The Power of Mechanical Thinking

Last year, I stumbled across a project by an Italian artist named Gianluca Gimini in which he asked people to draw what they think a bike looks like and then digitally rendered the result. It’s really neat and worth taking a look at; as a cyclist, several things jumped out at me immediately. The first was that most people don’t really seem to have any good conception of what a bike frame looks like, and the second is that they don’t actually know how bikes work. A lot of these drawings have the chain either attached in the entirely wrong place or depicted in a configuration that would almost certainly fail to work correctly.

People of course make this mistake not because they’re stupid but because they are unfamiliar with the details of bicycle mechanics. I suspect most people don’t ever think too much about how bicycles actually move, but hopefully if they do, they quickly realize that in order for the bike to actually move, the rotation of the pedals has to be coupled to the rotation of the wheels via the chain. The chain is really a key component, but many people left it off entirely or misunderstood its purpose.

Which is all to say: thinking mechanically is hard. Even for a simple system like a bike, it’s actually quite difficult, if only because it requires people to traverse a particular chain of potentially unfamiliar thought. It requires one to think carefully about what each component in the system is for: what function it fulfills and how it relates to the other components of the system. Most people are not used to working through a complex sequence of causal mechanisms in this way, but when the mechanisms in question power a bike, you get by more or less on instinct. It’s when the mechanisms become more complicated that the troubles begin.

Ask an ordinary person, even a reasonably educated one, to draw you even an approximate diagrammatic representation of how the federal government (or state, or local, doesn’t matter; I’m rolling with the federal example for now), and probably the modal reaction will be great confusion. Likely most people can figure out that the president is somewhere on top. There will also be a circle that represents the legislature (two circles for the two chambers if the respondent really paid attention in civics class) and those with some degree of political awareness will also include the Supreme Court, although the mechanism of its interaction with the other two branches will evade most. The vast federal bureaucracy that exists under the auspices of the executive branch will not be present; if any executive agency even appears, it won’t have any relation to any other part of the government. I can’t imagine any significant fraction of people would know anything about such minutia as House or Senate committees or the operations of the lower courts. Describing the interactions of these various actors with each other is also likely to be beyond almost all of them.

Again, this is not because people are stupid: it’s because the details of how the government operates are extremely boring and also vastly complicated. This is sometimes lost when one’s social network consists of politically informed people who genuinely find politics interesting. To most people, even people with advanced educations, policy discussions sound like that “wah wah” noise the adults in the Peanuts comics make.

Maybe none of this would matter so much if what was at stake was something as simple as voting. I’m of the opinion that parties are useful as information aggregators that abet the functioning of cognitive heuristics, so it’s not as though ignorance of the mechanics of government would render people unable to make voting decisions. But this ignorance does have serious consequences for political rhetoric and thought. Faced with a problem of overwhelming complexity, people do not take the time to think mechanically through disparate pieces of evidence and arrange them into a coherent whole. Rather, people lean on various cognitive heuristics and biases to arrive, via motivated reasoning, at conclusions in agreement with whatever positions they already hold. This phenomenon presents itself across the political spectrum; perhaps the most recent and salient example on the left was the insistence by many Sanders supporters that his candidacy had the potential to usher in a fundamental political revolution. As someone who supported Sanders and voted for him, and who is generally quite closely aligned with him on most issues, I found these declarations to be downright delusional. They could only have been made by people who had but the vaguest ideas of how an administrative behemoth like the United States federal government actually functioned. What was missing in these declarations was any causal process that would lead to the promised transformation, and the missing spaces were filled in with magical thinking.

If the left was delusional about the promises of a Sanders presidency, then the right is delusional about… everything else. The conspiracist swamp in which the American right baptizes itself daily is home to a menagerie of monsters, from Agenda 21 to the ZOG. Routine operations of government are seen not for what they are (mostly boring administrative paper-pushing with occasional attempts to accomplish something), but rather as sinister operations to undermine the country. The most anodyne processes are endowed with occult implications; that bike lane is just a precursor for the invasion of the UN blue helmets, and don’t let any egghead intellectual tell you different. The left’s fault may be excessive wishful thinking, but the right has entirely abandoned even the pretense of commitment to existence in a shared reality. You might be able to convince someone who holds a different view from you, but you can’t convince someone who denies the fundamental premises of (even approximately) verifiable truth and causal connection between events.

