facts: (1) The USDA (for example) does do many things that need doing, almost all of which could and should be done by some non-government means; and (2) Most people, especially including the conscientious types the article portrays, can't even begin to imagine how these things would be done without Big Brother shaking everyone down to make sure they get done. I would also add that a big downside to Trump's ideology-free campaign against regulation (that he doesn't like) can backfire big time precisely because he has no answer to such "but what about..."-type objections -- either on why government shouldn't be doing these things or how they would get accomplished otherwise. 2. Pharma-blogger Derek Lowe offers tribute to an octogenarian scientist who is still plugging away at the bench: Long experience at the bench, if you're any good at all, gives you a fund of knowledge that's hard to pick up from the literature. What solvents to try first for a crystallization, what reactions have exothermic inductions that you have to watch out for, which reducing agents have the easiest workups, how to get rid of metal contamination in the final product, when to deoxygenate rigorously and when not to worry about it so much, ways to get rid of Common Byproduct X or Pesky Solvent Y. Donald Batesky has just contributed another one of those to the trade, and good for him. This guy is clearly a chemist (he's already stipulated that he wants to be buried in a lab coat), and I would very much enjoy sitting down and talking with him. It's always worthwhile to listen to people who are really good at their work or to watch them do it, and I'm glad to hear that he's still sharing his knowledge with his co-workers at Rochester.I hope Lowe does get to talk to the man. I'd enjoy reading the interview. 3. Here's an interesting side-effect of the popularity of smart phones: Gum sales have been relentlessly dropping for the past five years because people don't look around when they wait in line to pay.Gum magnates will find an ally in Cal Newport. 4. Having lost my father as a consequence of Multiple Sclerosis, I keep an antenna out for good news on that front. Here's the latest: In a remarkably rapid translation of laboratory research findings into a treatment with the potential to benefit patients, UC San Francisco scientists have successfully completed a Phase II clinical trial showing that an FDA-approved antihistamine restores nervous system function in patients with chronic multiple sclerosis (MS). ... The drug tested in the trial, clemastine fumarate, was first identified as a candidate treatment for MS in 2013 by UCSF's Jonah R. Chan, PhD, Debbie and Andy Rachleff Distinguished Professor of Neurology, vice chief of the Division of Neuroinflammation and Glial Biology, and senior author of the new study. First approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1977 for allergies, the drug has been available over the counter in generic form since 1993. [links omitted]I don't recall ever hearing a claim that something could either reverse damage, or help those suffering from the chronic-progressive form of the disease. Links in the UCSF press release cited above lead to the published results. -- CAV Link to Original
  8. There is an interesting article at Forbes regarding California's legalization of recreational marijuana, which reminds me of the following quote from Ayn Rand, and for reasons more than the immediate subject matter: The conservatives see man as a body freely roaming the earth, building sand piles or factories -- with an electronic computer inside his skull, controlled from Washington. The liberals see man as a soul freewheeling to the farthest reaches of the universe -- but wearing chains from nose to toes when he crosses the street to buy a loaf of bread. (from "Censorship: Local and Express," in Philosophy: Who Needs It, p. 186)Rand is speaking of the false mind-body dichotomy, and the fact that both sides of the political spectrum generally agree with it, but choose opposite sides. The error has consequences in real life, as seen in the policy positions each side chooses. Rand's eloquent similes further note that each side of the error results in policies that are inimical to political freedom, and thus to man's life. California gives us a nice example, isolated to a single issue, of how each side of the error ultimately is anti-freedom when carried out. Here's the "freewheeling" soul, ... man: In 2016, California voters legalized the sale of recreational pot. Many voters felt they were striking a blow for personal freedom with their vote.So California deactivated its "chip controlled from Washington." Of course, most of these voters are lefties, so the political apparatus they had in place correctly interpreted this mandate -- which was more a whine for permission than a blow for freedom -- by fitting the chains: Since that day, all levels of the California governments have been coming to grips with how to implement the voter's choice. Of course, that really means how to regulate the sales and how to tax those sales.Among the many interesting facts and figures Thomas Del Beccaro throws around, we can see a startling similarity in the status quo before and after "legalization." It is relevant to remember, as we can learn from Del Beccaro, that when the gang in charge fails to supply loopholes for extremely high levels of taxation (or prohibition of an activity that does not violate individual rights, such as use of a drug), other criminals will provide relief in the form of a black market. Still in business trouble. (Image courtesy of Unsplash.)[A]t the time of the vote, California already had the largest pot market in the country -- although its size is disputed because most of the market is illegal sales. Some have said, that as of 2015, "California . . . has the largest legal cannabis market in the U.S., at $1.3 billion." On the other hand, others have reported that over $7 billion in illegal crop has been seized in California. Given the Feds think they seize only around 10% of the illegal crops, you can see how large the market could well be.So, although marijuana is "legal" in California, there remains a huge black market for it because it isn't quite legal to keep the money one makes from selling it. As I have noted before, of a similarly fishy-sounding legalization scheme in Uruguay, "improper government regulation makes the whole concept of 'legal' farcical." In sum, California has moved from outlawing the possession of marijuana to outlawing the possession of nearly half (in some cases) of the profits from selling it. One might as well ask if is really legal at all. -- CAV Link to Original
