My Faults My Own

…beleaguered by the same

negation and despair,

show an affirming flame.

IN WHICH Ross Rheingans-Yoo, a sometimes-poet and erstwhile student of Computer Science and Math, oc­cas­ion­al­ly writes on things of int­erest.

Reading Feed (last update: October 15)

A collection of things that I was happy I read. Views expressed by linked authors are chosen because I think they're interesting, not because I think they're correct, unless indicated otherwise.


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Blog: Marginal Revolution | Is the World Bank lending too much to China? — "As I understand it, the World Bank makes money on these loans and there is a cross-subsidy of other Bank activities, most of all aid. A World Bank that stopped such loans would be poorer and less skilled, and over time could devolve into one of the poorer, less effective poverty-fighting parts of the United Nations, without much of a political power base at that."


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Blog: Marginal Revolution | Blade Runner 2049 (some Straussian spoilers) — "It hardly makes any concessions to the Hollywood vices of this millennium and indeed much of the Tysons Corner

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A Verse for the Fourth

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep (where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes), what is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep -- as it fitfully blows -- half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam; in full glory reflected now shines in the stream: ’tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.


As a friend reminded me recently, the better-remembered verse is a question, which is almost always left unanswered.

But today, what is our answer to the question "O! say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave?"

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12/25/15 #2: A Nontrivially Improved Future


One of the problems with being an avowed altruist is that it's hard to talk about it with other people without coming across like you're trying to claim you're better than them.

One of the problems with being an aspiring effective altruist is that it's hard to talk about it with other people without coming across like you're trying to claim you're better than everyone else, including other avowed altruists, and definitely including non-altruistic plebes.

(This, I think, is something of a barrier to effective altruism becoming a more popular thing, and I'd like to see it change.)

But if I can't write about this in the locus of the interval between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I can't write about it at all, and that would

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12/25/15 #1: A Highly Improbable Peace

Today is the hundredth anniversary of the World War I Christmas Truce, where a hundred thousand German and Allied soldiers left trenches, ventured into no-man's-land, played football, and sang carols.

Illustration from the 1915 London News: Allied and German soldiers fraternizing in no-man's-land.


This year, one of the speakers at the university Carols Services mentioned this fact, and attendees were provided with both English and German lyrics, to sing their choice. The resulting mess didn't have much in the way of distinct words, but the tune was unmistakeable and powerful, and there was something profoundly humbling about singing it in the Memorial Church, erected in honor of the men who gave their lives in that war and the next.

(Crimson photo gallery of the service -- you can spot the back of my head in the first photo if you look hard.)


There's something otherworldly about the idea, isn't there? -- that there was a day of the year where (literally) mortal enemies

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Meaning in the Darkness

This is part 3 of a multi-part sequence on celebrating the middle of winter. [part 1] [part 2]


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For some people, the story of Christmas brings light to the darkness of winter. The reminder of a savior, born in the most humble circumstance -- whose sacrifice would, forty years later, save all mankind from our sins -- is an inspiration to generosity and a source of wonder. For me, it hasn't been that for quite some time.

I don't have any particular problem with other people using the Christ-story to build a holiday which is wonderful for them, but it's not the right thing for me. The innocent child, the prince of peace, lying in a manger has never reduced me to tears -- the story feels a bit, to me, like arbitrary words which translate to "Now it is Christmas; be happy!" And yes, Christmas is a happy

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A Circle of Light

This is part 2 of a multi-part post on celebrating the middle of winter. [part 1] [part 3]


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Last weekend, I and a few friends traveled to New York to attend a winter solstice celebration. Ray Arnold, who ran the event, did a brief writeup, but I figure I'd put forward (1) my perspective and (2) my thoughts on the event.

What actually happened? Well, it looked a lot like a church service -- some people told some stories and we sang lots of songs together. But the story that pulled us together wasn't "Once upon a time, a virgin gave birth to the son of God in a manger."; ours went something like this: (I'm paraphrasing from Ray's masterful telling at the event itself; alternatively, you can read some of his own words)

Once upon a time, winter was death. The world got cold and harsh, and if

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How Do You Spend the Darkest Night?

This is part 1 of a multi-part sequence on celebrating the middle of winter. [part 2] [part 3]

The sequence jumps around a lot before I get into the real arc of things. I promise it's all going somewhere coherent eventually.


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The other day, a few carolers treated the Eliot dining hall to a rendition of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen":

God rest you merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay, for Jesus Christ our savior was born on Christmas Day, to save us all from Satan's power when we were gone astray. Oh, tidings of comfort and joy...

And more recently, this happened:

Shepherds, why this jubilee? Why these songs of happy cheer? What great brightness did you see? What glad tiding did you hear? Gloria in excelsis deo! Come to Bethlehem and see him whose birth the angels sing. Come, adore on bended knee Christ the Lord, the

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