Richard Feynman once characterized science as “a way of trying not to fool yourself,” while acknowledging that “you are the easiest person to fool.” But fooling themselves is what a lot of people do when it comes to politics, over and over again. The mechanisms at play are incredibly complex and tracing their operations requires a great deal of cognitive effort, so by and large we don’t even attempt it. And when it comes to teaching people how to think their way through these sorts of problems, we don’t do that either. Much is made of the importance of “critical thinking” in education, but all too often those words are just that, unmoored from any actual critical approach to problems. We mostly throw a bunch of facts at people without explaining how those facts can be synthesized into a meaningful whole and move on. Of course the end result is, even among highly educated people, an inability to follow a chain of reasoning from end to end or understand how disparate aspects of a complex system connect to each other. And now here we are in the 21st century, with a world’s wealth of information (much of it accurate!) available to us on demand and no handle on how any of it hangs together. We starve in the midst of plenty because we don’t know how to digest the food.

Missives from Beyond the Galactic Rim

Ok, maybe not the galactic rim. Maybe not even the Oort cloud. Let’s say the asteroid belt because how could you tell the difference anyway?

One of my problems is that I like to start things but not finish them. That applies to writing too; plenty of half-completed musings sitting around on my hard drive and awaiting the day when I return and end them with a pithy punchline. But then the punchline never materializes and it gets harder and harder to get yourself to wrap up your thoughts.

So I’ll be trying a slightly different tack, moving to a more discursive and meandering and less focused approach. I’m thinking that without the pressure to come to a neat conclusion, I might be more willing to just get my thoughts out. That means that the things you might read in this space in the near future may not have a tight thesis with three supporting paragraphs or whatever; they may not have any particular purpose at all other than as an exploration of whatever particular idea I’m entertaining at the moment. But since I’m not writing for an academic audience (actually: what audience am I writing for? So far as I can tell, it consists of me), concision and focus be damned. Reviewer #2 is unwelcome in these parts.

Enjoy. Or don’t. But better if you do.

Sports Still not a Morality Play

The St. Louis Cardinals’ inept illegal access of the Houston Astros’ database is a hilarious sports scandal for many reasons. As an IT professional, I am giddy with inappropriate excitement over the Astros’ terrible password policies, but as a hater of cheap sentiment and unctuous mythmaking, I’m super-delighted that this happened to the Cards.

I don’t follow baseball at all, but if you read any sort of sports media, it’s impossible to escape the cult that the Cardinals have wrapped themselves in. Not content to be merely one of the most successful teams of all times, the Cardinals PR-machine puts out endless reams of propaganda about how everything the organization “wins the right way” and is just such a moral paragon. That this has now backfired on them in the worst way possible (federal indictments might be coming!) is just the most delicious of ironies.

Here’s the thing: we routinely conflate external characteristics with internal virtue, or lack thereof. Not just in sports, but in society generally. Rich and attractive people are perceived to be more virtuous than poor and ugly ones, despite the fact that there’s no connection whatsoever between these things. Still, sports is particularly bad at this; there’s no more tired sports cliche than the assertion that on-field performance reflects personal worth, even though it’s manifestly untrue. What this story should teach us, but won’t, is that winning and being a good person are totally unconnected. Winning is a function of team or individual performance in a contest of skill, and being a good person is, well, a song from an entirely different opera, as my people like to say. Teams should, but will not, stop wrapping themselves in moralistic language and pretending that their sports triumphs are indicative of anything other than their performance in those contests. Sports teams aren’t moral undertakings; they’re businesses designed for entertainment, and if they succeed at entertaining us, that ought to be enough.

It turns out that good people often lose and bad people often triumph, and there’s no real rhyme or reason to it. It’s nice when “good guys” win, but being a good guy guarantees nothing. You know, kinda like life.

Silly man says stupid thing, Silicon Valley edition

A fellow named Jerzy Gangi advances a bunch of hypotheses to answer a not-very-interesting question about why Silicon Valley funds some things (e.g. Instagram) and not others (e.g. Hyperloop). Along the way we get some speculation about the amount of cojones possessed by VCs (insufficient!) and how well the market rewards innovation (insufficiently!), but the question is boring because the answer is already well-known: infrastructure projects of the scope and scale of Hyperloop (provided they’re feasible to begin with) require massive up-front investments with uncertain returns, while an Instagram requires comparatively little investment with the promise of a big return. Mystery solved! You can PayPal me the $175 you would have given Gangi for the same information spread over an hour of time at grapesmoker@gmail.com.

