Retirement the Margaritaville Way | New Yorker
The citizens of Latitude Margaritaville testify so consistently to a life of gratification that one suspects, but finds no evidence for, a regimen of happy pills or talking points. Disgruntlement and curmudgeonliness must exist, but not in view of a visitor susceptible to such traits.
“My husband doesn’t own pants.”
“We’ve got four bars in our villa.”
“The freshman fifteen is real here.”
Stuart Schultz, a former summer-camp director who, as Latitude Margaritaville’s head of residential community relations, serves as a kind of cheerleading pooh-bah, told me, “It’s like being in college, but with money and without having to study. You have a great dorm room, you never have to go to class, and there’s always a party.”
One resident said, “In our previous life, we could do paper calendars. Here we had to learn Google Calendar.” Some had college- or adult-aged children living with them who were startled by their parents’ social lives. “My daughter’s always, like, ‘You’re going out again?’ ” one woman said. Men with guitars set up outside someone’s garage, and the golf carts appear out of nowhere. Commence the beer pong. Pool parties, poker nights, talent shows, toga parties, pig roasts. Cigar-club meeting, group renewal of wedding vows, a pub crawl in old St. Augustine. Oktoberfest this fall had a “Gilligan’s Island” theme; “Hoodstock” was hippies, Fireball, and multicolored jello shots. The golf carts zip and swerve. “By the time we got to Phase 3, we were driving on people’s lawns!” one participant told me. (“Open containers are encouraged,” he said.) An Andrea Bocelli concert in Orlando, or a pajama party at the Last Mango, with a screening of “The Polar Express.” Proximity to Port Canaveral means easy cruise-ship access; the residents set sail, often in big groups, on vacations from their permanent vacation. A couple of hundred of them were booked on a cruise to Bermuda this spring.
If it’s isolation that ails us—our suburban remove, our reliance on cars, our dwindling circles of friends, our lack of congregation and integration and mutual understanding, of the kind described by Robert Putnam in “Bowling Alone”—then the solution, especially for those tilting into their lonelier elderly years, would seem to be fellowship, activity, fun. In the Margaritaville calculus, the benefits of good company outweigh the deleterious effects of alcohol. Merriment is medicinal. […]
More than twenty million people a year pass through the doors of a Margaritaville-branded establishment. The company, with annual system-wide sales of $1.7 billion, licenses the name to restaurants, hotels, casinos, and resorts, and sells a wide array of branded merchandise: umbrellas, towels, beach furniture, bicycles, blenders, frozen shrimp, and Key-lime-pie mix. It recently announced plans to launch a cruise line. (Before that, Buffett himself had never been on a cruise ship.) Given the age of Buffett’s fan base, and the life style he’s hawking—as well as baby-boomer demographics—the move into active living was a natural one.
“Who knew people wanted to live in Margaritaville?” Buffett told me. “I thought for a while it was a myth.”
On the economic performance of different periods of antiquity | Rafael’s Commentary
In fact, Ober (2015) suggests that considering the population living in towns over 5,000 inhabitants shows that the Classical Greek world had about 2.5 to 3 times the rate of urbanization of the Roman Empire, which suggests a higher per capita income. Additionally, the density of Roman cities as estimated by archeologists was approximately 2.5 higher (70 persons per hectare of the walled area in 4th century BC Greece, compared to 180 persons per hectare in the Roman Empire), which suggests a lower level of income for urban residents: similarly how cities in developing countries today are much more crowded than cities in the US or wealthy European countries. […]
Thus, the typical Late Classical and Early Hellenistic Greek house was about seven times larger than in the 8th century BC and had 250 to 350 square meters of interior space, more than the average American home today.
