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Gus Van Horn blog

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Gus Van Horn blog last won the day on July 16

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  1. For the second time in a couple of years -- I know it's the second time thanks to the magic of bookmarking. -- I have encountered a partly tongue-in-cheek essay titled, "Structured Procrastination." Among the chuckles, and after the observation that "Procrastinators seldom do absolutely nothing; they do marginally useful things," it contains the following germ of a productivity hack: The author speaks of playing ping-pong. Perhaps he should have had some recreation time on his list. Perhaps he did. (Image by Ilya Pavlov, via Unsplash, license.) Structured procrastination means shaping th
  2. Blog Roundup 1. At Thinking Directions, Jean Moroney asks, "What is missing from your plan for the day?" Here is a small, but crucial, part of her answer: Seize the day by greeting it properly. (Image by Mohamed Nohassi, via Unsplash, license.) Knowing the reason for your plan lets you judge objectively whether to change the plan. It ensures you know the assumptions built into the plan. When something unexpected comes up, you'll be able to judge whether it is relevant or irrelevant to the goal. Does it change your assumptions? Ultimately, is it important or unimportant? If the issue is imp
  3. Venture capitalist Paul Graham considers the problem of evaluating what he calls early work from multiple angles. This he does with the view of understanding how those most involved in the process of innovation -- the innovator himself, potential collaborators, and potential investors -- can become better at it. It's a short essay, but one that will require multiple readings: Graham has lots to say, but the thoughtful reader will be almost too full of thought at any given point to be able to grasp everything at once. I need to reread it myself, but I feel safe throwing out a couple of things
  4. I recently got wind of the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD), a manifesto against coronavirus "lockdowns" drafted by the American Institute for Economic Research and co-signed by a large number of "medical and public health scientists and medical practitioners." I did not speak for or against it at the time, because I had not read or thought about it, but I did mention a policy document I have read and agree with, "A Pro-Freedom Approach to Infectious Disease: Planning for the Next Pandemic," by the Ayn Rand Institute in June of this year. I am glad I held my tongue: In my opinion, the Grea
  5. Don't be fooled by the title -- "How to Be Great? Just Be Good, Repeatably." And by that, I don't simply mean that the author, Steph Smith, isn't giving advice on how to achieve greatness effortlessly. In a nutshell, Smith is advising specialization, and improving processes incrementally over time -- but she has lots more to say than that about the process of becoming great. For example: the journey has emotional lows and highs, stemming both from how our emotions operate and the unsteady nature of progress. And then there's the small matter of what good even is. How do you know you're picki
  6. Advocates of unreliable wind and solar energy frequently make the claim that these two energy sources are "cheaper" than fossil fuels -- as if countless individuals with power bills would fail to notice. (They do, but not because they are stupid. Read on.) A recent such claim popped up on a tech news aggregator I frequent, and drew a pretty decent comment in reply. The reply is, in part: Image by Annie Spratt, via Unsplash, license. These comparisons solely account for the production costs and not for the system costs of solar energy and are therefore completely useless. Solar panels w
  7. Four Things Image by The Works Progress Administration, via Wikimedia, public domain. 1. In case you missed it earlier this month, the economist John Cochrane posted about an "artistic representation of government waste" at his blog, The Grumpy Economist. When first I saw the title, my mind briefly processed it with the low expectations borne of past general disappointment with others: Essentially every time I see or hear that phrase, it is in the context of someone nattering about some relatively minor profligacy occurring within a government program that is itself wasteful or larcenous o
  8. Business writer Alison Green writes in Slate that "Working From Home Is Making a Lot of People Miserable." It is interesting to consider all of the good things about having to go to an office that so many people have learned on their own hides because governments forced them to try to work from home wholesale. (This in no way excuses such tyrannical behavior.) Here's just one of seven things the Ask a Manager columnist gleaned from readers -- and it's from someone who was working from home before the "lockdowns": Image by Tito Texidor III, via Unsplash, license. It was great when I was wo
  9. In a recent column, Miss Manners does a pretty good job of correcting the common misconception of etiquette as a confusing mess of arbitrary rules that have little to do with daily life. At one point in a reply to a question, she almost explicitly lays out the purpose of etiquette as a means of managing conflict -- be it by preventing it from unnecessarily escalating or by avoiding it altogether when it is unnecessary. What I liked best about her particular response, though, was her explicitness in tying one's purpose to one's response to rudeness. After first asking, "Does the form of confr
  10. Issues and Insights calls for an immediate end to the unscientific and economically devastating "lockdowns" first initiated in the name of fighting the pandemic. At one point, the piece notes that the economic costs in the United States have been "catastrophic" and "worse than the 2007-2008 Great Recession." This is true, but one of the chief virtues of the piece is its mention of some of the other many costs of the tyrannical policy of indefinite mass home detention, first packaged as "two weeks to flatten the curve:" Image by Nik Shuliahin, via Unsplash, license. "The lockdowns led to wid
  11. National Review Online passes along the following impressive news regarding Disney World's employees three months after the theme park reopened its doors in Florida: Image by Greg Cohen, via Unsplash, license. "'We've had very few, and none, as far as we can tell, have been from work-related exposure,' said Eric Clinton, president of UNITE HERE Local 362, which represents roughly 8,000 attraction workers and custodians." None? As in nobody among 8,000 union workers at Disney World has been infected by coronavirus on the job? This is fantastic news. Other unions, according to the Times, tell
  12. Four Things Image by Curtis MacNewton, via Unsplash, license. Thoughts about recent improvements to and experiments regarding my routine. 1. It's hard to believe it, but between holiday obligations, the pandemic, and a change in my routine that shortened morning alone time, my very productive wee hours routine of organizing the garage abruptly ended, unfinished, nearly a year ago. Only a couple of weeks ago did I find a good time to start doing this again: right after dropping the kids off to school, while it's still cool, and before I start the day's work. Things only got more crow
  13. Image by Rita Morais, via Unsplash, license. A recent installment of Alex Epstein's Human Flourishing Project advises listeners to learn from master practitioner-teachers: that is, from people who have achieved success in their domain and are actively interested in passing along their knowledge. Epstein gives a couple of specific examples, Creativity, Inc., by Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull and Amy Hastings; and the new best-seller, No Rules Rules, by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer. This is outstanding advice and helps me further, through its name, to essentialize something I was alrea
  14. Almost anyone who has been paying much attention to the pandemic will have heard by now of "Long Covid:" There are reports of sufferers from Covid enduring long or incomplete recoveries, or being left with other lingering problems. These problems are not well understood and may not (all?) be uniquely related to this virus in particular. But I am not a physician, and that is not the topic of this post, anyway. Nor are the economic effects of the pandemic and our governments' panicked and tyrannical response, although they are horrendous. The other, other "Long Covid" is the one only a few --
  15. On my to-do list was to go through a New York Times article on "How to Edit Your Own Writing." My notation? How many things like this might I have, want to review, and consider adding to my reference list?" Was I impressed with the links to the resources sprinkled throughout? The steps? A bit of both? I'm not sure. Perhaps I was just a little too busy to evaluate it all at the time: It's worth reading, but I seem to have most of these things covered. That said, I ended up being most impressed by something from near the beginning, which strikes me a great way to remind oneself of one's underly
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