THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

Open Thread 104.5

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. As the off-weekend thread, this is culture-war-free, so please try to avoid overly controversial topics. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server.

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313 Responses to Open Thread 104.5

  1. meh says:

    Why do podcasts that have their entire archive available do ‘rebroadcast’ episodes?

    • phil says:

      To highlight the old episodes?

      Most of the audience likely hasn’t listened to the whole archive, and likely never will, seems like a way of saying if you’re interested in checking out a few old episodes, this might be a good one to start with.

    • doubleunplussed says:

      It plays the role of curation, like a “best of” list. Also, many listeners don’t bother to go back through the archives (even though they know there’s good stuff there – trivial inconveniences etc) so it increases the odds people will actually listen to the better old stuff, improving the podcast quality for the average listener.

      But something it does that a “best of” list doesn’t is that it provides a coordination mechanism, such that the whole community of listeners is reminded about that episode at the same time, and knows that other listeners were similarly reminded. So they can talk about it with others, which helps build and maintain a community.

      That might not be why the podcasters do it – I was just listening to a freakonomics rebroadcast where they just said (paraphrasing) “it’s been a slow week so here’s a rebroadcast”. But I like that podcasts do it for the curation and coordination reasons.

      • Anon. says:

        This raises the question: why are there so few “best of” lists in places that would benefit immensely from them?

        I find a new blog, it looks interesting, there are 500 posts in the archive. I look around for a “best posts” lists and…nothing. Why wouldn’t you highlight your best stuff for new readers?

        • Aapje says:

          I can see why authors wouldn’t do it, because it is unpleasant work to keep it up to date.

          I wonder why blog hosts, like WordPress, don’t offer this as an easy option, allowing you to view posts by popularity.

    • bean says:

      I suspect the world breaks down into those who binge archives and those who don’t, with the later in the majority. They haven’t heard it before, or it’s been long enough that hearing it again isn’t annoying. And content creation is hard. If you have a schedule slot to fill, you’re busy, and you have something that’s good and old enough that you don’t risk irritating your audience, why not run it again?

    • ana53294 says:

      To show you still stand by it?
      There are three reasons why it may not be worth for most people to dig through an archive:
      1) The quality of the presentation. In the case of videos, the difference in quality is so big that youtube bloggers sometimes re-make videos that were popular. In the case of a broadcast, there will still be issues with the script, etc.
      2) People change opinions, grow up. If you have been doing it for long enough, there may be archives from when you were a teenager, or whatever. You may have moved right, or left.
      3) The current state of evidence made you change your opinion. For example, you could be one of those people who said “Butter is terrible, use margarine instead”, and that may have been a good idea with the evidence available back then, but it is not anymore. But if you had a podcast from way back then talking about how good butter is, you can show that you made the right predictions.
      Deleting archives where you express your opinions you currently disagree with is intelectually dishonest; a lot of people may not enjoy reading that though, even if they like your current opinions.

      • toastengineer says:

        Deleting archives where you express your opinions you currently disagree with is intelectually dishonest

        Well, unless a lot of people are getting what you now know to be disinformation from your posting, and you don’t have the time to write up a detailed explanation of why you were wrong.

  2. drunkfish says:

    Edit: This was way easier than I made it out to be… Thanks Scott!

    Sortof a math challenge, mostly a request for help:

    tl;dr I’m looking for a way to score individual probabilistic predictions such that the score rewards correctness in the long run.

    Context: One of the more interesting habits I’ve picked up from this blog is the idea of making probabilistic predictions for the future, so that you can evaluate your success and see in which direction/circumstances your confidence needs recalibrating. As far as I can tell though, the only way Scott does this is by making a bunch of predictions, and then seeing if he was correct N% of the time for his N% confidence predictions. This works, but it feels clunky because it requires a large sample before any evaluation can be done, and it means prediction probabilities have to be limited to a few round numbers (which is harmless, but still a restriction I’m not a fan of). I’m looking for a way to score individual predictions such that the score rewards correctness in the long run, and a running score can constantly be maintained/updated (initially inspired by a fantasy sports variant I want to make, but also useful in general for predictions). I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody has already done what I want, likely within the rationalist community, but I haven’t come across it so I figure I’ll ask here. Hoping someone will either know a reference to the solution somewhere, or be able to help with the problem as stated.

    Word problem: I’m trying to construct this scoring system, which will provide a score when given a probability estimate and an outcome, such as: “I think there’s a 30% chance it’ll rain tomorrow”, combined with whether it rains, will award some number of ‘points’ if it rains and some other number if it doesn’t. Crucially, I want the expected value of this ”score’ to be maximized if the probability input is equal to the true (hidden) probability. Note that ‘true probability’ can be literal for probabilistic events (50% for a coin flip) or it can refer to the confidence that a well calibrated human predictor would have.

    Algebraic problem
    (does wordpress support LaTeX?): Let 0<=p,q<=1, R in {0,1}, f(p,R) a function. define E(f,p,q) = q*f(p,1)+(1-q)*f(p,0)). Let M(f,q) return the p which maximizes E(f,p,q). Find f(p,R) such that M(f,q) = q.

    There is a family of f's which satisfy this. I've found a way to generate some, but they're super ugly and I'm looking for better ones. Ideal f's are such that E(f,p,q) is symmetric in p about p=q, is sharply peaked (so that closer estimates are rewarded more quickly, my solution is really flat so most ps are close to equal), and can be stated as a reasonably simple function. The method I found to generate fs involves guessing forms until I get a monotonic increasing function, computing M(f,q), and then feeding that back into f (I can explain this in more detail if desired), which has the massive downside of me not even being able to write down my own function other than just using a table of values.

    Possible hint? Exponential functions seem to look better than most, so something like f(p,0) = e^-p, f(p,1) = e^p. I wasn’t able to get it to work exactly with obvious modifications, but it seems close.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Google “Brier score” and see if it’s what you want.

      I think someone might have made an app to score these kinds of predictions automatically, but I can’t find it right now.

      • drunkfish says:

        WOW. Thank you! I was overcomplicating this embarassingly badly. I have no idea how I managed not to check RMS as a solution…. wow.

        Edit: Not sure if it’s better or worse, but for the record I tried f(p,O) = p^2-O. Somehow (p-O)^2 didn’t occur to me…

    • ManyCookies says:

      The prediction market Metaculus has an explanation of their scoring system. That and other prediction market FAQs might point ya in the right direction.

    • actinide meta says:

      The general term for what I think you are requesting is a “proper scoring rule”. My general recommendation is the so-called logarithmic scoring rule, with a base two log so that the answer has familiar units of bits. (Actually, I recommend the negative of this, “surprisal”, and trying to minimize your score, though of course that isn’t exactly what you asked for. Think of it as the amount of information required to express the true results, given your predictions as a model. The expectation is the cross entropy.)

      Other popular scoring rules don’t penalize wild overconfidence nearly enough – they hardly distinguish between a wrong prediction with 99% confidence, 99.9% confidence, 99.99% confidence, or even 100% confidence, even though these are drastically different in Bayesian terms.

      So if you are optimizing to be a pundit, with an audience that will forgive you when something you said was 100% certain doesn’t happen, use something like a Brier score to train yourself. If you want to take predicted probabilities seriously, you want to use logarithmic loss.

  3. johan_larson says:

    Let’s suppose that Tyler Cowen is exactly right about why a college education is valuable. Its real value is as hard-to-fake proof of intelligence, conscientiousness, and conformity. And let’s see where that insight takes us.

    It seems to me it should be possible to do the job either better or cheaper, since modern colleges are not explicitly set up to assess intelligence, conscientiousness and conformity. They are more instructional than that. They are trying to teach their students things. And their staffs have agendas of their own, notably a commitment to scholarship, which distracts from the hard business of assessing young people. So we should be able to do better. The question is, how?

    Some ideas:
    – Do hard things, like translating Akkadian into Navajo. (intelligence)
    – Provide minimal support. Have assignments due far in the future, with no intermediate steps, and all due on the same day. (conscientiousness)
    – Not really sure how to assess conformity. Some sort of sales activities, maybe, but with real dollars? I expect all effective sales reps can at least fake conformity.
    – Prune ruthlessly. Assessment, not cultivation, is the point. 1000 aspirants enter, 10 heroes leave.
    – There’s no particular reason the resulting institution needs to look much like a school. It could be more like a business, with the students as junior staff. Although it would need to be doing something complicated, or it wouldn’t be useful as an assessment of intelligence. Or it could look like something completely different, such as a monastery or a military unit.

    • drunkfish says:

      My understanding (which could be wrong) is that Cambridge/Oxford are largely setup in the “have assignments due in the far future” way, in the sense that you’re entirely evaluated by how you do on very infrequent exams (even lower confidence, I think your final “grade” when you leave is entirely determined by your final year exam?).

      To your broader point, I’d buy that the process must be able to be improved if one’s goal is that simplified. That said, I think the fact that schools do a bunch of other stuff (scholarship, pretending to teach, etc) in parallel might be adding value that will be hard to streamline out. The more clear you make the goals of the process, the more likely it is to be possible to fake. When the system is really complicated and slow, you both: 1) burn out people who don’t fake it well enough and 2) trick some large fraction of your students into not even knowing what they should be faking.

      • fion says:

        On Cambridge/Oxford, I only partly agree with you. I studied science at Cambridge, so it’s possible that some of my opinions don’t generalise further than that.

        It’s true that the final year is the only year that counts and it’s true that compared to other UK university science courses there was a lot less coursework and a lot more emphasis on exams. Worth noting, however, that in the final year of my course there was more mid-year exams and a continual research project, so it was less “everything resting on one week at the end” than the other years.

        But I don’t think this fits johan_larson’s suggestion very well. For instance, for each course we had weekly one-to-two tutorials. (At least in first and second year, by third and fourth year it was more like one-to-four or more.) So in a sense there was lots of intermediate steps and certainly lots of support. My impression is that an intelligent but not conscientious student would do better at Cambridge than at some other unis, that don’t have this weekly check-up. Hence, the Cambridge model is less good proof of conscientiousness.

        • Tarpitz says:

          Speaking as an intelligent but not conscientious person who studied an arts subject at Oxford (even more end-of-final-year-exams-oriented than science at Cambridge, by the sounds of it) I can confirm that this structure is much friendlier to my ilk than one with more coursework – even aside from the matter of the tutorial system.

          Fortunately for the usefulness of the credentialing process, I’m so wildly unconscientious that I still managed not to do the exams…

        • rlms says:

          Yes, this model optimises heavily against conscientiousness also in the sense that you can do minimal work for 2/3 of the year because there are no exams then (if you’re smart enough).

          • fion says:

            (if you’re smart enough)

            which very, very few people are.

          • dodrian says:

            If the exams are marked competitively that also requires a lot of coordination and trust with other students.

          • Tarpitz says:

            No, it just requires being enough better at exams than enough of them, and most people – even most bright people, and especially most bright, conscientious people – are terrible at exams.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I have a notion that multiple choice tests select for a certain kind of ADD.

            Look, here’s a small doable problem, and you do it, and then there’s another small problem before you have time to get bored. Obviously, not everyone has a mind which is optimized for this, but some do.

            To put it mildly, this isn’t selecting for sustained effort on large projects nor for creativity.

            I gather there are people who are bad at school because they have a strong drive to do useful things.

          • fion says:

            As Tarpitz notes, I know loads of people who are really clever and in some cases conscientious who are terrible at exams.

            I’m one of the few people I’ve met who admits to being the other way. I’m very good at exams, so exams over-rate my ability. I thrived at such an exam-heavy uni course, but now…

          • quaelegit says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz — I’ve never thought about it that way but that’s makes SO SO MUCH SENSE. Wow.

            @fion — same here. Until college I could always rely on multiple choice tests to improve my grade in a given class.

            also @fion re: “If you’re smart enough (which is very very few people)” — Maybe my college* are strongly filtering on this because I met SO MANY people like this in college.

            *Engineering at Berkeley, so maybe a special case?

          • fion says:

            @quaelegit

            I was referring specifically to Cambridge. (I perhaps falsely assumed rlms was also referring to Cambridge since that’s where they went (go?) as well.)

            With hindsight I guess I was being even more narrow than that – who knows what it’s like outside my course?

            But yeah, in physics at Cambridge, the course is so demanding that only the geniuses would be able to doss about for 2/3 of the year. At least that’s my impression.

            Whether or not my impression is correct, this is the way I believe it should be. The difficulty of the course and the entry requirements should be related. If you’re accepting relatively low ability students, you should have a low difficulty course; if you’re accepting high ability students, you should have a high difficulty course. It sounds from your comment like engineering at Berkeley had high entry standards but a course that wasn’t challenging enough for all the smart people admitted.

        • At the University of York (Russell Group but not Oxbridge) where I got my bachelor’s, there was little coursework or tutorials, but the exams came at the end of every term rather than every year (i.e. twice as often), and the final grade was 40% second year grade and 60% third year grade.

      • mdet says:

        Am I the only one who feels like schools aren’t just “pretending to teach”? Personally, I’ve tried taking Coursera classes, tried teaching myself new programming languages on my own, and I usually lose interest and fall off pretty quick. I feel like I really did benefit from meeting several times a week with a professor who would order the information, discuss it, answer questions and give personal feedback, etc. I won’t pretend that every assignment was productive and meaningful, but I would confidently say that if you had just directed 18-year-old me (or present me) “Learn about English literature from Shakespeare to Jane Austen, linear algebra, the first 500 years of Christianity, classical physics, and computer architecture and get back to me in four months” I would not have gotten as much out of it.

        Or maybe I just fail at conscientiousness and should have been filtered out by a more rigorous process.

        • Randy M says:

          Personally my critique of college isn’t that you can’t or don’t learn there. I think I leaned a lot of information and developed skills. But the high-school algebra student’s lament of “when are we going to use this in real life?” is valid, all the more so when you consider the high cost and opportunity cost of college. It isn’t that you learn worthless facts and knowledge, but what you retain that is relevant compared to the price you pay, for most people, is a terrible value proposition.

          I think most businesses could develop employee training that would impart the skills needed for that job for a fraction of the time and cost, if they had reliable ways to screen applicants and ensure that they would remain on staff. (Assuming the employee was literate and had learned at least that high school algebra, anyway.)

          • Matt M says:

            They already sort of do.

            Basically every job I’ve ever had has involved a very significant amount of “on-the-job training”, by my supervisor, after I’ve already been hired.

            The “reliable way to screen applicants” is, in fact, college itself.

            Others point out that this is inefficient. But inefficient to who? Not to the businesses. They aren’t paying for it.

            I don’t really see any significant change to the system barring a whole lot of elite-level talent simply refusing to participate in the college system (but then finding a way to prove that they were still elite all along). I guess some coding camps are kinda knocking at the door of this, but it clearly still has a long way to go…

          • John Schilling says:

            Basically every job I’ve ever had has involved a very significant amount of “on-the-job training”, by my supervisor, after I’ve already been hired.

            That’s true pretty much everywhere. But it is also true that I really like the fact that I don’t have to teach my new hires how to e.g. write a concise, informative white paper on a subject they just learned a great deal about. Or to use Excel/Matlab/Whatever to do a quick bit of analysis of a problem that requires calculus understanding and algebraic number-crunching. Or many, many more things at that level that I’m not going to bother enumerating here.

            I can conceive of a high school imparting this level of knowledge on average 18-year-olds, but very few high schools actually do that. And, that being the case, it probably also helps that the college or university that does teach them these generic skills does so in the course of solving lots of aerospace-ish problems.

          • johan_larson says:

            I don’t really see any significant change to the system barring a whole lot of elite-level talent simply refusing to participate in the college system (but then finding a way to prove that they were still elite all along)

            At the top level, sure. But college is expensive and keeps getting more expensive. I don’t see how the present madcap middle-class fight for places in “top colleges” can continue indefinitely. Somewhere along the way, something has to break, if only the parents’ pocketbooks. And that opens up opportunities for alternatives.

          • mdet says:

            My understanding is that most of the cost of college is related to building and running a playground / living center for 20 year olds. The education itself is fairly cheap, but the dorms, cafes, health clinics, gyms, chapels, clubs, sports teams, events and activities, guest speakers, occasional concerts, etc. and the administration that runs them raise the bill by thousands of dollars. We could strip them back down to being just educational and research centers, but any school that did this unilaterally would immediately lose out to its competitors who stayed “fun”, and at this point the facilities are already built anyway, so it’d be a shame to not use them.

            But contra the OP, I don’t think the basic “students going to classes taught by a professor who leads discussions, assigns classwork, and writes exams” model is all that broken, and I do think there is plenty instructional value in this model, although I don’t claim to be as smart or well-read as Tyler Cowen.

          • Brad says:

            I wouldn’t phrase the extraordinary administrative overhead as some kind of inevitable consequence of it being a “playground”. That’s letting get off my lawn grumpiness get in the way of identifying the real culprit—corruption. Universities are run as partnerships for the benefit of their administrative employees and commit fraud when they organize as charities.

          • mdet says:

            “Playground” was admittedly an exaggerated and someone patronizing word, but I thought for a bit and couldn’t come up with something better to communicate “this is for leisure and entertainment value, rather than education”. And I’m not too far out of college myself, so I justified it as a little self-mockery. Maybe “resort”, which would be less infantilizing but still hyperbole.

        • Nornagest says:

          I’m not highly impressed with a lot of the discourse around learning styles — much of it seems to be aimed at shifting the blame from bad students to their teachers or the surrounding culture — but some people really do seem to get a lot out of personal instruction. How personal college-level classes are, though, varies quite a bit: the largest classes I took in school had hundreds of students packed into vast lecture halls, and for most of those I’m not sure I ever talked to the prof one on one. The traditional solution to this is to is to have separate, smaller labs or study sessions led by a TA, but I only remember those for about half.

          The structure of a college course is probably helpful for a lot more people, even if they’re taking anonymous mega-lectures: it’s a lot easier to make yourself sit down and figure out integration by parts if you’re going to be graded on your exercises or on the quiz at the end of the week. But Coursera can give you that just fine.

          • mdet says:

            I went to a smaller college where my classes were 25 students at max, ~15 students on average. I don’t know about “learning styles” either, but if I had my pick on how I was going to learn something, I’d pick a discussion group of 10 or so people, with some practical elements for the more practical subjects (ie, physics & chem labs), because small group interaction can keep me invested and engaged, and I learn a lot by hearing how other people approach an idea.

            I remember one college course where partway through the semester we moved from a room with desks lined up facing a whiteboard to a room with a long table where we all faced each other, and in my mind that substantially improved the amount of engagement and discussion there was.

        • quaelegit says:

          “Am I the only one…”

          No, but it does seem like we’re the minority on SSC!

          Personally, I definitely needed the actual-in-a-lecture-hall class time and (especially) office hours with instructors to get help on assignments/material I didn’t understand.

    • actinide meta says:

      proof of intelligence, conscientiousness, and conformity

      it should be possible to do the job either better or cheaper

      The obvious challenge is one of activation energy. The first adopters of your new institution will be, like the early adopters of everything, nonconformists. So credentials from your new institution will signal nonconformity. Oops!

      • johan_larson says:

        I guess I’ll have to double down on conformity for the first bunch. Formal business attire will have be worn at all times on campus, attendance at chapel will mandatory, and all ice cream served will be vanilla.

