What I’ve been reading

1. Graeme D. Ruxton, Nature’s Giants: The Biology and Evolution of the World’s Largest Lifeforms.  Picture books are underrated!  They are like a better version of Wikipedia, and with glossy paper at that.

2. Neil Irwin, How to Win in a Winner-Take-All World: The Definitive Guide to Adapting and Succeeding in High-Performance Careers, is another excellent book by Neil Irwin, and it is both subtler and broader than the title alone would indicate.

3. Matthew Sadler and Natasha Regan, Game Changer: AlphaZero’s Groundbreaking Chess Strategies and the Promise of AI.  Everything you wanted to know about AlphaZero and already have been asking, lots of games and illustrations but also lots of plain text.  Definitely recommended, if you care that is.  AlphaZero, by the way, never plays 1. e4, mostly because it sees 1…e5 in response as giving Black nearly equal chances.

4. John Brockman, editor, The Last Unknowns: Deep, Elegant, Profound UNANSWERED QUESTIONS About the Universe, the Mind, the Future of Civilization, and the Meaning of Life.  My nominated question was: “How far are we from wishing to return to the technologies of the year 1900?”  NB: you get only the questions, not the answers.

Leah A. Plunkett, Sharenthood: Why We Should Think Before We Talk About Our Kids Online, high time there has been a book with this message, and this is it.

Fiona MacCarthy, Gropius: The Man Who Built the Bauhaus also has plenty of interesting information about Alma Mahler, beyond what is in the Tom Lehrer song.

Chris Sagers, United States v. Apple: Competition in America, is a useful look at the antitrust case over eBook pricing, though the actual book does not start until p.79 or so.


'and with glossy paper at that'

Which is a fantastic interface - why, you can just touch the picture and use Libra to order a large size framed reproduction.

'“How far are we from wishing to return to the technologies of the year 1900?”

Considering that cars are the dominant form of transportation in the U.S., maybe the actual question is what 'return' means in this context.

It is a rare occasion when I, am incorrigible bibliophile, find so little of interest in Tyler’s book pile.

1. I’d skim the Giant book in a bookstore or our university library.

2. The Irwin book doesn’t interest me.

3. The chess AI book might be good, but I’ll wait for more thorough reviews.

4. The Brockman book’s format is off putting as it seems inferior even to Twitter. Even I f you want brevity, why not give 200 authors a full page, sheesh.

5. Sensible adults can make their own decisions about their children, as they’ve always done. This seems like a book written to cash in on another social media moral panic.

6. I thought Gropius was about Biden. For aesthetic reasons I’m uninterested in Bauhaus.

7. Interesting but I’ll wait for a summary by a legal mind who writes well. Got the record, I love Amazon’s book delivery but think Jeff “democracy dies in darkness” Bezos is an overreacting, politically.

For the record *


1. The UP is underestimated.
2. The author's name reminds me of this .... Tonight Gary and Ron were talking about the game and Ron said, a propos of the Braves pitcher Max Fried, we are watching a comedy team from the Borscht Belt .... now Ron is a bright guy and he might have come up with that shtick on his own but I think he has a team who feed him 10 or 20 pre-planned insights to get us from the first to the ninth .... well Neal and Erwin are both stereotypical first names for guys who don't drive Corvettes until they are in their 40s .... just saying ..... verb. sap.
3. I never play 1e4 either
4. Gotta love a book author who understands as I (and the Twitter virtuosi) do that every once in a while capital letters are effective
5. Bernanos wrote, in one of his books, that it is a great treasure to be unknown .... to be obscure. Bernanos wrote books which were basically fictionalized lives of saints and he made you understand (Undset also had that gift) how happy they were (the saints he wrote about) and how easy it is just to look people in the eye and say "God loves you. Be kind. I don't want anything from you, I just want you to know that."
Works in sign language, too, trust me
6. I used to get the Metropolitan Museum of Art bulletins for free (well not for free , overtime I went I would sign up as a member just to make the enthusiastic volunteers happy) and the funny thing is one of the bulletins had pictures of the buildings that the early exponents of Bauhaus had designed before they were such hopeless unlovely modernists, they were really good.
By the way, I learned this from my free subscription (comes free with a Dodge Charger for the first year): if it is a Symphony Number One and the composer is Celtic, English or Scandinavian it is probably really good of the composer is from a German or Slavic-speaking land it is probably not as good as the future symphonies of the composer in question
7. There is a very very famous law review article on this exact question, Harvard or Yale law from a few years ago. Said article was to the current antitrust question what Halperin's article from about a half century ago was to the question of the "time value of money" as framed in the quaint tax laws back in the day