  9. Over at Power Line is a post about a proposal within the proposed GOP tax tweak that oddly has big fans of big taxes in a huff. John Hinderaker ably argues that the plan does not "screw Democratic voters," so much as ends a red state "subsidy" for a blue state tax break. (Isn't it funny to hear a Republican speaking like a leftist here?) Then he goes on to speak about another proposed tweak: Merely having different people shaken down for slightly different amounts is ... uninspiring. (Image courtesy of Pixabay.)As for the mortgage interest deduction, it is odd to see liberals objecting to tax policies that hurt "the rich." Blue urban areas of course have higher housing costs than other areas of the country. They also have, on average, larger incomes, which are necessary to defray the higher cost of living. Democrats have never hesitated to gouge higher-income Americans, regardless of where they live. The Republican Party, with a newly populist edge under the leadership of President Trump, is only following where the Democrats have led. It is a little late for them to complain about harsh treatment of "the rich" in the tax code.Maybe so, but it is disappointing to see the party of "small government" do this, but then again, since said party speaks of size rather than scope, this is not so surprising. Were the GOP genuinely interested in improving the economy, it wouldn't be indulging in such petty pressure group warfare skirmishes, but asking how to give everyone a break from taxation, and the onerous government spending and control that perpetuate it. I hear even that this tax bill is on thin ice. No surprise there: The same people who also never ask Why isn't every day a "tax holiday"? aren't going to put up much of a fight. A lack of convictions -- as we see daily from Republicans, except when it comes to forcing people to behave like Christians -- results in a lack of a big vision and a failure to fight even for crumbs such as this, assuming this tax "cut" even rises to that level of merit. -- CAV Link to Original
  10. Via Ask a Manager comes a question on professional attire, a topic near and dear to my heart -- as well as a reminder that I, too was once in the dark on the subject. The letter-writer is a new manager whose interns have no idea how to dress for work in their fashion-conservative office. Part of the answer is ingenious: Image courtesy of Pixabay.... First and foremost, you can minimize the number of dress-code conversations you need to have by setting really clear expectations from the very start, when interns first start working for you. Don't just give them a copy of your employee handbook and mention that there's a dress code in there; that's not enough guidance. Most office dress codes assume a certain knowledge of professional dress is already in place, so they tend to talk in broad categories -- like no shorts, no T-shirts, etc. That makes sense for experienced professionals, when it would actually be pretty condescending to spell out "no visible underwear." But for people who are brand new to the work world, broad categories can leave a ton of room for misinterpretation, which is why your interns may genuinely not know that cutout tops and visible underwear are issues. [bold added]And, a bit later: You can make this easier on everyone by presenting it as a subject where it's completely normal for people to need guidance at the start of their careers. Frame the initial discussion with something like this: "This stuff can be tricky to figure out when you're new to working in an office and it might be very different from dress codes that you're used to before now, so I'm going to be very detailed about what is and isn't work-appropriate here." You could even add something like, "If you're not sure about a particular outfit or clothing item, please feel free to come talk to me. It might not always be intuitive, and you shouldn't feel weird about that." [bold added]I am old enough that going around practically in underwear hadn't been normalized yet, so I was in no danger of that -- so I made another faux pas instead, showing this advice to be spot-on: In my first job after college, there was to be a work-related social function at the boss's house. Although I asked about what to wear, I took "casual" to mean that a tee shirt and jeans would be fine. I would have greatly preferred not to have had embarrassment be the clue that I needed to recalibrate my conception of what casual attire was. What I like about Green's advice here is that it takes into account the possible unfamiliarity of the audience with the subject matter, but doesn't saddle anyone with the burden of omniscience. The boss is to hit on common problem areas, which ought to take care of many of the problems she has encountered, but leave a friendly door open for further questions from anyone in doubt. -- CAV Link to Original
  11. Image courtesy of Pixabay.In "An Open Letter to Ta-Nehsisi Coates," Jason Hill offers hope for Coates's son -- and countless others targeted by his book, Between the World and Me. This hope comes in the form of a stirring tribute to his adopted country drawn from his own experience, along with the helpful message that there is an alternative to the collectivism so many spout out or succumb to. Hill ends his piece: ... I suspect my request for our being ignored and left alone to create our own destiny will not satisfy you. This is because you are trading on black suffering to create a perpetual caste of racial innocents. And the currency of your economic system is white guilt. But your son should never trade in anyone's guilt... Today, the dream has more than come true for me... My books on ethics and political theory are taught in college courses in the United States, and I achieved full professorship in my mid-40s, long before I expected to do so. Many more personal dreams of mine continue to be