THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

Open Thread 109.25

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server.

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360 Responses to Open Thread 109.25

  1. Odovacer says:

    What’s up with some youtube videos having annoying and intrusive ads before the video ends? Here’s an example. Is this youtube’s doing or the creator/uploader of the video? It blocks the majority of the screen and if it is the uploader, then it makes me not want to have anything to do with their channel.

    • idontknow131647093 says:

      Have adblock, there is no ad for me.

    • Robert Jones says:

      I have ABP; I see the ads; I’m pretty certain they’ve been added by the uploader as they’re ads for the same channel. Video seems to be a copyvio. Not having anything to do with the channel seems the best option.

    • beleester says:

      I’ve noticed a bunch of channels suddenly doing this, so I have a feeling that there’s some sort of default setting on YouTube that’s adding them to old videos indiscriminately, when they should only get used on new videos that have enough time set aside for the end cards to show.

      You can block them with an adblock rule: youtube.com##.ytp-ce-element

    • ilikekittycat says:

      Youtube music ads have to be one of the most irritating sources of ads I deal with. I’m not one of those “ads don’t work on me” people but I really have to wonder how effective this particular campaign is. Is there ANYONE who is happy with hearing a loud fragment of new music in between a long list of things you actually want to listen to (and so happy with it that they seek out the song they partially heard during the interruption?) On FM radio, they play songs you don’t like, but you generally know the format of that station and the song builds up gradually. On Youtube, you can be listening to “electronic music” in the sense of some spacey Canadian girl humming emotionally into a vocoder and get an ad for 15 seconds of dubstep starting right at the most aggressive break and compressed to used car commercial volume. I cannot imagine who this is appealing to, and on more than one occasion, I’ve just exited Youtube altogether rather than wait for my song

      • Deiseach says:

        some spacey Canadian girl humming emotionally into a vocoder and get an ad for 15 seconds of dubstep starting right at the most aggressive break

        To be honest, in that case I think I’d welcome the dubstep interruption 🙂

      • Matt M says:

        Perhaps the actual purpose is to annoy you enough to convince you to pay the $5 a month (or whatever it is) for a premium (ad-free) subscription?

      • Michael Handy says:

        It gets worse. Imagine listening to a whole opera, only to get sudden third rate autotuned country-pop in the climax of Ah! Leve Toi, Soleil!

        They really need to work out what genres people are listening to.

  2. Collin says:

    My company Instacart is hiring across nearly every position, especially Engineering (like mad in San Francisco and Toronto but we’ll consider remote people too). We’re working to be the world leader in online groceries and I’d love to have more SSC readers on the team.

    For you Machine Learning folks, we have some really interesting datasets.

    🥕Instacart Careers Page🥕
    🥕Full Sortable List of Openings🥕

    • Scott Alexander says:

      This is the third time I’ve seen this. Although I don’t want a hard ban on all advertising outside the classified thread, I’d prefer limiting it to once, maybe twice in exceptional cases. If you want a more permanent advertising presence you can buy a sidebar ad.

      • b_jonas says:

        They can *buy* a sidebar ad on Slate Star Codex? I thought you reserved that privilage to such organizations whose goals you endorse. I’ll never have even the little trust I had for those ads from now on.

        • fion says:

          He’s said before that he doesn’t endorse them; see point 2 here: “I’m trying to walk a careful line here, where I’m neither so selective that it looks like I’m endorsing them, nor so unselective that actually bad or scammy companies make it in. If you ever feel like I’m erring on one side or the other, let me know.”

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I sell ads according to the policies I spell out in the Advertising tab at the top of the blog. But I also give some things I like, or think are socially important, free advertising. Right now five of the thirteen ads are in this category.

          By coincidence, a lot of the people who pay me are great organizations whose goals I support, like Triplebyte and Beeminder. Not sure how this happened so dramatically.

          • Aqua says:

            I looked at your prices in the link and you are severely undercharging!

            Maybe you are not super concerned but based on your impressions I would expect something like $900 to $3000 per month

          • dick says:

            Holy cow, yeah. I mean, I don’t know what other sites charge, but those prices are low enough that I want to buy an ad for one of my goofy side projects.

      • Collin says:

        Fair enough – I promise not to post about this again 🙇

  3. Atlas says:

    What are some good documentaries on Netflix and Amazon Prime? Particularly dealing with military history, but on any subject as long as it’s well made and interesting. Preferably not having any content that would be embarrassing to watch on public transportation.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      They have several Werner Herzog documentaries, including Cave of Forgotten Dreams, although maybe that’s for a big screen. In 3d.

      They used to have Exit Through the Gift Shop, F is for Fake, and My Kid Could Paint That.

    • WashedOut says:

      Obligatory mention for Ken Burns’ The Vietnam War.

    • Aapje says:

      Good documentaries without any consideration whether they are available on Netflix or Prime:

      – The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara
      – The Gatekeepers (2012)
      – The World at War (1973-1976 TV series)
      – The War (2007 mini-series)


      Non-military:

      – The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
      – The Act of Killing & The Look of Silence
      – Making a Murderer
      – Jodorowsky’s Dune
      – Icarus
      – Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father
      – Searching for Sugar Man
      – Grizzly Man
      – Capturing the Friedmans
      – The Thin Blue Line (1988)
      – Hoop Dreams (1994)
      – Man on wire
      – Citizenfour
      – The Queen of Versailles
      – Spellbound (2002)

    • bean says:

      A good choice might be Victory at Sea (technically doesn’t satisfy criteria, but it’s on youtube, due to being a government production). Covers the only part of the war that really matters.

      I also have an anti-recommendation. Amazon yesterday recommended me this. To be safe, I’d avoid that whole series.
      (For those who don’t know, that image could not have been taken before 1984, because the ship on the right is Iowa, Missouri, or Wisconsin in 80s fit.)

      • Tarpitz says:

        Also, nothing against your fine ship or her sisters, but… they don’t really strike me as emblematic of the war in the Atlantic, even in their 1940s state…

      • John Schilling says:

        And the ship on the left is a modern destroyer or frigate, can’t immediately place the class from that angle but e.g. it has a helicopter deck and hangar aft.

        The War in the Atlantic would have been a very different thing if Allied destroyers had embarked ASW helos.

        • bean says:

          I’m pretty sure she’s a Perry. I didn’t mention that because that’s less useful in dating the picture than the 80s-era Iowa. And because I’m trying not to bore people. (Yes, of course I recognized that it was the wrong era of escort, too.)

          >The War in the Atlantic would have been a very different thing if Allied destroyers had embarked ASW helos.

          Yes. Yes it would have.

          • Ketil says:

            >The War in the Atlantic would have been a very different thing if Allied destroyers had embarked ASW helos.

            Huh. Well, “where eagles dare” aside, I guess helicopter technology wasn’t quite there yet. Were there other technologies or tactics that could have been used effectively but weren’t? Something that might have changed the outcome of WWII, but is only obvious in retrospect?

          • johan_larson says:

            Standard intermodal shipping containers could have been developed before or during the war, but weren’t. These were some early efforts, but they are mostly a post-war thing. Having them would have slightly improved the logistics of whoever used them. As I recall the US did do some work to standardize pallets for shipping, but that work could have gone much further.

          • John Schilling says:

            Were there other technologies or tactics that could have been used effectively but weren’t?

            Merchant aircraft carriers and escort carriers could have been developed in the 1930s if anyone had thought to do so, and would have filled the same niche as embarked helicopters at least for convoy protection. Test the concept, keep a few around for training, and make it a matter of British Empire maritime policy that some fraction of the merchant fleet be fitted for but not with flight decks, and there is no happy time.

      • Michael Handy says:

        Are there any good documentaries that focus on the Japanese war at sea from a Japanese perspective? Preferably Japanese with subtitles, but western is also good.

    • dndnrsn says:

      The Vietnam War, already mentioned, is really good. Ken Burns in general is good, but I think it’s his best so far. Compared to The War (WWII documentary; also mentioned) I find it superior because the tone is a lot less sacralizing. 10 episodes, 18 hours total.

      One that I thought would be bad but was actually good was Hitler’s Circle of Evil. It’s a mixture of talking heads, historical footage, and no-dialogue scenes involving actors for stuff they don’t have footage for. The tone can be a bit lurid, but the actual history lines up with what I’d read beforehand in Big Serious Scholarly Books and the talking heads are all/mostly legit historians. Wins major points for recognizing that Albert Speer was a total liar. Quibbles: for some reason a bunch of the actors change 2/3 into the series, which is distracting; they reuse some bits of actor footage a bunch.

      Googling, I just found out that Pumping Iron is on Netflix. I haven’t seen the movie, but I have read the book; hopefully it’s on Canadian Netflix. Classic look at the weird world of professional bodybuilding back in the late 70s, when they had fewer drugs and the guys were not so enormous and freakish as to be unaesthetic.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      It’s not Netflix or Amazon, but if you’re looking for public-friendly history, you could also check out the Extra History series on YouTube, for free.

    • DragonMilk says:

      Planet Earth and related series are on Netflix. Great mindless viewing, though much better viewed on a big screen.

      • bean says:

        Probably not a good choice. The book it was based on was sensationalist fear-mongering, and turning things into documentaries rarely makes them better.

        • gbdub says:

          Which parts of it did you find “sensationalist fear mongering”? Certainly it had a message (we’ve had a lot of screwups and near misses with nuclear weapons) but was any of it actually inaccurate?

          Plus I found the story of the accident fascinating, having been in a Titan II silo.

          • bean says:

            It wasn’t factually inaccurate, but a lot of the spin was dreadful. “The untold story of US nuclear weapon accidents”, except for the bit where all of the stuff was already known in public (Swords of Armageddon has pretty much the same info, and predates the book, but without the hysteria.)

            The big problem is the one about “five of six safety devices failed in this accident”. All of those devices were designed to keep the weapon safe in different sorts of accidents, and most could not have safed the weapon in the accident in question. (For instance, mid-air that leads to the plane breaking up. A safety device that requires airflow past the weapon is not going to stop it from going off here.) I even have suspicions about the “short to the arm line could have bypassed the switch” thing. “This seems plausible” to an engineer is “maybe we should look into this more, and think about another way to deal with the problem”, not “this was likely to have happened”.

            I think it’s an unfortunate intersection of the paranoia around US nuclear weapons and the disconnect between engineering mindset and journalistic mindset. If the standard is “one in a million”, you’re going to chase down every avenue you possibly can, like “bomb is released from bomber in a way that simulates a combat drop, and is simultaneously damaged in such a way to short the arm-safe switch”. But when a journalist reads that, they’re going to say “so this was a crisis narrowly averted” instead of “yes, we came closer than we’d like to disaster, let’s do better next time”. And they can drag readers, even engineer readers, along with them.

    • AG says:

      PBS offers a whole ton of documentary-type shows streaming free, as well.

  4. I’m finding it hard to remember which psychology findings have and haven’t replicated. Does anyone have a running list, with all the info in one place? It would be amazing if there was something along the lines of ‘Examine.com, but for psych’ with rankings based on the size of the effect, strength of evidence, consistency of results, etc. That’s probably way too much to ask, but even a blog post which gets updated periodically would be handy!

  5. Plumber says:

    I think I’ve linked to this before, but if you’re interested in becoming an apprentice in a craft tradeunion here’s where to learn some stuff about it.
    Also, a mea culpa and a thank you (SSC really is a good learning tool)!

    In a previous thread I said something along the lines of “This ‘culture war’ is just play-acting, the big cultural changes were back in the 1970’s”, well….

    ….someone pointed out to me that the majority of Americans no longer oppose legal gay marriage, and that change is pretty recent (I just remembered the voters of California voting “No way!” in 2008, and then the courts saying “Yes way” in 2012 and I didn’t know public opinion had changed), so that is a change

    I stand corrected. 

    And…. I said something along the line of “I don’t believe these ‘Tribes’ exist, 9/10ths of the people I know have a mix of the Blue and Red Tribes attributes”, well…

    …..in reflecting I realize that’s 9/10ths of people that I know well (basically my fellow working-class city dwellers), and when I think about other people that I encounter every week but don’t know as well, I would guess that they have alignments that are less of a mix, and are more strongly Blue or Red Tribe. 

    The nicest to me groups that I encounter most days are Cops and Public Defenders. The Cops (especially the ones who commute in from far away homes seem more Red Tribe to me, as do Firefighters. The Public Defenders, and the folks in Human Resources (especially the young ones) seem more Blue Tribe. 

    I’m gonna nominate the Medical Examiners for Grey Tribe, because otherwise I don’t have a guess (they’re always really nice, but the place creeps me out, so no I don’t linger and talk to them much).

    Now the people I don’t like as much: The DA’s. They’re white collar (so I presume Blue) but they’re really standoffish so that’s just a guess.  

    The people I see the most? 

    The inmates on the 7th floor. 

    Man are they annoying (in so many ways, but for me mostly because they keep clogging their toilets). I understand that many just can’t pay bail, so they may be innocent, but man do I see why society wants them locked up. In some ways Jail isn’t that bad, books, cable television, meals, many of the Pubic Defenders who visit are “easy on the eyes”, but the inmates make it miserable for each other (and maybe that turns them into being annoying if they weren’t already).

    How?

    They’re fights, but mostly it’s the yelling. 

    So much yelling. 

    And while I try to talk to them as little as possible, from enough involuntary eavesdropping I definitely get an impression.

    They’re mostly Scott’s Red Tribe (the white ones especially so).

    In many ways they have the same tastes as the cops (they like guns, sports, red meat, and use blue tribe forbidden slurs).

    I don’t know how they vote, but I’ve heard enough ranting that indicates they don’t have the Red Tribe trait of chanting U.S.A!, U.S.A!

    And that brings me to my point.

    Tribe doesn’t determine how well I get along with someone, how they treat me does.

    I vote “Blue” (I’m very pro-union), but I’m no vegetarian, and I’m 5 Blue/5 Red on Scott’s Tribe attributes list, and I’ve liked and disliked people of both Tribes.

    Also, among the people I know best, Tribe doesn’t correlate with politics. 

    I’ve precinct walked in support of candidates my union endorsed with enough guys who were otherwise Red Tribe all the way down including church and country western dancing, and I’ve worked with a guy who shopped at Whole Foods, but was very pro Republican Party.

    What does correlate with which political party the folks I know support?

    Supervisors are more likely to be Republicans.

    Call a man a Foreman, and watch him vote “Red” (or not discuss politics at all, in my experience bosses are either silent or loudly hate democrats).

    Skin color effects voting.

    A Whole Foods shopping whiteman who hates sports is more likely to say he votes Republican (yes I have a specific guy in mind) than a red meat eating, church going, 49er fan blackman (yes I have another specific guy in mind).

    But way more than that?

    Where they live (and this ties in with the supervisor thing).

    The further someone drives to work, the more likely they say they vote Republican.

    I’ve actually seen someone change. Two brothers who lived in San Jose, the younger of the two was made foreman, and with the little bit of extra money he bought a house in Stockton and then started to complain about “liberals” (he even developed an “Okie” accent), and he was almost all the way Red Tribe (except church going, which he never mentioned).

    The other brother who stayed in San Jose? 

    I precinct walked with him.

    I don’t know if it’s the neighborhood or being behind a wheel, but long commutes seem to turn you Republican.

    What turns you Democratic? 

    A union card, living in a city, and judging from what I’vd read a lot of student load debt does as well, but I don’t remember anyone who’s told me that they’re in the situation of owing student loans.  

    Well, what do you think?

    Does my “bubble” make me way off?

    • fion says:

      This was interesting to read. I’m not from America, and our tribes over here are very different, so I’ve generally just been trusting what I’ve read online about US tribes. It’s interesting to hear that your experience is a bit different from the other stuff I’ve read (for example what Scott’s written).

      My guess is there’ll be lots of variation. Perhaps your job and the friend circle you happen to have means you’re exposed to people of both tribes more often than most.

      • Plumber says:

        ‘…It’s interesting to hear that your experience is a bit different from the other stuff I’ve read (for example what Scott’s written)…”

        @fion,

        Thanks!

        I was trying to figure out why even if we live in the same area (I think we both live in or near Berkeley, California) Scott said he mostly knows “Blue Tribe”, and knows some “Grey Tribe” type people, while I know mostly mixed Blue and Red, a few solid “Red Tribe” men, but no “Grey Tribe”.

        I’m guessing that the difference is generational (I was born in ’68 and I think Scott said he was born in ’84), and occupational (I’m “blue color”, he’s “white collar”, yes I know American nomenclature is confusing with the color labels, especially when you reflect that communists and socialist were once referred to as “Reds”, which is something Republicans have long accused Democrats of being, and now young Democrats often call themselves “Democratic Socialists” when what they seem to usually mean is close to what Europeans call “Social Democrats”).

        Where Scott’s “Tribes” breaks down the most is frankly with non-white Americans (who are the majority of Californians), I grew up in a mostly black neighborhood, and while my neighbors typically didn’t vote Republican, listen to country music, or go shouting “USA IS NUMBER ONE!!!, otherwise they were (and are) typically much more like Scott’s description of the Red Tribe, as are the Hispanic immigrants that are replacing them in my hometown. The Asian immigrants seem a bit more “Blue”, but still with some “Red Tribe” attributes.

        At least in California, Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics tend to vote for Democrats, with Asians being most likely to act “Blue Tribe” but vote “Red Tribe”, whereas Black Californians act more Red Tribe, but are the least likely to vote for Republicans (there are exceptions, I worked with a very dark skinned sheet metal worker who supported McCain over Obama because he said “He’ll be tougher on terrorists”

        • quanta413 says:

          I agree. The tribes thing loses a lot of coherency if you think of it as what party people vote for. And the tribes thing breaks down really badly if you look at anyone but white people. So that’s something like 1/3 of the U.S. it doesn’t work for right off the top.

    • ana53294 says:

      I looked into the apprenticeship for machinist at your link, and it asked for a qualification to a High Security Clearance. What is this? Does a machinist’s job in the US involve working for the government?

      • bean says:

        High Security Clearance isn’t the same as a Security Clearance, and doesn’t even parse if you try to read it that way. I suspect that it’s a case of working in areas that are deemed High Security, like ports or airports or maybe prisons.

        • ana53294 says:

          Interesting. I tried to google it, but I get swamped by references to Top Secret or military clearances. Do you have a link about the criteria for this clearance? Does it involve a lot more than not having a criminal background and being a US citizen?

          • bean says:

            I’ll admit that I’m just guessing on this, based mostly on the grammar involved. There are definitely cleared plumbers (for when the cooling system in the classified lab needs service), but that doesn’t seem likely here. It’s also possible it’s a placement thing, like Matt M says.

      • Matt M says:

        A lot of job assistance/placement/training programs will ask about clearance eligibility, just in case they end up trying to match you to a government (or government contractor) job. That doesn’t necessarily mean everyone who doesn’t have one (or can’t get one) is rejected.

      • Plumber says:

        There’s some waterfront and refinery jobs where you have to get cleared of being a security risk.
        That I had gotten pre-cleared in order to work in the refineries helped me get my City and County of San Francisco job.

        As for machinists, I think a lot of them work for Defense contractors, so that’s probably why.

    • S_J says:

      Your observations are…interesting. I think I agree with most of them.

      When I was a teen/young-adult I worked a few jobs at Union shops. I was typically a summer-worker, going back to school in the fall. [1]

      The Union guys looked Red Tribe: work with their hands, liked country music, followed sports obsessively, liked hunting and fishing, etc. Their politics looked Blue Tribe much more often than they did Red Tribe…but that may have been because Red Tribe people kept quiet. I was a little too young to tell.

      I spent a good deal of time in college. After a certain point, I could get a an internship in the Engineering world as a between-semesters job. Suddenly the social/political mix changed: people looked down on country music, and liked Italian/Thai/Chinese food more than American BBQ. Sports like car-racing were abnormal. Outdoor activities like hunting, were out-of-the-ordinary, but accepted. RedTribe politics were much more common, but not universal.

      At the Engineering firm, there were blue-collar guys who built and maintained a lot of equipment that the Engineering team used for test-benches. They were officially Technicians. The Technicians looked and felt like the Union workers mentioned above. At a guess, I expect them to have Blue Tribe politics…but I never spent enough time in their shop-floor to figure it out.

