Saturday, January 01, 2011

Some New Year's reading

I learned about the site via Seth Roberts. It aggregates long magazine articles from numerous sources. Below are some recommendations.

Financial Times on Moscow's stray dogs.

“Genetically, wolves and dogs are almost identical,” says Poyarkov. “What has changed significantly [with domestication] is a range of hormonal and behavioural parameters, because of the brutal natural selection that eliminated many aggressive animals.” He recounts the work of Soviet biologist Dmitri Belyaev, exiled from Moscow in 1948 during the Stalin years for a commitment to classical genetics that ran counter to state scientific doctrine of the time.

Under the guise of studying animal physiology, Belyaev set up a Russian silver fox research centre in Novosibirsk, setting out to test his theory that the most important selected characteristic for the domestication of dogs was a lack of aggression. He began to select foxes that showed the least fear of humans and bred them. After 10-15 years, the foxes he bred showed affection to their keepers, even licking them. They barked, had floppy ears and wagged their tails. They also developed spotted coats – a surprising development that was connected with a decrease in their levels of adrenaline, which shares a biochemical pathway with melanin and controls ­pigment production.

[See related post on Belyaev and fast Fox evolution here. I find it quite plausible that humans domesticated themselves over the last 10k years.]

“With stray dogs, we’re witnessing a move backwards,” explains Poyarkov. “That is, to a wilder and less domesticated state, to a more ‘natural’ state.” As if to prove his point, strays do not have spotted coats, they rarely wag their tails and are wary of humans, showing no signs of ­affection towards them.

GQ on social networking startups in Silicon Valley:

Sitting here pinioned between the photon-cannon brains and futurey salesmanship of Rahul and Jiggity, I realize there's something that makes me simultaneously excited and agitated. It is an unfamiliar sensation: optimism. Jiggity knows. Rahul knows. Everyone at YC knows. The world belongs to them. You can hardly be alive in 2010 and not know that. You can't know what Facebook is without knowing that. This—Silicon Valley in general and YC more specifically—might be the last place in America where people are this optimistic. The last place in America where people aren't longing for a vague past when we were the shit.

Vanity Fair on Goldman Sachs ("a giant hedge fund that front-runs its so-called clients"?):

What Goldman doesn’t get is that all the murk about the ways it has benefited from public money taps into a deep fear that has long existed among those who think they know Goldman all too well. It’s a fear that, as one person puts it, Goldman’s “skill set” is “walking between the raindrops over and over again and getting away with it.” It is a fear that Goldman has the game rigged, even if no one can ever prove how, not just because of its political connections but also because of its immense size and power. And it is a belief that despite all the happy talk about clients and culture (and, boy, is there a lot of that) the Goldman of today cares about one thing and one thing only: making money for itself. Says one high-level Wall Street executive, “Why do you have a business? Because you have a customer. You have to make an appropriate profit. But is it possible that Goldman has changed from a firm that had customers to a company that is just smart as shit and makes a shitload of money?”

Lapham's Quarterly on a precocious 12 year old novelist who later vanished from the world at age 26.

The House Without Windows appeared in February 1927 to overwhelming praise. “A Mirror of the Child Mind,” announced a New York Times headline: “the most authentic and unalloyed document of a transient and hitherto unrecorded phase in plastic intelligence…[a] truly remarkable little book.” They featured Barbara on the front page of that day’s Photogravure Picture Section, showing her correcting a set of galley proofs.

The Saturday Review of Literature found the book “almost unbearably beautiful.” It is not hard to see why. The opening lines evoke a fairy-tale isolation: “In a little brown shingled cottage on one of the foothills of Mt. Varcrobis, there lived with her father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Eigleen, a little girl named Eepersip. She was rather lonely…” Eepersip emerges from the forest dressed in garlands to try to lure other children away, including her own younger sister ...

Then again, her work always was about escape. Her mysterious disappearance echoes with the final words of The House Without Windows, when the lonely Eepersip finally vanishes forever into the woods.

“She would be invisible forever to all mortals, save those few who have minds to believe, eyes to see,” Follett wrote. “To these she is ever present, the spirit of Nature—a sprite of the meadow, a naiad of lakes, a nymph of the woods.”


Jan_Smuts said...

What's a wigger? Steve was a kindergarten teacher?

BTW, as far as college and graduate school entrance exams go then if I'm a nitwit you're a numskull or whatever is a lot dumber than a numskull. Now chill and go watch some musicals with Shawn aka Asian of Reason.

Jan_Smuts said...

And NTW I've had animosity for professors and teachers of all kinds since high school. They're thieves, but much worse than ordinary criminals because they don't realize that they're stealing. If only there were a Katyn massacre of professors I'd be happy to play the roll of Blokhin.

With Love,


Blog Archive