    • Isn’t the obvious solution to work for a few years instead of going to college? Given a suitable job that lets you signal the same characteristics, while making money instead of spending it.

      The fact that that alternative doesn’t outcompete college strikes me as the best evidence against the signaling model.

      • johan_larson says:

        That’s a reasonable thought. Can you be more specific? What jobs available to a high school graduate let you demonstrate the three qualities? It’s a bit hard to demonstrate intelligence, say, as a retail shop clerk.

        • Matt M says:

          Aron says it below, but the military largely fulfills the purpose for conformity and probably conscientiousness. Can also serve for intelligence if you select a highly technical job.

          • Aapje says:

            Isn’t the military known for being suitable for people with low conscientiousness, by having a strict and demanding structure?

          • Brad says:

            Whether accurate or not it has a reputation for increasing consciousness—taking in feckless kids and turning out focused and disciplined twenty somethings.

          • toastengineer says:

            Didn’t Bean make the point a while ago that while it may have been like that to some extent up until WWII, it really doesn’t work that way anymore?

          • bean says:

            Didn’t Bean make the point a while ago that while it may have been like that to some extent up until WWII, it really doesn’t work that way anymore?

            I don’t remember making that point. I’d definitely agree with Brad, both on the perception and that it’s reasonably accurate (although how much of that is the military and how much is maturity is debatable). There are definitely people who need the structure and fall apart without it, but there are also people who need structure to get started, but do OK on their own after a few years. It depends on the person. I’m pretty sure most employers would much rather hire someone after 4 years in the military than four years working the sort of jobs you can get with just a high school diploma (leaving aside technical skills).

          • albatross11 says:

            There’s some filtering done by the military on entry, too.

            First, the US military gives people what is basically an IQ test, and I think if your IQ is much below 90 (that is, if you’re in about the bottom quarter of the population), you’re not getting in.

            Similarly, they mostly want high school graduates, they don’t want people with major physical or mental health issues, and I think they won’t take you with a serious crime on your record.

            So just being accepted into the military has already filtered out a lot of the bottom tier people, before whatever you get from the training and structure.

      • Zephalinda says:

        Conformity seems like the tricky element there– if the point is specifically to show that you’re happy doing what everybody else does, then definitionally there can’t be an alternative route to send that signal. Once a critical mass of young people go to university, the work-insteaders read as weird nonconformists no matter how otherwise uncreative or rule-abiding they may be.

        I also think the specific type of “conformity” established by a university education might be better described in terms of class enculturation– the point is not just to show a hiring committee that you’re not a crazy maverick, but to demonstrate that you’re Our Kind of People in a stuffy social class sense. Lately, the U.S. upper middle class has been super-invested in a group identity centered around information (think office drones being rebranded as “knowledge workers”, and the rise of “stupid” and “ignorant” as default insults where a Victorian might have said “low,” “coarse” or “vulgar”). Thus, I think that to work as a university-equivalent signal, the post-high-school job would probably need to involve information in some way, not e.g. a craft, social interaction or entrepreneurship.

        Come to think of it, “I skipped college so I could finish my successful novel” or “I skipped college so I could investigate mating patterns in this species of Central American fish” would probably play very well with the sort of hiring committee who would otherwise be keen on a Harvard degree. Certainly much better than “I successfully ran a small convenience store.”

        • Aron Wall says:

          Only a small number of high school graduates join the Armed Forces, but a successful stint there definitely signals an ability to conform (if not always the other factors). So I think “conformity” is being used in two senses in the comments above.

          I don’t see why employers should care about students making the same decisions as other students, what they care about is whether they will do the job assigned by their boss.

          • albatross11 says:

            +1

            I think as a boss, what you care about is some mix of

            a. Will he do the job properly?

            b. Will he show up on time, dress properly, not steal office supplies, and generally act like a normal employee?

            c. Will he fit into the culture enough not to cause a lot of friction with the other employees?

            College probably does capture a fair bit of all three of those, but also surely misses a lot.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I think that you’re missing an important part of the equation:

      If I was responsible for hiring someone to fill a position at some corporation, how safe would I feel hiring a candidate with this written on his resumé? If he turns out to be a disaster and the higher-ups are asking “who the hell hired this idiot?” will I be more or less likely to be fired if I point at his degree in translating Akkadian into Navajo?

      Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM, and nobody is ever going to get fired for hiring a Harvard graduate.

      • johan_larson says:

        OK, fair enough. That suggests it would be useful to fit into a conventional category that people understand. So whatever we come up with needs to be something that can be portrayed as a degree or an apprenticeship or maybe a job.

    • Björn says:

      I think the institution that would implement your ideas would have very interesting effects happening at the margin. Basically, anyone who would not have extreme high intelligence, conscientiousness, etc. would not be able to get a degree from your institiution, especially since many high performing people in any field are motivated by their passion for said field. If you have them do something random, only the masochistic and the lucky people who love that thing will survive. And even then, if they are not able to live a 100% stable live and be as productive as possible, they will have a hard time. I wonder what percentile of the population that will be, if you take the top 2% in intelligence, conscientiousness and conformity, in the US that would leave you with 2600 people.

      “Good” modern education is most of the time concerned with making as many people as possible able to be at least a little bit productive. This is why you can get an ok degree when you are able to sometimes prepare something for class, you can read, show up for class and sometimes you even showered. This is the reason why people with 90% of a degree get paid much less, they signal that they have deep problems in some area. So more or less good modern education is your idea upside down, you do easy things with maximum support, and if you’re bad it often has no consequences.

      That said, one often overlooked argument for free universities is that the university owes its students nothing. At my university, lectures like Electrical Engineering 101 have a pass rate of 20%, and even the humanities have for example a linguistics lecture that breaks the neck of many students. Meanwhile, I hear from a friend who does his PhD at a university that is in the top ten of most of the worldwide university rankings, and he tells me that he has to deal with math students who cannot derive a function. And if a professor produces an exam with a pass rate lower that 80%, the university exerts pressure on that professor that this may not happen again, because the university is afraid of losing the students who pay the ridiculously high student fee.

      • Aapje says:

        @Björn

        Free or cheap universities can also have that pressure, when their government funding is based on graduation figures.

        I once had an exam adjusted by 3 points (on a 1-10 scale, with a max adjustment up to a 9) because so many people failed. I ended up with a 9, which means that I would have passed even without the adjustment (6 being a passing grade and without the adjustment, I had at least that). I was rather proud of that 🙂

    • dark orchid says:

      Here’s how we do it in Switzerland.

      After secondary school, you can choose between:

      1. standard apprenticeship, 3-4 years depending on job, consists of 3 days/week training and 2 days/week further education in a school setting.

      2. enhanced apprenticeship, reverses the ratio so it’s 2 days/week training and 3 days/week school, leads to final exams where you get the “votational baccalaureate” (Berufsmatura)

      Both the above are paid – not enough to get rich on, but enough to break even and have the occasional treat. Switzerland being a small country, it’s not unusual for apprentices still to live with their parents and commute to school and work, saving rent costs.

      3. 4 years of “gymnasium”, the closest translation might be high school? Leads to the baccalaureate (Matura).

      After that, you have:

      4. Do an apprenticeship after the matura (not that uncommon). Not sure anymore but I think this means you get to work 4 days/week in training as you’ve already completed the education requirement, but some jobs have subject-specific schooling (if you train to be a carpenter then one of your school units is “wood”) so it might be 4 days training and 1 day school.

      5. University. Requires a “matura” to enter, but the regular and vocational one are equally accepted. No admissions exams beyond that except for medicine because it’s oversubscribed, no tuition fees (well, something like 100 CHF/year admin costs but you get that and then some back in reductions on your mandatory health insurance while you’re a student). However, at the end of the first year there’s exams deliberately graded to fail between half and three quarters of students, depending on the quality of the institution.

      6. Polytechnic. A bit less “academic” but still requires a Matura (of either kind) to enter. Lower dropout rates. The route “enhanced apprenticeship followed by polytechnic” is particularly worthwhile for people who don’t want to commit to gymi+uni in their teenage years.

      7. Some jobs like train driver can only be learned as a “second apprenticeship”, you need to have completed either a matura or an apprenticeship (or both) to apply.

      As far as conscientiousness and conformity goes, an apprenticeship does provide a good test of that, as anyone who made the mistake of being late to work even once can attest to. And depending on the job, a certain level of intelligence will be required too.

      So any of the routes attests to at least a baseline in the first two, and for “intelligence” there’s a system with several discrete levels (simple apprenticeship, enhanced apprenticeship, polytechnic degree, university degree). Because the world would make too much sense otherwise, our best “university”, ETH Zurich, is formally actually a polytechnic.

      But it seems like the conscientiousness/conformity test is good enough that few people care about the intelligence part – the requirement to have a university degree is almost unheard of except perhaps for a PhD. Sure, if you want to be a certified cable car engineer then you need a polytechnic OR university degree in the subject, but if the distinction between the two is really an intelligence test, most of the country seems ok ignoring that data point. And any of the jobs that in other countries would be “requires a college degree, doesn’t matter which one” is “completed degree OR apprenticeship” in Switzerland.

      • Zeno of Citium says:

        That’s fascinating! How old are people who are choosing between apprenticeship and gymnasium, teenagers (14-15, which would be still in compulsory education in the US) or older? Also, what happens to the 50-75% of first-year uni students who fail the exams?

        • dark orchid says:

          It depends a bit on which canton (=mini-state) you’re in, but in my case I was just turning 15 when I had to decide.
          At least, my parents tried to pretend that I had a free decision. At that point I’d had 8 years of mandatory schooling, and if you decide not to go to “gymi” then you get a mandatory 9th year of school with a module focused on the job market, how to pick an apprenticeship and financial planning. Gymi takes 4 years (used to be 5, possibly even 6 ages ago) so gymi students turn 18 during their studies there and are 19-20 when they start university.

          Depending on the canton, secondary school might or might not have “sets” and some cantons even have a fast-track option where you can skip secondary altogether and go to a special 6-year “long gymi” directly after 6 years of primary school, when you’re 12-ish.

          If you drop out of one subject at university, you can try another – you get the people who try law, fail, and then do sociology instead for example – or you can try again at a less prestigious university, but most dropouts switch to doing an apprenticeship instead. The single most common apprenticeship class is “merchant” (Kaufmann, abbreviated KV for some reason) which is a generic “work in a company, get used to the world of business” kind of thing. Doing a KV in a retailer will obviously be different to doing a KV in a manufacturing business, but either way it’s a respectable thing – to the extent that Switzerland has a “middle class”, the KV is where they train.

  4. bean says:

    Naval Gazing returns to auxiliaries, this week looking at the fascinating technology of underway replenishment.

  5. Atlas says:

    What are some /comfy/ arts and entertainment podcasts y’all would recommend? Relating to movies, books, video games, tv, etc.

    • Zephalinda says:

      Boars, Gore and Swords started off as a comedy Game of Thrones recap podcast, rolled in some other content (other shows/videogames), and now has a Westworld spinoff.

      For me, it definitely lands in that “comfy” bedtime space of being light, pleasant and mildly engaging without ever including anything particularly challenging. Content warning for profanity and mildly nsfw references, though.

      • J Mann says:

        I used to love Boars Gore & Swords and would recommend the first two seasons of GOT and books of ASOIAF enthusiastically to GRRM interested nerds. After that, their comedy style gets increasingly pronounced, which some people love and some don’t, but the first couple seasons should give you a sense of which group you’re in.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Not quite a podcast, but Chuck Sonnenburg AKA SFDebris has several hundred recorded reviews of Star Trek episodes and movies plus, more recently, reviews of science fiction and fantasy movies, television shows, video games, and books.

      Unlike most internet reviewers you never see his face and you rarely have to actually watch the video clips he’s talking over. That’s why I consider them basically equivalent to podcasts.

      He’s very funny without being meanspirited (apart from ripping on Voyager and Enterprise that is), puts a ton of research into both the production aspects and scientific plausibility of media, and is very in-group-y. His Matrix review, for example, references a lot of Less Wrong material in his discussion of the ethics of making AI. All in all, highly recommended.

      • Nick says:

        I usually watch Chuck’s reviews at least once and then just listen later times. I highly recommend his stuff.

      • FLWAB says:

        His series on George Lucas was fascinating! It gave me better insight into why the original Star Wars was so good and the prequels so disappointing, and helped me understand why the new movies don’t feel like “Star Wars” to me. Also it’s super long, which made it great to listen to while doing chores. I hate having to stop what I’m doing to find new content.

    • BBA says:

      For MST3K fans, Movie Sign with the Mads is comfy as all fuck. The actor/writers who played the show’s villains for most of the Comedy Central run, Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff, chat with millennial comic Carolina Hidalgo about new blockbusters and classic films, with inevitable tangents into obscure pop-culture trivia. They usually end up talking about The Godfather regardless of what the movie of the week is.

      Content warning: some off-color language; they’re liberals and it sometimes shows.

    • yodelyak says:

      99 percent invisible is a somewhat left show about how the design work that goes into anything that’s well designed is, for that reason, 99% invisible. I find it “comfy” although I may misunderstand what you’re after with that phrase.

      Smarter Every Day is an enjoyable engineer-with-high-speed-camera-explores-the-world show.

      Neither will do that much to give you useful skills (you won’t learn to operate a camera or to evaluate good designs) but both *feel* very much like learning, and you’ll end up with a much better understanding of how things came to be the way they are, without really having to work.

  6. There will be another South Bay meetup on July 7th.

  7. Zephalinda says:

    What are some good heuristics for predictably modeling other people’s processes of intellection, judgment and decisionmaking, particularly when these do not appear to follow rules of what SSC might call “rationality”?

    (I’m interested in expanding my middle ground between “typical mind fallacy” and “wtf y’all crazy.”
    Embarrassingly enough, have sometimes found MBTI pretty useful in this regard.)

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      This isn’t some grand insight, but just a general rule of thumb that’s very helpful:

      When you’re trying to predict someone’s behavior, ignore what they say they would do in that situation. Unless someone is unusually self-aware, they’re describing what the person that they want to be would do. That’s usually different, and sometimes the exact opposite, of what they themselves typically do.

      If you know them, then you can use past experience as a guide since you have some sense of their habits. If not, stereotypes are usually informative because most people are more similar than they are different. In either case you’ll do better than you would by taking their statements at face value.

      • meh says:

        But listen to what they say someone else would do, or think someone else is doing. That is often a better indication of what they would do.

      • DavidS says:

        I think this is probably true: but as an approach risks increasingly thinking of people as machines, where you try to press the right button to get the right response. It feels to me that this as a mental habit may reduce empathy and real understanding as it’s focused on a behavourist-type prediction rather than actually understanding what it feels like to be them.

        Whether this bothers you depends on you! But as well as this problem, where you can talk to people about decoupling/mistake theory (and I have), I think this one would be taken as insulting by almost everyone. See e.g. the response to some pick-up artists way of talking which is basically ‘find combo of buttons to press to make sex happen’.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I apologise if I seem a bit dismissive, because I do get where you’re coming from, but in my experience if you actually want to treat people well empathy is not tremendously useful.

          The thing that drives me nuts about our culture’s hard-on for empathy is that we’re not betazeds. Empathy doesn’t let you feel what other people are feeling or think what they’re thinking. When you imagine a velociraptor nobody thinks it makes you into a time traveler but somehow when you’re imagining what other people around you might be experiencing it makes you a psychic.

          Understanding what someone wants, actually wants not just wants-to-want or wants-to-be-seen-as-wanting, is the only reliable way to give it to them. Otherwise I’d be giving people what I want them to want, or what they want to want, or what they want me to think they want. And that doesn’t do anything for them or me; it’s a huge waste.

          That’s not to say empathy is worthless or that I never use it. But you need to be as skeptical about it as you are about any other form of imagination.

          • Spookykou says:

            I always thought empathy was the ability to appreciate what other people want through an understanding of what they are feeling.

            For example one time my brother hit his head, knowing my brother, and knowing what it is like to be in physical pain I told my mother and aunt, who had immediately started to hover around him asking him questions and expressing concern, to give him some space and leave him alone for a bit. After a minute of collecting himself, he thanked me. I assumed what I was doing there was being empathetic, and my mother and aunt were trying to be sympathetic, which is not what he wanted.

          • Aapje says:

            @Spookykou

            I think that a lot of what is called empathy is really typical minding. This is what your mother and aunt did.

            What you did was truly empathy, where you actually understood the needs of the other person.

            People who are very dissimilar from others seem to often feel little empathy from others, suggesting that true empathy is in short supply.

          • smocc says:

            Can’t we also say that you were all guessing what your brother would like and you just happened to guess correctly? Your guess may have been better because you used your experience to treat your brother like you would like to be treated in a similar situation, but you still could have been wrong. For example, imagine your brother likes different things from you and actually does want people to fuss over him when he is hurt.

            There is a difference between the thought process “that person is feeling [x] what should I do?” and “that person is feeling [x] what would they like?” but there’s always guesswork, both as to what [x] is and what the person would like because of [x].

    • J Mann says:

      I think I do all right by identifying people’s incentives, then assuming they are doing their best to be a good person in that context.

    • DavidS says:

      This blog talks about mistake vs. conflict theorists and more recently some discussion of ‘decouplers’ (which is a lot of rationalists) as distinct from contextualisers/couplers. I find both of those really helpful.

  8. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Has anyone worked with Scott Sonnon’s exercise system?

    It’s notable for combining high ambition with a serious effort to avoid injury. (Sonnon has a congenital connective tissue disorder.)

    I’ve only worked with his joint mobility systems, mostly IntuFlow (move all your joints through their range of motion three or four times every day), and I’ve found it’s useful.

  9. onyomi says:

    Study purports to show that people are more utilitarian in practice than they claim to be in theory.

    In some ways this should not be the least bit surprising: when it comes to telling people what you would do in a situation it’s easier to dismiss cost-benefit analysis in favor of social desirability than when actually faced with (an approximation of) the situation. I guess the question this raises for me is: why is it more socially desirable to signal virtue ethics than utilitarianism?

    My best guess is that the ideal for any given individual is something like “discretion for me but not for thee.” In fact, this is a big problem I have with utilitarianism: it seems too quickly to devolve into simply justifying whatever someone wanted to do by way of motivated reasoning, whereas virtue ethics provide bright lines one can expect others not to cross. Other people being predictable is advantageous for me; me being predictable to others may not be, except insofar as it enhances trust, I guess.

    This to me also raises the weird possibility that utilitarianism (or something like it) is right but saying so is wrong. I guess this is probably an objection somebody has exhaustively analyzed already somewhere?

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Link to the actual paper for those who don’t want to click through.

      Haven’t read it yet, but will comment later once I have.

    • Zephalinda says:

      I can only get to the abstract from Nabil ad Dajjal’s link, and it’s hard to comment intelligently without reading the full paper– but at least based on the possibly-terrible coverage in the mass-media version, this sounds super poorly designed as an actual exploration of any of: deontology, virtue ethics, utilitarianism, virtue signaling, or practical ethical behavior.

      For one thing, sorry, but a subject’s otherwise-unmotivated treatment of animals in a lab is just not a good proxy for their treatment of humans in a real-world scenario. There are plenty of factors that could reasonably produce different signs for “total utility of killing one human vs. several” and “total utility of shocking one lab mouse vs. several.”