nurtured in and by America. In 32 years of living in this country, the United States has never once failed me. Becoming an American citizen was the greatest privilege of my life. Your book reads like an American horror story because you have damned to hell the noblest and most endearing trait of those who come to this country and who love it: the Dream. You declare: "This is the foundation of the Dream -- its adherents must not just believe in it but believe that it is just, believe that their possession of the Dream is the natural result of grit, honor, and good works." Well, it is. And we, the Dreamers and achievers who continue to make this country the exceptional wonder that it is, will never capitulate to your renunciation. The world we desired has been won. It exists. It is real. It is possible. It is ours. And it should be yours, and your son's. [bold added]There were quite a few other parts I wanted to quote, but time doesn't permit, and I think it might detract from the whole to take them out of their context, anyway. It is a lengthy piece, but worth a full read, be it as inspiration or antidote. (HT: Snedcat) -- CAV P.S. Regarding a passage about "trading on guilt" I chose to omit: I repsectfully disagree with the author there. Based on other parts of his essay, I think that rather than focusing on human fallibility (factual though it be), he could have stressed that the currency of the realm is really unearned guilt. Yes, we all make mistakes, yes, some of us have benefited or been harmed by past injustice. But as individuals, we bear no credit or blame for anything that results from events we have had no control over. That said, I completely agree that "[Coates's] beliefs threaten to alienate [his] son from his country and afflict him with a sense of moral inefficacy and impotence."Link to Original
  12. Notable Commentary "[T]he Founding Fathers, relying on philosopher John Locke, identified the fundamental political principle: government's sole purpose is to protect individual rights." -- Robert Stubblefield, in "Letter: Morality Should Be Based on Reason, Not Faith" at The Aiken Standard. "Making exceptions to legal requirements on religious grounds is merely the flip side of prevention (e.g., of embryonic stem cell research) on religious grounds." -- Robert Stubblefield, in "Letter: Religion Shouldn't Be Used as Reason" at The Aiken Standard. "[T]he most significant barrier [to the wider use of telemedicine] is not technological, but rather political -- namely state regulatory agencies..." -- Paul Hsieh, in "Help Patients by Allowing More Telemedicine" at Forbes. "The entire lawsuit [against CollegeAmerica] is motivated, and colored, by the ideology of paternalism -- by the notion that we are helpless ciphers who must be protected, not against real fraud, but against our own inability to know what is good for us." -- Peter Schwartz, in "Attack of the Nanny-State" at The Huffington Post. The Christopher Columbus Monument in Barcelona. (Image courtesy of Pixabay.)Happy (Belated) Columbus Day! I was happy to see a couple of Objectivists mentioned in popular media in pro-Columbus Day editorials. The first of these, in the Sun Herald of Mississippi's Gulf Coast, noted the following substantive point: "Columbus brought America to the attention of the civilized world, i.e., to the growing scientific civilizations of Western Europe that led to the influx of ideas and people on which this nation is founded," says Michael Berliner of the Ayn Rand Center. [link in original]The second, from Pittsburgh's Tribune, reprints an editorial that draws on the wisdom of the Ayn Rand Institute's Tom Bowden, a tireless defender of that great man: As wrote Thomas A. Bowden of The Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, "Thus, the deeper meaning of Columbus Day is to celebrate the rational core of Western civilization, which flourished in the New World like a pot-bound plant liberated from its confining shell, demonstrating to the world what greatness is possible to man at his best." The full tribute containing the above quote can be found here. -- CAVLink to Original
  13. John Stossel does a much better job, in terms of both brevity and appraisal, than Walter Duranty's old rag of marking the recent centenary of Communism as a political force: Communist regimes went on to kill about 100 million people. Most died in famines after socialist tyrants forced people to practice inefficient collective farming. Millions of others were executed in political purges. ... Under Mao, [Lily Tang] Williams nearly starved. "I was so hungry. My uncle taught me how to trap rats. But the problem is, everybody is trying to catch rats. Rats run out, too." Still, she says she was so brainwashed by Communist propaganda that she "cried my eyes out when Mao died." [bold added]Williams was one of the lucky ones: She survived and eventually overcame her early indoctrination enough to see this ideology for the threat to human life and happiness that it is. The piece deserves a full read not just for getting to the point about the results of Communism put into practice, but also for its nice summary of the "journalism" of Duranty, particularly for anyone young enough not to have heard of him. Stossel notes that even Times eventually admitted Duranty's reporting was some of its worst. -- CAV Link to Original
  14. A few months ago, upon hearing that I was readingBarbara Sher's book, I Could Do Anything if I Only Knew What It Was, a friend recommended the below twenty-odd minute videoof her TEDx talk, titled, "Isolation Is the Dream-Killer, Not Your Attitude." Having worked through that book, I highly recommend it, particularly to anyone who has struggled with any longstanding career-related issue. In my case, the book helped me identify why I had made a kind of error on several occasions and, more important, what I could do about it. One strategy Sher recommends in her book is setting up a "success team" to provide support for achieving one's dreams. This video shows some of the ways it works and, I suspect, how she first formulated the idea. It also can allow you to preview both her thought process and benevolence, both of which added great value to her book. -- CAV Link to Original
