"Talks a good game about freedom when out of power, but once he’s in – bam! Everyone's enslaved in the human-flourishing mines."

Open Thread 88.5

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

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392 Responses to Open Thread 88.5

  1. Collin says:

    What inputs do you use for enhancing short to medium-term focus and energy? Caffeine is the obvious one, but I’m curious if anyone has success with anything else.

    • Charles F says:

      So, I’m probably just an idiot, but maybe somebody else has had this problem. I recently realized that I’ve been confusing sleepiness and eye strain. I would feel like I was tired and couldn’t focus, so I’d try to take a nap, and trying to get to sleep would sort of help since at least I would have my eyes closed and not be looking at a screen, but making the screens dimmer and taking breaks ended up helping more.

      The other obvious one is light exercise.

    • quaelegit says:

      Like Charles F, this might be just me, but drinking water can really help — I am pretty much always dehydrated, and when concentrating on something I can get really dehydrated without realizing it.

    • andrewflicker says:

      Short-term? A small burst of physical activity. For some people, a walk around the building is enough. For others, maybe a 10 minute jog, or 60 seconds of fast jumping jacks in the break-room. (For me, it’s the stereotypical ping pong game) Whatever gets the blood pumping.

    • A1987dM says:

      Short term: washing my face with cold water.

      Medium term: getting up, going to the fire escape stairs, stretching a little bit, and taking a few deep breaths while looking at the landscape.

    • Incurian says:

      When I start to feel fatigued it’s usually because I forgot to eat anything that day, so I take a break to eat and my brain works again. Certain music helps me focus, as does eating sunflower seeds. I think it’s something about cracking open the shells that soaks up all the excess concentration I don’t need for the task at hand.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I have an aromatherapy thing I put a few drops of “mental focus” oil in. It definitely helps snap me awake.

    • hyperboloid says:

      I’m probably the wrong person to answer this, as I have a medical condition that has symptoms that are legitimately treated with powerful stimulants; but I really can’t overstate the benefits of Dexedrine. Truckers, bikers, kamikaze pilots, Nazi war criminals, not to mention millions of terminally underf*cked 1950s house wives, couldn’t all be wrong.

      Sure, they say it makes some people paranoid, even psychotic , but I’ve been taking it for years, and I’m as sane as I’ve ever been.

      ……Whatever the giant talking banana spider that lives in my closet has been telling people.

      Because, and I can’t emphasize this enough, Mr Bongos is not to be trusted. I’ll let you in on a secret; he’s a thirty third degree Freemason, and part of an international conspiracy lead by Jeremy Piven, Mario Kreutzberger Don Francisco, and Beatrix of the Netherlands, to poison the nation’s gumdrop supply with mind controlling fluoride.

      But I’ve already said too much.

    • Don_Flamingo says:

      Armodafinil with lots of grapefruit juice, cucumin-pepper supplements and breaks in-between to keep the tolerance down (building tolerance to it isn’t actually scientifically well established, but lots of people seem to report it, might just be some kind of building sleep debt).
      Exercise (also helped by the focus of Moda).
      1-4 cups of coffee, too. But mainly for the taste I feel (the machine at my gym makes great coffee).
      Playing around with Vinprocetine a bit recently, but it probably doesn’t do all that much, except maybe suppress my immune system a bit (or it’s just too hard to tell, if you’re on Moda anyway).

      I try to get into the habit of smelling eucalyptus oil at times, when doing spaced repetition for supposedly improved memory (not sure how much it would do for me, since I’m pretty sure I have Hyposmia).

      Psychologically, I think I need to get myself into this ‘rage to master’-mindset somehow, that all the prodigies seem to have. I think, I’m just too content and laid back to really be as brilliant as the hardware could theoretically allow for.

      Also I’ve been trying to set up internet filters that are annoying enough to not want hack around, but flexible enough, that I don’t have to annoy my trusted flatmate all the time, when I genuinely need to unblock something (like if it blocks YouTube, but also Khan Academy videos on YouTube, it’s bad; if it blocks SSC completely, bad; if not at all, also bad). I can rely on not wanting to ask my flatmate for the pw, when I’d use the internet for non-sense.

    • Standing in the Shadows says:

      Physical exercise. Get a standing desk. Go for a walk. Lift weights.

      Standing on a treadmill, or going for a real walk, makes long boring conference calls bearable for me.

      I’m considering setting up a voice notes recorder app on my phone, since I’m flooded with ideas when I’m walking or light lifting.

  2. AKL says:

    Do folks have recommendations for blogs or sites that have both (a) high quality content and (b) a signal to noise ratio approaching 1? Probably the only site I know comparable to SSC by those metrics is http://www.stratechery.com.

    • quaelegit says:

      For what topic? I really like Mike Dash’s history blog (https://mikedashhistory.com/). I’m no historian, so I can’t say that it’s perfect, but it read’s like Bean’s effortposts, and he provides a long list of citations at the end of each post. The main con is he has a new update only every few months (or even less frequently…)

      • AKL says:

        Cool – I’ll check it out, thanks.

        Re topic: I’m not too picky. I was (am) not interested the intersection of business and tech, for example, but enjoy reading the blog I referenced above because I almost always learn something when I visit it.

        Probably the majority of my internet based procrastination time is spent on news and/or sports adjacent sites, but I wouldn’t say I am overwhelmingly thrilled with the quality of what’s out there in that regard.

        • gbdub says:

          Smart Football is a great read if you are at all into sports and read SSC. Today’s top post involves the expected value of drafting QBs, and both Bayesian reasoning AND “Thinking Fast and Slow” are referenced.

          Nerds dismiss “sportsball” at their peril – there’s actually a ton of cool nerdy stuff like probability, stats, game theory, metagames, etc. etc. Football is particularly great, since the discrete playcalling adds a whole extra tactical level compared to other sports.

          EDIT: been having so much fun with the archives there I hadn’t realized how long it had been since Chris updated the site. Oh well.

          • AKL says:

            I’ll check it out. It’s been defunct since the writer moved to fivethirtyeight (where he publishes a feature VERY occasionally) but Ben Morris at https://skepticalsports.com/ is my favorite sports analyst, and it’s not close. The archives there, and his history at fivethirtyeight are definitely worth checking out.

    • albatross11 says:

      If you are interested in microbiology, Vincent Racceniello’s podcasts are quite nice. This Week In {Virology, Microbiology, Parasitism, Evolution} plus I think a new one on immunology and an occasional podcast on vertical farming/urban agriculture.

      I’ve found most episodes of Conversations with Tyler (Cowen) to be quite interesting. Often a little more surface-level than I’d like, but full of interesting ideas and questions.

      If you speak Spanish and like microbiology, there’s also “Mundo de los Microbios,” which is worth listening to.

      I’ve also listened to a few Waking Up with Sam Harris podcasts. They’re a little more uneven–I thought his interviews with Charles Murray and Zeynep Tufekci were interesting, though.

    • SamChevre says:

      Derek Lowe’s In the Pipeline, if you enjoy reading about chemistry and especially medicinal chemistry.

      But for sheer fun, start with the series “Things I won’t work with”; it’s hard to pick a favorite, but try this one on mercury azides.

    • AKL says:

      Another one I forgot to mention: there’s a lot of content that I’m not interested in but nonetheless the signal / noise at lawfareblog.com is better than most other sites.

    • cmurdock says:

      I follow several biblical studies blogs, and by far the most interesting, well-written, and neutral-POV one is Is That In The Bible. It’s worth a look if you’re into that sort of thing… but might be dull if you’re not.

      • marshwiggle says:

        It definitely goes out of its way to be well-written, that is, it is intended to be read without a background in the subjects it covers, but neutral-POV? What two positions is it neutral between?

        • cmurdock says:

          Neutral in that the author doesn’t seem to want to get involved in CW-y aspects of Christianity, or comment on current issues or controversies, or participate in debates, etc. That said, of course, you might disagree. I’m well aware that calling something “neutral” can sometimes just be a self-serving way of saying that something accords with one’s own views on a subject– which I could be doing unintentionally here.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      I’d think there’d be lots of sites with slightly more noise than signal, if that’s really what you’re looking for.

    • littskad says:

      Language Log (http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/) is usually pretty good (especially, in my opinion, the posts by Victor Mair on, mostly, Chinese languages). LanguageHat (http://languagehat.com/) is also good if you’re interested in Russian literature, language translation issues, and general language esoterica.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      In addition to the above mentions of Lawfareblog and In The Pipeline (his article on FOOF is my personal favorite – beats even the mercury azide one), there’s Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, Extra Credits’ series on history on YouTube, Rocket Jump Film School’s YouTube channel on filmmaking, The American Interest on conservative issues, and of course, David Friedman’s blog.

  3. pontifex says:

    So I’ve been doing some remodelling of my home in the Bay Area. And what I learned about construction is that it’s terrible. It is a super shady business. I don’t know if it’s just a California thing, or if it’s like this everywhere.

    The first thing is contractors. They’re supposed to be licensed, and most are. But they often use subcontractors who are illegal immigrants. In fact, many times the guy with the license never bothers to show up on the job site. Instead you have a team of Spanish speaking people. Luckily I speak Spanish.

    The labor market for construction is extremely tight right now. The first reason is because the fires destroyed many homes in the North Bay just and now they need people to rebuild. The second reason is because of Trump enforcing immigration restrictions more stringently. I am not saying it’s good, not saying it’s bad (that’s a CW topic there). But if you want to remodel now in California– you picked the wrong time.

    In this situation, contractors have the upper hand in negotiation. They barely bother to pretend they will show up at an agreed-on time. Many of them don’t even submit a bid on jobs. Just be sure to remember the magic words for getting a price discount: “all cash.”

    You might think that the city would have a plan for every building. But you would be wrong about that. Many don’t have floor plans for anything older than a few decades. If they do, they aren’t going to have records of things like whether it was made with lead paint or asbestos. And earthquake safety? You’re joking, right? That’s on you.

    If you know the years when lead paint and asbestos were banned, and your house was after that, that gives you some information. But those things actually happened fairly recently (lead 1978, asbestos 1989), and builders were allowed to use up their existing stocks of materials after the ban. So you ought to test. But the state actually punishes you for testing. If you don’t do tests, you can do whatever you want. If you do a test and it comes back positive, you now have a lot of obligations. (We tested anyway, but many people don’t.)

    I will never understand lead paint. What kind of moral monster would create that? If you’ve ever been around when painting is happening, you know that it gets all over absolutely everything. It is like exploding a confetti bomb in your house. I guess the past was terrible, or something.

    • Loquat says:

      Lead paint existed for more or less the same reason as leaded gasoline – the lead is doing something useful. In the case of paint, lead helps the paint resist moisture and be more durable, and also be more opaque.

      Apparently lead paint is older than Christianity – we have records mentioning it as early as the 4th century BC. Even before the concept of lead poisoning was generally known, people knew making lead-based paint was hazardous for the worker doing it, but artists loved the stuff because it was really good paint. And where there’s a market, well…

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I seem to recall the Federal government requiring anyone doing work for them to use lead paint as recently as the 1940s or 1950s, but google results are now dominated by current Federal requirements and abatement plans so I can’t verify this any more.

    • Well... says:

      The illegal immigrant thing is not exclusive to the Bay Area, but it is not universal either.

      The cash discount thing is, in my experience, pretty universal.

      In my scrappier years right out of high school I used to be a subcontractor, and one of the things I did as a subcontractor was paint houses. Maybe I’m just very tidy, but I definitely didn’t get paint all over everything. I used dropcloths and tape of course, but it was more to keep off the rare but inevitable stray drop you don’t notice than to prevent a splatter-fest.

    • James Miller says:

      It would seem like a higher price, higher quality construction firm should arise that invests in having a good brand name. I wonder if the advantages of breaking the law and knowingly hiring illegal immigrants and avoiding taxes is so strong that it prevents honest, reputable firms from arising.

      • Well... says:

        Sanctuary cities, man! But in the interests of CW-freedom I digress.

        Anyway you’re right, you’d think a firm would come around to fill that vacuum. My wife and I, and other black women I know, have wondered the same thing about black hair salons. Apparently there’s this universal issue faced by black women who want their hair braided/treated in a timely fashion, where the experience they want is:

        1. Set an appointment
        2. Show up at time of said appointment.
        3. Get hair braided/treated.
        4. Leave within a reasonable amount of time (1-3 hours later) with hair done.

        and instead what they get is:

        1. Set an appointment
        2. Show up at time of said appointment.
        3. Wait 1-6 hours for stylist to get there/wake up/get done with something else/get off the phone/etc. Sometimes have to reschedule for later in the day, usually without getting so much as an apology.
        4. Start to get hair braided/treated.
        5. Wait while stylist wanders off to talk to someone else/answer the phone/discipline kid/have a snack/etc.
        6. Get hair braided/treated a little more.
        7. Wait while stylist wanders off again to talk to someone else/answer the phone/discipline kid/have a snack/etc.
        8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 more times than you can believe you are living through.
        9. Pay an exorbitant amount of money (only cash is accepted) and leave, sometimes with car having been broken into because these places are ALWAYS in the hood.

        So, if you wanna rake it in, you just need to do better than that.

        But why has the market failed to respond? Maybe there’s a reason. I don’t know.

        • James Miller says:

          My intro micro students each have to write a short paper. One possible topic is to create a business plan. Over the years many students have written plans to start a hair salon for black women because, they have written, there is a big unmet need.

        • Deiseach says:

          This is why qualifications. Because a good trade teaching school will make sure you have a professional attitude to the work, and not do the “I’m not paper qualified, I’m doing this as an amateur out of my home, I’m treating my customers the same way I’d treat family members/friends that I was doing this for free” attitude above.

          Unfortunately, as mentioned, it takes money to set up a small business like that, and when you’re competing with “doing it out of my front room at home and not declaring any income”, it’s hard for you to raise the money to set up and hard to compete and stay in business. Most hairdressers work on an apprenticeship system where you work for someone in their salon while you get experience, get a reputation as a good hairdresser and save up enough to set up your own salon (if that’s what you want). I don’t know what the solution for black women wanting to set up hair salons for black women customers is like, outside of areas where there is enough of a black population to make that business workable (otherwise you would need to cater for white/other customers as well and I have no idea if that would even fly).