Despite the fact that Gangi’s question is not very interesting on its own, his writeup of it actually contains an interesting kernel that I want to use as a touch-off point for exploring a a rather different idea. You see, while criticism of techno-utopianism (and Silicon Valley, its material manifestation which will be used metonymically with it from here on out) has been widespread, it usually doesn’t address a fundamental claim that Silicon Valley makes about itself; namely, that Silicon Valley is an innovative environment. Critics like Evgeny Morozov are likely to only be peripherally interested in the question; Morozov is far more concerned with asking whether the things Silicon Valley wants disrupted actually ought to be “disrupted.” Other critiques have focused on the increasing meaninglessness of that very concept and the deleterious effects that those disruptions have on the disrupted. But as a rule, discussion about Silicon Valley takes it for granted that Silicon Valley is the engine of innovation that it claims to be, even if that innovation comes at a price for some.

I think this is a fundamentally mistaken view. Silicon Valley is “innovative” only if your bar for innovation is impossibly low; (much) more often than not what Silicon Valley produces is merely a few well-known models repackaged in shinier wrapping. That this is so can be seen from looking at this list of recent Y Combinator startups. What, in all this, constitutes an “innovative” idea? The concept that one can use data to generate sales predictions? Or perhaps the idea of price comparison? The only thing on here that looks even remotely like something that’s developing new technology is the Thalmic whatsis, and even that is not likely to be anything particularly groundbreaking. These may or may not be good business ideas, but that’s not the question. The question is: where’s the innovation? And the answer is that there isn’t a whole lot of it, other than taking things that people used to do via other media (like buying health insurance) and making it possible to do over the internet.

There’s nothing wrong with not being innovative, by the way. Most companies are not innovative; they just try and sell a product that the consumer might want to buy. The problem is not the lack of innovation, but the blatant self-misrepresentation in which Silicon Valley collectively engages. It’s hardly possible to listen to any one of Silicon Valley’s ubiquitous self-promoters without hearing paeans to how wonderfully innovative it is; if the PR is to be believed, Silicon Valley is the source and font of all that is new and good in the world. Needless to say, this is a completely self-serving fantasy which bears very little resemblance to any historically or socially accurate picture of how real innovation actually happens. To the extent that any innovation took place in Silicon Valley, it didn’t take place at Y Combinator funded start-ups, but rather at pretty large industrial-size concerns like HP and Fairchild Semiconductor. No one in the current iteration of Silicon Valley has produced anything remotely as innovative as Bell Labs. Maybe the Tesla could yet live up to that lofty ideal, but it’s pretty unlikely that  internet company, no matter how successful, ever will.

Ha-Joon Chang has adroitly observed that the washing machine did more to change human life than the Internet has. But the washing machine is not shiny (anymore) or new (anymore) or sexy, so it’s easy to take it for granted. The Internet is not new (anymore) either, but unlike the washing machine, the capability exists to make it ever shinier, and then sell the resulting shiny objects as brand-new innovations when of course they aren’t really any such thing. As always, the actual product of Silicon Valley is, by and large, the myth of its own worth and merit; what’s being sold is not any actual innovation but a story about who is to be classed as properly innovative (and thereby preferably left untouched by regulation and untaxed by the very social arrangements which make their existence possible).

Beneath a Steel Sky

About a year and a half ago, I went to San Francisco for a conference, and while I was there I met up with an old high school friend who lived in the East Bay. We went walking around the city, talking, and in a totally unexpected twist in the narrative the topic of discussion veered toward political matters. One of the things we talked about was the difference in political attitudes between the former USSR and the present-day USA, and on that topic, I suggested that one of the biggest difference was the relative intangibility of crisis in America.

That needs explained, as they say here in the 412. What I mean by that is not that large sectors, or even the majority of the population, have been able to escape the consequences of the Great Recession and the corresponding catastrophe of governance that Republicans have managed to create at every level. What I mean is that despite all these things, the country still looks like it’s running. A great deal of that is obviously administrative inertia, but as we all learned in high school physics, momentum is mass times velocity. The bureaucratic machinery may not have a great deal of the latter, but it has enough of the former that it can grind on for quite some time (apparently Belgium did not cease to exist despite failing to have an official elected government for more than a year): you get up in the morning and you still go to your job (if you’re lucky enough to have one) via mostly-functioning highways; by and large, the electricity is still on in the vast majority of places (if you can afford to pay for it); the world physically looks more or less all right, since the rot underneath hasn’t quite surfaced as physical manifestation. In the USSR, on the other hand, that manifestation was ubiquitous; you can joke about bread lines all you want, but the truth is that bread lines absolutely existed. You couldn’t really go outside and not be confronted with your governments failures.

