The decline of old school high culture, novels edition

Joseph Bottum mentions Andrew Ferguson’s cocktail-party test for books—would you be embarrassed at a cocktail party for not having read it?—and notes the last such novel Ferguson cites passing this test was Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities in 1987.

And:

Now that visual art has lost its import, now that poetry seems to have become an insular and thereby minor art, now that modern classical music has long been unable to command support, the entire realm of what used to be called high culture seems not so much in abeyance or even in retreat but in ashes. This high culture gave those of us enamored of it intimations of an elevated life, however far it might have been out of our reach, a life lived deeper down and beyond quotidian concerns. We can, of course, continue to live on the high culture of the past, with the great music of Austria and Germany, the painting of Italy, Holland, and France, the literature of Russia, Western Europe, and America, most of it produced a hundred and more years ago. Painful, nevertheless, is it to contemplate that further production in these magnificent lines of culture may well be closing down, and that contemporary culture henceforth will consist of streamed movies made chiefly from comic-book characters, video games, and graphic novels.

I dunno. A shift in mediums is fine. The question is: is the content still good?

Original source: What Happened to the Novel?

Schedule creative thinking when you’re not stressed and peppy

So if you’re wondering when you might be most creative, you need to think about when you might be the least inhibited. That would be the time of day that you might want to schedule, or at least experiment with scheduling, some creative time. For many people, that time is usually when they’re not at their most energetic, or most productive. You don’t want to schedule creative time during your most productive time; you want to schedule it when you’re slightly less goal-oriented and sharp, when you’re on the downward slope and you’ve started to fatigue, so that you’re open to different ways of thinking and creating.

Also:

Across the board, everyone benefits from exposure to nature. This can be anything, looking out the window and seeing some greenery, or going for a walk. It definitely can’t hurt and, in my line of work, I’ve never heard of anyone saying it doesn’t help, or “this plant is really killing my creative energy!”

Original source: How to find your most creative time of day, and make it count

The jig (could be) up!

A deep, long recession will stoke anger, because the pandemic has held up an unflattering mirror to rich societies. Ill-run care homes for the elderly, high rates of death among minorities, the extra demands holding back working women and, especially in America, health care that is hard to reach for many, will all lead to calls for reform. So might the realisation that an unfair burden has fallen on ordinary people. Americans earning less than $20,000 a year are twice as likely to have lost their job to covid-19 as someone earning over $80,000. Much will depend on how fast they are rehired.

Original source: Life after lockdowns

Working from home popular with higher income people

The data also shows a major gap between income levels in the ability to work from home. Of people making under $50,000 a year, just 24% work at home. In the middle range, from $50,000 to $100,000, the number jumps to 36%, and for those making $100,000 or more, 46% are able to work from home.

Original source: As working from home becomes more widespread, many say they don’t want to go back

What’s the big deal with 5G?

I’m never really sure what the deal with 5G is. I mean: better networking, sure. But is that such a huge deal? It feels like getting all excited about going from cast iron pipes to PVC.

Here’s some 5G background and commentary in this interview:

I don’t expect the highest 5G standards to be met until the middle of the decade, if ever, there’s a lot that has to happen before 5G delivers ultra-low latency of one millisecond. Average download downlink speeds of up to 20 gigabits per second, or handoffs at speeds as high as you know, 500 kilometers per hour. I’m just not confident those standards will be met anytime soon.

And, a tangible benefit for us consumers:

Among those promises, I think its potential to replace broadband at home or in the office could have the greatest impact. I mean, it’s just ridiculous that so many of us are still paying for at least two connectivity services today, we have our mobile plans and fixed broadband. In most cases. If mobile operators can deliver reliable broadband like speeds that will finally break the hold that cable and other internet service providers have on so many of us. I think all of us could use the savings that would provide more now than ever. Not sure we’ll get there, but I remain hopeful.

Original source: 7 Layers Interview: Matt Kapko ‘5G is easily one of the most overhyped technologies’

Innocence

“‘ The blood-dimmed tide is loosed’!” The voice is positively gleeful now. “‘ And everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned…’ Ah, that’s my favorite line. Gets right at the shallow performativity of so many things, don’t you think? Innocence is nothing but a ceremony, after all. So strange that you people venerate it the way you do. What other world celebrates not knowing anything about how life really works?” A soft laugh-sigh. “How your species managed to get this far, I will never know.”

— The City We Became: A Novel (The Great Cities Trilogy Book 1) by N. K. Jemisin
https://a.co/7npAZXy

COBOL is just fine

More than likely, those government systems going doing was due to too much traffic, not COBOL.

“Cobol isn’t cool, but businesses don’t care about what’s cool,” Klinect says. “They care about what works.”

Also:

The New Jersey Office of Information Technology website doesn’t list any job openings, for Cobol programmers or anyone else. Rather, it’s seeking volunteers to help it meet its challenges. In other words, it’s asking people who might have high-paying jobs elsewhere to work for free. Ensuring that people can file for unemployment during the pandemic is a worthy cause. But it’s easy to see why the talent to do it might be scarce.

Really – eye-roll!

Original source: Can’t File for Unemployment? Don’t Blame Cobol

People focus on the trivial because it’s comfortable

"The Law of Triviality states that the amount of time spent discussing an issue in an organization is inversely correlated to its actual importance in the scheme of things. Major, complex issues get the least discussion while simple, minor ones get the most discussion."

This concept as a tool is about learning how to place value in a task. Your tendency will be to solve problems that you understand, that seem easy to solve. Sometimes those are important, sometimes harder tasks are important. You have to know which outcome is better, what you want.

Of course, it goes the other way too: just because a task is difficult or confusing doesn’t mean it’s valuable.

Original source: Why We Focus on Trivial Things

Americans probably aren’t as crazy as they appear

Two-thirds of registered Texas voters agree with decisions by Gov. Greg Abbott and several local officials to suspend nonessential business operations. And more than three-quarters of voters support orders to stay home except for essential activities. The poll’s findings come as Abbott says he will soon announce plans to reopen a wide range of Texas businesses.

Original source: Texas voters overwhelmingly approve of business closures, stay-at-home orders despite blow to state’s economy, says UT/TT poll

Less voices, better meetings

The key is to recognize that the available input on an issue doesn’t all need considering. The most informed opinions are most relevant. This is one reason why big meetings with lots of people present, most of whom don’t need to be there, are such a waste of time in organizations. Everyone wants to participate, but not everyone has anything meaningful to contribute.

Original source: Why We Focus on Trivial Things