Housekeeping Post April 2014

1. I am on an inpatient medicine rotation for the next two months, which means I will be working about twice as hard as normal. The last time I was on one of these, I managed about a blog post a week. I am going to try to do better this time by posting much shorter things and by splitting up link posts into short posts with a couple of links each. I might also cheat by reposting some stuff from my old blog. Or I might just disappear for two months.

2. Many people noticed Ozy deleted zir blog and are wondering if ze’s okay. The answer is yes. Ze had a brief panic attack of the “I never want to interact with anyone ever again” variety, as one does from time to time, but is mostly recovered now.

3. Please do not send me blog comments by email. When many people try this, I end up with lots of email. This creates guilt about not responding in a way that comments don’t, and makes it harder to find important emails among comment-related ones. If you want to comment without your opinion being public, you can comment anonymously. If you want to comment without your opinion being public but with me knowing it’s you, you can comment under a pseudonym and email me once to tell me what the pseudonym is.

4. If you need advice on a medical problem, I am a terrible terrible terrible person to ask. If you need advice on a psychiatric problem, I am a single-terrible person to ask. My advice will probably be “see a psychiatrist” – not because I don’t want to help you, but because I can’t prescribe drugs to you over the Internet and they can. I would like to write up some advice for people with psychiatric issues, but I guess not in the next two months.

5. I had a list of things to remember to include in this post. Number five was “Facebook”, but I can’t remember what it was supposed to mean. So please be aware that something has happened regarding Facebook, or you need to do something on Facebook, or that Facebook is important in some way. Thanks.

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70 Responses to Housekeeping Post April 2014

  1. Multiheaded says:

    Am disappointed re: counter-revolutionary activity re: blogroll re: known enemy of the people. Doubleplusungood. Cathederal authorities notified.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Xenosystems is pretty neat. This post is the rare combination of saying something very correct about something very important in a very engaging way. He knows what he’s talking about. Also, I am trying to get blogs I actually enjoy reading on my sidebar now, as opposed to the Mature Neuroscience Blogs I Feel Like I Am Supposed To Read.

      • Multiheaded says:

        This kind of thing is Land’s old schtick, it’s called Accelerationism. (His influences are Bataille and Deleuze, maybe you’d like to check them out.) He built his philosophical career on it, back when he was a Jedi. It is possible that he’s doing some crazy Revan/Kreya thing now, trying to ride this dark wave for his own ends… but more likely he just got crazier.

    • Anonymous says:

      What’s wrong with that post? As an Ashkenazi Jew, I appreciate being reminded that I “should be ashamed of [my] susceptibility to insane ideologies”. Judging by the comment section, the part about Jews is what readers got out of it anyway.

      • Multiheaded says:

        To put things in perspective, this is a distinguished academic philosopher making a more embarrassing, antisocial, crude, non-truth-approaching epic trole xD edgy post than I’ve seen 16 year olds make.

        Which is also highly asymmetrical by its own idiotic standards… shaming Africans for “stupidity” and “incompetence”, but Europeans for sanctimonousness instead of the actual historical facts of looting and genocide? There were Victorians too self-aware for such insane tripe.

  2. No one special says:

    Ozy’s blog (the one at is now spamming into my RSS feed. But I gather that one’s been dead for a while and there was a new one that got whacked?

  3. Mark Dominus says:

    Regarding #3, how do you feel about comments via Twitter?

  4. I emailed you something recently, because I thought it would tie into your interests. But I didn’t need a reply of any kind.

    If you’d rather people tell you about cool things in some other way then that’s fine too.

  5. anon says:

    I struggle with depression, as I assume many other readers do. When you get around to talking about psychiatric problems, that might yield the greatest bang for your buck.

    I’ve also got ADHD, almost no executive functioning in my life. My conscientiousness scores are in the bottom percent of all people. Medication has only a mild effect. I’ve yet to find any good advice for living with that, whereas the “dealing with depression” market is probably over-saturated. So maybe that’s something else to consider.

    • St. Rev says:

      Executive dysfunction here, too. Nearly all discussion of it that I have seen has been couched in unuseful-to-me moral terms (e.g. LWish talk of akrasia). Suspect, grimly, that this is probably because shaming frequently works and little else does.