      • Brad says:

        It’s been my experience that reputation systems for services aimed at the general public are not very good — off or online. I’ve observed that as both a service provider and as a customer. The biggest problem is that often the customers have no idea how good a job the provider did. But other problems include disproportionate effect of unreasonable people, bizarrely uneven price sensitivity (people will drive across town to save $0.04/gallon for gas and then pump it while drinking a $4 cup of coffee), disparate attitudes towards bargaining, and I’m sure plenty of other factors I haven’t considered. Online has the additional problem of rampant sockpuppeting.

        • Jiro says:

          Driving across town to save an amount of money less than the cost of the driving can be modelled as precommitment. You precommit to buying from the place with the lower price even if it’s far away because if you do, shops will be in price competition with far away shops. However, this only works if you follow through on the precommitment even when it would be disadvantageous.

          It doesn’t apply to coffee because the coffee is only desirable when it’s at the same spot; you can’t funge between expensive coffee at the gas station and cheap coffee which requires an extra trip. If you treat “coffee+gas” as a single item, the same argument applies to the item as to the gas alone, but people normally do not choose gas stations based on the availability of coffee.

          You can also model it as certain types of decision theory with similar consequences: you should shop at the place with the higher travel cost and lower price because as long as the stores know that lots of people are that kind of person, they will have to keep their prices low.

          • You precommit to buying from the place with the lower price even if it’s far away because if you do, shops will be in price competition with far away shops.

            That runs into the public good problem. The benefit of getting shops to compete is shared with all the other customers, the cost is paid by you. Unless the number of customers is very small it is not likely to be in your interest.

          • A1987dM says:

            You precommit to buying from the place with the lower price even if it’s far away because if you do, shops will be in price competition with far away shops.

            This removes the incentive for people to open shops close to where people live rather than in the middle of nowhere. IOW you want shops to compete on total price (incl. getting there), not just monetary price.

          • Jiro says:

            That runs into the public good problem.

            Yes, but I’m not claiming that people are logicians who sit down and say “I am going to precommit” and manipulate their brain to be stubborn about shopping at the store with the lowest price. The idea of acting this way evolved (probably memetically) and is shared by most members of society, and works because it’s shared by most members of society. They can’t consciously defect, because they didn’t consciously decide to precommit.

            This removes the incentive for people to open shops close to where people live rather than in the middle of nowhere.

            To avoid this problem, you should precommit to go to the shop which has the lowest price weighted by distance, but your weight should be less than 100% of the cost of driving the extra distance. So you would shop at a place that charged 10 cents less that cost 50 cents extra to get to, but you wouldn’t shop at a place that charged 10 cents less but cost $100 to get to.

            Again, people actually behave that way. People will drive at a cost of more than $X in order to save $X on a purchase, but there’s still a point where the distance is enough to discourage them.

          • A1987dM says:

            Then you should precommit to go to the shop which has the lowest price weighted by distance, but your weight should be less than 100% of the cost of driving the extra distance.

            Only if you enjoy driving — if you dislike driving it should be more than 100%, and if you are indifferent between driving and whatever else you would do with your time it should be exactly 100%. Or am I missing something?

            Again, people actually behave that way. People will drive at a cost of more than $X in order to save $X on a purchase

            Just because they do it doesn’t mean it’s not stupid.

          • Jiro says:

            Only if you enjoy driving — if you dislike driving it should be more than 100%, and if you are indifferent between driving and whatever else you would do with your time it should be exactly 100%. Or am I missing something?

            Yes, you’re missing something. That’s how much you should weight it without a precommitment. The whole idea of a precommitment is that you arrange things ahead of time such that you will lose in situation X in a way which makes situation X less likely.

            In this case, you shop at the cheaper store, even if far away and you lose by doing so, because stores, knowing this, have to compete on prices, making it less likely that you’ll have to go to the far away store to get the cheaper price.

            The only reasons you need to weigh the cost of driving at all (monetary or otherwise) are 1) to prevent the problem of stores building in the middle of nowhere, and 2) because there’s some small price differential that’s sufficiently small that the gain from forcing stores to compete at that level doesn’t outweigh the loss from following through on the precommitments even considering how often that happens.

        • Aapje says:

          @Brad

          The reputation problem is also why chains can do so well, because reputation can be built up for many stores at the same time.

      • Matt M says:

        Is the “solution” as simple as finding the most expensive contractor around and choosing them?

        I recently went from a ~50k/yr income to ~150k and have been trying to play this game of finding higher quality at a reasonable value. But the value is always difficult to determine. I’ve basically started just arbitrarily looking for higher-priced things, assuming that the quality will inevitably follow.

        The correlation between price and quality isn’t perfect, but it’s close enough to be a good heuristic. If you want good quality, you have to eliminate price as a consideration entirely. Don’t look for a good “middle ground” because everyone is already looking for that. Find the most expensive contractor or hair salon you can.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Is the “solution” as simple as finding the most expensive contractor around and choosing them?

          No. The most expensive contractor is probably expensive because he caters at best to people spending other people’s money, or at worst to suckers. You probably want someone in the top third (the very cheapest in initial estimate are probably out and out rip-off artists, and the lower part of what remains may be no less honest than the upper but they’re cutting corners to appeal to more price-sensitive customers), but not the most expensive.

          • johan_larson says:

            Find someone who works with construction contractors a lot and ask them for advice. Do you know a real estate agent you trust? Have any of your friends had recent work done with good results?

          • Matt M says:

            Right, sorry, should have clarified. You don’t have to have THE most expensive – just someone adequately expensive such that anyone for whom price is a top concern at all is weeded out from purchasing it.

            You want to select among vendors who are not competing on price. Like, at all.

          • bean says:

            You want to select among vendors who are not competing on price. Like, at all.

            That’s putting it a bit strongly. You do want to avoid buying from those catering to people whose only metric is cost, and thus competing only on price. That gets Spirit (the airline). But there’s competition on price in almost all fields. But Southwest competes on price, and on service.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            Bean apparently thinks much higher of Southwest customer service than I do. I would not qualify it as a particularly good experience among domestic airlines.

            Part of that is that I think my fellow fliers suck more on Southwest (I think we’ve discussed this before) so the entire experience is more frustrating.

          • bean says:

            Bean apparently thinks much higher of Southwest customer service than I do. I would not qualify it as a particularly good experience among domestic airlines.

            Part of that is that I think my fellow fliers suck more on Southwest (I think we’ve discussed this before) so the entire experience is more frustrating.

            I’ve flown all of the US big four in the past year, although United was a longhaul, so they don’t really count. I’ll stand by Southwest being a better experience overall than Delta or American. But if you don’t like Southwest, replace them with your airline of choice (Alaska, IIRC). And I’ll grant that Alaska is a very good airline, but they only work well in certain markets. Mine is not one of them. They have one flight here, and it’s a regional jet to Seattle. This is not an experience I’m particularly eager to have.

            (I’m actually starting to wonder about how different people have different experiences with airlines. I know several people who swear by United, and others who loathe it. Same with Southwest. I suspect it’s that a lot of people don’t fly enough on enough different airlines to have a good S/N ratio on their evaluations.)

          • Matt M says:

            Part of that is that I think my fellow fliers suck more on Southwest (I think we’ve discussed this before) so the entire experience is more frustrating.

            I’m sure this is also part of the issue with hair salons.

            I hear bean’s point, but stand by my statement. If you’re noticing a trend of low quality, then you need to consciously and deliberately separate yourself from all the customers who seem content with low quality, and the only way to do so is to consciously select a above-average cost vendor.

            Southwest is very very price conscious, just because Spirit is moreso doesn’t mean they’re not.

          • bean says:

            Southwest is very very price conscious, just because Spirit is moreso doesn’t mean they’re not.

            Southwest has done a very good job of branding themselves as cheap. It’s not really true any more, though. (It was up to, oh, 10 years or so ago, but for various reasons, they usually are about the same price as the legacies. Cheaper if you’re checking bags, though.) Again, I’ve flown SWA, DAL, and AAL fairly recently in relatively similar conditions (I’m not comparing a commuter route with a leisure one) and I doubt you could have told the passengers apart in a blinded test.
            I specifically remember Andrew’s earlier mention of his bad experience on SWA being on a very different type of route than he usually flies on Alaska. That’s going to make a difference.

            If you’re noticing a trend of low quality, then you need to consciously and deliberately separate yourself from all the customers who seem content with low quality, and the only way to do so is to consciously select a above-average cost vendor.

            This, I don’t have a problem with. “Look for the people who are competing for those who want quality” is a perfectly valid message. They may still be competing on price among those people, though.

          • Matt M says:

            Of course when it comes to air travel, the “solution” may not be “choose a different carrier” but rather “get pre-check and pay for business class or better.”

          • albatross11 says:

            I fly fairly often (probably half a dozen times per year in a normal year, mostly inside the US but often with a couple international trips included.) I’d probably rank them as

            Southwest > American/Delta > United

            This may be a function of where I live and where I am flying to.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            Bean is correct that I fly almost exclusively Alaska (and yes, this is enabled by my location, freely admitted.) I don’t think I’d be happy on United or American either, true. But Southwest felt miserable to me.

            While my most common flight is the Google Special SEA->SJC, I take a number of other Alaska flights on what I assume are much more touristy routes: DCA, BOS, ORD, LAX, and most recently ABQ. (Not only is that a very sleepy city, but it was serviced on an E175 flying as Horizon, and there were more people wearing camo on the flight than I’ve ever seen before, so I don’t think you can qualify this as an expert business traveler route.) I consistently have a good time boarding and otherwise dealing with the other customers, at least to the limit of the good time one can have trapped in an aluminum tube with a hundred strangers.

            I’m pretty convinced Southwest is just worse. (Not to mention the plane quality.)

          • Matt M says:

            I miss my Horizon days of BUR-PDX on a semi-regular basis.

            Do they still give out free beer/wine? (Craft beer even if my memory serves me correctly)

          • bean says:

            I’ll grant you that you don’t just fly the Google special, although all of those except ABQ are still fairly big cities. Maybe it’s just what you’re used to. And I haven’t flown Alaska in about two years, so I’m a lot fuzzier on them. (Interestingly, that was actually to Alaska.)

            (Not to mention the plane quality.)

            Uhh….
            Southwest and mainline Alaska fly exactly the same planes. Well, some of Alaska’s are longer, but stretching a 737 to that extent does not make it better, I promise you. As for the regionals, if you think an Embraer is better than a 737, you need your head examined.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            I miss my Horizon days of BUR-PDX on a semi-regular basis.

            Do they still give out free beer/wine? (Craft beer even if my memory serves me correctly)

            They do in first. Status has perks. 🙂

            Southwest and mainline Alaska fly exactly the same planes. Well, some of Alaska’s are longer, but stretching a 737 to that extent does not make it better, I promise you.

            Southwest’s 737s are noticeably older, dirtier, and less well equipped throughout the cabin than Alaska’s. Alaska’s seats are nicer (and have power!), things smell less… While I don’t have formal measurements on it, I’d say they’re considerably quieter too. (I’m not sure if the various CFM56-7B submodels that show up on -800s vs -700s actually makes a difference here to justify my impression–you might know?–but I have noticed much more unpleasant noise on Southwest. Or perhaps the youth of the fleet makes a difference in itself, though I’d *hope* turbofans are maintained enough to not change acoustic characteristics over time.)

            As yet another very minor perk, I vastly prefer Alaska’s free movies to Southwest’s free live TV. If nothing else, I’m 4/4 on my last segments for finding an Anna Kendrick movie I haven’t seen yet. (Latest was Table 19, a surprisingly underrated romcom where my future wife subverts genre expectations a few times.)

            As for the regionals, if you think an Embraer is better than a 737, you need your head examined.

            I would rather fly an Alaska E175 than a Southwest 737. Fight me. You might win, I’ll be drunk on reasonably nice wine. (I’ll also have a free upgrade, since the regionals don’t get a lot of status customers, but honestly I’d say the same for coach.)

            I agree the airframe is much less awesome and all that, I like Boeing as much as the next bloke, but the interior matters.

          • pontifex says:

            @Andrew Hunter: it’s a bit unfair to compare an airline you have status on to one that you don’t, right? I mean, being able to use the lounge, getting free upgrades, etc. are going to influence your perception a lot.

            @bean: Mentally I break the US airlines down into three groups. Super low-cost airlines like Spirit or Frontier, which are predictably terrible and absurdly penny-pinching. Old-line airlines like United or Delta with aging fleets, crushing pension and salary obligations, and the kind of vaguely surly and bureaucratic service I associate with East Germany before Communism fell. And finally, small regional airlines that give reasonable service for reasonable prices– like Alaskan, Hawaiian, Southwest, etc.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            @Andrew Hunter: it’s a bit unfair to compare an airline you have status on to one that you don’t, right? I mean, being able to use the lounge, getting free upgrades, etc. are going to influence your perception a lot.

            I had my very first status flight ever this Saturday (my business travel really ramped up this year.) I am looking forward to the extra perks, but Alaska coach is really quite fine.

          • pontifex says:

            @Andrew Hunter: oh, I see. I wasn’t clear on when you got status.

            I’ve always had good experiences on Alaskan. I had better ones on Air France. They give you as many travel-sized bottles of French wine as you want, for free. And movies.

          • bean says:

            Southwest’s 737s are noticeably older, dirtier, and less well equipped throughout the cabin than Alaska’s. Alaska’s seats are nicer (and have power!), things smell less…

            They aren’t that much older. Southwest’s fleet averages 10.5 years now that the Classics are gone, Alaska’s 8.9. Alaska has recently been doing a lot of cabin refreshes lately, IIRC, but that’s not quite the same thing. I’ll grant you the seat power. Maybe you just got one of Southwest’s remaining -300s? (Which were not the best planes in the sky.)

            While I don’t have formal measurements on it, I’d say they’re considerably quieter too. (I’m not sure if the various CFM56-7B submodels that show up on -800s vs -700s actually makes a difference here to justify my impression–you might know?–but I have noticed much more unpleasant noise on Southwest. Or perhaps the youth of the fleet makes a difference in itself, though I’d *hope* turbofans are maintained enough to not change acoustic characteristics over time.)