To estimate how much residential space was available on a per capita basis, Hansen estimates that on average, a household consisted of a family of 4.5 to 5.5 people plus 0.5 slaves. This implies Classical Greeks urban dwellers typically enjoyed 45 to 65 square meters of residential space per capita. For comparison, in the US today, the average residential space per capita is about 75 square meters, and in France and Germany, it is 40 square meters, in the UK, it is 30 square meters, while in developing countries like Russia and China, per capita residential space is between 15 to 20 square meters. […]
For comparison, in Classical Athens, the standard monetary unit was the attic drachma, a silver coin of 4.31 grams. Ober (2015) mentions that unskilled daily wages in 4th century BC Athens were 1.5 attic drachmas or 6.5 grams of silver, nearly four times the typical unskilled wages in Roman Pompeii and around seven times the silver wages in Roman Egypt.
Scheidel (2019) also noted as well that Greek soldiers were paid 3 to 6 times the rate of Roman soldiers in terms of silver during the time Rome was conquering the Greeks in the 2nd century BC. […]
It appears to be the case that the economic collapse of the civilization that was governed by the Roman Empire was ultimately caused by the formation of the Roman Empire. In other words, the Middle Ages were bound to happen as soon as Rome defeated Carthage in the Battle of Zama in 202 BC.
Your Book Review: The Internationalists | Astral Codex Ten
In The Internationalists, Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro (H&S from now on) work to raise the profile of the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact, at the time the most-ratified treaty in history, in which 63 nations (unlike today, this was most of the world - 51 became founding members of the United Nations) came together to declare war illegal. Here is the Pact, in full.
Signatories shall renounce war as a national policy and;
Signatories shall settle disputes by peaceful means
I'll sum up the most common historical view of the Peace Pact with this quote from the US State Department's history website:
It had little effect in stopping the rising militarism of the 1930s or preventing World War II.
Or maybe we can quote famed diplomat George Kennan:
The Cold War strategist George Kennan described it as “childish, just childish.” (Introduction)
So, if the State Department says it didn't work, George Kennan is disdainful, and most people haven't even heard of it, why should you care? […]
Before the Pact, the expectations of everyday citizens of the world was that sovereign countries had the right to go to war. Today, most people expect the opposite: that war is unusual, morally wrong, and forbidden except in rare circumstances.
Queens of Infamy: Isabella of France | Longreads
In the late summer of 1326, a small mercenary army gathered in Dordrecht, Holland, preparing to cross the North Sea and invade England. This in and of itself wasn’t all that unusual — from the Romans to the Vikings to the Normans, it seems like all of the European historical heavyweights wanted a piece of that green and pleasant land. I mean, I get it! It’s a classic case of those itchy Julius Caesar fingers: A man sees an island, and he wants to take it. What set this case apart was that the person leading the army wasn’t a king or a prince or a red-headed upstart duke, but a woman who was already the queen of England — had been queen, in fact, for nearly two decades. And the king she wanted to depose wasn’t some usurper who had unjustly taken the throne, but rather Edward II, her husband and the father of her four children. As she stepped onto that boat, the 31-year-old queen would set into motion a sequence of events that would leave her forever remembered as Isabella the She-Wolf of France.
John Franzese Jr. Flipped on One of History’s Most Notorious Mobsters—His Father—And Lived to Tell the Tale | Vanity Fair
John Franzese Jr. was born into mob royalty, but after getting clean and doing the unthinkable—testifying against his own father—he sought out an almost unimaginable forgiveness.
I should have loved biology | James Somers
As someone who also found biology boring until a phenomenal teacher turned it into my favourite subject, I enjoyed this piece a lot:
In the textbooks, astonishing facts were presented without astonishment. Someone probably told me that every cell in my body has the same DNA. But no one shook me by the shoulders, saying how crazy that was. I needed Lewis Thomas, who wrote in The Medusa and the Snail:
For the real amazement, if you wish to be amazed, is this process. You start out as a single cell derived from the coupling of a sperm and an egg; this divides in two, then four, then eight, and so on, and at a certain stage there emerges a single cell which has as all its progeny the human brain. The mere existence of such a cell should be one of the great astonishments of the earth. People ought to be walking around all day, all through their waking hours calling to each other in endless wonderment, talking of nothing except that cell.