In short, it’s easy to be oblivious in America, as long as you’re still reasonably well off. It’s even easier and better if you’re unreasonably well off. And since it’s the unreasonably well off who control the tempo and content of our political conversation, a great number of people continue to walk around with a vague sense of unease that something has gone terribly wrong, but with no adequate framework for explaining just what it is that has gone wrong and no overt physical manifestation of the wrongness[1]. Because the machine grinds on.

Except when it doesn’t. Which brings us to the debt ceiling debate.

I feel like I should somehow be angrier about this than I really am, but owing to my own relatively privileged position within the great chain of being, I find myself every bit as much under the sway of the cognitive biases outlined above. The infrastructure may be crumbling all around me, but it’s doing it pretty slowly, so every day physically appears a lot like the previous day. The same (sometimes boarded-up) buildings are still there; the buses (fare increases and all) are still running; the streets (Moon-worthy craters notwithstanding) have not yet deteriorated to the point of being undriveable (though many are unbikeable). Everything looks like it’s more or less the same.

But it’s obviously not, because on December 31st, the federal government has officially run into the debt ceiling. Which means that the money required to keep the machine grinding is going to run out, and it’s going to run out very soon, because the Republican House refuses to do what the House has done year in and year out for about a century and raise it. Put simply, obligations already committed to by the government will go unpaid; the country might, quite literally, default.

This should be an unthinkable set of circumstances for the largest and wealthiest economy in the world, and yet here we are. Since Republicans have decided that economic terrorism was the way forward, they’ve quite sensibly taken a hostage that they’re willing to shoot; it just so happens that the hostage is the American economy. What “negotiation” is possible when a minority (and make no mistake about it, Republicans are nationally less popular than Democrats) literally threatens to destroy the economy if it doesn’t get its way? The term “nuclear option” is frequently overused, but that would seem appropriate here. The Republicans have strapped an economic nuclear weapon to themselves and are threatening to take down everyone, including their own constituents.

The whole thing seems absolutely surreal; it’s as though, while intellectually convinced that we’re on a plane headed towards a mountain, most of us (and most of our so-called elites) are sitting calmly in our seats knitting[2]. Maybe it’s the overwhelming sense of despair at being able to actually achieve anything, or the vapidity of the ongoing conversation. Sensible people keep saying things like “JESUS CHRIST PULL UP ON THE STICK SO WE CAN CLEAR THIS FUCKING MOUNTAIN BEFORE YOU KILL US ALL,” but one of the ornery co-pilots has wedged the control stick so far up his asshole that the only way to get to it would be to cut the bastard open stern-to-stern. Too bad all we’ve got on this flight are plastic knives.

At times like these it feels tempting to ascribe the whole thing to some sort of collective insanity. But that’s not fair to actually insane people, nor is it accurate as an assessment of what’s actually going on. You could do some game-theoretical reasoning about the lack of incentives that Republican have to cooperate due to gerrymandering and primary threats, and you would be right, but it takes a special kind of sociopath to look reality in the face and decide that we’re better off plunging into the mountain because it would avoid having to compromise one’s highly-principled stand that no airplane should fly above 10,000 feet. Which is all to say that all of this is deliberate and planned and explainable by simply reading what the principal participants have to say about it.

In the next few weeks, I suppose we’re going to find out whether we clear the mountain after all, or whether the price of America’s continued existence is going to be throwing a good third of the passengers off the plane mid-flight because otherwise we’re all going to die. Recent trends do not justify optimistic projections.


[1] Obviously, for many people the wrongness does manifest itself: in lost jobs, in rising health care premiums, in decreased funding for education, and in many other ways. The point isn’t that people aren’t suffering, it’s that the conversation is controlled by an upper stratum of the elite, who are decidedly not suffering at all; this prevents any kind of serious structural analysis from emerging to help people make sense of what’s going on.

[2] I don’t know why knitting except that it’s the kind of thing I imagine one might do if one wanted to calm themselves. Substitute your favorite calming activity here.

