2-7-15 Hodgepodge

Saturday, February 07, 2015

A Cautionary Tale

A tech blogger I follow does a post mortem on a hastily-written post that went viral:

If there's any flaw, it's an unstoppable nightmare of embarrassment and guilt. Most people, myself included, aren't accustomed to that level of scrutiny. Those who are usually have PR training, editors, and handlers to protect them from publishing flippant blog posts before they go to bed.

Instead of what was intended to be constructive criticism of the most influential company in my life, I handed the press more poorly written fuel to hamfistedly stab Apple with my name and reputation behind it. And my name will be on that forever.
Marco Arment has helped me realize a hidden advantage to a buffer of rainy day posts on evergreen topics I recently decided to build: The next time I write something in haste, I'll know I can let it wait, unpublished, for a day or so. before pulling the trigger. I've published my share of regrettable posts, but have been relatively fortunate so far not to have endured the wrong kind of popularity. I'd like to keep it that way.

Weekend Reading

"[I]f you never allow yourself the freedom of being out of touch, you've made yourself a slave to that phone, and, by definition, to other people's whims." -- Michael Hurd, in "Cell Phone Management" at The Delaware Wave

"[I]f you're single and planning to embark on the adventure of meeting somebody new, especially in and around the nooks and crannies of cyberspace, first take time to get to know yourself better." -- Michael Hurd, in "Can the Internet Cure Loneliness?" at The Delaware Coast Press

"[I]f you don't own a gun but you are enjoying safer nights out on the town or sleeping more easily in your bed at night, give a little thanks to your neighbors who are gun owners." -- Paul Hsieh, in "Herd Immunity Applies to Guns as Well as Vaccinations" at PJ Media

"In today's context, there is a simple way to distinguish a moderate Muslim: he is someone who acknowledges the categorical right to repudiate Islam." -- Peter Schwartz, in "Religion, Freedom and the 'Moderate Muslim'", at The Huffington Post

A Good Example

Via HBL comes a heroic example of what Peter Schwartz is talking about regarding what being a moderate moslem would entail:
The Moroccan-born mayor of Rotterdam has said Muslim immigrants who do not appreciate the way of life in Western civilisations can 'f*** off'.

Ahmed Aboutaleb, who arrived in the Netherlands aged 15, spoke out in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris last week.

Appearing on live television just hours after the shootings, Mayor Aboutaleb said Muslims who 'do not like freedom can pack your bags and leave'.
Thank you, Mayor Aboutaleb!

The Next Great Battery?

An enjoyable story at Quartz helps us appreciate a rarely-heralded invention, and informs us that its nonagenarian inventor is planning a sequel:
Unlike the transistor, the lithium-ion battery has not won a Nobel Prize. But many people think it should. The lithium-ion battery gave the transistor reach. Without it, we would not have smartphones, tablets or laptops, including the device you are reading at this very moment. There would be no Apple. No Samsung. No Tesla.

In 1980, Goodenough, a whip-smart physicist then aged 57, invented lithium-ion's nervous system. His brainchild was the cobalt-oxide cathode, the single most important component of every lithium-ion battery. From Mogadishu to Pago Pago, from Antarctica to Greenland, and all lands in between, Goodenough's cathode is contained in almost every portable electronic device ever sold. Others have tried to improve on the cobalt-oxide cathode, but all have failed.
My favorite quote from the story, which Goodenough follows with a laugh (as you can hear on an audio clip), is, "I want to solve the problem before I throw my chips in. I'm only 92. I still have time to go."

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

Schwartz is incorrect about the church and the middle ages. I wonder why so many objectivists believe urban legends. Next he will be telling us that people in the middle ages thought the earth was flat.


Gus Van Horn said...


I disagree with your assertion that Peter Schwartz was wrong to point out that heretics were put to death by the church during medieval times.


Anonymous said...

Of course the church did. But Schwartz seems to think it was a univers as phenomenon. There were plenty of people who. Opposed the church and got away with it.

And the.church's authority was often questioned, particularly by the state.


Gus Van Horn said...


I don't think a reasonable reader is going to get the impression from the Schwartz piece that the medieval church managed to exterminate all opposition. That would be like someone reading about state control of the Soviet economy and imagining that the existence of black markets was an urban legend.

And so what if the state sometimes contested the authority of the church then? Those were usually mere power struggles, and not what we see waning today, which is the state keeping religion out if our affairs while not merely sticking its nose in, in its stead.


Anonymous said...

I'd like to be sympathetic toward Schwartz but i read this all the time from objectivists. Peikoff once said that during the middle ages everyone who was productive was killed. One objectivist told me that if you read Aristotle in the middle ages you were executed.

There have been many writers who have written sympathetically but not uncritically about the middle ages such as Christopher Dawson. I don't get the impression objectivists do much deep reading.

Also why does Schwartz praise rhe renaissance which was largely platonic? And the founders didn't enact a separation of church and state. States under the constitution were free to have established churches which ct and mass did until 1830 or so

A little nuance never hurt.


Gus Van Horn said...


I don't think you are accurately characterizing Peikoff's view of the Middle Ages.

That said, what you call "nuance" can hurt. I get the impression that, were Schwartz to attempt to write to your satisfaction, he would have had to make the article much, much longer than he did, at which point, many people wouldn't have had the time to read it.

Even you admit that the church killed heretics in the Middle Ages. It doesn't now, but Islam does. The best Schwartz can do in the space of a short article is indicate why he thinks this is the case. Rand actually demolished the whole idea of the "unanswerable article", but I can think of another problem with it: The more it contains, the more people can nitpick about it, without ever having to consider its basic argument.

His readers are adults: They can consider his evidence and read more if they see a reason to (as I would hope!).

That said, if (many? most? some? the few you know personally? the people you regard as? your personal stereotype of? why are you attacking anyone for a lack of "nuance"?) "objectivists" don't read deeply, how is that Peter Schwartz's fault?