and if you wonder what you should believe about this life we have been given, read a few of the quotes, ABSOLUTELY FREE FOR NOW ON THE INTERNET, that Elizabeth of the Trinity (Elizabeth Cattez at birth, her dad was like me a former logistics officer - well when she was born he was a current logistics officer, but you know what I mean) is quoted as having said

I like them all, maybe one of them will speak to you heart to heart

(the UP is the upper peninsula of Michigan and it is a botanist's paradise)

6. My free Sirius XM subscription is where I learned about the First Symphony divide between England/Celtic Lands and GermanyAustria/Slavic Lands.

I have never heard a Symphony 1 by an Italian.

seriously, you don't think it is mebbe a little bit funny that the silly people are talking/taking demonology fairly literally and that there are 2 different demonic constructs that happen to be aligned along republican/democratic party lines !
we predict demons gonna be the new summer 2019 buzzword
next week on the view there will probly be demon talk

3 looks interesting. But from the table of contents it seems to be only about the chess played by alpha zero, not any insight about how it was programmed, and what are the new AI ideas inside it. I'll read it for the chess, but I'd like to have any informations about the AI aspects, or even in which precise conditions the games where alpha zero won over other strong programs were organized...

Read the white paper from Google's Deepmind:


#3: Leela is an open source effort to reproduce AlphaZero, and has done quite well (lczero.org). Recently, it persuasively beat Stockfish in the TCEC championship, and played one of the most amazing games I have ever seen. It had the white side of a King's Gambit Accepted, and at one point was down *2* exchanges and *3* pawns (on purpose!) yet held the draw.

Youtube link to the game I described:


You may be interested in a movie about Alma Mahler called Bride of the Wind. She got around.

Life Expectancy in the USA in 1900 was 49. Infant mortality in 1915 (1st yr record keeping) was 10%. A similar (and in my view equally (and fantastically) ignorant) question could be asked replacing 1900 with 1800 or heck, why not 1900 B.C.E. Tampons were patented in 1931. Birth Control pills, 'invented' in the 1930's, weren't economically relevant until the mid-1940s. Gosh, I bet a whole lot of women want to go back to rags. Moving on to vaccines (and ignoring the costs involved, obviously TC wouldn't consider the economics of such a scenario) rabies, smallpox, bubonic plague, and typhoid we could vaccinate for. (with serious risks in some cases, if I recall my history). As for major killers like TB, polio, scarlet fever, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella - well what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right TC? Penicillin 1928.
Refrigeration (consumer) 1910. Or perhaps TC knows all of this (and more) and his question is actually about when "we" (I guess the majority of the population?) will be not only so ignorant (see above) but also so disinterested in the facts to hold such foolhardy beliefs. Or perhaps he is a steam-punk affectionado: we would have all of our current information (stored in books) but have some wise people (oops, obviously, "wise men" ) who approve what is 'permissible' technology (do we adopt the "best" internal combustion engine of 1900 or allow its modification with what we've learned since then? Of course, what we've learned is inextricably linked to our technology. An engineer's choices to solve a particular problem are (by definition) technology, so the modern choices (information) to solve any problem is clearly not 1900 technology.) It would be fun to watch such a scenario play out. How much science would be at risk if we lost modern measuring technology? How many incorrect (or at least less correct) scientific explanations would it be impossible to refute? Come to think of it, TC's question (and people posing it) are implicitly anti-science, it seems to me.

Paraphrasing the Simpsons, "ah Science, the cause of, and solution to, all the world's problems"

"How to Win in a Winner-Take-All World: The Definitive Guide to Adapting and Succeeding in High-Performance Careers"

Ah, you loved me as a loser
but now you're afraid that I just might win

The Last Unknowns will have to be bigger than To Serve Mankind to fit that whole subtitle on the cover

What? We are caught up. 70 years in 12 hours.

'How far are we from wishing to return ...': oh, God, it's bloody "we" again. We do get around, don't we?

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