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Begriffschrift dependencies, (c) Kevin Scharp (2003)

If you are a human, the biggest influence on your personality is your peer group. Choose your peers.

  • Idioms I love
    punk, Latin jazz, statistics & machine learning, black comedy, epistemology, 4X, informal logic, economic rationality, eclecticism and pluralism, purism and monism. Birdwatching. American pragmatism, French liberalism, English liberalism, Afro-futurism, hacker lore, adult swim animation, synth-pop, hard science-fiction, effective altruism, transhumanism, empiricism of all kinds, lists. I love these things and find value in ordinary examples of them.

  • Idioms I am open to
    cinema in the arch sense, linguistics descriptive and prescriptive, hip-hop, free verse, country, trance, analytic philosophy, camp, mathematics, qawwali, sketch comedy, body positivity, bodybuilder positivity, gender abolitionism, bondage, feminism, mono no aware, Early music, senryu, reggae, folk, drone, ambient, glitch, funk, Romanticism, modernism, Hollywood action films, Art Nouveau, Art Deco. I can feel the value of the best of these things.

  • Idioms I am not very open to
    any kind of fashion, depressant chemicals, jurisprudence, house, anime/manga, faith, self-help and pseudo motivation, muscular hypertrophy, artspeak, MFA writing, video monologues (i.e. 90% of Youtube), infographics, enterprise computing, the illiberal or revolutionary left, haute cuisine, Palaeo, primitivism, Neoreaction, phenomenology and critical theory and psychoanalysis, telenovella and soap, ballet and Dance, wuxia, steampunk, haiku, aleatory, fanfiction, period drama, continental philosophy, celebrity culture, social theory, typography, education theory, cultural anthropology, noise. I can't feel the value of even the best of these things.

These are my favourite and potentially favourite books.

My favourite philosophers, in terms of substantive agreement, are Hilary Putnam90s (on meta-ethics and language), David Pearce (on animals, biochemicals, the ontology of qualia, the point of science), Mary Midgley (on virtue, culture and on scientism), Rorty (on anything but ontology), Joseph Heath, and Philip Kitcher (on inquiry as a thing). My favourites in terms of style are Epicurus, Hume, Wittgenstein, Taleb, and Nietzsche.

My favourite net intellectuals are ‘Scott Alexander’; Noah Smith, Kelsey 'Caring'; Ozy Frantz; ‘Gwern Branwen’, Robert Wiblin, Chris Dillow, Charlie Stross, and John Emerson. My favourite polemicists are Ernest Gellner, Eliezer Yudkowsky, Steve Keen, Camille Paglia, David Stove, Nietzsche, and Marx. (They are each a complete joy to read, but they may not be good for me.)

People I love, despite having never even met them: Borges, Turing, Scott Alexander, Pessoa.

My favourite aphorists are Nietzsche, Lichtenberg, Pessoa, Cioran, Rochefoucauld, Gide, Perlis. My favourite young dead are Frank Ramsey, D Boon, Aaron Swartz, Niels Abel. My favourite terrible human beings are Taleb, Larkin, Lennon, Wittgenstein. (People think Nietzsche was terrible, but he was actually a harmless lovely lamb with a big mouth.)

My favourite Aristotelian distinctions are the modes of persuasion (ethos, logos and pathos), the realms of mechanics (celestial and terrestrial), the levels of friendship (commercial, hedonic, affinity) and his 'fourfold division' of everything (into primitives, non-substantial particulars, universals, non-substantial universals).

My favourite poets are Auden, Crichton Smith, Larkin, Dickinson. My favourite Scottish poets are Crichton, Paterson, MacDiarmid (work only), Naomi Mitchison, and sweet Mackay Brown. My favourite Irish poets are Ciaran Carson, Heaney, Yeats, Sebastian Barry, and Paul Durcan. My favourite Englishers are Auden, Larkin, Clare, Lawrence, Hardy, and I suppose Manley Hopkins or Townshend Warner and that lot. I haven't tried very hard with Welsh people, but I like Thomas, Cowper Powys and Herbert. My favourite North American poets are Whitman, Stevens, Dickinson, Carlos Williams, and Bishop. My favourite poets in translation are Lorca, Milosz, Gombrowicz, Schiller, Catullus, and I will crack on with Chinese soon. My favourite hip-hop is Cannibal Ox, Shabazz Palaces, OutKast, Aesop Rock, and MF Doom. I wish I liked Scott or Tagore but I can't.