      I also question the baseline assumption that subjects’ choice to actively shock the single mouse means they were more “utilitarian” in practice. Given the pretty serious visceral squick factor from observing pain firsthand (that may or may not have been adequately controlled for using the vague “animal empathy” questionnaire mentioned in the article), it could well just be the case that ~20% of participants selfishly switched to the option that would cause the least pain to themselves (i.e., witnessing one mouse screaming vs. five), regardless of their ongoing perception of that action’s morality. Indeed, we’re not even told whether participants were specifically prompted to make their decision “moral,” vs. just to choose their preference.

      Finally, I also don’t think we really know what the average volunteer would believe to be the correct deontological or virtue-ethical conclusion w/r/t arbitrary animal pain in a lab setting: I’m kind of struggling to figure it out myself right now, since afaik earlier and more virtue-ethical societies don’t seem to have been nearly as worried about animal cruelty. So without a full articulation of the respondents’ reasoning, any mapping of responses/behaviors onto wider ethical systems is purely speculative.

      (Also, selection of subjects and framing of tasks could potentially have huge unexamined effects here– although in all fairness, those are presumably better specified in the gated version.)

      In conclusion, social psychology, lol. 🙂

    • rlms says:

      This to me also raises the weird possibility that utilitarianism (or something like it) is right but saying so is wrong.

      This is discussed briefly near the start of Reasons and Persons.

    • Drew says:

      I guess the question this raises for me is: why is it more socially desirable to signal virtue ethics than utilitarianism?

      My golf shots tend to hook to the left. Ideally, I’d improve my form until the drives all went straight. But that’s really hard. In practice, I aim a bit right to compensate.

      I bet it’s the same with ethics. People tend to give our own interests extra weight. We do all kind of motivated reasoning. Virtue Ethics are a way of compensating.

      Take stealing. If someone’s lost in the woods, I think we’d all agree that it’s ethical for them to steal food from an empty cabin, rather than die from death-by-starvation. The law even allows an necessity defense.

      But, if someone says, “I’m utilitarian about stealing,” I’m going to anticipate some motivated reasoning and hear, “I’m going to steal from you (/large corporate stores) if it’s moderately convenient and I don’t think i’ll get caught.”

      Instead, people compensate by saying virtue ethics things (“stealing is wrong!”) and holding those ethics unless there’s a really, really strong utilitarian reason to abandon them.

      That works out to something like appropriately-weighted utilitarianism.

      • Nornagest says:

        saying virtue ethics things (“stealing is wrong!”)

        It’s a bit pedantic to say so, but “stealing is wrong” is a deontological argument, not a virtue-ethical one. The virtue-ethics way of making the point might go something like “be respectful of other people’s property”.

        • onyomi says:

          I probably should have said deontology in the OP, as it’s probably closer to what I mean. Honestly, I tend to conflate virtue ethics and deontology because the difference between them doesn’t feel very substantive to me, subjectively. Maybe it’s because seemingly very few people actually believe in virtue ethics as a basic moral system anymore, but we still have this thing called “virtue” that maps more closely to thinking deontologically than consequentially?

          • Nornagest says:

            I think virtue ethics is about as common as it’s ever been. It’s unfashionable to systematize it these days, but a lot of people that’d call themselves deontologists or even consequentialists if you asked are virtue ethicists for all practical purposes in terms of how they actually relate to other people.

            How many times has someone you know called someone else a shitty person, for example?

          • Nick says:

            Following on what Nornagest said, I think a lot of people still think about morality in terms of obligations and prohibitions, too. It might have become harder to appeal to those things when reasoning about morality with another person, but it’s still there.

      • fion says:

        “My golf shots tend to hook to the left.”

        I thought this was a really beating-around-the-bush way of saying “I’m slightly left-wing” and I was very confused…

  10. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Brian does a couple of meetups every two weeks about current affairs. He puts together a bunch of reasonable links from different points of view, and I think they might be of interest here even if you aren’t local enough to attend.

    Do Colleges Need Academic Freedom & Political Diversity?

    Free Speech & Hate Speech on Campus

    I was very amused by the links about whether college has an effect on students’ political beliefs, and the answers seemed to be between not much and maybe a little.

    From the second link: “The social psychologist Jonathan Haidt argued that left-wing social theories that have become prominent in academia inculcate this “victimhood culture” in students in a way that’s essentially the inverse of cognitive behavioral therapy and encourages a host of cognitive distortions (e.g. catastrophizing, labeling, dichotomous thinking, excessive blaming, emotional reasoning).”

    • Zephalinda says:

      I hadn’t heard the inverse-CBT description of undergraduate victimhood culture, but that’s a really interesting way to think about it.

      Freddie DeBoer somewhere has a good essay on how that culture fundamentally benefits the university administrators, who then get to enjoy greatly expanded power, resources and status as the protectors and defenders of the fragile students (at least in part against their insensitive professors). It’s intriguing to think about that as a kind of Munchausen’s-by-proxy, where the administrator-caregivers are also the people most strongly incentivized to make sure that students keep needing care.

  11. J.R. says:

    Home chefs of SSC: what cookbooks have provided you with the most utility? I consider a cookbook good when it has multiple recipes that become staple foods, usually for having a high quantity+deliciousness+healthiness to (monetary+time) cost ratio. I have a few nominees:

    1) Vietnamese Home Cooking – Charles Phan. Braising, Stir-Fry, and Grilling sections are all great. Shaking beef and lemongrass chicken are dynamite recipes. Some investment needed in making some condiments from scratch and tracking down exotic ingredients, but very much worth it.

    2) Zahav – Michael Solomonov. I’m a big fan of the restaurant in Philly, and the book revealed all his secrets. Making delicious hummus is easy, so long as you have a food processor/powerful blender. The salads are great. And the grilling section, again, is wonderful.

    3) The New Best Recipe – Editors of Cook’s Illustrated. Never imagined that I’d get the best Pad Thai and Pesto recipes from this book. Every other recipe I’ve made has been very good at minimum. If I was in the mood for standard American fare more often, this would be #1.

    EDIT: Fixed a typo

    • J Mann says:

      1) The internet. If I think of something I want to cook, I can read 4 or 5 recipes for one that gets good reviews and looks relatively easy. I usually end up at geniuskitchen or allrecipes. That said, I also love:

      2) I am a big fan of The Moosewood Cooks at Home, which has a ton of easy vegetarian recipes that are good at showing home cooks how to add flavor to meals. (I often add meat, but trying to make delicious vegetarian food is a good exercise for all cooks).

      3) I have a dog-eared, grease-stained copy of the James Beard Cookbook that has almost never steered me wrong.

    • smocc says:

      I’m not sure I count as a home chef, but my wife or I do cook dinner every night and experiment occasionally. We have a copy of Better Homes and Gardens: The New Cookbook that my wife got from her Dad went she went off to college. Whenever we want to try something new we check there first and it always gives us a very workable recipe. If we like it, then we can spend the time trying to figure out better recipes from the internet. We appreciate having the reliable source that’s never brilliant but always competent, and it basically has everything we’ve ever thought to try.

    • disposablecat says:

      Honestly, I got a free digital subscription to Bon Appetit Magazine from a T-Mobile promotion, which put me on their email list, and that email list has produced more staple recipes than any other single source. https://www.bonappetit.com/story/sad-boy-pasta-cheap-recipe is a standout.

    • dodrian says:

      Cooking for Geeks. There aren’t very many recipes, and it works better to read this one cover to cover. Each chapter covers a couple of cooking techniques, and more importantly why to use them. The recipes are there to illustrate the techniques.

      I almost never use it for recipes anymore, but reading it has improved my cooking immensely.

    • rahien.din says:

      Serious Eats is an excellent website for cooks of all kinds and skill levels. Two of their editors have recently won James Beard awards for cookbooks : J. Kenji Lopez-Alt for The Food Lab : Better Home Cooking Through Science</a> and Stella Parks for Brave Tart : Iconic American Desserts. I have Lopez-Alt’s book and it is a joy just to thumb through.

      Tom Colicchio’s Think Like a Chef

      Steve Raichlen’s How To Grill

      Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking

      I have been meaning to get Jacques Pepin, but am not sure where to start.

    • Nornagest says:

      I don’t use cookbooks consistently, although I own quite a few. But in general I’ve gotten more use out of using cookbooks as a resource for learning techniques than for learning recipes. Generally speaking if you need a recipe for something you can Google it and find a very workable one in the first few hits, though you’ll often need to scroll past five pages of nostalgic memoir first. But a recipe doesn’t have the space to teach you how to hold a chef’s knife, or how to judge pan temperature for frying stuff, or make an emulsion or a roux or a decent shortcrust pastry.

      Any decent cookbook will usually have sections on this sort of thing. Read those sections closely. Skim the rest; treat the recipes it gives you as exercises in technique. Once you understand the skills involved you can do anything you want with them.

    • onyomi says:

      Sort of not a direct answer, but a method:

      Cookbooks produced by e.g. church groups often have a higher proportion of usable, practical recipes than those published by commercial presses.

      As an example, of the many Greek cookbooks I own, by far the best is one I purchased at a local Greek Orthodox church fair consisting of recipes contributed by its members. The reason for this, I guess, is obvious: such recipes are nearly always battle-tested by home cooks, ideally of the sort who are FOB babushka-types from the old country. These must be clearly distinguished from “semi-homemade” type books created by people who think adding a can of mushroom soup to something and baking is an example of creative cuisine, but the above babushka criterion helps a lot here.

      I find commercial cookbook recipes often clearly haven’t been tested enough or else are not very practical for home chefs. I will here mildly disagree with your endorsement of the Zahav cookbook; I recall trying their hummus recipe and it was a lot more work than mine, but imo, not as good; didn’t try a lot of their other recipes since then, so could be there are a lot of other gems, but it struck me as a very “restauranty” cookbook, as in “this makes perfect sense if making huge quantities in a commercial kitchen; less so at home.” To take a much more extreme example of what I consider not good cookbooks, anything published by Mario Batali: “mix in 4 oz stinging nettle and 2 oz squid ink; pass through a food mill into an ice bath… ” that kind of thing.

      I have also had bad luck with cookbooks that take a “science-y” approach: for example, despite being a fan of Alton Brown, I was quite disappointed with the results I achieved using this cookbook by a frequent guest of his, often brought in to explain the chemistry behind recipes. One major exception I have encountered is “How to Read a French Fry” by Russ Parsons. Had very good results with some of his recipes.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      Eat- the Little Book of Fast Food and Real Fast Food, both by Nigel Slater, and The Minimalist Cooks at Home by Mark Bittmann. Both of these are good for simple, quick meals when you’re short on ideas. I also make a lot of use of Slater’s column in the Guardian (Nigel Slater’s Midweek Meals- available and unpaywalled online). I also cook things from Rachel Roddy’s column in the same paper, but perhaps don’t use her book as much.

      The Joy of Cooking (IIRC the sixth edition) by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker. Reference work- everyone needs one of these. Many British friends substitute Delia’s How to Cook by Delia Smith.

      The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden- a huge range of recipes from Jewish communities all over the world, about 3/4 non-Ashkenazi. The author herself is Syrian Jewish, grew up in Cairo, and most of her other cookbooks focus on Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food.

      Sundays at Moosewood– vegetarian, for the same reasons as J Mann, though I tend not to add meat to their recipes. More emphasis on foods from different parts of the world.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I don’t use cookbooks enough to give recommendations myself, but my parents definitely endorse The Joy of Cooking. They say the older editions are better if you like doing stuff from scratch, since they’ve got all sorts of interesting techniques to make things that today we’d normally just buy.

      • mustacheion says:

        I also strongly endorse The Joy of Cooking. What I love about TJoC is that it isn’t merely a list of recipes; it also contains a lot of educational information about ingredients and the process of cooking itself. For instance, you can look up potato, and find a bunch of recipes that use potatoes. But you can also read about potatoes themselves to learn, for instance, what is the difference between a baking potato and a boiling potato, and how to pick out good potatoes from the store, and what kinds of cooking scenarios potatoes are good and bad for. I really don’t actually follow the recipes in this book very often, but I do use it to become inspired about how to cook. with the ingredients I have available.

        So if you want a compilation of instructions to follow, this book may not be better or worse than others. But if you really want to learn to cook, this is an excellent book.

        In my opinion, the biggest difference between good and bad chefs isn’t simply knowledge of which foods to put together in the pot, but understanding the physical and chemical processes that underlie cooking. I expect most chefs develop this knowledge intuitively and through practice, but I have found that I can substitute my understanding of chemistry and physics to quite good effect while cooking.

        I think the best example of this that I can provide is about understanding how to spice your food by thinking about how humans actually perceive taste. The common belief is that humans taste with our tongues, but this isn’t really correct. The human tongue is only sensitive to a few families of chemicals: some salts, some simple sugars, pH (sour/bitter), and amino acids (savory/umami). The vast majority of the complexity of the taste of foods actually comes from other chemicals that can only be sensed in our nose. But since you don’t put food in your nose, those chemicals have to travel out of your food and into your nose as you are eating in order to contribute to the taste of a food. In order to make this journey, most of the actual chemicals responsible for flavor must be very volatile (meaning they easily evaporate). But the rate of evaporation increases with temperature, so if you put spices in your food too early and cook it for a long time afterward, you will evaporate most of the volatile flavorants and will be left with a bland meal. So you need to put the spices in relatively late in the cooking process. However, most spices are not pure flavorant chemicals; they are chunks of plant matter with small amounts of flavorant deeply embedded inside. The flavorants can’t evaporate straight out of the plant chunks, you need to heat them for a while to get the flavorants to diffuse out of the interior of the plant to the surface, where they can evaporate and travel to your nose, so that you can enjoy the taste of your food.

        So… the take away is that you need to put your spices in at the correct time. And different spices need to be put in at different times. I can’t really tell you what the correct time is for any particular spice. But if you start thinking along these lines, you can direct yourself on which variables to pay attention to and experiment with different spices to develop your cooking intuition, and start cooking like a real chef.

        The Joy of Cooking isn’t nearly as technical as what I have just written above, but I find that it provides very valuable advice along these lines in a way that is very accessible to non-technical people. It can help you understand what to look for while you are cooking, so you can use feedback to adjust your technique and end up with better tasting food.

        • Don P. says:

          The Joy of Cooking is so fundamental a book that it has its own making-of book: Stand Facing the Stove, which I have not read, but have given my mother as a gift, so…that’s like a recommendation?

    • Anon. says:

      If you’re a chocolate fan, Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé. I’ve made almost every recipe in it, fantastic stuff.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Not a book per se, and a subscription is pricey (so maybe go to a library?) but you mention Cook’s Illustrated – the magazine has some really good stuff in it. The tone is a bit silly, but there’s good stuff in there.

  12. Chevalier Mal Fet says:

    I have been watching and commenting on SSC’s ongoing game of Diplomacy, both because it helps me to follow the game if I talk it through to myself and in the hopes that it might be of interest to readers here, both those who have played and those who’ve never heard of it.

    Diplomacy is a game of negotiation and intrigue that recreates Europe at the turn of the 20th century. Players secretly enter orders, join and break alliances with each other, and maneuver their armies in a bid to be the first nation to control 18 key supply centers around the map. Gameplay happens in phases referred to as seasons – spring and fall each year, with a winter phase to build or destroy armies depending on your supply centers. Fall 1901 is here. Today I’ll be talking about Spring 1902 (link right below).

    Spring 1902 dawns over a Europe at war. To recap, Germany/England seem to be allied against France, while Russia and Austria move against Turkey in the east. Italy and Austria did clash over Trieste, but rlms implied that things there are not what they seem – perhaps an arranged bounce to give the appearance of hostility? Austria wanted to keep an army handy in Vienna because he doesn’t fully trust Russia or Germany? Remember, we’re only seeing half the game here – all the negotiations and behind-the-scenes politicking are invisble to us (rather like real life, I imagine).

    The Western Front:

    England moved more or less as predicted. Fleet builds in London and Liverpool give England 4 full fleets in the North Atlantic – as many as France, Russia, and Germany combined can muster. Rather than lunging straight for the Mid-Atlantic (the key to France), the Royal Navy steamed into the Irish Sea and the North Atlantic ocean, setting up 3 fleets to seize control of the key sea space in the fall. The BEF crossed the Belgian border into Picardy, where it can threaten Brest or Paris, while the northern fleet, its mission of subduing Norway accomplished, has entered the North Sea.

    France also moved logically – the fleet in Brest joined hands with the older French fleet in Lisbon and forced its way into the Mid-Atlantic. The army in Spain quickly marched back over the Pyrenees, getting into position to support the southern flank of the army in Burgundy. Burgundy came under heavy attack from the German armies in Lorraine and the Ruhr valley. The situation was touch and go, but reinforcements rushing up from Paris were able to plug the gaps in French lines and drive the Germans back over the border. If not for the BEF and the Royal Navy hovering off the coast, France would be rock-solid against the Germans – as it is, though, France is in desperate danger of being outflanked from the sea.

    Germany has other concerns now, though. A fresh army based in Bavaria linked up with the Ruhr army to try and break the French front in Burgundy, but failed in the face of French reinforcements. The Holland occupation forces crossed the border into Belgium – a betrayal of England, or simply a maneuver to bring more forces to bear against France? The failed assault created a logistical snarl that stretches all the way to Copenhagen, as fresh armies and the Kaiserliche Marine are forced to hold while more supplies are brought up.

    The fleet remaining in Copenhagen is a blessing in disguise for the Germans, because the Bear has bestirred herself.

    I noted last time that Russia was in a bit of a tight spot with Turkey – there simply wasn’t enough frontage for Russia to use her superior numbers effectively, so she might have to open a new front against Austria, Germany, or England, or else have half her forces effectively sit idle. Russia has opted to open a front against the Western powers.

    Fresh levies out of Moscow are rapidly railed north to the Norwegian border, while the Baltic Fleet attempted to seize Denmark and add it to Russia’s rapidly growing Scandinavian sphere of influence. The IGN was still anchored there, however, and a sharp surface engagement saw the Russians slinking back to Stockholm to refit. At the same time, a fresh army based around Warsaw and the Galician forces lunged across the German border to add weight to the Baltic confrontation. They easily rolled over the local garrison forces and in a rapid advance stand poised at the gates of Berlin and Bavaria. The German field armies are locked in battle with France, so Germany finds itself in a vise – this will probably force the Kaiser to divert troops from the western front in a bid to hold his capital and the second city of the Empire, which in turn puts a lot of strain on England. The situation in the west has changed from a 2 on 1 to a 2 on 2, a much fairer fight for all involved.

    Unfortunately for Russia, she opened a second front at precisely the wrong time, as events in the Balkans proved disastrous for the Tsar. The Black Sea saw continued skirmishing between the rival fleets, with neither side willing to commit to a decisive battle without a clear edge, but the Russians in Rumania were faced with a renewed Turkish assault. The Russian generals were confident that the Turks on the far side of the Danube would crumble once struck in the flank by the Austrians in Serbia, as they did the previous fall – but Austria had concluded a secret armistice with the Sublime Porte. Austrian armies struck over the Carpathians and savaged the Russian rear areas in Rumania, while the Serbian army lunged down the Danube and prised open the defense of the river. Soon, the Russian armies were totally routed, and the chaotic retreat carried them over the Dniester and into the western areas of the Ukraine. The betrayal means that Russia suddenly has enemies on every border – certainly a sticky situation, but not hopeless for the Romanovs. They have superior forces in Scandinavia, which can support a good number of armies, and Austria/Turkey are not naturally cooperative empires. Russia’s best hope now is to mount a stubborn defense, slowing down the allied advance as best they can, while hoping to peel one of her rivals off the alliance against her and into her camp. A diplomatic rift between England/Germany or Austria/Turkey would put Russia back in a commanding position.

