Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.
Old Danish saying (not Niels Bohr or Yogi Berra)
I have been inspired by Philip Tetlock and Matt Yglesias about the value of making public predictions. Predictions should include a degree of certainty. Predictions must be specific enough to be measurable (at the end of 2023, it must be clear if a prediction was correct or not). Because they are probabilistic, success is not any one prediction. Success is that if we look at just the predictions I gave an 80% probability score to, about 80% of them actually occurred. (It seems like 70% is my default.)
In that spirit, here are Muttroxia predictions for 2023:
Biden officially announces his re-election campaign (90%)
Donald Trump doesn’t spend any time in jail, house arrest etc. He lives the year free. (90%)
Congress passes no significant legislation about immigration (90%)
Muttroxia will not have any months with over ten posts after January. (80%).
The NBA MVP will be Jokic or Giannis (80%) if the Celtics don’t win the championship. Luka, you don’t make your bad team any better and no one likes you. Hard to win an MVP that way. As good as Taytum is, if he doesn’t win the banner, all his stats will be discounted (“He just had a better team”).
Donald Trump doesn’t have any final civil judgements found against him personally (that is, no fines or consequences) (70%)
American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, by Colin Woodward. Books like Hillbilly Elegy have had breathless reviewers salivating over how they explain Donald Trumps support. Poo on that. If you want to understand what is going on in the USA (and some of Mexico and Canada), read this. What groups settled what parts hundreds of years ago and how their culture acts in the ‘melting pot’ continues to play out to this day. America is composed of eleven “nations” that continually joust for power and influence. My mind was blown consistently every few pages.
For example, I am from “Yankeedom”, roughly described as “Founded by Puritans, residents in Northeastern states and the industrial Midwest tend to be more comfortable with government regulation. They value education and the common good more than other regions.” That’s me and my attitude towards government in a nutshell. I find it appalling and unfathomable that so many people are anti-government and willing to blow the whole thing up for relatively small partisan gains. But now I see it, most parts of the country are not from a culture that believes in the power of good government they way mine does. So read the book and learn more about our country. You’ll see why Donald Trump may be from New York, but is clearly of Appalachian mindset.
11/22/63 (Steven King): This was recommended by the most prolific Muttroxia commenter. He was correct. There is not a lot of horror in this tome, but there is a lot of good writing about a man trying to figure how to block the Kennedy assasination. Mrs. Muttrox also read it and loved it. Mrs. Muttrox does not give her approval lightly!
East of Eden (John Steinbeck): If you want to read John Steinbeck, you should start with The Grapes of Wrath. As Mrs. Muttrox says, if you aren’t moved by this book, you are dead inside. And East of Eden is also quite good!
Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns (Jon Bogle): Jon Bogle is the founder of Vanguard. This is a short book, a quick read in plain spoken language about the benefits of long term investing, mutual funds, and index funds. If you like to play the market you should this book so you’ll be convinced to stop. The most powerful part of the book is the intro to each chapter. In each one, he asks a titan of finance (Warren Buffet, Peter Lynch, Paul Samuelson, Burton Malkiel etc.) about how they invest their own personal money. Not that money that has been entrusted to them to invest, but their own money. They all believe the same thing, read the book to find out.
Because Internet (Gretchen McCulloch): What happens when a linguist turns her eye on the internet? A fascinating exploration and history of how we communicate online. As a parent who grew up at the same time as many of these communication quirks, it was amazing to put it in a larger context. I found it very helpful to communicate with my own children (who have the arrogance to argue with me about the meaning of “trolling” or “lol”). It was worth the read to understand the difference between “Okay.” “okay”, “k”, and “kk”. Yes, there are differences to the new generation!
Prince of Thieves (Chuck Hogan): Look, if you don’t read much, you can skip this. Ben Affleck made a movie out of it, The Town. He stayed pretty close to the source material. That’s a good thing, the book is wonderful! By the way, fans of the movie will enjoy this oral history.
Ted Chiang: His two short story collections are so wonderful and so diverse in their thinking I don’t know how to describe them. The movie Arrival is an adaption of one of the stories. Just go read them. Then leave a comment agreeing!
Broken Earth Trilogy (NK Jemisin): Every once in a while you stumble on an author who just gets it. They get how to construct a story in a world and being you along for the ride. Anything by Jemisin is good, the Inheritance Trilogy stands out as well. The Broken Earth trilogy won three of her four Hugos in three successive years, which has never been done before or after. I especially want to recommend her after I un-recommended many other female SF writers.