            As far as I know, none of this is true. Were you sitting in a different place?

            Again, I’ll grant that Alaska is a very good airline. Possibly the best thing about living in Seattle would be getting to use them. (Disclaimer: From the dry side of Washington.) But they don’t go where I want to, and I don’t recall dramatic differences in passengers from Southwest. But it’s been a while. I’ll pay more attention next time.

            @pontifex

            And finally, small regional airlines that give reasonable service for reasonable prices– like Alaskan, Hawaiian, Southwest, etc.

            Southwest carries more passengers domestically than anyone else. They’ve done a good job of convincing everyone they’re the plucky underdog, but they aren’t really these days. There aren’t many remaining airlines with a regional focus except for Alaska.

        • Jiro says:

          Using price as a signal of quality that way is subject to Goodhart’s law. If everyone decides to purchase based on a quality/price balance, the best one will be the one with the highest price. But if you consciously use price as a measure of quality, merchants will raise prices and price will then cease to be a good measure.

    • CatCube says:

      Lead paint was a thing because lead makes a really, really good paint. It’s less good at making kids not be retards, which is why it was banned*, but we really haven’t developed anything as good at anywhere near the same price point. As a matter of fact, I don’t know if there really is anything as good at any price point.

      When I look at hydraulic steel structures fabricated in the ’50s and ’60s, the red lead and linseed oil primer is just starting to show the same pitting that I observe in our currently-used vinyl system after 15-25 years. And vinyl is really expensive and difficult to apply.

      *ETA: Now that I think about it, it’s technically not banned for anything other than use in homes, but AFAIK there are no reputable firms selling it in the US because of the expense in handling and abatement.

    • The Nybbler says:

      So I’ve been doing some remodelling of my home in the Bay Area. And what I learned about construction is that it’s terrible. It is a super shady business. I don’t know if it’s just a California thing, or if it’s like this everywhere.

      Everywhere. Though there’s serious differences in my area; the subcontractors often speak Portuguese instead of Spanish.

      I will never understand lead paint. What kind of moral monster would create that? If you’ve ever been around when painting is happening, you know that it gets all over absolutely everything.

      Lead paint is only harmful if you take it internally. Painters probably absorbed some but the big danger is sanding it; gets into the air and thus into your lungs. Also exterior lead paint leads to contaminated soil which isn’t so good either. Lead’s been used as a pigment since ancient times, so no doubt whoever came up with it had no idea there was a problem. Look up the pigment called “Emerald Green” if you really want to shudder.

      The great thing if you’re doing renovation is the EPA requires all sorts of protective measures to be taken if working on a house built in a time that might have lead paint (even if it hasn’t been tested). In my area, every contractor will give you a pamphlet telling you about all this and all the safe removal rules they’ll follow. They will then proceed to work without any protective gear at all (well, _sometimes_ a cheap dust mask), because there is no way in the world any homeowner (even in my rather wealthy area) could possibly afford to renovate under the EPA rules.

      • quaelegit says:

        >At the turn of the 20th century, Paris green, blended with lead arsenate, was used in America and elsewhere as an insecticide on produce such as apples. The toxic mixture is said “to have burned the trees and the grass around the trees”. Wikipediait.

        Holy sh*t.

        • pontifex says:

          Lead and arsenic— two great tastes that taste great together.

          The US still struggles with arsenic in rice.

          • quaelegit says:

            (fyi you’re link is slightly incorrect — there’s an extra double-quote character on the end of the URL)

            Oh geez. I eat a lot of rice… how worried should I be about this…

            > Basmati rice from California is the lowest in Arsenic
            > Rices from Texas are among the highest in Arsenic

            You tell me this AFTER I move? 😛 (Tbf I have no idea where the rice I’m buying was grown, so probably doesn’t actually affect me.)

          • keranih says:

            “A huge percentage of the world’s population relies on rice as a main food source, and millions of people may be at risk of developing arsenic-related health problems. That being said, if you eat rice in moderation as a part of a varied diet, you should be totally fine..”

            Arsenic in animal feeds made the headlines a couple years back; here Snoops looks at the publication/publicity issues, but fails to mention that the reason for using arsenic is to kill the internal parasites which weaken the birds and make them not grow well. (It’s not (just) a confinement housing thing – birds pick up parasites from pastures, too.)

            But before one gets ones knickers in a twist, do recall that that is it is the dose that makes the poison; arsenic has long been recognized as an essential nutrient. (Abet in super tiny amounts.)

            There’s not a great deal that “authorities” say about nutrition that doesn’t need to be taken with a grain of salt (*), but that arsenic fears are largely overblown is one of them.

            (*) Yes, I know.

          • pontifex says:

            Sorry about the broken link. The edit window has passed, unfortunately.

            I don’t think anyone seriously disputes that arsenic is a carcinogen, or that arsenic-based fertilizers have greatly increased the amount of it in our rice. Consumer reports’ main point here is that we should be putting a limit on the amount of arsenic in rice that can be sold for food, for the same reason limits exist for drinking water.

            As a consumer, the main thing to keep in mind is, avoid any product with concentrated US rice, such as brown rice syrup. And don’t eat US rice, especially brown rice, every day.

            The micronutrient research is very interesting, thanks. It’s bizarre that arsenic would have any biological use, and still more so that nobody has any idea what it could be.

    • Friends of mine do exterior masonry repair to buildings in the New York City area, mostly high-end historic preservation. Fear of heights is an anti-qualification for this kind of work: they showed me 20 or 30 story buildings they had worked on.

      I heard stories about competing firms staffed by illegal immigrants, ignoring even the most basic safety rules. On the other hand, there were also stodgy contractors that did things strictly by the book, and badly.

      Sometimes foreign workers are a necessity, because certain skills are no longer available here. Another one of this same group of friends brought a bunch of Italian stonemasons in through the Port of Newark, packed them into a big bus, and drove night and day straight through to Lincoln, Nebraska, to work on the state capitol renovation there.* The Italians were all rowdy young guys. Hilarity ensued, but at least the stonework repairs were done right.

      * The Nebraska state capitol, a.k.a “The Tower of the Plains” or “The Penis of the Prairie”, is a marvel (inside and out) of all the amazing and beautiful things that can be done with stone.

      • bean says:

        Ah, the Nebraska state capitol. My family toured about 10 years ago (one of my Mom’s ambitions is to visit all 50), and we got the most enthusiastic tour guide. We still joke about everyone in Nebraska being forced to pray to the state capitol 3 times a day.

    • keranih says:

      This is a really fascinating comment, and I sort of wish it had been brought up in a different thread, as there are multiple rabbit holes to dive down (why would one think the city SHOULD have a copy of the floor plan of MY house!?!?!) but could foreseeable bring about cranky snipping. Pacem.

      You’ve already gotten the response on the lead paint, and I do believe that the people who put the lead in the paint were operating under the same motivations as the people who passed the laws about remodeling old houses that had lead paint (and made it so expensive that no one follows the laws) – they had the best intentions of doing a good job with the information and priorities that they had to hand.

      There has been talk of passing laws about removing lead pipes(*) from houses across the country. I don’t think that people have thought that through entirely – the practical effect will be to condemn houses in quite good shape (okay, fair to decent shape) across the country, but even more so in older homes in poorer neighborhoods where the value of the functional established plumbing makes up a good third of the value of the home. It might be that the long term effect of minor lead levels in water on families in those homes will pencil out as worse than losing the wealth of that home, but I would want to see the math.

      Having said all that – you have my sympathies for remodeling, but only up to a point. I see your “city that doesn’t have old floor plans” and raise you 1) a city which can’t tell me why the road easement is 18 ft from centerline on the other side of the street and 30 foot from centerline on my side 2) property that’s been sold back to the city and back again so many times that they’ve lost nearly a minute of arc from one vital marker (adding up to seven foot over several hundred yards of property line which currently doesn’t belong to *anyone*) 3) road draining sewer lines which had completely disappeared from the area maps – there one year and then *poof* not there anymore the years after. And that’s just the stuff that I’ll share publicly.

      Oh, and *no*, it is not just in SF that construction is iffy and dodgy. Some truly skilled craftsmen of impeccable honesty, and even a few who can accurately judge when to go with ‘perfect’ and when to be satisfied with ‘solid, dependable, and safe’…and then there is the rest of them.

      (*) and copper pipes with a lot of lead solder

      • The Nybbler says:

        (*) and copper pipes with a lot of lead solder

        Which is of course everything before 1986 or so. And replacement of brass elements (valves, etc) with lead-free brass is even later.

      • Deiseach says:

        and copper pipes with a lot of lead solder

        Oh, we’d a problem a couple of years ago with old copper pipes! Pinhead leak which was merrily bubbling away unbeknownst to anyone until eventually it all soaked down a wall in the spare room.

        Plumber called in to repair it replaced the leaky piece with plastic piping and said that’s what is the new standard from now on, and that old pipes are eventually going to develop leaks, but that it would cost so much and be so much trouble to pull up floorboards etc to replace them, it’s best just to do it as a problem develops. Because the copper pipes will last for years and you’ll only rarely have a problem with them, so the trouble and expense of pulling the house about isn’t worth it.

        • pontifex says:

          We added a small amount of new copper pipe recently to match the other copper pipe in the house. Don’t believe what that guy told you, plastic is only the standard if you want to save on cash. And for sewer lines, of course.

      • albatross11 says:

        How much of an actual problem is lead solder in copper pipes?

        • The Nybbler says:

          How much of an actual problem is lead solder in copper pipes?

          Varies considerably. If your water has any hardness and is slightly alkaline (as most drinking water is), not much — the pipes and joints develop a layer of scale which tends to significantly limit leaching.
          So it’s only a problem when new or disturbed. Municipal systems sometimes add chemicals like orthophosphate to bind to the lead and limit leaching. If you have acid water, it can be a significant problem. Acid water also eats the copper pipes leaving copper stains (also copper isn’t particularly good for you either) and produces pinhole leaks like Desiach describes.

          • pontifex says:

            Another question is whether you have a water filter or not for your drinking water. Small amounts of lead and heavy metals can be removed pretty easily by off-the-shelf filters. For example, if your lead level is less than 150 ppb, you can just use a Brita filter to eliminate it.

            If you have acid water, it can be a significant problem. Acid water also eats the copper pipes leaving copper stains (also copper isn’t particularly good for you either) and produces pinhole leaks like Desiach describes.

            My understanding is that you should only have acidic water if you’re using well water, or your local water treatment agency is grossly incompetent (cough, Flint, cough).

          • The Nybbler says:

            Right; I hadn’t heard of adding phosphate until Flint, but I used to live in a house with a well which was acid. After a few pinholes and destroyed water heaters we added a neutralizer (basically a tank filled with limestone)

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        As a general point about keeping track of buildings, How Buildings Learn— a book about how buildings get changed by people– mentions a man who kept what he called The Book of the House. It was a record (with photographs, I think) of all the repairs and changes he made.

        Really valuable, and I think hardly anyone does that sort of thing.

      • pontifex says:

        I guess the reason why I was surprised that the city didn’t have the original plans is that without plans, it’s impossible to enforce building codes very well. Anyone could just claim that whatever they changed has always been like that. The exception is when you’re doing something in a very externally visible way, which we were. I guess there also is the libertarian debate about whether building codes should exist or not, which I guess might get into CW territory, like you said. (But maybe not?)

    • Deiseach says:

      I don’t know if it’s just a California thing, or if it’s like this everywhere.

      Yes. See the British and Irish term “cowboy”, often used for cowboy builder but can be used for any tradesman (and more widely, for anyone claiming expertise or ability they don’t have, who do a shoddy job, and leave you with extra cost to put right what they did).

      If you’ve ever been around when painting is happening, you know that it gets all over absolutely everything.

      Not if they’re doing it right. Yes, paint will drip but if (for example) they’re painting a ceiling, the first thing to do is move all the furniture and items that can be moved, then cover the rest. Use a brush where that is indicated or a paint roller depending; as Well… says, use dropcloths, cover the floors, use tape to prevent smudges and streaks, and wipe any spatters or drops as they happen, else they will last forever on your floors etc. A guy who doesn’t bother with that and just starts straight in is either an amateur (and we’ve all painted our own houses, tried to use short cuts and ended up with paint everywhere as you say) or is a cowboy (see above).

      • pontifex says:

        Sorry, I should have clarified: they were using a paint sprayer system, not brushes. I guess the idea is to avoid having obvious brushstrokes or roller strokes. Using a brush or a roller would probably be quite a bit less messy. But I’ve also observed that old paint chips off and gets everywhere.

        • Eric Rall says:

          The paint sprayers (at least the style of sprayers your painters probably used) are also a lot faster than brushes and rollers, which keeps labor costs down.

    • bean says:

      But the state actually punishes you for testing. If you don’t do tests, you can do whatever you want. If you do a test and it comes back positive, you now have a lot of obligations. (We tested anyway, but many people don’t.)

      We did this once. Had a house (many years ago now) where there was some tile in the kitchen we wanted to take out. We had a contractor working elsewhere, and he said that it did look like asbestos, but that since we (well, my parents) were the dumb homeowners, they could and should just take it out and throw it away. I don’t think the health hazards are that bad if you only do it once. On the other hand, it was also a serious pain to take out. I remember working with a scraper and the hair dryer, slowly peeling it off the floor.

      • JayT says:

        I had a friend who had asbestos siding on his house. The contractor saw it and told my friend the same thing. So, we spent a weekend pulling the siding off the house and took it to the dump. I’m sure we were breaking all kinds of laws, but it also saved him something like thirty or forty thousand.

      • pontifex says:

        Sometimes they included asbestos in the glue they used on the tiles, as well.

        If anyone is thinking of doing this, don’t. But if you still are, be sure to use a P100 respirator. A regular dust mask will do nothing. Asbestos fibers are too small.

    • Randy M says:

      My coatings technology class teacher swears that lead paint binders don’t actually pass through the GI lining. I’m not sure I buy that.
      At the same time, he doesn’t mind too much, since regulations are job security for coatings scientists.