    The last front is the Italo-Austrian front. The Italians recognized that beating their heads against the wall in the Isonzo valley was a hopeless effort, so they instead redirected their armies north, into Tyrolia. Once an Italian army reaches the Danube, Vienna and Istria both lie open to her armies. Unfortunately, the Austrians again anticipated Comando Supremo’s moves and the field army in Vienna by rapid marches reached the Alpine passes just ahead of the Italian columns. Bloody clashes in the mountains ensued, with both sides being forced to withdraw most of their forces back to the start line to lick their wounds.

    The Balkans went better for Italy. The Austrian navy steamed down the Greek coast and into the Piraeus, forcing hte Greek government to join the war on Austria’s side. However, the navy was then unable to cover the Albanian coast, and the Italian army in Africa was secretly ferried into Albania, escorted by the Regia Marina. Italy’s plan was clear: To place 3 armies bordering Trieste for a decisive attack in the fall into Austria’s heartlands. Half the plan failed, but Italy still has an army loose in the Balkans and will be able to do significant damage to Austria if she uses it well. She’s got past the narrow chokepoint at Trieste at last.

    This development is good news for Russia, since it will distract many Austrian armies from the Russian front. So, both opening wars have now had unexpected wrinkles – France’s enemies have Russia loose in their rear lines, but Russia’s own invasion is being diverted by Austria’s defection in the south – which in turn is distracted by the Italian invasion of the Balkans.

    Really, what happens here is anyone’s guess. Every nation has a lot of moves. Does England fall back to defend Norway from Russia? Did Germany betray England in Belgium? And how does it continue against France – an attack on Brest and the Mid-Atlantic at once?

    Germany needs to decide – Berlin and Munich are both under threat. The Kaiser has to guess what his enemies will do – a powerful attack one city or the other, or both at once – and get it right or lose at least one center. With France pressuring from Burgundy, it might be in Germany’s interest to renegotiate its relationship with both Western powers to deal with the greater threat from the East…

    Russia, as I said, needs to defend and try to sound out its enemies diplomatically. Where can it find an alliance? Where must it fight?

    Turkey can probably press straight on for Russia, but now Turkey is in the same situation Russia was – in order to advance, it needs the Black Sea, and it can’t control the Black Sea until the fleet in Sevastopol is dealt with. Turkey either needs Austrian help flanking Russia out of Sevastopol, or it needs an army in Armenia – and there are no armies available. Perhaps trading Turkish support against Italy in the Balkans in return for Austrian support in Ukraine?

    Austria needs to allocate forces between Italy and Russia. Pulling out of Russia entirely leaves its Turkish ally out to dry, but pulling too few armies will let Italy run loose in Austria’s heartlands.

    Italy and France both seem straightforward, depending on the diplomacy. France might want to consider allying with one of the Western powers and going after the odd man out. Italy could sorely use a friend in the Balkans, and it’s not looking like it’s going to be Austria – which of course puts Turkey in the driver’s seat in all negotiations in that theater. Overall, it should be a very exciting fall phase! Tune to Open Threat 104.75 for the update. 😀

    • rlms says:

      My thoughts on seeing the results of this turn (and most of the following ones): “Austro-Turkish WTF alliance, again?! Sigh…”. I hope that if an enduring Austro-Turkish alliance becomes a recurring feature in SSC diplomacy games, I get to be someone other than Russia/Italy next time!

      • fion says:

        I thought the same, except as Austria last time and sitting out this time I can’t help but feel a little out-done by this game’s Austria/Turkey…

        • Gobbobobble says:

          In fairness to us, in our game the Western Front resolved itself WTF-rapidly and surged over to put the kibosh on our fun

    • xXxanonxXx says:

      Not related to the SSC game, but sticking it here since it will get seen by the people that can answer. Is it worth playing a game if you have only 4 players?

      I’m thinking of getting one going with my regular weekend gaming group. To hit the 7 player mark I’d have to recruit outside of that pool which I’m reluctant to do for a number of reasons.

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        I would say that you really need 5 players at a minimum for a solid game (most Diplomacy websites have lots of variant maps with different numbers of players). Anything less and you will be mostly just playing the tactical game against each other, with not as much of the wheeling and dealing and negotiation that’s truly where the game shines.

        • xXxanonxXx says:

          Thanks. I’ve been pressuring one of the guys to bring his wife into the group anyway. This can be one more reason to add to the pile.

  13. ana53294 says:

    With the World Cup going on, I got really curious about crowd control, as Russian football fanatics are known to be quite vicious. One thing I noticed is that they still use mounted police, whereas this is quite rare in Spain, although it does exist. They mostly use guns that throw rubber balls, that are supposed to be nonlethal but still regularly kill somebody.
    What are the advantages of each approach to crowd control? I am talking about a hooligan crowd, something like this (an event in Bilbao with russian fanatics; a policeman died there).

    • Well... says:

      Re. the video:

      In the US it’s easy to forget that these kinds of things happen elsewhere in the world over sports. Maybe politics is a good distraction for us.

      The video makes me wonder what people here think about the differences/contrasts between hooliganism and riots, and between riots and battles in scaled-down wars among (nominally, at least) non-military parties.

      • ana53294 says:

        This is something I am so used to that it would blow my mind if it didn’t exist somewhere. One of the things you learn about when you learn about safety is to never go near a football stadium after a game, whatever the results. Depending on who is playing, there will be a fight, whether they win or lose. This is a case with some british and french team fanatics, although russians are known to go beyond property damage and to seriously maim people.
        In Bilbao, where that video happened, a lot of after school activities closed that afternoon and parents were advised to keep their kids home.
        Does this not happen in the US? Not over football, basketball or baseball?

        In a way, football fanatic fights go around the political lines between countries; e.g., in Spain, the Madrid-Barcelona game is famous for being very problematic; same for Madrid-Bilbao, whereas Bilbao-Barcelona will not be too problematic. So sports are just an excuse to re-fight the second world war, or whatever other national feeling is hurt.

        • John Schilling says:

          Does this not happen in the US? Not over football, basketball or baseball?

          It is very rare, and mostly limited to property damage in over-exuberant victory celebrations. If people are cautioned to avoid stadiums before/after the Big Game, it is most likely because the traffic is likely to be solidly gridlocked.

        • Nornagest says:

          It happens, but it’s rare and usually causes nothing worse than property damage. Risk seems to be highest after a local team wins a championship game, especially if they’re the underdog; Philadelphia rioted in February after the Eagles’ first Super Bowl win, for example. But that’s the only incident I know about from the last couple years.

        • ana53294 says:

          OK, I did not know that. Riots and fights over soccer are something that happens in every european country I think of. It is frequently linked with ultra-right groups, and is deeply nationalistic. Hooligans band together by nationality, whereas they may fight each other when they are in their own country.

          • Aapje says:

            In The Netherlands, there is practically no hooliganism around the national team, only around club teams. Even there it has become quite rare in stadiums, with all the safety measures that have been taken.

            What has come up strongly is free-fights, where hooligans agree to meet up in a quiet place. You can see a video of such a fight on this page. These fights seem to involve an agreement have equally sized groups, to not bring weapons, to not hit downed opponents, to wear clear ‘team clothing’ and there may even be referees.

          • ana53294 says:

            I guess there is no hooliganism around the national team in Spain, either, because it involves too many different groups. The Dutch are not known for hooliganism as the English are; but it still is a fenomenon that exists.
            I did not mean that I did not expect this phenomenon not to happen to different degrees in different countries; the unexpected thing for me is for this not to happen at all.

          • Wander says:

            @Aapje
            That free fighting thing reminds me a lot of Irish faction fighting, though they notoriously opted to include weapons in those.

          • Aapje says:

            @Wander

            A Dutch hooligan got killed in 1997 during one of these fights that did include weapons. The aftermath seemed to have hurt both involved hooligan factions, with a lot of infighting. So this may have caused them to decide to tone it down, to prevent ingroup disintegration.

        • BBA says:

          As others have noted, it’s quite rare in America. When it happens at a “normal” game, it’s usually exacerbated by some external stimulus, like heavily discounted beer.

          There was also the infamous Disco Demolition Night but that wasn’t about sports so much as cultural backlash.

        • Matt M says:

          It’s also worth noting that to the extent that MLS is finding success by emulating the practices and culture associated with European soccer, there’s the potential for this here too.

          I’ve had great fun with the Portland “Timbers Army,” which is probably the closest thing to “ultras” as you’re likely to find in the US. We attend away games as a group, segregated into our own section, complete with a security escort provided by the stadium. It has never really seemed necessary though, at least in the games I’ve been to in Texas. Some opposing fans will swear at us, but I’ve yet to witness any violence. I’m told it sometimes happens in matches against Seattle, but I can’t say myself.

        • quaelegit says:

          As an American someone who’s better versed in classical history than sports, this reminds of the Byzantine demes more than anything I’ve heard of in the US (that is, the blue/green chariot factions). Maybe we just have/had gangs and violent political organizations that aren’t tied to sports? Now I’m starting to think this is another way the US is weird…

          (Although how weird? Does Australia have this problem? Canada? Anywhere in Asia or Africa? Maybe its just Europe and Latin America…)

          • johan_larson says:

            Canada does not have organized violence by sports fans. Sometimes victory celebrations get out of hand and some real damage is done, but riots like that are spontaneous rather than organized events.

            Here’s a report of one back in 2008.

            https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/police-cars-burned-stores-looted-in-montreal-hockey-riot-1.757821

          • Nornagest says:

            Maybe we just have/had gangs and violent political organizations that aren’t tied to sports? Now I’m starting to think this is another way the US is weird…

            Nah, we’re not unique there. On the political side we have, or at least had, less than average if anything — antifa was a European thing for decades before it became prominent in the States. Far-right organizations with a thing for street violence also exist in Japan and several European countries.

            And gang violence is one of those things that shows up in any cultural context that provides the conditions for it — mostly, weak rule of law (through either a weak law enforcement presence or an anarcho-tyranny type thing) and either an external threat or something worth protecting or both. Russia and of course Sicily are famous for it, but it’s a lot more widespread than that.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I’m mildly weirded out that American football fans are so much less violent than everyone else football fans, considering that American football is a much more violent game.

      • quaelegit says:

        Well I’ve seen the argument that violent video games actually decrease crime/violence because it lets people play out their fantasies and aggression not-in-the-real-world; maybe the same argument extends to sports? (I’m not sure how plausible this argument is, as I’m pretty peripheral to video games and arguments about them.)

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          My tentative theory is that non-American football is international, and that intensifies rivalry.

          • johan_larson says:

            My off-hand theory is that high youth unemployment makes this sort of thing worse. If employment is high, only the losers are jobless, and they’re too hapless for organized violence. But at higher rates of youth unemployment, which tend to be prevalent in Europe, some of the young men on the dole have actual ability to organize, which makes them much more dangerous as idle hands.

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t think that’s right – because the biggest rivalries that are the most prone to violence aren’t international. A game between two teams both based in London is more likely to lead to violence than a game between a team from London and another from Rome.

            My theory would be something like that Americans have more divided sports loyalties. There are more “major sports leagues” to affiliate with, plus the pro/college divide. In England, if you grow up in a certain location to certain parents, that requires you to affiliate with a certain soccer team. In the US, your geographic and family lineage suggests 5-10 teams you may have to select from and divide your passion amongst.

            Mobility also affects things. If you move around a lot, you don’t build up as fierce of a team loyalty, particularly across generations. Although I’m not sure if the US is more mobile than Europe or not.

          • Lillian says:

            According to this (pdf) working age Americans have about three times the mobility of working age Europeans. That’s a very large difference, perhaps going a long way towards explaining why Americans feel less attachment to local teams.

          • Fluffy Buffalo says:

            Like Matt M. says, the most intense clashes tend to occur between teams of neighboring (or even the same) cities. See also Scott’s article about the outgroup vs. the fargroup.

          • theredsheep says:

            I think part of it is that, for whatever reason, European teams tend to have political associations. Or so I’ve heard. For example, Roy Larner, the “Lion of London Bridge,” screamed out the name of the Millwall football club when he attacked the terrorists who came into his pub. When I discussed this with Brits, along with the later revelation that Larner was probably motivated by some amount of racism, they said, “well, duh. I’ve never heard of anyone supporting Millwall who wasn’t a hard-right racist nut.”

            This doesn’t happen in America. My mother’s passionate Steelers fandom doesn’t imply anything at all about her beliefs except in the very, very rough sense that you can guess she’s from the Pittsburgh area and might have some beliefs typical of that region. I don’t know why things developed differently on the other side of the pond.

            EDIT: derp, quaelegit made this point a few posts up, last night.

          • Aapje says:

            @theredsheep

            I would say: identities.

            Ajax Amsterdam is considered Jewish and the best/arrogant. They identify with a technical playing style. Feyenoord is considered to be a club by and for laborers & they identify with passionate and hard-working play. De Graafschap is for farmers.

            Clubs attack each other on their identity, which in the case of Ajax unfortunately results in antisemitic singing/noises (like simulating escaping gas). However, I think that most of this is very shallow.

            Glasgow Rangers is protestant and unionist, Celtic was created by immigrant Irish and is Catholic and in favor of N-Ireland becoming independent.

            It seems to me that local culture plays a major role and that low mobility is rather important.

          • Matt M says:

            This doesn’t happen in America. My mother’s passionate Steelers fandom doesn’t imply anything at all about her beliefs except in the very, very rough sense that you can guess she’s from the Pittsburgh area and might have some beliefs typical of that region.

            Big cities (big enough to warrant sports teams) are “diverse” enough that this can’t really happen in the US, and the notion of having multiple teams to pick from within a local market is still pretty rare. My understanding is that there’s a fairly sharp class divide among Cubs and White Sox fans in Chicago, but I’ve never lived there and am not so confident it’s comparable.

            You may see something like this manifest itself in the college sports environment though. The beliefs of the average Pittsburgher and the average Miamian might not be sufficiently different. But I’d be willing to guess that the beliefs of the average Cal Berkeley graduate and the average Mississippi State graduate are pretty divergent. That said, the outgroup vs fargroup dynamic discussed earlier comes into play – and Cal fans are much more likely to behave poorly towards Stanford fans, even though they have most ideology in common.

            I wonder if the continued politicization of everything in the US will eventually lead there, though. We’re kind of sort of starting to see it in the NFL in terms of how various teams and owners have reacted to the national anthem protests. Personally, if any pro sports team came out as explicitly right-wing, I would be very much inclined to support them, although I probably would not drop support for the other teams I’ve supported throughout my life, either.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            My understanding is that there’s a fairly sharp class divide among Cubs and White Sox fans in Chicago, but I’ve never lived there and am not so confident it’s comparable.

            As a Cubs fan, I’m not sure it’s comparable either. The class divide correlates pretty strongly with geography and then you have the added wrench of the Cubs’ legendary losing streak steering a chunk of people to throw in with a winning-er team.

            Not strong confidence here either, since I’m a nerdy shutin with limited sportsball interactions, but I really don’t get the same sort of vibe theredsheep was describing.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            Christ, you know the Cubs had it bad when the winninger team was the White Sox.

          • gbdub says:

            Probably the nastiest American sports rivalries are college football. But even those never seem to get beyond some drunken pushing and shoving at the game itself. At your average Michigan-Ohio State game, maybe a few fans out of the 100k+ present will get escorted out for being rowdy in the home team’s section, but that’s about it.

            Alabama-Auburn is the other candidate for nastiest college football rivalry, and in that case it was something of a national scandal when an Alabama fan poisoned the traditional oak grove at Auburn, point being that landscape vandalism was considered outside the pale by fans of both sides.

            To the extent that there’s a class divide among Euro football fans of various clubs, I think part of those might be how relatively dominant soccer is as a sport – in the US, much of the class divide occurs between sports (e.g. the demographics of NBA fandom differ from NFL fandom, but between particular NBA or NFL teams, there’s not much differentiation). Not going to be as much clash between basketball fans and football fans since their teams don’t compete.

            Certainly in college sports, there’s a lot more variation within a team’s fandom than between teams – you’ve got local working class fans (particularly for teams without a competing hometown pro team, like Ohio State, Alabama, etc.) mixed in with relatively affluent students, alumni, and donors. So it’s hard to say “that’s the working class Democrat team” or “that’s the nativist team”. Fans of one team might stereotype opposing fans as dumb, or poor, or snooty, or soft, but there’s not enough variation in reality, I don’t think.

          • Jesse E says:

            Yeah as @gbdub said, I think it’s hard to understand as Americans, how central soccer/football is to European/South American/etc. life as far as sports go.

            As they pointed out, the reason why there are no class clashes in sports here is that the classes have spread themselves out – middle class white people of a certain stripe watch baseball, young professionals watch soccer, minorities and younger white folks watch the NBA, suburban southern whites watch NASCAR, etc.

            That’s why the NFL deal w/ Trump was such a flashpoint – because even if you don’t watch football every Sunday, you’re likely to have at least some knowledge of it.

          • rlms says:

            My speculative theory: this comes from differences in class systems. Some proportion of the urban working/under- class in any country will be violent criminals, some other proportion will have violent tendencies that are expressed in some other way. These groups are largely mutually exclusive, and the US has more people in the first one (more gangs etc.) than Europe. Therefore Europe has more people in the second group, and hence more hooligans.

          • Garrett says:

            How much might this be related to the difficulties and costs associated with travelling to see away games? That is, in the US, there’s no reliable cheap mass transit between cities. The people who can easily go to away games are those who have cars or book airline tickets. These generally signal some degree of contentiousness and “something to lose”.

            I am under the (perhaps erroneous) impression that going to see a lot of the away games is a simple bus/tube/train ride away in a lot of Europe and so it’s a lot easier to get a large mass of folks together who might be up for a brawl.

          • ana53294 says:

            So, it seems like the “recipe” for sports riots is to have a sport that is popular among people of a lot of different backgrounds, class and race.
            So looking for examples, I thought of Cricket, which is very popular in India, and the diversity between the indian states counts as different countries. And sure, there seem to be plenty of examples after a cursory googling. Then I thought that ice hockey is popular in north countries, and I found this video about riots in Vancouver. And Canadians are famous for being polite!

            *This is all just an impression from me talking to friends, but the way I see it:
            US sports diversity is actually something people occasionally envy. A lot of people wish that instead of having all sports money go into one sport, there was a more even distribution of resources. The amount of money that goes into football is incredible, as well as the corruption. Some people hope that by splitting the pie, you would get less corruption and more options.

          • Matt M says:

            Then I thought that ice hockey is popular in north countries, and I found this video about riots in Vancouver. And Canadians are famous for being polite!

            This “riot” was very very different from what people are talking about occurs in European soccer. It was entirely done by fans of one team, inflicting property damage on unaffiliated businesses. It did not involve violence between fans of opposing teams at all. Perhaps because the two teams in question are separated by about 5,000 miles and three time-zones.

