Wednesday, June 24, 2020

  • The EU is planning to exclude Americans from entry into its member countries when its updated guidelines on travel in the coronavirus era are put in place on July 1. “Citing failures,” the title says. How about gross incompetence, American stupidity, and Americans’ preference to live in a world of fantasy? - NYT, Tuesday, June 23, 2020
  • Steve Schmidt, John McCain’s 2008 campaign manager with a brutal commentary on Trump:video or transcript: Political Wire, Tuesday, June 23, 2020.

“When you listen to the President, these are the musings of an imbecile. An idiot. And I don’t use those words to name call. I use them because they are the precise words of the English language to describe his behavior. His comportment. His actions. We’ve never seen a level of incompetence, a level of ineptitude so staggering on a daily basis by anybody in the history of the country whose ever been charged with substantial responsibilities."_

A meritocracy reading list

Meritocracy has been on everyone’s minds lately, it seems. Reading Daniel Markovits’ “The Meritocracy Trap,” I was fully ready to condemn the concept completely. I may be still; but I need to take a moment to think about it more fully.

Here’s the problem with condemning meritocracy outright: if we look at ability on a case-by-case basis, would you rather a well-trained, accomplished pilot or a mediocre one? Would you rather go to a concert performed by a scratchy third-rate violinist or someone whose pedigree includes Juilliard, Curtis, or the like? Maybe the problem with meritocracy is simply that it doesn’t scale well in capitalist markets. (Don’t hold me to that idea; I’m not quite ready to embrace it fully.) In the process of scaling to the level of a large society, does any inherent rightness of merit confer a right to so distort the economic life of a country that only narrower and narrower slices of it garner larger and larger portions of the economic output?

In the meanwhile, I’m just cataloguing what references I can find on meritocracy while I formulate a more informed opinion.

A folder-based image gallery for Hugo

Hugo is the platform I use to publish this weblog. Occasionally I have the need to include a collection of images in a post. Mostly this comes up on other sites that I publish. Fancybox can do this; but it wasn’t immediately clear how to direct Fancybox to create a gallery of images in a page based on images in a directory. Previously, I’ve solved this in different ways, but I was anxious to find a simple shortcode-based method.

An alternative method for keyboard input switching on macOS

macOS offers a variety of virtual keyboard layouts which are accessible through System Preferences > Keyboard > Input Sources. Because I spend about half of my time writing in Russian and half in English, rapid switching between keyboard layouts is important. Optionally in the Input Sources preference pane, you can choose to use the Caps lock key to toggle between sources. This almost always works well with the exception of Anki.

Semelfactive Verbs

Semelfactive verbs, a special class of perfectives. (Applies to Russian, but also to English grammar, too.)

The Dalai Lama on cultivating altruism

“Being too self-centred can give rise to anxiety and depression. An effective antidote is to cultivate a sense of altruism, taking the whole of humanity into account.” - The Dalai Lama