Zuihitsu, 2023-05

  • Freedom over money.
  • Human problems require human solutions.
  • Many cultures gnaw on the bones of cheap hate and discord.
  • Building and addressing problems as they arise is superior to talking.
  • Express what you feel. Anything about others is projection.
  • A scabbard makes its sword neither good nor bad.
  • Remember to remember.
  • What is your story, cosmology to you, the person?
  • Orient, then create your own map/story.
  • Some people’s good thoughts are lost in poor expression.
  • The shouting, wounds, and blood were in plain view, the cause was hidden: fortune ruled the rest.
  • Love without purpose, and do not hate without reason.—Aesop
  • Life is a series of bets, and sometimes, things don’t work out and the consequences can only be endured.
  • He who is deaf, blind and silent will live a hundred years in peace.—Sicilian proverb
  • Friendships transform your character and there is no greater sign of a difference in character than in choosing different friends.
  • Being able to sustain effort over time is a superpower.
  • We learn by suffering.
  • Take your best guess and put in a stop loss in at 10%.
  • Listen to the bomb throwers. They are more often right than not.
  • Ecstatic cults don’t scale and generally don’t survive their leader.
  • Moral panics are always and everywhere stupid.
  • Culture replaces authentic feeling with words.
  • Where there is language, there is disagreement.
  • Letting go of an old idea is better than grasping onto a new one.
  • Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.—Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Fanaticism is a monster that pretends to be the child of religion.—Voltaire
  • Find the closed doors inside of you.
  • Regard any answer as a hostile act.
  • All ideas are new to someone at some time.
  • …to underestimate one’s self is as much a departure from truth as to exaggerate one’s own powers.—Sherlock Holmes
  • A lack of education is the mother of all suffering.
  • Liberal arts are the subjects worth studying by free people.
  • You must fight for what you believe to be right while never losing your sense of humor or your sense of proportion.—Neil Gaiman
  • There is no hack subject, only hack approaches.
  • Don’t speak badly of a friend, an enemy or yourself.
  • Don’t be arrogant when you are lucky or wretched when you’re not.
  • Ambition required the tongue to mask what is in the heart.
  • Persevere beyond competence.
  • Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.—T.S. Eliot
  • The defender only needs to survive. The attacker has to win.
  • Performance is not competence.
  • Knowledge speaks. Wisdom listens.
  • Exploitation demands make-believe.
  • Most people are trading in the marketplace of passions.
  • Eternal truths are always hypothetical.—Bertrand Russell
  • The primary purpose of regulation is it protects politically influential businesses, workers, and other constituencies from the disruptions of growth.
  • Simplicity comes at the end.
  • Burn the junk your past selves left behind.
  • What then should we say, considering that there is great utility in both silence and in speaking?—Sallust
  • Whoever trusts a dishonest man to keep him safe, Discovers ruin where he thought he would find aid.


“This abnormality is pretty common among chromosomal disorders. It happens in 1/500 to 1/1000 of male babies. It shows symptoms like height over 180cm, a longer torso and limbs, weak muscle strength, uncoordinated movement, lack of symmetry in the face, long ears, and skin lesions. Although patients typically have normal IQ development, most of them have below average IQ. Their personalities are often abnormal from childhood. They tend to be very unstable and prone to outbursts, cruel, impatient, unable to withstand frustration, quick to anger, and can often display impulsive violent behaviour. When they’re in non-ideal situations, they can often become anti-social and gain other mental disorders. Scientifically, they’re referred to as supermale, but actually 15-20% of patiences have medium level hormone deficiency, with few sperm or mutated sperm. They can have normal offspring, abnormal offspring, or not offspring.

According to statistics, XYY patients are more prone to being criminals than normal people, up to several times or a dozen times the norm. It’s also important to note that another chromosomal disorder, XXY patients, also have elevated crime rates, and is very similar to XYY patients. This means that the extra Y chromosome is not the deciding factor. The deciding factor is more probably the lowered IQ and central nervous system abnormalities.

