I know we've talked about Jared Diamond before, but I can't remember if F**k Jared Diamond came up in particular. My whole extended family read Guns, Germs, and Steel back when it came out, and put it on a high pedestal, and I think we liked it because it appeared to offer a non-racist explanation as to why east-west oriented continents yielded cultures with military and technology advantages, compared to north-south oriented continents. (Plus the broader germs exposure vs. lack of immunity.)
However, we weren't the most critical of thinkers, and I know now I should hate him, and I certainly haven't read anything long and tedious like that since I had kids. Instead I've spent the past 20 years reading blogs that have taught me how to rip something up! So I assume I'd now roll my eyes at tons of the supporting details.
So my question is: is it just really badly written with very thin evidence, or is the actual central argument wrong? Here's my understanding of the central argument: Eurasia has a steady climate for thousands of miles going east-west, which facilitated the spread of technology, diseases, and warfare-ish things. If horses work on one end of the axis, they'll also work on the other end of the axis. Etc. Africa and the Americas have their longest axes north-south, which means that things constantly face different ecosystems as they migrate, so they don't migrate as well. So communities stayed more isolated and independent, broadly speaking. Which isn't to say there weren't gigantic civilizations and plenty of wars, but you couldn't take the fauna from one end and use them as workhorses at the other end of the axis. And there weren't horses nor smallpox, specifically.
This is just a navel-gazey version of "are you a lumper or a splitter?" applied to one's sense of past selves:
Try to remember life as you lived it years ago, on a typical day in the fall. Back then, you cared deeply about certain things (a girlfriend? Depeche Mode?) but were oblivious of others (your political commitments? your children?). Certain key events--college? war? marriage? Alcoholics Anonymous?--hadn't yet occurred. Does the self you remember feel like you, or like a stranger? Do you seem to be remembering yesterday, or reading a novel about a fictional character?
If you have the former feelings, you're probably a continuer; if the latter, you're probably a divider.
I am strongly a continuer.
Whether you perceive stasis or segmentation is almost an ideological question. To be changeable is to be unpredictable and free; it's to be not just the protagonist of your life story but the author of its plot. In some cases, it means embracing a drama of vulnerability, decision, and transformation; it may also involve a refusal to accept the finitude that's the flip side of individuality.
The alternative perspective--that you've always been who you are--bears values, too.
To be honest, the linked article is kind of boring. But I am interested in how you perceive yourself! What I'm actually wondering is if this categorization has any merit, or if we all end up more-or-less saying "I'm a continuer but also obviously I've grown and changed."
We're all Ships of Theseus, aren't we.
Minivet writes: LA city councilmembers get caught out with wrongdoing pretty often - a couple are in criminal trouble right now - but this is still pretty big as scandals go, and ongoing.
So much racism to cover that it took a couple of days for the LA Times to publish a separate article on what they said about Jews and Armenians (fewer actual slurs there, admittedly).
They were almost certainly trying to wait it out, but the clamor has grown since with officials and organizations from all over calling for their resignation, most recently as I write, the White House (stealing a march on Newsom?). At the council meeting this morning, Martinez didn't show up having announced a "leave of absence" an hour before, and De Leon came but then left amid a hail of protesters holding up the proceedings.
Cedillo was a lame duck having lost reelection earlier this year, but I had voted for Kevin De Leon against Dianne Feinstein in 2018 and he had probably had a good shot at the same in 2024, until this. (He used to be a state legislative leader - note in LA, many graduate up from state office to local office. Top of the cursus honorum is arguably county supervisor, one of the few posts with tons of power and no term limits.) The writing seems on the wall at this point for all three.
The issue of non-white anti-Blackness (and anti-indigenousness) seems pretty core to this, but I can't speak much to it.
The fact that all this hatred bubbled up as part of redistricting strategizing may strengthen the movement to make it a fully independent process in LA and elsewhere. (We've had independent commissioners doing the state stuff for over a decade now, but it's been a lot slower coming to the localities. There have been some piecemeal legislative mandates for independent commissions, but usually in places like the Central Valley where there are old white Republican power structures we want to strike at.)