      If anyone needs a hint as to what part of the country this is in: the Engineering job was at an Automotive Parts Corporation. The logo of the company was never on a car, but the company designed parts that ended in cars manufactured by several different Auto Companies.

      The church-going patterns also surprised me: I grew up in a church with a healthy mix of blue-collar and white-collar members. I later discovered that church-going was not as common among the white-collar workers as among blue-collar workers. However, if I’m working at an office that includes lots of legal immigrants from India[2], that social group attends their religion-of-choice services at a high rate. [3]

      Immigrants from that part of the world are much harder to map to Blue-Tribe/Red-Tribe boundaries. I can’t guess how they would vote (if they became a citizen), and their cultural/media interactions include a blend of sourced-from-India items with sourced-from-America items.

      ————————————————————————————-

      [1] In some cases, I was hired into a Temp-Worker position, so the Union fees weren’t charged to me…but the boss couldn’t ask me to do certain things, per Union rules. In other cases, I had to join the Union for the period of my employment, no matter how short or long the period would be.

      [2] Amusing aside: I feel like I can’t use the word “Indian” to describe a person born in India, because I’m so accustomed to hearing that word applied to members of the Huron/Apache/Navajo/Sioux/etc-tribes. Even if the some parts of the culture are trying to shift to using the phrase “Native American” for those tribes.

      However, several of my born-in-India-coworkers will freely describe me as a “Native American”… and make jokes about who the “real Indians” are.

      [3] Religious background of people born in India, and working in the United States…mostly Hindu, with some amount of Buddhist, some amount of Islam, and a few Christians: usually Protestant.

      • John Schilling says:

        RedTribe politics were much more common, but not universal

        As others have noted, “RedTribe politics” are explicitly not a thing – the tribal labels were matched to cultural, rather than political, groupings. Much of Red Tribe (e.g. union labor) has traditionally voted Democratic, and Blue Tribe (at least pre-Trump) Republican. Even at the level of high-profile politicians, you see e.g. Mitt Romney as a Blue Tribe Republican and Jimmy Carter as a Red Tribe Democrat.

        The extent to which the political borders do align to the cultural, is perhaps a useful measure of the degree of political polarization in the nation.

        Also as already noted, Black Tribe and Brown Tribe at least are their own things, and one of the biggest failings of the original article was not recognizing that.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Thanks, enjoyed reading.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I feel it necessary again to point out that “Red tribe” != “Republican”. “Blue tribe” != “Democrat”. in addition, Blue tribe and Red tribe mostly apply to the currently identified ethnic majority of “white”, trying apply Blue/Red/Gray Tribe to Black people in Harlem, Black People in rural Georgia or the Hmong in California is going to really confuse you.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      In addition to the gay marriage thing, cannabis has also made huge recent strides in the culture war. People advocated legalization since the 60s/70s, but even in the 80s/90s it wasn’t uncommon for normies to think that getting high made you see the walls turn psychadelic colors and start to melt. A few states had medical exemptions if cancer patients wanted to figure out where to get a dealer but actual brick-and-mortar stores selling for recreational use in major cities was unimaginable outside of libertarian message boards

  6. BobCatP says:

    I would love to hear comments on this article from someone who knows about the history of US psychiatry: https://jacobinmag.com/2018/08/mental-health-psychiatry-class-struggle
    It basically argues that the birth of modern psychiatry in the early 20th century was a way to cover up or medicalise social issues like inequality. This is then tied to the current wave of interest in mental health. I don’t have the knowledge to assess the validity, but figure this might be the best place to find that person.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Not completely wrong, but focuses on things that nobody without that particular axe to grind would focus on.

      The history of US psychiatry starts with a paradigm where extremely psychotic people are thrown into insane asylums, and everyone else considers mental health totally irrelevant. This is a natural result of nobody having invented psychotherapy or psychiatric medications yet – since nobody knows what to do with people except lock them up, mental health is basically about deciding who to lock up and how to treat them once they’re locked up.

      In the late 19th/early 20th centuries, you get a combination of two things. First, Freud invents the idea of psychotherapy. Suddenly everybody who’s a little bit depressed or anxious wants to be treated by a psychiatrist, and psychiatry balloons. Second, the same Progressive Movement that brought us communism and eugenics and workers living in identical rectangular dormitories eating Standardized Meal Product decides that probably the overwhelming tide of Advancing Science can make everyone happy and well-adjusted or something if we just Science a little harder. People still haven’t invented psychiatric medication yet, so psychiatrists have nothing to do except be very excited about all this.

      This is the point where Meyer comes in. His claims about using psychiatry to reorganize society should be interpreted less as a terrifying totalitarian plan, and more as what actually happened – the sort of thing where lots of people learn “coping strategies” and worry about their “triggers” and go to their school counseling center and use psychiatric models when thinking about themselves even if they aren’t psychotic people in asylums. The sort of thing where people agree that lots of people are going around mildly depressed because their lives are hard, rather than just because of brain disease or unresolved Oedipal tension or whatever. This combined with the general Progressive ethos into high-minded statements about reorganizing society. Sure, Meyer probably also had terrifying totalitarian plans, but only because he was an early 20th century German eugenicist and the priors for that demographic are pretty high.

      Psychiatrists did pathologize the labor movement during that time. The labor movement was associated in the public consciousness with anarchists and violent mobs, and had kind of the same sort of Publicly Agreed Upon Violent Bad Guy Who All Responsible People Must Beat Up On vibe that eg the alt-right have today. A few psychiatrists back then would make public statements about how anarchism and labor activism came from mental illness, the same way a few psychiatrists nowadays will make similar statements about how racism comes from mental illness. It’s certainly embarrassing, but I don’t think anyone else considers it the crux of their entire movement or anything.

  7. WashedOut says:

    Can I hear your wildly hypothetical, maybe-not-workable but well-intentioned income tax reform ideas?

    My offering: “Tax sacrifice for employment of a 3rd party.”
    Suppose I pay $80k in income tax one year and this frustrates me e.g. because I know how inefficient government spending/allocation is. The following year, I opt to withhold all or most of my income tax payable and divert it to pay the wages of a maid/babysitter/gardener whom I start employing that year. In doing so I have:
    1) ‘Created’ (or ‘realized’ a job)
    2) Provided indirect economic stimulus (the disposable portion of the maid’s income)
    3) Increased leisure time for me and my family (delegation of household tasks)
    4) Sent a signal to the government that they should care less about me and more about poor people
    5) Transferred money to more efficient agents (private individuals)

    Notes:
    -My government spends more money on Welfare and Social Security than any other purpose (the next largest is half that of welfare). The govt. is therefore partially outsourcing the role of welfare to the private citizenry. Will have to do the math on whether the reduction in government revenue is offset by the reduction in unemployment, and where the equilibrium point might be for my country.
    -I would now be considered as both an employer and an employee, and may face new tax obligations as part of the former. Not opposed to this in principle if the net effect is still strongly positive.

    What say you?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Why is using the money to employee a gardener better than spending it at McDonalds and using it to employ fast food workers and farmers? And if it isn’t, doesn’t this generalize to “You don’t have to pay taxes on money if you were going to spend it on something else”?

      Also, given that many people already have employees, probably far more than would hire them just because of this policy, wouldn’t it be a massive wealth transfer to companies and people with enough money to employ servants?

    • Erusian says:

      I’ll be back with some ideas later, but:

      My government spends more money on Welfare and Social Security than any other purpose (the next largest is half that of welfare)

      This is almost already the case. The largest federal program is Social Security. The second largest is Medicare. The third largest, which is about 60% of Social Security, is defense. But that proportion will fall into line as the population ages.

      The US government spent 3.7 trillion in 2017. At least 2.2 trillion of that was some form of welfare (with 1.9 trillion being Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid). And the remaining 1.5 trillion includes things like roads, which are at least public goods.

    • John Schilling says:

      In the proposed system, I see lots of people working as servants, and almost nobody working as policemen because everyone whose tax dollars could be used to hire policemen is instead pulling them back to hire servants. I do not see this ending well.

    • FLWAB says:

      Purely out of curiosity and because I am not an economist: what would actually happen if we had a flat income tax? As in, say, a flat 15% or 20% income tax for everybody.

      • The Nybbler says:

        If you mean just eliminating brackets, then what happens is the tax burden shifts downward onto the low-income who are paying very little tax now. If you mean some sort of system without any deduction, exemptions, etc, I imagine the main effect is to eliminate investment (because buying $100 of stock, later selling for $110, gives you a gain of $10 and a tax liability of $15 or $20).

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Can I hear your wildly hypothetical, maybe-not-workable but well-intentioned income tax reform ideas?

      Well my ongoing quest is to greatly simplify income tax, so it is simply a percentage of income, with no adjustments. Thus the tax on wages could be paid simply by withholding the correct percentage at the source, so most people would not have to file tax returns.

      This would be a tremendous change in the US, where I propose this change. Not so much in many other countries, which to my understanding are a whole lot simpler than the US, which has thousands of pages of law and regulations. Even though such simplification already exists in other countries, it is perhaps wildly hypothetical in the US, because of the hundreds of interest groups that would object if their tax breaks were repealed.

      I believe this would tremendously benefit the US if it could be achieved. Thousands or millions of tax accountants would then be freed to do actual productive work, and millions of hours spent by individuals on their own time could be eliminated. Also there would be budget savings by the IRS and Treasury Departments.

      Of course business income is inherently complicated, so there would still be a need for some work on taxes. But I think 90% of effort would be gone (quite a bit of business taxes are far more complicated than they should be, so even that would decrease).

      Most adjustments to individual taxes are for welfare reasons — progressive tax rates, child tax credits, credits for low income, etc. It is a lot more effective in fighting poverty to have one agency which does this, instead of delegating this to the tax people, who have no idea how much money should be transferred to the poor, and have no authority to adjust the amount anyway. The tax system is a very poor anti-poverty system.

      This would not be in my interest, since I am one of the legions of tax accountants. But I would welcome it just because it makes so much more sense. I could find productive employment if I needed to. Not that I will ever need to.

    • meh says:

      Why does anyone ever pay tax in this scenario, and not just hire more employees?

    • Aqua says:

      This sort of reminds me of that one (albeit inaccurate) news headline “tech bros invent taxes”

      I think in this case though you pretty much invented corporate taxes. A corporation can choose to pay a salary to employee, this counts as an expense and they don’t need to pay taxes on that amount.

      You example is sort of “on steroids”, since it proposes moving taxes into expenses, rather than taxable income into expenses, but it’s basically the same thing

      You can pretty much do it now!

    • ilikekittycat says:

      Just let me sign into tax.gov and give me a number and have it be paid & done. No deciphering complex rules or ancient tomes of exceptions and exemptions. The government knows enough about me to figure out what my burden should be, unless you’re top 5%+ you’re not gonna be hiding money cleverly enough for the data vacuuming agents of the state to not know what numbers you should be filling in. Why give the average American a 17.6 hour homework assignment every year when they can get it done in 20 minutes in Estonia? (rhetorical, I know its corporate lobbying)

    • Erusian says:

      What would I do if I was tax dictator? Let’s see:
      1.) Extend the standard deduction so it’s at the poverty level. There’s something absurd about the government taking money from folks they themselves define as impoverished. It doesn’t even bring in very much money, maybe 20 billion at most.

      2.) Remove the majority of excise taxes, reducing them to a policy tool to discourage things we have collectively decided we don’t like rather than a way for the government to make money.

      3.) Remove payroll taxes. You generally get less of what you tax. Payroll taxes are a tax on employment. If you want more employment, maybe don’t tax it?

      4.) Remove all corporate income taxes. They’re probably distortionary, increasing prices and decreasing employment, and mostly hit smaller companies.

      5.) Remove the estate tax, gift tax, and AMT, as well as most exemptions (except for a few meant to incentivize widely agreed upon behavior).

      6.) Change personal income tax rates into round numbers (both the thresholds and percents) so they’re easier to calculate. Reduce the number of tax brackets to five. The rate goes up by an absolute 10% (ie, 10% to 20%) every time your income doubles, starting with 50,000 and ending with 400,000+. This is a tax cut for the poor and increase for the rich which will increase government tax receipts.

      7.) Set capital gains so it’s taxed on the same scheme but with half the rates. Have it calculated off of total income rather than specific kinds of income. Again, a tax cut for the poor and increase for the rich which increases total revenue immediately.

      8.) Remove the various kinds of filing. Replace the benefits of different rates and thresholds with a direct credit and expansion of deduction based on family members.

      9.) Increase funding to the IRS. have them mail (or email, text, whatever) You a filled out tax form, with a few additional fields to fill in, plus a blank form. If the information is correct, You can simply fill in any blanks, sign the form, and send it back with a check. If not, you can still get an accountant to fill out the blank version.

      And probably a few more things I haven’t thought of. If we are lucky, most of the money from cutting corporate taxes will be distributed to shareholders… who are now getting taxed at higher rates. Still, it’s likely there would need to be cuts to accommodate the decrease in revenue. Still, this moves taxes towards being a progressive percentage of what people actually receive.

      • The Nybbler says:

        The standard deduction is already greater than the poverty level.

        • Erusian says:

          The standard deduction is $12,000 for individuals, $18,000 for heads of household, and $24,000 for married couples filing jointly. The poverty line is $12,140 plus $4320 for each person. So it is greater for all individuals and, more damagingly, for anyone with two or more children.

          On another note, someone’s pointed out to me that people could avoid taxes through corporate hoarding of money in this system. Perhaps a wealth tax on liquid assets of corporations could solve that?

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Specifically income taxes? It also depends on your preferred level of social spending. Higher social spending should involve higher payroll taxes. Lower social spending, lower payroll taxes.

      I’d prefer eliminating the corporate income tax and more progressive income tax structure, with capital gains exempted up to $X and taxed at a level close to ordinary income beyond $X. I’d also prefer to see remaining deductions get phased out and replaced with a higher standard deduction, and including more employer benefits as income (specifically health insurance, other perks more broadly).

      I don’t have any pie-in-the-sky, revolutionary opinions, because I think they’d probably be wrong.

      • The obvious change to make in the capital gains tax is to index the calculation, make capital gain the difference between buying and selling price in real rather than nominal terms. Under current rules, if the inflation rate is 10% and I buy an asset for $100 and sell it a year later for $110, I pay capital gains tax on a $10 gain even though my actual gain is zero.

  8. CatCube says:

    Structural Engineering Post Series

    Continued from here: https://slatestarcodex.com/2018/08/26/ot109-opulent-thread/#comment-662161

    I was hoping to have both the statics and mechanics posts done for 109.5, but I’ve been getting home late from work the past couple days. I’m only going to cover part of the statics today, and will try to get the other part done tomorrow.

    Statics Part I

    The basic analytical concept for structural engineering is static equilibrium. The basic idea is Newton’s Second Law, which states that acceleration of a body is proportional to the force acting on it, or in equation terms F=m×a, where m is the mass of the body.

    You generally want to avoid pieces of buildings acclerating, so yet another way you could state the job of a structural engineer is “Keeping the acceleration of a building at zero.” This is different than some other disciplines. For example, when @John Schilling is working on a spacecraft, he wants the pieces to accelerate, but not relative to each other.

    This post is covering some very basic physics. I’m going to use a few equations, but for the most part my intent is to explain this qualitatively, because I’d like to make this series accessible to people who don’t use much algebra. This does mean that this treatment is going to be very limited. The toy problems I’m going to talk through are something that you’d see in the first day or two of a college-level class on this subject; this can get complicated very quickly. I apologize if you did have a college level treatment on this, as this post will be tedious.

    All engineers who work with physical matter (i.e., everybody but electrical engineers) are beholden to Newton’s Laws of Motion–and even electrical engineers may have to deal with it if they’re working with motors. Anybody who didn’t drop out of school has seen these laws at one point, and most people who did drop out probably still saw them; they’re covered in about middle school during a science class. Depending on what other classes you took in high school you may have had more depth.

    I’ll discuss the third law only briefly, and for our purposes the first law is only a special case of the second. Newton’s Third Law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. What this means is that if something is imposing a force on something else, the something else also exerts the same force back on the first object.

    For example, if you’re sitting in a chair–or standing on the floor–you’re pushing down on the floor with your weight. If you’re pushing down with 175 pounds of force on the floor, the floor is pushing back up with 175 lbs of force. If you’ve got a book at hand, place it on the desk, then gently push it so it slides. You are imposing a force on the book, and the book is pushing back. Even if the book is accelerating, the force on the book and the force on you are equal. There is a certain amount of friction between the desktop and the book, and the book is exerting that force on the desk and the desk on the book. Also, while the book is on the desk (either sliding or sitting there), the book is pushing down with its weight, and the desk is pushing back up with that same force.

    Aside from the concerns for static equilibrium, this property allows us to use a very powerful concept, the free-body diagram. This is an analytical tool that allows us to consider portions of a structure in isolation. Essentially, anything that exerts a force on part of a structure can be replaced with that force. This means that you can make an imaginary cut in a structure at any location and discard the other half, replacing the missing members with the force that that half would have exerted.

    To go back to the example with the book, we can analyze the book sliding across the desk by removing the desk and your hand. On a piece of paper, we draw the book. We’re not interested in the desk, so we simply replace it with two forces, one acting upwards where the desk is pushing up against the books weight, and one acting sideways where the desk is exerting frictional force on the book. We’re also not interested in your hand, so we can draw the force that your hand is exerting on the book. Finally, gravity is exerting a force on the book as well, so we’ll draw that acting in the middle of the book (through the center of gravity, natch).

    Similarly, if the book is just sitting there, we don’t have either the force from your hand or the force of friction, so the free-body diagram will be just the book with its weight acting downwards, and the force from the desk (called the reaction force) acting upwards. Note that we can also draw a free-body diagram for the desk, in the same fashion, where we draw the desk in space, with the force from the book acting downwards, the weight of the desk acting downwards, and the reactions from the desk legs acting upwards. Structural engineers would continue with the floor, etc.

    This leads to the meat of this post, which is Newton’s Second Law. The example I’ll use is a ruler. (A pencil will work–something long and skinny.) Use your fingers to support the ruler near the ends. As before, we can draw a free-body diagram of the ruler, where the ruler’s weight is acting downwards, and we can replace your fingers with forces acting upwards.

    As I said at the beginning of the post, the force is equal to the mass times the acceleration, F=m×a. Here, the acceleration is zero, so the sum of all the forces must also equal zero. This is called force equilibrium.

    So, the weight of the ruler is acting downwards. Since the ruler is not accelerating downwards, the reaction forces from your fingers will sum to exactly the same force, but upwards. Similarly, since the ruler isn’t accelerating sideways, the sum of the forces in the horizontal direction is also zero; since there’s no sideways force acting on it, the reaction forces are zero.

    This is an important point: when considering two orthogonal directions (i.e., at right angles to each other, an x-axis and a y-axis), the sum of the forces in each direction is zero if the body is not accelerating. Note that these forces are signed; if you pick the y-axis positive vertically, forces acting upwards are positive, and forces acting downwards are negative. If you’ve got a force acting at an angle to these directions, you can use trigonometry to decompose this force into two components acting in the two orthogonal direction.

    These force sums are independent of each other. That is, the imposed forces acting vertically must sum to zero, and increasing any forces acting horizontally will not add any additional force to the vertical direction. However, it may change the distribution of the vertical forces. (And vice versa for additional vertical forces affecting horizontal forces)

    This is because of another consideration: just as our ruler is not accelerating in any direction, neither is it spinning in place. That is, the twisting forces on it are also in balance, which is called moment equilibrium.

    To illustrate this, do the following: hold the ruler above the floor, and slide your fingers out from under it, so that they both come out at the same time; the ruler will fall straight down and remain flat. Now, try again, but only pull the finger out from one side. One side of the ruler will drop, and the ruler will twist as it falls. That is, at the beginning of its fall it is not in moment equilibrium so it starts to twist (it’s also not in force equilibrium, as it is accelerating downwards).

    Moment equilibrium means that the moments about any point must sum to zero. The definition of moment has some subtleties, but for this discussion, we can say it is a force acting at a distance, which attempts to twist the object it is acting on. The magnitude of this moment is the force times the distance (M=F×d), where the distance is measured perpendicular to the direction of force to the point. The classic example is a wrench; if you exert some force on a wrench close to the nut, you put less torque on the nut than if you exert that same force further away.