  15. Way back in high school, my favorite teacher would occasionally chuckle before helping us review exams. "Even the best of us make mistakes," he would add. Over time, anyone who accepted the challenge his tough science courses represented would have ample experience making mistakes and learning from them. No one wants to be wrong, of course, but the eventual realization that many errors can arise from not making connections between things one already knows was an invaluable life lesson. (It came in handy the next year in geometry, when I drew a blank on a proof we'd gone over, and ended up getting extra credit for an original one I made up on the spot during an exam.) That approach represented a refreshing, rational perspective on error that contrasted with the religious elements in my education. Image courtesy of Pixabay.A vignette about physicist Richard Feynman helpfully reminded me of this recently. Seeing and enjoying the brilliant work of another had apparently helped him get over a hump: And so, sitting in the living room of our suite, from one to five in the morning, with Feynman waiting impatiently for me to finish, I [David Goldstein --ed] read the manuscript that would become [James Watson's] The Double Helix. At a certain point, I looked up and said, "Dick, this guy must be either very smart or very lucky. He constantly claims he knew less about what was going on than anyone else in the field, but he still made the crucial discovery." Feynman virtually dove across the room to show me the notepad on which he'd been anxiously doodling while I read. There he had written one word, which he had proceeded to illuminate with drawings, as if he were working on some elaborate medieval manuscript. The word was "Disregard!" "That's what I'd forgotten!" he shouted (in the middle of the night). "You have to worry about your own work and ignore what everyone else is doing." At first light, he called his wife, Gweneth, and said, "I think I've figured it out. Now I'll be able to work again!" [ ... ] [format edits]I'm not exactly sure in what respect Feynman had started paying too much attention to others. (After all, he got this insight from reading a manuscript.) However, it does seem plain to me that becoming immersed in the brilliant work of another set him free from whatever mistake he was making long enough for him to see what it was and correct it. We all get stuck from time to time, probably not for the same reason Feynman evidently did, although his advice is good. It can, perhaps, be just as valuable to know that even a formidable intellect can hit a wall and recover. -- CAV Link to Original
  16. From an Inc. column about curbing rude behavior by confronting it comes the following quote from advice columnist Amy Alkon regarding why loutishness is disturbingly common. Alkon holds that it's because our cities and towns have become too large: When you know people, you behave differently than if you didn't. You couldn't be rude because you'd be voted off the island. So our brains are slow for the times we live in. We're around strangers all the time, but contrast that to living in a small town. If you robbed a bank, your mom would know about it before you took off in the getaway car. [link omitted]My first reaction to this -- as someone who tries to be polite and knows plenty of city dwellers who are -- was: What? It also seemed for a moment that Alkon was contradicting herself in some way: If our minds are too primitive to function easily save in small communities, how could we even rise to the task of considering a theory regarding such a fact? But then, upon remembering a point Ayn once made (in Chapter 7 of Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology), I realized that Alkon actually has a good point, one that might shed some light on the state of modern society. Rand's point is as follows:The story of the following experiment was told in a university classroom by a professor of psychology. I cannot vouch for the validity of the specific numerical conclusions drawn from it, since I could not check it first-hand. But I shall cite it here, because it is the most illuminating way to illustrate a certain fundamental aspect of consciousness -- of any consciousness, animal or human. The experiment was conducted to ascertain the extent of the ability of birds to deal with numbers. A hidden observer watched the behavior of a flock of crows gathered in a clearing of the woods. When a man came into the clearing and went on into the woods, the crows hid in the tree tops and would not come out until he returned and left the way he had come. When three men went into the woods and only two returned, the crows would not come out: they waited until the third one had left. But when five men went into the woods and only four returned, the crows came out of hiding. Apparently, their power of discrimination did not extend beyond three units -- and their perceptual-mathematical ability consisted of a sequence such as: one-two-three-many. Whether this particular experiment is accurate or not, the truth of the principle it illustrates can be ascertained introspectively: if we omit all conceptual knowledge, including the ability to count in terms of numbers, and attempt to see how many units (or existents of a given kind) we can discriminate, remember and deal with by purely perceptual means (e.g., visually or auditorially, but without counting), we will discover that the range of man's perceptual ability may be greater, but not much greater, than that of the crow: we may grasp and hold five or six units at most. This fact is the best demonstration of the cognitive role of concepts. Since consciousness is a specific faculty, it has a specific nature or identity and, therefore, its range is limited: it cannot perceive everything at once; since awareness, on all its levels, requires an active process, it cannot do everything at once. Whether the units with which one deals are percepts or concepts, the range of what man can hold in the focus of his conscious awareness at any given moment, is limited. The essence, therefore, of man's incomparable cognitive power is the ability to reduce a vast amount of information to a minimal number of units -- which is the task performed by his conceptual faculty. And the principle of unit-economy is one of that faculty's essential guiding principles. [italics in original] (pp. 62-63)How does this apply to etiquette? 