Even More Links For September 2014

Data science divides the music world into 1264 genres, and the Guardian wants to show us all of them. Okay, ten of them. Including “charred death”, “deep filthstep”, and “skweee”.

This is a joke: Five Ways ISIS Can Reduce Its Carbon Footprint. This is not a joke: Parents Defecting To ISIS Because Of Its Family-Friendly Environment.

I always figured the “rebel yell”, the supposedly bone-chilling battle cry of the Confederates during the Civil War, was one of those sensations lost to history, like the face of Helen of Troy or the taste of fresh mammoth. But turns out some Confederate veterans lived long enough to be recorded on video and there are clips of them doing the rebel yell on YouTube. It sounds like a crazy person making silly noises, and history is now ruined for me forever.

If we ever go into some alternate dimension where everyone is perfectly selfish game theoretic agents, I want this guy on my team: Chinese restaurant owner secretly drugged his food with addictive poppies to keep customers coming back.

Possibly the first – and one of the most impressive – effective altruist projects in history – The Balmis Expedition. A fleet of ships armed with a complicated cowpox incubation system in the form of 22 orphaned children travels to the New World to vaccinate the Indians against smallpox.

Something that looks a lot like real progress from the various climate summits going on now: Cargill Promises To Stop Chopping Down Rainforests – This Is Huge.

Your daily reminder that everything in psychology changes about as frequently as the wind – Human Preferences For Sexually Dimorphic Faces May Be Evolutionarily Novel – by which they mean they’re only found in industrialized countries. More diverse populations don’t seem to prefer feminine women or masculine men at all. I look forward to seeing whether this is replicated.

More fallout from that Victorian IQ study – are we sure that the effect isn’t confounded by luminance of stimulus?

About half a meta-level above normal discussions of politics, but half a meta-level below meta discussion of politics: Vox: New Zealand Has The Best Designed Government In The World. Makes sense, although it kind of conflates “makes every vote count” and “promotes good policy”. Still, I agree with its general thrust that this kind of thing would be worth pushing over here.

Megan McArdle’s guide to appearing on the Daily Show: Don’t. Having spent a few years watching it, I’m not really surprised to learn they twist and edit everything people say in order to support the political position they’re pushing.

Indian businessman Anil Agarwal has decided to donate 75% of his $3.3 billion fortune after talking to Bill Gates.

Kim Jong-un has not been seen for about a month, sparking rumors of some kind of problem. Now North Korean media have announced he is suffering from “discomfort”, which sounds like a totally legit medical diagnosis. Speculation is that he might have gout. I am surprised they can’t control that given the level of medical care he probably has access to.

Last links post I mentioned some interesting Google Maps Street Views, but those pale compared to whatever is going on in the Skerry Isles. I think they might have had the Singularity without telling us or something.

If you read Tumblr, you’re probably familiar with realsocialskills, the overly heavy and opinionated advice blog. Now there is realersocialskills, the parody/hate account that criticizes everything it says. But the weird part is that it’s really civil about it and I actually find their conversation to be productive and interesting.

China Removes 100,000 Government Officials Who Were Paid But Had No Work. I would make fun of them, except that apparently they have less than half the bureaucrats per capita we do.

Did you know: the ruins of the southernmost Russian colony in the New World are within a couple hours’ drive north of San Francisco? Or that some fringe Russian politicians want to sue to get it back?

Another study finds a link between Tylenol use during pregnancy and ADHD. Still far from proven, but evidence starting to build up. Do remember that most alternatives to Tylenol are worse.

Wikipedia’s page on evolutionary aesthetics contains a bunch of links to weird fields you never knew existed, like “evolutionary musicology” and “Darwinian literary studies”. Also: “When young human children from different nations are asked to select which landscape they prefer, from a selection of standardized landscape photographs, there is a strong preference for savannas with trees.”

I know I’m not supposed to judge books by their covers, but if I did, my favorite would be Naive Set Theory.

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150 Responses to Even More Links For September 2014

  1. Pingback: Web Roundup: Links for October - rs.io

  2. Cyan says:

    I’m trying to figure out what the cover the Naive Set Theory means for EY’s contention that “all infinite recursions are at most THREE LEVELS DEEP.”

  3. Zeotrope cake!

    Zeotrope cake inspired by Tim Burton!

    Hunter-gatherer temple complex.

    Göbekli Tepe is a very ancient archaeological site located at the top of a mountain ridge in south-eastern Anatolia region of Turkey. Dating back at least 12,000 years, it is home to the oldest known temple in the world and has been intensively studied by archaeologists since its discovery nearly two decades ago. According to a news release in Hurriyet Daily News, archaeologists have now announced that they believe it to be the oldest known sculptural workshop on the planet.

    Göbekli Tepe is comprised of numerous temples made with pillars weighing between 40 and 60 tonnes and T-shaped stelas with intricate depictions of bulls, snakes, foxes, lions and other animals carved into the stone. Yet the awe-inspiring site was supposedly built by ‘primitive’ Neolithic men who lacked sophisticated tools, causing speculation as to how it was built and why.

    Excuse me if this has been mentioned already, but the email notification checkboxes have disappeared, and the notifications haven’t been going out since Friday.

  4. Luke Somers says:

    That list of musical genres is also flaky on the classical end.

    It listed Arvo Pärt (presently alive, minimalist), and a bunch of bog-standard middle baroque, 250 years dead guys as Romantic.

    These folks didn’t write ANYTHING like the central biggest names in this cluster, all of whom wrote mainly within the same fifty year span of time and in at least vaguely similar ways.

  5. This article about that Daily Show segment has been making the rounds on Tumblr. It’s a first-person account from one of the Native American people who was in it.

    If you don’t like Tumblr social justice things then you probably won’t like the article. But it reveals something interesting: the author apparently didn’t have 100% knowledge of what he was getting into either, and wasn’t entirely happy with how things went down. It sounds like in this particular case they pushed things a bit further than they usually do for the sake of making a highly memorable statement on a hot-button issue (which totally worked; that segment has been all over my social media feeds), and there was collateral damage on all sides.

  6. koreagolfer says:

    An interesting thing on the genre list is the “more genre”.

    For example, there’s one genre “uplifting trance” and another one “more uplifting trance”. Browser search for “more” shows 60 instances of this.