Blindsight (Peter Watts): Everything good science fiction should be. This is hard science. Watts takes a lot of current science about conciousness and perception and turns it into a story like none other. Mind breaker. Massive amounts of accepted current science taken to a logical extreme you didn’t see coming.
Red Rising (Pierce Brown): I did not think this would be good. It looks like a Hunger Games ripoff. It shares many themes with Hunger Games (young man growing up in dystopian world, competes for power in games that impact the real society), but it’s done a much more adult level. A rollicking adventure tale.
Children of Time (Adrian Tchaikovsky): Among other things, this is an exploration about how intelligence works in non-human species. To what degree is the prison of our bodies and perceptions what drives how we see the world? How is evolution of our physical bodies related to our view of the world and cognition? This is embedded in a psychological thriller thrown onto a ‘last chance of humanity’ colonization effort. I am halfway through the sequel right now.
Neal Stephenson: Some day I’ll do a whole post just about his work. He is my favorite author. Snow Crash is where most people start. His best work is Cryptonomicon, the Baroque Cycle, and SevenEves.
(Sorry if there are any duplicates from past recommendations. It’s hard to keep track of these posts.)
(Rules: Song must be in frequent radio rotation, or were in frequent rotation for a long time. Hating random deep cuts doesn’t count.)
Freefallin’ (Tom Petty): She’s a good girl, crazy about Elvis. Good lyric. But it all goes downhill from there. Over-processed guitars, stupid chorus and stupid lyrics. When I found out it was written by Jeff Lynne (whose high point was Don’t Bring me Down – Bruce!) I was not surprised.
Man on the Moon (R.E.M.): It’s not just Shiny Happy People (which Stipe correctly hates). Everything R.E.M. did after Out of Time ranged between mediocre and crap. What’s the Frequency Kenneth and Night Swimming are just awful.
And you are not a cowboy Mr. Stipe. You are about as far as is humanly possible from being a cowboy.
Glory Days (Bruce Springsteen): Those insipid keyboards, the nothing chorus… what’s to like? The video didn’t help. I dislike baseball and don’t particularly need to see Bruce’s ass in bluejeans. (Are there good baseball songs? Centerfield is junk as well. Best baseball song I can think of is Paradise by the Dashboard Lights, and that’s a stretch.)
Walk of Life (Dire Straits): More stupid keyboards, more nothing lyrics and groove.
White Room (Cream): Cream is a vastly overrated band. Once you get past Sunshine of Your Love (written for Jimi Hendrix), there’s not much there. If I agree that all three musicians are very good at their instruments will you please just turn it off.
Wrapped Around Your Finger (The Police): Although I admire the lyrics (which use “scylla and charybidis”, “Mephistopheles”, and “alabaster” successfully), it’s still a terrible song. And who convinced him to do this awful dancing? You should listen to Synchronicity I instead, that thing rocks. And, by the way, casually uses “Spiritus mundi” as a lyric.
If I win the election I will gladly show my tax returns.
Donald Trump, 2016
Should Trump have released his tax returns as every other presidential candidate did? I think so, but there’s no law. He was within his rights to say no.
Should the House (Ways and Means Committee) have demanded and fought for those records? Yes. There was legitimate reason.
Should he have fought the House trying to get these returns. Legally, no. Tactically, yes, since of course they don’t paint a great picture.
Should the House have publicized the lack of mandated tax audits for Trump? Yes. There’s clearly something corrupt going on here, and that should get attention.
Should the House have released summaries of notable information found? Yes. Information like this deserves to be publicized.
Should the House release aspects of the taxes that are likely criminal, and forward these to law enforcement as appropriate? Yes.
Should the House have released the full tax returns? I’m less sure. What is the vital public interest here that overrides the right of a private citizen to hold on to their private information. Why does running for office mean that your financial life has to be made public? As noted above, there is no law about what candidates must release, only tradition.
I’m pretty sure I’m wrong about this, but not seeing it!
Last year, the Celtics had the greatest in-season turnaround ever, that lead to an NBA finals outing. They worked over the summer. And for the first 25ish games of this season, the Celtics have been unstoppable.
They have lost their last three. Not understandable losses to strong teams, but repeatedly to teams they should have beaten easily. At home. Before that they managed to eke out an overtime win over the Lakers after two more bad losses. They’ve lost 5.5 of the last 6.
They have looked awful. Suddenly there is no passing, the defense is disjointed, open shots don’t go in the hoop, nothing looks right.
If they don’t work, they should be banned by shareholders. You shouldn’t spend shareholder money for no gain.
If they do work, they should be banned by society.
As political donations undoubtedly work, political donations from corporations should be banned.
Despite nutty Supreme Court rulings, money isn’t speech, and political contributions aren’t speech.
