Digest, 10/9/2021: There's a Heaven for a GPU

the twenty-fourth digest post

I guess this is goodbye, old friend. We’ve shared many adventures and you’ve served me faithfully for five years. But all things must pass. Now you will render frames on the fields of Sto-vo-kor.

For those following my shoulder saga, the orthopedist has spoken:

There is generalized thickening and interstitial intermediate T2 signal involving the supraspinatus tendon extending from anterior to posterior and medial to lateral representing generalized moderate tendinosis. There is an accompanying partial-thickness undersurface tear of the anterior supraspinatus tendon extending from medial to lateral…. There is generalized mild infraspinatus tendinosis with tendon thickening and interstitial intermediate T2 signal abnormality.

Apparently the problem is with the tendonitis more than the tear. Still not sure why it clicks. In any event: I have a physical therapist prescription in hand and my girlfriend is helping me find a PT. (My life would fall down around my ears without her.) Two months of therapy and then back to the orthopedist. About what I was expecting, all in all. I’m just happy to have a diagnosis and able to start physical therapy soon.

My podcast with Razib Khan has been released from his paywall and you can check it out here. Thought it was a great, wide-ranging conversation.

This Week’s Posts

Monday, October 4th - Will BlackLivesMatter Fall Into the Elephant's Graveyard of Social Movements?

I find the arc of BLM in the past two years kind of crazy - more attention and good will and money than I’ve ever seen pouring into a progressive social movement, then a collapse into silence and stasis so quickly. It’s hard to change the world, so I’m neither surprised nor ready to dismiss the movement. But I think professionalization always changes things, usually for the worse.

Tuesday, October 5th - The End Times Are Comforting (subscriber only)

So often these days people seem to frame their politics as happening in the shadow of a coming collapse, of the end of ordinary things. But while I find this romantic, I also find it too comforting to be real. We are stuck in the world we’ve got, so we might as well try to make it better.

Wednesday, October 6th - The Problem with Liz Phair's Self-Titled Album is That It's an Irredeemable Piece of Shit

So Pitchfork put out this embarrassing set of “revisions” to old reviews, 100% motivated by a desire to conform to what’s perceived to be cool, and in many of them they didn’t even pretend to justify the changes in actual musical terms - but the only way to respect musicians is to give a shit about the quality of their music.

Friday, October 8th - The Second Part of Life (subscriber only)

As adults we need a variety artistic stimulations and subject matter, but our modern culture industry only wants to serve a very narrow set of artistic interests. So you’ve got to go out of your way to engage with subtler things.

We also had the next week of book club and the next chapter of our serialized novel.

From the Archives

The idea that all actual carriers of potential free speech are private entities and thus we have no right to worry about censorship within those carriers is totally unworkable in a free society, and I said so for the LA Times a few years ago.

Song of the Week

Sometimes musicians and filmmakers, as they age, sort of do an impression of themselves. Casino is Scorsese doing a Martin Scorsese impression - to sometimes good, sometimes bad effect. “The Wrestler” certainly qualifies as Springsteen doing Springsteen, and yet I love it! Chill and sad and gritty, in an earned way.

Substack of the Week

Counting Atoms
Spin Glasses and Lazy Journalism
The 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics was announced this morning, “for groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of complex physical systems.” The fine print says that this is to be split among three scientists for two different topics: half to Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann won “for the physical modelling of Earth's climate, quantifying variability……
Read more

I’ve long admired the work of Chad Orzel, who’s a physicist at Union College and a thoughtful commentator on science communication and journalism. Science reading is something I do with enthusiasm but from a permanently amateur place, and I always proceed knowing that there are a lot of valences I’m missing - and there are many more in the audience like me than not. Science communication is so fraught because the important topics are so complex and confusing, and the stakes can often be quite complicated. So you need to not only have journalists and commentators doing their best to translate, but also people who comment on the whole affair, a meta-layer of analysis of science journalism to keep us honest. The above piece is a good example, a complaint about Nobel Prize coverage that stems from insider knowledge and which reflects on the biases and social pressures in the physical sciences, which are immensely consequential. There’s more great stuff to find so check it out.

(I’m hoping Orzel’s 2022 book, A Brief History of Timekeeping, explains how durable clocks solved the longitude problem. I’ve heard the story of the quest for a longitude-tracking device a dozen times, and every time when they reveal that they did it with clocks, I feel that I’m supposed to be grasping how a clock tells you longitude but I never do.)

Book Recommendation

You’d have to dig around to find this one, I’m sure, but the Usborne Guide’s book The Young Naturalist was an absolutely treasured book in my house when I was a kid. It’s a beautifully-illustrated guide to practical things that children can do to better explore the natural world around them. I learned a lot from it and, more, I was constantly driven out of the house and into the fields and woods and creeks by us thanks to this book. I’m sure there’s something similar that’s more modern and in-print than this book, but this was a real touchstone for me as a 10-14 year old.

NFL Pick of the Week

Our win streak stopped at one, as the putrid Detroit Lions proved incapable of staying close to the merely-bad Chicago Bears. Well, let’s go to the complete opposite extreme and talk Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs, which I see as a showdown between the two best teams in the league, even with early defensive struggles for Kansas City. (Apologies to the Cardinals, who I still want to see prove it a little.) Josh Allen has averaged out to just good so far, but has also flashed what gives him an upside as high as any other player in the league. Sooner or later he’ll regain his connection with Stephon Diggs, and what they have that Kansas City doesn’t is a legit defense. Give me that offensive potential and a far better defense and the points, and it’s a clear pick for Buffalo +2.5 over Kansas City. And you can take that [CHA-CHUNK] to the bank.

Win-Loss-Push: 1-3-0

Comment of the Week

Re-rating the Grimes album that came out literally 17 months ago is the most hilarious part of this ill-advised exercise. - Chris Matthews

That’s it! See you Monday! Sincere love to you all.