    Could people with some minutes to spare search for “more” on the list and check if a genre comes up they’re familiar with? I’m curious if there is an actual, if maybe hard to put in words, difference between “genre” and “more genre” or if it’s a weakness in the algorithm.

    • Peter says:

      I tried it, it seems that “thrash metal” gets me bands I’ve heard of, and “more thrash metal” gets me bands I haven’t. I’m less familiar with other genres so I don’t know how this generalizes.

    • Susebron says:

      So four of the genres are deep house, deeper house, more deep house, and more deeper house. This would seem to rule out there being any real genre difference between the moreless and moreful bands. Maybe there’s a limit to how many bands can be in one genre, so it puts some of them (probably the less popular ones) in the “more” category. The problem is that some of the moreful genres are in different locations than the moreless. It could just be statistical, though.

      • koreagolfer says:

        Peter, Susebron, thanks for speculating with me!

        Hm, there doesn’t seem to be an upper limit to the bands per genre. While every genre has 200 tracks in the list/map thingy, you can always click through to a spotify playlist called “ENtro to [genre]”. Which yields 348 deep house, 500 deeper house, 263 more deep house, and 318 more deeper house tracks.

        So I imagine the algorithm going ‘Yo! New genre!’ and the algorithm tamer being like ‘Erm, this sounds like the same stuff all over again. I’ll use modifiers like “more” and “…er” to mark the fact that I can’t reproduce what Lassie barked at.’

        Which means that maybe we should check back in three years. It would be quite a triumph for Glenn McDonald if, say, Recalcitrant House springs into existence and his More Deeper House playlist were the first thing to have captured it in its embryonic shape.

        Until then, however: strike all occurances of “more” and “deep”. Meaning you have 1157 genres instead of 1254, braggard.

        Oh, The Guardian article from about a month ago mentions 1264 genres. So they are already busy tweaking and sanity-checking their algo. Nothing to say against “more” being your domain specific synonym for FIXME. Gentlemen, as you were.

        • Susebron says:

          It depends, though. If someone told me that “deep house” exists as a distinct genre, I would probably believe them. Same with “deeper house”, as long as I had heard of deep house first. Not “more deeper house”, of course, but deep house might be a thing.

          • Keratin says:

            Deep house is a form of house with more dissonant, jazzy chords and more of a soul influence (as opposed to the disco influence that underlies most house). It’s become a little bit of a buzzword in the past few years since music critics started rediscovering non-experimental electronic music, but it’s definitely a real term that I have heard frequently.

    • nydwracu says:


      Distinct clusters of artists (according to our data) for which there aren’t really distinct names…

  7. Quixote says:

    As background, did Megan M ever embarrass herself on the daily show? What’s the causal reason for this story?

    • gattsuru says:

      The reason the editors published it derives from the Washington Redskins interview antics pointed out in the lede, which makes it somewhat newsworthy.

      For a longer background… While McArdle hasn’t gone on the Daily Show herself, a number of folk related to finance have, and generally Stewart’s been very willing to turn them into the punchline at the expense of honesty. I know she commented on Jim Cramer‘s deserving what he got, but probably not in the way he got it. More recently, several other conservatives were pretty unimpressed by the Daily Show’s interview with Peter Schiff in January of this year, which was unfavorable at best — I don’t think she wrote on it at the time, but she’s obviously aware of it now. There’s a number of other lesser examples, as well as an increasing trend for clickbait to describe Daily Show interviews in the terms “Jon Stewart $violent_act $disliked_person”, to the point of parody.

      At a deeper level, McArdle’s made a bit of a name through her metajournalism writing, and I think this follows more from that trend.

  8. Zubon says:

    Music genres: see also Language Log

  9. AR+ says:

    A fleet of ships armed with a complicated cowpox incubation system in the form of 22 orphaned children travels to the New World to vaccinate the Indians against smallpox.

    Wow, acts of good literally powered by forsaken children.

  10. David Hart says:

    On the New Zealand thing, did you click through to the Monarchy is awesome article? An interesting one for the NRx crowd to chew on, arguing that in fact, a monarchy is actually the best political system devised, as long as the monarch doesn’t have any actual political power.

    • Paul Torek says:

      Both articles miss the biggest advantage, IMO, of figurehead-monarchy: it sucks some of the worship away from a President/PM with real power. Power has a nasty tendency to flow uphill. Make more hills.

      • Auroch says:

        I don’t think the worship-sucking substantially reduces the amount of power flow beyond the factors talked about in these two articles. In detail:

        For the case of the prime minister, they won’t be receiving the worship either way; insofar as there is any, it will go to the head of state, and that seems unlikely to change whether a president or monarch. Certainly the American president gets more power because he gets the worship, but that would be fixed by switching to a president/prime minister system just as well as a monarch/PM one.

        For the case of the president, I don’t think there’s anything restraining them from getting worship-based power, if they are perceived as a legitimate holder of that power. If presidents were appointed for life from (just for an example) the ranks of distinguished academics in the country, and were therefore not very legitimate but still nonmonarchical, I don’t think they would have noticeably more power accrue than would a monarch.

        • Susebron says:

          I think the point is that the monarchy will suck worship away from the prime minister, thereby lowering the incentive to become prime minister for the people who simply desire worship. The reason that a monarchy is better than a president/PM system is that the monarch is in no way legitimized by the people, and therefore would find it difficult to exercise power. The problem isn’t that the worship grants too much power, but that those seeking worship have an incentive to gain power. Of course, it won’t solve all of the problems, but the hope is that it will solve some.

        • Paul Torek says:

          Those are some good points, but one case I have in mind is the following. (I’m an American.) The presidency (not just the current occupant) has been usurping powers, and Congress, which is unpopular, has been reluctant to challenge. Through a silver lining of hyper-partisanship, it has managed to lodge some challenges anyway, which I fear the Supreme Court will invalidate because it is generally overly deferential to the authority of the presidency. If a monarch were to object to a few of the more egregious oversteps of Constitutional authority, as I suspect they would, it would probably help.

      • There’s also Heinlein’s argument from Double Star— being prime minister/president is more than enough work already, so it’s good to have a head of state to take some of the load off.

  11. The Anonymouse says:

    Having now been to the Skerry Isles, I now know what Case felt like the first time he jacked in.

  12. lmm says:

    Tylenol is American for paracetamol, right?