My favourite critics: Jonathan Meades, Simon Reynolds, Dave Hickey, Piero Scaruffi, Geoff Dyer, Clive James, Emily Nussbaum, David Foster Wallace, Pierre Bayard, Chuck Klosterman, John Earls. My favourite novelists are Iris Murdoch, Nabokov, Graham Greene, and the David Foster Wallace nub. My favourite Scottish novelists are James Kelman, Iain Banks, Eric Linklater, and Muriel Spark. My favourite sci-fi authors are Ted Chiang, Charlie Stross, Iain Banks, Alfred Bester, China Mieville, Frederik Pohl, Dan Simmons, Neal Stephenson, and Dick.

My favourite large terrestrial phenomena are clouds (especially cumulo-nimbus); volcanic land formation; axial oscillation; the great iron geodynamo; humans; and the ongoing oxygen catastrophe and its trees. My favourite large celestial phenomena are slingshots; time and time dilation; the possibility of fecund universes and panspermia. My favourite chemical processes are chemolithotrophy (esp. anammox); permineralisation and vitrification; the adenosine and melatonin cycles; hydrocarbon combustion.

My favourite species are gorse/whin/furze; the common starling; the sakura tree; otters; the African elephant; the arum lily; polar bears. My favourite subpopulations are the Metro dogs of Moscow; these capuchins; and the effective altruists of San Francisco and Oxford. My favourite extinct species are the Megatherid ground sloth and the Pinta Island Tortoise. My favourite fictional species are selkies; Vermicious Knids; manbirds; counting pines; and Am Fear Liath Mòr. My favourite species names are the Powerful owl; Preseucoela imallshookupis; the four species listed in the preamble here; Paradisaea guilielmi; amorphophallus titanum; and Psephophorus terrypratchetti.

My favourite ridiculous Cold War gambits are Project Pluto ($2 billion: "an unshielded nuclear powered low altitude ramjet that you can’t stop once you start it up") the Salyut-7 heist, Project ORION, Project Oilsand ("nuke Alberta until the oil settles on top"), Project Azorian ($3.8 billion to pick up an entire Russian submarine from the bottom of the ocean).

My favourite languages are German, braid Scots, simplified vernacular Beijing Chinese, Kihaya. (English is not a language, it is my lungs.) My favourite computer languages are Scala, Python, Rust, and the humble, unimprovable Markdown and LaTeX. I also get a perverse kick out of bash. My indent style is Pico, to the chagrin of everyone I have ever worked with.

My favourite units are the MIPS, scoville, the ban (or hartley) and the avabit, the micromort, the nanodijkstra, nebuchadnezzar, talent. My favourite abstract constants are the Cantor set's fractal dimension (log2/log3); the Euler totient constant (zeta(2)*zeta(3))/zeta(6); Chaitin's constant. My favourite experimental scientists are Robert Hooke, Daniel Kahneman, Robert Koch, Rutherford, Raymond Davis Jr, Adrian Wenner, Richard Lenski, Benjamin Libet, and Archie Cochrane and therefore Esther Duflo. My favourite theoretical scientists are James Clerk Maxwell, Mendeleev, Feynman, Claude Shannon, Noam Chomsky, and Wolfgang Pauli, the nega-experimentalist. My favourite statisticians are Andrew Gelman, Deborah Mayo, John Tukey, Edwin Jaynes, and David Freedman. My favourite computer people are Edsger Dijkstra, Michael Rabin, Scott Aaronson, Judea Pearl, and Gwern. My favourite metascientists are Celia Mulrow, Edwin Jaynes, Archie Cochrane, John Ioannidis, Randall Collins, Colin Camerer, Steven Greenberg, Gwern, Jeff Leek, and Joe Simmons and Uri Simonsohn. Note how many of the latter are statisticians.