            Which is part of what you’re missing. It needs to be enjoyed by wide swaths of the population who have the ability to self-segregate by picking among multiple teams all in close proximity to each other.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            @Matt M- possibly another difference might be that the European system of sports leagues, with promotion and relegation as opposed to franchises, encourages local rivalries.

            In the US, the central organisation of a league decides where the teams in said league will be situated. There will only be two teams in the same city if the league decides that the city is a big enough market to support both (which AFAICR only happens in New York).

            In Europe, meanwhile, anybody can set up a team. They will start playing at a very low, usually amateur or semi-pro, level, but if they do well they will automatically be promoted to higher and higher divisions until they end up in the top division (and, conversely, teams from higher leagues who do badly are relegated to lower leagues).

            An example of this is when the new owners of Wimbledon FC (based in a southern suburb of London, and at the time playing in the second tier of English football) decided to relocate the club to Milton Keynes, a town outside London that didn’t have a football team, changing its name to MK Dons. The vast majority of the fans immediately left and set up their own club, AFC Wimbledon, which started in the semi-professional Combined Counties League (which features teams from the southwestern part of Greater London, and is at the ninth tier of English football). After successive promotions for AFC Wimbledon, they now play in the third tier, while MK Dons, having been relegated, play in the fourth.

            This system means that if football fans in a city don’t like the local team for whatever reason, they can set up their own. Ready-made local rivalries.

            It also means that results have a meaning beyond that season, as a club can be promoted or relegated, both of which have important financial consequences- it is not unusual for clubs to become insolvent as a result of relegation and attendant loss of revenue, while the play-off for promotion to the Premier League is considered the most lucrative sporting event in the world for the teams involved- as well as the obvious sporting ones.

            So fans may care more about the results. Imagine, for instance, being a fan of an MLB team who will have to play in the minor leagues next season unless they win their last game against another team in the same situation…

          • rahien.din says:

            Alabama-Auburn is the other candidate for nastiest college football rivalry, and in that case it was something of a national scandal when an Alabama fan poisoned the traditional oak grove at Auburn, point being that landscape vandalism was considered outside the pale by fans of both sides.

            Alabama-Auburn is not a rivalry.

            Rivalries arise when two teams are consistently fighting to be king of the athletic mountain, but they don’t exist without some sporting connection. Auburn can not be Stanford’s rival in football because the two schools have never played each other.

            Alabama-Auburn would exist without football – in fact, for a time it did. Initially, there was a logistical dispute that could not be settled in time for the game, but the two schools were disinclined to resume the series A. out of fear that its intensity would run off potential football coaches, and B. because that would mean that the University of Alabama was de facto recognizing Auburn University’s right to exist. There is a long history of the University of Alabama’s persistent attempts to choke out and assimilate Auburn over nearly a century. Time and again, Alabama nearly killed Auburn through financial means, until the GI bill swelled Auburn’s student body and made them unkillable. It took 41 years and the state legislature’s threat of withheld funding for the series to resume! Then, Alabama refused to play in Auburn’s stadium, making Auburn travel to Birmingham every year (essentially a home game for the Crimson Tide). It was a really big deal when, in 1989, Bama had to start playing Auburn home-and-home.

            The killing of the Toomer’s Oaks was the most recent and most painful chapter, but focusing on Harvey Updyke belies the real ugliness of these two schools’ long history. Alabama-Auburn is not a rivalry. It is a deep-rooted and painful enmity, sublimated into athletic ritual.

          • Matt M says:

            Yes, promotion/relegation definitely has an impact as well.

            In addition to the points you’ve made, I think it also creates an atmosphere where it just feels more like all of the teams are playing within the same general structure. The only thing preventing your local neighborhood team from facing Manchester United on a regular basis is performance.

            The inclusion of those big nation-wide tournaments open to everyone also allow cross-league rivalries to continue.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            There will only be two teams in the same city if the league decides that the city is a big enough market to support both (which AFAICR only happens in New York).

            Not quite. There are actually four metropolitan areas with multiple teams in the same “league” (in quotes because baseball is weird). New York has the Yankees and the Mets, but Chicago has the Cubs/White Sox, Los Angeles has the Angels/Dodgers, and San Francisco has the Giants with the Athletics right across the Bay in Oakland. 8 out of 30 teams, in other words.

            I think football teams tend to be a little more spread out, although Los Angeles went from having 0 teams to 2 teams in the last two years (the Rams and the Chargers), while New York has both the Giants and the Jets. San Francisco/Oakland feature the 49ers (in SF) and the Raiders [boo](in Oakland).

            Los Angeles is also home to both the Clippers and the Lakers in the NBA, and to the Kings and the Ducks in MLH.

            New York has the Knicks and the Nets in the NBA, and no less than three hockey teams: The Rangers, the Islanders, and the Devils.

          • Matt M says:

            It’s also worth noting that in the case of baseball and football, when teams share a city, they are always in different conferences/leagues, such that they play each other rarely, if at all. Which doesn’t really help build local rivalries much. Yankees fans have a bigger rivalry with the Red Sox than with the Mets. Jets fans have a bigger rivalry with the Patriots than with the Giants.

            At least in basketball and hockey this doesn’t happen. Rangers/Islanders and Rangers/Devils are pretty good rivalries. Although Lakers/Clippers and Knicks/Nets fall short due to one franchise having been historically significantly better and more prestigious than the other. (Lakers/Clippers made worse by having to share an arena, which doesn’t even create the slightest hint of geographic rivalry)

          • massivefocusedinaction says:

            I’ve been thinking that the promotion relegation system would be ideal for college football.

            The BCS pairing off the top 2 teams from the top level eastern and western conferences playing for the championship. The other bowl games would be the promotion/relegation games. Every single bowl matters, and the tournament is much more likely to be the best two teams, because the best teams in the east are all in the top eastern conference and the best teams in the west are all in the top western conference.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah. It kinda, sorta, already is in a very informal way (keep winning enough games, and major conferences will start to consider you, with almost all major conferences themselves offering two divisions and a championship game within the conference).

            Complicated by media rights deals and what to do about non-football sports, of course.

          • gbdub says:

            @rahien.din “Alabama-Auburn is not a rivalry.

            Rivalries arise when two teams are consistently fighting to be king of the athletic mountain, but they don’t exist without some sporting connection.”

            I’m very confused by this definition of rivalry – you seem to be saying that the Iron Bowl cannot be a rivalry, because the two universities have animosities that extend beyond football.

            Isn’t “rivalries that get expressed through sports but are also about deeper issues” kind of the whole point of this thread?

          • gbdub says:

            “I’ve been thinking that the promotion relegation system would be ideal for college football. ”

            It would certainly be interesting – there are few games and too many teams for the best teams to meet frequently. Every good team had 3-4 basically guaranteed wins every year.

            For basketball, Conference USA is trying an interesting sort of in-season “relegation”. Basically, their problem is that they are a mix of a small number of possible tournament contenders and some real bottom-feeders. By “evenly” scheduling their conference slate, the best teams end up with several easy wins over bad teams but few opportunities to get signature wins against good teams. This hurts their RPI, a statistic that measures a team’s performance relative to schedule strength and a key component for selecting at-large teams for the NCAA tournament.

            So starting next year, they will split their 18 game conference schedule into a 14 game conference round robin and a “pod” schedule for the final 4 games. Basically, after 14 games, the top 5 teams will play a round robin against each other, as will teams 6-10, and the bottom 4 teams (it’s a 14 team conference so there’s an extra game in the initial RR and the bottom pod will play one of their three opponents twice). For fairness, the conference tournament (which earns the winner an autobid to the NCAA tournament) seeding is done by pod (top pod gets the first five bids, etc.).

            The upshot is that the top five teams will have a much stronger strength of schedule, so hopefully 2-3 teams will be good enough for potential at-large bid consideration.

            Honestly I think it would be very cool if all the conferences did this. Would make the conference regular season title much more meaningful, and would guarantee a nice slate of late season marquee games before the tournament.

          • rlms says:

            @gbdub

            Isn’t “rivalries that get expressed through sports but are also about deeper issues” kind of the whole point of this thread?

            Sometimes that’s true but sometimes it isn’t; many of Millwall’s rivalries are more effects of violence than causes of it. And a lot of the time it’s not relevant; the infamous hooligan firms were violent against the supporters of whichever teams they played, not just their rivals.

          • rahien.din says:

            @gbdub,

            Merely contributing subject matter expertise. Regarding your question, maybe this is my contribution : there are inter-team relationships that flow purely from sport, inter-team relationships that are outgroup-not-fargroup, and then there are inter-team relationships that are sublimated non-sport conflicts.

            @all,

            Promotion-and-relegation in collegiate athletics is not without proponents.

            My main concern regarding promotion-and-relegation within big-money sports like basketball and football is the impact on the institution’s overall fortunes. If a team gets relegated, and the college’s revenue stream suffers (due to loss of conference disbursements, loss of broadcasting tie-ins, worse equipment sponsorships, lower ticket sales, etc.), then this could seriously affect non-revenue sports and, either directly or indirectly, the college’s ability to fund non-athletic ventures.

            This would drastically intensify the link between an athlete’s play and their future. I am not all that settled on the idea of amateurism in college sports, but, I think this would be terribly unfair to the college athlete.

      • DavidS says:

        In the US we say that rugby is a thug’s game played by gentleman and football (soccer) a gentleman’s game played by thugs.

    • ana53294 says:

      At least in Spain, these differences extend to everyday life. People from certain teams who really are fanatics don’t tend to socialize with people from other teams. You will have specialized bars that serve each team, and people from the other team would not go there, at least not dressed in their team colors. That would be viewed as provocation.
      Of course, the same applies to politics. This is especially intense in the Basque country, because of the history of terrorism and street violence. A politician from the right-Spanish party would never go to an “herriko taberna” (link in Spanish); he wouldn’t be welcome there. This is why the ruckus over Sarah Sanders being asked to leave was weird. This wouldn’t happen in Spain, mostly because the local equivalent of Sarah Sanders would never go to a place that was so antagonist to her.

    • ana53294 says:

      To show how political soccer actually is: this is a tweet before the Morocco-Spain game, remembering a silly conflict about a rock in the Gibraltar strait. This happened 16 years ago, and there was no bloodshed. People are still upset.

      • Matt M says:

        US soccer fans have tried things like this too, of course.

        • gbdub says:

          US soccer “ultras” are basically cosplaying at being football hooligans, so this is not surprising, but I suspect totally devoid of real feeling.

          • Matt M says:

            I have to say… as someone who has attended games in the Timbers Army… like, you’re not wrong. But cynicism aside, it’s still the most fun I’ve ever had at a sporting event in my life. Maybe “fake it till you make it” applies here? Portland and Seattle are legit fanbases that can stand toe-to-toe with the best in Europe. Atlanta is looking good so far, but will have to stand the test of time.

          • gbdub says:

            I did not mean to imply that cosplaying is not fun or couldn’t be taken seriously (this would be the height of hypocrisy on my part). But I rather like the term to use here, in part because soccer fans in the US tend to be rather nerdier than fans of other sports. (No offense intended at all, but soccer fandom is definitely a bit of a hipster thing – the location of the most rabid American soccer fan base is not a coincidence)

            Just that I think the most active US soccer fan bases are deliberately and intentionally copying Euro fan clubs as an affectation – organically grown, for lack of a better term, US fandoms are a very different flavor.

            The example you give is I think better read as good natured (but harsh) ribbing, or manufactured animosity at worst, while the Moroccans and Spaniards just genuinely dislike each other and play out some of that tension through sports.

  14. dndnrsn says:

    Welcome to the latest installment of my effortpost series on the Bible. So far, we’ve covered the creation stories in Genesis, the rest of Genesis (focusing on the patriarchs), and the liberation from Egypt plus the covenant in Exodus. This time around, we’re going to look at the “priestly theology” of Exodus 25-40, Leviticus, and most of Numbers. It’s going to tie into one of the developing themes – the possibility that there’s a lot of stuff that was backdated, with more recent developments projected into the past.

    Usual caveat: I’m not an expert on this, but I spent time around experts back in grad school. This focuses on secular scholarship. This one includes a lot more summarizing than usual, but rest assured that next time we will go back to minimal summarizing.

    The “priestly theology” is, predictably, considered by most scholars to be from the P source. This is the core of the P source: a collection of laws and rules for ritual. In its current form, it is described as given to Moses. However, as we will see, there’s a considerable amount of anachronism present, and the material, certainly in its final form, could very well be from later.

    The section in Exodus is concerned largely with the Tabernacle. Chapters 25-31 are concerned with the details of the Tabernacle: its dimensions, the things in it (and their dimensions and other characteristics), the garb of the priests, how priests are to be ordained, how the whole thing should be supported, how oil for anointing and incense are to be made, and so on. It is extremely precise. After chapters 32-34 (in which the Israelites violate the covenant they just made, and after some some unpleasantness, God renews it) chapters 35-40 largely concern the Israelites doing what God has commanded by building the Tabernacle. The level of detail and formality in all this is something that scholars have tended to associate with the P source.

    Scholars think, however, that the tabernacle is anachronistic. It doesn’t seem to reflect the experience of nomads – it’s a very elaborate tabernacle, with various precious materials, that doesn’t seem especially realistic for nomads. It also seems to assume the centralization of the 7th century associated with Josiah and the proliferation of Deuteronomy. Scholarly consensus is that it reflects a later, settled shrine, and is a way for the P source authors/editors to imagine centralization even in an earlier wandering period.

    Leviticus is largely concerned with laws and rules. It begins by explaining how and when ritual sacrifice is to be done, including both regular sacrifices and special sacrifices to atone for sin – interestingly, inadvertent sin is still recognized as sin. Some atonement is accompanied by restitution to people who may have been wronged – but the primary focus is on atonement for wrongs done to God through sin. This takes up seven chapters.

    Following a brief description in Leviticus 8-10 of the actual occurrence of the first consecration of priests, Leviticus spends five chapters on laws involving purity: someone who is ritually impure cannot participate in the community’s religious observances. Impurity is unavoidable – for example, menstruation and childbirth cause impurity for women, emissions of semen cause uncleanness for men- but it must be dealt with through religious ritual. This is where a great deal of the rules concerning what you can’t eat are found, and the complicated rules about not only skin diseases but about impurities in fabrics and buildings. Attempts have been made to explain the rules on the grounds of hygiene: the “they were told not to eat pork because of trichinosis” explanation is a popular one, and the rules regarding skin diseases could be seen as being about hygiene, to give two examples. Other explanations have been more symbolic – some animals or behaviours map to good or bad human behaviours, or the rules are meant to promote reverence for life. However, the major concern of the rules seems to be drawing a line between normal and abnormal. In the case of the food laws, anything with hooves that chews the cud is OK, as are things without hooves that don’t chew the cud – but anything in between is not OK. There are two arrangements that are normal, and anything that mixes those is bad. The same reasoning can be applied to skin diseases (the focus is on unusual surface features; note the amount of attention paid to unusual skin diseases) and to other elements in these rules and P source rules elsewhere.

    After Leviticus 16, which details the Day of Atonement (a ritual performed every fall to purify the sanctuary) chapters 17-26 are spent on what scholars call the “holiness code” – another section of rules, with a fairly distinctive style and vocabulary – enough so that scholars think that these chapters were inserted into the larger unit we are considering here. Chapter 17 concerns proper sacrifice (apparently centralizing it). Chapter 18 is primarily concerned with rules regarding sexual behaviour – this is where the famous prohibition on lying with a man as with a woman is found. The defilement produced by these acts defiles not only the people doing them, but the land itself. These practices are introduced as the practices of the Egyptians and Caananites. These practices are banned because “otherwise the land will vomit you out for defiling it, as it vomited out the nation that was before you.” (18:28). Furthermore, as we will see in chapter 20, the solution to these violations is not atoning sacrifice.

    Chapter 19 is a grab-bag of laws, concerned largely with ethical issues: you should leave some of the scraps from the harvest for poor people and aliens to collect, you shouldn’t cheat or steal, you shouldn’t treat deaf and blind people nastily, you shouldn’t render an unjust judgment, etc. Scholars tend to think that chapter 19 is characteristic of one element of the holiness code: an attempt to inject ethical considerations found elsewhere (Deuteronomy, largely) into the ritual-based system of the P source.

    Chapters 21 and 22 are concerned mostly with priests – they follow stricter rules than everyone else – and with how sacrifices are to be dealt with. 23 is a ritual calendar – different from the one back in Exodus (scholars think this calendar is late, after the exile, based largely on comparisons to Nehemiah). 24 concerns a mixture of laws. Chapter 25 is about the sabbatical year, in which every seventh year the land is left to rest, and people eat only what grows naturally, and the jubilee year, where every fifty years (after 7 units of 7 years) land lies fallow in the same way, land is returned to its ancestral owner, and slaves/indentured servants are emancipated. Both laws have a religious rationale: the land belongs not to the people, but to God. Rules concerning debts, moneylending, and indentured servitude follow. They have an ethical character – they would clearly be good for people selling themselves into indentured servitude, at least – but they are also justified on religious grounds: the people of Israel are themselves God’s servants. Interestingly, scholars see no evidence that the jubilee year was actually observed. A two-year fallow period (49th year followed by 50th) would pose considerable practical problems as well.

    Chapter 26 consists primarily of blessings and curses: Israel will be rewarded for following God and the rules they have been given, and will be punished if they don’t. There’s a possibility that there is influence from Assyrian treaties (discussed last time) here, as the Assyrians liked to have a lot of blessings and curses in their treaties. This is speculative, but it might help provide a date.

    Numbers begins with a census, commanded by God. This is interesting, because in 2 Samuel 24, David orders a census because he is incited by God who is angry against Israel, and the result is hardly positive – and the response of Joab and the other commanders suggests that David’s census may have been an innovation. Meanwhile, in the version in 1 Chronicles 21, it says that Satan caused David to order a census. Clearly, censuses were a bit controversial, but in the P source, the census seems positive. The P source really, really likes list making, genealogies, categories, and so forth. The P source’s presentation, overall, of Israel’s time in the wilderness is that it was fairly orderly – while wandering in the wilderness, they observed the various ritual requirements (in comparison, Amos 5:25 implies that they did not even sacrifice while in the wilderness).

    If what you want is detailed lists and instructions, you certainly get it in Numbers. The census (plural; there are multiple orders from God to take a census) is accompanied by a detailed plan of the wilderness camp (again, scholars think this is an idealized set of instructions, fulfilling the P source’s love for things being neat and tidy), rules for who is to be expelled from the camp, details concerning priests, details concerning the sanctuary, the first Passover, a trial by ordeal for women accused of adultery, and so on. After Numbers 10, the narrative concerning the wandering in the wilderness continues, and isn’t thought by scholars to be part of the unit we’re discussing here.

    For our purposes, the most interesting bit in Numbers is the relationship between the Aaronide priests (their consecration described in Leviticus 8-10) and the Levite priests (their consecration described here in Numbers 8). In the latter, the Levites are subordinate to the Aaronides. There are indications elsewhere, though, that this was not a perfectly harmonious arrangement. Numbers 16, for example, presents friction between the Levites and Aaronides. In Deuteronomy, a controversy over the priesthood of the Levites develops. In the P source, however, the Aaronide priesthood is more important in the hierarchy than the Levites, and this is very clearly laid out. This fits the general enthusiasm of the P source for neat regulations. Scholars also tend to think that the P source had its origin among the Aaronides – who, naturally, would want to bolster their own authority.

