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Gus Van Horn blog

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  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. 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 --
  10. 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
  11. There is no denying that seven months of "two weeks to flatten the curve" has had a negative effect on business. Conservatives say this outright when making a case for ending house arrest in one jurisdiction or another. Leftists implicitly do so when they call for passing out more loot even as they apparently want this to continue ... I don't know -- permanently? ... despite ample evidence that other nations have successfully fought the epidemic without doing so. At the same time, it is also clear that certain kinds of business were always going to suffer to some extent until and unless (1) t
  12. Blog Roundup 1. With threats to industry rising from every direction like the heads of a hydra these days, I am grateful to Jason Crawford for coming up with a memorable name for a key, universally applicable weapon we will need to fight back, industrial literacy:I've said before that understanding where our modern standard of living comes from, at a basic level, is a responsibility of every citizen in an industrial civilization. Let's call it "industrial literacy." [bold added]Crawford gives a few examples of what this would mean, and concludes in part: "Anyone over 30 years of age today,
  13. A lengthy article on election advertising includes a passage that probably resonates well beyond the group it discusses: "We assumed it would be a mover spot, and it just wasn't," McIntosh said. The video had the adverse effect of pushing away not just moderate voters, but also many Democratic-base voters, particularly young people, who find politics tiresome and irrelevant to their lives. "The folks who are younger, they're more skeptical. They're oftentimes just kind of like, Oh, I haven't had the best luck in life. They don't make a ton of money. They haven't got a college degree," said Sa
  14. In addition to her inerrant advice, one of the things that keeps me coming back to Miss Manners is her occasional gentle (and often humorous) demolition of boorish behavior. The gentleness spares the blushes of anyone who may genuinely think, in this age-without-norms, that what they propose is polite behavior. The humor makes the advice memorable and helps the rest of us remain sane. Case in point is a recent letter titled, "Leave Your Water Bottle at Home." Whether the letter-writer is genuinely confused (plausible, given the fashion of practicing environmentalism as conspicuously as possi
  15. Many people are familiar, through the movie Catch Me if You Can, with the Hollywood version of the story of Frank Abagnale, the young, international con man who eventually turned his life around professionally and personally to become a productive, well-regarded security consultant and a family man. The story is very interesting and it is inspiring to know that it is possible in some circumstances for someone to see the error of his ways, make fundamental changes, and achieve meaningful success. The movie dramatizes this general arc, but it left me wondering. How did he become motivated to ch
  16. Over at Reason Magazine is a pretty good summary of California's government-induced energy shortage. Perhaps one of the most striking things about the article is the insistence on the part of green energy advocate Amol Phadke that battery power is the way around the inherent unreliability of solar and wind power. Batteries are cheaper now, but they are nowhere near as ready as environmentalists would have you believe. . (Image by Claudio Schwartz, via Unsplash, license.) Phadke thinks the solution is for California to build even more solar power plants and invest more money in giant batte
  17. Four Meta-Wins Having fallen two and a half months (!) behind in reviewing my daily wins, I realized I could kill two birds with one stone by doing so during blogging time this morning. This caused me to see patterns in the "wins" and make a few connections. So I'll blog a few of the more interesting of these "meta-wins" below. *** 1. I started off the process of writing this post by making a list, naturally. But part of the idea of coming up with three wins each day is following through, and it quickly became apparent that I am not reliably doing that. This realization is a win in itself,
  18. First, a definition from our modern Oracle, Wikipedia: Political rehabilitation is the process by which a member of a political organization or government who has fallen into disgrace is restored to public life."Restored to public life," sounds anodyne until one stops for a moment to consider just what the hell a removal from "public life" is supposed to mean, and under what circumstances anyone is able to make that happen. In any event, I noted some time ago that the media-left establishment was attempting a species of removal from public life regarding Sweden: That nation -- falsely rever
  19. Looking back on notes from Barbara Sher's excellent I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was, I ran across the following quote regarding work in a "wrong" job: [R]emember what each day is for -- not to make your boss happy, not to impress your school chums, but to get knowledge and skills for yourself.This is profound advice, but my immediate reaction on seeing this again was to think Shouldn't this be in the back of one's mind in any job? The quote also got me thinking on the subject of what a job actually is, and that eventually led me to the following rather lengthy quote by Ayn Rand
  20. It Can Pay to Be Creative About It Image by Magnet.me, via Unsplash, license. "I've seen a lot of writing tools that came out of someone writing a dissertation or some other book," remarks John Cook in a post he titles, "Make Boring Work Harder." Within, Cook describes a common practice that is similar to my own, except for the fact that I am usually motivated by the desire not to drive myself crazy with "repetitive tasks or tasks made unnecessarily difficult," say, by a lousy software interface. I completely agree with him on a point I hadn't thought of, when the objection arises that su
  21. The New Yorker has taken a look at a 238-page congressional report and come up with exactly the wrong conclusion regarding government oversight of the aviation industry. I won't rehash the conversion of Boeing from private corporation to creature of the government, or how ludicrous the idea is that the government didn't have enough control over Boeing is: I blogged about those last year in a post titled "What Happened to Boeing?" Instead, I'll content myself by quoting two paragraphs that should cause fans of government "oversight" to at least squirm a little. First, we have the following
  22. Four Things 1. Before the pandemic hit, it looked like Pumpkin, aided by the desire not to be seen sucking her thumb by her peers, was finally on the verge of quitting the habit. Fortunately, school is back. But before then, I had started doing an irritating jingle (as in the video clip below) whenever I would catch her in the act. In the process of singing, "Thumb-thumb-thumb-thumb! Thumb-thumb-thumb-thumb-THUMB!," I recalled my own parents part-cajoling my brother and me and part amusing themselves by singing "Eat, eat, eat, eat! Eat, eat, eat, eat!" at dinner time when they had troubl
  23. Some time ago, Blogger, a Google subsidiary, changed its post editor. I haven't used the native editor for much in years, so the impact of this change on me was only mildly irritating. I found ways to avoid the problems I encountered and mostly forgot about it. Apparently, though, the change has been quite a headache for others, including people who, like me, sling their own HTML. Since I'm happy enough with the platform, but mostly avoid using its editor, I figured I'd pass along my solutions to the problems others have mentioned. The biggest source of problems from the change (which was
  24. Then, courtesy of Ayn Rand: The best illustration of the general confusion on the subject of business and government can be found in [Stewart] Holbrook's The Story of American Railroads. On page 231, Mr. Holbrook writes: Image by Bernhard Gillam, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain. Almost from the first, too, the railroads had to undergo the harassments of politicians and their catchpoles, or to pay blackmail in one way or another. The method was almost sure-fire; the politico, usually a member of a state legislature, thought up some law or regulation that would be costly or awkward to th
  25. Make more of them. It's gorgeous, but what can we do about it? (Image by Remi Yuan, via Unsplash, license.) Over at Cal Newport's Study Hacks blog are an interesting idea and some very good discussion about how author Michael Connelly works. I love the title, "Michael Connelly Starts Writing Before the Sun Comes Up," because it sounds so unremarkable, until the reader realizes it could have gone on with, "And Doesn't Let Silliness Like Daylight Stop Him." Connelly uses blackout shades to keep his office dark all day long. This both preserves the quiet solitude so many of us love about the w
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