exo : blah


Sat, 06 Jun 2020

the renaissance wasn't all that

Petrarch wanted to end the cruel wars for light causes that were wounding Italy, but had no plan beyond sending his poem out into the world, and urging elites to have their kids read Cicero. Machiavelli also wanted to end the cruel wars for light causes, and seeing that reading Cicero had failed he proposed a new way of evaluating history, collecting examples of what worked and didn’t in the past, basing our statecraft and actions on them so the next time we try things we’ll choose more wisely.

Black Death, COVID, and Why We Keep Telling the Myth of a Renaissance Golden Age and Bad Middle Ages – Ex Urbe

This is long but excellent on why living through the renaissance was not great, how the notion of the renaissance came to be and why it continues to be such a popular idea. Plus, it’s funny.

posted at: 21:23 #

Sun, 19 Apr 2020

some are completely wrong

Would we encourage an epidemiologist to apply ‘fresh thinking’ to the design of an electrical substation? Perhaps we should treat with caution the predictions of electrical engineers about pandemic disease outbreaks.

Royal Statistical Society are sad that people continue to be bad at science communication.

posted at: 10:11 #

Mon, 13 Jan 2020

better if true

“Like my cat, I often simply do what I want to do.” This was the opening sentence of Derek Parfit’s philosophical masterpiece, Reasons and Persons. He believed that it was the best way to begin his book because it showed something important about people. Often we are not as special as we think we are. For instance, when people simply do what they want to do they appear to be utilizing no ability that only people have. On the other hand, when we respond to reasons, we are doing something uniquely human, because only people can act in this way. Cats are notorious for doing what they want to do, and the sense of proximity between a cat and its owner pleasingly heightens our sense of their similarity. Hence, there could be no better way for this book to begin.

However, there was a problem. Derek did not, in fact, own a cat. Nor did he wish to become a cat owner, as he would rather spend his time taking photographs and doing philosophy. On the other hand, the sentence would clearly be better if it was true. To resolve this problem Derek drew up a legal agreement with his sister, who did own a cat, to the effect that he would take legal possession of the cat while she would continue living with it.

It’s about ethics in ethics.

posted at: 20:02 #

Sat, 11 Jan 2020


To me, it’s entirely plausible that Facebook and Tencent might be net-negative for technological developments. The apps they develop offer fun, productivity-dragging distractions; and the companies pull smart kids from research and development intensive fields like materials science or semiconductor manufacturing, into ad optimization and game development.

There’s a lot of good things in Dan Wang’s 2019 wrap up about tech, and specifically the focus on consumer internet companies as being a hallmark of good at tech.

posted at: 13:12 #

Mon, 04 Nov 2019

no fault text

In 1963, Gorey published “The West Wing,” which is mostly just drawings of rooms, one with torn wallpaper, another with a boulder on a table, another with a crack in the floor, another with what appears to be a dead man on the carpet. “The West Wing” is only drawings. It has no text. The volume was dedicated to Edmund Wilson, who had given Gorey’s drawings their first truly enthusiastic review (in The New Yorker) but had found fault with his texts.

I never cease to be delighted by petty dedications.

posted at: 20:49 #

Fri, 11 Oct 2019

fashion, it goes on and on

This wired article is all sorts of hilarious.

Algorithmically, it can infer that someone who likes chunky necklaces will probably like beaded necklaces too, the same way Netflix’s algorithm infers that you may want to watch another comedy with a strong female lead.

Moody says those kinds of problems don’t look so different from the work he did during his PhD. That map of latent style? “This is a Poincaré space. It’s what Einstein used to describe relativistic spaces,” says Moody.

Yup, those are totally the same thing.

Understanding latent style involves other physics principles too. Moody’s team uses something called eigenvector decomposition, a concept from quantum mechanics, to tease apart the overlapping “notes” in an individual’s style

No, no, not overcomplicating the business of choosing clothes at all.

posted at: 20:41 #

Tue, 09 Jul 2019

look at the line

When I was learning how to mountain bike, I was taught to look at the line. No matter how rocky or rooty or hairy or gnarly the trail was, you looked down it and found the path you wanted to follow, your line. And then—and this was key—you looked at the line. Not the obstacles, the line. …

There are an infinite number of dystopian futures that we can fixate on, like rocks in our path. And there’s the lazy nihilism epitomized by ‘LOL we’re fucked’, like taking our bikes and going home.