  13. Chris H. says:

    I dunno; I found the higher-pitched versions fairly eerie (and I imagine that the lower-pitched versions, from the sound of them, were a compromise based on what the yellers’ voices could do).

    Also, bear in mind that a huge part of the impact of battle cries comes from the fact that they generally communicate and/or drive home (depending on timing) that a large number of enemy soldiers are about to come running at your carrying sharp pieces of metal that they intend to shove into your intestines. That factor is inherently lost when listening to recordings at home.

  14. Douglas Knight says:

    The Victorian situation is very simple.

    From the original paper is a scatterplot of all the studies. In the beginning, there are two studies, both with fast response times. As time pasts, there are more studies with fast response times, but there are also studies with slow response times. And some of the studies with fast response times are large and representative, such as Finnish conscripts and Australian one.

    What has happened is that different methods of measuring reaction time produce incomparable results (as Jim said on the original SSC post). Some say that everyone is fast, while others say that everyone is slow. The first two studies happened to be of the fast type. There were only two of them, so it’s not surprising that they were of the same type. But today, there is great diversity of reaction time measures.

    If you thought that those studies were comparable, so that it was reasonable to draw the regression line, then you must think that Australians are faster than Scots. It’s difficult to study Victorians, but it is easy to time Australians and Scots on the same equipment. It is also easy to take both pieces of equipment and time convenience samples on both. And if it turns out that Australians are faster than Scots, then you can ask if Australians are smarter than Scots. Only then does it make a little sense to speculate about the IQ of Victorians.

  15. Martin-2 says:

    r.e. McArdle on Stewart: Ouch. And here I was thinking John Stewart was on a moral high ground over the hosts at Fox. At least O’Reilly is obvious about abusing his guests (as far as I could tell those few times I watched).

    One thing McArdle gets wrong; she says, “There is a reason that you have never seen a video clip of someone who “beat” Jon Stewart — or Bill O’Reilly…” Actually, Stewart and O’Reilly differ on this count. Go to Youtube and type “Bill O’Reilly ow” and literally every search suggestion will be “Bill O’Reilly owned by [person]”. Type “John Stewart ow” and every suggestion will be “John Stewart owns [person]”. Any ideas as to what’s going on here?

    • suntzuanime says:

      Political bias on the part of people who title videos and upload them to Youtube.

      • a person says:

        I’ve noticed this too.

        I think there is a bit of a difference between Stewart and O’Reilly though. For one, O’Reilly broadcasts his interviews live and doesn’t cut them up like Stewart does. (Stewart does live interviews too but it seems like the article is referring to the video sections in the middle segment of the show, not the live interviews at the end which are usually on friendly terms.) Secondly, Stewart does seem to me to be a more sophisticated arguer than O’Reilly – there’s an hour-long O’Reilly-Stewart debate on YouTube, I’m fairly impartial but I think Stewart did a lot better, although he was playing to a friendly audience.

        I will say though that in most of the “Bill O’Reilly gets owned” videos it seems like an even-handed debate and it doesn’t really seem like he’s actually getting owned.

      • Anonymous says:

        Or just political bias in the set of people who use the word “own.”

        • RCF says:

          It is a bit odd that there seems to be a leftist preponderance among people whose preference term to express getting the upper hand is one that refers to ownership of humans.

          • g says:

            I had always assumed — on rather little evidence, so I’ll happily be corrected — that originally it referred to ownership/conquest of computers, and that its application to people was derived from that.

          • Peter says:

            I think the relevant noun form here is “ownage”, not “ownership” – look it up on Wikipedia.

            I vaguely remember something a while back about how computer gamers were terrible racists for using “own” in such a way, but evidently that ho ha faded into the background and the use of “own” as in “ownage” spread.

          • Anonymous says:

            What’s odd about that? This is the side that was cheerleading the Communist slave states.

          • Perhaps analyzing people’s subconscious desires from the details of their word choices is a bad habit one picks up from reading too much SJ material.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            Yeah I think this is entirely spurious. Both are, I would think, correlated with being younger, so could be correlated with each other just as a result of that.

          • social justice warlock says:

            What’s odd about that? This is the side that was cheerleading the Communist slave states.

            People who love John Stewart have almost no overlap, as best I can tell, with people who cheerlead Communist slave states. (Source: I cheerlead Communist slave states.)

    • Matthew says:

      O’Reilly’s show is shown live and Stewart’s is taped/edited?

    • 27chaos says:

      I always got the impression Jon Stewart was forcefully partisan, I’m confused why so many others were surprised by this. Colbert was always my favorite, he seemed to have genuine sympathy for some ideas from the right.

    • We should draw a distinction between the “correspondent” segments in the first two thirds of the show, and the interviews Jon Stewart conducts in front of the audience during the last third of the show.

      The correspondent segments only barely pretend to be actual journalism; in fact, Stewart has long maintained that they’re not journalism at all. Many elements of them (though not all) are so outlandish as to be clearly fictional. They’re supposed to make the audience laugh, possibly by ridiculing the political outgroup, and use all the standard tools of the trade, including manipulative editing, to accomplish this end.

      In the interviews with guests, Stewart is generally polite, respectful, and exhibits more intellectual honesty than pretty much anyone else on TV in a similar position, regardless of whether the person being interviewed is a member of the political outgroup. (It’s claimed that if the interviewee will be promoting a book they’ve written (as is often the case), he always reads it in its entirety prior to the interview, which if true is quite impressive and extremely unusual.) Of course the audience generally makes it clear whose side they’re on, but few people interviewed in that setting seem to believe that they were treated unfairly.

      McArdle is presumably talking about the correspondent segments, because those sometimes feature random people, whereas only famous people are invited on as guests.

      • The Anonymouse says:

        If an interviewer appears polite and evenhanded, but always seems to come across as the smarter and more sympathetic, and happens to control the cameras and all the editing equipment… well, either the interviewer really is smarter and more sympathetic than every single interviewee he’s ever interviewed, or he just happens to control all the cameras and editing equipment.

        • I believe that Stewart really is smarter than other interviewers, and that his audience favors intellectual honesty over cheap point scoring more than other interviewers’ audiences do. Editing probably plays some kind of role. I wonder just how different the broadcast interviews are from what the studio audience sees. Certainly the level of manipulation is nothing like what goes on in the correspondent segments.