150 is, after all, a much larger number than six or seven. I think the answer is that it applies indirectly. That number seems like it might be close to the number of people most of us normally become familiar with, or bump into regularly-enough that even a primitive internal tally-sheet of interactions could tell someone it would be beneficial to help them, or at least that these people would be best able to haunt him for bad behavior. Ditto for getting a feel for what these friends, family, and acquaintances might expect/what they'll let him get away with. But beyond that, and maybe cases of exceptional memory aside, how does one deal with more people -- or total strangers? Can we generalize what other people like and dislike? Can we conceptualize how, generally, we should regard and treat other people? Just as we need a code of ethics to guide our actions past obvious needs, like eating and breathing, so we need etiquete, a systematic way of dealing with other people in a non-political context. In other words, we can't escape the necessity of dealing with the problem conceptually, and based on how we think about the world generally. A person who does this, and has concluded that other people represent potential friends and business partners, or can even simply be pleasant to spend a few moments with, will conclude that treating them well is the correct default. As for the kind of short-range, boorish behaviors Suzanne Lucas mentioned in her column, they may well be free of adverse immediate consequences, but will, if habitual, also almost certainly cut off a supply of value, in the form of the good will and company of decent people. In other words, a thinking person will realize that he has good cause to be courteous based on principles he draws from his thinking and past social experience that generalize well beyond the hundred or so people he's familiar with. So Alkon is right, but perhaps could have gone a bit further: Courtesy seems to be on the wane in modern society, but it is a symptom of much bigger problem. Yes, ignorance of the principles of etiquette is common, but, far worse, concrete-bound, short-range thinking is apparently becoming quite common in the advanced societies that need solid, conceptual thinking the most. So, good for Suzanne Lucas for confronting her local barbarians: This tactic can make life pleasant for the rest of us by instructing the merely ignorant, or by reminding the thoughtless that there can be consequences for their actions. It is up to the thoughtful to consider how to promote more of their way of thinking within society. -- CAV Link to Original
  17. Four Things I'm taking next week off from blogging. See you back here on the thirtieth. 1. Not only is the following a cool problem for someone to have... Back home, I have to unlock the door, climb like 20 steps -- it's plenty of time to connect to the wifi. Then I have to take off my headphones before my sweaty t-shirt, so it would be great to just switch the current song to the living room airplay system, so that there'd be no interruption. I couldn't do it, and don't understand why switching between bluetooth and wifi shouldn't just work.... it also made me smile as I remembered Weird Al's parodic "First World Problems," embedded below. 2. I never drink it, but the story of the surprisingly (to me) recent invention of Bailey's Irish Cream was a fun read: It was mid-November, dark, wet and cold. 1973. We collected the Baileys report from the market researcher alongside the Chiswick roundabout en route to Heathrow. We were cutting it fine for our big Dublin meeting. Tom drove and I leafed through the document in the car. It wasn't a comfortable read. "This isn't going to help our case," I said. "It's not all bad, but it isn't all good either." The bit about being a "girly drink" was in there and so was the comment likening it to Kaolin & Morphine. It was perfect ammunition for someone who wanted to kill the idea. The report contained nothing to reflect the earth-shattering idea we thought Baileys was now that we observed it in its full packaged glory. "Why don't we just put it away and not mention it?" I said. Tom immediately agreed and I stuck it in my briefcase and left it there. It stayed in my briefcase until 1984 when I unveiled it at the 10th anniversary party. It got a huge laugh. The "Kaolin & Morphine flavoured girly drink" had sold about four million cases (48 million bottles) that year.Those brothers mentioned on the label? A confabulation. 3. If you've ever wondered why Linux on smart phones hasn't exactly taken off, one writer makes a very good case that it's a solution looking for a problem to solve: In order for mobile Linux to really resonate with casual users, it needs to solve a problem. Right now, the biggest issue facing smart phones is planned obsolescence. This means when a device becomes too old and deemed no longer worth updating, smart phones then see their security and functionality updates stop.That noted, this Samsung owner hopes a new effort to bring Linux to that brand succeeds where others haven't. 4. Have you ever wondered why open offices are awful places to work, but Starbucks isn't? Wonder no more. [N]ew research shows that it may not be the sound itself that distracts us ... it may be who is making it. In fact, some level of office banter in the background might actually benefit our ability to do creative tasks, provided we don't get drawn into the conversation. Instead of total silence, the ideal work environment for creative work has a little bit of background noise. That's why you might focus really well in a noisy coffee shop, but barely be able to concentrate in a noisy office.A comment thread at Hacker News makes much of power dynamics and having to "look busy" -- which I think are good points. But the very day I read this, I stopped at a McDonald's after getting my car fixed. I'd worked at the shop on my computer and was thinking about eating lunch there and then working some more at the Golden Arches... Until some holy roller accosted me with the ridiculous assertion that the sunshine outside had something to do with God -- at which point I rolled my eyes, said, "Gotchya," and left to work elsewhere. Call it a First Amendment Problem: Easily solved. But the point remains that this fool has no bearing on my life beyond where he chose to be at the moment and my willingness to spend energy fending him off. Distraction is a Big Deal. -- CAV Link to Original