    So, summaries aside, what’s important here is that, going by much of the scholarship, the P source may very often be anachronistically backdating things. The P source likes order, and has a particular view of how things should be: centralized, hierarchical, every cubit in its place. The presentation of the rules given in the wilderness in this section, and of the general way of life in the wilderness, may be an attempt to project later changes back upon the origin story, and to establish order in the origin story. The alternative is that all these rules were set out, but that many of them were later abandoned, until later reforms restored the original (and correct) way of doing things. We will discuss this extremely important point next time, when we look at Deuteronomy.

    (As always, please let me know if I’ve made any errors, and hopefully in the next 55 minutes or so, so I can edit them)

    • entobat says:

      In the case of the food laws, anything with hooves that chews the cud is OK, as are things without hooves that don’t chew the cud – but anything in between is not OK.

      That’s not how kashrut works. It’s and, not not xor.

      • dndnrsn says:

        You are right. I believe that here I misremembered something from a sociology of religion course I took ages ago. Either that, or the instructor had it wrong. I remember her saying that land animals without hooves that didn’t chew the cud were OK, and it was the in-betweeners that were a problem. So either she was wrong or it was a false memory. Anyway, thanks for the correction; I’ve added it to the errata list for the future masterpost.

    • S_J says:

      Small quibble: somewhere, there is a mention of “as we will see in chapter 20…” But it looks like the discussion jumps from chapter 19 to chapter 21. I missed the edit-window in mentioning it to you.

      On the main point: the P-style seen in Leviticus and Numbers looks a great deal like the style of the historical Books of Chronicles, and with sections of Ezra. Those books are also heavy on Order, heavy on descriptions of religious ceremony, and big into genealogy. However, the Chronicler(s) condemn the census of David, even if Numbers and Ezra are filled with census/count information.

      About the clean and unclean animals: it’s not stated outright, but the clean animals are basically animals which are friendly to nomadic-style herding. Cattle, sheep, and goats… But not pigs, camels, horses, or rabbits. If my memory is right: among sea-creatures, anything with both scales and fins is clean. There might be a hidden rule related to a nomadic life under that, or there might not… Would crustacians/molluscs/cephalopods/aquatic mammals be hard to find, or culturally odd?

      The variance in festival-calendars is a surprise to me. Is it a different list of festivals, or different dates for the festivals?

      • dndnrsn says:

        Ugh, I think that’s one of those ghosts where I ended up cutting something for space, but didn’t cut out something referring to it. Ch 20 has harsh punishments (well, harsh by our standards; by the standards of the Ancient Near East, there’s an argument to be made that a lot of the punishments in Jewish law were lighter than the norm, or at least placed some upper bound on punishment) for violations, although scholars are unclear whether they were ever carried out that severely 100% of the time (or whether it was more like, say, “we could totally do this horrible punishment to you, so shape up”, or whether it was an idealized regime of crime and punishment).

        With regard to the animals: I think scholars mostly have come to the conclusion that the rules got put together in a settled environment. I’m no nomad expert, but aren’t camels really friendly to nomadic life, moreso than cattle? I’m pretty sure that by the standards of the ancient Mediterranean, continuing into Roman times, Jews were considered unusual by everyone else for the list of things they wouldn’t eat – which, I believe, included some things that were staples (can animals be staples?) for nearby peoples.

        On the subject of festivals, this will probably get touched on more in the installment on Deuteronomy. There’s something going on with some festivals being pilgrimages, and some being stay-at-home things, and that changing in the reforms associated with Deuteronomy. Can’t really say more right now, because I don’t have my books here. Pretty sure the scholarly consensus is that the different lists of festivals date from different times, and the changes reflect increasing centralization.

        • beleester says:

          Yeah, the dates are the same, the change is in whether or not they’re pilgrimage festivals. Exodus 12 and 23 specify the big three – Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot – but don’t give exact dates and only briefly mentions that they’re pilgrimages. Exodus 20 also has a law about building altars which suggests that sacrifices were not centralized at the time.

          Leviticus 23 specifies exact dates, and adds Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. (By the way, dndrsn, if there’s a scholarly explanation for why the New Year celebration is in the seventh month of the year, I’d love to hear it. Was there an existing Canaanite calendar that they had to integrate with or something?)

          Deuteronomy 16 is where they get really explicit that the big three are pilgrimage holidays. We start to see the phrase “The place where God will establish his name” – the Temple – and it specifies that you can’t make the offerings elsewhere.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Not entirely 100% on this, because I don’t have my books, but: the stuff I’ve been looking at says something along the lines that Passover was originally an “in-place” family celebration, that was combined with the unleavened bread festival (in Ex 23) and turned into a pilgrimage festival. Supposedly this was during the reforms associated with Deuteronomy.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            Re: the New Year stuff, I have read that the Northern Kingdom started counting the New Year in the spring, which was the Babylonian custom; while the Southern Kingdom started the New Year in the fall, which may have been Canaanite custom. I am not sure if there is any significance in the fact that one kingdom followed Babylonian custom and the other Canaanite; in any case, Rosh Hashana is Southern Kingdom New Year, which falls in the seventh month by the Northern Kingdom calendar.
            It seems that eventually the spring New Year functioned as an ecclesiastical New Year, starting anew the various pilgrimage festivals, whereas the fall New Year was used to reckon Jubilee years and such. Eventually there were also new years for cattle tithes and agricultural tithes; I think the idea is like how in the Northern hemisphere the calendrical year, the school year, and fiscal year can all start at different places; so having the new year festival in the seventh month is sort of like how a schoolchild might refer to the beginning of next year (meaning next school year) in the 9th month.

          • Fingerspitzengefuehl says:

            Re optionality of savage punishments in ancient law codes: the draconian punishment’s being optional was a feature of the Laws of Manu. E.g., it is prescribed that adultery with your guru’s wife would be punishable either by a painful ritual suicide, or a long walk seven times around [something; it’s been years since my class]. Intuitively it’d operate somewhat like our system of plea-bargaining.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      Could someone create a centralized collection of links to your effort post series that I can bookmark?

      (Even better: a centralized collection of all effort post series would also be a great resource. Collaborative Google doc?)

      • bean says:

        We tried that last year. Didn’t really seem to gain traction. Look in the OPs in late September/early October. If someone wants to update it, I’d be happy to approve the changes. (I’m the document owner.)

        • Nick says:

          Could you share the link right here, since you own the document? Searching open threads (by google search at least is how I do it) is really annoying.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I’m going to be posting a rolling masterpost periodically. I think the next one is going to be after the next installment, because after I’ve done Deuteronomy, that’s the entire Torah covered. (I’m hoping to do one for the Torah, one for the books categorized as Prophetic, one for the Writings, one for the New Testament) Due to the edit window, there can’t be anything here that will be a one-time bookmark, I’m pretty sure. If someone wants to make a Google Doc effortpost repository, that would be cool, yeah.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          Okay, thanks anyway. I hope I’ll find them when I decide I have enough time read them all.

        • Aron Wall says:

          I’m surprised that after all this effort w.r.t. the Hebrew Bible, you’re only going to do one on the NT, which is the one you know better. (For example, maybe first do Paul and then the Gospels.) But it’s your effort being spent, so up to you.

          • bean says:

            He’s talking about a top-level index, not a post. There’s no way he’d do only one post on the New Testament.

  15. JohnNV says:

    A few weeks ago, Scott had a post about Universal Basic Income, and someone in the comments made an interesting observation that there would quickly be a network of UBI lenders who would give you cash today in exchange for all or a significant portion of your UBI going forward. And that in order to prevent this, the UBI would have to be forbidden from being used as collateral in loans, else people with a short time horizon and bad decision making would trade away their entire UBI for a short term gain and be left off no better than they are today. It occurred to me that there are already lenders who do this today – someone like J G Wentworth who will buy your annuity or structured settlement for cash today. The question is where are these lenders with Social Security? Can someone trade away their right to future social security payments in exchange for cash, or is this forbidden by law?

    • andrewflicker says:

      The real piece isn’t that you ban using it as collateral- it’s that you make it legally ungarnishable- even if the person declares bankruptcy, that money is sacrosanct. In that paradigm, lenders won’t lend against it, because there’s no guarantee they can GET it if the shit hits the fan.

      SS is ungarnishable except for student loans, alimony, and child support, I believe.

      • Brad says:

        And taxes.

        • tmk says:

          Tax debt can be written off in a bankruptcy, can it not?

          • Brad says:

            Sometimes yes, and sometimes no, but either way until and unless it is, the government can garnish ss for it.

          • andrewflicker says:

            Yes, as well as the IRS themselves doing non-bankruptcy agreements that significantly reduce debt in many cases.

          • albatross11 says:

            The whole image of having your social security checks garnished to pay for your student loans (or those you cosigned with your kids) is just evil.

          • Randy M says:

            Hilariously so, given the earnings benefits college is supposed to bring about, but remember that some people do attend relatively late in life. I’m not sure that case is typical enough to prompt the exception in the social security code/law, but it might be the case of the high loans/late enrollment cross over being a concern for someone.

  16. Rolaran says:

    Looking for any beginner’s-guide-level resources/advice on dealing with a narcissist in my social circle? She and I have butted heads in the past, but I kinda just assumed it was normal clashing-personalities stuff. Then I did some reading on NPD and she ticks an awful lot of boxes- special pleading, inability to handle failure, exploitation of others, interrupting others if she’s not in the spotlight, responding to criticism with either indecipherable nonsense or “poor me” stories about an abusive childhood. A lot of what I’ve found on the topic assumes either a parent-child or a “significant other”-level relationship, which this really isn’t (I run a 10-player tabletop game once a week, and I’m getting tired of 20 minute arguments every time the dice fall in a way she doesn’t like).

    • Steven J says:

      Maybe helpful:
      How To Win With A Narcissist: 5 Secrets Backed By Research,
      https://www.bakadesuyo.com/2017/10/how-to-win-with-a-narcissist/

    • Well... says:

      Just for fun, can you link to the best of the parent-child articles you found?

      • Rolaran says:

        I don’t think I’m in a great position to evaluate which ones were good or not, sorry. Most of them I didn’t read the whole thing after the first paragraph was along the lines of “When you’ve been raised in a household where narcissist personalities hold sway…”

    • brmic says:

      Kick her out. A tabletop session isn’t the place for therapy and if your description is anywhere near accurate she makes the experience worse for everyone else in the room.
      Granted, 10 players can be tricky in terms of handling the spotlight, but that’s also why it’s crucial everyone present is cosiderate and not hogging the spotlight.
      You might want to give some very explicit hard rules a try first, like ‘no discussion beyond 2 minutes, after that GM decides’, no interruptions (or a token economy) but I’ve never had any luck with those. These days, whoever isn’t pulling 100% for the team on something that should be fun for all needs to leave. No hard feelings, but my time’s to precious.

      • Rolaran says:

        Thanks for the candid advice. I am already considering removing her from the game I’m running. The thing is, this game isn’t the only thing this group hangs out for, and I don’t believe I have the ability to alter the group composition enough that I can avoid interacting with her entirely.

        To provide a little more context, the traits I described earlier aren’t all things that have happened during the game, they’re patterns I have noticed over several years of running in the same circles as Clara (not her real name). I know of at least two other members of this group who have made efforts to cut ties with Clara in the past, but it’s a close-knit group and it would take some serious doing to co-ordinate a complete shut-out. So for the time being, I am resigned to the probable outcome that even if she’s not part of my gaming group, I will be running into her at other events, and thus some more info about clinical narcissism would be handy.

        • brmic says:

          If I understand you correctly, your preferred outcome would be for her to leave the social group. In which case advice centered on helping the person develop less narcissistic behaviours isn’t suited, because you neither care enough about her nor are willing to invest the time and effort. You find only mismatched advice because no one except parents/significant others wants and needs to do the enormous amount of work we’re talking about. I’d instead recommend looking for advice on dealing with annoying co-workers, annoying significant others of friends, stuff like that. Whatever works from that advice for you. For me it’s generally along the line of keeping my distance, trying to let small stuff slide as much as I can and clearly communicating boundaries and enforcing them.

          • Rolaran says:

            Once I got past the knee-jerk indignation (“How DARE you imply that I don’t etc. etc.”), I realized that you are essentially correct. I would prefer if she left my immediate social group (preferably in a way that didn’t leave her totally isolated), and I have neither the time, the training or the energy to try to sort a case like this out.

    • knownastron says:

      What do you mean a 20 minute argument when the dice doesn’t roll in her favor?

      The way I’m imagining it this is beyond acceptable and you might just need to buck up and tell her it rolled the way it rolled and we’re moving on. This should solve your board game session without anyone thinking you’re being harsh or unreasonable.

      What are the complicating factors? Are some of your friends sympathetic to Clara’s grievances? Do you have social anxiety? Please elaborate.

      On a more big picture perspective, if 2 other people have already tried to cut ties (a pretty severe response), they can’t be the only ones. Build a coalition behind the scenes that you can guide towards either a shut-out or at least an intervention.

      • Rolaran says:

        A case example: I give out a certain amount of freebie XP at the end of each session. At one point Clara was feeling ill, and I suggested in a group chat app we use that she skip a session to recuperate. She replied that she couldn’t because she would miss out on the XP. From there she complained that she was falling too far behind other players, claimed that everybody else was already more powerful than her, accused me of distributing XP inequitably, blamed another player for holding her back (she built a shared backstory with him, but he hasn’t been able to attend regularly), and compared me to her parents abusively pressuring her to win competitions in high school.

        Complicating factors: Well, she’s been through some legit shit. As far as I can tell, she genuinely was raised in an abusive household, she and her family are currently semi-estranged, and she’s had multiple surgeries due to a chronic condition. The fact that she uses those experiences to guilt-trip others doesn’t negate the fact that they happened.

        Our social circle contains people who have cut ties, but also people who have known her since high school, people who have had her as a roommate, and one who currently lives with and is dating her.

        The group as a whole prides itself on being sort of a “ragtag band of misfits”; nearly all of us have a history of social anxiety or awkwardness (I have gotten much better about it, but at one point I was fired from my job for being unable to read social cues). GSF1 is very strong in this group: several (though certainly not all) members of the group value the warm fuzzy feeling that “we would *never* ostracize someone!” over the increase in overall happiness that would come with booting a problematic member.

        • Lillian says:

          This is really tangential, but i find just having the entire group use the same amount amount of XP really cuts down on related drama. Nobody worries about it, everyone’s on the same page, if someone screws up and loses track of how much XP they have, they can just ask another player or the GM what their count is because it’s the same for everyone.

          Note that i am someone who tends to both show up consistently and get bonus XP for good roleplaying and the like, so in pretty much every game i’ve played with individual XP totals i’m usually at or near the lead. Yet i still vastly prefer just having group XP. Everyone just seems happier and less anxious that way.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            Obviously depends what you’re playing- in 3.5, even if the DM gives out the same amount of XP, totals may be different due to things like level loss from resurrection, spells with XP components, XP spent on item crafting…

            (Plus, of course, the game’s built-in catch-up mechanism meaning that RAW PCs of different levels- for instance because one died and was resurrected- get different amounts of XP from the same encounter)

        • knownastron says:

          Alright I see what’s happening here.

          How hard do you argue against her? What is your tone? Is it compromising or aggressive? You can do quite a bit to enforce norms during an argument.

          It’s not the classiest move ever, but if she blames other people, play the victim card. The current circumstances totally justify it.

          “I really don’t think it’s nice that you’re blaming Brian for missing out on the sessions. He has his own life and might be going through a lot and you don’t need to make him feel ostracized.” (Use this especially when ‘Brian’ is one of the people wanting to cut ties, they won’t object)

          Or… “I take offense to getting compared to your parents. What your parents did to you is really wrong. To imply that I’m the same type of people as them really hurts my feelings. I don’t run these sessions to be blamed and to feel terrible about who I am. You are not being very nice.”

          • Rolaran says:

            That sounds pretty close to what I’ve been doing so far. Taking a tone that’s firm without being mean, and just refusing to get visibly perturbed about it (which from what I’ve found in research, is actually an acknowledged tactic when dealing with narcissists- the “grey rock” technique).

            FWIW, I feel like I have been handling it pretty well overall. The new (to me) information is not that she acts this way, but that it fits a pattern that has been observed and studied. This was intended less as an “I have no clue what to do and am at the end of my rope, please help!” and more checking if anyone knew of resources related to handling narcissist behaviours specifically.

  17. Matt M says:

    Thinking of my next serial TV drama show to watch. Considering ST: Voyager. It never impressed me much in the 90s when I caught random episodes, but it’s still Trek, right? If I liked TNG and DS9, will this at least be tolerable? Or is it not worth the time/investment?

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      No.

    • FLWAB says:

      I mean, I like it: but I have to admit that’s not the popular opinion. DS9 is definitely better. The first two seasons aren’t great, but they’re better than TNGs first two seasons, so if you didn’t mind those you’ll do alright. Otherwise I would suggest starting with season 4: that’s the season where 7 of 9 joins the crew, and the early season silliness is well behind them. Like TNG, you don’t really need to watch the first three seasons if you don’t want to. There are some real great episodes in there, though there are quite a few lackluster ones.

      To sum up: if you can stomach early TNG then you can handle the first three seasons of Voyager no problem, but if you want to skip most of the bad stuff start at season 4.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Well, there’s something to be said for completionism.

      Voyager could have been so much more, but they were never willing to take the risks necessary to rise above mediocrity.

      • cassander says:

        this is precisely my assessment.

      • achenx says:

        Ronald D Moore, after leaving DS9, tried to go to Voyager. I think he lasted about two episodes before essentially saying “f this”, and quitting.

        I’ve long thought that his reboot of BSG was shaped by what he thought went wrong with Voyager. Not that Trek should ever be as “dark” as BSG, but as far as dealing with consequences, taking the “lost in space” premise seriously, and so on, BSG has a lot of what Voyager should have had.

    • Brad says:

      It depends on how nostalgic you are for red uniforms and warp drives. It’s not good TV, but it is Star Trek.

    • Elephant says:

      Seconding the comment above that there are quite a few good (entertaining, not terribly deep) episodes from Voyager’s season IV-VI onwards, especially if you like the general Star Trek worldview / tone.

    • Urstoff says:

      Only watch the episode where they break the transwarp barrier and then Janeway and Paris turn into salamanders.

    • achenx says:

      A couple episodes are pretty good, almost in spite of themselves. I wouldn’t say it’s worth wading through the rest of it, though.

    • Protagoras says:

      I’m with those who say that the compromise position is start when seven of nine joins the show (I guess that’s the fourth season, or so everyone in this thread has been saying). Very few of the episodes without her are any good, while there are definitely some decent episodes with her (though they’re not all winners either; you just get much worse odds in the episodes without her). But it’s not like Andromeda-level terrible or anything, so there’s a Trek-completionist case for just watching the whole thing. Depends on how much free time you have, I suppose.

  18. disposablecat says:

    There seems to be a general cultural impression that being convicted of a federal felony is worse, overall, than being convicted of a state felony. I’ve just realized that I don’t really know why that is. Can anyone enlighten me? It seems like either way you do hard time and lose a bunch of rights.

    (Side question: if you evade state taxes, is that a federal felony, or just a state one?)