    To go back to the ruler sitting on your fingers, it is in both force and moment equilibrium. So for any point you pick, if you were to measure the force and the distance between the force and that point and multiplied them together, you’d get a moment due to that force. If you sum all of these moments, they will add up to zero. You can use any point for this, including one four blocks away and twelve feet in the air. However, the point is usually chosen to make calculation convenient. This point is the origin (It’s also the origin for the x- and y-axes for force equilibrium, but distances don’t matter for those so its precise location is less important for that portion of the problem).

    Consider the ruler sitting on your fingers further. We know that the vertical forces sum to zero, that is the two reaction forces from your fingers are exactly equal to the ruler’s weight. Similarly, since there is no horizontal force acting on the ruler there are no horizontal forces to consider.

    If we choose our origin for calculating moments as the left finger, now the distance between the reaction force from your left finger and our moment origin is zero; anything times zero is zero, so the moment from your left finger is zero.

    The weight of the ruler will act through the center of the ruler, so its moment will be its weight times half the length of the ruler. This moment will be acting clockwise (that is, the ruler will spin clockwise due to the weight if you let it rotate about your left finger)

    Finally, the moment of the right finger’s reaction. That will be the reaction force times the length of the ruler, and it will be acting clockwise. We also know that the moment must be exactly equal to the moment from the weight. So the reaction force from your right finger must be half of the weight. (That is, weight of ruler × 1/2 length is equal to reaction force × whole length)

    Since we know that the right finger is exerting half the weight upwards, the left finger must be exerting the other half to maintain force equilibrium.

    This is trivial, since we’re considering weight that’s acting at the midpoint of the ruler. To illustrate, consider a slightly more complex problem: put an eraser at the third point, near the right side. Neglect the weight of the ruler for now. We don’t know what the reaction forces in your fingers are, but we know they must sum to the weight of the eraser. Since the distance from the left finger to the eraser is twice what the distance to the right finger reaction is, the right finger reaction must be 2/3 of the eraser’s weight. Therefore, the left finger reaction must be 1/3 of the eraser’s weight. Then, you can go back and add in the ruler’s weight (which we’ve already solved), and figure out the total forces on each finger.

    There are a lot more wrinkles, especially when you consider structures that have more than two supports like the ruler sitting on our fingers, but all methods of structural analysis are more or less just extending these principles.

    Whew! Next we’ll consider how these principles cover actual building pieces.

  9. johan_larson says:

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to site a new system of high-speed rail.

    Your benefactor has offered to fund the construction of a new rail system. This includes land acquisition costs, assuming a bit of judicious use of eminent domain on the part of the government. The system will have up to 5000 km of double-track rail, suitable for the latest French, German or Japanese high-speed trains, your choice. It will also have up to twenty stations. You can locate the system anywhere you like, with the constraint that it must form a single connected network.

    Where will you site this system?

    • johan_larson says:

      If we are doing this in North America, I think the obvious place to start is where rail transport already works well, Boston to Washington, the current route of the Acela Express. But Boston-New York-Washington is only 440 miles (700 km), so we can afford a lot more.

      The question worth addressing is whether more is worth it. Our benefactor is covering construction costs, but not maintenance and operation costs.

      Chicago-New York would be worth considering. It’s an 800-mile journey.

    • fion says:

      Well I’m not going to put it in North America; I’m going to use it to radically improve the UK’s rubbish rail network!

      London-Edinburgh = 640km
      London-Birmingham = 200km
      London-Manchester = 330km
      Edinburgh-Glasgow = 75km
      Edinburgh-Inverness = 250km

      Ok, that’s all the big ones, and only 1500km spent. Let’s start filling in the gaps.

      Liverpool-Manchester-Leeds-York-Hull ~ 240km
      Liverpool-Manchester-Sheffield-Nottingham-Peterborough-Norwich ~ 450km
      Oxford-Cambridge ~ 140km
      Manchester-Birmingham ~ 140km
      Glasgow-CarlisleLancasterPreston-Manchester ~ 350km
      Edinburgh-Dundee-Aberdeen ~ 200km
      Birmingham-Bristol-Cardiff-Swansea ~ 260km
      London-Bristol-Exeter-Plymouth ~ 380km
      Edinburgh-Newcastle-Durham-Leeds-Nottingham-Leicester-Oxford-Southampton ~ 700km

      Total = 4355km. Maybe it’ll be a little longer because the tracks might not be able to go in very straight lines or something. In any case, if there’s anything left over I’ll use it to make Sheffield as connected as possible. Just as many non-stop services from Sheffield to other cities as I can fit in. Why Sheffield? It’s in the middle of the country, so making it connected will benefit lots of people, it’s been fairly neglected in my previous routes, and it’s poor (lowest GDP per capita of all metropolitan areas in the UK); maybe the amazing transport links will be good for the economy.

      Drat. Reread the rules and saw the 20 station limit, hence the removed cities. Oh well. This will give me a bit of spare track to make Sheffield even more connected!

    • b_jonas says:

      This one is tricky. Without reading the other answers, the obvious competition in my eyes is between North America and Eurasia. Eurasia might be better because I would like even more free movement of workforce from there to Europe, and because North America will just build their own vacuum trains without the donation of the generous hypothetical donor in your question, perhaps from Elon Musk’s money. The argument for North America is that they currently have much more air travel than Eurasia, so a railway system right now would reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, so that could turn the tide about runaway global warning. My choice might depend on how fast you promise this railway system would be built.

      If we can get most of this train line up and running by say 2024-08, then I choose North America. My rough guess of a route would be from Los Angeles CA to Phoenix AZ to Dallas TX to New York City NY to Montreal QC. Then, if it’s possible to add a sideline to Chicago IL without going over the 5000 km limit and while keeping the other cities on the line, then do that too. Then pad it out with as many extra stations as the two limits allow. However, if I was confident that this benefactor was real, rather than an exercise on the blog, then I’d pay someone competent to design the line, because this is pretty important. If asking an expert is not possible, then I’d research publically available statistics about current air traffic statistics in North America, plus population densities.

      If building the train takes more time than that, then I choose Eurasia. I don’t know the geography well enough to tell the right route, but my weak guess is to start somewhere from the southeast cities of China, and go towards Ukraine as far as possible, in a very straight line that sadly avoids India and goes through Kazakhstan. The railway would then connect to the existing and future European transport infrastructure.

      • johan_larson says:

        5000 km will get you from Warsaw to Urumqi as the crow flies, with slight diversions for Minsk, Moscow, and Astana. But no further.

        I’m not sure this is a great idea. Trains do well on medium-distance routes: 300-500 km. On shorter distances they lose to cars. On longer distances they lose to planes.

        • Aapje says:

          More than that, they lose to planes.

          And ships. Transport is not just to move around people, but also goods 🙂

        • ana53294 says:

          I find trains convenient for trips of up to twelve hours, if they have beds (and decent showers). I can board the train, eat some dinner, and wake up in the city of my destination. All without having to deal with airport security, and baggage is limited by what you can carry.

          The Moscow-St. Petersburgh train is very nice, for example. You have the high speed train that takes 4 hour, or you have the slow train, which you can take for the night (it sometimes stops in the tracks somewhere, to avoid coming to a big city before 6 am). As the high speed train is quite expensive (although still much more convenient than the plane, because just going to the airport may take you an hour), lots of people take the night train.

          In Spain, they have mostly gotten rid of night trains. I think this is a huge pity. Part of the reason could be that you have to lift the trains and change gauges in Hendaye, and that is inconvenient. The Madrid-Paris night train was still very convenient, though.

          Long distance trains are still used in Russia. Although the train company is a state monopoly, planes and buses are much worse (there’s a Russian saying that Russia has two problems: bad roads and idiots).

        • b_jonas says:

          Hmm. In that case, the Eurasian line is probably a worse idea than I thought. Asia is big.

    • kieranpjobrien says:

      Ignoring the cost of maintenance, the geopolitical difficulties.

      My nomination: Libreville in Gabon to Durban in South Africa. Going through Pointe-Noire, Kinshasa, Lusaka, Bulawayo, Gaborone, Johannesburg, and Durban. With a spur going to Lubumbashi to use up the remaining 300km of track. With additional stations on all border crossings.

      Kinshasa is one of the least connected capital cities in the world but also has a population of 10m. Connecting the urban centres of Sub-Saharan Africa up and providing a method for them to get their goods from their countries to the global markets via ports whilst also allowing them to connect together internally would provide an immense boost to trade (over the very long term, this would take a long time to make sense).

      • b_jonas says:

        johan_larson mentioned the latest French, German or Japanese high-speed trains. Those are optimized for passengers, not freight. Isn’t that too much of a drawback for a boost of trade and carrying goods to ports?

        • kieranpjobrien says:

          I think giving any infrastructure at all would be a bonus. Africa is likely to develop primarily via a service industry, largely ignoring the manufacturing stage. Similar to the bulk of the Indian development path, so increasing access to the centre of the continent and getting people moving is likely to be the major benefit. You could probably move goods in the trains too, just not in 20ft containers.

    • bean says:

      It runs from Boston to Liverpool. That’s 5,022 km, so I’ll have to find the last few km myself.

      • johan_larson says:

        Bridge? Tunnel? Causeway? Artificial isthmus? Train-sized Star Trek transporter?

        • bean says:

          Hey, you’re the one who issued the challenge. I’ll do whichever one makes the most engineering sense. But if I have an unlimited budget, you can bet I’m not going to spend it on something pedestrian like a train on land.

        • Eric Rall says:

          Based on the terms of the challenge: tunnel. A tunnel allows you to cut the distance below the 5000 km threshold by taking a straight-line (chord) route instead of a great-circle route.

          5022 km is 2712 nm, so the central angle is 2712 minutes = 45.2 degrees. That implies a chord of 0.77 radii, or 4897 km. Bean, you’re off the hook for the last 22 km. Using the California High Speed Rail project’s progress to date as a cost benchmark, I just saved you about $1.2 billion.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Not arsed enough to figure out the math, but …

            won’t that be prohibitively deep?

          • Eric Rall says:

            Yes, way too deep. If I’m doing the trig right, about 304 miles deep at the middle. Or about 40 times as deep as the Kola Borehole. It would also be pretty deep into the mantle, which if I remember my geology right probably isn’t a great environment for tunneling through.

            There’s also the risk of releasing a green ooze that turns people into lava werewolves.

            As a practical matter, any attempt to tunnel under the Atlantic would be too deep. Just getting down below the sea floor (once you’re past the continental shelf) would be way deeper than anything else we’ve ever dug, and then you’d have to deal with tunneling through the giant active volcano that runs through the middle of the sea floor. So I’m being very silly, but johan_larson started it.

          • Ketil says:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oceanic_crust

            Sea floor is only about 10km thick, and much of it doesn’t seem very suitable for tunneling. Sediments on top, getting molten near the bottom.

            Geothermal gradient is 25-30°C/km, so at several hundred km, well, you see where that would lead.

            And I imagine the Mid-Atlantic ridge could pose some extra challenges.

            So, what next? Hyperloop in a tube suspended at 150m below ocean surface?

      • ana53294 says:

        Would it go across Ireland?

      • fion says:

        I was going to make a silly joke pretending think you meant this Boston to Liverpool.

        But then I realised I actually don’t know which Boston and Liverpool you mean.
        Google helped me find this one and this one.

        EDIT: Oh yeah. You’re bean. You mean THIS ONE. :p

      • Dan L says:

        Bravo.

        To see how far our mysterious benefactor is willing to go, I’ll throw in a proposal for a launch loop with a western terminus in French Guiana extending out over the Atlantic. 5000 km is plenty long enough (and the costs might ultimately be comparable!), but we might have to ask the Europeans to rush an updated “high speed train” design out the door before the ink is dry.

      • b_jonas says:

        Wow. I got served. I concede, this is way better than anything close to my North American plan. I had considered demanding a line through the Bering Strait, but it didn’t fit well with the 5000 km connected network requirement, so I discarded that. But I didn’t dare to dream bigger than that.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        You one-upped me, I was gonna say a Tokyo-Seoul-Shanghai system.

      • Chipsa says:

        BOS-EDI is 4939km. Probably good enough?

    • AG says:

      If North America, do we also get to hand-wave the legal hurdles around max speed and such?

      • johan_larson says:

        I’m hoping whatever governments receive this most gracious of gifts will be willing to alter their regulations so the train will be able to operate at the speed it was designed for, assuming proper precautions are taken when laying the track.

    • Calvin says:

      Vancouver down to San Deigo across to Houston would be just under 5000 km and would help alleviate the housing crisis problems in Vancouver and California. It would also spread the human capital around so that it is not so concentrated in the silicon valley bubble.

    • FLWAB says:

      I’d build it from Anchorage, AK to Seattle, WA, with connections in Whitehorse YT, Prince George BC, Edmonton AB, Calgary AB, and Vancouver BC. It cuts land transportation time between Anchorage and Seattle from 45 hours to 9.5.

      Why? It would bring vital transportation infrastructure to a region sorely lacking in it, driving economic expansion in the Yukon and Alaska while turbocharging the already significant tourism industry. The Great White North and the Last Frontier both offer magnificent, unspoiled landscapes and untapped resources and merely lack the infrastructure to let people easily travel to and from the region. Also, it would be really cool.

      It would go bankrupt before the first year is out.

  10. rubberduck says:

    After 20+ years of biting my fingernails, often until they’d bleed, and several failed attempts to quit, I’ve finally found a non-biting strategy that actually works. I just put my fingernails in my mouth and run my teeth over and under them, without biting down. Physically it’s almost the same sensation as biting, and it doesn’t require the hard work of actually overcoming the impulse to stick your fingers in your mouth.

    For some reason, no “Quit Biting Your Nails in 5 Easy Steps!” article ever suggests this, even though it seems more straightforward than tape, bitter nailpolish, thinking about the germs on your hands, etc. So if anyone here has a nail-biting problem this could be something worth trying. I’m currently trying to figure out if this approach could be used to break other bad habits but haven’t come up with anything yet.

    • helloo says:

      Gum?

      And probably most help articles are more interested in completely removing the habit than transferring it to a lesser harm or inconvenience. I mean, do any of the articles suggest to chew pens and pencils instead of nails?
      The main exceptions I can think of is tobacco and some foods.
      One of Scott’s old articles mentions a serious divide between people in the hospital from giving a patient continued therapy for a phobia or a simple solution in which they bring their hair dryer with them to work (so they don’t worry it’s still plugged in).

      The main people who might “benefit” are OCD or those with similar habits to OCD. For example, can someone replace their need to wash their hands every hour by simply rubbing their hands as if they are washing but without water?

    • Well... says:

      My impetus for biting my nails has always been tiny irregularities in their curve, or worse yet, tiny little nicks I must obsessively try and smooth out by removing surrounding material. Both of which usually end up with me biting the whole white part off and letting it grow afresh.

      That said, I’ve mostly “matured out” of this habit without trying, though I sometimes find it coming back if I’m watching a video or reading.

      I don’t think your method would work for totally stopping, but I’ll try it out.

      • b_jonas says:

        You did at least try to also carry your preferred choice of a good pair of nail scissors or nail clipper (my choice is nail clipper), and possibly also a nail file in your preference of material, right? It might not help enough, but it wouldn’t hurt to try.

        I personally never bit my nails. But I bite and suck parts of my finger a lot. I still do. I am bothered by my nails and also the skin on my fingers. So I am collecting nail clippers, I have several at home and one at work, and then I started carrying one in my bag, and eventually I gave in and started carrying a separate one in my other bag so I definitely always have one with me no matter which bag I go with and don’t move the nail clippers from one bag to the other unnecessarily. I still suck and bite my fingers, but having nail clippers with me all the time helps a lot with annoying irregularities in my nails and skin.

        • Well... says:

          I wouldn’t have to carry a nail clipper around so much as keep one by my bed, which is where I do most of my reading and video-watching. But now I realize if I did that I’d probably still use my teeth, because it’s more satisfying (to my reptilian brain I mean) and I don’t have to break my concentration by looking down.

          Anyway now I’m curious: what do you do with the clippings? It seems like it’d be awkward to clip your nails discreetly at work, like if you sit at a cubicle where people walk by. Whereas if someone walks by and you’ve got a finger to your mouth that’s not so weird.

          • fion says:

            Compromise solution: clip your nails and then eat the clippings.

          • b_jonas says:

            When I trim all my fingernails, I either do it outdoors or, at home, lean out the window and let it fall to the grassy patch in front of the house. I do this about weekly. When I just have to do tiny cuts to fix some loose skin or uneven from my fingernails, if the pieces are tiny, I just throw them to the floor, if they’re bigger, I take them to a trashcan. When I cut my toenails, which I do about once a month, I generally do it on the floor at home then sweep the nails up, but I’ve also done it outdoors sitting in the grass right after I came out the swimming pool, because right after the swimming pool makes my nails softer is the best time for cutting nails.

    • Matt says:

      I came to the same solution, about 30 years ago.

    • James C says:

      My solution was to have root canal surgery on a front tooth (for unrelated reasons). It made it far too painful to bite my nails for the better part of a month and by the time my tooth healed I was out of the habit.

      • b_jonas says:

        That’s worrying. I may have to get a root canal surgery on a 7th tooth in a few months. I hope it won’t teach me the habit of chewing only on the right side of my mouth forever.

  11. johan_larson says:

    Question for the Catholics in the forum. Does Catholic theology include the notion that the church can lose what Confucians call the Mandate of Heaven? Or is the church, by virtue of its origins, no matter how hard it might stumble, forever the legitimate embassy of the Kingdom of God?

    • bean says:

      I’m pretty sure that if they believed the church could be in serious error, they’d be Protestants.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Not a Catholic, but this is still in my wheelhouse.

      Catholics dealt with this question fairly early in the life of the church (around the fourth century), during the Donatist controversy/schism, where they very firmly declared that the efficacy of the sacraments and salvation offered by the church is in no way dependent on the virtue of the clergy offering them. They’ve been reaffirming ever since. So from a doctrinal standpoint, they are well covered.

      From a practical standpoint, I think a lot of Catholics will still leave if they no longer trust the clergy. Protestants are basically Donatists, and modern Catholics are more influenced by us than they’d care to admit.

      • Nick says:

        Yeah,

        And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

        You’re right on the Donatist point, though. Even setting aside the efficacy of the sacraments (how many Catholics in the pews care about that?), parents, especially, are concerned about raising their kids in the Church.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Follow-up for the Catholics:

      My impression, which I get mostly from reading Dreher and Dougherty, is that initially this scandal cut across the tribes, implicating Conservative dioceses just as much as Liberal ones. But it seems that since the Vigano letter came out implicating Francis, we’ve gone back to the standard split, with the Left going into nothing-to-see-here mode in order to protect Francis, and the Right now being the only ones willing to dig further.

      Is that fair/accurate? Too early to say?

      • Nick says:

        Dreher et al. were responsibly hammering on this point over and over and over, bringing up folks like Nienstedt and Maciel and others (and rightly so!). Matthew Walther is still trying. But Vigano, by virtue of being an obvious conservative himself, and of implicating a lot of progressive Francis appointments in his testimony—some implications very weak, like Cupich, much as I detest the man—has completely polarized the situation. This would have happened regardless, and we all know how NYT would have covered it anyway, but the intemperate tone and, in my opinion, weak allegations about some figures made it worse than it needed to be.

        The papal sycophants (Ivereigh, Spadaro, Faggioli, among others) are definitely in “nothing to see here” mode; they’re now quoting Isaac of Nineveh on the non-denial and minimizing the seriousness of McCarrick’s crimes. But other leftie Catholics are more principled.

        ETA: changed wording

        • Jaskologist says:

          Follow-up speculation:

          I think Francis’s non-denial makes it pretty clear that he knew about McCarrick.

          At some point, the question is going to shift from “What did Francis know?” to “What did Francis do?” What if he’s in no position to judge because his hands are no cleaner, and that’s part of the reason Uncle Teddy supported him? Maybe there are a few seminarian skeletons in his own closet?

          I think everybody is scared to consider that right now, but it’s got to be coming.

          • Nick says:

            I don’t buy that Francis has anything really bad in his closet; I think they’d be careful about electing him if a journalist could turn up a thing like that (and I bet we’d have already heard about it anyway). But Francis does have a history of associating with sketchy characters before the papacy; Fernandez is one who comes to mind, and if the National Catholic Reporter is to be believed, he was friends with McCarrick already.