    • Standing in the Shadows says:

      Re paint

      I recently helped some friends move. We picked up a crew of day laborers who wait in front of a local bigbox hardware store to do the mindless “carry all the packed plastic bins from the truck into the house”. Some of the bedrooms were painted some really garish colors, which the kids were starting up the opposition defiant process about having to live with. And I was on the kids’ side, those colors were hideous.

      Turns out one of the day laborers was also a subcontractor painter. The kids were sent with a radio flyer wagon to the local TruValue down the street with a shopping list and carte blance to pick paint colors.

      The guy put up a drop cloth from the supplies, painted the rooms, painted up a second coat, and then came back the next morning for a third coat and touchup.

      And the drop clothes were almost unneeded, there was almost no spatter or drip at all.

      We paid him cash, probably more than he would have got from a lead contractor, and a lot less than what we would have paid a licensed contractor. And we got it done in less than 24 hours.

  4. bean says:

    Iowa Part 4 is posted. This is the last part on Iowa in WW2, and brings the series to the halfway point.
    Also, I posted a slightly revised bibliography, this time with Amazon links.

    • veeloxtrox says:

      Request for the future. If possible, having a before and after photo for any retrofit would be make it easier to see what changed.

      • bean says:

        It’s surprisingly hard to find good photos for that sort of thing. You want similar angles, and to show the relevant details, which may or may not be visible at common scales. The compare of Tennessee worked because it was so obviously very different, but that was not intended to be detailed. Iowa’s 1945 refit was most notable for enclosing the bridge, which you should be able to see between the first and second photo. I could look at adding an arrow for people who don’t know where the bridge is, I guess.
        (Typical mind fallacy alert. I’m having trouble remembering that there may not be people who don’t know at least approximately where to look when I say ‘bridge’.)

        • quaelegit says:

          I know the bridge is where lots of instruments and important people hang out, but I’m not sure I could point to it on a picture of an arbitrary battleship.

          Now that you’ve hinted to compare the two pictures, I’m guessing its the level(s) higher than and a bit behind the six really long guns that face towards the frontbow?

          And for anyone as clueless as me (had to double check bow vs. stern), the “nomenclature” subsection of the Wikipedia article “Ship” has a nice diagram.

          • bean says:

            Exactly. It’s always going to be somewhere you can see pretty well, particularly forward. In practice, that means right behind the forward turrets on any warship. Merchant ships are a bit more complex, but it’s usually pretty obvious with a bit of practice.

          • John Schilling says:

            Also maybe worth noting the difference between the bridge and the conning tower. The conning tower is basically a miniature bridge inside a very heavily armored cylinder, that wants to be in the same place as the actual bridge but typically winds up being either a little bit below and in front or a little bit above and behind. The bridge is the relatively spacious one with actual windows, while the conning tower looks more like a pillbox with vision slits.

            It isn’t necessarily the case that the captain will be in the conning tower during a battle, because he may need the situational awareness that only the bridge can offer. But somebody will be in the conning tower, if only to steer the ship to a place of safety where they can hose what’s left of the captain out of what’s left of the bridge. Are you sure you want to be captain?

            Another place from which the ship might be tactically commanded is the Combat Information Center, which I believe was substantially upgraded in the Iowas as e.g. radar became the primary sensor rather than a gimmick. But that’s usually deep inside the ship and doesn’t show up on photos. At least not the kind you’re allowed to see until the ship has been retired.

          • bean says:

            Also maybe worth noting the difference between the bridge and the conning tower. The conning tower is basically a miniature bridge inside a very heavily armored cylinder, that wants to be in the same place as the actual bridge but typically winds up being either a little bit below and in front or a little bit above and behind. The bridge is the relatively spacious one with actual windows, while the conning tower looks more like a pillbox with vision slits.

            That heavily depends on a bunch of factors I’m not going to go into here. On Iowa, the conning tower is the vertical cylinder visible pre-refit. The bridge was originally open, and wrapped around the front of the ship control level of the conning tower. During the refit, it was enclosed, and an open flying bridge installed above it. The British often installed the bridge several levels higher for a bunch of complicated reasons, and Iowa also has a secondary bridge on the 08 level (main bridge is 04), but for reasons that don’t match why the British did so. This topic is added to the essay list.
            The US typically wrapped the bridge around the conning tower because the conning tower was supposed to be the primary ship control position even in peacetime to develop good habits. This never worked, but BuShips kept trying.

  5. dvr says:

    The Washington DC meetup group is having a Thanksgiving potluck in Silver Spring on Sunday, November 26th! We’ll be eating a turkey*, playing board games, and discussing recent SSC topics. If you’re in the area, you’re welcome to stop by for some 100% rational holiday cheer.

    Email robirahman94@gmail.com for details on the time and location if you’re interested.

    *Also various non-meat-related dishes.

  6. Jeremiah says:

    I’ve been thinking recently about the use of Facebook ads during the election. I’m less interested in what the Russians did or didn’t do, and more interested in whether social media is disproportionately effective on a cost basis for election ads, and whether, to go even farther if social media is going to represent a communication revolution of a similar magnitude to the printing press.

    In part I was prompted by this article in the Economist, which revealed that the Trump campaign was testing 50,000-60,000 different versions of it’s ads every day!!

    So my questions are:

    1- Was a dollar spent on Facebook/social media at least an order of magnitude more effective than a dollar spent on TV?
    2- If so, what does this mean for 2020 (or even 2018)?
    3- What does this mean for elections in general? Are things just going to get more divisive?

    In keeping with the call to avoid controversial topics, I’m looking at this from a systems standpoint rather than an idealogical standpoint.

    • Well... says:

      1 – Don’t know, not qualified to know. But I doubt it and if it was, I doubt it will stay that way.
      2 – See #3
      3 – You don’t need a super-sophisticated AI anymore to simulate customer reviews on Yelp. (I read an academic paper related to this not too long ago but I’m not sure where to find it right this moment.) No reason campaigners couldn’t/wouldn’t use similar technology to simulate FB posts and Tweets, super-targeted to various populations or even individuals. Load them with propaganda or really just unsupported but “viral” “facts” that people will repeat enough times that everyone accepts them as true.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      I think Larry Kestenbaum’s previous points about advertising and messaging in campaigns is very relevant here. In addition, this strikes me as yet another variation of the “This election should’ve been a total one-sided curb-stomp, whatever can have happened?!” narrative. That is, such a massively surprising result must needs be the result of some massively powerful/disruptive event or force.

      I question the validity of that premise, which leads me to be skeptical of the power of social media. Show me more smart upstarts using social media to steal a “sure thing” safe seat out from under popular incumbents with strong bases and I’ll sit up and pay attention.

    • Deiseach says:

      We had a discussion before about “is the money pumped into political campaigns doing anything?” and the premise was “pretty much not, but that doesn’t stop people spending fortunes on the mistaken basis that the more they spend, the more they get the message out”.

      I can’t see myself that Facebook ads make a huge difference in changing minds, rather than ‘preaching to the converted’, but then again the Racist Truck ad in Virginia, which I thought would harm the chances of the Democratic candidate, doesn’t seem to have done so, given his victory in the governorship race (and the other Democrat candidates winning elsewhere). So even if it didn’t gain him any new votes, it didn’t harm his chances either, and it certainly got a lot of publicity that an ordinary political ad wouldn’t have done.

      • dodrian says:

        I think “preaching to the converted” is pretty important, as it tends to be turnout of the converted that matters more than ‘swing voters’.

        • Aapje says:

          Yeah, changing people’s minds significantly is presumably a lot more difficult than getting people to act for something they already believe. So the best strategy seems to be:
          – Make my natural base want to vote
          – Make the other person’s natural base not want to vote

          • albatross11 says:

            I wonder if the “get everyone mad at each other” strategy is more effective than the “get people to change their votes” or even “get people to stay home in disillusionment” strategies.

          • Deiseach says:

            I wonder if the “get everyone mad at each other” strategy is more effective

            Possibly; if you’re neutral or “both parties are a pack of lying, thieving scum” you’re more likely to stay home. Get really fired up about “We have to get our guy in/we have to keep the other guy out or else it’s the end of the world!” will probably motivate people to go out and vote that would otherwise have stayed home.

            So, depressingly, it does seem like polarisation is the way to go if you want to ramp up turnout.

    • Matt M says:

      I’m also interested in this discussion with the added context of the repeated predictions of the imminent demise of Facebook, as measured by its declining popularity among young people.

      I feel like by the time the 60-year old white dudes who run political campaigns officially determine that Facebook is the most effective place to advertise, Facebook will be on a decline and will no longer be the most effective place to advertise. Or maybe not. Maybe even once the young people (who don’t really vote) have all moved on to Instagram, Snapchat, and whatever the next thing is, the grandmas (who actually vote) will still hang around on Facebook?

    • Randy M says:

      50,000 versions of an ad? The article doesn’t detail how this is possible, so I am skeptical there’s anything legitimate about the number. I would guess it is something counting every possible variation on “People in $CITY need to vote for me and my friend $LOCAL_CANDIDATE” but that seems misleading.

    • MrApophenia says:

      I think something Facebook allows for is messaging much more robust than traditional ads. One of the really crazy stories that came out of this was that the Russians used Facebook to set up a Facebook page for a fake white supremacist organization and created a page for their planned anti-Muslim protest, then also created a page for a fake Muslim activist group and their counter protest.

      Both the protest and the counter-protest actually happened. That’s something that would be a lot harder to do without social media.

  7. Rachael says:

    Scott, those abbreviated sonnets on your Tumblr are fantastic.
    Have you read Le Ton Beau de Marot, by Douglas Hofstadter? It reminded me of the things he does in that: taking a poem and rewriting it in a different metre, sometimes in silly ways.

  8. Andrew Hunter says:

    Bean will recognize the artifact I saw yesterday. After the C++ standard committee ended, much of SG1 (in fact, quite a few of the entire committee!) headed to the national nuclear science and history museum, which is exactly as great as it was advertised to be earlier. Half is exhibits on the Manhattan project (actual calutrons!) and a wide variety of bombs. Half is a giant park full of, I think, every rocket we’ve ever had a nuclear warhead for, not to mention quite a few beautiful planes. Even better: several have original engines still attached. Here are a bunch of concurrent programming experts going absolutely nuts trying to reverse engineer the parts of the turbopump for…well, I could tell you, but I’d rather see if the local rocket nerds can ID it. 🙂

    (We spent all week talking about the semantics of atomics, so this felt particularly appropriate, no?)

    • John Schilling says:

      After the C++ standard committee ended, much of SG1 headed to the national nuclear science and history museum

      I can’t be the only one to have misread that the first time through. The nuclear science and history museum would be a good fit for the SG1 team, but only Samantha Carter would be with the C++ standard committee. I suppose Daniel Jackson might have tagged along to keep her company.

      • CatCube says:

        I was trying to parse that in the same way, until realizing that it couldn’t possibly be referring to Stargate.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        I quite honestly didn’t even notice the name collision (partially because even after forcing my way through 2ish seasons I could not find a way to like Stargate. I appreciate it like a cute puppy, and it has great bits and moments, but overall just doesn’t grip me.)

        (For those who haven’t looked it up, SG1 is the concurrency study group. We have many *more* atomics than the Stargate people, but ours are a lot less powerful and lack any naquadah. Also, insert pun about totally broken memory_order_consume here.)

      • Incurian says:

        I’ve been rewatching SG-1 lately, it was definitely what I was thinking.
        /me reveals box cutter
        I’ve noticed a lot of SG-1 plots seem really similar to Star Trek: Voyager plots, except on SG-1 they do it about 10x better and the characters are likeable.

    • Nornagest says:

      So that’s what they actually look like, huh? A lot more impressive than the plastic dummy shells at the shore battery museum I used to go to.

      I think I was expecting something less… shiny, though.

    • bean says:

      Yes, that’s the Mk 23, my very favorite nuclear weapon ever, for obvious reasons.
      The missile is a Titan. It’s neat, but the MX is so much prettier, at least as an aerospace engineer.

      • Nornagest says:

        The Titans don’t even look like weapons to me. Even the early ones had the lines of the space launchers they’d become, not the ICBMs they were. Though all our early ICBMs were like that, and it’s not as weird as the Atlas’s one-and-a-half-stage system.

        I’m kind of fond of the Trident II, myself. It’s got the look of being well adapted to a strange niche, like a hammerhead shark — that aerospike on top, and the reentry vehicles clustered around the third stage motor.

        • Andrew Hunter says:

          The Trident was both wider and shorter than I expected. Makes sense given the space available in an Ohio though. (I wonder: has anyone considered horizontally-mounted ballistic missiles in a submarine, given the shape? Is it not possible to launch them by either standing the sub on its tail or just accepting a non-vertical start?

          • Aapje says:

            A submarine is designed to operate when level and it’s very inconvenient to stand it on its tail. It would presumably require a lot of redesigns and even then it’s something they’d rarely do, so a good chance of problems when they do try.

            The Tomahawk can be fired from a torpedo tube of a submarine, using an enclosing capsule.

            However, the Tomahawk is very small compared to the Trident (3,500 lb vs 130,000 lb). I assume that the main issue with horizontal firing of Tridents is that you can’t reasonably maneuver something that is 37 times the weight of a torpedo/Tomahawk and many times the size, in a submarine. So you need fixed missile tubes and cannot use reloadable ones. A submarine with 24 horizontal Trident missile tubes would look like a skyscraper and cruise around like one.

          • bean says:

            I wonder: has anyone considered horizontally-mounted ballistic missiles in a submarine, given the shape? Is it not possible to launch them by either standing the sub on its tail or just accepting a non-vertical start?

            I’m sure they looked at storing horizontally, surfacing, and launching vertically. Obviously not as good as vertical launch, particularly if someone might be shooting at you. Turning a big missile is hard, and not something I’d want to do. Standing the sub on its tail…. eek. Please, just don’t.

        • bean says:

          The Titans don’t even look like weapons to me. Even the early ones had the lines of the space launchers they’d become, not the ICBMs they were. Though all our early ICBMs were like that, and it’s not as weird as the Atlas’s one-and-a-half-stage system.