    • Brad says:

      The federal government has some very harsh prison term lengths, gives judges less discretion to depart from them, and has truth in sentencing laws that mean people serve most of the time they are sentenced to. On top of that the FBI and US Attorneys are better resourced and just more competent than state counterparts and so can push harder during plea bargaining.

      • FLWAB says:

        Seconded. When I worked for the National Park Service we were told that any offense, even a speeding ticket, was a federal offense in the Park since it was under federal jurisdiction: and that means federal courts, federal judges, federal prosecutors, and federal jails. They’re all better funded and they tend to throw the book at you.

    • Aron Wall says:

      It’s also true that the States have a general “police power” to punish all kinds of offenses, whereas Congress is (in theory) only permitted to make crimes related to certain specific issues of national importance. Now, that’s somewhat compromised by the fact that the power to regulate interstate commerce has been interpreted as, basically the ability to regulate anything.

      However, it is still true that, outside of special situations like DC and state parks, the federal government generally concerns itself with “bigger” kinds of crimes, leading states to regulate the smaller stuff. On the other hand, murder is a pretty big deal and this is almost always prosecuted by States.

    • meiscooldude says:

      For the federal background check system used when purchasing a firearm, a felony is defined as being convicted for any crime in which the punishment *could* be imprisonment for more than one year. It’s considered a felony even if the sentence was only a small fine, it’s the conviction that actually matters.

      This has lead to a massive discrepancy for what ‘is’ and ‘is-not’ a criminal conviction worthy of losing your gun rights on state-by-state and local levels.

  19. Levantine says:

    A link tip:

    An introduction: As soon as I realised that this is an OLDstory about an issue I care zero, I faced a prospect of possibly wasting several minutes of my life in tedium. As my eyes wandered off, I noticed something like an anecdote about “an email out of the blue,” so I continued reading.

    In the end, the story blew my mind.

  20. Nick says:

    Hey, does anyone know how the project of translating Hotel Concierge and sam[]zdat into ordinary prose is going? Should I be checking the subreddit instead, or?

    For those not aware, a few weeks ago Nabil ad Dajjal wrote a short summary of a Hotel Concierge post and was unimpressed that its point took so long and so meandering an article to express. GranderDelusion offered to start summarizing them, but I haven’t seen anything since.

  21. adder says:

    Was Stephen Hawking’s intellectual ability related to his physical disability? For some odd reason, I grew up assuming this was the case. I guess I assumed it was a Daredevil-like tradeoff of powers or something. I realize now that it is completely unjustified, but there do appear to be examples of that odd sort of trade-off. High-fucntioning autists serve as an example, I think. Is there any evidence that his brain differences that caused his intellectual greatness also caused his neuro-muscular issues?

    • Aapje says:

      I think that your observation speaks more to cognitive dissonance than to fact (you expect the physical disabled to be mentally disabled and when the opposite is true, it seems far more remarkable than when a physically able person is mentally super-able).

    • rahien.din says:

      No.

      ETA : Go read about ALS.

      • rahien.din says:

        Subsequently and with greater charity : maybe you are supposing Algernon’s Law : any simple major enhancement to human intelligence is a net evolutionary disadvantage, or, any type of mental enhancement carries a price.

        One could restate the law as follows :
        1. The brain’s operations flow from the brain’s construction
        2. Each discrete element of the brain’s construction exerts a suite of effects
        3. Each such effect can be described as falling on the positive-negative and adaptive-maladaptive axes, within each applicable domain
        4. The brain’s operations are like a vector sum of these effects – and thus the vector sum of its constituent elements

        For instance, if you turn the knob that pushes the brain toward a particular kind of intelligence, the consequence may be a greater degree of autism spectrum disorder. Very reasonable supposition.

        But knowing what we know about ALS, Algernon’s Law doesn’t apply here. The determinants of anterior horn cell function are regionally and pathophysiologically distinct from the determinants of intelligence.

        Moreover, Algernon’s Law only flows in one direction. It’s like entropy. Good things necessarily come with costs but bad things do not necessarily present rewards. Net evolutionary disadvantages do not necessarily correlate with enhancements to human intelligence.

        Hawking’s case is simply an astounding coincidence – the bullet of rare intelligence striking the bullet of rare illness midflight.

        • albatross11 says:

          I’d assume there are a lot of places where selection has been balancing between intelligence and other stuff in ways that probably don’t matter so much for modern life. For example, bigger head circumferences are a lot less of a problem when you give birth in a hospital where the doctor can do a C-section if necessary; it seems likely that there’s been a tradeoff made there evolutionarily–making our head bigger would raise our intelligence but kill us in childbirth, but now that tradeoff looks very different. Along similar lines, making a brain that took more calories to operate better was probably a lousy tradeoff when our ancestors went hungry a lot of the time, but it would be fine for us today.

    • adder says:

      Okay. I feel adequately chagrined.

    • James C says:

      Short answer, no. ALS is actually pretty unusual as a neuro-degenerative disease that doesn’t seriously affect the brain.

      Long answer… it’s not impossible? There is a genetic component to ALS and it is possible that intelligence and ALS were inherited together either through association on the genome or sharing some mechanism that we don’t know of. It seems unlikely, however, as the a majority of ALS cases happen with no clear cause (90%) and no genetic association.

    • John Schilling says:

      There’s also the bit where it is intuitively obvious to all nerds that time spent on sports makes you dumber, and Hawking obviously wasn’t spending any time on sports. Fortunately, that bit of obvious intuition turns out to be mostly false (and pre-ALS Hawking was a college athlete).

      Generally speaking, unhealthy bodies correlate with unhealthy minds, but in Hawking’s case the two axes appear to have been completely orthogonal.

    • adder says:

      I think the cognitive bias that might be going on is the knee-jerk need to link extraordinary things. If Stephen Hawking were extraordinarily strong, one might put together a just so story to explain their relation (“Well… maybe some gene in his body lead to hyperactive growth, which resulted in more neural connections being formed and giant muscles”). If Bill Gates were extraordinarily tall, it would be all to tempting to try to find a link between entrepreneurship and statistically anomalous height. & c.

  22. p duggie says:

    Thomson Reuters determined that the USA is one of the top 10 dangerous countries for women, because the experts they surveyed all thought about #metoo when they were asked this year. Really its that everyone said “India” most of the time, but sometimes the esperts decided to hit the USA, and some of them called the USA the worst. Actually called the USA the worst (for sex violence) more often than Congo, Pakistan, Egypt, etc

    http://poll2018.trust.org/country/?id=usa

    • Randy M says:

      Seems like danger should have some correlation with life expectancy.

      • rlms says:

        Some, but not necessarily that much: Syria and Iraq seem likely to be considerably more dangerous than Greenland and Latvia to me.

        • Randy M says:

          We should all stop using seem, it… I think.
          To be objective, we would want to break down cause of death. Danger literally means “odds of something bad happening to you” with death being the worst.
          If the lower life expectancy in Greenland is related to some hereditary trait in it’s somewhat small population, it should be disregarded; otherwise, perhaps your impression is wrong about either it or Syria and Iraq.

          Breaking out causes of death would also be useful if we’re specifically concerned with “danger of harm from other people” rather than from natural environment, diet, or heredity.

          But anyhow, the point was that a survey of experts seems like a poor methodology for ranking when things like crime or life expectancy statistics exist.

          • rlms says:

            I think danger is implied to be from harm from other people, or maybe other people and some aspects of the environment (falling rocks, extreme weather). It would be very odd to describe someone as endangered by their genetic predisposition to disease.

            Therefore life expectancy tables are useful to the extent that life expectancy is affected by harm from other people (not very much AFAIK) and to the extent that levels of violent crime are correlated with e.g. quality of healthcare. But there are plenty of confounding factors, so I think violent crime statistics would be considerably better: for more examples consider Israel (I don’t think it’s the 11th safest country in the world) and Botswana (probably not the 12th most dangerous).

          • Randy M says:

            It would be very odd to describe someone as endangered by their genetic predisposition to disease.

            I’m not sure. If I went in for a physical and asked “Hey Doc, am I in danger of a heart attack?” he’d both know what I mean and question me about my family history.

            But, agreed, you wouldn’t describe a neighborhood as “dangerous” because of the high rates of cardiovascular disease; in that formulation (and the one in the link) you are looking for the dangers presented by that region specifically. If everyone was the same genetically, then life expectancy would be a good proxy for the danger of the country.

            But I don’t want to quibble any further about words when we are in general agreement. (I find teasing out the connotations, and any implications thereof, or any smuggled assumptions, etc. to be interesting, but I fear it comes off as is tiring pedantry, so I’m resolving to do so less.)

          • Matt M says:

            I think danger is implied to be from harm from other people, or maybe other people and some aspects of the environment (falling rocks, extreme weather).

            Given that the title is “dangerous for women” I’d say the implication is that the environment isn’t included either. Dangers from the natural environment are hardly unique to women. If anything, I’d expect that women are less likely to be exposed to the dangers of nature, and they’d be less important to the equation than they would in a calculation of danger for all people.

    • The Nybbler says:

      This is the culture-war-free thread, and I think this study qualifies as culture war.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      That’s an unspeakably awful study– it’s about which countries *seem* to be the most dangerous for women, and I think that appearance has a lot to do with what gets into the news.

      Countries are probably the wrong size to ask the question about. I expect a lot of regional variation.

      It would be interesting to ask the questions of women who have lived in more than one country– and have them only rank the countries they’ve lived in.

    • David Speyer says:

      Who are these experts? The point of being an expert is to be aware of examples that receive little media coverage and have a more realistic big picture.

    • S_J says:

      I agree with Nancy above: country-level comparisons are not useful. Not only is “dangerous countries for women” poorly-defined, but the nation-by-nation comparison can hide lots of regional variations inside a nation.

      Is the danger assault of any kind, sexual assault, or homicide?

      Interestingly, there is a Wiki page titled “Homicide statistics by gender”, with a country-by-country comparison. By raw numbers, India has more homicide-of-females than any other nation on that chart. But the per-capita rate for India is small (1.4 per 100K), while nations like Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Myanmar all post rates above 6 per 100K. (Other nations have higher rates, but most of those nations have fewer than 1000 female homicide victims in the given year, which gives me reason to doubt that the rate is stable over a long time.)

      By comparison, the United States has a rate-of-female-homicides at about 1 per 100K. From my knowledge of United States crime rates, I suspect that there is lots of regional variations inside the United States. But the base rate is so low that those variations may be hard to capture.

    • rahien.din says:

      There’s so, so much wrong here.

      They asked a weird series of open-ended questions regarding the opinions of a non-representative sample, and interpret those opinions as evidence. 25% of their score comes from “How many times did the respondents say that X country was one of the five most dangerous?” Their other questions conflate a whole host of things without any attempt at weighting, or any explanation of the responses.

      They report the data without so much as a scale, range, or legend for their “charts” and only say “1 is the worst.” They don’t describe how they are comparing these “data” at all. Their dataset begs for correction for weird inclusions in the responses, and questions that produce “data” that seem totally unrelated to other questions.

      Some of their results are utterly ludicrous. Are we really to believe that an American woman’s risk of being raped is the same as a Syrian woman in an active warzone? Are we really to believe that the USA is somewhere between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in terms of conflict-related violence, domestic, physical and mental abuse?

      I requested the data because now I’m curious how bad this study gets. Here are the ranks available on the website. The categories are Healthcare / Discrimination / Culture / Sexual Violence / Nonsexual Violence / Trafficking. If a value is missing, it means the country was not ranked in the top 10 :

      Afghanistan : 1 / 1 / 2 / 7 / 1 / 7
      Syria : 2 / 7 / / 3 / 2 /
      Somalia : 3 / 5 / 3 / 10 / 9 /
      Yemen : 4 / 5 / 7 / / 4 /
      India : 4 / 3 / 1 / 1 / 3 / 1
      South Sudan : 6 / 9 / / / /
      DRC : 7 / 8 / 9 / 2 / 8 /
      Congo : 8 / / 9 / 5 / /
      Sierra Leone : 9 / / / / /
      CAR : 10 / / / / /
      Saudi Arabia : / 2 / 5 / / 7 /
      Pakistan : / 4 / 4 / 7 / 5 / 10
      Bangladesh : / 10 / / / /
      Iran : / 10 / / / /
      Nigeria : / / 6 / 10 / / 4
      Egypt : / / 8 / 10 / /
      Sudan : / / 9 / / /
      USA : / / / 3 / 6 /
      South Africa : / / / 6 / /
      Mexico : / / / 9 / 9 /
      Libya : / / / / / 2
      Myanmar : / / / / / 3
      Russia : / / / / / 4
      Phillipines : / / / / / 6
      Thailand : / / / / / 8
      Nepal : / / / / / 9

      • Matt M says:

        Are we really to believe that an American woman’s risk of being raped is the same as a Syrian woman in an active warzone?

        To answer your question literally, yes, we are supposed to believe that.

        They are presenting this straight, and disguising it with the veneer of a scientific study. They fully expect us to believe it. And this shouldn’t come as a surprise, they’ve been paving the way with the “one in five college girls are raped” (which, if true, would make college campuses among the most dangerous places for women in the entire world) stuff for years.

      • Matt M says:

        Here’s the Huffington Post, parroting the results uncritically without the slightest hint of skepticism.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          I was going to challenge the posting of this as “no one is taking this list seriously, why bring up something everyone mocks,” but I guess that’s my bubble.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Well you can still say “no one to be taken seriously is taking this list seriously, why bring up an organization everyone mocks”

  23. ManyCookies says:

    Let’s play a game. With limited time per category (let’s say 30 seconds), estimate the percentage of U.S Democrats that are:

    – Black
    – Union Members
    – LGBT
    – Atheist/Agnostic

    And estimate the percentage of U.S Republicans that are:

    – 250k+ a year earners
    – Evangelicals
    – Southerners
    – Age 65+

    You get one point for each answer within five percentage points of the actual answer.

    Actual answers in rot13:
    Democrat: Gjragl-Svir, Gra-Cbvag-Svir, Fvk-Cbvag-Guerr, Avar
    Republican: Gjb, Guvegl-Sbhe, Guvegl-Fvk, Gjragl-Bar

    There was a study based around the hilariously bad estimates people had on these (their Mturk survery gave bonus payouts for each guess within 5 percentage points), but I’m curious to see how well this crowd does. I got 2/5 on the stats I didn’t already know.

    • mdet says:

      Dems are
      —20% Black
      —15% Union
      — 5% LGBT
      —30% Ath/Ag

      GOP are
      — 3% +$250k
      —40% Evangelical
      —30% Southern
      —15% Over 65

      V terngyl birerfgvzngrq gur ahzore bs nguvrfgf / ntabfgvpf. Bgure guna gung, zbfgyl evtug

    • quanta413 says:

      My guesses:
      Dems are
      -20% Black (Blacks are ~14% of the population but vote 90% democratic if they vote, so I didn’t double the number to 28%)
      -10% Union (Unions are pretty rare these days outside the public sector. I’d bet a lot of these are teachers or other government employees)
      -2% LGBT (LGBT are rare so I just guessed roughly their frequency in the population)
      -15% Ath/Ag (Rough fraction of atheists/agnostics in the population)

      Reps are
      -5% 250k+ (I’d look at a graph of income distribution and then just peg it to be the same as the population, but that feels like cheating; I’m guessing roughly 5% of the population makes this much)
      -20% Evangelical (I’m not sure who exactly counts as this…)
      -20% Southern (I read that most whites in the South go Republican, but it’s also a much smaller share of population than the rest of the country)
      -15% over 65 (guessing roughly the fraction of the population that’s over 65)

      Conclusion: Coming within 5 points of the measurements is hard.

    • DavidS says:

      My guesses varied from bang on to awful (in my defence, terms like ‘evangelical’ and ‘atheist/agnostic’ are somewhat vague and I suspect I was wrong about Southern based on being unclear what % of the US population count as Southern

    • Nick says:

      I guessed:
      30% black
      30% union
      10% LGBT
      5% atheist/agnostic

      5% 250k+ earners
      40% Evangelicals
      30% Southerners
      30% 65+

      Fb V fpberq n sbhe bhg bs rvtug gbgny, naq zl bayl ernyyl greevoyr bar jnf jnl birerfgvzngvat gur cerinyrapr bs havbaf. Zl pbapyhfvba vf lbh fubhyq unir znqr 6% gur phgbss. 🙁

    • James says:

      I got 3/8, which I consider not bad for a non-America with only a secondhand grasp of American demographics. I guessed waaay high on atheist/agnostic democrats and waaay low on republican evangelicals (which makes me think I don’t actually have a good sense of what ‘evangelical’ means). Got 250k+ republicans exactly right.

      • Nornagest says:

        “Evangelical” typically means you belong to a Protestant strain that emphasizes conversion narratives (e.g. “born again”) and a personal relationship with God. It’s got fuzzy boundaries but includes most of the Baptists and Pentecostals and a large number of nondenominational Christians. About a quarter of Americans identify as evangelical by most counts, and they skew heavily conservative but aren’t all GOP members.

    • fion says:

      My excuse in advance is that I’m not American. 😛

      Dems are
      15% Black
      10% Union
      10% LGBT
      10% A

      GOP are
      5% rich
      10% Evangelical
      50% Southern
      30% old

      EDIT: got half within 5 points. My guesses for republicans were pretty bad…

    • rubberduck says:

      I got 4/8 right overall but only 1 of those was for the Democrats (LGBT, I guessed 4%). The only Republican one I got wrong was the percentage in southern states (and “southern” wasn’t defined, maybe the question only referred to the Deep South or something). I’m conservative-leaning myself, that could be why, though I know more Democrats than Republicans so it’s not a complete solution.

    • rahien.din says:

      The paper spends a lot of effort to show that people are biased, but I think that’s a misunderstanding.

      I think people are just bad at math, and don’t actually think about the probability of having some characteristic given party membership. They might have a better idea about the probability of being a member of a particular party, given some characteristic. Sure, they gave numerically incorrect answers to “What percentage of Democrats are black?” but those incorrect answers encode the valid intuition that being black means you have a much higher likelihood of being a Democrat.

      When the authors titter that “For example, even though Americans tend to associate blacks with the Democratic Party, just a quarter of Democrats are black,” they’re misinterpreting people’s responses. That association is correct, whether it is described with perfect numeracy or not.

      When the authors condescend that “The group account of partisanship is also at odds with the fact that the parties don’t look very different. Majorities of both parties’ supporters are white, middle-class, and heterosexual, and both parties’ modal supporters are middle-aged, non-evangelical Christians,” they are ignoring what people actually care about. Everyone knows that the modal American is white, middle-class, middle-aged, heterosexual, and non-evangelical Christian. The modal American is not the point.

      • Matt M says:

        Indeed. Most of these errors are not errors in identifying various things that correlate with political partisanship. Rather, they are simply misestimations of the amount of various demographic groups in the first place. They’re simply over-estimating the amount of blacks, homosexuals, millionaires, etc. in total.

        If you primed them with something like “Homosexuals comprise 2% of the total population” THEN ask them what % of Democrats are homosexuals, I tend to doubt you’d see anyone, ever, give a number higher than 5%.

        ETA: Without trying to get too culture-warry here, I would personally suggest that these mis-estimations are an intentional result of media bias specifically designed to produce these very results.