            I think Douthat’s read is more likely to be true, which was sort of where I was going with the string of quotes in the last thread: Francis had heard things, but recklessly shrugged them off and trusted McCarrick’s and others’ spinning it as “sins of the youth” and as sins-not-crimes. Now when Francis dismissed talk of a gay lobby in the curia—spoken, again, just one month after Vigano’s alleged meeting with him—he nonetheless insisted that forming a lobby to promote homosexuality is bad. But who says McCarrick’s campaigning openly for it? All he needs to do is keep recommending folks like Tobin and Farrell, and within a few years arresting that sort of “development” will be all but impossible.

          • My current guess is that Francis has a modern, rather than a Catholic, view of homosexuality–sees nothing wrong with it, would change Catholic doctrine accordingly if he thought doing so was practical. Priests are supposed to be celibate, but the Catholic church has a very long history of putting up their not being.

            As I read it, he thought that McCarrick’s history of affairs with adult seminarians was nothing serious and acted accordingly. When evidence came out suggesting sex with minors as well, much more recently, that was another matter.

  12. Brad says:

    https://nyti.ms/2NssrUO
    There are many strange things in this bizarre article, but I want to focus on this seemingly innocuous paragraph:

    “I want to make sure that women are believed,” said Betsy Hodges, a former mayor of Minneapolis who identifies as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and who used to see Mr. Ellison, 55, and Ms. Monahan, 44, together at political events. “I also want to make sure that we follow a process when we evaluate. A bad breakup is not the same thing as abuse.”

    Why in the world do they phrase it as “identifies as”? Is that how Hodges puts it? Is the implication supposed to be that the NYTimes doesn’t believe that she was really sexually abused? That whether or not someone was sexually abused as a child isn’t a matter of objective reality in the first place?

    “Identify as” is spinning out of control. It made some sense for gender identity and pretty much nothing else.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      Could it be to do with identifying as a survivor rather than a victim? I’ve heard of people wishing to consciously reject the idea of being permanently defined as having had something bad happen to them, as opposed to having not-been-destroyed by something bad that happened to them.

      • Well... says:

        That could be solved with a neutral phrasing, such as “Betsy Hodges, who experienced childhood sexual abuse”.

        • John Schilling says:

          That’s a factual assertion that abuse happened, which could be problematic for the times if it turns out that everyone in Hodges’ home town knows that she has been accusing [specific person] of sexual abuse and fifteen minutes’ fact-checking would show the claim to be extremely dubious.

          “Identifies as”, works really well as a defensive weasel-wording, and sometimes you really do need to defend yourself weasel-style.

          • Well... says:

            Winter Shaker’s answer worked only if we start from the premise that this person’s claim is true. I was going with that premise.

    • Aapje says:

      It’s hard to know whether it was meant sarcastically or sympathetically. Given that it’s the NYT, I expect the latter.

      I’m just speculating here, but if the reporter didn’t check up on that claim and has some integrity, she can’t just write it up as a fact. Traditionally, journalists then write something like ‘who claims to have experienced childhood sexual abuse.’ However, that can be read as a dismissal, so perhaps the reporter chose ‘identifies as’ to not be seen as questioning a woman’s claim of being sexually abused?

      • dndnrsn says:

        Reading it, it seems like this sounds about right? It might be a transition to a gentler way of indicating that the it’s something she’s reporting, rather than a crime that saw charges, conviction, etc.

        (Also, Brad, didn’t you say you were lifting weights and might go right-wing? I dunno, complaining about “identify as” might be the first step; next it’ll be videos of JBP appearances on Rogan… Gateway drugs…)

        • Brad says:

          Eh. The jury is still out, but in this particular case it’s a longstanding bugbear. In the past I’ve written it up as “bring back reticence” and/or linked pg’s Keep Your Identity Small.

          I’m also with the righties on the abuse of the word “safe”.

      • Randy M says:

        That’s probably right. Could also be something along the lines of “is an activist for”; that is, she takes some of her identity as being an abuse victim survivor.
        That sounds quite regrettable though.

    • Matt M says:

      I think “who identifies as” is simply shorthand for “this person claims this status, and we’ve made zero attempt to verify it’s authenticity.”

      It is often applied to sensitive subjects wherein the very act of attempting to verify authenticity would be seen as in poor taste. Demanding a woman prove she’s a sexual assault survivor would be considered poor form, even in most red-tribe circles.

      At the same time, if it turns out she’s just another Jackie, this absolves the NYT of any responsibility or culpability – because they never stated that she was assaulted, just that she claimed to be.

      • Well... says:

        Another point for the legitimacy of journalism as a consumer-friendly source of the best information about important things going on in the world!

        • Matt M says:

          Although I would like to make it clear that I don’t really fault the NYT for this one. Whether or not she was actually assaulted is not very important to the overall story here.

          The fact that she claims to have been is an interesting point that might speak to her motivation on addressing the topic – but that’s about it. The time and expense of actually verifying a decades-old allegation on a very controversial and sensitive issue is almost certainly not worth the headache and cost it would entail.

        • Dan L says:

          [P(H|E) – P(H)]P(E) = -[P(H|~E) – P(H)]P(~E)

          If you’re going to dock the Times points when you find them hedging then on pain of epistemic inconsistency you must be giving them kudos each and every time they make a falsifiable statement, even before you verify whether or not they got it right.

          Or alternatively you’re actively looking for gotchas, and you’ve given people reason to dismiss your critiques as bad faith.

          • Well... says:

            I wasn’t docking the Times for hedging. I wouldn’t expect any journalism organization to invest the kind of resources into doing such a thorough investigation that all these kinds of details could be verified and the language completely tightened up to reflect that.

            I’m docking the Times, and every other source of journalistic reporting, for not being science, yet wearing — and really, since there’s not much else to journalism, being — a costume meant to impersonate the kind of epistemic consistency conveyed in the tight language of scientific reporting.

          • Dan L says:

            My point stands.

          • Well... says:

            How so? You said I was docking the Times for hedging. I have directly refuted that.

            To state it more explicitly: I don’t have a problem with journalism’s epistemic inconsistency, or even with journalism’s non-attempt at epistemic consistency. Rather, I have a problem with journalism’s thin impersonation of the types of publications that actually try to eliminate epistemic inconsistency.

          • Dan L says:

            I don’t care what you call your criticism – if you’re pointing to X as a general problem, you must be proportionately praising the Times when you find ~X. That is epistemic consistency.

            The alternative is to check each piece of evidence in according to how well it supports or refutes a pre-existing thesis. This approach will be consumed by convenient excuses. Maybe ~X happens, but it doesn’t count because Y. Never mind that you were also criticizing ~Y, it’s still doesn’t count in this particular instance. Also, Z.

            Maybe you have an intricate multi-level conditional model of how virtuous journalism ought to be conducted in real-world circumstances. But it looks a lot more like you’re pointing out failings that fit a narrative without having a consistent idea either of what is going on or what you would like to see. In those cases, it absolutely is fair to demand evidence of good faith: no theory has all the evidence line up in its favor – what brights spots have you found in a dark field?

            I have a problem with journalism’s thin impersonation of the types of publications that actually try to eliminate epistemic inconsistency.

            Be honest – how many scientific journals would pass your criteria? Singling out “journalism” for critique is simultaneously too broad to be practical advice and too narrow to be useful analysis.

      • dick says:

        Yeah, this is exactly how I took it.

    • Deiseach says:

      Because for every time you use what you think is the currently acceptable phrase, there will be six people writing in furious letters/tweets about the way this proves you are a racist sexist homophobic transphobic fascist Nazi and the correct phrase you should have used is [six different phrases].

      “Victim of sexual abuse” was disapproved of on the grounds that it made the people sound bad (victims are objects of pity, and pity is bad, and victims are always passive, things are done to them, this denies any agency to the person). “Survivor” was the approved term. I’m not surprised that they’ve moved on now to “identifies as…” due to the euphemism treadmill (everyone knows “survivor” means “victim” and “victim” is bad) and I don’t think it means the NYT disbelieves her about sexual abuse. Rather, it’s to do with not imposing labels on someone, not putting yourself as arbiter, and not judging. Ms Hodges may choose to identify in this manner right now, she may change her mind later, and someone else in similar circumstances may choose to identify in a completely different manner. You the outsider just use whatever term the person wishes to use. By saying “Ms Hodges identifies as” you are not saying that “Ms Smith or Mr Jones should identify as/they are survivors”, if Ms Smith or Mr Jones chooses to deal with it in a different way.

    • quanta413 says:

      I think the above guesses are pretty sensible.

      Now strange is the recent article in the Atlantic with the guy who said “I don’t have Hemophilia; I am Hemophilia”. I think I vaguely get what he’s gesturing towards, but it’s a really weird phrasing.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      “identifies him/herself as” is, I believe, short hand for “a person we interview made a claim which we did not or could not verify”.

      For example:
      “Janoris Jenkins was in Florida to host a series of parties when his brother was charged Wednesday with aggravated manslaughter after a dead body was found at Jenkins’ home in Fair Lawn, N.J., a man who identified himself as a party planner told USA TODAY Sports.”

      I think that standard verbiage was probably just mangled here.

      • Brad says:

        That’s a plausible but boring explanation. Maybe that’s it, but in the context of the article, which IMO should not have been published in its current* form, I’m not inclined to give the reporter and editor the benefit of the doubt.

        *current as of when I read it this morning

        • AnonYEmous says:

          Nah, I don’t think so – the phrases are similar, but “identified themselves as” isn’t the same thing as “identify as”. “identify as” is about someone’s identity, how they view themselves and so forth; “indentified themselves as” is just providing some useful information. Kind of a shaky argument, I admit, but look at HBC’s quote for an example – that guy probably doesn’t consider “party planner” to be a significant part of his identity, but someone who “identifies as”, say, Afro-Latina or whatever is making claims about their identity, how they think of themselves and so forth.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      I dunno. The explanation that this is fudging together the stock phrase “identified X-self as…” (which I’ve seen often enough) and the modern identity politics “Identifies as” gender stuff is plausible, but it’s still a very wierd construction.

      Also, Brad, finally replied to your question in OT 109. Sorry, I got cellulitis and was laid out for a few days.

  13. bean says:

    It’s review time again at Naval Gazing, this time covering the USS Massachusetts and the other ships at Battleship Cove in Fall River.

  14. ana53294 says:

    There was a lot of anger in the US over the separation of parents who came to the US and brought their kids out of their own free will. But nobody talks about another instrument governments over the whole world use to harass parents and take their kids away from their families: the Hague Convention.

    The Hague convention, unlike the child separation policy, was well intentioned. This does not mean it was in any way a good idea, though. It does facilitate the extradition of kidnapped children, but this is still a fiendishly complicated process. Meanwhile, it allows the partners who have legal residency and income in the country of residence of the child to get automatic 100% custody rights, by kicking the other spouse who has no residency rights on their own (who are usually women). Courts will never give custody to the foreign parent who has no residency rights, even if the other parent is abusive. This leads to situations where a kid with a perfectly fit parent who just happens to live in another country ends up in foster care. Or where courts give custody to a parent who was convicted of domestic violence, just because he happens to be residing in their country and the other parent wishes to live in the other country.
    This also means that parents are effectively trapped in a country-sized jail by the strongest chains possible: their own kids. There are also cases when Child protective services snatches kids from parents who are allegedly abusing their kids, does not let the kids stay with other family (because they are in another country ), so parents spend years in court proving there was no abuse, and in the meanwhile, kids are in foster care.

    I think there are ways to solve this, mainly: 1) establish a two-year rule for child residency; 2) inform every parent who moves with their kids to another country that they could be trapped in that country forever (give pamphlets to all families crossing the border); 3) give automatic residence to parents whose children your courts do not allow to leave the country (or allow them to leave the country with their kids); 4) divide child custody without taking into account the child’s country of residency (so if you wouldn’t give an abusive parent full custody in the case both parents are citizens of your country, do not change criteria just because one parent is a foreigner or has no residency permit); 5) if CPS suspects a child is being abused, don’t chase across borders; inform the other country’s authorities and let them investigate (or at least allow for kids to be fostered by their grandparents or other family abroad while the parents face prosecution in your country).

    I find all of this even more horrifying than the Trump child separation policy, because it happens to people who move to another country legally, and are faced with an untenable situation.

    • arlie says:

      Interesting, and not something I’ve ever thought about.

      It does seem to me that all custody disputes are fraught, and worse when CPS is involved. I hadn’t thought about “lives in another country” as notably worse (or affecting more children/parents) than e.g. conlficts about ‘good parenting’ with neighbours/social workers, or entrenched biases favouring either gender (defaults have been ‘mother’, ‘father’ and ‘shared’ in different jurisdictions at different times, and whatever the default, some set of people howl, and some of those cases involve real miscarriages of justice or child welfare).

      • ana53294 says:

        The issue here is that in many cases, country of residence seems to trump all other criteria for custody. And having custody does not mean you can exercise it (if they give you full custody, but do not let you leave the country with the child and deny residency/visas, then they are effectively denying you custody).

    • bean says:

      But nobody talks about another instrument governments over the whole world use to harass parents and take their kids away from their families: the Hague Convention

      When I first read this, I was very confused. The only Hague Convention I was aware of was the one that banned hollow-point bullets for military use, and I was trying to figure out what that had to do with international custody disputes.

      • ana53294 says:

        If you google the the Hague Convention, the first result you get is the one about the child abductions. I wasn’t aware of the other one, but it is too late in the edit window to clarify it.

    • Mark Atwood says:

      I know someone who got trapped in Hague Convention Hell.

      It was the father being tormented, and the mother inflicted it via lawfare.

      Small numbers, anecdote vs data, and all that. But…

      But I would like to know your numbers for how it’s “usually women” who loses custody in these cases. Or is this one of those “when it happens to a mother, its a tragedy, and when it happens to a father, who the fuck cares?” things?

      • ana53294 says:

        It is usually the women who choose to be homemakers and do not have a job (and thus do not have residency rights separate from the spouse).

        How did the father end up in a country where he did not have work or residency rights?

        • Mark Atwood says:

          How did the father end up in a country where he did not have work or residency rights?

          On a trip to visit the grandparents. Surprise! Divorce papers.

          • ana53294 says:

            Wow. That means she planned it. Was the country Australia or New Zealand? Most European countries establish residency after three months; Australia and NZ do it as soon as you step out of the plane.

    • b_jonas says:

      I heard rumors that a pair of parents that raise a kid together in a country where they don’t yet have residence can also get trapped in a country-sized jail, because bureaucracy and the immigration crisis makes it hard for them to get valid passports for the child.

  15. Paul Brinkley says:

    Jose Duarte, an advocate for scientific validity, aims at the AP.

  16. theredsheep says:

    http://www.nbc-2.com/story/23495869/man-arrested-for-stabbing-roommate-in-throat
    https://bonitasprings.floridaweekly.com/articles/transgender-transition/

    These are the most neutral/least contentious source I could find for this case, though yes, the top one does identify Keohane as male. Basically, Reiyn Keohane started taking estrogen at age nineteen to transition into a woman. About six weeks later, Reiyn stabbed her roommate in the chest and throat something like thirty times. She is currently serving a fifteen-year sentence. The case came back into the public eye after the ACLU and some legal defense fund sued the prison to let her wear panties, etc. Not bothering with that here.

    Question: to what extent could the estrogen be implicated in this? It was apparently a completely random and meaningless outburst; I can’t find any hint of a deeper story behind this, like a feud between the roommates. Estrogen, to put it mildly, can have an effect on mood. It affects your levels of serotonin, dopamine, tryptophan, norepinephrine, and a bunch of other things. Is estrogen indicated for post-pubescents doing transitions? Because (not a psychiatrist) it sounds like you’re basically throwing a man back through puberty as a girl, and twelve-year-old girls are already kind of insufferable, and if Keohane was already unhappy (like many trans people), I could see that stew of chemical interactions sending her into who knows what kind of weird headspace.

    • Well... says:

      I’m not an endocrinologist or a lawyer but I would be very surprised if hormones were ever implicated in crimes. Whether they’re at imbalanced levels in the body due to puberty or artificial interventions doesn’t seem legally relevant.

      • Matt M says:

        This sounds like it was probably an episode of Law and Order. Or possibly House.

        • kieranpjobrien says:

          It was an episode of House. A guy on death row had a malfunctioning adrenal gland that caused him to go crazy and kill people. He was trying to kill himself with… copy toner (iirc). House got drunk with him as the alcohol (handwaved the bad juju away).

          Foreman then went to the guy’s appeal because on medical grounds he wasn’t responsible. House said he still chose to kill them.

          • RDNinja says:

            For the record, the toxic component of toner is methanol, and the proper treatment really is hard liquor. Same as with anti-freeze. The same enzymes that metabolize ethanol also metabolize methanol and ethylene glycol into their toxic derivatives. So flooding them with ethanol lets the other chemicals pass relatively safely through your system.

      • theredsheep says:

        I didn’t mean legally implicated; the fact that this person is doing fifteen would indicate that insanity didn’t sell. My concern is whether a standard treatment for a particular condition could lead to extremely erratic behavior. As I understand it from reading posts here, we have only a vague idea of how the dopamine-serotonin-(half-dozen other hormones and neurotransmitters) rat’s nest is put together.

        From a psychiatrist’s perspective, I imagine that would be lose-lose. Don’t prescribe hormones, and you have the unacceptable risk of the patient going deeper into a funk and perhaps getting suicidal. Do prescribe hormones, and the patient is happier with his/her body, but there’s an also-unacceptable risk that their biochemistry will go completely nuts and s/he will do something else horrifying.

        • rlms says:

          From a psychiatrist’s perspective, I imagine that would be lose-lose.

          Only if murder and suicide are equally likely, which seems dubious. In any case, estrogen isn’t the sex hormone generally associated with violent tendencies.

    • Deiseach says:

      Question: to what extent could the estrogen be implicated in this?

      Nothing that would cause sudden violent outbursts of irrational rage; oestrogen regulates the menstrual cycle as well as promoting the development of secondary sexual characteristics, and to be frank, the only effects I can imagine would be the effects of trying to promote ovulation in a physical system that is not set up to ovulate.

      Increased anger, moodiness, aggression, etc. during periods is more to do with increased testosterone levels/increased sensitivity to such already naturally present.

      • theredsheep says:

        Do you have a background in psych or endocrinology, though? The ordinary effects of estrogen vs. the effects on a body that’s already been through puberty once in the opposite direction could conceivably be entirely different, for all I know. Hormones are powerful stuff. Among other things, estrogen seems to inhibit norepinephrine reuptake.

        • Deiseach says:

          Yeah, I’m gonna go with “existing mental health problems plus whatever other problems associated with being trans” rather than “started on oestrogen, suddenly went all stabbity-stabbity” as the cause here.

          Otherwise every twelve year old girl first exposed to oestrogen would be grabbing the carving knife and stabbing their siblings, rather than flouncing off to their room, slamming the door, and writing sombre poetry about death and how nobody understands them.

          • theredsheep says:

            No, because the twelve-year-old girl has vastly different starting conditions: a child’s metabolism versus a grown man’s. NB that even if the estrogen is implicated, the sheer complexity of human biochemistry would keep this from necessarily being a common event in mtf transgenders transitioning chemically after puberty.

      • Michael Handy says:

        I wonder if low oestrogen, or low testosterone blocker levels might do this then. More of a sudden change in levels than absolute levels. Maybe there’s data showing mood with time dosage taken?

      • Thegnskald says:

        Testosterone probably does not cause aggression. The best current guess is that high testosterone might be a side effect of other hormonal imbalances that increase aggression. (Cortisol, for example, probably reduces aggression. It also reduces testosterone levels.)

        Estrogen might increase aggression – it is difficult to tell. Like with testosterone, second and third order effects dominate everything.

        And different people can react differently. It is all random

  17. DragonMilk says:

    Anyone into old school(ish style) computer games which emphasize concepts and stories over graphics quality?

    I still love Age of Empires II and will watch it streamed, and recently discovered Endless Sky (free to play, technically still in beta since 2015 and available via github as well).

    If so, any other recommendations for old(ish style) games?

    • Björn says:

      I can recommend King of Dragon Pass. It’s a management/RPG hybrid, the most similar modern game is probably Crusader Kings II. You play a clan that’s of a nordic/germanic bronze age culture, and you have to handle things like diplomacy with other clans, religious rituals and the petty feuds of your clansmen.

