Svetlana Alexievich, Lethal Skis, Scott Adams, Jersey, Spinoza, Spacetime

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On The Battle Lost

Svetlana Alexievich | Nobel Foundation | 7th December 2015

An acceptance speech that is worth a Nobel Prize for Literature in its own right. "I lived in a country where dying was taught to us from childhood. We were told that human beings exist in order to give everything they have, to burn out, to sacrifice themselves. We were taught death. We were taught to love people with weapons. We grew up among executioners and victims. Evil kept a watchful eye on us" (5,200 words)

Death By Flaming Water Ski

Alastair Gee | New Yorker | 2nd December 2015

The International Classification Of Diseases categorises 140,000 ways in which people get sick, injured, or die, for analytical purposes. “We want to know if there’s a particular kind of danger that’s associated with attending the opera". There are codes for "knitting and crocheting” and “jumping from burning water-skis". The US Defense Department has requested additional codes for tuba playing and sheep shearing (1,255 words)

Risk Management (Trump Persuasion Series)

Scott Adams | Dilbert | 8th December 2015

Donald Trump’s call to shut down Muslim immigration is "Hitler-scary". But it's also a brilliant tactic. "Trump was presented with impossible choices and he actually picked one". Which makes him the only candidate with a plan that people can grasp. He owns the issue. He has "infantilized the entire country and installed himself as dad. You know Dad; he’s the asshole who makes the hard choices" (1,840 words)

How A Tax Haven Goes Bust

Oliver Bullough | Guardian | 6th December 2015

The Channel Island of Jersey is "half-British, half-something-else – 45 square miles of self-governing ambiguity entirely surrounded by water". Jersey began thriving as a tax haven in the 1950s. Banks and billionaires flooded in. But one problem with being a tax haven is that you don't collect much tax, especially when other tax havens start racing you to the bottom. With the result that Jersey is now going bust (5,850 words)

The Spinoza Case

Steven Nadler | Tablet | 8th December 2015

In July 1656 the Portuguese-Jewish congregation of Amsterdam excommunicated the great philosopher Bento de Spinoza for “abominable heresies and monstrous deeds". In 2015 Amsterdam’s Chief Rabbi upholds the verdict: “How on earth can we even consider removing the herem from a person with such preposterous ideas, where he was tearing apart the very fundaments of our religion?" (665 words)

What Is Spacetime?

Stephen Wolfram Blog | 2nd December 2015

Reflections on general relativity, on whether there must necessarily be an ultimate theory of the universe, and on whether such a theory, even if simple in itself, could ever be proven. "Even though one may knows the rule and initial condition for a system, it can still require an irreducible amount of computational work to trace through every step in the behavior of the system to find out what it does" (6,200 words)

Video of the day: Italy

What to expect: Whistle-stop tour of Italy. Recommended because cheerful (2'18")

Thought for the day

A well-adjusted person is one who makes the same mistake twice without getting nervous
Alexander Hamilton

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