  18. Image via Wikimedia Commons.Over at Aeon is an article (that doesn't take one to read) about how trial by ordeal was actually used. This in no way legitimizes the practice, but it does answer a practical question faced by the mystics in charge: Essentially everyone believed in eternal damnation for the unrepentant, but that wasn't always an effective deterrent to actual crime. At the same time, a perceived inability on their part to render reliable verdicts would cast doubt on them as cognitive and moral authorities. The Church needed a way to achieve some level of certainty about innocence or guilt, but the priests knew on some level that they weren't going to get any help from their imaginary friend. What to do? Capitalize on ignorance and rig the result: ... Did you catch the trick? Because of your belief in iudicium Dei, the spectre of the ordeal leads you to choose one way if you're guilty -- confess -- and another way if you're innocent -- undergo the ordeal -- revealing the truth about your guilt or innocence to the court through the choice you make. By asking God to out you, the legal system incentivises you to out yourself...The piece goes on to elaborate on how the instruction manual for the priest who ran the "trial" should proceed: A "miraculous" result was thus practically assured. For example, in the early 13th century, 208 defendants in Várad in Hungary underwent hot-iron ordeals. Amazingly, nearly two-thirds of defendants were unscathed by the "red-hot" irons they carried and hence exonerated. If the priests who administered these ordeals understood how to heat iron, as they surely did, that leaves only two explanations for the "miraculous" results: either God really did intervene to reveal the defendants" innocence, or the priests made sure that the iron they carried wasn't hot. [minor format edits]So the Church found a way to both preserve its credibility by delivering a fair verdict often enough for that purpose -- and yet to maintain complete control over the result of any given trial. Even if, as the author claimed, this yielded "improved criminal justice," it served its true purpose, of maintaining the power of the Church over society, far better. The superstitious rabble were kept from utter lawlessness and any uppity heretics were put on notice, too, even if they saw through the ruse. Clever. -- CAV Link to Original
  19. Eric Peters of The American Spectator asks, "Where's Ralph?" For those of you too young to remember, Peters helpfully notes that Ralph Nader, a self-appointed "consumer advocate" made his name as an automotive gadfly. A Nissan LEAF, parked in an area that may have power and someone friendly enough to lend an outlet and extension cord for a spell. (Image courtesy of Pixabay) For those of us who do remember him, it may come as a surprise, considering his silence regarding electric cars, that he is alive at all. In any event, Peters ticks off the numerous deficiencies of the cars, which energy advocate Alex Epstein more memorably and accurately describes as "coal cars." Many items on the list aren't really news. For example, things like "range anxiety" do pop up in the media from time to time. And the taxes that Peters notes come up even among proponents of electric cars, although they seem to regard taxes as a natural phenomenon of the same order of the weather: Not worth making a fuss over. Other things take more thought than many who skim through the news might give it, like the following: [T]he Electric Car Chorus leaves people with the impression that electric car batteries are immortal. Which is like leaving people with the impression that they will never have to replace the 12-volt starter battery in a conventional car -- or change tires or brake pads. But unlike tires or brakes -- or the 12V starter battery that IC-engined cars have -- an electric car's battery pack costs thousands to replace when the time comes. And the time will come. So people will buy a very expensive electric car -- thinking that at least they'll save some money on maintenance -- and then find out they'll be spending several thousand dollars to "maintain" (that is, to replace) the battery -- long before the car itself has worn out. Why no mention of this? [bold added]But the fact that these things aren't really news is not really the important point. Peters's point is that such things as the power having to come from somewhere or the eventuality of having to dump thousands on an old car shouldn't be news, and wouldn't be, if the likes of Ralph Nader really did have our interests at heart. On that score, I'd have to agree. -- CAV Link to Original
  20. A typical journalist, courtesy of Pixabay.An article at Inc. admonishes readers not to be fooled by three "trends" (i.e., examples of progress) that have been getting all kinds of coverage by journalists and pundits who are too busy pandering to fear of the unknown to notice that their big stories could easily be demolished by a helping of additional knowledge (historical or not) and a dash of integrative thinking. I'll highlight the third, because it shows that one needn't always necessarily have a knowledge of history to see that there is often no need to panic (or, conversely, become overly-excited) about the new and shiny. Here's the relevant excerpt on the "retail apocalypse": Many are calling this a retail apocalypse, but look a little closer and it becomes clear that there is more to the story. Amazon has made a big push into physical retail, capped off by its $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods. Others, ranging from Bonobos to Warby Parker, also opened physical stores. [links omitted, bold added]Indeed, the executive summary of the article, which is still worth a read in its entirety, might consist of three sentences: What is so special about the latest wave of automation that it's going to make us all idlers when every other previous wave has failed to do so? Please name me a business that can operate without some form of access to tangible assets. If Amazon has shown that brick-and-mortar retail is dead, why did it buy Whole Foods? (But I repeat myself.) I appreciate good journalism like this: It gives me something to think about, and learn from. And it gives me hope that there are journalists out there who don't buy the hype that, since panic sells, it's the only thing that can sell. To those journalists, I would say, although really only as encouragement: There is an audience out there for an objective presentation of relevant facts, integrated with other knowledge, and interpreted in a rational manner. We'd like more of the same. -- CAV Link to Original