      The portrayal of religion in this game is a very authentic portrayal of nature religion. Other games treat religion like a vending machine that gives you immense power when you jam worship into it. In King of Dragon Pass, religion plays a role everywhere, but it is mostly indirect or intangible. The clan council should have people who worship different gods on them, if you don’t respect your clan’s traditions, you get bad luck, and to win the game, you need to perform grand scale ritual enactments of your clan’s myths.

      The game was released in 1999, and it was mostly overlooked, because it did not have a publisher. In 2011, it was rereleased with an improved UI for mobile devices, so if you own a tablet computer, this is the best version to play the game. But you can also get it on Steam and GoG for your normal computer.

      • Protagoras says:

        I love the setting; I’ve played a few role-playing campaigns in Glorantha. But the Orlanthi were among my least favorite groups in the setting, so I really wish they’d have done some games involving other parts of the setting. We are all us!

        • Björn says:

          They recently did another game in the setting, Six Ages: Ride like the Wind, where you play a Riders clan. But it’s only available for mobile right now, so I haven’t played it.

    • FLWAB says:

      You could try King of Dragon Pass. You play as the leader of tribe in a fantasy world. The focus is on making decisions and trying to grow the tribe. It’s pretty much just menus and text with pictures for the various events.

      EDIT: Ninja’d!

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      How old do you want? If you want the eternal existential struggle of keeping an environment clean while dodging life’s hazards, there’s always Pac-Man.

      I kid.

      People still have a fondness for the unique philosophical conflict and world of Planescape: Torment. It recently got an Enhanced Edition, courtesy of Beamdog. It probably needed it. The 3D rendering is going to probably shock you when you realize that that was the pinnacle of rendering only about 20 years ago (or, alternately, when you realize holy crap, that was almost 20 years ago).

      NetHack is still the granddaddy of gameplay IMO. Randomly generated dungeon, randomly populated, with randomized items, meaning one of your first problems was figuring out what potion, scroll, wand, etc. did what. If the play feels familiar, well, this is the genre that led to the entire Diablo franchise from Blizzard. By the way: if you die, you’re dead. No savescumming, by design. (It’s okay – games are meant to be finished fairly quickly. And there’s always the chance that you’ll run into your own ghost in a future game.) It settled at version 3.4.3 for a very long time, very playable, very fun. Just recently, it’s reawakened, and is now at 3.6.1.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Older is not necessarily better, it’s more that I put minimal value on graphics and maximal on gameplay/concepts/depth of experience

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          No worries here. And I think Planescape and NetHack sound like what you’re looking for.

        • Björn says:

          Planescape: Torment is the deepest RPG there is, unless someone makes Mariana Trench Dungeon Grinder.

          • MrApophenia says:

            I haven’t played it yet, but the same people who made the (fantastic) Planescape Torment also made a ‘spiritual’ sequel called Torment: Tides of Numenera.

            It’s all the same game designers making a very stylistically similar game, set in a different weird tabletop RPG setting from one of the same tabletop designers. Supposed to be extremely good, although I haven’t heard the kind of rave reviews you see (correctly) for Planescape Torment.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Torment: Tides of Numenera is a very interesting game, but it’s no Planescape: Torment. I still recommend it IF you enjoy that style of real-time w/ pause, reading heavy, world building heavy PC RPG, but it lacks the full depth and impact of PS:T.

            As far as spiritual successors go, Pillars Of Eternity was a similar project, only with its inspiration being Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2 rather than Planescape, and I think PoE was a stunning success. I highly recommend Pillars of Eternity 1 and 2 to anyone commenting favorably on games like the first two Fallouts, the Black Isle games, etc.

    • Lillian says:

      I’m a little confused, you ask for games emphasizing concepts and stories, but give as one of your examples Age of Empires II a game that’s all gameplay and little story. Still if you want a concept and story driven older style game, there’s Sunless Sea. It is in many ways an old school text adventure attached to a rogue-like naval exploration game. Speaking for myself, i found the game so engrossing i spent 36 hours playing it with only short bathroom and food breaks, which is a personal record. This for a game where the core gameplay experience is basically sailing around in darkness watching your fuel and supplies dwindle while your crew’s terror goes up. It is seriously one of the best games i’ve ever played.

      One thing though, the early game does tend to be a bit slow and grindy, especially if you play cautiously. Sunless Sea rewards exploring, taking risks, and learning about the world, even if it means your captain might die. As you gather more experiences you become better able to survive and even prosper. That’s when the game really starts shining.

      • DragonMilk says:

        I got into history by playing the pseudo-history campaigns, haha.

        What better way to find out who the mamelukes really were than to wonder if people really threw scimitars from camels?

        • Lillian says:

          Okay i can understand that, since i too was a huge Age of Empires II fan back in the day. Hell even though i was already into history, there’s still a bunch of historical characters and events that i first learned about from the game. One of my fondest memories from the game is how after reading a novel about Don Juan de Austria’s life i realized just how much the Battle of Lepanto scenario failed to measure up to the real thing, so i went into the map creator and made my a 1 to 1 scale recreation. That’s 490 warships total. Then i ran it, and it was such glorious mayhem.

          You should check Sunless Sea out, even though it’s technically more a fantasy setting, it has a lot of delicious historical flavour to it. Plus you know mystery, horror, adventure, and all sorts of other fun things!

      • Atlas says:

        I’m also a big fan of Sunless Sea, and would second the recommendation. Be advised, though, that a lot of its lore isn’t fully elaborated in-game.

    • arlie says:

      I still love all the ancient 4X turn based strategy games, particularly Master of Magic, but I don’t think they’d meet your ‘concept’ criterion. The basic flow is all the same, with different details. And they are almost all weak to the same general strategy. That said, they don’t feel like clones to me, except to the extent that e.g. all mystery novels are the same. And I’d probably be happy with a modern one, if someone would (a) create it and (b) describe it in a way that made it clear it was not an RTS, and didn’t really on human opposition to create any kind of challenge. (I.e. has an adequate AI, and isn’t a click fest.) The civ francise still stays with these boundaries, actually, but I don’t currently have any computer that can play the relatively recent ones – and they are only relatively recent. Also, IIRC, somewhat boring when I last had a functional windows system.

      • Dan L says:

        If you’re a 4X purist, I don’t have positive recommendations past Civ 4. The sequels keep importing elements from grand strategy games – poorly – and akwardly scaled-down to fit the faster game speed.

        • Thegnskald says:

          Try Civilization: Call to Power.

          Designed by the guy who did Sid Meier’s Colonization, it is a MUCH better game.

          There are standard civ tactics. But you can also build a slaver empire, built on the labor of citizens stolen from the other civilizations. Then you can establish corporate franchises in all the other civilizations and steal their wealth that way. Then you can send bioengineered sea monsters to sink their navy, and fill the oceans with undersea cities. Then you can send war mechs to blow their tanks to rubble. Then you can fill the atmosphere with orbiting colonies and insert space troopers directly into their cities.

          Or you can become an ecoterrorist civilization and build vans covered in hippie graffiti and use nanites to transform their most important cities into forests.

          • Dan L says:

            Yes, but are any of those strategies viable at higher levels? Honest question – my opinion of the Civ series has cooled mostly because I’m increasingly finding that there’s little overlap between the kind of gameplay I find fun and the kind that works in a more competitive environment. Maybe that’s because I’m just playing at a more competitive level over time, but there are specific design choices I can point to in the later Civ games that encourage what I view as degenerate play. Unfortunately, I’m finding it hard to get invested in a new strategy game unless I can confirm that it has a reasonably healthy meta – older games predate a lot of the modern issues, but seem more hit or miss in general.

        • Nicholas Weininger says:

          Surprised nobody has mentioned the Europa Universalis series. EU3 at least I can vouch for as a very interesting game that focuses on strategic difficulty rather than flashy artwork.

          • Dan L says:

            The grand strategy games that Civ has been lifting elements from is mostly EU, yes. I have a few hundred hours spent in each of EU3 and EU4, but they’re different beasts and most 4X fans I’ve introduced them to haven’t cared for them.

      • DragonMilk says:

        I’ve actually played Master of Magic! Unfortunately it was too tempting to use the crafting exploit for unlimited mana that any other way to play was too slow 🙁

        I also liked Alpha Centauri a lot.

        And to elaborate on concept, AC is a great example – the fungus. **Spoilers** At first it’s an annoying impediment that I’d use forest to slowly chip away at. Later they become roads or really productive, though that depends on your environmental policies and techs.

        Just having the whole concept of unique factions split out with varying specials and bonuses implemented with the pseudo-philosophical quotes on every tech advance and grainy videos for wonder completion is still a joy to pick up.

    • cassander says:

      If you like age of empires II, I find the Age of Myth quasi-sequel to be a lot of fun. Same basic look and interface, but with 4 very different factions based on mythological greece, atlantis, norse, and egypt. Plus china if you get the second expansion.

      • fion says:

        Plus china if you get the second expansion

        Don’t get the second expansion.

        But yes, the base game and the first expansion are good, and the campaign in the base game is my favourite of all the “Age of…” campaigns.

        (Isn’t it called “Age of Mythology” rather than “Age of Myth”? Age of Myth appears to be a fantasy novel written by Michael J. Sullivan.)

    • Machine Interface says:

      You could try the series of programming-puzzle-games published by Zachtronics. They’re very clever games about solving tasks of increasing complexity by making (fairly low level) programs with generally limited space and resources. They generally have fairly simple 2D graphics and a nice narrative wrapped around whatever you’re doing. They also tend to get pretty difficult pretty fast, and have generally a lot of replay value as it’s possible to create your own levels and play those created by other people. The games also let you compare your solution to each level against those of other users, so that you can try to find more efficient solutions along various criterias.

      So far in the series there’s:
      SpaceChem – Space/SciFi setting, you program the a pair of arms moving along rails to manipulate atomic compounds in chemical reactors. The first in the series, not the most intuitive, but really interesting.
      Infinifactory – You’re an engineer who’ve been abducted by aliens! They want you to conceive complex assembly-line style automated factories for them. The most ambitious in the series, with 3D graphics (although not super hardware-demanding ones).
      TIS-101 – You found a mysterious, one of a kind computer that you try to debug by programming parallel processors in a simplified version of MIPS. The opposite of Infinifactory, super minimalistic graphics, DOS-style, and the programming language is actually explained in an 80s style manual (given to you as a pdf with the game).
      Shenzhen I/O – Expends on the concepts of TIS-101; you’re an american engineer recently hired by a Chinese firm in Shenzhen, and are tasked with programming the microprocessors in various commercial electronic appliances.
      Opus Magnum – fantasy/steampunk setting, you’re a newly graduated master alchemist, and must program mechanical arms on a grid to assemble various alchemical compounds. The simplest game in the series, this one eschew concepts like branching or subroutines, you’re making strictly linear programs, so it’s not as deep as the other games.
      Exapunks – cyberpunk setting; expands on the concepts of TIS-100 and Shenzhen I/O, you’re a computer hacker doing his misdeeds by programming “exas”, essentially virtual microprocessors that can move between machines and make copies of themselves. I have started playing this one a few days ago, and it’s already one of my favorite in the series.

      (All these games are avalaible on Steam).

    • littskad says:

      There’s an active community that still writes text adventures. See http://ifdb.tads.org/ The old Infocom games were pretty uniformly good to great, too.

      I remember Betrayal at Krondor fondly, and the Might and Magic games. Wizardry, too.

      For current but old-styled games, Stardew Valley is a lot of fun.

    • beleester says:

      If you liked Age of Empires II, you also played Starcraft: Brood War, right? If not, you should play it. It still holds up. You should also watch Day[9]’s video series on Brood War strategy, which is an incredibly deep dive into BW’s multiplayer strategy and why those strategies work. You don’t need any prior knowledge of the game to watch it.

      If you’re into JRPGs, I’m currently playing through Tales of Symphonia and really enjoying it, despite it having pretty poor graphics (even by Gamecube standards) and lacking some of the gameplay refinements of the newer Tales games. The plot is excellent – it starts off as a simple “Chosen One on a quest to save the world” story, but quickly gets very complicated and twisty as various parties try to manipulate the heroes for their own ends. It was originally a Gamecube game, but was ported to Steam.

      If you like Symphonia, you might also look into Tales of Zestiria or Tales of Berseria, the most recent installments in the series and the only other ones out on PC. (Don’t worry about missing something – like the Final Fantasy series, each installment is unrelated to the others.)

      • DragonMilk says:

        Yes, BroodWar was my favorite game in high school. As I’ve aged, RTS is a little too demanding and so I’ve turned more to what I’d describe as concept or story emphasis like 4x grand strategy so that it’s less stressful to play.

      • cassander says:

        I don’t understand my brain. I’ve spent the last couple days watching that day9 series instead of watching Ozark season two, which I’ve been waiting to come out for months. I played a lot of starcraft 1 back in high school and was very good, but we played big multi-sided melees at lunch, not tournament style. It’s fascinating to see how that leads to differences in style.

    • massivefocusedinaction says:

      Master of Orion or MoO II these are very old, so you’ll probably need dosbox to run them. The first is a very elegant, minimalist 4X game. The second changes things, with some neat features, but the additions make a less elegant game. Skip the third, it took the additions making it less elegant to an extreme.

      Knights of the Old Republic and the Sequal (I didn’t realize this was 15 years old now, wow). There’s a pretty good android release, but it works better on a tablet than a phone.

      Baldur’s Gate Also has a new released edition.

      Morrowind It’s got a much deeper character, skill, and magic system than Skyrim. Also I prefer the fixed level enemies to scaling, but that means some areas will murder you at low levels.

      XCom UFO Defense (the remakes are good, but much more simplified) or Jagged Alliance.

      Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri (It’s the only Civ game I played to a finish). If you’re color blind make sure you get the patch, the game is nearly unplayable without it.

      Lots of these games are quite old, so feel free to skip if they don’t seem to be your cup of tea.

    • MrApophenia says:

      If you like Age of Empires and space, you might like Stellaris. I have found it to be just staggeringly addictive and engrossing. In addition to being an interesting 4X strategy game, I find it does a really good job of capturing the feel of playing very different types of space civilizations.

      Like, you can play as friendly space hippy Star Trek types it really does become completely different game than the standard military conquest approach.

      Or you can go for weirder playstyles, like ‘Rogue AI network that wants to serve all organic creatures by creating a utopia for them whether they want it or not,’ or ‘Isolationists who refuse to engage in contact with any other species and just focus on development of your own corner of the galaxy.’

      And the interesting part is the designers just keep working on improving it. The game came out in May 2016, and they are still making pretty dramatic changes and improvements and often releasing them for free. They are currently working on a complete rework of planetary economics and politics to add something more thematic and strategically interesting.

      • fion says:

        Also: Crusader Kings 2.

        Same setting as AoE2 and same style of game as Stellaris. What’s not to love?!

        • DragonMilk says:

          I actually am a big Paradox fan!

          I started with CKII and took over the world as the vikings, with my homosexual viking byzantine emperor making the most headway into India (I’ve heard they’ve since patched it so that it’s much harder to take over the world within the timeframe unless you are quite ok with constantly being at war).

          I think City Skylines is a great improvement/twist on the Sim City series, as I love experimenting with things like a hexagonal road grid so that cars never have to stop, though as a result go 33% farther.

          And then there’s EU4, where I’m waiting for some DLCs (I will say I’m not the greatest fan of the emphasis on DLCs) to go super on sale before playing more.

          And yes, I enjoy Stellaris, though they’ve made very big upheavals to the game since 2.0 so I’m waiting for the dust to settle there.

          And so that leaves me watching people play AOE2 while playing Endless Space at the moment

    • Michael Handy says:

      The original The Longest Journey, might actually be the best text adventure ever made. And a solid Portal Fantasy to boot.

      Millennium and its sequels. The first game is about surviving as a moon colony (and rivalry with mars) after earth is hit by an asteroid strike. The second Dueteros is in the same setting, but broadens to an interstellar colonisation game.

      The third, Millennia: altered destinies, might be the strangest game I’ve played. Basically you play a pilot who’s discovered that an alien race is going to conquer the galaxy, you go back 10’000 years, and use your time machine to guide the cultural evolution of 4 species from scratch, making sure they don’t die or conquer each other and can band together to destroy the invaders. The UI is the worst I’ve ever used, but I kept playing.

    • Thegnskald says:

      Some modern games:
      Sunless Sea, as someone else mentioned. More story driven than concept driven, though.
      Terraria. Modern platformer. I debated including this, as it seems most people have heard of it, but maybe not.
      Warlock: Master of the Arcane is a remake of Master of Magic. Not quite as charming as the original, though a bit deeper mechanics-wise.
      Eador is a series of games with interesting mechanics. Fun until the semi-random stuff starts repeating, which it will do pretty quickly. It is a blend of parts of 4x strategy games and tactical RPGs.
      Stardew Valley; another sufficiently popular that I debated including. Farming game after the tradition of Harvest Moon.
      Iron Grip: Warlord is a bizarre mixture of tower defense and first person shooter which, while not amazing in any one detail, nevertheless suggests a genre pairing that should be getting way more attention than it does. As poorly implemented as it is, it is nevertheless an amazing set of concepts.
      Recettear is a game in which you play an item shop owner. Skip the combat, it is both terrible and unnecessary. If you played Dragon Warrior IV and found a specific chapter a really fun diversion, this is that, turned into a game in it’s own right.

      Older games:
      Lord of Magic II. Hard to describe, an odd blend of RPG and strategy game. Influenced a lot of modern games; I am a huge fan of the custom start system in this game.
      Dwarf Fortress goes without saying.
      Dungeon Keeper.
      Black and White. While the implementation of any one detail is generally pretty poor, the overall presentation and set of concepts is impressive.

      If you can be slightly more specific with what you are looking for, I can try to offer more tailored suggestions.

      • Randy M says:

        Recettear is a game in which you play an item shop owner. Skip the combat, it is both terrible and unnecessary. If you played Dragon Warrior IV and found a specific chapter a really fun diversion, this is that, turned into a game in it’s own right.

        I loved Dragon Warrior IV, but that Taloon shopkeeper bit was amusing as a deconstruction or parody or something, and over mercifully quick.

        • Thegnskald says:

          What, you didn’t farm the enemies in the forest for piles of half-plate and amass a huge fortune before continuing on with the game?

          • Randy M says:

            I don’t remember if I knew that you would get Taloon later or not. I was playing it as a ten year old renting from the dollar video store.
            But in general I think the novelty of selling items wore off pretty quick, although it was a neat viewpoint switch.

      • Nornagest says:

        Black and White is the most disappointing game I’ve ever bought. Brilliant concepts, but the execution’s about as deep as a puddle, the story’s awful, the humor’s juvenile, and the whole game’s littered with bizarre design decisions (the unskippable hours-long hand-holding tutorial being the worst).

        Seems to be a chronic Peter Molyneaux issue. Fable II has most of the same problems (I was a decent if unremarkable action RPG, though).

    • DeWitt says:

      Illwinter Games’ Dominions and Conquest of Elysium are both excellent games that happen to look pretty bad, but the depth involved is extremely good.

      Thea: the Awakening plays a lot like a much older game, but it is clear from the artwork to the writing to the details that the people who made it absolutely adore the Slavic myth that it draws from, and you can play it just for the events for a very long time.

      If you’re into AoE but have issues with RTS, I will agree that RTS can often get very, very hectic. The Total War franchise tends to release very consistently good games, and TCA is a lot better at updating their titles than most developers tend to be. Rome 2, for example, was bug-ridden and highly unbalanced at launch, but TCA has done extensive work into rebalancing it over the course of several years, which means it’s now both highly playable and very good. If you want games deeper than TW already is, Medieval 2 Total War is about 12 years old and still has an active modding community, where I can very much recommend the Stainless Steel, Broken Crescent, and Europa barbarorum mods(seriously, EB is marvelous).

      You could look into playing MUDs. It’s not a medium everyone appreciates, but there’s still a couple thousand people playing them every day.

      Finally, and very unusually for this list and thread both, take a look at Space Station 13. For a multiplayer game set in space, it is incredibly well-done in how sensible and consistent it is. The game simulates the running of a spaceship very well, in that it is always run by incompetent chainsmoking engineers where rats chew at the wiring and civilians prove a bigger threat than any enemy action or alien involvement could compare to. Definitely recommend.

