Links and Books, December 2021

Posted on 31 Dec 2021 by Steve Markham

December was a great month. It feels like the family is finally back in a good rhythm. So I guess the answer is 3 months. That’s how long it takes to recover from a jam-packed-full-of-fun summer (in the midst of a never-ending pandemic).

Happy New Year!


  • Noahpinion on techno-optimism and the next roaring 20s. Solar+wind make energy cheap, iron flow batteries smooth out production, every-cheaper Li batteries make it portable, SynBio make BCIs for paralyzed people, restoring sight to the blind, etc., and then a little speculation about AI and nanotech. It’s certainly an optimistic take on things, but not a pipe dream. Bring it on.
  • Science Asylum on how energy flows. This is the video I like best out of the ones I saw in response to the Veritasium video that blew my mind. Veristasium and ElectroBOOM are also worth watching, though. AlphaPhoenix decides thought experiments are tricky, so he bought some really long wire to see what happens. I find this all fascinating.
  • Lars Doucet on Georgism aka Land Value Tax (LVT). “This is not a recipe for bankrupting the middle class. In fact, it compensates everyone for helping make America a desirable place to live. This compensation is paid primarily by those who gatekeep the most valuable locations and natural resources, things which were not brought into existence by anyone’s hard work or investment.”
  • Plans you’re not supposed to talk about. #1 is the strongest example, and it goes downhill from there. I don’t get #4 at all. But, thought-provoking anyway, and a quick read.
  • Toxoplasma of Rage, now in video form. This video was not made by SSC, but has his blessing, and I think it’s extremely well done. And in case you weren’t on my SSC email list in 2014, you can read the original here
  • Freddie DeBoer on Worry Porn. This whole thing is excellent, and I want to quote five paragraphs’ worth. But I’ll stick with just: “our striving class is made up of people who are raised to compete and who structure their emotional lives around competing with each other. … And I find that, often, when they get to a certain station in life they have a kind of spiritual crisis because they now lack the structure and purpose that constant explicit competition provided. … when it became clear that the public health response to Covid involved denying ourselves things we wanted and enjoyed, including non-negotiably important things like in-person schooling and face-to-face human contact, they (subconsciously) saw an opening: if denial of human pleasures is virtuous, I can be more virtuous than my peers. If caution is noble, overcaution must be even nobler.”
  • Zvi’s COVID Model, updated for Omicron. This has a 9-point executive summary, then a 56-point model. I find him highly credible.


  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. It’s a classic, and got mentioned twice (that I noticed) in rapid succession. It’s terrible and I didn’t finish it.
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a … by Mark Manson. Stoicism for the modern man. It’s a shame I’m listening to the audiobook–the book has lots of good quotes that I can’t easily jot down while driving or doing dishes.
  • Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown, h/t Carina Young. This is my kind of cookbook.
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. It’s good, though it’s going slow for me because it’s an e-book and I have trouble making time to sit and read without falling asleep.
  • Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg. The first chapter felt like an over-simplified behavior model being explained by a greasy salesman. But it’s an extremely practical book and if I ignore the writing style I’m finding the concepts and exercises quite interesting.


  • “The desire for a positive experience is itself a negative experience.” Mark Manson. Also, “Nothing is certain until it’s already happened, and even then it’s still debatable.”
  • “Blockchains are like grappling hooks, in that it’s extremely cool when you encounter a problem for which they’re the right solution, but it happens way too rarely in real life.” Randall Monroe
  • “Positivity rates doubled in just three days from December 9–12, something that’s never happened in NYC before in the pandemic.” Morning Brew
  • “Young progressives have constructed a fantasy world where they are protagonists in the most catastrophic, consequential moment in history, and they’re baffled why the actual world keeps going” @Ecclesiasticus44
  • “It’s like the old saying goes, if you can’t beat them, get ‘em drunk and then beat them.” Brad Owen
  • “As to whether or not Mr Norrell was in fact old, he was the sort of man who had been old at seventeen.”