Raymond's Weblog^

April Roundup

Gosh, it was a busy month, and I’m several weeks behind. All the same, here are some things I enjoyed reading in March.

I’ve been really delighted to encounter the poetry of Edna St Vincent Millay (by way of ‘Pantheon’, an excellent TV series). She writes perfect sonnets in a modern style, often playing with the notion of femininity. In particular I recommend ‘I, being born a woman and distressed’, and ‘What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why’

Longtime readers will know that I love eigenvectors. Here’s a succinct explanation of why pagerank is also basically eigenvectors.

The FHI has closed down. I was sad to see the Guardian’s coverage notably lacking anything positive to say. I got a lot out of visiting the FHI a few times as an undergrad, and I recommend these two reflections.

Dogs orient their micturation to Earth’s magnetic field

And speaking of dogs, here’s one of only three transmissible cancers.

Cultural Discourse

Robin Hanson is certainly contentious, and I don’t agree with everything he’s written, but I did find his analysis of cultural drift pretty fascinating:

innovation happens at two levels: within units and between units. Having larger units promotes within-unit innovation but hurts between-unit innovation. As that latter sort usually matters more, innovation gains overall by having more smaller units instead of few larger ones.

In a similar vein, here’s a former minor alt-right celebrity (who knew such things existed?) offering reflections on the alt-right, and why he believes they essentially achieved all of their objectives over the last decade. A great anthropological read for its rapid swerves from really pretty thoughtful analysis that pulls back the veil, eg/

My long-term strategic vision for mainstreaming our ideas was to build an interconnected web of transitional figures and content among whom the norm would be to never punch right or purge. Instead we would all platform slightly edgier figures than ourselves, while simply ignoring the much edgier figures who might alienate our core audience.

and random reminders that this really is a card-carrying alt-righter to the bone, eg/

If you want to use your position to make money or get women or boss people around a little bit that’s your damn prerogative and quite frankly the reward you deserve for advancing the mission. People who complain about this are always giant losers who never contribute anything but impotent whining.

And right on the other end, it turns out that the great Slavoj Zizek just has a substack now. Here’s his thoughts on sexual liberation

The World at Large

NoahPinion giving some compelling reasons to think that the West (especially America) is underrating the chance of war, and is unprepared for it. I found this a bit distressing to read, but only because it was actually very persuasive. Of particular interest is the parallels he draws between the current conflicts, and the pre-WWII conflicts, which I realise I mostly didn’t learn about in school. We were taught that Hitler invaded Poland and then it all kicked off but really a lot of smaller conflicts were simmering around the world.

Incentive Design

I do love a good incentive design problem. Here’s how America keeps losing kidneys.

And on the other end of the spectrum, here’s the annals of someone breaking open the economy of a public minecraft server

Working a game’s economy is an interesting pursuit because it, like most interesting pursuits, requires your whole brain to get really good at it. It’s both analytical and creative: devise general theories with broad applicability, but retain a willingness to disregard or reevaluate those theories when something contradicts them. And it’s fun as hell. There’s not much quite like the brainfeel of starting with nothing, carving out a niche, getting a foothold, and snowballing. Game economies are all radically different because there aren’t any limits on weird things the designers can do with the game, but they’re all fundamentally similar too. Here are the tricks to breaking any of them, as basic as they may be:

Bonus: One of the above articles is wrong. Can you guess which?