My favourite algorithms are git merge, Cooley-Tukey, Baum-Welch, radix sort, RSA. My favourite particular mathematical objects are the Generalised circle, the Carmichael numbers, the Monster group, the long line, abstract nonsense, and hidden Markov models. No real favourite proofs yet, though I enjoyed this bagatelle, and I'd like to be the kind of person who can say that Jaynes on Cox's theorem sent them into raptures. I am shallow in architecture, but some of my favourite buildings are: the Liverpool Metro Cathedral; the Bank of China HQ; Broadway Tower; the Tblisi Central Registry Palace; Zellulosi.

My favourite mathematicians are very clichéd at the moment. My favourite mathematics are combinatorics, probability theory, group theory, model theory, and category theory.

My favourite machine learning people are: Jeff Leek, John Tukey, Pedro Domingos, Peter Norvig, Ken Cukier, Sebastian Thrun. My favourite 'data "scientists"' are Cathy O'Neil, Peter Hurford, Jake Porway.

The software which improves my life most is LeechBlock, RedShift, PIA, WolframAlpha, Google Sheets, Calibre, ChromeDevTools. My favourite websites by frequency of use are, Wiktionary, Hacker News, Google Sheets, Spotify, and Slate Star Codex. My favourite UIs are Bloomberg Terminal, Pinta, 4-player Rock Band 2, and Chrome DevTools. My favourite APIs (web and cmd) are Gmaps, Twilio, Spark and

My favourite leftists are Jon Elster, Robert Paul Wolff, Nancy Fraser, David Graeber, and Erik Olin Wright. My favourite left liberals are Martha Nussbaum, Peter Singer, Amartya Sen, Charles Taylor (left communitarian, whatever), and Richard Rorty. My favourite right liberals are Mill, Deirdre McCloskey, Clive James (who is centrist, if anyone is), John Gray (agonistic post-liberal, whatever), and Tyler Cowen. My favourite libertarians are David Friedman, Deirdre, Will Wilkinson, Bryan Caplan, Ken White. I don't think I have any favourites on the far end except I guess Nietzsche - though I wouldn't say he really has a politics anyway. My favourite journalists are Greenwald, Gellhorn, Shane Bauer, Kevin Drum.

Favourite political revolutions: the American, the February, the Haitian, the pre-Weimar. All pale next to the Scientific and the Industrial. My favourite statespeople on principle are: William Penn, Sun Yatsen, Tony Benn, John Wilkes; my favourite by effects are Dou Yifang (竇猗房), Edmund Burke, Peter the Great, Deng Xiaoping, Jefferson, Attlee; my favourite sitting politicians are Onora O'Neill, John Lewis...

The best literal teachers I ever had were Gerald R Harrison (the transformations of reason), Bob Plant (indeterminacy, the importance of modesty and deflationism), David Newlands (anger is an energy), Luca Moretti, Karen Renaud, Lewis Mackenzie (the awe of the formal and physical), Chris W Johnson (man in the machine), Shaomin Lee-Murray (who named me), John Morrice, Julian Lethbridge and Glen McIntosh.

My favourite economists are Thomas Schelling; Deirdre McCloskey; Esther Duflo; Dani Rodrik; Robin Hanson; Piero Sraffa. My favourite linguists are Geoff Pullum, Mark Liberman, John Coleman, Noam Chomsky. My favourite psychologists are Kahneman, Jonathan Haidt, Stuart Ritchie, Joshua Greene, and Daniel Gilbert. My favourite historians are Jonathan Meades (and his research crew), Karen Armstrong, Charles Taylor, Isaiah Berlin, and Jonathan Israel. My favourite sociologists are Erving Goffman, Weber, Steve Fuller, André Gorz, Jon Elster, Kieran Healy. My favourite political scientists / developmentalists / area studies / blah people are Chris Blattman, Henry Farrell, William Easterly. My favourite feminists are Barbara Ehrenreich, Gloria Steinem, Iris Marion Young, Germaine Greer, and Adrienne Rich. I only recently realised that I'd missed out anthropologists here; my favourite anthropologist is Ernest Gellner or David Graeber. My favourite entrepreneurs are Drew Durbin, Patrick Collison, Holden Karnofsky, Benjamin Todd, and yes Musk.