I wish my high school biology teacher had asked the class how an embryo could possibly differentiate—and then paused to let us really think about it. The whole subject is in the answer to that question. […]
Biology is no different. Learning begins with questions. How do embryos differentiate? Why are my eyes blue? How does a hamster turn cheese into muscle? Why does the coronavirus make some people much sicker than others? […]
But biology, like computing, has a bottom, and the bottom is not abstract. It’s physical. It’s shapes bumping into each other. In fact the great revelation of twentieth-century molecular biology was the coupling of structure to function. An aperiodic crystal that forms paired helices is the natural store of heredity because of its ability to curl up and unwind and double itself with complements. Hemoglobin, the first protein studied in full crystallographic detail, was shown to be an efficient store of energy because of how oxygen atoms snap into its body like Legos, each snap widening the remaining slots, so that it loads itself up practically at a gulp. Most proteins are like this. The ones that drive locomotion twist like little motors; the ones that contract muscles climb and compress each other. Cells, too, are constantly in conversation, and the language they speak is shape. It’s keys entering locks: a protein might straddle the cell membrane, and when a cytokine (that’s a kind of signaling molecule) docks with it, it changes its shape, so that its grip loosens on some other molecule on the interior side of the membrane, as though fumbling a football—that football might be a signal itself, on its way to the nucleus.
Jonquel Jones and the untold story of the WNBA's reigning MVP | ESPN
But the chance to raise her profile, and, yes, to cash a check, was well worth folding her long legs into an exit-row seat on this plane. Households around the country would see her face and hear Young say her name. Thanks, Jonquel. Endorsement opportunities for WNBA players, while growing, are rare. And the opportunities for someone like Jones -- Black and gay and, how she describes it, not traditionally feminine -- are almost nonexistent. Jones should be the third leg in a superstar tripod with fellow 20-something MVPs Breanna Stewart and A'ja Wilson. But the most visible WNBA players, at least according to 2021 jersey sales, are Sabrina Ionescu, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi.
Jones has the game; she has the personality. She even has a compelling origin story. Yet few people outside of the WNBA faithful even know who Jonquel Jones is.
Weeks after shooting the State Farm commercial, Jones accepted the 2021 MVP award from commissioner Cathy Engelbert. Jones prayed the award would confer a stamp of marketability that would translate to more endorsement and revenue opportunities.
Since then? Crickets. "There hasn't been anything," Jones says.
She thinks she knows why.
False Flag | Slate
The story we tell ourselves about today’s Stars and Stripes is a lie. The truth is much stranger.
What Caused The 2020 Homicide Spike? | Astral Codex Ten
Most of these points have already been made in right-wing sources, but have gone unnoticed because respectable people don’t read right-wing sources.
One of these is the Heritage Institute’s piece, What The Media Doesn’t Want You To Know About 2020’s Record Murder Spike. This is an annoying title, basically designed to annoy / drive off / own the libs. It sounds sensationalist and confrontational.
Still, I kind of think the media doesn’t want you to know this.
I mentioned the Intercept piece above, which through selective presentation of data managed to make it look like the protests and homicide spike didn’t coincide. It presents several unconvincing lines of evidence against the protests alone being a main driver (though eventually allows them a supporting role), and in the end focuses on rising gun sales (but guns are mostly bought by white people, and so can’t explain why the homicide spike was so overwhelmingly black). Finally, it concludes that it was “a complex stew of forces”. […]
I think there’s clear evidence that the current murder spike was caused primarily by the 2020 BLM protests. The timing matches the protests well, and the pandemic poorly. The spike is concentrated in black communities and not in any of the other communities affected by the pandemic. It matches homicide spikes corresponding to other anti-police protests, most notably in the cities where those protests happened but to a lesser degree around the country. And the spike seems limited to the US, while other countries had basically stable murder rates over the same period.
I understand this is the opposite of what lots of other people are saying, but I think they are wrong.