          • Emily H. says:

            I saw a Daily Show taping, probably in summer 2009. Jon Stewart was interviewing Mike Huckabee. I don’t know if some of the interview was rehearsed beforehand, but as far as I could see, the interview the studio audience saw was the interview the viewers saw. (With the caveat that it was one of those “This interview went too long, we put the rest up on the web” ones.)

            Huckabee got polite, softbally questions, and it was clear that Huckabee and Stewart didn’t agree about the role of the government but it was also clear that Stewart was treating the conservative point of view like something to engage with seriously, not to point at and laugh. (I know he does a lot of point-and-laughing; and I know the middle-of-the-show correspondents’ segments have even more point-and-laughing; it’s just not there in Stewart’s interviews.)

          • Jaskologist says:

            Really? I think the exact opposite: the entire point of The Daily Show is to score cheap points and laugh at the out-group. How many times, after some segment where he had to criticize Democrats, does he soften the blow with a punchline that boils down to “also, I don’t like Sarah Palin”?

          • Jaskologist says:

            I would expect Less-Wrongers, who are aware of things like priming and anchoring to be triply wary of comedy psuedo-news shows. It’s perfectly designed to bypass your rational brain and shape your emotional and habitual responses to badthinkers.

          • peterdjones says:

            …..although you are very unlikely to do a 180 as a result, due to you initial choice of show.

      • a person says:

        The correspondent segments only barely pretend to be actual journalism; in fact, Stewart has long maintained that they’re not journalism at all. Many elements of them (though not all) are so outlandish as to be clearly fictional. They’re supposed to make the audience laugh, possibly by ridiculing the political outgroup, and use all the standard tools of the trade, including manipulative editing, to accomplish this end.

        They are journalism. Stewart does an obnoxious motte-and-bailey thing where he is clearly trying to advance his political views and is taken very seriously in doing so but when he’s criticized he retreats to “guys, it’s just a comedy show”.

        • This is pretty much true and I wish Stewart wouldn’t do that quite so much. At the same time, the line between comedy and journalism has become blurred over the past decade compared to most of American history.

          • theLaplaceDemon says:

            Interestingly enough, Rachel Maddow actually really challenged Stewart on that. Some years ago (2008? 2009?) she did a fairly long interview with him (I think it’s on You Tube, in multiple parts). And one of the things they had a major point of contention on was whether or not the Daily Show was news/information or pure entertainment/comedy, and the journalistic implications of that. And Jon Stewart seemed *really* invested in arguing that His Show Was Not Journalism.

  16. a person says:

    RE realsocialskills:

    I’ve noticed this strange understated worldview on tumblr (including rationalist tumblr) that goes something like this: the world is divided into a minority of Nice People and a majority of Mean People. Nice People almost always share our political views and are usually a little “weird” and/or awkward. If someone is “normal” and socially competent, this is a reason for fear and suspicion. Mean People should in general be avoided completely. Also in general Nice People are more intelligent than mean people.

    Does anyone else recognize this?

    • social justice warlock says:

      This is the default assumption in most of geek culture, except the political beliefs in question are looser and the intelligence assumptions are more absolute. These are all especially strong in “rationalist” communities.

      • a person says:

        Agreed, although I feel like I don’t really see it on LW or SSC too much. There’s a lot of “the Bay Area rationalist community consists of unusually nice people” but that could very well be true.

        • Anonymous says:

          As long as thinking your in-group is smarter is excusable if it is actually true… LW doesn’t think they are smarter – they *know* they are smarter: http://lesswrong.com/lw/fp5/2012_survey_results/

          (And as for this not applying to SSC, Yvain, who conducted the study, is actually Scott himself)

          I mean, it’s not surprising, considering the level of discourse (that they used to have at the time the survey was taken, at least.

          it’s also possible that simply everyone on the deep internet discussing semi-technical topics is very smart. Wouldn’t be extremely surprised if StackExchange or HackerNews had similar rnumbers.

          • Matthew says:

            I’m pretty sure the controversial part of the grandparent was “Nice people are more intelligent than mean people,” although I think the correct view to examine might be “More intelligent people are nicer than less intelligent people.” One definitely sees this at least in implied form.

            I’d expect it to be offputting to outsiders. LWers just have different ways of being mean than randomly chosen people.

      • Princess_Stargirl says:

        Is this really true? I have spent alot of time in “geek culture” (mathematics and comp sci) and never really picked up on this. Or if I did I assumed people were basically joking.

        Of course people who are majoring in math at good schools or work in computing programming really are (on average) very considerably above average intellegence. But a decent percentage of geeks really think geeks are nicer? Not nicer to other geeks but nicer in general (to a non-trivial degree)?

        This is a really strange idea

        • Sniffnoy says:

          I agree this seems strange; this does not fit my general “nerd” narrative. Nerds scorn niceness! More open-minded, certainly. Not nicer!

          Or maybe it’s just a matter of who we’re contrasting against. Scott seems to commonly contrast nerds with bullies and brutes, in which case “nicer” would (granting the premise) be accurate, though it probably wouldn’t be described that way internally. But let’s not forget the other groups nerds can be contrasted against!

          • Nornagest says:

            It might be more accurate to say that nerds have idiosyncratic standards of niceness and scorn standards other than their own.

          • I think smart people are less inclined to physical violence than less smart people, but my sample is limited. And it’s *less* inclined, which is not the same thing as smart people never having an inclination towards physical bullying.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            I’m not talking about physical violence; physical violence doesn’t match the “nerd” idea at all. I’m talking about, for instance, a refusal to engage in white lies. Or where a polite person might say “I’m not quite sure I follow you there”, a nerd might just shout “False!”.

          • Matthew says:

            Or where a polite person might say “I’m not quite sure I follow you there”, a nerd might just shout “False!”.

            I think that one might be an autistic behavior, not a nerd behavior. That phenomenon is not one I remember experiencing among my nerdy group of friends in either high school or college.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            Consider e.g. the New Atheists.

          • Matthew says:

            The new atheists don’t exhibit that behavior as a general practice when encountering views they disagree with; they exhibit it specifically in response to either religious views or the view that one should be tolerant of religion.

            Random aside: The juxtaposition of “new atheists” with “I never encountered in college” is quite humorous for me. In 1997 or thereabouts (at a time when the name meant nothing to me), an avuncular older fellow approached my friend and me while we playing ping pong in the student center at Tufts and asked if he could get in a game. I said sure, and as we started to play, he introduced himself as, “I’m Daniel Dennett. I study the mind” or something to that effect.

