This and That (3)
What an ugly baby!
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Happy (American) Thanksgiving!
It’s been exactly three months since I started this Substack. It’s taking way more of my time than I had expected, but only because writing these posts—and then reading and responding to comments and emails—has turned out to be so much fun. Very grateful to all of you who subscribe!
As usual, an enjoyable conversation with Robert Wright:
Late in my conversation with Bob, we discussed productivity tips, and I gave my favorite piece of advice—working in six-minute bursts (I’ll expand on this in another post.) Oliver Burkeman, author of the wonderful Four Thousand Weeks, was listening, and in his newsletter, he had some kind things to say about this idea —along with some wise thoughts about not taking productivity advice too seriously.
I know a lot of people are saying this, but I’ll add my own voice to the chorus: I’m so done with Twitter.
I used to enjoy it. It was a great resource for ideas, news, jokes, and gossip. I have a lot of followers (just under 95,000), and this meant that I could ask a question—where did this Darwin quote come from? does such-and-so finding replicate?—and get quick and thoughtful feedback. I met some cool people and had some useful and constructive engagement with scholars I disagreed with.
I’ve never been an Elon Musk hater. I have respect for what I see as his extraordinary gifts and drive. But, boy, he destroyed Twitter. My feed is now full of crazies and swamped with strange ads. My tweets get little productive engagement. (Am I being punished by the algo? Have all the normal people left for Bluesky?) The nastiness of the discourse there has amplified significantly.
And then there’s Musk himself, with his Trumpian outbursts, his vicious attacks on people, and his erratic and often ugly politics. I’m uncomfortable supporting a business that he runs.
So am I off of Twitter then? Deleting my account?
Sigh, no. There are people I enjoy following, such as Oliver Burkeman (see above), Ben Dreyfuss, Noam Chompers, Aella, and Derek Guy (the menswear expert with all the good advice that I will never ever take.) Twitter is still a good source for current events—like the OpenAI shakeup that’s happening as I write this. There’s no substitute when it comes to seeing who the mob is descending on. And sometimes there’s just cool stuff there—see entries 4-6 below.
But I’m cutting down. I hardly ever post, and I took it off my phone. Now when I’m bored and looking for distraction, I open up a Kindle book instead.
I’m interested in perverse behavior, and love this story by my friend, collaborator, and occasional co-podcaster, David Pizarro:
And, no, his students are not graded on the curve. They have perversely chosen to lower their grade on a quiz that they are taking. As I wrote in reply:
Some [Intro Psych Students] aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some [Intro Psych Students] just want to watch the world burn.
(If you don’t get it, check this out.)
Seussian metaphysics (posted by @KennethLPearce):
I’m not a poetry guy (I wish I was), but I like this one:
On the topic of fathers: I got married last summer, and my dad gave a speech. He told everyone that when I was just a few months old, my mother took me on a bus. When she stepped on, the bus driver looked at me and said “Oh my God, What an ugly baby!”
My mother walked to the nearest seat, holding me in her arms, quietly upset. There was a man sitting by the window and he asked her what was wrong. She said: “The bus driver was terribly rude.”
And the man said, “Well, you don’t have to put up with that. Why don’t you go up to him and tell him not to be such a jerk?”
With a kind expression, he reached out. “Go ahead,” he said, “I’ll hold your monkey.”
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