          You mean that it’s not as awesome. I love the Atlas, because Bossart was a genius, and balloon tanks are clearly a very good solution to the problems of space launch. I can’t understand why nobody else has used them.

          I’m pretty much with you on the Trident II. There’s a lot of cool features there. I particularly like the ellipsoid primary on the W88.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        The MX has its points, but the engine is much cooler on the Titan. Solid fuel is smart and cool and a great choice but much less fun to look at. (And is of course totally missing.)

        Though the MX 4th-stage/orbital bus firing MMH/NTO (a lovely, totes mcgotes safe mix!) is still mostly there.

        • bean says:

          I admit to not looking very closely at the Titan’s engines, but I wasn’t talking about the missile overall as much as some of the details. Things like the carbon-fiber nozzles, particularly the extending one on the 3rd stage. Astonishing stuff, even today. Titan is pretty unexciting by those standards.
          Also, would you mind me borrowing the picture of the Mk 23 for an upcoming post? All the ones I got were of me with the shell, and didn’t show it that well. I have no clue why.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            Go nuts. If I had known you needed one I’d have taken more time to get a particularly good one.

          • bean says:

            Thanks. Don’t worry about the quality. It’s far from the worst I’ve had to deal with. I had to get Dave Way to get the VJ day bench photo, as I didn’t have one that worked.
            Picking photos has been really interesting, actually. Pearl Harbor BBs parts 2 and 3 were both really hard in different ways. Part 2 was annoying because I found two or three times as many good photos as I had space to use. Part 3 was irritating because there were next to no photos of Suriago itself, so I had to get creative to fill it out.

    • gbdub says:

      Anyone else been to the Titan Missile Museum in Tucson? It’s how I recognized the back end of Titan. They have a preserved silo with the missile still inside – the standard tour takes you through the main level of the silo and the control room, with a chance to “turn the keys” on a simulated launch. Very cool for anyone into aerospace or old computer tech. Or civil engineering.

      Definitely worth the detour if you find yourself driving in AZ.

      • Nornagest says:

        Never been to the Titan Missile Museum, but a few years ago I was at Moffett Field in Mountain View for a martial arts event, and I had some downtime afterwards which I used to go wander around the old blimp hangar. They’ve got a small museum nearby, which I’ve never been inside, but in a service yard next to the museum they had a Titan I, everything but the RV, stretched out on its side in the rain with the stages separated. No plaques or interpretive material, just the missile.

        It seemed like an odd choice for Moffett. Lockheed Martin has a facility nearby, but I don’t think they built missiles there in the Sixties, and while there were some Titan I silos in California they’re all upstate around Beale. Though it looked slapdash enough that maybe that’s just where they had it set up for some kind of restoration work.

  9. toBoot says:

    I have to do a short paper on any current topic in microbiology – usually something like a brief summary of a scientific paper published within the last 18-24 months. I did my last one on the current state of research linking gut microbiota to mental health. There are plenty of good topics out there, but wanted to see if anyone on here had something particularly interesting to recommend!

  10. ManyCookies says:

    Would the U.S Electoral College be an acceptable topic for the CW-free thread, or should I wait until the next Open Thread to rant talk about it?

    • Protagoras says:

      If you have to ask, you should probably wait.

      • ManyCookies says:

        Fair enough. Though interpretations of “overly controversial” range pretty widely from forum to forum, I wasn’t sure where the (rather permissive) Open Topic threads landed on that.

    • rlms says:

      Calm and abstract exploration: maybe. Ranting: no.

    • I look forward to reading and responding to an Electoral College thread next time.

      • Deiseach says:

        As an ignorant foreigner, I’d like to know more about how it works. After the recent result, I saw an awful lot of crying into their beer considered analyses of how it had been set up by stinkin’ slave holders to enable stinkin’ slave states and future stinkin’ slave holders from future stinkin’ slave states to retain control of political machinery by giving them equal representation with collegial votes instead of going by popular vote numbers.

        I can see the rationale behind “simply because this is a large area of population here versus a newly settled territory there, or one big city in the middle of otherwise scattered and spread out rural and semi-rural communities, that is no reason its interests should dominate over the interests of its neighbours”, but again I can also see the appeal of “popular vote wins not electoral vote”.

        So an overview of the topic would be informative, instructive, and educational!

        • Matt M says:

          how it had been set up by stinkin’ slave holders to enable stinkin’ slave states and future stinkin’ slave holders from future stinkin’ slave states to retain control of political machinery by giving them equal representation with collegial votes instead of going by popular vote numbers.

          This seems unlikely. At the time of constitutional ratification, I feel like many of the slaves states were just as populous as the free states.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It actually was one of the reasons for the electoral college. It’s mentioned almost as an aside in Madison’s notes.

            The second difficulty arose from the disproportion of (qualified voters) in the N. & S. States, and the disadvantages which this mode would throw on the latter.

            (“this mode” being direct election of the executive by popular vote)

          • There is a political culture element as well. During the 18th and 19th centuries (except Reconstruction) almost every Southern state was ruled by a very small aristocratic class. Most other people didn’t bother with politics. Hence, even among non-slaves, the South had very low voter participation compared to the North.

          • cassander says:

            @Larry Kestenbaum

            I seem to recall reading that voter participation, nationwide, was the highest in history in the ante-bellum era, and wikipedia confirms. granted, it’s wikipedia, but is that not accurate? Even if rates were low in the south compared to the north, they would still be very high compared to any other point in time, I think.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Wikipedia claims that that is the participation as a proportion of voting age population, but this, which I find quite credible, gives very similar numbers as proportion of eligible voters. Wikipedia cites this. Ultimately the two sources seem to be citing some editions of this and this.

          • quaelegit says:

            Wasn’t suffrage was expanded a lot across the 19th century as property requirements (and other requirements) were changed? I don’t know the details (except that it varied by state), but these changes might make both Larry’s and cassanders’ statements both true. (i.e.g, there was very high voter turnout among the small elite eligible to vote.)

          • Deiseach says:

            As I said, I have no idea what the reality is; it was just in the wake of the election result that there was a lot of aggrieved “why the hell do we need the Electoral College anyway?” and a lot of “it’s racist and was set up by racists and that’s why it elected a racist president” type commentary by amateur sociologists and psephologists.

          • Nornagest says:

            This is veering a little close to culture-war territory.

          • cassander says:

            @quaelegit

            To my knowledge, the big suffrage expansion happened a bit earlier, in the 1810-40 era.

          • quaelegit says:

            @Cassander — the chart in the “Turnout statistics” section of the wikipedia article you linked agrees with that, although I think this is compatible with Larry’s claim. I’ll try to look more into it later.

            @Deiseach — it happens every election (Well, the emphasis on racists probably wasn’t there ’08 and ’12.). I think it’s fair to say that the noise you’ve been seeing online is very unlikely to lead to actual political momentum to change the process. To go into more detail is probably to CW-y for this thread, like nornagest says, but might be a great topic for the next CW thread if you’re still interested.

        • hlynkacg says:

          I’d like to know more about how it works.

          In terms of game mechanics the main thing to remember is that the founders were deeply skeptical of direct democracy. (For good reason if you ask me) There was concern from the very beginning that larger more populous states would use the federal government to bully the less populous ones. IE New York introduces the “Fuck Rhode Island Bill of 1798” New York’s 21 Congressional Representatives all vote in favor, Rhode Island’s 2 Congressional Representatives vote against, and the remaining states votes are split. The bill passes by 19 votes and Rhode Island gets fucked. Giving each state equal representation in the Senate (regardless op population) was intended to check this. This, along with British common-law nostalgia, is why we have a bicameral legislature.

          When it comes to electing a President the Constitution allocates each state a number of Electors (votes) equal to it’s representation in the legislature. 2 for it’s seats in the Senate + 1 for each seat it has in the House of Representatives. Per the Constitution the selection of electors and the casting of their votes is at the discretion of the state legislature. However, most states have since arrived at a procedure where by the state’s electoral votes are cast in the name of which ever candidate won the popular vote in that state.

          • Witness says:

            the Constitution allocates each state a number of Electors (votes) equal to it’s representation in the legislature.

            Strictly speaking, each state chooses Electors (people), which then cast one vote each at the appropriate time. Each state determines its own rules for choosing those Electors.

            The typical (modern) procedure is for candidates on the ballot (or their party) to provide a slate of electors pledged to vote for that candidate if selected, and the state selects the slate provided by the candidate who wins that state’s popular vote.

          • Brad says:

            There was concern from the very beginning that larger more populous states would use the federal government to bully the less populous ones. IE New York introduces the “Fuck Rhode Island Bill of 1798” New York’s 21 Congressional Representatives all vote in favor, Rhode Island’s 2 Congressional Representatives vote against, and the remaining states votes are split. The bill passes by 19 votes and Rhode Island gets fucked.

            Funny example given that the drafting and adoption of the Constitution fucked over Rhode Island against its will.

          • hlynkacg says:

            To the degree that Rhode Island was fucked (which is debatable) they did it to themselves by boycotting the convention. You can’t exercise your veto right if you don’t show up.

          • Brad says:

            Rhode Island should have been able to exercise its veto through inaction. It had no reason to attend a gathering that had no legal force under the existing solemn agreement between the states.

            From the Articles of Confederation:

            Article XIII. Every State shall abide by the determination of the United States in Congress assembled, on all questions which by this confederation are submitted to them. And the Articles of this Confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and the Union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them; unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State.

            And Whereas it hath pleased the Great Governor of the World to incline the hearts of the legislatures we respectively represent in Congress, to approve of, and to authorize us to ratify the said Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union. Know Ye that we the undersigned delegates, by virtue of the power and authority to us given for that purpose, do by these presents, in the name and in behalf of our respective constituents, fully and entirely ratify and confirm each and every of the said Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union, and all and singular the matters and things therein contained: And we do further solemnly plight and engage the faith of our respective constituents, that they shall abide by the determinations of the United States in Congress assembled, on all questions, which by the said Confederation are submitted to them. And that the Articles thereof shall be inviolably observed by the States we respectively represent, and that the Union shall be perpetual.

            And there isn’t even the justification of a mostly different adult population, like the Catalonians argue regarding the Spanish Constitution of 1978, this was only ten years later.

          • Nornagest says:

            @Brad — Wow. That’s far less well-written than the Constitution.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Rhode Island should have been able to exercise its veto through inaction.

            This claim is supported by neither the text of the articles nor by the historical record.

            Per Article X, 9 states may form a quorum. The vote to convene a Constitutional Convention passed unanimously with 12 states in favor and 0 opposed and was thus binding under the original articles. The ratification of the new Constitution by all 13 state legislatures, including Rhode Island’s, settled the matter.

          • Brad says:

            After more than a year of the operation of an illegal new government under the not legitimately in force Constitution. And after said illegal government having passed an embargo against the state of Rhode Island; an embargo which which was in blatant violation of the then still in force Articles of Confederation.

            It’s a good thing this new Constitution wasn’t going to allow Rhode Island to be fucked over by the other states!

          • hlynkacg says:

            As I said above, your claim that the new government was illegal is not supported by the text of Articles or the historical record.

          • Brad says:

            You claim the matter was settled by the ratification of the Constitution by 13 states. That was after the period of time that I’m referring to. If wasn’t then settled, it must have been unsettled.

            The text of the Articles of Confederation require alterations to be confirmed by the legislatures of every State. The relevant text is quoted above. Prior to May 29, 1790 that condition was not met, the Articles of Confederation were still in power and the purported government of the United States was no such thing.

            It seems the federalists were the type that gave no consideration at all to having “solemnly plight[ed] and engage[d] the faith of our respective constituent[s]”. At least they gave King George III the courtesy of explaining their rationale for dissolving the political bands which had connected them. I guess a decent respect to the opinions of mankind had fallen by the wayside.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Articles of Confederation were still in power and the purported government of the United States was no such thing.

            You’re right about the first part but wrong about the second. The Continental Congress remained in session under the Articles and was thus the legitimate government.

            In any case it’s irrelevant to my initial point which was that to the degree that the degree that Rhode Island was fucked (which again is debatable) they did it to themselves by choosing to abstain rather than cast an opposing vote.

        • ManyCookies says:

          @Deiseach

          I was sloppily using the “Electoral College” as shorthand for the U.S presidential election process. If you’re interested in the upcoming discussion on that particular topic, our current process works basically as follows:

          1. Each state has a weighted vote for the presidency, which they cast through a state-wide popular election.
          2. A state’s vote is weighted based on population but is not directly proportional; smaller population states have significantly more weight per capita.

          The “actual” Electoral College works way differently (see hlynkacg’s post and replies) but has been a formality for well over a hundred years. Its intact ideas are basically “President gets chosen independently of national legislative branch” and “small state voters get more weight in this choice”.

          • Matt M says:

            #2 isn’t that hard to actually explain fully.

            The amount of electoral votes a state has is equal to its total of representatives and senators in Congress. Representatives are weighted by population, Senators are fixed at two per state, regardless of population.

            So every state gets electoral votes proportional to its population – plus two more votes, regardless of population. These extra two benefit smaller states more than larger states, for obvious reasons.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            There’s also the min number of representatives: 1.

            California has one representative per 740,000 people or so, a few states get one representative for their entire population which is lower than 740,000 or so. This is a much less significant form of bias.

          • quaelegit says:

            So to finish up Matt M and sandoratthezoo’s math:

            California gets 55 electors for 39M people = one elector per ~710k people

            Wyoming (the least populous state) gets 3 electors for 580k people = one elector per ~190k people.

            This is what Californians usually complain about (with respect to the Electoral college). On the other hand, Wyomingans have to live in Wyoming 😛

          • Gobbobobble says:

            California has ~12.15% of the US population. It also has 53 House seats. 53/435 = 12.18%.

            It is nearly perfectly proportional, second only to Alaska for smallest margin of error. (And Alaska is in the One Rep Club, so it’s a trick of luck that their pop happens to be right on the money)

            Additionally, the national average for pop/rep is ~737,000. California is decidedly average, ranking #27 (with #1 as the lowest).