            He then proceeded to hand me the worst whupping I’ve ever received in ping pong. I was a fairly good player, and he shut me out to 11. Apparently his study of consciousness included human perception, because the man could put insane spin on the ball that made predicting its course impossible. Totally changed the way I played the game.

            This shall be filed in my memoirs as “That time I was publicly humiliated by a famous intellectual.”

            But he was otherwise quite soft-spoken and friendly in person.

  17. Multiheaded says:

    Oh VALIS, realersocialskills totally, absolutely doesn’t appreciate the context and target audience of many RSS posts! Scott, please note that feminists finding things wrong with PUA advice look absolutely fair and harmless next to what I’m seeing here! Feels like often they don’t get it *at all*; not cripplingly low self-esteem, nor depression, nor non-neurotypicality…

    Side note: RSS is frequently reblogged by Amanda Winters (youneedacat.tumblr.com), and I greatly respect her work. So there’s that.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      And I find hir to be “that person who keeps telling everyone Less Wrong is a cult”, so it doesn’t exactly raise my opinion of them.

      • theunitofcaring says:

        Baggs prefers sie/hir/hirs pronouns. Otherwise I completely agree: I have never witnessed a productive interaction between hir and another person who didn’t agree with hir completely, I have never witnessed hir changing hir mind or acknowledging value in another person’s contributions (excluding comments like ‘people have been misinterpreting my post as ‘you are worthless and deserve to die! obviously that’s not what I meant, how silly of them’, which are frequent). Sie has actually said that LW is equivalent to ‘involuntary institutionalization in a place that rapes and tortures people’, and friends of mine who had never heard of LW were alarmed and taken aback by how vitriolic hir efforts to convince everyone we’re a cult are.

    • Nick T says:

      I find this easy to believe; but ‘this advice is only appropriate in some contexts and not tagged as such, and this is bad’ doesn’t require a full understanding of the context to say, if it’s true (unless that context provides a reason that tagging the content as not universally applicable would be bad).

    • What I’m taking away from this is that everyone involved in the controversy over realsocialskills needs to read “All Debates Are Bravery Debates”.

      In fact, let me rephrase that. Everyone on Tumblr needs to read “All Debates Are Bravery Debates”. Everyone everywhere who engages in any kind of discourse about politics or anything resembling politics needs to read “All Debates Are Bravery Debates”. Scott, that post is the most useful thing you’ve ever written, and you’ve written some really good stuff. Before I read that post, my reaction to most political debates about important-but-difficult questions was “Ahh! Scary! Both sides are making compelling moral arguments but they contradict each other and I can’t figure out who to believe!” Then I read it and now my reaction is “Oh, that’s what’s going on here.” It has dissolved more confusion than any other single piece of rationalist writing I’ve read.

      The only thing wrong with “All Debates Are Bravery Debates” is that it doesn’t give a name to the phenomenon it describes. “Bravery debate” is not always applicable since often neither side is claiming to be bravely defying the mainstream. On Tumblr I use the term “memetic prevalence debate”, which I made up, but I feel like that might be too unwieldy. Anyone have any ideas for some new terminology we could spread?

      • Ken Arromdee says:

        I wasn’t familiar with rss or rrss until now, but reading them makes it seem to me like rrss is already saying that rss is a bravery debate–that is, he’s not claiming that rss has bad advice, he’s pointing out that the advice in it is good for people in some contexts but not others.

        It seems odd to say that rrss is making it a bravery debate by pointing out that it is a bravery debate.

        • I don’t think anybody’s making it a bravery debate. This was less a criticism of any particular side, and more a wish that all sides would realize what the real source of their disagreement is (the prevalence of particular memes).

          Truth be told, I’d wanted to write that comment for a while now, and this just seemed like the right place to put it.

          • Ken Arromdee says:

            I misread Scott. Scott said “all debates are bravery debates”, and then characterized debates in a specific way. That implies that that characterization is what he meant by “bravery debate”. It turns out it’s not.

            But I still think that rrss is following what Scott said, even if I was wrong to call that “bravery debate”. Scott was pointing out that both sides of a debate may be right for the audience that they’re trying to address, yet may be wrong for other people.

            And that’s exactly what rrss says most of the time, too. He doesn’t just call rss’s views nonsense; rather, he points out that rss’s advice is too general and may be wrong if taken to heart by the wrong audience.

    • Peter says:

      Well realersocialskills is on record as being autistic, and seems to be on a similar wavelength to me. From one of their posts: “I’ve gotten at least one response from someone who was stressed and fearful because, thanks to the echo chamber effect, they felt like they were wrong and alone until they found out that there were other people who felt the way they did, but those people had been censored from the conversation.”[1] so it seems like there are other people on that wavelength. Experiences vary, I think there’s more than one “it” to get, and realersocialskills gets at least one of of those “it”s that realsocialskills doesn’t.

      [1] I read some realsocialskills a while back, it did slightly odd things to my head, I think I’m another satisfied customer of the antidote that realersocialskills provides, although not on the scale of that remark.

  18. Anthony says:

    Book cover: Introduction To Error Analysis

    On facebook, there’s an article circulating about Kim’s ailment, blaming it on an apparent overdose of cheese. It’s entirely possible that the problem isn’t the medical advice he’s getting, but his willingness to actually follow it.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Damn, I was about to post the “Introduction to Error Analysis” cover…

    • Thecommexokid says:

      His Classical Mechanics cover is also pretty great.

      (Since it’s kind of hard to see and I can’t find a larger image online, I’ll ruin the punchline by pointing out that what it clearly illustrates is a classical mechanic.)

    • James James says:

      “Kim’s ailment” sounds like an eponymous syndrome. Henceforth it shall be used to refer to when someone is poorly from having eaten too much cheese.

    • gwern says:

      Yes; Kim Jong-pork loves to eat and party, according to reports. When you’re a near-psychopathic man-child (going off the rumors about his personal conduct during his Swiss education) who rules a nation and can indulge your personal preferences as much as you please, are you really going to be temperate in your food and drink – some of the great pleasures in life? His grandfather and father didn’t die thin & svelte, let’s put it that way.

