Links and Books, August 2022

Posted on 31 Aug 2022 by Steve Markham

August was a great month. YM camp, Lake George, and the CL50!


  • The Midwit Trap. “Complicated chains of logic “feel” correct because a lot of the steps will be verifiably true; people sometimes forget that all of the steps have to be true for the entire argument to have any truth.” I don’t agree with all of his examples. In particular, while he’s not wrong about GE, he is over-simplifying the story in a way that makes it an almost-perfect example (and therefore makes me skeptical). But the overall point, that people reject simple answers to hard/complex questions, matches my experience all too well.
  • Be good-argument-driven, no data-driven. I think it’s case-by-case, by I haven’t definitely observed the effect he criticizes, and it applies to a very large domain, not just software engineering. “This is a typical pro-metrics rhetorical trick. The champions of data are always careful to list all the caveats of measurement, but the implicit assertion is that metrics are useful in the common case; it is the exceptional case where measurement is inappropriate. I claim that the exact opposite is true. The common case is that you can’t measure what you want to measure, you can only measure a proxy and in order to meaningfully interpret even that, you either need to run an experiment that you probably don’t have the resources to run, or do statistics that you probably don’t have the expertise to do.”
  • Library defunded. The article is not even worth reading, I just needed to note this for future reference. If you’re ever in a conversation with someone conservative who claims to be a worried about “cancel culture” or free speech (as I often am–love you, Rick!) this is a relatively simple litmus test. Do they care enough to criticize their own side of the aisle, or do they only ever bring up examples that conveniently make a political foe look bad?


  • The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord. Difficult to comprehed, but considering it was written by a French-speaking Marxist over 50 years ago that’s not too surprising. The content is good, but I might not recommend it.
  • The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan. Third times the charm!
  • Lunch Money by Andrew Clements.
  • No Talking by Andrew Clements.
  • Our family has also been listening to the audiobooks of Percy Jackson. I don’t love them, so I’m not including them here because usually I do something else (often in a different room) without paying attention to the story. But the kids all love them.


  • “Being interested is the nuclear weapon of learning.” u/parkway_parkway (here)
  • “The stories did not tell you being a hero was such hard work. Nynaeve always did find a way to make me work.” –Mat Cauthon in The Dragon Reborn
  • “Look, being raided—my uncle was a great raider and agent and detective, Dr. John Trump at FBI; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Detection, very good, very smart —you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world—it’s true!—but when you’re a conservative Republican they try—oh, do they do a number—that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a big career—you know I have to give my like credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged—but you look at the FBI raid, the thing that really bothers me—it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are (raids are powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right—who would have thought?), but when you look at what’s going on with the four Jan 6 prisoners—now it used to be three, now it’s four—but when it was three and even now, I would have said it’s all in the messenger; fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don’t, they haven’t figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so, you know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years—but the FBI are great negotiators, the DOJ are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us.” –u/porcupineapplepieces (but also, Donald Trump)