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Gus Van Horn blog

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Everything posted by Gus Van Horn blog

  1. Writing at Inc, Suzanne Lucas reports a law that basically ends at-will employment in the fast food restaurant sector in New York City: Using robots to flip burgers has just started looking like a great idea. (Image by Richard Greenhill and Hugo Elias, via Wikimedia Commons, license.) After a maximum of a 30-day probationary period, fast-food restaurants can terminate employees only for "just cause," defined as "the fast-food employee's failure to satisfactorily perform job duties or misconduct that is demonstrably and materially harmful to the fast food employer's legitimate business int
  2. To understate, I found a recent piece at Issues and Insights extremely disappointing. The title might have said it all -- were Donald Trump in power -- but it's even worse than that. "Coming Check on Big Tech Tyranny Long Overdue" is dated January 22, 2021 -- only a few days into the era of Democrat control of the executive and legislative branches. Whatever "check" on "big tech" comes, it will be with their buddies, the Democrats in charge. This is not to say that the GOP aping the Democrats on this -- or anything else -- would be a good thing. Someone who actually disagrees with the left
  3. I have long thought that California's voters should do themselves a favor by removing Governor Gavin Newsom from office through a recall election. That said, according to a Bloomberg report, a recall drive there is closing in on success, currently driven in part by problems associated with rollout of the coronavirus vaccines: Image by Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia, license. A recall effort targeting California Governor Gavin Newsom is escalating and has grown from a quixotic quest among a few Republicans to a campaign that stands a chance of coming to a vote in the Democrat-dominated state.
  4. Four Things 1. Two centuries ago, a man confined to his bedroom for 42 days (under house arrest for dueling) wrote a parody travel journal about his time there. Futility Closet supplies the following excerpt:Next to my arm-chair, as we go northward, my bed comes into sight. It is placed at the end of my room, and forms the most agreeable perspective. It is very pleasantly situated, and the earliest rays of the sun play upon my curtains. On fine summer days I see them come creeping, as the sun rises, all along the whitened wall.The author saw his effort as a diversion, but his brother got it
  5. If the name Arnold Bennett sounds familiar to you, it could be either because of a recent Deep Questions podcast by Cal Newport, a couple of podcasts from Alex Epstein's Human Flourishing Project, or (unlike me so far), you've read his How to Live on 24 Hours a Day. Both Newport and Epstein hold him in high regard, but the following passage of his might seem troubling at first glance, particularly after a year of pandemic ... existence: Image by Tania Melnyczuk, via Unsplash, license. You don't eat immediately on your arrival home. But in about an hour or so you feel as if you could sit u
  6. Or: Ayn Rand Explained Trump and QAnon in the 70's, Too Shortly before I mostly dropped off the web for a few weeks, Snedcat left a comment linking to a fascinating piece by Reed Berkowitz titled, "A Game Designer's Analysis of QAnon." I must confess that I was largely ignorant of QAnon and various related conspiracy theories: I was vaguely aware that lots of Trump's strongest supporters were conspiracy nuts and not terribly surprised that he apparently sometimes pandered to them. I don't have a lot of commentary of my own to offer on the subject right now, but I did remember the piece yest
  7. Attempting to better understand the legal basis of mask mandates, I ran across a post, "To Mask Or Not To Mask? It's Not a Constitutional Question," in the Blue Sky Blog of the Columbia School of Law, that its authors should be embarrassed about. First, some context: I take both the pandemic and individual rights seriously. I wear a mask and recommend that others do so. Given that the coronavirus is transmitted most easily by respiratory droplets, one need only consider this diagram and integrate it with simple ballistics to realize that we needn't wait for definitive scientific proof that ma
  8. Image by Nobel Foundation, Via Wikimedia, public domain. It is difficult to find a reflection on the positive significance of today's holiday without also hearing something to the effect of, "but there remains much to be done." This is true: The fight for liberty is never truly over. We could (and should) just as well say the same thing when we consider the significance of Independence Day, Memorial Day, or any number of other American holidays. I do not plan to speculate today about why we do not do this, but it is worth thinking about for a variety of reasons. What I will do is relay from