    • othercriteria says:

      If we’re playing this game, the cover of Stellar Interiors is spectacular. I can’t speak for its contents, though, since I only saw it in the stacks by chance while walking by QB on my way from QA.

      It’s also sort of a wasted opportunity, since they use the same image over the book’s various editions.

      • g says:


        (Perhaps they were concerned that they might want more than 12 editions.)

      • Rauwyn says:

        Would you mind explaining this for those of us who don’t speak music? It looks neat but I have no idea what I’m looking at.

        • Anonymous says:

          It’s the beginning of the 6th variation from Mozart’s variations on “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” (or, as he knew it, the song “Ah vous dirais-je, Maman” but it’s the same tune). The variation in question starts around the 5:20 mark in this recording.

        • othercriteria says:

          This video might take you 95% of the way to the answer, while still giving you a feeling of “ah ha!”. Let me know if you’d like me to make the solution completely explicit.

  19. Tropylium says:

    Realersocialskills is, as far as I know, completely serious and dedicated to being constructive. You might need to have read the author’s personal blog to understand why such a single-purpose blog exists at all in the first place, there’s quite a bit of backstory on that.

    (Also, their actual parody advice blog Helpy McHelperson’s Helpful Blog might be an interesting read as well.)

    • Drew Hardies says:

      I’ve read the most recent few pages of Real Social Skills, Realer Social Skills, and the author’s blog. I think I’m still missing something.

      Real Social Skills appears to be offering short, mostly inoffensive pieces of advice. Some of the pieces try to be so general that they might become unhelpful. But I can see an audience for it.

      Realer Social Skills is just weirdly nitpicky. The author starts the last 4 or 5 reblogs with “I mostly agree” and then goes on to object that the 500 word post didn’t address all the non-central cases.

      Why do this? There’s too much agreement for it to read like an Arguments Are Soldiers thing.

      • Rauwyn says:

        Having red the first few pages of realersocialskills (henceforth rerss), here’s my understanding:
        According to rerss, realsocialskills (rss) has the viewpoint that all psychiatric institutions are pretty much just legitimized abuse, and if you disagree you just haven’t had enough experience with psychiatric institutions to learn otherwise. Further, rss blocks all dissenting opinions, which because of something technical about tumblr means that anyone who follows rss also won’t see them, and may never realize that anyone disagrees even with the more obviously bad/controversial advice. It seems like both blog authors have similar backgrounds but very different perspectives on the ubiquity of harassment, the general goodness of psychiatric institutions, and so on.

        EDIT: Also, rerss seems to have a very hard time with nuance – for example, in college they were told “Don’t log in to others’ accounts” and were surprised to get in trouble for logging others’ passwords and reporting to the network administrators that people were using insecure passwords. So because of their tendency to take things very literally, they may have a different idea from rss of the appropriate context for rss’s advice.

        • Earnest_Peer says:

          Seeing how rss is adressed to people with disabilities, reerss’ literalmindedness would probably be good even if it wasn’t personal, at the very least because other people exist who have whatever rerss has.

          • Peter says:

            Literal-minded, trouble with context… these are all classic autistic[1] traits and so things that rerss is likely to share with much of rss’s audience; actual if not intended. So, yes, seconded.

            [1] It’s there on post one.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Because getting things exactly right is important, goddammit. Some people are going to take these sorts of things and follow what’s written as best they can. Especially as realsocialskills seems to have a somewhat SJ atmosphere to it, so at least some people will probably take following it as morally obligatory. If you do not nitpick these things you quickly wind up with something like feminist dating advice, with its broad proscriptions and double-binds.

        • Lavendar bubble tea says:

          I only read a few posts of rerss and my general impressions was similar. That it was nitpicking, but that rerss raised some really good points about how the advice could be applied to harmful situations. The post about how validation could be bad for some people with personality disorders really stuck out to me. I know that I personally talk a lot about validation and am often told by others that I need to validate my own feelings. It seems to be go to advice/behavior for my social circle. But rerss social skills did point out that validation could be very bad for some people. That post is really making me think about how to best give general advice and about when validation stops being healthy.

          I agree with Sniffnoy that “nitpicking” mental health and anti oppression advice is extremely important because getting these things right is vital. I currently suspect that a lot of the bigger issues with mental health and anti oppression advice is that some ideas were not really critiqued and they spread far and ended up creating harmful narratives. If I am correct in my suspicion, then creating an environment which can handle nitpicking would be a really good step to getting more effective/less harmful advice memes spread.

      • veronica d says:

        I’m a pretty huge fan of RSS. That said, I find RerSS to be a perfectly thoughtful counterpoint.

  20. The Victorians study is behind a paywall. 🙁

  21. Andy says:

    Yeah, the Rebel Yell sounded a bit silly, but I’d bet those were old lungs and it probably sounded different when there were cannons going off, people shooting at you, and thousands of voices doing the Rebel Yell at once. I mean, I think about bagpipes. On Youtube videos bagpipes sound kinda nice to me, but in person they give me a wonderful creepiness, a bit like what I guess some people feel about tense horror movies.
    Also I dearly want a full bagpipe rendition of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, but I suspect I am in the minority there.

    On the Skerries: clicking through on the name on the upper left-hand side shows that it’s a Google data product called a Photo Sphere, where people can upload street-view-esque views of various places. At a guess, Bernd Kronmuller saw the Skerries didn’t have a Street View and uploaded a Photo Sphere with a CGI image.
    It likely wouldn’t be too hard to do so if you understood the logic of the Photo Sphere format. I’d guess a bit of metadata (maybe some tiny text file) sets the lat/long coordinates and which slice of the Photo Sphere is pointing north. The metadata on aerial photography files can be as little as 5 lines, establishing coordinates of the center and 4 corners of each image. Other standards I’ve seen establish the coordinates of one corner and how much area each pixel covers.
    Unrelated: when I was working in GIS, I created lower-res versions of our aerial photography (invariable the biggest bandwidth hog of all our data) and got them to stay georeferenced by messing with the metadata files that tied the images to areas on the Earth’s surface.

      • Andy says:

        I was aware of that version, but it’s the first verse and first chorus only. (I listen to the Battle Hymn far more than is healthy, and rewrote it for the national anthem of a science-fiction project.) By a “full version” I meant all the verses, preferably with some vocals and maybe some drums.