            If anyone is fucked over in pop/rep distribution, it is small states that are on the cusp of getting another rep: Montana’s 1 rep has to serve all of its just over 1 million residents. Meanwhile, Rhode Island, with its 15k pop more than Montana, has 2 reps and the lowest pop/rep ratio in the nation.

            But please, tell me more about how the system is unfairly biased against the state that has more reps than the bottom twenty-one states combined and has 50% more reps than the #2 state, with those damn dirty small states (like Montana) hoarding such undeserved influence.

          • Nornagest says:

            I hear more complaints about Electoral College representation (which is based on House + Senate seats) than House representation. Because the number of Senate seats per state is fixed, that’s always going to grant an advantage to small states, sometimes quite a substantial one. Though primary timing might matter more in terms of influence on the political process, and while New Hampshire is a small state, Iowa isn’t.

            Oddly, I don’t hear many complaints about representation in the Senate per se, even though that’s way more disproportionate. Probably because it’s easier to understand.

          • ManyCookies says:

            @Gobbobobble

            The electoral votes are the sum the number of representatives and the number of senators. California has 55 electoral votes out of 538, which is ~10% of the electoral votes vs ~12% of the population.

            @Norngest

            I’ve wondered that myself, my pet theory is it’s the winner-take-all nature of the presidency. If a systematic bias causes a party to lose a senate majority, they can still heavily influence policy with their 48-49 senators. Whereas if a systematic bias causes a party to lose a presidency, there’s no granularity and they lose all representation in the executive office.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I want to be super clear that I don’t think that the EC is terrible. For all that small states are overrepresented, their overrepresentation still doesn’t make a ton of difference. The Senate-based EC votes of the 25 smallest states are, after all, 50 of 538 total votes, and aren’t uniformly solid for either of the two parties.

            If there is a reason to change the EC system, I think it’s based on parasite-resistance: that there is no really compelling reason for the EC compared to one of a number of other possible Presidential electoral systems, and changing things up between multiple viable options shakes loose some of the bloodsuckers who are hanging onto us.

          • Brad says:

            Leave aside the bonus votes for the small states. I don’t like the winner take all in each state part (except for Nebraska and Maine). Between the primary calendar and living in a safe state, I end up feeling like the Presidential election is happening to other people, not to me. My media market, the largest in the country, gets hardly any Presidential advertising at all. The candidates come here to raise money and then go out and campaign elsewhere.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @ManyCookies

            Sandor was talking House Reps. But that is true, more commonly complaints are about EC votes. I’m still not inclined to shed tears for California’s lost influence when winning their 55 votes gets you roughly 1/5 of the way to the 280 needed for the win in one fell swoop. Even in a 75% landslide, the 25% worth of voters for the loser is enough to fill the total population of the 10 or 11 smallest states.

            If Californians are so upset about smaller states having a token check on their massive influence proportionally more senators, they could always break up into manageablely-sized states instead of bogarting 12% of the population.

            Edit:
            @sandor
            Fair point, periodic shakeups of parasites power loci are what I believe a functioning democratic republic is supposed to do. I’m not sure the EC is a particularly good case, though, since continuity of the rules is an important ingredient for legitimacy, but I’m open to the possibility.

            @Brad
            100% agreed. Would be awesome if more states followed NE and ME’s lead. (Following the pattern, maybe Delaware next?)

          • Matt M says:

            I think it’d be really tough to gerrymander the borders of california such that the end result was more EC votes for Democrats. Even a single red state emerging from the outcome would probably nullify any gains you’d make from adding senators.

            I mean, maybe if you were really careful about drawing in the more liberal parts of southern Oregon to get that State of Jefferson, and maybe if you required the more rural parts of the east to merge into Nevada, and then cut up the remaining blue chunk into a few smaller blue chunks it’d work?

          • ManyCookies says:

            @Gobbobobble

            We’re veering into CW/controversial territory, we should put a hold on that conversation (“What SHOULD we do about the EC”) until the next Open Thread.

            I do agree California is a bit of a super state that should be refactored for local government reasons, as with other large states.

          • Nornagest says:

            I think it’d be really tough to gerrymander the borders of california such that the end result was more EC votes for Democrats.

            You could probably split it into two states and get that outcome relatively easily. To oversimplify, California is Blue on the coast and Red inland, so draw a line from San Luis Obispo to Mono Lake or something and both NorCal and SoCal would probably end up being safe Democratic states.

          • quaelegit says:

            @Gobbobobble, Many Cookies, et. al — Thanks for the elaboration. Growing up in California, I definitely heard only one side of the argument, and I was explaining what I was familiar with. Agree this may not be a fair complaint. [Also edit: definitely no need to shed tears for California on this issue, we’re pretty good at feeling sorry for ourselves :P]

            @Sandor — maybe, but the “shaking up” process would be pretty painful too. I guess kindof what Gobbobobble was saying.

            @Nornagest — agree that the grainularity is part of it, but I don’t really see what can be done about that — having multiple presidents doesn’t seem like a viable solution. (There’s Ada Palmer’s Humanists’ solution, where the power of the representative is proportional to their share of the vote, but I’m not convinced that would work in real life). But I think another big part of the focus on the EC is that the president is MUCH higher profile than any given congressperson, and probably more than congress as a whole. So more people are paying attention to the presidential election and the EC.

            @Brad — agreed, but I consider this a good thing. It was bad enough in CA, I can’t imagine how it must have been this year in Iowa or Pennsylvania. [EDIT: that is, the relative dearth of advertising in my incredibly-safe-states are a good thing. Agree that I’d like to see more states trying to split the elector votes to be more proportional.]

            Re: California splitting up — that was on the ballot a year or two ago — splitting into 5 states (one of them was literally Silicon Valley) — I assume it was discussed on SSC. But sure, looking forward to what people think on the next CW thread 😛

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Hopefully still outside the bounds of CW…

            @quaelegit

            But I think another big part of the focus on the EC is that the president is MUCH higher profile than any given congressperson, and probably more than congress as a whole. So more people are paying attention to the presidential election and the EC.

            My opinion is that the state you (accurately) describe is a defect we slid into during the 20th century. I’m sympathetic to arguments of the form “the rules don’t work well for the system in practice” but I think a more desirable solution is to de-emphasize the Presidency and somehow get Congress to quit abdicating their responsibilities. (This is likely a pipe dream, though)

          • ManyCookies says:

            @Norngest

            That west-east divide would make the first few divisions easy for Democratic party gerrymanderers. But at some point Los Angeles/San Fran/San Diego counties (or parts of) would need to be their own state, which would necessarily create some packed blue states that would screw up their gerrymandering scheme.

            Though that’s assuming Congress follows precedent and demands certain population and geographical sizes for new states. Otherwise we can make each block of San Francisco its own state and be done with it. Or kick back and watch their real-estate market implode as each apartment building becomes a purchasable loci of U.S political power.

          • Nornagest says:

            The two-state option has the advantage of reflecting a real cultural division. Though if you really wanted to split NorCal from SoCal, a straight line from SLO to Mono Lake would probably be less accurate than one that crossed 101 somewhere around Big Sur, followed the San Andreas Fault southeast, then ran back up the east side of the Sierras to somewhere around Mount Whitney.

            If you started splitting further along cultural lines, you’d probably end up with at least one red state. Jefferson and most of the foothills are solidly Red, and the Central Valley would probably be a GOP-leaning swing state.

          • Matt M says:

            Re: California splitting up — that was on the ballot a year or two ago — splitting into 5 states (one of them was literally Silicon Valley) — I assume it was discussed on SSC. But sure, looking forward to what people think on the next CW thread 😛

            Every semi-serious proposal I’ve seen for this has resulted in at least two states that would be solidly red.

          • pontifex says:

            @Nornagest — agree that the grainularity is part of it, but I don’t really see what can be done about that — having multiple presidents doesn’t seem like a viable solution.

            Well, we could have a group of semi-independent states with their own executives. Kind of a– confederacy? Probably the first region we’d want to split off would be the South, due to its cultural differences. I wonder why nobody ever tried that before?

          • BBA says:

            There’s some political Sapir-Whorf going on in this thread. We’ve all been raised speaking the language of American Constitutionalism and have no vocabulary for things like “power-sharing” or “coalition government.”

            (See also: the demand for a recount being the only solution to any form of election irregularity.)

          • 天可汗 says:

            First of all, California has too many representatives by the only sensible metric, which is that as a failed state it should have zero.

            Second, has anyone mentioned the Holy Roman Empire yet?

          • hyperboloid says:

            @天可汗

            as a failed state

            ¿Que?

            California is by any reasonable measure the most successful state in the union. It has diversified economy that is a world leader in technical innovation, an agricultural sector that is twice the size of the next largest state, and it is center of international trade, tourism, and media. Six of the top ten leading tech companies by market capitalization are based in California, if it were an independent country it would rank as the fifth largest economy in the world, and as ninth by GDP per capita. It has population slightly less than Spain’s, and an economy bigger than than France, Brazill, south Korea, or India.

            True, it has had to depend on a stupid patchwork way of collecting tax revenue, due to a ridiculous populist ballot measure passed in the late 70s, but that doesn’t seem to have held Californians back too much.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @ManyCookies

            Though that’s assuming Congress follows precedent and demands certain population and geographical sizes for new states.

            Both the US Congress and the state legislature(s) of the state(s) being broken up / merged have to agree on the new borders. So no, Congress is not going to vote for something that givens California 100 more Senators, demolishing the power of every other state.

    • S_J says:

      A bit of historical background:

      The various Colonies were mostly self-governing. The troubles between American Colonies and the Crown began in the 1750s, as Parliament and King George attempted to increase both direct control and levels of taxation.

      In 1776, the Declaration of Independence stated that each Colony was now an independent State.

      During the year that followed, Continental Congress began creating Articles of Confederation. The idea was that Continental Congress could tell the rest of the world that the States were United.

      The Articles of Confederation even had an office of President Of the Congress. Thus, while George Washington was leading the Continental Army, several other men served as Presidents Of the Congress under the Articles of Confederation.

      After the war for Independence finished up, the problems of the Articles of Confederation became more obvious.

      So a Convention to propose revisions to the Articles of Confederation was called. This Convention did something more serious than revise the Articles…they proposed a new Constitution.

      The new Constitution created an Executive Branch, and Legislative Branch, and a Judicial Branch. The original design was for the Legislative to be a mix of Representatives and Senators. The People vote on Representatives for their District in the House of Representatives. Each State got equal representation in the Senate, and the States could choose Senators however they wished. (Originally, State Legislatures and/or Governors selected Senators.)

      The President was also supposed to be chosen by the States. The States were called to appoint members to the Electoral College, which would choose the President and Vice President.

      There are all sorts of Culture-War-style arguments about the pros and cons of this process. At the time of the Convention, most of the political tension was between large-population States and small-population States. There was also considerable tension over the institution of slavery, and how the North and South differed over the future of slavery.

      The Electoral College was implemented such that the States could each decide internally how to appoint members. However, it quickly became a system in which the Popular vote of each State determined how the Electoral College of that State should vote.

      The biggest impact of the Electoral College on current American elections is that Presidential Candidates don’t spend all their campaigning time inside the two or three most populous States of the Union.

      • S_J says:

        In case anyone notices, I forgot the Judicial branch.

        Basically, the Judicial branch members are supposed to be chosen by appoinment of the President, and approved by the Senate.

        The Supreme Court of the U.S. is not actually given the power of judging laws to be Constitutional or un-Constitutional. However, the Court published an Opinion in an early case that basically said, if we don’t have this power, no one does…and the U.S. really needs someone to have this power.

        Even this is not a Legal System Very Different From Ours, it is a system in which there is no written rule that gives the Court that power. But the Court assumed that power, and everyone inside the United States agrees that the Court has that power.

        I think of this as an example of society adding something to the Written Law, in a process similar to the processes outlined in David Friedman’s book Legal Systems Very Different From Ours.

      • Matt M says:

        The biggest impact of the Electoral College on current American elections is that Presidential Candidates don’t spend all their campaigning time inside the two or three most populous States of the Union.

        No, instead they spend all their time campaigning inside the two or three most populous “battleground” states.

        I’m very much a states rights sort of guy, but it doesn’t seem obvious to me that a world where politicians spend all their time in New York, California, and Texas would be worse than the current world where they spend all their time in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida.

        • Urstoff says:

          Wouldn’t they spend most of their time campaigning in areas with the most undecided voters? That would be populated areas, obviously, so no Dakotas, but it wouldn’t necessarily be CA, NYC, or Texas.

          • Brad says:

            Getting someone that would definitely vote for you to go to the polls is even better than getting someone that’s unsure who they want to vote for to decide they want to vote for you. For the second person you still have to get them to go to the polls.

          • Matt M says:

            OK, but how is that different from what we have now?

          • Urstoff says:

            Getting someone that would definitely vote for you to go to the polls is even better than getting someone that’s unsure who they want to vote for to decide they want to vote for you. For the second person you still have to get them to go to the polls.

            That’s probably true

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            @Brad I mean, maybe. There are people who are going to vote, and who are persuadable about who to vote for. And if you get a weak supporter of your opponent over to you, you’ve moved the totals two votes in your direction. If you just motivate a supporter of yours who is weak on going to the polls to actually vote, you’ve moved the totals one vote in your direction.

            I think that the smarter campaigns try to find good opportunities to do both.

          • Brad says:

            @sandoratthezoo

            Fair enough. But going further into the argument, it isn’t obvious to me that places that are closer to equipoise are any more likely to have numerically more persuadable voters than places that are far in favor of one party or the other. I’d think the places with the most undecided or weakly decided voters are most likely to be the places with the most people. Same with the most opportunities for increasing turnout.

            States aren’t really the relevant geographic areas, more like MSAs — so NYC, LA, Chicago, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston, Washington DC and so on. These would be top campaign destinations and advertising markets. Probably with slightly different strategies for each candidate because turnout effectiveness depends on the number of supporters reached, while undecided effectiveness only depends on population (or so I’m hypothesiszing).

            The Cincinnati area is all the way down at number 28, with Cleveland and Columbus behind that. They, Tampa, Orlando, and Pittsburgh would be big losers in terms of attention if we shifted to popular vote.