    • Doug S. says:

      Off-the-top-of-my-head suggestion:

      Try to arrange your environment so that when you get distracted, you get distracted by something vaguely useful instead of useless? For example, put your laundry hamper next to your computer, so that when you glance away, you’ll be reminded of that pile of dirty clothes you need to go take care of and might feel the impulse to go do it. (This won’t help you do something that you really hate doing, but it might help with stuff that you don’t actually mind doing but that you don’t do because you’re “scatterbrained”, impulsive, and/or forgetful.)

  6. Error says:

    I find #3 interesting because I have a very strong preference in the other direction; email (or any other standardized, client-neutral communication channel) over anything else.

  7. MugaSofer says:

    “Many people noticed Ozy deleted zir blog and are wondering if ze’s okay.”

    Ahh, what? Ozy had a new blog? And I didn’t hear about it after the old one got deleted? And now it’s gone and I will never see the awesome stuff they posted?

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Oh, wait, yes, there was a new one? I assumed this was just a repeated statement about the past, since I never saw a link to this new one…

      • Kiboh says:

        Ozy had a tumblr until a few days ago. I’m pretty sure that’s what Scott’s talking about.

      • ozymandias says:

        yes, it is about my tumblr.

        • Benquo says:

          OK then I am only a little sad, because your stuff was only just barely interesting enough to be worth the extreme pain of reading a tumbler.

          I already grieved once when you chose tumbler, no point in double counting.

          I don’t suppose your content is available in a print version anywhere? That would be extremely tolerable. Unless it were a coffee table book.

    • This was precisely my reaction.

      At least I got to read the first one before it disappeared 🙁

  8. Daniel says:

    We should post more of your posts to Facebook? You will post more in the topic of “Lies, Damned Lies, and Facebook”? You are planning on creating a fan page on Facebook? You are Mark Zuckerberg’s good twin?

  9. Alexander Stanislaw says:

    I haven’t sent you any e-mails – but if someone wanted to say something to you that they didn’t want to be public at all, how should they go about doing that?

    • Anonymous says:

      Presumably if you have something important to say to Scott, you two know each other well enough he will open an email from you, and if it’s important he will reply.

      If not, you could try for an attention-grabbing but not-spammy title, such as “Yvain I know you don’t check emails often but please this is important, sincerely [whomever]”

  10. CThomas says:

    This seems like an appropriate posting to ask something I’ve been curious about. This is a sincere question and I mean no offense by it. I’m probably very sheltered, but I’ve never outside this blog seen pronouns of the form “ze,” “zir,” etc., and it reads quite strange to me. Is there a posting or other resource somewhere that explains it? Or would someone mind giving me a run-down? I’m tentatively inferring that this is like a beefed-up kind of “gender-neutral language,” like the way some want to avoid the generic “he.” Is the basic idea that some people are offended by using the standard pronouns associated with the person’s biological sex? It isn’t obvious to me why this couldn’t be used simply as a neutral linguistic convention, without regard to subjective issues of identification or “gender,” etc. But I’m here to learn! Also, do people use these pronouns in spoken discourse? Again, I sincerely hope that these questions does not give any offense to anyone.


      • CThomas says:

        Thanks, Anonymous. This confirms my basic inference about what it is, but it doesn’t help to explain what’s really underlying the motivation for it. I’m sure some must feel the reason for doing this is really, really strong given that it requires substantially changing the English language. Why do people care about using a longstanding convention of using pronouns associated with biological sex? It doesn’t have any normative connotation, and it says nothing about any choices about self-identification or other gender-type issues.

        • mayleaf says:

          There are a few reasons that motivate the use of non-gender-specific pronouns.

          I assume you’ve heard of transgendered people. Basically, these are people who perceive a strong disconnect between their biological sex and their experienced gender. (If this seems confusing or hard to relate to, imagine how you might feel if you woke up tomorrow and found that your body had switched sexes suddenly. If that doesn’t feel like a huge deal to you, consider reading this post Scott wrote a while ago.)

          Ozy, who is transgendered, once wrote a blog post that I found very informative about the sort of thought processes someone may go through as they figure out what gender identity fits them best. (Ze has since deleted zir blog, but the reblogged post can be found here). What struck me was that so many of these questions imply a nonbinary-ness of gender — that ultimately the set of clothing, names, physical features, etc that could feel most “right” to you needn’t all be associated with the same gender. If that’s the case, then it makes sense to want a pronoun for yourself that doesn’t assign you to a specific sex. Ozy, presumably, prefers “ze” as a zir pronoun.