Or we can, together, learn to look at the line. Because there absolutely is a path through to a better future for everyone, one that’s sustainable and resilient and equitable. But we have to learn to see it, to stay focused on it, and to follow it down. That’s the work.

I am always in favour of cycling metaphors.

posted at: 13:42 #

Sun, 30 Jun 2019

a holiday in wikipedia pages

posted at: 09:33 #

Sat, 08 Jun 2019

check your disruption

What Uber has disrupted is the idea that competitive consumer and capital markets will maximize overall economic welfare by rewarding companies with superior efficiency.


posted at: 16:59 #

Tue, 13 Mar 2018


“The views from the top will be amazing.”

The top in question being Roy’s Peak. It’s in the guidebook and the excellent “best day hikes” leaflet we picked up from the tourist info place. Both make sure to mention that the path is a bit steep. Neither, understandably, mention that the weather is unusually hot. As in hot enough to make sitting doing nothing on the toasty side.

“If we get up early it will be fine.”

This would be more reassuring if our idea of early was actually early. We were thinking getting to the bottom by half eight was early. Our AirBnB host thinks six would be better. That is never happening.

We make it to the bottom for eight which is, frankly, amazing. The path starts off really quite steep. I sort of assume it’s just an initial rise to the start but no, it just carries on being steep. Apart from the bits where it gets steeper. My hamstrings are unsure what is happening but are not impressed.

A group of young shirtless men pass us really quite quickly. And then stop for a bit while we catch and pass them. This process will be repeated for the rest of the climb.

The views are opening up quite quickly, unsurprising given how quickly we are gaining height. Concerningly the top is not getting closer anything like as quickly. The radio mast looks really quite a long way away vertically and not very far horizontally. This does not bode well for my hamstrings.

Incredibly it seems to get steeper. A couple on the way down reassure us it’s worth it, and then let slip they got engaged at the top which seems like it might skew your perspective. More incredibly are the people who have clearly run up and are now, even more incredibly, running down. I cannot phathom their reasoning.

The views continue to be quite good. More importantly they provide a reason to stop and regroup before the remorseless steep continues.

So far the track has been nice and wide and well made. As we get near the top this seems to stop and the good path heads off in one direction and the path to the top goes up a ridge. It is even steeper, a bit loose underfoot and has quite a bit of what is euphemistically called exposure to one side. It’s not exactly a drop but it’s close enough to one to make me uncomfortable. I am not looking forward to going down this.

A third of the way up this last section in becomes clear that the good path also goes up to the top too. And is easy to get to. And has no exposure at all. And is only steep.

We get off the ridge.

Shortly after we get to the top the shirtless men arrive and proceed to remove a remarkable amount of food from their bags. We don’t spend too much time at the top, conscious of the growing heat, although it’s quite pleasant at the top due to the breeze. I’m also conscious of exactly how edgy the edge, and the people who are blasé about it, is making me.

About 5 minutes from the top we give some water and snacks to a chap who “didn’t have breakfast this morning” and hasn’t brought food or much water. He is very happy. My sense of good Samaritanism conflicts somewhat with my feelings of WTF.

Down is about as much work as up. Quicker but almost as hard work walking down something so steep and it is the turn of my knees to be underwhelmed. It is also getting quite warm, and yet far below us we can see tiny people starting the climb. Our early is still earlier than some.

About half way down I begin to spend an inordinate amount of time staring at the lake far below and thinking how cool it looks. Plans are made to head for the lake as soon as we get to the bottom. There are still people starting.

Two thirds of the way down I wet a cloth in a stream and drape it across the back of my neck. I am not sure anything has ever felt so good. We do our best to dash the hopes of the people we meet with a nearly empty bottle of water when they inquire if it is far to the top. “Look, look, you can see that it’s far away” I think but do not say.

Finally we get to the bottom. I am really quite warm and there is a slightly odd sensation in one of my knees. I have definitely had enough.

The views really are good.

posted at: 23:20 #

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