          • Rob K says:

            Given the amount of money that goes into presidential campaigns these days, it seems unrealistic to say that significant resources wouldn’t go into basically every media market. I don’t know where the candidates themselves would be, but given that there’s clearly such a thing as saturation (or at least steeply declining marginal returns) for advertising and field efforts, you’d see much more uniform distribution of campaign spending in a popular vote world.

  11. Well... says:

    Trying again: could anyone recommend a good online place to submit a sci-fi short story?

    • Tuna-Fish says:

      The sci-fi community around spacebattles.com and sufficientvelocity.com is quite vibrant, and both have all the necessary forum features for being good fiction platforms (threadmarks, mostly). They are both american, though, and quite prudish about sexuality.

      • Nornagest says:

        I have… mixed feelings about SB/SV. There are some talented writers there, and if I can stick to just the content it’s usually enjoyable. Also, it’s quite prolific, and the signal-to-noise ratio isn’t bad for such a large public forum. But something about the culture there just makes my skin crawl. The prudery is off-putting, and the moderation is heavy-handed and sanctimonious, but I have a feeling that those are symptoms rather than causes: I get the impression that it suffered from a rash of creepy shit at some point, and rather than addressing the cultural issues that were enabling it, decided to paper it over with mod rules. I’ve seen that sort of dynamic before and the creepiness always ends up getting expressed anyway, just in subtler and usually more sinister ways.

        It’s exceptionally prone to uninformed nerdwank, too. In a lot of ways it reminds me of TV Tropes six or eight years ago.

        • James C says:

          I can kind of echo that sentiment. It’s a good place if you want to share a story and get it in front of a lot of people because the community is large and active. It’s less good as a mechanism for feedback because while there are some good writers there the majority of the commenters are not; worse, quite a few of them think they’re better than they are and don’t mind telling you. I can’t say much about the culture, except I do know a number of authors refuse to ever post to the site again, so take from that what you will.

          All in all, it probably depends on what you want out of posting.

    • AnteriorMotive says:

      The Submission Grinder (http://thegrinder.diabolicalplots.com/) is a tool for writers of short fiction looking to sell their work. It catalogs up to date info on fiction markets and their specifications.

    • Incurian says:

      I’ll read it.

  12. waltonmath says:

    I created (and revise) a checklist for announcing monthly Slate Star Codex meetups. I’m sharing in case others find it useful:

    After the SSC Meetup, you should do the following to set up the next one…
    -IMPORTANT: draft everything once before sending, since you usually make mistakes on these, and mistakes are pretty bad in this situation
    -Include new email addresses
    -Send an email to everyone (include hosts, date AND time, location, RSVP request)
    -Post to the Facebook group
    -Send yourself multiple followupthen emails so you will remind people
    -Update the github meetups page
    -Do any relevant new actions that were discussed at the last meetup
    -Add SSC Meetup to your own Google Calendar

    • aqs says:

      -Update the github meetups page

      I’m sorry to inform you that the maintainers (me and others) are sometimes bit lazy when it comes to pulling in changes.

      Instead I recommend publishing your SSC meetup events on some service (public FB event, public Google calendar, whatever you find easiest to use) that provides a public feed everyone can subscribe to with their favorite calendar app and then shove in the method in everyones nose advertise it.

      You might also be interested in knowing that there also is a private cabal forum for meetup management peer support at https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/ssc-meetup-organizers

  13. Machine Interface says:

    Are terminal values arbitrary by definition? From the moment where you can ground a given value, where you can find a justification for it in the form of a desirable effect, it would seem that it becomes an instrumental value to the desired effect, which becomes the new terminal value. Thus the end of a chain of instrumental values would be, by necessity, an arbitrary point, and we call that arbitrary point a terminal value.

    Thus, when people say “x is good”, you can always ask “why is it good?”, and the answer would always either be “because it leads to y, which is good” (so x is an instrumental value conducing to y) or “I don’t know, it just is” (so x is a terminal value, and arbitrary).

    • Mark says:

      No, because ultimately you reach a cause that isn’t itself a good.

      At the end of the chain of values is a point that isn’t itself a value. I suppose a terminal value would be something pleasant, consistent with whatever physical structure constitutes your mind.

      So, the question becomes whether the physical structure of the mind, and then perhaps the universe is arbitrary.

      I would say the mind isn’t arbitrary – there are reasons for it.

      So, ultimately, perhaps the question is whether the universe is arbitrary. If there is some self contained reason for the universe, if the universe provided its own reason, you might have a non-arbitrary reason for everything.

    • Thus, when people say “x is good”, you can always ask “why is it good?”, and the answer would always either be “because it leads to y, which is good” (so x is an instrumental value conducing to y) or “I don’t know, it just is” (so x is a terminal value, and arbitrary).

      Or, “x is good”, arbitrarily and terminally to whoever declared it, and “x leads to y, which is good” is just an argument to suppport x. With a different audience, the speaker might say “x leads to z, which is good”.

      Maybe x leads to both y and z, or neither, depending on the circumstances. All that might not matter at all to those whose terminal value is x.

      I guess what I’m suggesting is that (when values are competing for resources or attention) people who value x are not going to shrug and say “I don’t know why,” rather, they will attempt to justify it with reference to the questioner’s values.

    • Incurian says:

      The combination of your question and your handle made me giggle.

    • Well... says:

      The computer science world is scrambling to understand values, and this is a good thing, but we’re doing a lot of wheel-reinvention, and their wheels are a bit square.

      Why not leverage the heavy lifting on values research that’s already been done in the social sciences?

      When I did that I learned that it’s more useful to think of values as the motivating goals or principles behind behaviors, rather than just “stuff that you think is important.”

    • Philosophisticat says:

      No. You’re assuming that the only possible explanation of the goodness of something is an instrumental justification. There are other sorts of possible explanations philosophers discuss – analytic (definitional) ones, constitutive ones, synthetic identities, etc.

      You might be skeptical of the possibility of one or more of these other sorts of explanations (the open question argument mentioned above is a reason to be skeptical of analytic explanations, for example) but that takes quite a bit of extra work.

  14. johan_larson says:

    Continuing the poetry game thread from last time.

    A second hint for the one no one has found yet:

    LIHTNLNMC ordered home.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Ah, that does it; makes the direction to search clear.

      Xvcyvat: Gur Ebzna Praghevba’f Fbat

      Looking for “comforts of home” and “call of home” was definitely leading me the wrong way, though I found a “No More Comforts Of Home” false match.

  15. citizencokane had a post that I now can’t find in a recent thread, so I’m putting the response, written when I didn’t have internet access to reply, here:

    The long-term market price of a commodity is, in either case, determined by the price of production, and this is a purely objective statistic that depends only on the typical cost of production and the average world rate of profit, which arise independently of any consumer tastes or utilities of the commodity in question.

    That’s wrong, for a reason I think you already noted—the cost of production depends on the quantity being produced. So does the value to the consumer. The relevant variables for both supply and demand are marginal. The equilibrium price is where marginal value = price = marginal cost. It’s the marginal cost—the cost of producing a little more gold—that’s relevant, not the cost to the typical producer.

    or the idea that it is the utility of things that determines their prices, rather than their costs of production + the average rate of profit.

    The marginal utility. And not determines their prices—equals their prices. What determines the price is the intersection of the supply and demand curve. To say that utility determines price is neither more nor less true than to say production cost determines price.

    I cannot tell from your comments whether you are unfamiliar with conventional price theory or are familiar with it but believe it is wrong.

    I also do not follow your argument for why the world economy would collapse if gold mining stopped and the stock of gold became constant. In the limiting case where all gold is used for monetary purposes and only gold is money, the result would be a gradual rise in the price of gold as the demand for money increased with economic growth, hence a gradual decline in prices measured in gold. There is nothing in the logic of the system that makes that inconsistent with a positive rate of profit.

    and these dollars are 100% backed by assets on the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet.

    I do not see in what sense you think money, specifically currency, is backed by Federal Reserve assets. Neither the treasury nor the Fed has any legal obligation to redeem currency. That has been true since federal reserve notes replaced silver certificates fifty some years ago.

  16. Calvin says:

    I’m trying to explain some rational-sphere terminology to friends of mine and I realized there was one that I kind of understood from context but I’m not sure if I actually know the true meaning of: that being describing something as “object-level”. I suspect the term comes from programming, which isn’t a field I’m terribly familiar with. I’m guess it means something like “real world” or “the level below the first ‘meta-level’ of thinking”.

    Can someone give me a concise explanation of what this term actually means that doesn’t require programming knowledge?

    • rlms says:

      I don’t think it comes from programming, but I don’t have a better suggestion. See here for some discussion/examples.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I’ve been taking “object-level” to mean specific details rather than general theory.

    • toastengineer says:

      I took it as meaning “thinking about real, tangible things” rather than thinking about concepts. You’ve got the object level, where you say “members of my outgroup are evil thugs” and you’ve got the meta levels where you say “but am I just saying that because of ingroup bias?”

      i.e. “let’s keep this to the object level” == “let’s just discuss the actual facts as best we can get them, and their real-world implications; let’s not talk about what believing those facts says about us or the general large clouds of obscurity and confusion that we know are messing with our thoughts and blurring the facts.”

    • skef says:

      This isn’t quite what people mean, but the split between what cognitive scientists call the object level and metacognition is close. Speaking roughly:

      A belief or statement is about a certain set of things, events, properties, etc. — the stuff that if it changed would not affect its meaning, but could change whether it is true or false. “The cat is on the mat” is true when the cat is on the mat, and not when it isn’t.

      So as a first take, you can think of the “object level” as beliefs or statements that are not about anything psychological or cognitive.

      This take is too restrictive, because there are some rather ordinary thoughts about psychology, like “Ben is sad right now”, that may not be importantly different from other object level thoughts.

      So as a second, more nuanced take, you can think of the object level as thoughts that do not concern whether some psychological state is accurate or appropriate, or whether some cognitive process is functioning as it should.

    • Bobby Shaftoe says:

      I think you pretty much nailed it with “the level below the first ‘meta-level’ of thinking”.

      To start with, everyone argues about the thing (object level). After this, people might start making meta arguments about the arguments about the thing. This could be because they care about the meta issues for their own sake, or it could be an attempt to discredit some arguments in order to help a case at the object level. But once the discussion is about the arguments rather than the original subject, it is no longer object level.

  17. Odovacer says:

    Alternatives to Google Maps.

    Does anyone have recommendations? I’m tired of Google Maps not being able to find nearby stores (instead it selects one 10 miles away), sending me through residential neighborhoods, taking left turns at busy intersections w/no stop lights or signs, or on the highway only to get off at the first exit (because maybe it saves a few seconds on my trip). I also want to try fight, in my limited way, against the Google information monopoly.

    I like online maps, they’re very useful, I just don’t want to use Google’s.

    • Well... says:

      Paper maps. I keep a few in my car, they are fantastic. I get them for free with my AAA membership.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Unless your paper maps can give real time direction, I’m pretty sure that’s not what he’s asking for.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Paper maps plus an intelligent child?

          • Well... says:

            Yeah, an intelligent child could provide the realtime turn-by-turn directions half of it if you need it.

          • John Schilling says:

            Yes, but the intelligent child is a much bigger resource hog, doesn’t have an “off” switch, and the eighteen-year service contract is off-putting to many. And delivery is a bitch now that they’ve discontinued the stork option.

          • keranih says:

            The newest models have a 26 year service contract. Plus the casings get upgraded at random intervals, there’s a built-in glitch around 13-17 years where the response rate to information queries drops through the basement and keeps going until it hits molten lava, and actually effecting an override to any performance changes is a right bitch.

            Also the initial break-in period is not user friendly *at all*.

          • marshwiggle says:

            That’s not even counting the extra hazards of the child being intelligent. But think of all the other uses to which an intelligent child can be put. That’s not even counting the unbeatable entertainment value when they try to argue for something.

          • Well... says:

            I was assuming you’ve already got the intelligent child, in which case it needs to be put to some use anyway, both to keep it from mischief and to recoup your investment.

        • Well... says:

          @Wrong Species: I was working from the assumption that Odovacer is not an idiot, and can look at a map, figure out what route to take, then drive that route.

          Once you move from novice to intermediate paper-map-user, you also learn to take note of alternate routes in case you meet obstacles. Couple that with your inherent sense of direction (which you’ll be developing by not driving around with a computer wiping your ass for you telling you where to go) and you will find you basically never get catastrophically lost.

          • bean says:

            Some people can’t. I have one friend who always gets lost even with me navigating, and I’m good at navigation. And even for people who can use a map, what about when you’re in a city that you don’t have a map for, because you’re just passing through on a road trip? Or what about when you want a specific type of food in an area you don’t know that well? The amount of information on a AAA map, pretty though it is, is not enough to replace Google Maps.
            Look, I like paper maps. I think many people are too reliant on satnav systems, and I usually use Google to give me a route I drive myself. But Google Maps and the like are really, really useful, and paper map snobbery is just irritating.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Google maps already has a map on it. If he really didn’t want it to give him directions, he could just stop using it for that purpose. Other than paper maps not having a battery life, there is zero advantage to using one because a gps can do everything better. Odavacer asked for something better than Google maps and you suggested something worse. That would be like asking for a more advanced phone than an IPhone and you suggesting a Nokia. It makes no sense under the parameters of the question.

          • Well... says:

            @bean:

            True, there will always be outliers who basically need men in the street waving lighted wands, otherwise they’ll be hopelessly lost going from their house to the grocery store.

            And yes, there are instances such as the one you mentioned where paper maps cannot feasibly replicate what your smartphone can do. But how often are you really in those situations? Since 2008 (when smartphones became widespread) I have driven all over this country and found myself in a situation like that maybe two or three times.

            Any kind of snobbery is irritating, but paper map snobbery is rare (I don’t know any other paper map snobs, online or on SSC), and besides that it’s nowhere near as irritating (to me anyway) as the public’s over-reliance on satnav systems. Plus there’s satnav system/general smartphone snobbery too, which is way worse because it’s ubiquitous.