          The other push for non-gender-specific language has less to do with the existence of genderqueer individuals and more with the existence of implicit biases: multiple [1] studies [2] have found that using “he” as generic pronoun for humans increases the likelihood that readers will imagine a hypothetical person in a scenario to be male, and will not consider the possibility of the hypothetical person being female. This can obviously lead to male-biased assessments of scenarios.

        • CThomas says:

          Thank you, Mayleaf. (Sorry I can’t seem to figure out how to get this response to appear under your message.) That explanation is interesting and the links provide some interesting food for thought. Lots of things that could of course bear follow-up questioning but that does helpfully clarify some of where people who use these forms of writing are coming from.

          Best regards.

        • Daniel H says:

          CThomas, the reason you can’t get the response to appear under Mayleaf’s message is that the blog only allows a small amount of comment nesting.

        • ozymandias says:

          Hi! I am Ozy! What Mayleaf says is correct, with the minor exception that I take any gender-neutral pronoun any person chooses to refer to me with rather than just “zie.” “Zie” is simply Scott’s preference.

    • they says:

      Scott used to use these pronouns all the time for generic unspecified humans, which I thought was charming. Now he seems to be using “she”, like politically-hypercorrect academics, which is unfortunate.

      • Anonymous says:

        I haven’t noticed “she”.

      • a person says:

        I think he alternates between he and she. You probably just don’t notice the hes. Eliezer does this too.

      • David Hart says:

        I’m a big fan of ‘they’* as a gender-neutral (singular) pronoun. We already use it some of the time, and if you school yourself to use it all the time, there are very few occasions where it’s even noticeable.

        *Judging by your screen name, I hope you are too 🙂

        • Daniel H says:

          I also like this. “They” has been singular for a while; it’s only recently that people have complained that it’s supposed to be plural. I’ve only encountered one instance where “they” looked wrong as a singular, and I think that was because of pronoun overload in general instead of ambiguous “they” usage. Unfortunately, I’ve lost that source, so I can’t look it up and see what I objected to.

        • Aaron Brown says:

          Jeff Kaufman, “Toward ungendered language”: “I think the strongest horse in this race is singular they, and I see several gradations in its usage, which I’ve organized from most to least acceptable to my ear:”

        • Alejandro says:

          A case that Jeff does not include and in which “they” doesn’t work well even for an unspecific ungendered person, is the reflexive use, e.g.:

          “When someone knowingly uses bad arguments to support a cause deemed worthy, they are shooting themself in the foot”.

          “Themself”(or “themselves”) sounds just bad to me here, unlike most instances of singular “they” even for cases lower in Jeff’s list. But I am not a native speaker; is this reaction shared by others?

        • Aaron Brown says:


          “[…] someone […] shooting themself in the foot”

          “Themself” and “themselves” both sound natural to my ears here. (I am a native speaker from the United States.) I have a slight preference for “themselves”. Singular they is already weird in being grammatically plural and semantically singular. (By which I mean that even if you’re talking about one person, you say “They shoot” and not “*They shoots”.)

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Singular they is already weird in being grammatically plural and semantically singular. (By which I mean that even if you’re talking about one person, you say “They shoot” and not “*They shoots”.)

          Singular ‘you’ does this also, as does singular ‘I’.

          An interesting thought: grammar rules are invariably ad-hoc anyways; so why fixate on singular vs. plural?

          In many cultures, treating proper addresses as if they were plural is a sign of respect (this laser-focuses into the Royal We); why not just declare that the rule is “they is the third-person pronoun for respectful / non-intimate declension, and like ‘I’ or ‘you’ should always be associated with plural-form verbs; only use ‘he’ or ‘she’ (or other preferred pronoun) to connote people you are intimately acquainted with’.

          This also neatly solves the problem of “I don’t know what pronoun to use”, because if you don’t know someone well enough to know which pronoun to use, you don’t know them familiarly enough to use anything but ‘they’.

        • Aaron Brown says:


          Singular ‘you’ does this also, as does singular ‘I’.

          No, they takes a third-person plural verb. I and singular you take respectively first and second person singular verbs (which, for regular verbs, are the same as all the other persons and numbers except for the third-person singular).

          Maybe to be will be a clearer example because it has a more complicated conjugation:

          Singular: “I am”, “you are”, “he/she is” (but “they are”)

          Plural: “We are”, “you are”, “they are”

          You draw an interesting parallel with plurals used to show respect.

          (Edited a few seconds after posting to correct a typo.)

        • AJD says:

          (Singular you arguably still takes plural verb forms; the singular form of be is not are but art.)