      • DragonMilk says:

        I’ve beat Thea the Awakening! Seems like tank + spears are OP in that.

        I’ve added a lot of these games to my Steam Wishlist – I use sales not primarily as a way of saving money, but of saving time since there are so many games I’d love to try, haha.

    • Tarpitz says:

      The best game of any kind ever made is Magic: the Gathering, and a decent digital version that can reasonably be played for free is finally in the late stages of closed beta. You can get a code to access the beta very easily, either on r/MagicArena or by asking me (or any number of other people).

      For classic RPGs, others have rightly mentioned the excellent Bioware games based on AD&D2e (Planescape Torment, Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate 2, as well as the also strong Beamdog intraquel Siege of Dragonspear). I would like to add to that the original two Fallout games; Fallout 2 in particular remains my all-time favourite computer game.

      In the vein of simultaneous turn-based tactical combat, Laser Squad Nemesis is an early noughties classic and Frozen Synapse an outstanding more recent take on the genre (with FS2 due later this year). Highly recommended for X-Com fans.

      Objectively mediocre classic strategy games I nevertheless really enjoy include Great Naval Battles of the North Atlantic 1939-45 and Star Wars Supremacy (Rebellion in the US).

      If you are tempted by the idea of a great story wrapped around miserable (but mercifully minimal) gameplay, try Heavy Rain. That may not sound like much of a recommendation, but it really is a great story.

      • cassander says:

        there’s nothing mediocre about supremacy/rebellion besides the graphics (which were fine for when it was made) and the AI. It’s a truly well designed game.

        • Tarpitz says:

          Well, the shoddy AI is an issue, as are the crashes, as is the near-total absence of depth in the tactical combat. But the real problem is the (lack of) balance – the Rebels are absurdly advantaged.

          And I still love it and am playing it in odd moments this very week.

          • cassander says:

            I’ll grant you the tactical combat isn’t all that interesting, but my friends and I played this game a lot, and we didn’t find that to be the case. the imperials have to be cautious in the early game and make sure to protect their capital ships, but if they do that they can really a number on the rebels, and once the fleets start getting big the rebels are pretty much perpetually behind in the space battles that really matter.

            If you still think the rebels have an advantage, you can pretty easily mod the base game so that coruscant starts with an extra construction yard or two which will gives the imperials a big head start in production.

    • lazydragonboy says:

      I remember American Mcgee’s Alice and Clive Barker’s Undying both being very good. They were nineties games, but I enjoyed them into the early 2000s.

  18. Can you draw a straight line from Nietzsche to Moldbug?

  19. Deiseach says:

    More health-related links – how ketamine works to alleviate depression. And it’s fairly much how I suspected – it gets you high (well, that is why it’s a popular drug of abuse after all):

    The latest study confirms ketamine’s effectiveness in treating depression, but the researchers say the drug’s use as an antidepressant might have to be limited, because the biological triggers it pulls could cause problems further down the line.

    Specifically, opioid addiction, a reliance upon painkillers that has already reached crisis levels in the US. Ketamine was previous thought to act solely on the glutamate system in the brain, but this new study tells a different story.

    “Before we did the study, I wasn’t sure that ketamine really worked to treat depression,” says one of the researchers, Alan Schatzberg from the Stanford University School of Medicine in California.

    “Now I know the drug works, but it doesn’t work like everyone thought it was working.”

    The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) hasn’t approved ketamine for the treatment of depression, but some doctors have been prescribing it as a fast, short-term fix, even though its effects on depression in the brain weren’t fully understood. And what we just learned is big.

    In a small-scale experiment, 12 volunteers who had previously struggled to find effective treatments for their depression were twice given a dose of ketamine, with a two-week gap – once after being given the either the opioid blocker naltrexone, and once after being given a placebo.

    Results showed the symptoms of depression vastly improved in the placebo test, but not the naltrexone test. That suggests ketamine is working on the brain’s opioid receptors.

    • Michael Handy says:

      I’m not super familiar with naltrexone, but I suspect blocking Opioid receptors is not thrillingly great for depression symptoms all on its own (although some studies indicate otherwise.)
      And there was no control group not being given ketamine.

  20. Well... says:

    Any time I’ve lived in a city that had a mariachi radio station, I’ve included it in my regular lineup of things to listen to. I really like it but don’t know much about it, or even if “mariachi” is the right name for the genre I’m talking about — but I figure if any of you live in an American city with a large Spanish-speaking population you probably know what genre I mean. (Does anyone here know?)

    Songs in this genre typically include a brass section, but I can’t tell if it’s real horns or a very fancy synthesizer. It sounds like the real thing, except the vibrato is so tight across all the notes in the harmony (usually a polyphony of at least 2 at a time) it’s hard to imagine a group of musicians being that good. But maybe the musicians who play this stuff just really are that good? Or are synths basically the standard? (Once again, if anyone here knows, please share.)

  21. Just a reminder that we are having another South Bay Meetup this Saturday.

  22. fion says:

    Does anybody have a favourite children’s film? Like, not just one that you loved as a child and that still has lots of nostalgia value for you, but a children’s film that you legitimately think is a great film, and you’d recommend it to other adults and expect them to enjoy it.

    I’m going to say Moana, which is one of my top 20 films of all time. The music is beautiful, the animations are some of the best I’ve seen (especially the water), the plot is engaging, the ending was surprising, Alan Tukyk’s performance was masterful and the Fury Road reference that contributed nothing to the film was a stroke of genius. I also liked the way it approached the theme of home vs adventure, giving much more respect to the ‘home’ side of the equation than other films I’ve seen.

    • ana53294 says:

      I like this Russian kids’ animation (the English version). It is made for kids, but it is also interesting for adults.

    • Machine Interface says:

      “The King and the Mockingbird”, French animated film which was first released in an uncomplete version in the 50s against the director’s wishes, who then spent the next decades buying the rights back and finishing the film as he wanted with a small team of dedicated artists, to release the definitive version in 1980.

      This is one of those films that has value in rewatch. As a kid you enjoy the animation and the weird story, as an adult you notice the attention to details, the subtle humor and the very poetic dialogues.

      When Miyazaki saw the film in an art-house theater in Japan, he was so impressed with what he saw that he convinced the projectionist to lend him the reel for the night, which he spent copying sequences of the film to study their animation. When Studio Ghibli launched a dvd collection dedicated to non-Japanese animated film, this was the first film they released in that collection.

    • Eugene Dawn says:

      I really like the claymation Adventures of Mark Twain. I didn’t even discover it until I was in my mid-teens, but I used to rewatch it once or twice a year until my mid-twenties. I haven’t watched it in a while, but I’m sure I would still like it.

    • xXxanonxXx says:

      My wife and I enjoy children’s films even though we don’t have any children of our own. How To Train Your Dragon is a borderline perfect movie and definitely my favorite if we’re only counting what I’ve seen past my teen years. We saw it three times in theaters (twice in 3D, which I normally consider a detriment but here made the flying sequences even more spectacular), pre-ordered the blu-ray and forced all our friends and family to watch it the day it arrived.

    • Well... says:

      Certain Disney movies:

      – Pinocchio
      – Alice in Wonderland (ESPECIALLY this one)
      – Fantasia
      – The Lion King
      – The Emperor’s New Groove

    • Telminha says:

      My favorite children’s movie is “The Blue Bird.” I watched it for the first time when I was 7 or 8 and loved it.

      I read in the comments section that some people found a few parts scary, I didn’t, but I believe that older children would appreciate the movie more.

    • Matt says:

      Iron Giant
      Princess Bride

      • RDNinja says:

        I wouldn’t classify either of those as children’s movies.

        • fion says:

          I always thought of Princess Bride as a children’s film, but at the same time, I wouldn’t let a child watch it. It’s very scary and has a torture scene…

          • Tarpitz says:

            I watched it as a child (probably about 8-10) at a friend’s house, and liked it, but not as much as he did then or I do now. It’s ultimately based on bedtime stories Bill Goldman used to tell his daughters; I struggle to see how you could view it as not a children’s film.

            I think there’s a wide range in what children will tolerate (or enjoy) in terms of scariness. One friend of mine apparently started demanding that his parents record Hammer movies off the TV when he was about three; they weren’t worried about the gore or scares, but didn’t want him watching any sex scenes, so his father would have to get up at ungodly hours to find and tape over them so the film would be safe for him to view when he got up in the morning.

          • Deiseach says:

            One friend of mine apparently started demanding that his parents record Hammer movies off the TV when he was about three; they weren’t worried about the gore or scares, but didn’t want him watching any sex scenes, so his father would have to get up at ungodly hours to find and tape over them so the film would be safe for him to view when he got up in the morning.

            Definitely this is one of those “when I was your age” type situations. I remember being about twelve and trying to sneak in to see the Hammer films on the telly that my parents deemed I was too young to watch.

            What, your friends didn’t want to say “no, you’re too young” to a three year old? What would he have done if they refused – thrown a tantrum? Then they leave him in his room to yell and kick until he cries himself out. Ah well, everyone has their own style of child raising, and I suppose this was back in the 70s when the very permissive “don’t ever say ‘no’ it will damage their fragile little psyches for life to be negative to them” was all the rage!

          • quaelegit says:

            Heh, I watched it a lot as a pretty young kid (I think I first saw it age 4 or 5) and was always sure it was an “Adult Movie”. Probably because of the torture scene, and I really shouldn’t trust 5 year old me’s genre judgements 😛

            I’m sure the torture scene was very scary the first time I watched it, but once you know that the good guys come out okay it’s not that scary.

    • RDNinja says:

      I still make a point to watch The Muppet Christmas Carol every year. It’s actually incredibly faithful to the source material.

    • DavidS says:

      Agreed Moana is fantastic: I have a lot of time for recent Disney tbh (Inside Out and Frozen are also better than most of Disney from a generation ago)

      • Jaskologist says:

        Frozen was garbage, but Moana rivals even The Lion King.

        • Tarpitz says:

          Frozen’s a real mixed bag. It contains great material, but has huge structural problems stemming from the producers’ misplaced fears that kids wouldn’t be able to associate with the “weird” Elsa storyline, leading them to give the far less interesting and essential Ana storyline a lot more time than it warrants. And Let it go needs more before and less after. Still a film with lots to recommend it, though.

    • MasteringTheClassics says:

      Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame

      Interesting characters, an entirely believable villain, and a remarkably neutral approach to groups (are the people good or bad? What about the gypsies? The church? the soldiers? Both the dark and the light of all of these are significant to the story). And the best score Disney had ever put forth.

      Yeah, yeah, the gargoyles, but it wouldn’t qualify as a kids movie without them, and I don’t actually think they’re that bad…

    • MasteringTheClassics says:

      Also, Over the Garden Wall is technically a miniseries, but 10 10-minute episodes is the right length for a film, and it’s one of the most interesting experiences I’ve had in visual media.

    • Tarpitz says:

      Is Grave of the Fireflies a children’s film? This Corner of the World? Both PG-rated animations, both legitimately great films, not sure either of them is really eligible. Nausicaa I think is a children’s film, and is also great.

      I wouldn’t describe Secondhand Lions as a great film, but I do like it very much (and I’m too old to have seen it as a child).

      Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King are all great Disney films that are from my childhood but which I do believe hold up; much of Pixar’s output (WallE, the Toy Story films, Inside Out and Up particularly spring to mind) is also exceptional.

  23. Waring says:

    Looking for health information online is famously difficult, as most common symptoms could indicate anything from minor ailments to full-blown cancer. Is there any site that provides base-rate information for basic symptoms?

    E.g. if you have a lump in your chest, what’s the base rate of it turning out to be a swollen gland v cyst v cancerous growth? (Everyone says it’s probably not cancer, but how probably, for various symptoms?)

    Ideally there would be an automatic form to add various symptoms and have it solve Bayes’ theorem for them, but I’d take basic base rate charts for now.

    (And yes, see a doctor too).

  24. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/science-sushi/2018/08/27/predator-prey-reversal-whelk-lobster-amos-barkai/#.W4lic-hKhPY

    Path dependence. Normally lobsters eat whelks, but if there are enough whelks, they eat any lobster– or any thousand lobsters– which come into their territory.

    • helloo says:

      Though interesting as steady-states, predator-prey reversals aren’t that new.

      The main one I know of is that of the piranha.
      Popular cultural portrays them as deadly school based feeding frenzies. However, that generally only happens when food is scarce or they are threatened.
      They can be found solitary or in small groups in which they are the prey to other predators in the rivers.

      In fact, all of the species I know of that shift from “typically” solitary to at times large communal groups tend to be due to food outages or food surpluses, not from the abundance of the species or absence of another. Maybe some trees act like that too? Can’t think of any examples though.

  25. dndnrsn says:

    Welcome to the eighth installment of my Biblical scholarship effortpost. Last time, we briefly introduced prophecy, then looked at the earliest two of the prophets whose words are preserved in the Bible, Amos and Hosea. This time, we’ll continue to look at prophecy, considering Isaiah. It’s probably the most important prophetic book in the Jewish canon, and is also pretty important to another religion you may have heard of. Scholars, however, think that it is composed from at least two documents, written at different times. We’ll use this to consider the way that the ancient Israelites used prophecy to deal with the historical experience of defeat, exile, and restoration.

    Usual caveats: this is secular scholarship. I’m not a real-deal expert, but I studied this in university. The level of complexity I’m aiming for is 100/200 level – but I’ll do my best to expand on any further questions people have. Additionally, for this post, I have eschewed all or nearly all summary of the book in question – I’ve got a word limit, and it was either this, two posts, or incredibly feeble summaries.

    By way of historical background: after the destruction of the northern kingdom (Israel) and its capital (Samaria) by the Assyrians in the late eighth century, the southern kingdom (Judah, with its capital Jerusalem) was an Assyrian vassal. This included at least one punitive expedition against Jerusalem. Over the seventh century, the balance of power between Assyria and Babylon tipped – at the beginning of the century, Assyria was in control of Babylon and smashed it after a rebellion; near the end of the century, the Babylonians sacked the Assyrian capital. In the early sixth century, Judah – now a vassal of Babylon – revolted; in response the Babylonians captured Jerusalem and deported its leadership class to Babylon. About ten years later, in response to another rebellion, the Babylonians levelled the city and deported more of its population. Ultimately, Babylon itself would fall to Persia in the mid to late 6th century. Then, the exiles were allowed to return home, and by the late sixth century the Temple had been rebuilt.

    These events were enormously traumatic for the ancient Israelites, and must have caused considerable doubt. If they were God’s chosen people, why were these defeats and disappointments happening to them? Why would the people that God chose get passed from one imperial power to another? Why had God let these things happen? The prophetic tradition we have in the Bible provides, generally speaking, one possible answer to this question. I’m simplifying things hugely here, but if you had to give the elevator pitch for the worldview generally seen in the prophetic books, it would go something like this: “We are being punished because we, as a group, have misbehaved. God’s promise to us is still active; we haven’t been abandoned. God is still there and is still active in history; this is all according to the plan. One day things will be made right again; maybe better than they ever were before.” It is possible to see the rough sweep of this in Isaiah.

    The book of Isaiah is named for a prophet who, based on the dates of the kings during whose reigns he is supposed to have prophesied, would have done so over a period of around thirty or forty years, in the second half of the eighth century. His prophetic career would have begun in the late 740s or early 730s – depending on when you place Uzziah’s death. The book includes narrative material concerning the Assyrian military response at the end of the century. So, Isaiah would have been active as a prophet during a fairly momentous time.

    However, it is unclear what parts of the book can be traced back to this Isaiah figure. Most significantly, there are large parts that are extremely unlikely to be by an eighth-century prophet. This was first noticed, not by Germans in the 19th century, but by Ibn Ezra, an important twelfth century author of Biblical commentary. He noticed that a large part of Isaiah – chapters 40 to 66 – seems separate from the rest, and seems to reflect the concerns of the sixth century, rather than the late eighth. Modern scholars agree with this assessment and identify other parts of chapters 1-39 as being later. Broadly speaking, scholars divide Isaiah into “first” and “second” Isaiah, and some consider there to be a “third” Isaiah beginning in chapter 54 or 46. Within First Isaiah, the largest parts thought to be later are chapters 13 and 14 (oracles against Babylon), chapters 34 and 35 (often associated with Second Isaiah) and chapters 24 to 27 (sometimes called the “Isaiah Apocalypse,” but not technically apocalyptic). The narrative material in chapters 36 to 39 may be adapted from Kings rather than original to Isaiah.

    What, then are the different elements scholars think make up Isaiah? First Isaiah is generally thought by scholars to contain at least some material dating back to the original prophet. That Isaiah is only a little later than Amos and Hosea, and addresses many similar issues. For one thing, there is the rise of Assyria and the destruction of the northern kingdom. For another, there is growing inequality in the south as in the north. In both cases, how should this be addressed?

    Isaiah’s answers are not that much different from Amos and Hosea. In regards to international politics, the solution is to keep to oneself, not get involved in alliances, and focus on the worship of God. After all, God is behind history – looking to foreign powers instead of God is surely a mistake! In regards to domestic inequality, Isaiah criticizes the accumulation of wealth and the arrogance of the rich.

    Where Isaiah differs is in the explanation of what history will hold. Terrible things will happen, but Jerusalem will not fall. A remnant that survives the coming troubles will serve as the basis for future restoration. In the future, all will be right: all the nations will recognize the true God, there will be neither wars nor empires, and a descendant of David will rule over a reunited Israel. Important here is that while Amos and Hosea both used the Exodus as their paradigm of the relationship with God, First Isaiah pays more attention to the Davidic monarchical tradition and the promise to David. First Isaiah, then, looks at a tough time and says that tougher times will come, but in the end all will be fixed, even better than before.

    Second Isaiah is addressed to a different time or place. It is the work of an anonymous prophet living in Babylon, likely just after Persia has overcome Babylon. This would have been a hopeful time for the exiles – they would be, it appeared, allowed to go home. Second Isaiah seems to have knowledge of First Isaiah, as well as other prophetic books. The author may, in fact, have edited First Isaiah – some scholars see that as a possible explanation for stuff in First Isaiah that seems more in character for Second Isaiah.

    Second Isaiah’s themes are, as with First Isaiah, a response to conditions. The exiles are not in the same position as the people of the southern kingdom in the late 8th century – the worst has already happened. However, the triumph of Persia may change things for the better. Second Isaiah is built around the promise of restoration. God is still powerful; the Covenant still holds. The exiles will go back and restore Jerusalem, better than before. In the place of First Isaiah’s predicted Davidic descendent on the throne, the fulfillment of the promise to David will come in the restoration of the community in Jerusalem. The return to Jerusalem from Babylon is understood as a second Exodus of sorts.

    Chapter 49 appears to have the author back in Jerusalem – some exiles went back as soon as possible. This is the reason that some scholars do not think that Third Isaiah actually exists. While the material in the last chunk of Isaiah does have a different theme than the material before it, it could be a response to the return from exile on the part of one individual author. Those who do think that Third Isaiah is a separate document often posit that it was written by a disciple or group of disciples of the author of Second Isaiah.

    If First Isaiah is a prediction of disaster and later restoration, and Second Isaiah is a promise of restoration soon to come, the material that some scholars identify as Third Isaiah is a reaction to disappointment. The exile has ended, but the restoration has been neither grand nor quick. A Davidic descendant is not ruling; the gentiles have failed to get with the program and recognize the one true God; war and empires still exist. The end of exile hasn’t fixed things, as predicted. Third Isaiah shifts to a predicted future event that will bring these happy things to pass.

    To sum up: Over a period of around two centuries, the northern and southern kingdom suffered major upheavals, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem, exile, and eventual restoration under a new imperial leader. Isaiah, if the scholarly consensus that it is in the main two or three documents is correct, can be seen as tracking responses to these events. Isaiah, along with the other prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible, can be seen as explaining how these things could be allowed to happen to God’s chosen people, in a way that provides for continued faith in God and anticipation of a good future.