New Eyes | The Paris Review
Migraineurs are, I think, a superstitious lot. I know others who secretly nurse the same flimsy beliefs as I do: that we are actually the ones causing the pain, through psychosomatic delusion or mental weakness or—this, really, is the reason—a shadowy and ineradicable sinfulness. Joan Didion saw her migraines as “a shameful secret, evidence not merely of some chemical inferiority but of all my bad attitudes, unpleasant tempers, wrongthink.” This is the kind of thinking that only makes sense within the narrow, spectered cosmos of the migraine. I should confess, though, that I’m not much interested in other people’s migraines, nor in their superstitions. Nor have I ever particularly conceived of myself as within a group of people bonded by our common ailment. (I don’t speak for any others here; I wish them good health.) It’s just that my migraines feel so deep-stained into, hard-etched into, wherever it is in my mind that I sit manning the controls as to seem inseparable from myself—mine alone, like a childhood memory everyone else has forgotten, existing now only in my head. In my head. How could I not be fussy and quibbling and irrational about a thing at once so painfully real and, like the monsters in the closet, all in my head?
What I’m trying to say is that the simplest explanation for these migraines—what the philosopher and psychologist William James in The Varieties of Religious Experience would call the “medical materialist” explanation, or a neat chemical chain of cause and effect that begins with the play of light on my retinas and ends with a pain-inducing dilation of cranial blood vessels—doesn’t satisfy me. Migraines, instead, have made me feel somehow chosen, guilty, doomstruck. I know this is embarrassingly grandiose. I prefer to think of migraines in the way James thinks of religious experiences: occurrences better understood through “tracing [the] practical consequences” of one’s notions about them, rather than by dwelling on causes. I don’t believe in God on most days, but I can’t shake the sense that migraines represent an intelligent and malign visitation, an obscurely deserved punishment. If I were saintly—if I were Lucy—I wouldn’t get them. So went my reasoning.
So it went, at least, until last fall. I got a migraine on Friday, September 3, 2021, and another the following Sunday. Then: nothing. A week without pain, a month, a winter and a spring. I stopped wearing sunglasses. I got new eyes.
Journeys of the Pyramid Builders | Archaeology
In the first few years of their excavations at Wadi el-Jarf, Tallet’s team unearthed a number of small blank or faded pieces of papyri, tantalizing hints that the site might hold inked papyri that had been waiting more than four and a half millennia to be found. In 2013, the researchers’ hopes were realized to a degree far greater than they could have imagined. While investigating the area in front of two storage galleries, they uncovered a few bits of papyri with red and black ink that proved to be scraps of accounting documents. Just under a week later, they excavated the first complete papyrus, which included one of Khufu’s royal names, Medjedu, or “the one who crushes.” This established it as the oldest inscribed papyrus ever found.
As the end of the dig season neared, one area remained to be explored: the space between two of the limestone blocks in front of one of the galleries. There, the team found hundreds of fragments belonging to several dozen different texts, including some that could be pieced together into documents measuring nearly two feet long. They soon recognized that, in addition to accounting documents, they had discovered logbooks kept by Inspector Merer. These papyri detail the activities of a group of some 40 men, known as a phyle, who were one of four such units that made up “The Escort Team of ‘The Uraeus of Khufu Is Its Prow.’” The discovery was highly serendipitous. Such records would normally have been brought back to the Nile Valley to be archived, but, for some reason, these documents were left at Wadi el-Jarf. The surviving papyri seem to have been originally buried in a pit between the limestone blocks and subsequently moved, most likely as part of an attempt to open the gallery. Those papyri that remained in the pit had largely decomposed after sitting in stagnant water, while those that were disturbed were saved for posterity. “This kind of narrative is very rare from the time,” says Tallet. “All the narrative texts we have from the Fourth Dynasty are basically biographical texts found in tombs. For the first time, we had something that was by a real person giving a precise and real account of their work.”
Indonesia: The most amazing development story on Earth? | Noahpinion
I’ve been writing a series of posts about economic development. The last 20 years have seen a marked acceleration in the rate at which poorer countries — not just China, but many countries — are catching up to richer ones. Among the success stories I’ve profiled so far are Bangladesh, the Dominican Republic, and Poland. But today I want to talk about the country that might impress me more than any of the others: Indonesia.