        • DavidS says:

          I think this is part of it but also think a lot of people would just say ‘most Democrats are black’ when they actually mean ‘black people are far more likely to be Democrats than Republicans’ or ‘black people are more likely than white people to be Democrats’

        • ManyCookies says:

          The authors thought of that and did a follow-up with base rates provided (ctrl-f “Base Rate”), apparently it didn’t change much if I’m reading it correctly.

          ETA: Without trying to get too culture-warry here, I would personally suggest that these mis-estimations are an intentional result of media bias specifically designed to produce these very results.

          I agree sans the intentional part, where the natural focus on “interesting” groups makes them seem more prevalent than they are.

          • Matt M says:

            Fair pushback. I’d guess that most people would probably vastly over-estimate the number of Nazis and incels too.

        • quanta413 says:

          I know few of us here really love the media, but to be fair to the media, I think they’re giving people what they want. If you view media as an entertainment market, it’s arguably the expected free market outcome (maybe taking heterodox behavioral economics into account).

          • albatross11 says:

            Sometimes, low-quality news stories are giving the public what they want. This is the Kim Kardashian kind of story.

            Other times, they’re done for economic reasons (clickbait stories).

            Still other times, the stories are low-quality because the journalists just don’t know what they’re talking about, are innumerate, etc. They’re honestly trying to do a good job, but they don’t have the right background knowledge.

        • Aapje says:

          @Matt M

          If you primed them with something like “Homosexuals comprise 2% of the total population” THEN ask them what % of Democrats are homosexuals, I tend to doubt you’d see anyone, ever, give a number higher than 5%.

          That requires very basic mathematical insight. I think that you overestimate other people if you assume that everyone has this.

          • albatross11 says:

            Most people don’t know they should shut up and calculate, and also don’t know exactly how they should be calculating this stuff. And Kanneman’s research shows that even people like stat professors who know perfectly well how to calculate, still often get hijacked by System 1 and answer without doing the calculation.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            It would be very interesting to have information about the general level of numeracy.

          • Aapje says:

            Even highly educated people seem to suck at it.

            16% to 20% incorrectly answered a question that boils down to: what is the largest number?

          • Matt M says:

            It requires the incredibly basic and rough heuristic of “Democrats comprise at most 50% of the population, therefore, even if 100% of homosexuals are Democrats, the highest % of Democrats that can be Homosexuals is 2 * % homosexuals in base population”

            I mean that’s some insight, but not a ton. Even without actually doing the math, I think most people would be able to get there based on simple intuition alone.

            For someone to be told “homosexuals are 2% of the population” and then estimate that they comprise 20% of the Democratic party is a level of stupidity that has to be well below average. There’s just no possible way to justify that.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think most people would be able to get there based on simple intuition alone

            I think this is a quantitatively bigger error that most of the estimation failures that started this discussion.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @Matt M,

            I think the heuristic is a lot harder than you make it out to be. Democratic politicians get about about 50% of the people who vote in an election, but what percentage of the population is that? Quick Google says 58% of the population voted in 2016, so by (very) rough heuristics we’re already down to Democrats being 1/4 of the population, meaning they could be 4 * %homosexuals.

            And if you go with self-identification, about 1/3 of the population sort into the buckets Independent, Democrat, and Republican, so we’re still not close to 50%.

      • ManyCookies says:

        (Reposting from subreddit) Yeah the respondents were also awful at estimating their own parties’ demographics, looking at the table on page 7. Democrats estimated 30% of their party was LGBT and 39% was black (compared to Repub estimates of 38% and 46%), Republicans estimated 33% of their party made 250k+ a year (compared to Dem estimates of 44%).* So there is a party bias, but not a completely absurd one compared to the baseline innumeracy.

      • quanta413 says:

        I think you’re right that it’s mostly that people are bad at math (or more pedantically they don’t know any empirical estimates).

        But I think their innumeracy probably does influence how they think about the world in a way kind of similar to bias. If they did know the actual numbers of people in various groups, they might view the world differently.

        • rahien.din says:

          But I think their innumeracy probably does influence how they think about the world in a way kind of similar to bias. If they did know the actual numbers of people in various groups, they might view the world differently.

          I’m skeptical.

          Whether you count party-registered voters, or actual voters, the majority of Americans fall into neither group, so party affiliation by itself is not a worthwhile characteristic to examine. Furthermore, the paper basically asked people to estimate, for instance, P(LGBT | liberal & voter), which is the opposite of what anyone actually cares about.

          Numeracy in this circumstance would entail disregarding the question as useless and I am encouraged that few people answered it correctly. No one should be wasting their time on that.

          Nor should we conclude that the respondents are biased or mathematically-deficient or simpletons. The paper is a big ol’ gotcha.

          • Matt M says:

            Well, to defend the paper a little bit…

            Yes, you’re correct that the question being asked is not, specifically, a question most people would, or would have any reason to care about.

            That said, an underlying incorrect belief that the opposition party is comprised mainly of certain types of outgroup individuals can certainly have negative consequences. Especially in an era where politics is becoming increasingly about “voting against the people you hate” rather than voting for the people you support.

            If it turns out that many people are modeling their voting behavior based on assumptions about the opposition that are wildly incorrect, that seems like a big deal – and attempting to correct those assumptions seems like a worthwhile pursuit. On both sides of the aisle.

          • rahien.din says:

            Thanks Matt M!

            An underlying incorrect belief that the opposition party is comprised mainly of certain types of outgroup individuals can certainly have negative consequences. Especially in an era where politics is becoming increasingly about “voting against the people you hate” rather than voting for the people you support.

            That introduces the question of what “voting against…” entails. Voting against something could mean voting in opposition to a specific policy or platform, or, it could mean voting with a faction that has the least number of hated outgroupers.

            I think the former is the more relevant. Arguendo : consider that there is a person who hates hippies and treehuggers, and they must vote on some initiative. There are three proposals, one from the Republicans, one from the Democrats, and one from the Green Party. The hippie-hater must rank these proposals on a three-point scale : select, consider, reject.

            Base rates being what they are, there are basically no hippies in the Republicans, the majority of hippies are Democrats (though they are a minority of Democrats), and the majority of Green Party members are hippies. Politics being what they are, the Republican proposal is anti-hippie, the Democrat proposal is semi-hippie, and the Green Party proposal is strongly-hippie.

            I think their ranking would be [select Republican, consider Democrat, reject Green Party]. This is basically to rank ascendingly by P(party|hippie), or, what would a hippie do and how can I oppose that? Thus, it would most strongly oppose hippies by stymying their policy goals most effectively. This is what people actually care about.

            The ranking [select Republican, consider Green Party, reject Democrat] would be ranking by P(hippie|party). It would reject or oppose the greatest number of hippies, but would effectively be a stronger endorsement of hippie policies.

          • Garrett says:

            I’d add, that many of these estimates get wacky if the interpretation of the question is a little different. Consider instead, percentages of $PROPERTY in:
            * People registered to $PARTY.
            * People who identify as supporting $PARTY.
            * People who voted for $PARTY in the last Presidential election.
            * People who donated money to $PARTY.
            * People who volunteered in the last election for $PARTY.
            * People who hold an official position (even if minor/volunteer) with $PARTY.
            * People who serve as talking heads on TV on behalf of $PARTY.

          • Aapje says:

            @rahien.din

            Furthermore, the paper basically asked people to estimate, for instance, P(LGBT | liberal & voter), which is the opposite of what anyone actually cares about.

            I would argue that people who are into identity politics or who want to understand the behavior of those who are into identity politics would care about such a thing.

          • Aapje says:

            Note that according to Gallup, Americans greatly overestimate the number of black Americans in general (on average, by over a factor of 2).

          • rahien.din says:

            Aapje,

            people who are into identity politics or who want to understand the behavior of those who are into identity politics…

            …are not this paper’s intended subjects.

          • Matt M says:

            Note that according to Gallup, Americans greatly overestimate the number of black Americans in general (on average, by over a factor of 2).

            I was hoping it also asked about Jews and Homosexuals. I would predict similar results.

    • John Schilling says:

      Democrats

      15% Black
      10% Union
      5% LGBT
      15% Nonbelievers*

      Republicans

      <5% Rich
      30% Evangelical*
      40% Southern
      20% Old

      I reserve the right to say your source used inadequate definitions on the religious questions

      But I'll settle for 6/8. Mostly this is about, A: being able to estimate base rates for the population as a whole, and B: not falling for exaggerated stereotypes where e.g. every southerner is a Republican.

    • Nornagest says:

      Dems:

      20% black
      15% union
      10% LGBT
      10% atheist/agnostic, but “no religious preference” might be as high as 30%

      GOP:

      5% 250K+
      30% Evangelical
      35% Southern
      40% 65+

      (Frira cbvagf, naq V bayl fdhrnxrq ol ba fbzr bs gurz. Jbefg jnf birerfgvzngvat fravbef va gur TBC ol gjragl creprag.)

    • j1000000 says:

      I got 4/8 by the 5 percentage points thing (for union members I guessed 5%). Three of the four I got right were the single-digit answers.

      I for one generally love “test your mental estimate” quizzes, anywhere I can find a lot of these?

      • fion says:

        I for one generally love “test your mental estimate” quizzes

        Same. Maybe we should do them in the OTs more often.

    • albatross11 says:

      How does this avoid CW issues, again?

      • ManyCookies says:

        The authors’ thesis is pretty bipartisan and uncontroversial, and really the true lesson here is innumeracy.

      • fion says:

        I think as long as we stick to the estimation without getting too stuck into the analysis it’s probably fine.

        Having said that, probably best to err on the side of caution and wait a few day for the next OT.

        • a reader says:

          But the new Open Thread 104.75 should have appeared yesterday, on Wednesday.

        • Nick says:

          It’s on the line to be sure, but in fairness to us, we’ve demonstrably steered clear of CW so far.

    • a reader says:

      Blacks 25%
      Union 15%
      LGBT 5%
      Atheist 15%

      Rich 10%
      Evangelical 60%
      South 30%
      Old 25%

      4/8 – not bad, I think, for a non-American. I made bigger errors for Republicans. My main problem was that I usually didn’t know the base rates – in the 2 cases where I knew them, I was closer in my estimates.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Dems are 24% black, 10% Union, 6.5% LGBT, 10% atheist
      Repub: 1.8% in the One Percent, 34% Evangelical Protestant, 34% Southern… and I have no idea. My stereotypes would pull in opposite directions.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Looks like I got… 7 out of 8 within 5%, but zl “evpu TBC” jnf fgvyy bss ol n snpgbe bs zber guna 2.5
        Since religion is so interesting, I’m going to guess the GOP is also 29% Catholic, 29% other Protestant, 2% Jewish, 2% atheist, 2% other. Anyone know how close that is?

        • Nornagest says:

          I’d guess lower for Catholic. Catholics used to be a core Democratic constituency; that’s probably less true than it used to be, but I’d still expect a large percentage of American Catholics to be either Latino or working-class Northeasterners, both of whom would skew that way.

          2% Jewish would mean Jews are neither overrepresented nor underrepresented in the GOP, and I think I’d expect them to be somewhat underrepresented. I’d also shoot higher for “other”; 20+% of Americans have no religious preference, and while most of them are probably Democrats I’d expect a few in the GOP.

          • Iain says:

            Here are Pew’s numbers.

            Catholics are split 44% D – 37% R. Jews are split 64% D – 26% R. Religious nones are split 54% D – 23% R.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Based on government positions, I’d guess that Jews are NOT underrepresented in the GOP.
            Yes, I suppose Catholics may be underrepresented. 60% of Latinos are Democrats, but I think the white working-class has drifted so far from them outside the West Coast and, like, Vermont that even the WWC in the Northeast might be 60-40 for the GOP. So maybe 20% Catholic and 10% “no religious preference”, with outright atheists being around 1%?

          • Nornagest says:

            @Iain — That would put the GOP at roughly 18% Catholic if the parties are equal-sized. They aren’t, but it’s pretty close. 1% Jewish. 13% religious none (which probably includes atheist, so let’s say 12% other — 11% religious nones plus 1% miscellaneous).

            @LMC — Jews are a smart, highly educated population — they’re going to be overrepresented in government for any group that isn’t antisemitic, which at this point is basically all of America besides 4Chan trolls, the Nation of Islam, and a few hicks in bedsheets. But education skews Democratic, and besides that they’re highly urban, which skews the same way. That was my thinking, anyway.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest: Good point about being highly educated and highly urban. I bet Asians break Democratic at least 2-1, even 3-1 for similar reasons.

  24. sfoil says:

    I was writing down my thoughts about the “space force”, and something occurred to me: I don’t know of any instances of someone going up and recovering an “enemy” satellite out of orbit, but it seems possible. If that’s a potential problem, then maybe valuable satellites are equipped with anti-handling devices.

    I did find this which suggests I’m not the only one who’s ever had this idea, although it also implies that it’s never actually happened and the one time it almost did, NASA had a really good excuse in its pocket. The problem, I think, would be that you can’t hide what you were doing up there. You could, though, gratuitously recover your own satellites as practice.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      What would the advantage of that be over just blowing it up?

      Unless someone puts up a Moonraker-style laser in orbit and you want to figure out how it works, capturing a satellite doesn’t sound very helpful. I might be completely wrong here but it doesn’t strike me as a good use of resources.

      • gbdub says:

        Satellites contain the highest of high tech, state of the art stuff. You’d want to capture them for the same reason you’d want to capture their sunken sub, or their lost warheads, or their warplane with newly developed missiles that fell off a carrier (all real examples) – to figure out what the enemy’s capabilities and potential weaknesses are.

        Capturing a spy sat would give you a really good idea of how good their intelligence gathering capabilities are – definitely important data.

    • John Schilling says:

      and the one time it almost did, NASA had a really good excuse in its pocket.

      Reading your cited link in full, it is clear that the one time it “almost” did, was almost certainly 100% Soviet propaganda as to what villainy those evil running-dog Yankee capitalists at NASA were allegedly up to.

      It has almost certainly never happened. There is speculation that the X-37 was designed to carry out such missions, but AFIK nobody has identified a plausible candidate for a satellite it might gave recovered. As you note, at least in Low Earth Orbit it’s really not possible to get away with this in secret.

      If it were possible, it would be at least as worthwhile as e.g. paying enemy fighter pilots to defect with their airplanes. It doesn’t require mysterious invincible superweapons to make this worthwhile; just knowing how the enemy builds systems that are approximately but not exactly like your own is useful. Also useful: not provoking unnecessary wars, and maintaining a reputation as a nation that at least pays some attention to the treaties it signs.

    • disposablecat says:

      This was the entire plot of You Only Live Twice – Blofeld, operating from a hidden rocket base under a volcanic lake in Japan, is capturing and retrieving American and Soviet space capsules and their crews, intending to provoke a nuclear war from which he and SPECTRE will emerge as the rulers of the ashes. Our man Bond has to stop him, by joining up with a group of ninjas (!) connected to the Japanese Secret Service (!!). It’s all very Sixties, and a fun watch if you haven’t seen it.

      As per Nabil’s comment, why Blofeld is capturing them instead of just blowing them up is not ever explained; presumably it was just a cooler idea for the filmmakers. It would be much much cheaper and have the same effect; if you’re a state-level actor who can launch a spacecraft complex enough to successfully capture another spacecraft, you probably aren’t going to learn much from the captured tech.

      I wouldn’t put it past some entities, though, impractical though it might be. For an example of the US trying to do something similar, though undersea instead of IN SPACE, check out Project Azorian, aka “that time the CIA used manganese nodules as a cover story for an attempt to carry off a sunken Russian submarine”.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I suspect it’s just far too expensive. And you could only do it with secret satellites, unless you’re willing to become an international pariah and/or start a war. So you send your ship up, capture $ENEMY’S secret satellite, bring it home. You risk the secret satellite being able to detect this sort of thing and destroy itself, thus wasting your money. And what do you get? Mostly you learn something of $ENEMY capability, but there’s almost certainly cheaper ways of doing that (like honeytraps for $ENEMY engineers). Also you piss off $ENEMY, who can’t openly retaliate but is almost certain to do some sort of spy vs. spy secret retaliation. Or maybe “accidentally” bomb your embassy in some war zone.

      • sfoil says:

        That’s a good point about access to the actual satellite itself probably not being more useful than other forms of espionage in finding out about the satellite’s capabilities, manufacture, or even targets. Sabotage or eavesdropping might be better than trying to bring something back down if you really felt the need to “do something” with other country’s equipment.

    • rahien.din says:

      Probably better to bug the satellite, or to spoof its transmissions, or to cheaply cripple it.

    • hyperboloid says:

      So far as anybody knows it hasn’t been done, and we probably would know if it had. That being said, there is a decent chance that the US air force did recover a Soviet spacecraft from a crash site in Pennsylvania

      On December 9th 1965 Kosmos 96, a Soviet probe destined for Venus that had failed to leave low earth orbit, reentered the Earth’s atmosphere over north America. That afternoon a bright fireball was spotted heading south across Canada, over the Detroit-Windsor area, towards Pittsburgh where witnesses reported hearing a sonic boom. After residents in the small town of Kecksburg reported seeing an object come down USAF personnel were dispatched to search the area, they would later claim to have found nothing.

      The incident would enter UFO lore when witnesses claimed to have seen the military removing an acorn shaped object covered in “hieroglyphic” (one might speculate Cyrillic) writing. Some have claimed that radar telemetry tracked cosmos 96 coming down around three in the morning on the 9th, thus ruling out the fireball seen thirteen hours later as being the Soviet craft. Nevertheless, I’m not so sure.

      While I don’t doubt NASA tracked something coming down that morning, I’m not sure we can be sure that it was all of Cosmos 96. The craft failed because an explosion occurred in one of the combustion chambers on the third state of the Molniya rocket that was carrying the probe; that leaves a lot of unspent delta-v in the fourth stage, and the small rockets on the probe itself.

      If either of those stores of fuel exploded, then perhaps different fragments of the craft were on different enough orbits to come down hours apart.

  25. adder says:

    I’d like to look into coding bootcamps. I’d like first to hear anecdotes about y’all’s experience with them. Have you found it helpful and worth it? I’m also wondering if anyone can recommend any. I have some major limitations:
    – I think I’m limited to online boot camps (or something located in Virginia).
    – Let’s assume I could dedicate 6 months full time.
    – After the course, I would like to be able to limit my employment search to central Virginia (imagine a circle with Charlottesville and Richmond as end points of the diameter) or remote work.
    – I can put up little to no cash up front. My understanding is that there are programs that will take some hefty portion of one’s salary for some period of time, and I am willing to pay that premium. Alternatively, I could MAYBE drop a few thousand dollars. (And I guess for discussion’s sake, let’s say I could drop up to $20k iff there is a tuition guarantee that jives with my employment search limitations).

    Are there programs that run based on some qualification? I have a degree in Mathematics with a minor in CS, with very good grades from a not-particularly-notable university. It would be great if there were a boot camp that assumes knowledge of programming fundamentals. I “know what I’m doing” but haven’t worked on a serious programming project in nearly a decade.

    I’m not really particular about what I learn. Anything employable. I guess, all other things being equal (maybe they’re not), I’m more interested in learning things that will help in “back end” work.

    EDIT: I see that my geographic search requirements seem to basically disqualify me from tuition reiumbursement/ISA, at least for the few schools I looked at. Richmond doesn’t count as major enough … :/