    (If I’ve made any errors, please let me know; ideally, in 55 or so minutes so the edit window is still open)

    • Aron Wall says:

      It seems to me that the so-called Second Isaiah presents the cleanest textbook example of my claim that modern biblical criticism presupposes (rather than proves) that the prophets did not have the ability to predict the future—without which assumption, the “extremely unlikely” claim below cannot be justified:

      Most significantly, there are large parts that are extremely unlikely to be by an eighth-century prophet. This was first noticed, not by Germans in the 19th century, but by Ibn Ezra, an important twelfth century author of Biblical commentary. He noticed that a large part of Isaiah – chapters 40 to 66 – seems separate from the rest, and seems to reflect the concerns of the sixth century, rather than the late eighth. Modern scholars agree with this assessment and identify other parts of chapters 1-39 as being later. Broadly speaking, scholars divide Isaiah into “first” and “second” Isaiah, and some consider there to be a “third” Isaiah beginning in chapter 54 or 46.

      The presupposition is that a prophet cannot be a prophet, in the sense of someone successfully predicting the future Babylonian exile and return under Cyrus (who is mentioned by name in the second part of the text). Mind you, a lot of the passages about the return from Exile make it sound as though the return from exile will coincide with the Messianic Kingdom of peace in which no more hostility will occur (see, for example, chapter 54); a time compression which is unlikely to have matched the lived experience of a post-exillic prophet.

      (It’s not clear that Ibn Ezra’s concerns were entirely the same as those the modern biblical critics have—see this interesting discussion.)

      Prophets gonna prophesy (including in the popular, limited sense of predicting the future), and the broad outlines of what Isaiah prophesied (Babylonian exile, return from exile, and future messianic kingdom) are pretty much the same things that Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and several others prophesied. Are all of their references to a return from exile ALSO ret-conned?

      One thing your review doesn’t get across, is just how beautiful and lush Isaiah is, compared to the other prophetic books. (Although to hear the music, you have to first learn to appreciate the parallelism structure of Hebrew poetry, as in the Psalms.) As pointed out by the NIV introduction to Isaiah (written by evangelical Christian translators), there are very strong stylistic similarities between the first and second halves of the book. This is obvious even in translation. I do admit that the second half is a bit more gorgeous and flows better than the first half of the book—but that could just be an aging prophet becoming a better stylist as he ages (assuming the book is roughly chronological, the second half may have been written after Assyria no longer seemed like as great of a threat.)

      When I see how strongly biblical critics impose their philosophical presuppositions on the text, I always look for the “turn” where they admit that just going based on other factors, they might have come to the other conclusion. We see that here in this choice admission:

      The author may, in fact, have edited First Isaiah – some scholars see that as a possible explanation for stuff in First Isaiah that seems more in character for Second Isaiah.

      This sort of thing makes any attempt to set of a contrast of “themes” between the two Isaiahs a little tautological. Any time First Isaiah starts to sound a little too much like Second Isaiah, why he is second Isaiah! Discrepancy resolved! Once you remove all X-themes from a text by hand, one inevitably discovers that the remaining material is X-free. But this tells you more about the scholars who do it, then about the underlying material.

      However, other than the statement that Jerusalem will not be conquered (which I don’t think can be honestly extracted from the first half of the text) your description of the themes of First Isaiah,

      Where Isaiah differs is in the explanation of what history will hold. Terrible things will happen, but Jerusalem will not fall. A remnant that survives the coming troubles will serve as the basis for future restoration. In the future, all will be right: all the nations will recognize the true God, there will be neither wars nor empires, and a descendant of David will rule over a reunited Israel.

      would actually serve as a fairly good description of several major themes in the second half of Isaiah as well.

      Finally, as you briefly hint, Isaiah is particularly important to Christianity because of its large number of Messianic prophesies, including the “servant songs” which are interpreted by Christians as foretelling a Messiah who is rejected and suffers terribly, but ultimately is vindicated by God and receives what we moderns would call “international recognition”. Modern Jews commonly interpret these songs as being about the personified Israel (which follows the literal sense of 49:3, but runs into some difficulties at 49:6).

      Readers of Isaiah should beware that the text in its original form contained no chapter breaks or section-headings, so the onus is on the reader to decide where the text is making a sudden transition to a new topic (as it frequently does). For example, the demarcations of the exact boundaries of the “servant songs” above are not always completely obvious.

      I also wrote a belated reaction to the Amos/Hosea installment.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I don’t know that I’d call it a presupposition. Consider: the reason there’s all this speculation about who wrote what when is that the origins of the documents are relatively obscure. Given a document of relatively obscure origin, that is reputed to have predicted the future, but that also might be the creation of a process like the one that the secular scholars generally envision. What degree of confidence would you assign to the one possibility versus the other, were you an alien completely unfamiliar with human history, etc?

        There’s stuff that’s a bit tautological and circular – honestly, the second/third Isaiah division does strike me as a bit silly, and I suspect that it’s one of those times things are driven by some academic trying to make a splash. I’m not sure what the point of holding it is. However, I’m not sure that the supernatural explanations aren’t similarly able to explain any quirk of the text in the desired fashion.

        • Aron Wall says:

          The reason I call it a “presupposition” is that the document on its face claims to be the revelation of the God of Israel, who explicitly claims to predict future events:

          “See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.” (Is 42:9)

          and given that this claim is front and center in the text, the intellectually honest thing for a scholar to do (whether it comes from Isaiah or an alien text) would be to engage with that, however briefly. (In the case of Isaiah, this cannot and should not be epistemologically decoupled from your opinion of the Bible as a whole, since as you are nicely explaining, Isaiah sits within a broader prophetic tradition.)

          You may end up deciding there is insufficient evidence to persuade you, given your prior probabilities, and that’s not actually what I’m objecting to! That’s doing Bayesian epistemology properly. I’m objecting to people who evade the philosophical question altogether and then proceed to act as though the conclusion followed from supposedly “neutral” historical principles.

          If you wish to present actual evidence against Isaiah being prophetic (above and beyond your priors against it) then this had better involve pointing to something about the text beyond merely it successfully referring to 6th century events—which is what you would expect to see if Isaiah had precognition of the future, so if anything it counts as evidence for his precognitive prophetic gifts.

          If somebody says, “I don’t believe in the God of Israel and therefore I don’t accept the claim that Isaiah predicted the future”, fine. I’m actually far more perplexed by divinity professors who claim to follow (in some sense) the God of Israel, and yet behave in a manner indistinguishable from Naturalists when evaluating apparent instances of the God of Israel actually doing something supernatural. That’s something that makes no sense to me.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The 19th century Germans, it is true, did go a little hard on the “naturalism is assumed” train, or whatever. I also share the experience of being-slightly-weirded-out by div profs etc who basically sounded like profs in the religious studies department. Prof. Whozit in the div department, Prof. Soandso in the office next door, what’s the difference really?

            However, looking at the document (the Bible, not Isaiah) as a whole, there’s a lot of things it says on face value that are extremely unlikely to be true. The stuff where the archeological evidence is all pointing in the other direction. It comes down to the Exodus and the conquest of the land: based on what we know of Egyptian history, the archaeology of the region, all that, those things can’t have happened like the book says they did. If what we’ve got is, at most, a legendary version of something (or, more likely, a few somethings) that happened, it pushes a lot of other stuff into “don’t take at face value” territory.

            In the case of Isaiah, the way that over 2 (or, arguably, 3) documents the prediction of the future gets revised, to me that suggests a natural rather than supernatural process. If the whole thing was the result of a revelation to an 8th century prophet, there are more problems in the text than if the text was the result of the process the secular scholarship proposes.

            I’m not willing to 100% say the supernatural is impossible. I would also note that our understanding today of “supernatural” isn’t something the authors of this book necessarily understood. I’m going to talk about it in the intro post to the New Testament, since I’m not going to do the old medieval studies undergrad “all peasants is the same” thing and assume I can extrapolate from the Hellenistic world to Israel centuries prior, but the gist of it is that a neat division into natural and supernatural is unusual. I think, however, that the secular-scholarship consensus (such as it is) explains most things the best.

          • Aron Wall says:

            @dndnrsn

            In the case of Isaiah, the way that over 2 (or, arguably, 3) documents the prediction of the future gets revised, to me that suggests a natural rather than supernatural process. If the whole thing was the result of a revelation to an 8th century prophet, there are more problems in the text than if the text was the result of the process the secular scholarship proposes.

            Perhaps so, but I don’t think you’ve actually named a single such problem in this thread, aside from the question-begging “reflect(s) the concerns of the sixth century”. And I’m not willing to concede your premise that Isaiah is 2 documents until I learn what the problems actually are.

            I certainly don’t think it counts as a “revision” that Isaiah prophecied that Jerusalem would not fall to Assyria, but that it would fall to Babylon. Because that’s what actually happened.

            (Interestingly, Herodotus agrees with Isaiah that the Assyrian army was defeated by supernatural means when they entered Palestine, although he doesn’t agree about what the method for defeating them actually was.)

            Of course, when I say that Isaiah should be judged as part of a bigger context (which I think you agree with), to me this should include not just looking back to the apparent archaeological problems with Moses, but also looking forward to the difficulties with explaining Jesus in a naturalistic fashion. 🙂

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        The presupposition is that a prophet cannot be a prophet, in the sense of someone successfully predicting the future Babylonian exile and return under Cyrus (who is mentioned by name in the second part of the text). Mind you, a lot of the passages about the return from Exile make it sound as though the return from exile will coincide with the Messianic Kingdom of peace in which no more hostility will occur (see, for example, chapter 54); a time compression which is unlikely to have matched the lived experience of a post-exillic prophet.

        Around the turn of the 19th century, Joseph de Maistre made the intriguing claim that true prophets incorrectly conflate their vision of the future with the end of days because God grants them a mantic state of mind that’s “in eternity” rather than “in time.” He said even Jesus did this when prophesying the 70 AD destruction of the Second Temple, due to His human nature.

        • Nicholas Weininger says:

          I wonder if this was based on mistranslation of the Hebrew prophets. Specifically, Robert Alter says somewhere in his translations-with-commentary of the Hebrew Bible that “ba-acharit hayamim” (from e.g. Micah 4:1) means “in the future” or “in days to come” without eschatological implication, but many English translations incorrectly have it as “at the end of days” or “in the last days” and maybe other languages got it wrong too.

  26. Atlas says:

    Anyone have any thoughts on the recent Cyberpunk: 2077 gameplay demo? Personally, I thought it looked excellent on just about every level. Generally, what impressed me was the same thing that I thought was so remarkable about the Witcher 3 : the combination of high quantity and high quality. I’m personally pretty satisfied with Bethesda games like Skyrim and Fallout 4 that offer a lot of playable content, even if the quests are generally relatively pedestrian, so, as with W3, so CDPR seems to be once again going above and beyond my expectations for a triple A title.

    Also, it seemed a bit like CDPR is taking a page out of the 0451 immersive sim genre, with the emphasis on multiple paths to complete quests, which I appreciate.

    • Well... says:

      “Rosie Gray”? Maybe you can unpack that for us?

      BTW, I’m a pretty consistent critic of the all-trite but that article was borderline unreadable. And I’ll bet it’s probably fairly reserved as far as mainstream press coverage of the all-trite goes.

      • BBA says:

        A different Ian Smith was the white nationalist dictator of Rhodesia.

        • Prime minister of Rhodesia under white rule. In what sense was he a dictator?

          • BBA says:

            In the same sense that Robert Mugabe was.

          • quanta413 says:

            Judging by how Wikipedia describes Rhodesia’s voting system seems more like he’d be a dictator in the same sense as any U.S. President from the first few decades of the U.S. or any English Prime Minister before 1832. Doesn’t seem very dictator like even if obviously very short of current norms of universal suffrage. Property requirements to vote aren’t that different from finance and education requirements to vote. Racial disparity extreme and obvious, but Wikipedia seems to indicate blacks who passed the requirements could vote.

            Considering British aristocracy was also hereditary, it’s not obvious to me why Rhodesia should be considered closer in governmental form to Zimbabwe than Britain before voting reforms.

          • And a sense in which FDR wasn’t?

          • BBA says:

            I was going to say Woodrow Wilson (compare the jailings of Eugene Debs and Garfield Todd) but I guess FDR counts.

  27. johan_larson says:

    Anyone know why people don’t run swimming pools for money?

    As it stands, some people have their own (small) pools in their backyards. Some hotels and upscale condo buildings include medium-sized pools, and here and there you can find a fancy health club with a pool, typically medium-sized. But generally speaking, large pools are run by municipalities or non-profit quasi-public institutions like YMCAs.

    Why is that?

    • beleester says:

      Amusement parks run large pools for money. Usually as part of a larger water park, but there are places like Coney Island’s Sunlite Pool which are more like upscaled versions of a municipal pool.

      I would guess that there’s sort of a network effect – it’s more profitable to make a pool part of a larger attraction, and a large pool is expensive enough on its own that not bundling it with other attractions isn’t really worth it.

    • dndnrsn says:

      You’re missing universities – isn’t it fairly normal for any university of a certain size to a have a real-deal Olympic-size pool? beleester is probably right – a big pool is too expensive to run as a private thing alone when there’s institutions that let people swim for free or the cost of a membership.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Pools in dense areas don’t make enough money to justify keeping the land as a pool rather than selling it to build housing, if the land is all buildable. Especially if the pool is competing with a municipal pool. I’ve seen a number of private pools close that way. There are still private pools; there’s on in my town, part of a snooty country club, but the land is probably unbuildable for some reason. Pools are very expensive to run and especially insure.

      • johan_larson says:

        there’s on in my town, part of a snooty country club, but the land is probably unbuildable for some reason.

        It’s unbuildable because of the influence of the members, is my guess. There are enough bigshots in the club that any proposal to rezone the land gets shot down.

    • Plumber says:

      The private Berkeley City Club I’d mostly known for it’s pool, and there’s the YMCA.

    • Björn says:

      Pools are rather expensive to operate compared to how much you can charge for entry. You have to keep the water warm and chlorinated, and you need to have several employees looking after the pool. But you will not be able to use the pool in winter, and even during the warm months of the year, the pools full capacity will only be used during school holidays and when it is hot. But you can not charge that much for entry, people will expect something like 5$ for just swimming. Yet you are competing with many other “ordinary” pastimes like going to the cinema. If you consider building a good big pool is rather expensive and it’s unclear you ever make a surplus, I find it not surprising that there are no commercially run pools (as main attraction).

      In my experience, the only water related commercially run entertainment things are big scale waterparks, where it is possible to charge 10$ per hour (1) or something like that, and you are able to attract people from much further away. I also know many stories of German towns who had a giant budget surplus and decided to build a pool. They never had a budget surplus again. The town where I grew up sold the local swimming hall for 1€ to a private investor, who made a water park out of it.

    • DavidS says:

      I think here (in the UK) they do, unless they’re all publicly owned and I’ve never realised: there are lots of ‘leisure centres’ that are fairly pool-centric, usually with gyms and squash courts as well and sometimes with all sorts of other things (ice skating, bowling etc.)

  28. I was thinking about Hell today, about the question of whether there are any breaks in the torture. Do you just scream and scream and scream for all eternity, or are there breaks that let your mind clear enough to psychologically acknowledge your pain as a negative experience you don’t want to, but soon will be, repeating for all eternity?

    Which sect of Christianity has the most detailed picture of Hell and how it works?

    • Well... says:

      Probably depends on what you mean by “has”. If someone from a sect comes up with a detailed picture, does his whole sect then “have” that picture, or does someone official from that sect have to endorse it?

      Scott depicted hell in his serial fiction thingy (I didn’t read the whole thing, but I read the entry that dealt with Hell; it was described in detail through a video, IIRC). Since Scott is Jewish, does that mean Judaism “has” a detailed picture of Hell, even though Jews don’t usually believe in Hell? What if Scott was a rabbi instead of a psychiatrist?

      I’ve creatively pondered what Hell would be like if it existed. It’s kind of a fun exercise, and fun to read others’ depictions too, especially when they can explain why their depictions make Hell a place You Definitely Do Not Want To Go. Bosch’s depiction is amazing for reasons along those lines. Dante’s depiction was amazing but for other reasons — mainly, I thought, as a composition but also as a portal into his belief system.

    • Jaskologist says:

      There are plenty of depictions. Dante is the most obvious, but I’m not sure how much he really intended literally.

      To get a good range, I’d start by listening to John Edwards’ Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, and then read CS Lewis’ Great Divorce.

      • Aron Wall says:

        C.S. Lewis’ oeuvre contains a large number of different depictions of Heaven and Hell. Besides the Great Divorce, his view of damnation is also depicted in (parts of) The Problem of Pain, The Screwtape Letters, The Pilgrim’s Regress, Perelandra (sequel to Out of the Silent Planet), the Weight of Glory, and probably other places I’m not remembering at the moment. Charles Williams, his fellow inkling, was also very interested in these issues in his several novels. His Descent into Hell is (in part) about the damnation of a historian by means of self-absorption, intellectual dishonesty, and a succubus. You might also be interested in Niven and Pournelle’s updating of Dante’s Inferno.

        For a depiction of the traditional Roman Catholic viewpoint, you could read the Catholic Encyclopedia article on the subject. Due to their belief in infallibility as well as a certain number of visionaries who claimed to have seen Hell, their view is by far the most detailed in the sense of some people seriously thinking they know what things are like. Protestants like myself would say they are going way beyond what we know from Scripture.

        Speaking of Scripture, obviously the Book of Revelation. Although its imagery of Hell is somewhat formless as compared to its descriptions of heaven and “the new heaven and new earth”, perhaps because Hell is not a structured place intended to maximize misery, the way that Heaven perfectly fulfills human nature, rather it is the place outside salvation that human beings were never meant to go to.

        (I believe the more structured depictions of different punishments for different kinds of sinners begins with the pseudonymous Apocalypse of Peter, ultimately inspiring structured pictures like that of Dante. When reading Dante, it’s probably best to think of the punishments “fitting” the sins as, in part, being an allegorical way of talking about how being a sinner is its own punishment.)

        Also (unlike say the Quran which as far as I can tell tries to give a consistent view of what Hell is physically like), the symbolism of the Book of Revelation (like the New Testament in general) is fluid and inconsistent—almost as if it weren’t intended to be taken as a completely literal description! For example, at one point Hell is depicted as a lake of fire into which those not written in the “Book of Life” are thrown as a punishment, but later on in verses 22:14-15 the imagry becomes that of a pack of dogs outside the city, who are unable to enter due to their impurity despite the fact that the 12 gates of the city are open at all times.

        From a theological point of view, I think that it is wrong to try to depict Hell without also providing some complementary image of gaining Heaven (as Dante tried to do in the rest of his Divine Comedy.) Due to asymmetries between how we have evolved to react to pains and pleasures on Earth (e.g. one poisoned meal can hurt you far more than a single nutritious meal helps you), the prospect of avoiding Hell can easily be far more disturbing and intense than the prospect of gaining joy in Heaven, but in ethical monotheism it is the Good that has primary reality and existence, evil being a mere perversion or falling away from the Truth. Thus, in reality the greatest punishment in Hell is being excluded from communion with God in Heaven.

        Heaven is a place that maximizes goodness, but Hell is not a place that maximizes badness. It is a place that minimizes suffering, subject to certan constraints like not forcing people to be good, and not allowing injustice to have ultimate victory. Any depiction of damnation which makes it look like an arbitrary and terrifying vindictiveness, rather than placing front and center the moral aspect of the doctrine, namely the possibility of agents losing their own good by means of their own choices, is a superstitious and ultimately counterproductive attempt to make people good through crude fear, rather than through understanding the implications of their own choices on their character.

        (Along these lines there is an interesting depiction of the damnation of one of the minor characters in Elizabeth Gouge’s The Rosemary Tree, although Hell as a post-mortem state is not depicted, and the book as a whole is quite uplifting.)

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I think the Hell in Unsong is unconvincing for a morally based universe, since part of the torture is moral degeneration (willingness to torture other people, including loved ones, to get a reprieve).

          I don’t remember enough of the book to say whether it was supposed to be a real hell, or just a video made by demons to troll the living.

          • Baeraad says:

            I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be real, but as I understood it…

            Vg’f bayl zrnag gb or cneg bs n zbeny havirefr va gur frafr gung vg’f fbzrguvat sbe zbeny crbcyr gb svtug ntnvafg, naq gur Hafbat havirefr vf zbeny orpnhfr Uryy vf hygvzngryl qrfgvarq gb or qrfgeblrq.

    • Plumber says:

      Ever since I read it back in 1980, my view of Hell has been shaped by the Thomas Disch story “Josie and the Elevator“, and I’ve been polite to elevators ever since.