  21. Carl Cannon of The Orange County Register asks an interesting question: "Is Harvey Weinstein a cultural pivot point?" He offers some pretty compelling arguments for why this might be the case, contrasting Weinstein's rapid fall with the fates of a couple of other public figures about twenty years ago: Yet, like Bob Packwood, Bill Clinton was "good" on Roe v. Wade, so what's a good feminist to do? In the end, they backed Clinton. This lesson wasn't lost on future offenders. Bill Cosby's camp has openly played the race card, just as Bill O'Reilly claimed to be the victim of a political "hit job" by liberals. Harvey Weinstein responded to the New York Times' expose with a statement beginning with his claim that he "came of age in the '60s and '70s, when the rules about behavior and workplaces" differed. "That was the culture then," he added. [minor edits]And later: If there's good news in this sordid tale, it's this: Once these allegations were made public, playing the partisan political card didn't create even a minor speed bump as Weinstein was being drummed out of polite society. Feminists openly scoffed at this gambit. Prominent Democrats didn't so much as acknowledge it.This could be very good or very bad, depending on why this is happening so quickly. It would be a very good thing if, indeed, this is a sign that, culturally, the kind of mistreatment of women the likes of Weinstein specialize in is no longer getting a pass. But consider that some of the outrage is coming from the left, which has been responsible lately for fostering outrages against men, on the premise that, as Cannon puts it so well, "merely being a man [might be] some sort of pre-existing condition." (Oh. And Caucasians. And the wealthy, but I don't really need to bring that up, do I?) Let's not forget that Weinstein is something of a strikeout: white, wealthy, and male. Perhaps there is a bit of both going on just as, not so long ago, racial bigotry became unacceptable while, at the same time, leftists pushed for the kind of legislation, regulation, and pandering that make such a thing as a "race card" even viable now -- and even after our country has twice elected a black man as President. An interesting thought experiment indeed is to consider where this story might have gone had it occurred on Hillary Clinton's watch, had she won the election. I suspect a one-word answer, starting with the word "no," and ending with the word, "where." Weinstein would have been too useful. I personally think it's both: In the broader culture, men at work are expected to behave like professionals towards women. But at the same time, many on the left doubtless see yet another opportunity to tear someone down, ostensibly in the name of a just cause. Yes, our popular culture has reached a pivot point, but we're saddled with the same old, power-hungry left. -- CAV Link to Original
  22. Four Things I've had to tinker a little with software this week, so here's a short collection of possibly useful tidbits. 1. In the process of reading a web article with footnotes collected at the end, I got tired of having to follow hyperlinks just to see which was worth reading. "Wouldn't it be nice if there were a web browser with a split view?" I thought, then ran a search. As it turns out, a bookmarklet mentioned at Lifehacker can make any decent browser do this. This is also useful for comparing two web pages side by side. 2. After using Gina Trapani's nice Todo.txt script/app combination for years, I suddenly found myself at the store without a grocery list a couple of weeks ago. As a result of Dropbox changing its API, the phone app suddenly become useless -- a problem Trapani reports will require a nontrivial fix. In the meantime, she offers a refund and suggests a couple of alternative phone apps. I had already found Simpletask, which she recommends for Android users, by the time I found her blog post. This app, which follows the same conventions as the script, is not just an able understudy, but superior in some respects, such as being able to look at items for two projects at a time. I still like Trapani's app, and will use it for certain things, should it get fixed. 3. Another app I used daily that was affected by the Dropbox API change was the text/markup editor, Draft. Fortunately, I had advanced notice of the change and had time to try several alternatives. This was a good thing, because Jotterpad, being the prettiest, seems to get the loudest press. But having to pay for basic functionality I could get elsewhere for free, and already disliking aspects of its interface, I found another app, the QuickEdit text editor, which turned out to be much better for my purposes and superior in most ways to what I had, most notably, being able to access anything in Dropbox, and handling sync better. 4. I'll end with a Bash script pomodoro timer I wrote for my desktop and laptop. Fellow Linux/Unix/Cygwin users will appreciate that it provides visual and audio notifications that your "pomodoro" is over. Time period is adjustable, but defaults to 25 minutes, and, for anyone who has to change settings frequently for such things as sleeping babies in the next room, one can test settings before starting by using a minus sign in front of the time argument. Code is in the P.S. -- CAV P.S. Oops! You'll have to email me for my pomodoro script. I thought it would be straightforward to dump it here with a <pre> tag, but font size was huge and, ironically, I have no time to figure out a decent way to display it within the blog post. If there's lots of interest, I may wait a few days to accumulate email addresses before sending it out (or notifying you that I figured out how to post it in an acceptable way), so as to save time.Link to Original