        • The Anonymouse says:

          You are not alone in being someone who loves the Battle Hymn of the Republic far more than is healthy.

          I am particularly partial to the various (superb) renditions by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. My only nitpick there is their insistence on changing “die to make men free” in the fifth verse to “live to make men free,” but hey, you can’t have everything.

          Speaking of having everything, I’m still looking for a good six-verse rendition, but am as-yet unfulfilled.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            Wait, six verse rendition? I thought there were only five verses!

          • The Anonymouse says:

            There’s the traditional full version with the “grapes of wrath” verse, then “dim and flaring lamps,” then “fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel,” then “be jubilant my feet,” then the usually-final “let us die to make men free” verse. I have yet to hear performed the final verse, which is:

            “He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
            He is Wisdom to the mighty, He is Succour to the brave,
            So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of Time His slave,
            Our God is marching on.”

            To be honest, I only discovered this a long while back thanks to wiki. (The wiki page is quite good, BTW.)

          • The Anonymouse says:

            (I also wish for more renditions of The Star-Spangled Banner with more than just the first verse, but even while I was in the infantry I could never get people to not append “Play ball!” to every performance, so I’ve kinda given up on that one.)

          • David Hart says:

            I’m pretty sure I remember singing the ‘world shall be his footstool’ verse back at boarding school (in Scotland), though it’s been a long time.

          • Vulture says:

            I never got the sixth verse at all. It seems like Time ought to be something a little more dignified than a footstool, at least, even if it’s the footstool of the Supreme Being.

            And yeah, count me among the Battle Hymn superfans (Solidarity Forever is pretty good, too, especially if you like insane Marxism).

          • Anonymous says:

            That was the point: Time itself is nothing more than a footstool beside His coming.

      • David says:

        I was going to say, you couldn’t play that tune properly on a normal highland bagpipes (though it would be trivially easy on an Irish or Northumbrian bagpipes), since you’re missing a note on the bottom if you’re playing it in D, or two notes at the top plus the seventh is flattened if you’re playing it in A. But of course, you can just cheat and play it in A anyway, shifting the high notes awkwardly down an octave like that guy.

        Still, I am perplexed and bamboozled that highland bagpipers don’t ask for a key to extend the range one note down. You’d think it would be routine, yet I’ve seen it exactly zero times.

    • Deiseach says:

      If you’re agreeable to broaden your tastes out to the uilleann pipes, Lúnasa have a wonderful version of The Wounded Hussar (well, if you call it that, or “Captain O’Kane”, depends on your own mileage and whether you’re singing the vocal version).

  22. Protagoras says:

    Anyone who has ever seen “The Daily Show” knows how they portray people in their segments. People who go on the show anyway either don’t care as long as they get to be on TV, or they’re too stupid to understand McArdle’s warning anyway. I’m guessing mostly the former, though I admit that I may underestimate the pool of mind-bogglingly stupid people.

    • gattsuru says:

      At least some seem to believe that The Daily Show is on or will join “their side”, at which point going to the interview makes a massive amount of sense. Mr. deGrasse Tyson’s portrayal, for one, was overwhelmingly favorable and highly beneficial to him. Barry Ritholtz found them pretty professional and that they presented his arguments quite cleanly (presuming they did so to avoid lawsuit).

      Presumably some of the more unhinged folk think that a lot of people in power hold their beliefs, and expect similar results.

      I’m hard-pressed to understand why any conservatives go, though, especially since there’s a well-entrenched trend for conservative paranoia about even conventional journalism. While she’s touching this topic again in response to the Redskins interview’s unusually heavy-handed lies, there was a lot written in this subject before in response to Peter Schiff’s notorious interview for the show. Which he only gave after receiving several promises that he’d not be edited to such extremes… but I’d expect an economist of all people to realize that sometimes humans lie. On the other hand, Huckabee got fairly even-handed coverage or at least not so obviously mauled, so there are at least some exceptions or complexities to this model.

      ((The frightening this isn’t that the Daily Show does this, but that most news places do. I’ve seen an interview by CNN affiliates, by the Washington Post, and by Al-Jazeera, all aiming for the same new technology, and not a single group came in without a pretty obvious idea of what their end-product was going to look like and what position it was going to take. The Daily Show’s mostly just more interesting and obvious in its antics.))

    • Jaskologist says:

      I think you underestimate how convincing con-artists can be. Even our illustrious host has been taken in by people he knew were lying, to the tune of 500 rupees.

      It is very hard to believe that somebody is outright lying to your face, no matter how much you know it intellectually. People tend to believe repeated assurances that they will be treated fairly (or in this case, the blatant lie that they wouldn’t be ambushed by a surprise guest).

      Now imagine what somebody comfortable with lying to your face can do with several hours worth of footage about you, and no compunctions about rearranging your answers to change what you said.

    • DrBeat says:

      The Daily Show is such shit nowadays. It used to be satirical insight, using humor to point out things taht are true. Now, they just lie nonstop, in order to push the message they want to be true, which is often “Bad people are evil and out to get you! Be afraid!”

      Jon Stewart ceded all moral high ground over Sean Hannity a while ago. But maybe people are remembering the TDS that was, that used humor to tell the truth, instead of using humor to tell lies.

      • Matthew says:

        I haven’t watched the Daily Show in a while, but from what I remember, it was at its best when it was skewering the rest of the media, not politicians. (See also Colbert’s speech at the WHCA dinner in 2007, which is better than anything either of them broadcast on a delay.)

      • When exactly do you think it jumped the shark?

        • DrBeat says:

          I don’t know when it really jumped the shark. I was probably being too favorable to it for too long because I’d been a fan before that.

          I know the thing that made it unmistakable that a shark-jumping had occurred was the coverage of the George Zimmerman trial, where they studiously avoided presenting very, very basic facts every single time they brought up the case so they could continue to present a “can you believe how horrible this is? It’s okay to kill black people!” narrative. I had been noticing it going downhill before that, and it probably had been even before I noticed it. (That case in general is what I point to to say “Neither side of the political narrative in America interacts with facts any more.”) But that was when it was just undeniable. The entire media was lying in order to make people upset: the liberal media was lying to make people upset, and the conservative media was lying to make people upset. And rather than skewer the sensationalism and herd mentality of the media, TDS decided to join in the lie.