My favourite comics are Stewart Lee, Chris Morris, Peter Cook, and Dylan Moran. My favourite humorists are Clive James, PG Wodehouse, Evelyn Waugh, Dorothy Parker, Kurt Vonnegut, HL Mencken, Zach Weiner, and Nigel Blackwell. My favourite actors are Brendan Gleeson, Gene Wilder, Gary Oldman, Juliette Binoche, Klaus Kinski, and Henry Fonda. My least favourite actors are Marina Sirtis, John Barrowman, Marilyn Monroe. (A good joke is to include Nic Cage in both lists.) My favourite directors are Herzog, Lumet, Capra, the Coens, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. My favourite screenwrights are Mike Judge, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Aaron Sorkin, Charlie Kaufman, Stephen Poliakoff, and in a way Herzog. (Maybe Rian Johnson eventually.) My favourite playwrights are Bennett, Pinter, Lochhead, Shakey, and Friel.

My favourite webcomics are SMBC, Hyperbole and a Half, Hark! A Vagrant, Dead Philosophers, and Rice Boy. My favourite cartoons are Harvey Birdman, Adventure Time, Rick and Morty, Futurama, Metalocalypse, anything by Patar and Aubier. My favourite game developers were Team Little Devils/Clover/Platinum, Rareware ('94-'01)/FreeRadical, Nippon Ichi, Firaxis, and Harmonix. My favourite mystics are Baizhang Huaihai, Robert Pirsig, Roger Penrose, James Reid, David Bohm, and Krishnamurti. My favourite possessions are my ten trillion Zimbabwean dollar note, my full-size folding bike, my library, the structure of my e-library, the comment at the bottom of this page, and the 100 notebooks I filled while I was 16 to 25 years old.

I am bad with visual art, but I really like Giorgio de Chirico; Paul Cézanne; Brueghel the Younger; Andrew Wyatt. I am becoming less bigoted. (I like critics more than artists.)

My favourite bands are Half Man Half Biscuit, E Street Band, Wave Pictures, Billie the Vision, Even in Blackouts, and anything with Andrew Falkous in it. My favourite singer/songwriters are Luke Kelly, Iris deMent, Joanna Newsom, John Darnielle, Aimee Mann. My favourite crooners are Neil Hannon, Rufus, Tom Waits, Fiona Apple. My favourite bad singers are Sam Hui, Frank Portman, Dexter Holland, Greig Steak, Jarvis Cocker, Gordon Gano, Howe Gelb, David Byrne, Blake Schwarzenbach.

My favourite punk bands are the Minutemen, Bad Religion, Descendents, Boom Boom Kid, Misfits ('77-83), Fugazi, and Mclusky-Future of the Left. My favourite synth-pop is TNJX, Ratatat, Freezepop, Chairlift. My favourite classical pieces are Appalachian Spring, Sleeping Beauty, the St John Passion, Salome, Chopin's Nocturnes and I am made laughably sentimental by Canon in D'. My favourite thug-hop is Big Pun, Raekwon, Eminem, and duh Jay-Z.

My favourite saxophonists are Colin Stetson, Ornette Coleman, Coltrane, Clarence Clemens and Charlie Parker. My favourite guitarists are Marc Ribot, Robert Quine, David Tattersall, Guy Picciotto, John Perry, Nick Pynn, St Vincent, and yeah John Darnielle. My favourite Latin bandleaders are Desi Arnaz, Gilberto Gil, Xavier Cugat, Tito Puente and Tom Ze. I will have favourite cellists one day. Albums here; I'll catch up one day.

My favourite things per se are novelty, sudden relevance, brevity, the act of publishing, Pakistan green, loving, and lists. My favourite free things: sneezing, libraries, cold water, the contents of Github, Spotify Premium, . The worst things I love are Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, Trailer Park Boys, The Lonely Island, Herzog's narration, chips n curry sauce. The most overrated things are nightclubs, bacon, utopia, parenthood and Freud.


  1. Utterly charming. In the nature of such lists one does not expect to agree with every, single one---of course not. But the lists exhibit a lively and critical mind, unwilling to follow the usual party lines.

    Deirdre Nansen McCloskey


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