Indonesia’s growth has been solid, but not amazing. Compared to its Southeast Asian neighbors, it’s pretty middle-of-the pack in terms of both the growth rate — an increase of 160% since 1990 — and in terms of per capita GDP. At around $11,000 a person, Indonesia is solidly in the middle-income category.
So why do I find Indonesia to be such an impressive growth story? Well, several reasons. But first of all, the deck was really stacked against Indonesia in a number of ways.
Steven Pinker and I debate AI scaling! | Shtetl-Optimized
Before June 2022 was the month of the possible start of the Second American Civil War, it was the month of a lively debate between Scott Alexander and Gary Marcus about the scaling of large language models, such as GPT-3. Will GPT-n be able to do all the intellectual work that humans do, in the limit of large n? If so, should we be impressed? Terrified? Should we dismiss these language models as mere “stochastic parrots”?
I was privileged to be part of various email exchanges about those same questions with Steven Pinker, Ernest Davis, Gary Marcus, Douglas Hofstadter, and Scott Alexander. It’s fair to say that, overall, Pinker, Davis, Marcus, and Hofstadter were more impressed by GPT-3’s blunders, while we Scotts were more impressed by its abilities. (On the other hand, Hofstadter, more so than Pinker, Davis, or Marcus, said that he’s terrified about how powerful GPT-like systems will become in the future.)
Anyway, at some point Pinker produced an essay setting out his thoughts, and asked whether “either of the Scotts” wanted to share it on our blogs. Knowing an intellectual scoop when I see one, I answered that I’d be honored to host Steve’s essay—along with my response, along with Steve’s response to that. To my delight, Steve immediately agreed. Enjoy!
Can a corporation "own" a color? | The Hustle
On a summer day in 2019, Daniel Schreiber opened his mailbox to find a threatening letter from one of the world’s largest telecom companies.
In the letter, Deutsche Telekom AG (the parent company of T-Mobile) accused Schreiber’s small insurance startup, Lemonade, of trademark infringement. Schreiber was confused: He hadn’t used T-Mobile’s name. He hadn’t appropriated the company’s logo or tagline. Hell, he wasn’t even in the cell phone business.
But as he read on, he realized his “crime” was using the color magenta.
In recent years, companies like T-Mobile have achieved something once thought to be legally impossible: They’ve successfully trademarked individual colors.
When a color becomes synonymous with a brand — think robin egg blue jewelry boxes, brown delivery trucks, or orange scissors — a company can claim a certain form of “ownership” over it.
But how is it possible for a single corporation to call dibs on a color? And what effect does this exclusivity have on its competitors?
Spotify, Netflix, and Aggregation | Stratechery
Setting aside any analysis of absolute value, I think the relative trend is justified: I still maintain, as I did in 2018, that Spotify and Netflix are fundamentally different businesses because of their relationship to content; now, though, I think that Spotify’s position is preferable to Netflix, and has more long-term upside. Moreover, I don’t think this is a new development: I was wrong in 2018 to prefer Netflix to Spotify; worse, I should have already known why.
Anatomy of a book banning | Washington Post
In early May I discovered that my book “The Circle” had been pulled from high school reading lists in Rapid City, S.D. It was one of five books — four novels and a memoir — that were deemed inappropriate for high school seniors. Copies of these books had been bought in the spring of 2021, meant to be read by seniors in the fall of 2021. But upon discovering brief sexual passages in each book, school officials pulled the titles from classrooms and even the schools’ libraries. Officials eventually decided that these books, most of which had never been unpacked from their boxes and were in mint condition, should be destroyed.
The Biden administration has dropped the ball on vaccine development | Noahpinion
Vaccines have saved tens of millions of lives. So why aren't we making better ones?
How OXO Conquered the American Kitchen | Slate
If Ifyou’re a fan of OXO, the very mention of the Good Grips handle has likely sent you into a Proustian reverie. Even if you’ve only occasionally used the company’s products, you can almost certainly imagine holding one right now. That gentle squish in your hand! Those snazzy thin rubber fins underneath your index finger and thumb!