A Completely True Though By No Means Exhaustive List of Items Discovered While Cleaning Out the Trunk of My Car

2 basketballs
2 sets of dress socks, apparently never worn
1 permit for parking on the Harvard campus, date fall of 2007
1 car 12V-to-USB adapter
1 hardcover copy of The Indigestible Triton, by L. Ron Hubbard
1 paperback copy of Young Torless, by Robert Musil, cover missing
1 book of Erwin Panofsky’s essays, cover drenched in what appears to be laundry detergent
1 empty bottle of laundry detergent, Tide
1 automotive emergency kit, with gloves
1 tire iron
an indeterminate number of bungee cords, various sizes
an indeterminate amount of objects ostensible related to windsurfing, including mast base, sail ribs, and harness elements
1 empty cardboard box, apparently used to ship a keyboard
1 half-used roll of quarters
1 $1 bill
1 tube of toothpaste, still in original packaging, also drenched in laundry detergent
2 sets of ratchet ropes
1 piece of plastic apparently once removed from underside of car, function unknown
1 can of Raid Ant & Roach spray
2 Raid ant traps
2 null modem cables
1 BNC cable
1 binder full of astrophysics papers
1 binder containing the printed version of Dodelson’s Modern Cosmology
1 copy of A Documentary History of Art

Further reports as excavations progress.

First Impressions

So the NBA season began for reals last night. Allegedly both Kyrie Irving and Sideshow Bob played pretty well for the Cavs, but on the other hand it was against the Wizards, so who really knows about that. Which, incidentally, is a weird way to start the season; it’s like the NBA telling you, “Yeah, we’ve got these two marquee matchups for you, but we’re going to whet your appetite for them with a game that hardly anyone outside the two fanbases could possibly care about.”

Before we move on, let me pause and thank all the gods, basketball and otherwise, for the existence of www.basketball-reference.com. This year they’ve added a feature which I hadn’t seen before: a shot chart that shows you where every team took shots from on the floor. In general, it’s a fucking brilliant resource. All hail it.

Anyways, I sort of half-watched the Celtics-Heat game and my basic impression was ARRR WHAT ARE YOU DOING JASON TERRY. Obviously, the Celtics still have a way to go before their team coheres around a single game plan, so it’s pointless to read too much into the results of the game. What I liked was: Rondo getting his own shot, to the tune of a 20-7-13 statline on 64% shooting. This is what he has to be like for the Celtics the whole year if they’re going to have a successful season. Courtney Lee and Leandro Barbosa were both outstanding; I’m especially happy for Barbosa, whom I’ve liked since his days as a Sun. Boston out-rebounded Miami on both ends, and in general had a very efficient offensive game, shooting 52% from the field and 46% from 3.

What I didn’t like: Miami shot a pretty unreal 50% from 3, 54% from the field, and forced a shitton of turnovers. Ray Allen torched his former teammates for 19 points, two of which came via a glacially slow drive past his defender (don’t remember who) to finish at the rim. I know Jesus can still play and all, but when a 37-year-old Ray Allen is beating you off the dribble, something is wrong. The overall picture makes it look like the Celtics fell down on the defensive end, but that is somewhat misleading; while Miami did get a number of easy buckets via good ball movement, LeBron also had a very good shooting night on long 2’s and 3’s. In general, if you can get your opponent to take a long 2 (especially a contested one) early in the clock, that’s a good thing, and this time Miami made their shots.

Also, Jeff fucking Green. I know, I know, dude had a heart condition and all, but still: 0-4, 3 of those attempts coming from close range. Boooo! And Paul Pierce shot like ass.

Then there was the Mavs-Lakers game, which I only watched half of, but have no reason to think that my impressions from that half are not generalizable to the whole game. Namely, why would you waste Nash’s talents like that, Los Angeles? Will Mike Brown ever come up with a competent offensive scheme? What’s the point of having one of the best pick-and-roll point guards ever walking the ball up the court and handing it off to Gasol at the top of the key? Pau led the Lakers in assists with six(!) and while I realize that he’s a pretty good passer for a big man, that should not be happening when one of the best passers in the game is on your team. All this talk about the Princeton hybrid motion offense is, as far as I can tell, a bunch of technical-sounding bullshit that essentially means a bunch of very static offensive sets and generally poor off-the-ball movement. As Sir Charles astutely noted during the half-time report, Dwight should be running up and down the court; many times in the first half, Nash would try to start a fast break only to find that he had no support for a lob and no trailers for a quick 3.

