Hello, happy November everyone. Reminder: You have about two weeks left to get any work done before Corporate America shuts down and people stop responding to your emails.
Review of “Sauna’s Reducing Alzheimer's Risk”: I read a medical study that found the frequency of sauna use was inversely correlated with Alzheimers; the more people went to the sauna, the less likely they were to report Alzheimers in their later years. While most observational studies aren’t that useful because of the inherent difficulty of tracking a population over a long enough time frame, this was a surprisingly well done study, executed over several decades with many participants. I paid Elizabeth Van Nostrand, an independent researcher, to do a quick evaluation of the study to see if there were any significant problems with the methodology. Attached are her notes - I was happy to see that, for the most part, the study held up. While on its own it doesn’t seem like enough evidence to justify rearranging your lifestyle around shvitzing, I’m hoping more research will strengthen the case!
UberDuck: Free open-source speech synthesis and style transfer with hundreds of pre-learned voices. If you want to listen to Mr. Krabs singing Never Gonna Give You Up, well congratulations you’re alive at the best possible time. I also enjoyed listening to Sir Patrick Stewart’s narration of one of my favorite poems, The Gods of the Copybook Headings.
Text to Image Algorithms Guide: Similarly here’s a fairly comprehensive list of publicly available text-to-image models. I’ve linked to some of these in past newsletters, but I continue to find them, frankly, magical. It’s amazing to me how good these models have gotten, and how quickly.
Starship is Still not Understood: An in-depth look at the economics of SpaceX’s Starship, and a good example of how relaxing one system level constraint - in this case the cost of launching things into space - can have dramatic second and third order economic effects.
I Have Been Through This Before: A powerful and at times painful to read essay on the author’s experience raising an autistic child, the inadequacy of modern medicine coupled with its overwhelming institutional self-confidence, and the parallels with COVID restrictions.
The thought gap after conversation: Underestimating the frequency of others’ thoughts about us: People remember and think about what we say more than we expect they do.
Consumer Reports: While purchasing a car, I signed up for Consumer Reports and have been impressed with their review system and rubrics. It’s a bit old school, but I think definitely worth checking it out for guidance before a big purchase.
Now including selected Kindle highlights!
The Deep Places: I've been a fan of Ross Douthat for years, and so I was surprised to learn that for as long as I've been reading his work, he's suffered from lyme disease. A moving personal memoir on struggling with chronic illness and navigating the murky depths of medicine, where we come up to the limits of mainstream knowledge and must find our own way. Related: there’s a lot of hidden suffering in the world.
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. That’s from Tennyson, on the old age of heroes. I’m neither old nor heroic, but to get sick without a clear way to get better is to be asked to live up to a version of that admonition.
Destined for War: An analysis of ‘Thucydides Trap’, the tendency for rising powers and ruling powers to come into violent conflict, applying the model to China and the US. Good analysis, with lots of historical examples, that offers no easy answers. As a country we need to avoid letting domestic politics and special interests dictate our foreign policy, be mindful of costly alliances, and elect good statesmen who can distinguish needs from wants. So… that should be fine…
Here we are on top of the world. We have arrived at this peak to stay there forever. There is, of course, this thing called history. But history is something unpleasant that happens to other people. —Arnold Toynbee, recalling the 1897 diamond jubilee celebration of Queen Victoria
Working: The rare short book from Robert Caro where he reflects on how he works and his writing process.
Everything you’ve been doing is bullshit. Underlying every one of my stories was the traditional belief that you’re in a democracy and the power in a democracy comes from being elected. Yet here was a man, Robert Moses, who had never been elected to anything, and he had enough power to turn around a whole state government in one day. And he’s had this power for more than forty years, and you, Bob Caro, who are supposed to be writing about political power and explaining it, you have no idea where he got this power.
A Deadly Education: Fun fantasy novel set in a grimdark version of Hogwarts with excellent world building.
I decided that Orion needed to die after the second time he saved my life.