  23. The huge room and extra chairs are optional. Image courtesy of Unsplash. While reading Cal Newport's Deep Work, I ran into an extreme example of a work strategy I have blogged at least a couple of times. (Sort of. More on that shortly.) In a discussion of a strategy he calls the grand gesture, Newport tells of an inventor who basically scheduled himself for an entire conference -- alone: Not every grand gesture need be so permanent. After the pathologically competitive Bell Labs physicist William Shockley was scooped in the invention of the transistor -- as I detail in the next strategy, two members of his team made the breakthrough at a time when Shockley was away working on another project -- he locked himself in a hotel room in Chicago, where he had traveled ostensibly to attend a conference. He didn't emerge from the room until he had ironed out the details for a better design that had been rattling around in his mind. When he finally did leave the room, he airmailed his notes back to Murray Hill, New Jersey, so that a colleague could paste them into his lab notebook and sign them to timestamp the innovation. The junction form of the transistor that Shockley worked out in this burst of depth ended up earning him a share of the Nobel Prize subsequently awarded for the invention. (loc. 1339)The parallel with hiding out in a meeting made me smile, but the result really made an impression on me. Aside from the length of time, anyone who checks my earlier blogs might notice another difference between what Shockley did and what neither of those posts really indicate is an option. Shockley worked with single-minded purpose on one thing. Indeed, one of my posts mentions the idea as a way of catching up on whatever tasks one is behind in, and the other isn't explicitly about what kind of work one could be doing in these uninterrupted blocks. Indeed, it leans the wrong way, if anything. That said, the fact that one sometimes might require blocks of time to catch up even on mindless tasks underscores Newport's thesis, which is that concentration is an increasingly valuable and rare commodity these days. Newport's book has been very stimulating so far -- I am almost half-way through it now -- and is motivating me to reevaluate the way I work. It also, fortunately, offers advice on how to emulate such success along with the reasoning behind it. -- CAV P.S. Regarding the nature of what Newport calls a "grand gesture," it pertains to a high level of commitment one one's part, and is more directed inward than outward. Another example of a grand gesture from the book is J.K. Rowling's use of an expensive hotel for writing the last of the Harry Potter books. The setting provided both inspiration and freedom from distraction, and the expense probably made it hard not to do what she came to do. Link to Original
  24. James Altucher ticks off ten reasons to regard procrastination as a "superpower." In the build up to his list, the entrepreneur makes the following claim, which I am not sure I agree with, even when I take "instinct" to be a colloquialism for "intuition": Image courtesy of Unsplash.Procrastination is the body and mind's way of telling you that you need to focus on another task. It's like this secret guide that points the direction to what is really important in life. You have to trust that instinct and [be] good at listening to it.This can true for you anywhere from never to most of the time, but that doesn't affect the value of the list in terms of getting "unstuck." So, without further ado, I'll present the list: Plan B Give Up Start in the Middle End in the Middle Experiment Do Bad Stuff Smaller Is Better Surprise Myself Read Play As you might have guessed, each bullet above comes with an explanation, for which I'll provide a sample below, of the one for "Do Bad Stuff": I have to make a list of ideas for a project I'm working on. I'm putting a lot of pressure on myself to come up with good ideas. So I was procrastinating. IF you can't come up with good ideas, come up with bad ideas. Bad job, good job, it doesn't matter. The key is: DO.Some of these explanations are better than others -- e.g., "Surprise Myself?" How? -- but the list overall might be a good one to consult the next time you're stuck. And, for that purpose, the article include an infographic. -- CAV Link to Original
  25. Writing at The Cut, Heather Havrilesky attempts to walk a mile in sleazeball Harvey Weinstein's mental moccasins: When you really slow down the tape on Weinstein -- or Trump, or Cosby, or Stephen Paddock, or Richard Spencer, and make no mistake, you have to work very hard not to draw lines between these men by now -- what you see more than anything else is a profound lack of connection to other human beings. It's not just that women or strangers or people of color or children of immigrants or Muslims don't rate in their world. It's that other human beings in general are utterly irrelevant. You are useful and part of the club or you're cast out like trash. The second you're not useful, you are waste. Or you were always waste. Your feelings about the matter couldn't be less relevant. Whether or not their behavior will ruin you or literally end your life and the lives of countless others is utterly insignificant to these people. [bold added]Let's set aside for a moment whether Havrilesky is fair to place all four on the same level of hell and consider the bolded statement above: This is doubly true of anyone who, knowing that open secret about Weinstein and being in a position to do something about it, went ahead and kept things quiet for him, took his donations, sought him out, or some combination of the preceding. And it makes me wonder about any leftist who isn't recoiling in abject horror at what it says about their political establishment that Weinstein, apparently, was (still is?) such a big shot. (This is not the same thing as worrying about lost votes in the short term.) I am no fan of Donald Trump -- and maybe one can draw parallels between his personality and Weinstein's -- but it strikes me as odd that he merits a mention here, and a few big name Democratic politicians apparently don't. -- CAV Link to Original