Lately, scientists have pointed out that using “biological factors” to explain the source of crime is not accurate.”

-Moly, “5-29-2023 A couple of villages in Minnan will even feed newborns live earthworms.” weibo.substack.com. May 29, 2023

I found this post interesting for a number of reasons. One, I had heard of having an extra XYY chromosome tends to lead to more violent behavior and there is a statistically higher significance of people with this mutation being in jail. But, I had never heard of the XXY mutation, which is more common. But, the last bit drew me in. Looking for research on it, I found this:

“The overall risk of conviction (excluding traffic offenses) was moderately increased in men with 47,XYY or KS; however, it was similar to controls when adjusting for socioeconomic parameters. Convictions for sexual abuse, burglary, arson and ‘others’ were significantly increased. The increased risk of convictions may be partly or fully explained by the poor socioeconomic conditions related to the chromosome aberrations.”

-Stochholm K, Bojesen A, Jensen AS, et al.
Criminality in men with Klinefelter’s syndrome and XYY syndrome: a cohort study.” BMJ Open 2012;2:e000650. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2011-000650

It’s an interesting distinction. People with these chromosomal differences are more likely to be impacted socioeconomically, which makes them more likely to be sent to jail. So, another example of correlation does not equal causation.

Parking Lots & Cultural Stans

“The twin gods of Smooth Traffic and Ample Parking have turned our downtowns into places that are easy to get to, but not worth arriving at.” The quote is from urban designer Jeff Speck. It’s hard to think of a pithier one to describe the parking pandemic blighting America’s city centers — except perhaps the title of a Bloomberg article on the same topic: “Parking has eaten America’s cities”.

-Frank Jacobs, “These maps provide graphic evidence of how parking lots ‘eat’ U.S. cities.” bigthink.com. March 26, 2023

The major idea in this article is that there is often an inverse relationship between accessibility and interestingness. The more space you have to accommodate cars, the less space you have to accommodate people.

Open question: Is this inverse relationship also true in a space that is designed to accommodate people? Does a stadium that accommodates 100,000 people fundamentally different than one that accommodates 10,000? Are both fundamentally different from a venue that caters to 1,000? If so, is there a function based on orders of magnitude in play?

My sense is that the larger the group of people, the more likely pockets of sameness develop, which we might describe as a sub-culture. But, to have a sub-culture, you also need a dominant culture. We could probably use the Dunbar number as a reference point.

In any group, where each individual can know every other individual, there is a culture than defines interactions between individuals. This culture probably starts in groups as small as two. How two people relate will effect the dynamics of a third that enters a social circle? Each additional N people added to the group will tend to reenforce a particular dynamic. As the group enlarges, different dynamics can arise from different sub-groups.

But, my guess is that there is a share of voice issue that comes into play, where groups of the same sizes, say stadiums with 10,000 people are going to tend to look a certain way. Other factors, say a particular type of sporting event, will have its own norms that will influence these dynamics, but the size, by itself, is a part of these dynamics.

As size increases, the share of voice of average view and attitudes gives more sway to an average point of view, like a bell curve. With more people, there is more tail. But, there’s a whole lot more gravity in the center of the distribution.

This probably has a lot of explanatory power at different scales. For example, when you enable a mass medium for communication that is the Internet and infrastructure like translation tools, you are increasing your scale to global levels. This creates a global, Internet culture, but it also makes possible the creation of sub-cultures and new identities that wouldn’t be supported at a smaller scale.

If we think of this mainstream culture as a kind of parking lot, then it makes sense that people would be largely dissatisfied with it, and seek out alternatives. Yet, the critical mess will still sit at 1/3 and make much of the surrounding culture that it enables less interesting because it creates incentives to join these communities and it reduces the number of connections between individuals. Network nodes move from individuals to their stans, and each stan is a kind of parking lot creating the same kind of drag as the main culture.

This a just a brief sketch, but you get the idea.