The juicy drama, of course, is the question of who leaked the tape. As most of you probably know, California is a two-party consent state, and it's possible that this didn't even have the consent of one party. The labor group that Herrera led put out a stern warning about how this was a breach they would seek to prosecute, a little before he himself resigned.
And finally, it seems relevant that in plotting against arguably the most pro-housing councilmember, Nithya Raman, they noted that giving her a district with more renters would strengthen her.
Heebie's take: I really enjoy local politics so much. I find federal politics fairly stressful but worth following. I find state politics so stressful that I can't bring myself to follow very closely. (Erm, I mean, given my state.) But somehow local politics is perfect. The people aren't too polished, the issues are (sort of) unique, and it really does matter if a politician has character, integrity, and intelligence.
So: Pokey, Nokey, and Cokey were close friends in 5th grade. They like comics and playing Nintendo together. Now they're all two months into middle school together. Pokey and Nokey are both UMC/academic backgrounds. Cokey moved elementary schools for 5th grade - he'd been going to an elementary school on mostly poor/working class side of town, and then they moved to a rather upscale neighborhood on the opposite outskirts of town, and so he switched elementary schools for 5th grade, to join Pokey and Nokey. Cokey's mom in particular seems very attuned (in my opinion) to moving up the socio-economic ladder, but in ways that Nokey's mom and I take for granted.
Cokey spent the over the weekend, and I chatted with his mom for a little while. She is totally freaking out about middle school. There have been five incidents so far, and 4/5 of them seem legit to me to be more intense than anything Pokey has had to deal with. Kids taunting Cokey into fights, a kid they've known forever looks at porn in the back of the classroom and has sent porny photos to Cokey, which totally freaked him out, that kind of thing.
Pokey has certainly ratcheted up the nuts-jokes since starting middle school, but that's about it. Nothing concerning. It occurs to me that the major thing that Cokey's mom missed in moving-up-the-socioeconomic-ladder was to make sure your kid is in the honors classes, which Pokey and Nokey are both in.
I know there's robust ed literature about how kids seem to fall off a cliff when they enter middle school, and I know that all complex phenomenon have a million contributing factors. But at the moment it seems starkly like a result of the heavy tracking into honors/general that starts right then.
I've long understood that tracking has lots of entrenchment consequences for SES, but I'm now seeing it as the critical thing that happens at the beginning of middle school. It's kind of depressing. You vaccuum out all the kids who are most successful in the classroom and who get the most positive feedback for modeling good habits, and leave behind a critical threshold of students who are in a negative feedback loop for behavior and quickly becoming more and more disengaged.
At the same time, I would not want to condemn my kid to a class that moves as slowly as you would need to move in order to ensure that everyone is understanding the new math. That is also soul-deadening. Bleagh.
Minivet writes: They're running as taxis in SF, but with a ton of caveats & embarrassing videos. Their companies have been dropping like flies.
Our driverless future is starting to look so distant that even some of its most fervent believers have turned apostate. Chief among them is Anthony Levandowski, the engineer who more or less created the model for self-driving research and was, for more than a decade, the field's biggest star. Now he's running a startup that's developing autonomous trucks for industrial sites, and he says that for the foreseeable future, that's about as much complexity as any driverless vehicle will be able to handle. "You'd be hard-pressed to find another industry that's invested so many dollars in R&D and that has delivered so little," Levandowski says in an interview. "Forget about profits--what's the combined revenue of all the robo-taxi, robo-truck, robo-whatever companies? Is it a million dollars? Maybe. I think it's more like zero."
Heebie's take: Sifu has a substack!
(Also the Bloomberg link is paywalled, unfortunately.)
This is intended to be our system for checking in on imaginary friends, so that we know whether or not to be concerned if you go offline for a while. There is no way it could function as that sentence implies, but it's still nice to have a thread.
Episode Kobe thirty nine