A week in review, 2019-W14


  1. The Steph Curry of dumb questions (2019-04-02)
  2. Interesting accidents (2019-04-03)
  3. Magic backlog board (2019-04-04)
  4. Rabbit hole: the Jawb market (2019-04-05)


  1. Andrew Russell and Lee Vinsel, Opinion: The Joy of Standards, The New York Times (2019-02-16). Standards have always struggled with an image problem. Critics worry that a standardized world is dull and mediocre, a nightmare of conformity and Kafkaesque bureaucracy. Yet the champions of standardization insist that standards create the foundations for a better world. Albert Whitney, who was the standards committee's chairman from 1922 to 1924, argued that many accomplishments of civilization involved "the fixation of advances." The committee's motto in the 1920s declared: "Standardization is dynamic, not static; it means not to stand still, but to move forward together.""
  2. Jia Tolentino, Stepping Into the Uncanny, Unsettling World of Shen Yun, The New Yorker (2019-03-19). Part of the seeming strangeness of Shen Yun could be attributed to a latent Orientalism on the part of Western viewers—including those of us who are of Asian descent. But the real root of Shen Yun's meme-friendly eeriness is that the ads brightly and aggressively broadcast nothing at all; this is why it's so easy to imagine them popping up in Ebbing, Missouri, or in the extended Blade Runner universe, or on Mars. The ads have to be both ubiquitous and devoid of content so that they can convince more than a million people to pay good money to watch what is, essentially, religious-political propaganda—or, more generously, an extremely elaborate commercial for Falun Dafa's spiritual teachings and its plight vis-à-vis the Chinese Communist regime.
  3. Shane Parrish, The Distrust of Intellectual Authority, Farnam Street (2019-02-18). Don't get me wrong. Reasoned skepticism and disagreement are essential to progress and democracy. The problem is that most of what's happening isn't reasoned skepticism. It's the adult equivalent of a two-year-old throwing a tantrum. Sometimes experts are wrong and the common citizen is right, but those occasions are few and far between. What's growing is our inability to distinguish between experts being wrong occasionally and experts being wrong consistently. Participants in public debate search for loopholes and exceptions—anything that provides an excuse to disregard opinions they don't like. This sets up binaries and polarities, demanding that things be either true or false. This eliminates nuance. The reality is that most expert opinions are true at least in part, and the real value in disagreement is not dismissing the thing entirely, but taking the time to argue the weak points to make the overall better.
  4. Harsimran Gill, Mary Beard interview: 'Being a popular writer helps you say the unpopular', Scroll.in (2019-02-17). You certainly see it in Britain, in Brexit. Quite a lot of my friends voted for Brexit. I would never have done that, to me it is almost inconceivable but people were just as surprised that I have friends who voted for Brexit. And that's even sadder, I think. I do think the keyboard age – and I am both a beneficiary and a user of it – makes it easy to sit in your comfortable sitting room and have very strong views about the world, without ever having to think about difficulty and ambivalence. It's easy to be morally virtuous in your own sitting room.
  5. Nancy Armour, Opinion: Auburn's Bruce Pearl symbolizes the rot in college athletics, USA Today (2019-03-29). The power brokers in college athletics – athletic directors, school presidents, powerful alums – love to claim the moral high ground. In their minds, they are molding the lives and characters of young men and women. The billions that come with it are simply a lucky happenstance. No doubt Pearl has touched lives and helped many young men along the way. But at what cost? Bottom line, he has survived scandal because he wins. There's something to be said for that but, as we're reminded constantly by guys like him, the game is supposed to be about more than just winning and losing. Unless that's all a fraud, too.


  1. The Right Way to Get Your First 1,000 Customers, HBR IdeaCast (2019-04-02). So, this comes back to this – do things that don't necessarily scale. Scale is a problem of when you're growing fast. If you're small and you don't get to that phase, there's no point in trying to do things at scale if you're going to die beforehand.
  2. #760: Tax Hero, Planet Money (2019-04-04).
  3. Bliss, Radiolab (2019-03-21).


There might be additional links that didn't make the cut at notes.kirkkittell.com

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