You Can’t Tell People Anything

Over the last few years, I’ve come to a fundamental belief: you cannot tell people anything. Coming to a new belief means you need all the infrastructure for that belief, and it generally means giving up other beliefs. It’s rare for people to do that without a lot of preparation, and in most instances, the person has to do that work on their own.

There are exceptions that prove the rule. While in school or in some kind of training environment, we go in with the understanding that we are ignorant of a topic, and we listen to “experts” who will give us the foundations that will lead to education, or a new set of beliefs. Outside of these contexts, I think people aren’t open to hearing what is being said to them. Makes me remember that bit from Mr. Rogers, where he says, roughly paraphrased, that people never change unless in dialog with people who love them.

Zuihitsu, 2023-04

  • Data over narrative.
  • Authoritative without being authoritarian.
  • Don’t be a push-over.
  • Any fool can know. The point is to understand.—Albert Einstein
  • Look for the slope not the Y intercept.
  • Doing leads to becoming.
  • Panic and overreaction—the late response of fools.
  • We are what we do/make.
  • People with full lives tend not to pass judgment on the lives of others.
  • Choose your feelings as you would a weapon.
  • Constraints can be invisible.
  • A life deeply lived connects to truth beyond itself.

What’s the Profit (কি লাভ)?

Why do it? I keep thinking about the differences in how people account for value. One dichotomy that comes up is people that want to talk and think about other people, and people that want to talk and think about ideas, without reference to people.

I remember once, on a trip to Italy, I was with a group that had hired a local guide. While the group was taking pictures of themselves and other people in the group, I was mostly taking pictures of the architecture, the sculpture, the paintings and so forth. Generally, I was not taking pictures of people. The guide stopped me and said something like, “If you were to come back, years from now, many of these things will still be here, but the people won’t be.”

He was right. I’ll probably never have that opportunity to take a trip like that with my dad again. This is true of everything, the moment will never return. It’s a variation on the theory of visitors.

It goes deeper than that, though. There’s the phrase: there are people that know the price of everything and the value of nothing. There’s a certain kind of cook who thinks it is a greater virtue to get the best price on ingredients or use all of something rather than have waste than to make food that tastes good and that people will enjoy. We do not live with such scarcity that we need to maximize calories per dollar. Yet, some people insist on it.

Culturally, you can see these kinds of values as well. For example, I make certain recipes, such as spiced maple caramels, caramel-filled butter pecan cake, idli, bread cooked in the kubaneh-style, home-made chili pickles, etc. The maple syrup in the spiced maple caramels alone would make it difficult to sell the caramels at a profit, particularly if much cheaper substitutes will be had. But, most people have never eaten anything like them.

The caramel cake takes about 6 hours to make. Idli requires at least two days of fermentation to develop interesting flavors. Bread cooked in the kubaneh style is slow cooked over 8-12 hours. Chilies can take months, even years, to fully pickle.

Some products that take a long time can make a profit. There are +20 year old ports, cheeses decades old, and so forth. But, I wonder how much is lost in a world that cannot afford to wait, that is more concerned about turning over the product and selling it than the quality, or uniqueness of the product itself.

When you start looking, you can see this everywhere. in cryptocurrency circles, people ask why the price isn’t going up, as if a cryptocurrency developed on a time line of a few years is going to generate value that quickly.

But, it seems the environment has us looking for profit. We know the price of everything and know the value of nothing. And, there is much that has value that is discarded, out of hand. Beauty, value and everything else being in the eye of the beholder.

Three Years After “Grim News”

Three years ago today, I predicted:

“So, why is the above important? It means to get to herd immunity, something like 82% of people will have to get infected and of those that get infected, 0.4% will die. Then, we can calculate:

Population * Percentage of People For Herd Immunity * Death Rate = Deaths

In the case of the United States, that works out to something like:

341,000,000 * .82 * .004 = 1,118,480 U.S. deaths”

cafebedouin, “Grim News: Cutting Through the COVID-19 Bullshit.” cafebedouin.org. April 10, 2020.

Three years later, to the day, the CDC website reports 1,127,104 U.S. deaths from COVID-19.