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October 25, 2016

RIP Steven Den Beste of the USS Clueless, One of the Most Insightful of the First Wave of Bloggers

He had a mossy mind, vibrant and always looking for new cracks to dig into.

He was also, at least for a short time, a guest blogger here.

I had always thought Den Beste was an exciting writer, in the sense that you never really knew what kind of Learning Adventure you'd be going on when you clicked on his blog. He had a Renaissance Man's mind; he seemed to know a great many things, and fairly esoteric ones besides, and could explain them with clarity and a great deal of speed -- zippiness.

He'd just introduce new terms to some discussion you'd never heard from anyone else -- you know, how most people are content to regurgitate the same tribal received wisdom they heard from a blogger, some talking head on tv, or a comedian. (!)

Den Beste eschewed that and instead only contributed to a conversation when he actually had something to contribute. (What an idea -- to only speak when you have something interesting or novel to say! How "Web 1.0"!)

I remember thinking "No one has ever said this before" when he discussed the "scaling problems" inherent in alternative energy. (I can't find the old USS Clueless post on this, but in 2008 he responded to a reader who had stumbled across that old post.)

Another huge a-ha moment came for me when I read his post on Tit-For-Tat in game theory, and its applications to real world competitions (primarily, in war and in politics.)

That's another column I can't seem to reach via the Internet, but at the end of this post I quote extensively from it.

Update: Thanks to Mama AJ, here's an archived copy of the Prisoner's Dilemma/Tit for Tat post.

I should say that Den Beste belonged to a pre-professional blogging age (such as it may well be), a novice/hobbyist phase, when writers would just write about whatever interested them at that moment, whether it "fit the format" or whatever. Rather like I've heard FM radio was when it first came out, as opposed to heavily-programmed/demographically-targeted AM.)

Instapundit did that and still does. Personally, though I've always preferred that kind of blogging, I've largely abandoned it, mostly to focus on politics, which I find increasingly hateful.

Eh, given that I'm going to be seguing more and more out of "conservative" politics, maybe I'll try to get back to more Den Beste style blogging.

I really can't tell you how much respect I had for him. He really was just a tremendously curious person -- he liked learning things, and he liked sharing what he'd learned. As I get older myself, it occurs to me that that sort of perpetual delight in learning is really the only way to keep one's brain in a youngish state.

A true gem of a mind. I wish I'd met him, and I surely wish his body had some of the youth and vitality of his brain.

All the good ones are dying, and the young ones coming up are vile.


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posted by Ace at 03:14 PM

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