          The coverage of the Dunn trial — the dude in Florida who shot a black kid at a gas station, got convicted on 4 counts of attempted murder but the jury hung on the second-degree murder count — where they explicitly stated “it is now open season on black people”, was when they forever ceded any moral authority over Glenn Beck. “Bad people are out to get you and the system is out to hurt you as much as possible! You should be upset and afraid and listen to us because we’re the only ones who care!” is still bad even if you aim it at a demographic other than “old white people”

        • suntzuanime says:

          I would nominate Obama’s election as the point where TDS jumped the shark. Good political comedy has to be subversive, so when their brand of aw-shucks leftism is winning, they have to either take a critical look at the foibles of their own side (lol) or else they have to make shit up to pretend they’re subverting the establishment when they’re really serving it. So DrBeat’s example of the Zimmerman trial: they present white-on-black murder as if it were “open season” so that they can sound like they’re taking a stand against something without having to take a stand against anything that might be politically uncomfortable for them.

  23. Anonymous says:

    I believe the film Gettysburg does a good job with what the rebel yell might have sounded like during actual battle.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Re: Guardian music link

    I am only familiar with vaporwave, blackgaze, and lowercase, but Dordeduh is most certainly NOT blackgaze (and that should be evident to anyone who is familiar with black metal), so I’d take the rest of those listings with a grain of salt.

    • I read your comment before I clicked the link, and what I took away from it is that names for genres of music are apparently just random compound words.

      There’s an online Music Genre Name Generator, but it makes too much sense; we can do better. My first attempt, using nouns and adjectives from the Diceware word list: heartcomic, bocamint, harpystuck, spurfreud, lithemadam, houndfudge, gladrunt, gullynova, hyenacluck.

      I should try coding a Music Genre Name Generator. Can anyone think of any principles for what makes something sound like an obscure genre name?

      (No, I don’t know anything about music, how did you guess?)

      • Anonymous says:

        The most immediate thing to come to mind is combine any two existing genre names, or any genre name with some other word.

        • The first approach is the one that the generator I linked to takes. But I’m thinking of names that sound less recognizable specifically as music jargon, and more like random silliness (that might still plausibly be the name of a genre).

        • Tropylium says:

          Obscure Music Genre Names definitely are for the most part portmanteaus based on one or two bigger genres, as in vaporwave < chillwave; blackgaze < black metal + shoegaze. They're really relatively functional provided you know what the referents are. Another cluster seems to be non-descriptive regional terms. And granted, then there are also genres named something completely impenetrable like "zeuhl" or "suomisaundi", but they're very much a minority…

          Initial terms also vary a lot more than the determiners — there are probably hundreds of variations on "__ house", "__core" or "__ rock" out there.

      • R says:

        Hyenacluck definitely sounds like something musical, or at least audible.

      • nydwracu says:

        Something something outgroup homogeneity–

        –well, no, it’s completely reasonable in this context. If you’re a monolingual English-speaker, you won’t be able to tell the difference between Czech and Slovak, or Russian and Bulgarian, or probably even between Czech and Bulgarian. But if you speak Czech, you’ll be able to tell the difference not only between Czech and Bulgarian, but also between Czech and Slovak, and between different dialects of Czech.

        I don’t know how to articulate the meta-level point here, but (for example) death metal and doom metal are totally different, and so are drone doom, epic doom, and funeral doom.

        (The last link is a Tom Waits cover.)

      • fubarobfusco says:

        Harpystuck is Homestuck fan music sung at a screech.

        Possibly with the occasional Rebel Yell.

    • nydwracu says:

      I’d take the rest of those listings with a lot more than one grain of salt, since that Alcest thing can’t be called anything remotely resembling black metal by any stretch of the imagination. That’s a radio-ready soft rock band that did heroin and listened to some GY!BE ripoff.

      (Yes, metal has a huge entryist problem. No surprise there.)

      Edit: That Denis Mash track doesn’t sound like anythingstep, so that journalist is probably full of shit.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’m the Anonymous from parent comment. I would certainly disagree that Alcest “can’t be called anything remotely resembling black metal”. They are certainly NOT black metal, but are influenced by it and have some overlap with post-black metal, mainly in guitar and occasional shrieks (ex. Alcest – [Écailles de lune #03] Percées de lumière). They are most assuredly are more shoegaze with BM influences (contrast with Heretoir, which with all the trappings of BM is more BM than shoegaze).

        I’m not sure if you were trashing Alcest or just pointing out a categorization problem, but if it’s the former I’d have to agree that they are at best somewhat boring (although I found myself enjoying them live).

        • nydwracu says:

          Mostly trashing the journalist: if it’s a bad example of Alcest, it’s a bad example of Alcest, and if it’s a good example of Alcest, it’s a bad example of the genre.

          But it’s not like I’d pass up an opportunity to trash a band like that.

  25. Until I clicked through, I was expecting your favorite book cover to be something beautiful or inspiring. (Like maybe some savannahs or appropriately feminized faces.)

    But once I clicked through, oh, wow. So many metas. I can’t even.

  26. Matthew says:

    Do remember that most alternatives to Tylenol are worse.

    Is this a pregnancy-specific claim? I’ve always been puzzled by the way doctors default to recommending acetaminophen rather than ibuprofen in people who don’t have bleeding disorders. Isn’t acetominophen way more likely to cause liver damage?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I was specifically talking about pregnancy, although that is controversial.

      In general, it’s harder to get liver damage from responsible use of Tylenol than it is to get stomach ulcers from responsible use of ibuprofen.

      (also some excess risk of cardiovascular disease, I think)

  27. Randy M says:

    “I always figured the “rebel yell”, the supposedly bone-chilling battle cry of the Confederates during the Civil War, was one of those sensations lost to history, like the face of Helen of Troy or the taste of fresh mammoth. But turns out some Confederate veterans lived long enough to be recorded on video and there are clips of them doing the rebel yell on YouTube. It sounds like a crazy person making silly noises, and history is now ruined for me forever.”

    I imagine it would sound different if it wasn’t 60-90 year olds doing it.

    • B says:

      Yeah, crazy is “silly” from some old coot in a coat from a long-vanquished army. Same yell at 20, running at you with a bayonet and the last guy’s guts all over him, different story.

      Generally, from my own martial arts experience (very limited), war cries work both for intimidation and pumping yourself up.

    • Lesser Bull says:

      I was impressed by it. It met my expectations.