Weekend Reading

A few intelligent ways to spend the next couple of days:

The Miracle at 14,000 Feet by Ronnie Shuker in Roads and Kingdoms. Ice Hockey in Ladakh.

On the big cosmological news of the week, Dark Matter and the Earliest Stars from Sean Carroll’s blog.

Freedom, Private Property, and Public Access by Emrys Westacott at 3QuarksDaily explores an idea that was new to me before researching Out in the Cold – the Nordic notion of allemansrätten, or “Everyman’s rights,” the freedom to walk wherever one pleases.

Algorithms and the Meaning of Explanation by Daniel Ranard, also  at 3Quarks Daily. A primer on machine learning that’s more interesting than it sounds.

“You’re Fake News” The Unfortunate Reality of the Ad Hominem by Elio Martino in Quillette. Depressing quote:

“Lazy and abusive rhetoric is an effective means of silencing of healthy debate. As a result, polarization in Western Society is likely to get far worse before it gets better.”

Hitler Looks Eastward by Henry C. Wolfe in the Atlantic magazine in 1937. A prediction of the Reich’s expansion written two tears before the invasion of Poland.

Sacrifice Revisited by Audrey Borowski in the LARB’s Marginalia. The quote:

“… ethical self-awareness makes it quite clear that there are situations— tragic situations—in which it is impossible to act without burdening oneself with guilt [the famous “trolley dilemma“]. But at the same time it teaches us that, even faced with the choice of two ways of incurring guilt, we should still find that there is a standard attaching to correct and incorrect action. This standard we call sacrifice.”

You can’t read everything. So instead of reading the book Adults in the Room, here are two reviews of the memoir of former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis about his trials negotiating on behalf of Greece in the Eurozone crisis: Modern Greek Tragedy by Adam Tooze in the NYRB and Austerity by Design by J.W. Mason in the Boston Review (which is itself the length of a small book).

Summary, from Tooze:

“In order to avoid a comprehensive restructuring of their banks, the governments of Northern Europe … funneled funds to Athens, most of which then flowed back out to Greece’s creditor banks in Northern Europe…. It was neither sustainable for Greece nor did it deliver stability for the eurozone. Its ultimate rationale … was to give Northern Europe a roundabout bank bailout.”


Enough for now. Happy reading, and a good weekend to you.


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