The story of OXO’s dominance in kitchen gadgetry begins with that Good Grips handle. “I think that handle is overlooked,” said Lisa McManus, an executive editor at America’s Test Kitchen as well as its gadget critic. “Other companies simply don’t make products that are that comfortable to use, for people with a range of abilities. They bring along people who aren’t comfortable with kitchen tools.”
“I got a phone call around 7 at night,” recalled designer Davin Stowell. It was 1989, and at the other end of the line was the serial entrepreneur Sam Farber, who had recently retired from running the housewares company Copco. “It was about 1 in the morning where he was, but he couldn’t sleep.”
Did the early medieval era ever really take place? | The Newsletter of (Not Quite) Everything
There is another school of thought, however, that has a rival explanation for the lack of written records from the centuries after Rome fell. It’s this:
They never took place.
Okay, sure, Rome fell, and there was a bit of a gap before medieval Europe got going, with its knights and its chivalry and its long, infuriating poems about how the most romantic thing to do here would actually be not to have sex. But, according to this theory, the year 1000 took place not a thousand years after the standard date for the birth of Christ, but after only 703 years later. Roughly 300 years of European history simply never happened.
The Phantom Time Hypothesis, as it’s known, was first published in 1694, according to its own calendar – or, as we generally know it, 1991. It was the work of Heribert Illig, a German writer and publisher who has spent much of his career producing or promoting works of revisionist history. But it does have other supporters, such as technologist Hans Ulrich Niemitz, who in 1995 published a paper under the heading ‘Did the Early Middle Ages Really Exist?’ – a classic example of what one might term the ‘Hey, I’m just asking questions’ approach to scholarship. […]
At first glance, then, the Phantom Time Hypothesis does seem to fit, both with that circumstantial evidence, and with the vague sense that it’s a bit weird that there are several centuries of history we just don’t know very much about. And can we really be sure that the time of the Caesars and Jesus Christ was really 2,000 years ago, and not 1,700? After all, the calendar we know today wasn’t even in use until around the year 800, roughly when those arches were going up in Aachen. All we have to go on is the word of long-dead authorities.
What if those authorities were wrong? What if they were lying, even? Can we be sure? Can we ever truly know?
Well: yes, we can. The Phantom Time Hypothesis is nonsense. It only works if you focus solely on western Europe, where the decline of Rome left a nasty gap in the records. Elsewhere – in Tang China, Abbasid Persia and in the rest of the Islamic world, which only developed in the seventh century – history continued apace. The same is true of the Byzantine Empire, the successor to the Eastern Roman Empire, which continued right down to 1453, even if it wasn’t always building quite as many grand monuments in Constantinople as today’s more cynical observers believe it should have been. The hypothesis requires you to ignore astronomical evidence, too, such as the solar eclipse reported by Pliny the Elder in 59CE, which shows that events in antiquity are exactly as far into the past as you’d expect them to be.
How a fake job offer took down the world’s most popular crypto game | The Block
Rarely has a job application backfired more spectacularly than in the case of one senior engineer at Axie Infinity, whose interest in joining what turned out to be a fictitious company led to one of the crypto sector’s biggest hacks.
Ronin, the Ethereum-linked sidechain that underpins play-to-earn game Axie Infinity, lost $540 million in crypto to an exploit in March. While the US government later tied the incident to North Korean hacking group Lazarus, full details of how the exploit was carried out have not been disclosed.
The Block can now reveal that a fake job ad was Ronin’s undoing.
According to two people with direct knowledge of the matter, who were granted anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the incident, a senior engineer at Axie Infinity was duped into applying for a job at a company that, in reality, did not exist.
My 4 year old son and I were wondering about soccer ball sized hail today. How much damage would a hail storm with size 5 soccer ball sized hail do? | What If?
When you think about it, it's honestly kind of weird that hailstones haven't killed all of us already. I mean, they're chunks of ice that plunge from the sky!