    • sharper13 says:

      Some interesting distinctions as to the original words used for hell in the Bible, as well as links to an LDS perspective you may not already be familiar with.

    • maintain says:

      If you think about it, if hell has breaks in torture where you can experience small amounts of pleasure, and you are in hell for eternity, then ultimately you would end up experiencing an infinite amount of pleasure, all while being in hell.

  29. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Late Bronze Age effortpost: as requested, I’m going to dive into the Linear B inscriptions from Thebes.

    The burning of the Kadmeion (palace of Kadmos) at the end of Late Helladic IIIB produced the third-largest body of tablets, after Knossos and Pylos. There is some controversy about the number, as at least some archive rooms were on a second or higher floor of the palace when it was burned, causing the accidentally-baked tablets to shatter, so the “Fq series” could be either 123 or no more than 18.
    Another controversy surrounds the use of Linear B on jars found at Thebes. Pottery from Crete has been found with the inscription “for the wanax“. Is this gift exchange between two independent palaces, did Thebes rule Crete at the end of LH IIIB, or were private citizens from Crete sending an offering to “the Lord” worshiped at Thebes and not its human lord?
    Regardless, one fascinating thing about the Thebes tablets is how mundane they were. While scribes of Pylos saw an attack coming, the fresh clay tablets caught in the conflagration of the Kadmeion were all about mundane redistribution of goods. There’s even a mostly-blank tablet where a scribe wrote little more than “Torpon* gets 13 decorated textiles.”
    A finished intact tablet (Ft 140) records regions of Boeotia that Thebes received taxes from, including Thespiae (where Thespians come from!) and a nearby port on the Gulf of Corinth, Tanagra and the road to it, and two mainland ports facing the north end of Euboea. The area being taxed according to this tablet produced about a 51/49 ratio of measures of olives and grain. As most calories in a pre-modern agricultural society come from grain, it’s often thought that Thebes ruled Euboea and this tablet is just recording regional taxes. Elsewhere we learn that the whole palace’s wine ration was 260 liters every two days.
    There were some high-status women, fr. ex. the personal name Zowa is given for “the inspector of sacrifices”, but it also seems that the palace’s female servants were a fairly anonymous gang, since rations are recorded by the recipient’s trade and then there’s “for the women” (kunakisi) – though note that the palace also employed 6 weavers, Classically a very feminine occupation. OTOH, at least one male slave got his name recorded: Simiteus, hypothesized to mean he was a captive from the Troad (as Smintheus was a Homeric epithet of Trojan Apollo, after a lesser town in the Troad).
    Another fascinating detail comes from tablet (or fragment) Fq 126, which records a thyos (burnt offering?) of barley to Ma-Ga, a diminutive of “Mater Gaea” previously only known from The Suppliants of Aeschylus.
    Fp 130 provided the first textual rather than artistic evidence for animals in Mycenaean religion, mentioning horses/mules, dogs and geese, though it’s hard to decipher if all the animals were sacrificial victims or if some were participating in religious rituals more nicely.
    Again, it’s all very mundane and one can only guess what route the attackers who burned Thebes took that scribes were recording tax receipts, including from the coasts, up until the moment of invasion. Overland from the north, I suppose.

    *this otherwise-unattested proper name is reconstructed as “wicker basket man”, derived from the rare common noun tarpe.

  30. lazydragonboy says:

    Why doesn’t the US export our poor? It seems like if the US wants to take care of someone who is unable to take care for themselves, someone on SSI say, it would be cheaper to do so if we paid for their care in another country. Better yet, cut them a check and make arrangements with other countries so that they get visas. $700/month on SSI won’t get you much in the US, especially in a city, but in Thailand someone could live quite well.

    I have a bit a personal background to this. My mom is on SSI, and she owns a house in the Oakland which it is possible she will lose due to a complicated mix of a lawsuit and skullduggery. My siblings are all either unwilling or unable to take care of her, so it’s left to me, and I have been looking into ways to do so affordably (I do not have an exceptional income, and I intend to permanently ordain as a Therevada monk within the next few years). I started looking at other countries, and Thailand stood out because of its low cost of living and it’s retirement visa, however she revealed she is not allowed to leave the country on SSI. This struck me as nuts. Then I started to think about it, couldn’t the US provide a lot of resources cheaply to our poor citizens if we were willing to outsource them?

    True, many people would complain about their poverty demanding they leave their homeland, but that just seems par for the course; people flee their homecountries to pursue better opportunities all the time, all over the world–and they often come in as the lower class not the middle class. Receiving countries’ citizens might not appreciate being flooded with (relatively) affluent Americans who don’t work, I think there are likely economic benefits.

    Couple of side things:

    1) Personally, I find the potential cultural mixing that could come out of this aesthetically appealing.
    2) I could see a lot of marriages coming out of this, and thus new US citizenships, and the government might not like that.
    3) As I briefly touched on above, it seems like this could be done for a lot of things like education and healthcare.
    4) Just lest anybody think me entirely heartless in wanting to ship my mom off to Thailand so as to make caring for her easier, she kinda likes the idea. Thailand has Thai Buddhism, which is pretty important to her, and if she doesn’t get to have the high-end medical care of the Bay Area, the medical care available with a private insurance plan in Thailand is a good value for dollar.

    • Plumber says:

      My best guess is a desire for the money distributed to be spent in the U.S.A.

    • John Schilling says:

      1. Nothing says “You’re worthless and we don’t want you” like putting a bunch of people on one-way flights to Far Away. Doing this to a segment of the American population that is both vulnerable and sympathetic would make whoever is responsible look like Evil Meanies. And making it “voluntary” won’t help because of the implied economic pressure.

      2. Poor people are much more likely to vote in American elections if they actually live in the United States. Their children are much more likely to become American citizens and thus voters when they turn 18, if they grow up in America. The political party these poor people are most likely to vote for, will not look favorably on a proposal to round them up and send them Far Away. They will make sure whoever is responsible for this proposal looks like Super Duper Evil Meanies.

    • Deiseach says:

      $700/month on SSI won’t get you much in the US, especially in a city, but in Thailand someone could live quite well.

      Yeah, but then you’d have Elon Musk and his Twitter army of stans accusing you of being a paedophile, because why else would a Westerner move to Thailand?

    • Matt M says:

      It’s not that uncommon for military retirees to do this. Particularly in the Navy, where a lot of Sailors end up marrying Filipino or Thai women (wonder how that happens!). They can start collecting their 50% of pay pension after 20 years of service, and can collect it even while living overseas. So they go back to the wife’s home country where that 25-50k is enough to get by on comfortably and they can basically retire at age 40.

    • Matt M says:

      people flee their homecountries to pursue better opportunities all the time, all over the world–and they often come in as the lower class not the middle class

      I’ve ranted a lot about this before – but it would seem to be less and less common these days. It has become the expectation of the lower-middle classes that they should be able to enjoy a robust economic life wherever they want to live, and that expecting them to move when the factory closes down is asking too much, because they have “roots in the community” or whatever.

      For as much as the blue collar out-of-work rust belt folks insist that they “just want a job,” a whole lot of them are completely unwilling to relocate to where the jobs actually are.

      Culturally, we are moving in the opposite direction of what you propose.

      • Plumber says:

        The poor can’t afford housing where the jobs are, and often can’t afford transportation (the gas price spikes of 2007 led many to stop driving from Stockton to jobs in San Jose, which led to them stop paying rents or mortgages which led to the crash).

        I’ve long thought that an effective anti-poverty program would not consist of those useless six month training programs that the Feds pay to shady outfits for, but would instead consist of housing close enough to jobs, a reliable car, and a gas card for a month.

        • Brad says:

          Matt M and I rarely agree on anything, but I suspect we agree that government provided housing has generally been a terrible idea.

          Far better than trying to put “affordable housing” bandaids in place after the fact would be to stop the many many things governments at the local, state, and federal level are doing *right now* that drive up the costs of housing.

          • Plumber says:

            @Brad,

            I think that I asked in a previous thread, but any suggestions to alleviating the problem if housing is much appreciated.

            I’m sure that I’ve said it before but the biggest problem now that I literally see (the tents!) is the lack of affordable housing.

          • I have seen the claim that between eighty and ninety percent of the land in the Bay Area cannot be built on, by a combination of federal, state, and local restrictions. I suspect it’s true, since I saw the same figure from a source that thought it was too low and one that thought it was too high. And I certainly see a lot of empty land driving from San Jose to SF along 280.

            My only first hand data comes from a time when the small, unconventional private school my kids were in was considering buying instead of renting. I investigated one piece of property that looked as though it might be suitable. What I was told was:

            1. The present plan for use of the property had been approved, which greatly increased its value.

            2. Approval was, de facto, controlled by the local city councilman. If he liked what you were doing with the land you could do it, if he didn’t you couldn’t.

            I also watched a bit of a conflict in San Jose between some developers who wanted to build housing on land not current being used and zoned for something else and the city government which didn’t want them to do it. The objection seemed to be mostly that the housing would be mainly for relatively high income tenants. It did not seem to have occurred to anyone that the usual way in which poor people get housing is when not-poor people move out of it for something better. Doctrine here seems to be that any development has to include some fraction aimed at low income tenants–which raises the cost of doing a development so results in less housing being built.

            Given observed housing prices and commute times, I find it hard to believe that if someone built a Hong Kong style high rise apartment building in or near SF there would be any difficulty filling it at rents that made the project profitable, so I assume the reason it doesn’t happen is that it isn’t permitted, but I don’t know any details of the relevant rules. For the tenants it would substitute for four to six hours commute time every weekday.

          • Plumber says:

            “I have seen the claim that between eighty and ninety percent of the land in the Bay Area cannot be built on, by a combination of federal, state, and local restrictions…”

            @DavidFriedman,

            As far as The City and County of San Francisco goes my first comment to a SSC thread addressed some issues about more building in The City, which I’ll re-post here: “

            “There’s been a shift among some of my YIMBY friends to being more willing to acknowledge that building more housing may not decrease housing costs very quickly, effectively, or at all (short of implausibly massive amounts of new housing). Devon Zuegel presents one of the arguments.”

            Amusing article.

            People really didn’t understand why people want to live in The City, and that demand compounds?

            Besides, I’ve spent a couple of years working for The Port and The Department of Public Works for The City and County of San Francisco, and note something that the “Just build more” types don’t explain away is the real physical infrastructure limits as well as the political ones to housing more people in San Francisco.

            First, in an already crowded city, people don’t want to lose their parks, so you can’t build there.

            Second, Treasure Island, and by the old Hunters Point Shipyards are toxic places to build, cleanup will be extremely expensive, that’s why there isn’t more new housing already!

            Third, during heavy rains the sewage treatment plants are overloaded already and Federal limits on high much untreated sewage can go into the Bay are exceeded.

            Hope for more droughts if you want to pack more people in here!

            Expand the sewage treatment plants?

            On what land, and with what money?

            Plus the pipes under the streets are already way past due for replacement (many are more than a century old).”

            But having said that, I have indeed read of at least one town (Brisbane) that the limits to more housing are indeed political not physical, and if left to the market more houding would’ve already been built there, but unless the State overrides the local governments I don’t see much hope for relief.

          • Brad says:

            Since David Friedman started at the local, I’ll come from the opposite direction.

            The federal government could and should: wind down Freddie, Frannie, and Ginnie. Eliminate the FHA. Get rid of the USDA and VA home loan programs. Eliminate the mortgage interest deduction.* Eliminate the special capital gains rules for primary residences. As bank regulators, eliminate the special treatment of mortgage debt in capital adequacy tests. Divest of mortgage backed securities at the Fed and forbid it from investing in them in the future.

            I’m sure there are other things, but that would be a good start.

            * or for the purposes of this thread make all interest deductible.

          • johan_larson says:

            The federal government could and should: wind down … Eliminate …. Get rid of …. Eliminate ….* Eliminate …. As bank regulators, eliminate ….

            Any guesses as to what the home mortgage market would look like after all of this was done? I seem to recall mortgages were hard to get back before the government took an interest in them. Requirements like 25% down were common.

          • Brad says:

            Any steps taken to make mortgages easier to obtain, lower rates, and especially to pay over longer periods of time quickly get reflected in house prices and acts as a one off giveaway to incumbent homeowners.

            Directly contrary to how they are sold to the public they hurt first time buyers, not help them (also renters but no one cares about renters.)

            My plan would reduce housing prices. That’s exactly what it is intended to do. Falling housing costs are a very good thing, not a bad one. Just like it’s a good thing when TV and smart phone prices come down.

          • Matt M says:

            Salesforce just built a giant new high-rise office building in downtown SF, did they not?

            Why should that get approved, but not a residential building of similar profile?

        • Matt M says:

          The poor can’t afford housing where the jobs are, and often can’t afford transportation

          Yes they can. The jobs are in places like Fort Worth, Texas. Plenty affordable. Maybe not quite as affordable as Bumfuck, West Virginia. But tradeoffs exist.

          • Plumber says:

            @Matt M,

            You may be right about conditions elsewhere in the U.S.A., and since I haven’t been outside of California since I spent a couple of months in Seattle in 1999 I don’t really know, but if that’s the case, why are so many living in tents here instead of moving there?

          • Matt M says:

            The people living in tents aren’t the ones I’m talking about. I’m talking about the lower-middle class factory workers in the Midwest who get laid off and refuse to move, even when offered the chance to retain their position, salary, and seniority if they relocate.

            Living in a tent costs about the same everywhere, I’d imagine. Southern California is an attractive destination for such people because the weather is agreeable, and the local political environment is very friendly to such people.

          • John Schilling says:

            The people living in tents are, I think, almost always the ones who came to [city X] looking for opportunity. Being alone in a strange city, working an entry-level job, means being little more than one missed paycheck away from living on the streets. The same purely fiscal scenario, in the town you grew up in, means being one paycheck away from living in your cousin’s spare room.

            Lots of people intuitively understand this, and it may not be irrational for them to pursue the limited economic opportunities of the small town containing their entire social network rather than the broader opportunities of a city filled with a million strangers competing for the same prize.

          • Matt M says:

            That doesn’t do much to explain why southern california has so many tent cities, and Texas has so few.

            Is San Diego known as a place that you should go to if you’re looking for economic opportunity?

          • Plumber says:

            “That doesn’t do much to explain why southern california has so many tent cities, and Texas has so few.

            Is San Diego known as a place that you should go to if you’re looking for economic opportunity?”

            @Matt M,

            I don’t know San Diego or Texas, but I’ve read of the the tent cities of Los Angeles and Seattle, and I’ve seen many in the San Francisco bay area. 

            According to my grandparents homeless “hobos” disappeared in the 1940’s and there wasn’t visible homelessness as late as the 1960’s.

            In the 1970’s “street people” (as my mother called them when I was a child) started to appear, but they were mostly young, white, long-haired, and were more common when the Grateful Dead was in town, so basically hippies, and it was assumed that it was a “lifestyle choice”.

            In the 1980’s there was an explosion in people begging and sleeping on the streets as the hippies were joined by mostly black people, who tended to be male, and older than the younger “street people” whites, and a new term “the homeless” came into use, and their numbers continued to grow, with a small respite in the late ’90’s (or maybe I just saw less then for whatever reason).

            A shanty town was build on undeveloped land at the “Albany bulb” just north  of Berkeley and was lived for over a decade until it was cleared just a few years ago, but it wasn’t noticed much until it was cleared to make way for a public park.

            In the early 2000’s I was working as an apprentice plumber in “Silicon Valley” and I noted many sleeping in vehicles at the north border of Palo Alto, and the first tent city along a river in San Jose appeared. 

            After the 2008 crash the “gutter punks” (as the equivalent of the hippies of the 1970’s were then called), and the largely middle-aged black men begging and sleeping on the streets were joined by grey-haired white men and women, and even children with parents (for some reason black beggers mostly stay to sidewalks, older white beggers stay near freeway entrances and exits with cardboard signs asking for help, and teen and 20-somethings beg at both, why the difference?).

            In 2011 there was the “Occupy” protests which covered Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco with tents and banners, after it was cleared, tents started appearing all over sidewalks, by freeways, and vacant lots, and for months on 7th street a shanty town was built and lived in.

            Ever year after 2011 more and more tents, and some shanties have appeared, and soon after their cleared they come to be a few blocks away, and now the Target store in San Francisco keeps their tents locked away, because of thefts.

    • Brad says:

      Eh. My sister made SSI + SNAP work in the greater NYC area. I’m sure there’s somewhere in America that’s 1) within walking distance of some grocery store and 2) has decent living spaces for rent for $400/mo. You won’t be living like a king, but you’ll more than survive. (In my observation the worst part is finding some way to fill your days.)

      The problem with the rust belt relocation plan would be being torn completely away from your social network. That’s going to be far worse in Bangkok than Buffalo.

      • arlie says:

        *thoughtful* Does the US have the Canadian problem of reducing welfare if you have roomates – at least as long as it’s remotely plausible that they are significant others?

        • Brad says:

          On the SSI side it is very unusual to impute a household in the absence of a marriage. You’d technically be committing fraud if you got goods or services (e.g. food) from your roommate and didn’t report it, but it isn’t the kind of thing that’s pursued.

          On the SNAP side housing costs are a part of the formula, so inasmuch as you save money on rent there is some falloff in foodstamps but IIRC it isn’t 1:1.

      • lazydragonboy says:

        @brad

        That seems like you’d get a crappier standard of living than the same check would get you in Thailand though. Where and when did she do this?

        Sidenote: my understanding is that SSI and SNAP are mutually exclusive; how did she get them both?

        • Brad says:

          > Where and when did she do this?

          Suburban nyc area and up until a couple of years ago when my parents retired and she swapped over to ssdi.

          > Sidenote: my understanding is that SSI and SNAP are mutually exclusive; how did she get them both?

          That isn’t the case. SSI is countable income for the purposes of SNAP, but it’s a small enough amount of money that it won’t push anyone out of eligibility by itself.

          > That seems like you’d get a crappier standard of living than the same check would get you in Thailand though.

          Perhaps true enough if “you” referred to me. But put my disabled sister in a country where she doesn’t speak the language—can’t even recognize the letters, doesn’t know a single person, isn’t a citizen and so has zero right to any kind of solicitude from officials, and the money would be a moot point. She wouldn’t even be able to figure out how to access it.

          I’m sure there are people that would thrive under such novel circumstances, but I doubt there’s much overlap between them and those that couldn’t figure out a better situation in life than living only on SSI.

    • INH5 says:

      Surely it would be far more efficient to relocate them to any number of American small towns where $700 per month is enough to live reasonably comfortably. I admit that in the case of your mother specifically, finding an American town with both cheap housing and a sizeable Therevada Buddhist community seems like it would be really hard, but for most other people on SSI I don’t see any downsides that wouldn’t be significantly worse in a foreign country that doesn’t have English as the primary language.

      • lazydragonboy says:

        It seems like you would get a whole lot higher standard of living in Thailand than in a small American town though, and you’d be able to get it in a city with many of the benefits that city infrastructure provides. Here is a random article I found that describes living “comfortably” in Thailand on $1000/month. The way the lifestyle is described, it seems like it is a lot better than one would get in a small town on $1000/month. For instance, one would be able to afford dental fillings as opposed to having one’s teeth pulled, which is often not the case when on government healthcare in the US.

  31. Conrad Honcho says:

    On the URL thread we talked about Mastodon. I was skeptical that Mastodon would be any more effective at controlling witches than Twitter or Reddit, but Mark Atwood insisted that was irrelevant, since the design of Mastodon enables witch containment while making witch hunts impossible.

    Wil Wheaton was banned from Mastodon and then quit social media. Is this evidence Mastodon is not immune to witch hunts, or is this Mastodon working as intended, protecting women and transfolk who don’t feel safe around Wil’s toxic masculinity?

    • Plumber says:

      I’d heard of Wil Wheaton (besides his acting as “Wesley Crusher”, I used to enjoy his columns in “The Dungeon”), but “Mastodon” I hadn’t heard of until seeing mentioned in SSC comments.

      I read the links (but not the links in the links except for Wheaton’s blog post), which confirms my general impression that this is a really big world with a lot of weird in it.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      protecting women and transfolk who don’t feel safe around Wil’s toxic masculinity?

      Oh man, I can’t believe we’ve reached the point in victimology where women and trans choose to identify as victims of Wesley Crusher’s machismo.

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