  9. Four Things 1. Whether you might want to indulge in nostalgia or save time as the family dungeon master, I have good news for you. The entirety of Dungeon Magazine is now available online at the Internet Archive: Image by Mateus Campos Felipe, via Unsplash, license. Each issue featured a variety of self-contained, pre-scripted, play-tested game scenarios, often called "modules", "adventures" or "scenarios". Dungeon Masters (DMs) could either enact these adventures with their respective player groups as written or adapt them to their own campaign settings. Dungeon aimed to save DMs time and
  10. Writing at the New Yorker, Cal Newport, a computer science professor and the author of Deep Work, very well presents and places in historical context the productivity systems popularized about a decade ago by David Allen and Merlin Mann. This is very helpful, because he offers both a critique of the related Getting Things Done and Inbox Zero methodologies, and outlines a possible solution to the difficulty his critique uncovers. Here is the crux of where these techniques fall down: Image by Luis Villasmil, via Unsplash, license. The knowledge sector's insistence that productivity is a pers
  11. The outgoing Deputy Secretary of Labor, Patrick Pizzella, explains some recent activity on behalf of his department: ... but they still want to take it way from you. (Image by Emma Matthews Digital Content Production, via Unsplash, license.) The Department of Labor recently finalized a rule to more clearly lay out the test for distinguishing between an employee and an independent contractor under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Rather than seeking to expand or shrink either classification, the rule largely relies on long-standing Supreme Court precedent to preserve the distinction that guara
  12. Although I do not wish to minimize the danger posed by Democrats now that they will soon control both houses and the Presidency, an article from the Atlantic offers a ray of hope regarding the mid-terms. In "The Problem With a 50-50 Senate," Yascha Mounk notes that the razor-thin majorities in each house may well combine with ideological differences among the Democrats to make control something of a curse. (The best example of that would be Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has stated that he will oppose court-packing, and who supports continuing the use of coal as an energy source.) Here is
  13. My post title plays off of that of Rob Crisell's American Spectator piece, titled, "The Impending Divorce of Trump and the GOP." Within, Crisell summarizes the disgraceful behavior of Donald Trump over the past few weeks, including his recent incitement of a mob of supporters in the nation's capitol. Crisell sums up as follows: Mount Doom comes to mind, too. (Image by PublicDomainPictures, via Pixabay, license.) The violence and chaos that ensued seemed to validate the worst accusations of demagoguery and selfishness that Never Trumpers and Democrats have heaved at the president over the
  14. Four Things Editor's Note: Each year, I take time off from blogging and news. I start today and plan to take off three weeks, although I'll check email periodically and may tweet now and then. Blogging here and regular tweets will resume on January 13, 2021. I wish my readers a merry Christmas and a happy New Year! *** 1. Who discovered the trilobite? The answer is less straightforward than you might think. Here is a small part of the story: Image by Vassil, via Wikimedia Commons, license. In the New World, American fossil hunters found plentiful deposits of trilobites in western Utah in
  15. The FDA's recent announcement that it has finally "authorized" a rapid antigen test has to be read to be believed. Tests like this have been available since since at least April, according to an essay titled, "An At-Home Contagiousness Test for COVID-19 Already Exists. Why Can't We Use It?" In light of that fact, the announcement reads like some kind of sick joke: Red tape can be deadly, and false advertising is illegal. And yet the FDA keeps pushing red tape. (Image by Paul Kapischka, via Unsplash, license.) Similar to other antigen tests, a small percentage of positive and negative res
  16. There is much I disagree with in "They Stole It Fair and Square," a post at Power Line by conservative blogger Steven Hayward, but he at least admits that the case for election fraud that so many Republicans are clinging to wasn't strong enough to support a legal challenge to the presidential election. Hayward also raises an issue that bothered me even immediately after the election, when I was initially suspicious of some of the results due to the possibility of ballot harvesting, which I wrote about some time back. Most notably: f the mail ballot is not received by Election Day, it can st
  17. As long as you don't need to concentrate, ... (Image by Muhammed Abiodun, via Unsplash, license. Miss Manners recently replied to someone who lamented the fading-away of the old custom of restricting social phone calls to times when the recipient was likely to be awake. The analysis of why that has become a problem is on the right track, but I'd go further. I blame texting: It's so spontaneous that it's nearly impossible for everyone in a conversation among geographically dispersed members to remember THAT ONE GUY who lives in another time zone, especially when it's a topic everyone is excite