And what to make of these Mavericks? There’s a sense in which this incarnation of the team is sort of like the title-winning squad of, fuck, was it really a year and a half ago? Shit. Obviously not as good as that team was, but resembling them in the sense that they seem to be assembled around Dirk and a bunch of castoffs from other teams. I really thought that Houston was going to be the Island of Misfit Basketball Toys this year, but now that they’ve got Harden, it’s a bit more difficult to put them in that category. Dallas, on the other hand… the ’11 team was forged from Jason Kidd (acquired from the Nets for Devin Harris and a bunch of junk, but clearly on the decline), Tyson Chandler (now looking fabulous, then a dubious reclamation project after years of injuries), Shawn Marion (once a plausible DPOY candidate, before being traded for two O’Neals in a row), J.J. Barea (famous for being short), Brendan Haywood (another failure in a long line of Cuban’s attempts to acquire a moderately competent center), Peja (when did that happen?), and the likes of Corey Brewer, Ian Mahinmi, and DeShawn Stevenson. I’m not even counting Caron Butler, who was out for the second half of the season with a broken hand. Seriously, those people all played non-negligible roles on a championship team; some of them actually played starring roles. If anything can be a testament to Rick Carlisle’s coaching ability, it must be the fact that he won a title with a team seemingly assembled out of spare parts that no one thought to use. It’s like MacGuyvering a functional television out of circuitry harvested from a scrap heap: a technically possible but unlikely achievement by anyone but a real master.

Now the Mavs are at it again; of course, they won’t win a title this year, and many commentators don’t even have them making the playoffs, which I would argue is a bit premature. Seriously though, can anyone look at this team and honestly predict good things? Sure, if Dirk and Kaman (free-agent castoff) come back and stay healthy, if Rodrigue Beaubois can consistently play well, if Darren Collison (surplus to requirements at Indiana after backing up George Hill) can do point-guardy things and run the two-man game with Dirk, if O.J. Mayo (dumped by the Grizzlies) doesn’t continue regressing, if Vince Carter (oh god…) can resist taking 15 ill-advised long jumpers per game, if Brandan Wright continues to be a serviceable center, if Eddy Curry (Eddy Curry! Eddy Curry! AAAAAHHHH) doesn’t eat himself out of shape yet again, if Elton Brand (amenstied by the Sixers) can average 10 PPG, if Shawn Marion can muster up another year of all-NBA defense… that’s enough ifs for a Kipling poem. This team isn’t just a reclamation project, it’s like someone is trying to build a space shuttle out of old car parts. So many things have to go right for this team to even contend on any given night that if Carlisle gets them to the playoffs with a 6-seed or higher, he has to be the coach of the year; I can’t think of anyone other than maybe Doc Rivers (maybe Stan Van Gundy?) who could achieve that.

Oh god, it’s really on, isn’t it.

Useful Information for New Parents

  • A baby can chew through a meter of reinforced concrete in just under one hour. It is advised to keep them away from building foundations.
  • Babies are naturally fluent in Lisp. As their baby parentheses fall out, they transition to Python.
  • Babies are born fans of the Dutch national soccer team. They also prefer PSV Eindhoven to Ajax.
  • If more than five babies are together in one room and they are all awake, they may levitate.
  • Babies may pass through black holes without harm, making them perfect for exploration of parallel universes.
  • You should always hold your baby so that your hand is supporting their head; otherwise your baby’s head may retreat into its armed carapace.
  • Babies are rocket-propelled. You should always carry a net to catch them if they take off.
  • Babies naturally secrete hydrazine.
  • When babies vote, they only do it via methods that satisfy the Condorcet condition.
  • A baby can inflate to three times its normal size when spooked.

We Forge Our Spirits In the Tradition of Our NBA Ancestors

I’m under some measure of psychic stress right now that prevents me from writing coherently about anything that’s difficult to think about, which is most things. But I’m still capable of writing about basketball, so I’ll probably just do that for a while.

As regular readers of this space might know, the tens digit just rolled over on my personal odometer. In tribute to my ever-closer demise, I’d like to dedicate an indeterminate number of words to the deeds of the NBA’s current senior citizens. Every once in a while, I’ll select a baller of advanced years and write a sort of appraisal of their life and work. So if you care to know what I think about Ray Allen, Kurt Thomas (that’s right, he’s still in the league), Steve Nash, and other decrepit oldsters, and I know you do, keep your eyes on this blog. I’ll also tell you what I think about Jeremy Lin (spoiler: the whole thing irritates me to no end), the Washington Wizards (spoiler: they’re terrible… but how terrible?) and Bill Simmons (spoiler: he’s a raging sexist). It might not be nearly as fascinating as a discussion of why Saul Kripke’s puzzle about belief is actually no puzzle at all, but it should definitely fill any quota you might have for prolix posts about inconsequential shit. And who knows, you might even come back for the Kripke post.