        • St. Rev says:

          Joining the pro-“they” chorus here. It’s been my preference for 20+ years.

        • Aaron Brown says:


          Diachronically (i.e., in terms of the English language’s evolution over time) yes. Synchronically (in terms of the language is it is spoken now) no. The only people who can even use the thou conjugation correctly are fans of the King James Bible or Shakespeare. So rather than saying that singular you takes the plural verb form I would simply say that both singular and plural you take the same verb form (as do we, they, and — with verbs other than to beI).

          (Contrast with Spanish, where a conjugation chart has a column for second-person singular familiar [] and another column for both third-person singular [él & ella] and second-person singular formal [usted].)

          [Edited for typos.]

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Yeah, “they” is better, but I keep forgetting to use it. Also, although I’m happy to use “they” for disembodied hypothetical people (“If a person gets sick, they should go to the emergency room”), if feels very strange to use it for a specific real person like Ozy who just doesn’t want to be gendered, especially if it means I have to pluralize all their verbs.

        • Daniel H says:

          Alejandro, I agree about “themself/themselves”. That was the instance that I thought seemed odd; I just didn’t remember that detail until you mentioned it.

        • Vertebrat says:

          @Aaron Brown:

          No, they takes a third-person plural verb. I and singular you take respectively first and second person singular verbs

          To describe English verbs as having a person and number requires a lot of epicycles to explain why pronouns don’t change their verb when they change their number. It’s simpler to describe the verb as marking the pronoun (or the implied pronoun, for noun phrases) rather than the number: they takes the they-form, not the third-person plural-or-nonspecific-or-epicene form. The causality is number→pronoun→verb, not pronoun→number→verb.

          This works in other languages too. In addition to Spanish Usted (and archaic singular vos), there’s a good example in (colloquial) French, where the pronoun on changed from third-person singular to first-person plural (from “one” to “we”) but kept its verb form — it’s on parle, not *on parlons.

    • Daniel H says:

      I’ve noticed that he seems to use the ze/zir set now, but he previously used the new Spivak set (singular “they” but without the “th” part: “I saw em at the store, where ey bought eir new tennis ball”). I’m wondering: why the change? I initially thought it was just Ozy preferring to be referred to by the ze/zir set, but Scott’s used that for people he’s never had this discussion with also.

      • Benkern says:

        I think Scott’s use of ‘zie’ derives from habit or nostalgia rather than preference over alternatives, possibly coming from here.

        • Daniel H says:

          If he’d never used another set, I’d agree and wouldn’t even think about it. But in 2011, he used the new Spivak set (see here and here). This means that for some reason he made a deliberate change, and I’m wondering what that is.

        • ozymandias says:

          I used to have “zie” as my preferred pronoun, so I assume it is because he is used to referring to me as “zie.”

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I used ey/eir for a while because I felt like everyone was using it and it was more important that everyone standardize than that I use one I liked.

          Then I got into a fight with Alicorn because one of her friends demanded that I use – I can’t remember if it was ey or zie, but that one specifically, definitely not the other – for that friend and that was their correct pronoun and using the other was misgendering them and meant I was racist or whatever – and this upset me so much that I stopped gender-neutral pronouns completely for a while.

          Then I think I started up with ze again and now I’m trying to switch to they when I remember and it’s not too weird.

    • Jonathan says:

      Ozy takes gender-neutral pronouns (in this case the ze/zir set) because ze doesn’t identify as male or female, gender-wise.

      In other words, the use of “ze” isn’t an expression of general policy in this case so much as it is based on the specific person being referred to.

    • Anonymous says:

      yeah i think it reads awkwardly to many of us. more than that it makes us stop and wonder for a moment “why is he using these strange words” which is not really what any of want to be stopped to wonder about . but an explanation isn’t going to fix the way it reads. the next time i come upon them ill think “oh, *those* words again, good grief” before i move along. those thoughts detract from the reading experience. the words that invoke them are the culprit. i like to read a lot of the things scott writes. they make a lot of sense. it’s very insightful. but when it starts to feel overburdened with new terms to me it becomes less enjoyable. i think this is a pattern with his writing. he’s happy to introduce new terms when he thinks its a good idea all things considered, but im not sure the reader is always as happy as he is for them. since the reading experience is my main concern i would vote in favor of the singular they.

  11. A Rash Anion says:

    I use Facebook all the time! It’s definitely important in SOME way.