Despite nutty Supreme Court rulings, corporations aren’t people. They are legal entities, and they have whatever rights and restrictions we give them as a condition of their existence. Political contribtuions is a right we shouldn’t give them.
These signs are terrible. What would you, as a driver, do differently if the number was 10,000? 2,000? 600? 50? Nothing! There is no context. There is no sense if this number is too high or too low. Georgians will drive 133 billion miles in 2022. Is one death per 112 million miles a lot? It doesn’t seem like much. It seems like the roads are ridiculously safe.
Numbers without context are easily misunderstood. “C’mon, if we all work at it we can beat last year.”
Update: This sums up the stupidity of it perfectly.
For decades, I’ve been told I need to read the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey. It’s one of the greatest fantasy series ever they said.
They were wrong.
This book is utter trash. It reads like a 12-year old girls fanfic about her favorite horse. A decent premise, with terrible characters, terrible plotting, terribly written. One giant wish fulfillment spew of dreck. It turns out that McCaffrey is the first woman to win a Hugo, and the first to win a Nebula. The committee must have been super drunk during those years.
Among Others (Jo Walters) – How did this win the Hugo and the Nebula. Barely fantasy, could have told what little story it has in under 100 pages. (And while I’m picking on women authors, The Doomsday Book is depressing pablum for several hundred pages with zero fantasy or science fiction.)
Dead Wake, by Erik Larson. Actually all of Erik Larson. Erik Larson is vastly overrated as an accessible historian. I’ve had the misfortune of reading three of his books, and they are all… meh. His fundamental flaw is throwing any random facts into the narrative, regardless of whether they support the narrative. The onslaught of irrelevant names and dates keeps the reader from actually following the history. His most recent work, The Splendid and the Vile is a perfect example. It takes everything interesting about World War II and Churchill and ignores it for countless pages of his daughters social adventures at garden parties. Who could possibly give a shit is beyond me.
If you like to read accessible history, stick with David McCullough, Steven Ambrose, Doris Kearns Goodwin, maybe Walter Isaacson for biographies.
Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders. Everyone else loves this book. I don’t. An interesting conceit, done poorly.
Coming in a couple days later to add another. Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice.WTH. Why is this a classic? It’s terrible. Just terrible. A bunch of psychosexual bullhockey that makes zero rational sense. How this ever got turned into a series of successful books, movies, and now a TV show — there’s no accounting for taste.
I get asked this a lot. Muttrox, what is your take on Elon Musk? Up or down? You have his cars, you’ve given him lots of money, how do you feel about that?
He’s an asshole. Personally and professionally. Even worse than an asshole, he’s an asshole unnecessarily. Just because he is and he can.
He’s a sellout to China. The dictionary definition of selling out – he says things he knows are wrong to carry water for a foreign power and put more money in his pocket. Not great!
His new set of right wing views are noxious (especially considering how much government aid went into propping up Tesla).
He didn’t invent Tesla, and should stop acting like he did.
He shouldn’t be so rich. Crazy.
All his Twitter awfulness comes down to a larger issue. The problem is that there’s only a few social media companies with unaccountable owners who can set their own policies for those platforms. Twitter, Facebook, etc. This is the first time there’s been an owner who supported the right in the platform, but the problem is that it shouldn’t come down to the decision of him. Trump should have banned from these platforms long ago, but the conservatives were right to worry how the decisions were made.
His right wing views are noxious, but everyone is entitled to their opinion. He’s allowed to change his mind and have whatever opinions he wants. You don’t like them, stop paying attention.
And, on balance:
What I really think is that these critiques this misses the larger point. Elon Musk became the richest man in the world. And what did he do? He basically invented the electric car industry. Without him, there is no doubt in my mind that we would be much further back in the electrification of personal vehicles. He significantly changed the curve of history. This is one of the greatest things we have done to combat climate change. Twenty years ago, would you have paid out 50 billion dollars to electrify a significant portion of US cars, and get the flywheel rolling so every other OEM was moving to electric only? Of course you would have. You would have paid 500 billion dollars. Well guess what, Elon did that. He deserves the rewards for it.
What about his other companies? A battery company, again making a direct push against climate change by supporting electrification. A solar panel company. Space-X, increasing the odds humanity can expand off of earth. Notice the theme? All these companies are tackling existential threats to human existence, and doing a pretty decent job at it.
I don’t care about the other stuff. Let him own Twitter and do whatever he wants. It’s always been a cesspool, now it’s a cesspool with a slightly worse owner. Who cares. The man has done significant work to save humanity. That vastly outweighs all the rest.