  18. There is an article in The Hill titled, "Don't Allow 'Vaccine Politics' to Delay Saving Lives." I'll admit to rolling my eyes and thinking Too late! (And I didn't need to read "We Had the Vaccine the Whole Time" to reach that conclusion.) Nevertheless, I read the piece and found this paragraph noteworthy: Image by Markus Spiske, via Unsplash, license. After Pfizer delayed its announcement and waited to review the results, the FDA pushed back its clock to prepare for a massive public meeting complete with slides and presentations mandated in its memo. Maybe this seemed like a great idea w
  19. Four Things News you may or may not be able to use... 1. Conventional wisdom to the contrary, not everyone needs eight hours of sleep every night any more than everyone needs eight glasses of water a day. Decades of waking spontaneously around the right time (and feeling rested) on less caused me to question that advice. Glad to see the world begin to catch up... Jokes aside, I am careful to retire early enough to get at least the six I seem to need, and am loathe to depart from a more or less regular sleeping schedule. 2. Do you like to watch Zambonis? Regardless of the answer to that q
  20. As Ben Bayer and Elan Journo of ARI recently discussed at length regarding science, attacks on expertise have become quite common in our culture, and I suspect a major reason for this is due to our failing educational sector. How can anyone who has never really mastered anything or truly understood an area of knowledge comprehend what it would take or mean to do so? Long-term, the solution is, of course, to work towards a freer and more effective educational sector. In the meantime, are there ways of countering the problem as one works, one mind at a time, to improve one's immediate cultural
  21. Having been annoyed in the past by both "gifts" that are really suggestions and holiday preaching about recycling, I must confess that the main value I got from a recent Carolyn Hax answer was laughter. Within the exchange, titled, "Don't Expect a Recycling Miracle on 34th Street," the writer asks, "[C]ould this be perceived as imposing my hippie-dippy ideals on them, or trying to guilt them into recycling?" Hax replies in part: Image by Paweł Czerwiński, via Unsplash, license. It could be perceived that way, yes, because that's exactly what you're doing. Plus, trying to social-engineer
  22. Many people will readily admit the value of education as it pertains to building up the skills and knowledge necessary to become a functioning adult in society. A subset of these people will even go so far -- even in this concrete-bound, principle-free time -- to concede that a liberal arts education can provide some of these. This is despite the fact that the humanities aren't often directly applicable to the challenges posed by the daily grind. There is still, even today, an appreciation for the idea that a mind used to functioning within multiple disciplines and thinking about a wide range
  23. Some folks enjoying an activity I do my best to make disappear... (Image by Marie-Michèle Bouchard, via Unsplash, license.) Today is the day. I have a limited number of orders to place or errands to plan in order to take care of my Christmas gift-giving obligations. By the end of the day, I will have what I regard as the most stressful part of the holiday season either taken care of, or just a few well-defined tasks away from completion. I am very lucky in that regard: Although I will grouse about it, my wife's enjoyment of online shopping spares me from just about all of that. And yet, I w
  24. Four Things 1. I enjoyed reading about one man's creative solution to forgetting to wish his sister a happy thirtieth birthday. The below is the note he sent to each of thirty postmasters whose help he would need to send the birthday message:Dear Postmaster: I am mailing my sister 30 postcards from 30 towns for her 30th birthday. I have enclosed a postcard, which I ask be hand-canceled with a postmark from your town. To protect the postcard from machine cancels in its journey through the mail system, I have enclosed a stamped envelope addressed to my sister in which to seal and mail the post
  25. I was saddened to learn yesterday, from his friend and colleague Don Boudreaux, that Walter Williams has died. I have long admired Williams's work, had great respect for him as a champion of liberty, and been grateful for his efforts on behalf of freedom for all Americans. Every tribute I have read so far has been quick to acknowledge that it cannot do justice to the man. Nevertheless, a short post by another colleague, Veronique de Rugy, captures two of the things that really stood out to me about Williams: Walter was a great communicator of ideas and a prolific, provocative and uncompromis
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