    What did you think about the “go to school outside the united states for med school, then come back for residency” path? Now that my med school apps are back for this round (my first round), I’ve only gotten into St George University in the Bahamas. This is the first time I have applied to medical school, but I have already taken a gap year since graduating from college. I’m currently doing some lab work and taking spanish classes that should make my second attempt to apply stronger if I do try to apply again, but I won’t have a better GPA or MCAT. I’m worried if I apply again I’ll look bad for being so long out of school, and if I don’t apply again my current options are not great.

    I’m tempted to go to St George, even though it doesn’t have the same chance of residency that going to a school in the US would. I’m worried I’ll apply next year and not get in anywhere new, since 1 year of work in an OB/GYN lab and a few spanish classes (and rewritten essays) may not make a difference.

    I’ve asked many friends for advice, but they are all people who went to medical school in the US, or aren’t medical students or doctors to begin with. I figured since you went to medical school abroad as well you might have some good advice.

    • Alexander Stanislaw says:

      It looks pretty grim:

      About 50% might sound better than college acceptance rates, but the applicant pool is more competative.

      • Elissa says:

        It’s even worse than that looks, because Caribbean schools often fail out up to half of their classes to make their match statistics look better, while attrition in US MD programs is quite low, generally 5% or less.

    • Elissa says:

      Why can’t you have a better GPA or MCAT if you reapply? (And what are they now?)

      If you can’t get into a US MD school (irreparable GPA damage would be the most likely reason), a US DO school is a much better bet than the Caribbean, residency-wise. Remember that even Scott didn’t match his first go-round, and that was coming from Ireland, which is probably more reputable than St George. Are you more awesome than Scott? Think twice.

      • A Rash Anion says:

        I completed my undergraduate studies. I’m taking some more courses in spanish right now at a local community college, but in terms of math/science GPA I’m pretty much locked in with what I have. The community college doesn’t have courses I haven’t taken in biology.

        I could get a better MCAT if I started studying for it again. I took it in college and got a 30, then retook it for this admissions cycle. With some moderate study I managed to increase my score to a 32. If I decided to spend several weeks just focusing on MCAT prep I could probably do better, but I’m not sure how much better.

        Right now I have a (paid!) job as a lab tech in an OB/GYN lab, which I think will look good on an application next year. Money isn’t a problem for now. I do not mind living with my parents.

        It sounds like going to a US medical school is really the best option, enough that I should just try applying again rather than take my chances with a Caribbean school.

        • Elissa says:

          A 32 should be enough to get you in, unless your GPA is <3.5 (<3.3 if you're looking at DO schools). If you applied late in the cycle, or applied to only a few schools, that could be your problem. If you get everything (AMCAS and secondaries) in by say the end of July this year and apply to 20ish carefully selected schools, you might have better luck.

          If your application has other issues, like a poor GPA or lack of clinical experience, I'd take another year to fix them before trying again. The GPA problem isn't necessarily intractable– you might be able to enroll as a second-degree seeking student to get some more A's on your transcript, for example. Don't worry about delaying your application; it's only bad if you aren't doing worthwhile stuff the whole time. I do think Caribbean schools should really be your last resort.

        • Anonymous says:

          Also, keep in mind that DO schools do grade replacement, so if you just retake the classes where you didn’t have As you would have a good shoot. That is also a solid mcat for DO.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I unfortunately have to agree with Alexander and Stanislaw. From what I’ve heard internationals’ chances at admission are bad and in the process of collapsing – I don’t know where they’ll be in four years but I don’t like the chances.

      There’s another side to this too, which is that if you apply to a US school and don’t get in, you have a lot of options in terms of giving up and choosing another career you like. If you go to a Caribbean school, graduate, but don’t get a residency, you’ll be however many zillions of dollars in debt, you will have been trained to obsession with medicine for four years, you will have a very obvious “doctor” in front of your name … and you’ll have to totally start from scratch in terms of finding jobs. The medical-field job options for med school graduates who can’t get a residency are, as far as I can tell, not that good (I write a little about the ones I found here). It’s a really really awkward position and it would be much simpler to just get in (or not get in) to US medical school from the beginning and work from there.

      • A Rash Anion says:

        Good news. I got into Quinnipiac University, so things are looking good. I did not expect to hear back from them so late in the process. Thank you all for your advice!

  12. Sniffnoy says:

    Hi Ozy! I’m sorry to see your blog gone but you continue to be generally awesome!