            @Wrong Species:

            OP was trying to avoid Google, but true, you could use a TomTom or something. I maintain that paper maps are better than GPS 99% of the time.

          • Wrong Species says:

            What can a paper map do that a GPS on your phone can’t?

          • Well... says:

            What can a paper map do that a GPS on your phone can’t?

            Three things stand out to me right off the bat:

            – Cause you to hone your self-reliance and spatial awareness
            – Work perfectly without any power source or external communication systems, not to mention data plan
            – Keep information about where you’re going/what you’re looking for to its damn self

            But it isn’t really about comparing lists of features or “what can it do.” That’s not a good way to make a technology adoption decision, because it just routes you blindly to whatever technology is flashiest and most feature-rich, without other considerations. Better is to ask does it do the one or two basic things I need it to do (paper maps and GPS both will help you get to an unfamiliar location) and then assess which one better fits into your values and way of life.

          • psmith says:

            (I don’t know any other paper map snobs, online or on SSC)

            Checking in, though I don’t evangelize.

            Hell, I even like (suitably aesthetic, usually nicely shaded topographic) paper maps as wall art.

          • quaelegit says:

            I think Well… had some good answers to Wrong Species’ question. Additionally, I find that paper maps (good ones at least) present more data more clearly than any phone app I’ve used. I understand it’s hard to decide how much to show, especially since the ability to zoom in and out means you have to adapt for many different resolutions, but I don’t think they do it very well. Paper maps can be difficult to learn to read, but once you’ve become familiar with the map you’re set. With phone apps I have to completely re-evaluate (both finding my location and orientation) almost every time I consult it.

            That said I still use my phone for navigation 99.9% of the time. Maybe I should look into buying a nice roadmap set…

          • Wrong Species says:

            Most people already have a phone and data plan so it doesn’t cost anything to use a phone GPS. Meanwhile, you have to go out of your way to buy a paper map of a place that you may end up visiting once and has less features than a GPS. If you really don’t want your spatial skills to atrophy, you can pull up the map on your phone without plotting the destination and figure it out yourself. Do you really expect people to choose something that costs money and does less than something free which does more? If that’s what you want then that’s fine, but you aren’t going to be able to convince many people otherwise. I don’t believe that all new technology is necessarily superior to all old technology, but this is a bizarre one to hold on to.

          • bean says:

            Hell, I even like (suitably aesthetic, usually nicely shaded topographic) paper maps as wall art.

            Oh, absolutely. I like paper maps a great deal, both practically and as art. (Which reminds me that I should get a set for OKC.) But I also think that answering “I’d like a Google Maps replacement” with “use paper”, particularly in the tone Well… used, was not particularly helpful. There’s a lot of good in paper maps, but they can’t do everything a phone can.

          • Deiseach says:

            Couple that with your inherent sense of direction (which you’ll be developing by not driving around with a computer wiping your ass for you telling you where to go)

            My sense of direction is so bad, not alone would I need a computer holding my hand, it would regularly need to tell me “no, THIS is your right hand” 🙂

          • John Schilling says:

            What can a paper map do that a GPS on your phone can’t?

            Provide a handy 12-inch or larger high-resolution display of my route and any alternatives, including all relevant landmarks.

            For planning and visualizing my own route, if I’m not going to have the computer do that for me, I’d rather have the paper map than anything phone-sized. And having done that, I usually don’t need the computer’s help in navigating that route. The phone is for for selecting destinations in the first place, for when I do need real-time navigational or traffic data, and as a second-rate substitute if it would be inconvenient to get a proper map.

            YMMV. Literally, if you’re one of the many people who don’t do visual navigation well and would wind up making wrong turns, so by all means use GPS if that’s what works best for you.

          • quaelegit says:

            Deiseach is not alone — despite my teasing them about it for years, some of my friends can still not tell which way is north –even in our home town, which has a helpful distinctive mountain to the east.

            EDIT (didn’t see his post earlier): very much agree with John’s points about resolution and landmarks.

            >YMMV. Literally

            hah.

          • Brad says:

            Every time I get out of the subway I need to look at two separate street signs in order to orient myself.

            The thing I like best about google maps in the traffic. In the old days you had to try to find the right radio station, listen to traffic, then figure out a new route on the fly if there was an accident on the one were on.

          • Well... says:

            You’re right Bean, my tone was a bit high and mighty the last few posts. But it didn’t get that way until Wrong Species accused me of not understanding what the OP was asking for and pointed out that paper maps don’t have turn by turn navigation, which set off my angry inner Amishman.

          • gbdub says:

            I maintain that paper maps are better than GPS 99% of the time.

            That’s a ridiculous overstatement. I like paper maps. And I have a good sense of direction (not everyone is so blessed, with either the sense of direction, visualization skill, or memory needed to use maps well, and it’s not always their own fault).

            But paper maps can’t update unless you buy a new one. They are useless if you need to figure out where to go (as opposed to plotting a route to a destination you’ve already determined). If you are traveling a long distance, there’s a good chance you’ll need multiple maps, because a map that shows you the interstate routes from say CO to CA won’t have a sufficient level of detail to navigate Denver or LA (or any of the potentially interesting locations along the way). An online map can zoom in or out as needed. And give you pictures of useful landmarks (I’ll often look up a street view of my destination to give a better sense of e.g. good places to park, or just to get a mental note of what I should see when I’ve arrived).

            And those are just the downsides of paper maps vs. static Google Maps or whatever, not even using turn-by-turn directions. Hell, just the fact that turn-by-turns will announce my exit is a plus – even when I know where I’m going, it’s easy to get into a groove and fail to notice how much ground you’ve covered. And then its – “was it exit 53, or 55?” And I don’t have to pull over to check – the map will tell me.

            There are real benefits to building up a good sense of direction, and I encourage people to do it. The ability to construct a mental map is definitely advantageous. And having a paper atlas available in case your batteries are dead, or you’re outside of cell coverage, is a great idea.

            But c’mon. There is no non-Luddite way to justify the “better than GPS 99% of the time” opinion.

          • Well... says:

            Wait, is being a Luddite some kind of immediate disqualifier?

            Another component of this is how you deal with the adverse situation of making a wrong turn, or missing an exit, or having your drive interrupted by an unforeseen obstruction and having to make a detour, or arriving at where you thought your destination was only to find something else, etc. etc.

            The moment they take one step off the happy path, some people panic and are sure they are moments away from winding up in the movie Deliverance. Other people are barely fazed by being completely lost, and never doubt they can still find their way.

            Where someone falls between those two extremes depends on several factors including ones that aren’t necessarily the result of choice.

            Another consideration is the combo of how tightly you tend to schedule things and how punctual you are. If you schedule things tightly AND you aren’t very punctual, you can’t afford to miss a single turn. If you plan for plenty of time between activities and you tend to get there early anyway, then you can probably afford to miss a freeway exit.

            It would be interesting to see if there tends to be a difference in these qualities between paper map users and GPS users.

          • gbdub says:

            Wait, is being a Luddite some kind of immediate disqualifier?

            If you’re trying to convince a non-Luddite about your opinion on technology (on a blog of all places)… yeah kind of.

            You’re making some good points, but you’re talking about the downsides of overreliance on GPS, not the superior utility of paper maps per se. Combining GPS with the ability to use a map is the best of both worlds. I mean, there’s a reason pilots are still taught to read charts, but modern cockpits have GPS nav.

          • Well... says:

            I’ve been talking about BOTH the over-reliance on GPS and the advantages of paper maps per se, and the former feeds into the latter anyway: It’s difficult to lower one’s existing over-reliance on a given technology while still keeping that technology at hand. Do you think pilots would do it without deliberate training?

            I refer to myself as a Luddite jokingly anyway, but I’m not sure why you think Ludditism has to be universal. Otherwise where would you draw the line? Language is a technology, clothes are a technology…a Luddite doesn’t have to be a nude grunter who rejects the use of caves as shelter. We all divide available technologies into those we wish to use and those we don’t. I divide more discriminatingly than many others, I suppose, but I am arguing that this is a good habit to be in.

          • gbdub says:

            Your arguments for the benefits of paper maps are essentially Luddite arguments. Therefore they are unlikely to get much credit from someone without existing Luddite tendencies – at that point the argument is about the benefits of Ludditism rather than the strict question of whether maps or GPS are better. You even admit this: “I divide more discriminatingly than many others, I suppose, but I am arguing that this is a good habit to be in.” That’s all I’m saying.

            I fail to see what arguments you’ve given for the actual superiority of paper maps, apart from lack of battery life or data connectivity concerns. Those hardly create superiority in “99%” of cases (and I’ve provided counter-benefits of electronic maps that you haven’t refuted).

            Your remaining arguments are the Luddite ones – basically that forcing yourself to use paper maps builds character / develops skills / forces you to manage your time better (because you’ll waste more time being lost / navigation errors will take more time to recover from).

            Yeah, you can’t build a skill you never use. Lifting weights makes you stronger. That doesn’t mean that carrying heavy boxes by hand is better than using a dolly or cart 99% of the time. Handwriting is a useful skill – that doesn’t mean snail mail is superior to email 99% of the time. Doing arithmetic in your head is useful – that might mean I should exercise that skill from time to time, but it doesn’t mean I should throw out my calculator.

          • quaelegit says:

            @Well…

            Off topic, but you just reminded me of the worst writing assignment I got in middle school: “write a story where technology stops working.”

            After spending the whole day grumbling about stupid underspecific prompts, EVERYTHING could be considered technology, I bullshitted a story where I knocked out electricity and (for some reason) watch gears.

            ======

            Anyways, on topic:

            @gdub — agree that being able to use both paper and phone maps is best, but I definitely see Well…’s point that encouraging (perhaps to the point of requiring?) people to make an effort to use paper maps is the only way to get them to develop this skill. (I definitely wouldn’t be any good at it if my father hadn’t deliberately trained my at reading Thomas Guides as a kid.)

          • gbdub says:

            @quaelegit – I get the idea that learning pure map reading / direction finding is useful. But that’s an orthogonal question to whether or not paper maps are strictly better by an objective standard of navigation efficiency / accuracy / flexibility or whatever. Well…’s initial assertion was that maps are strictly superior 99% of the time.

            Well I guess that was his second assertion, the first was that paper maps are a superior alternative to Google Maps for someone whose main concerns were searchability (definitely no), main-road routing (yes, but with major caveats), and not using Google (yes). That assertion I don’t object to nearly as strongly.

            I also think Well… has moved the goalposts a bit, since what he really seems to be advocating is not paper map use per se, but the innate sense of place/direction that you’ll get from forcing yourself to use paper maps. Paper maps are so damn inconvenient for real-time navigation that you’ll eventually train yourself out of using them at all, just keeping one in your glove box for once-a-month backup. In other words, he advocates not needing any navigation aids at all which sure, that’s ideal. But in the case where you really do need a navigation aid, online maps are better except in (battery / cell coverage) limited cases.

            And for getting to the “not needing an aid” state, you can do that with online maps as long as you make an attempt to pre-memorize your route and/or actually pay attention to where you are going.

            Usually I’ll use a GPS the first one or two times I go somewhere, then go by memory, because I have a pretty good sense of direction and pay attention to where I’m going. This process would not be appreciably sped up by using a paper map the first time – it would just make the first trip more frustrating.

          • Well... says:

            I don’t think it’s fair to say I’ve moved the goalposts. My arguments have changed scope/focus as the conversation has evolved. Going back to the OP I would respond the same way.

          • gbdub says:

            You’re right, you’ve been hitting the “values” argument than I gave you credit for. What I felt like you’d moved on from was the strong statement that “paper maps are better 99% of the time” to something more like “The skills you gain from navigating with a map are valuable”.

          • Well... says:

            I still think my strong statement is true, although the way I meant it and the way it was likely to be understood, I now realize, are not the same.

            I meant it as, 99% of the time you spend in your car, a paper map will be better, for the reasons I gave. It’s only 1% of the time (probably less) where you absolutely need the things GPS has that paper maps don’t.

            But my statement was likely interpreted as, 99% of the various situations in which you might want to consult some kind of navigation aid, a paper map is better. For that interpretation, I agree 99% is too high a figure.

          • JayT says:

            I’d say that 95% of the time I use a map in my car it is to look up where some specific place is, and I’d guess most people are the same. A paper map is of almost* no use for that, so I don’t see any way your strong claim can be true for anyone except someone that is anti-technology.

            *If you are looking for some major landmark I suppose a paper map could help, but if you’re looking for the closest McDonalds, good luck.

          • Well... says:

            Word? Whenever I look at a map in my car it’s because I’m trying to get someplace and am not sure whether I’m still on track for whatever reason. Paper maps are great for that–just thumb the accordion open to the relevant section and glance at the area around my current location.

            But I’m not really the type who absolutely needs to know on a whim what the nearest [whatever type of business] is or whatever. (Fast food restaurant locations are easy to sniff out without any kind of map–paper or otherwise–because their locations follow such strong patterns, and they try so hard to be conveniently located anyway.) I think I was in a situation like that exactly once in my life, when I had to get to a drug store to get something for one of my kids who got sick while we were on vacation. But then I think I just asked someone at our hotel and they gave me the cross streets and I found it on my paper map.

      • Chalid says:

        I don’t own a car, and I drive maybe once every two months on average, so my opinion is probably one of the least informed possible… but I’d expect that if you were driving someplace with a non-trivial amount of complexity in your streets and highways, you’re likely not going to pick the optimal route.

        For concreteness, my most recent drive was from Tuckahoe, NY to Jersey City, NJ. Looking at Google Maps right now, it suggests three routes, ranging from 42 minutes to 55 minutes (when I did it earlier today the fastest was about an hour, due to more traffic and construction). Just eyeballing them they all look like reasonable routes. There are a few other plausible routes that Google tells me are even worse. Does anyone think that they could look at a paper map of the greater NYC area and reliably figure out which of the various possible routes between those two cities is fastest? Would you be able to do it in under a couple minutes?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Does anyone think that they could look at a paper map of the greater NYC area and reliably figure out which of the various possible routes between those two cities is fastest? Would you be able to do it in under a couple minutes?

          Yeah, but that takes some local knowledge. You have to know that the ones which go a long way through Manhattan are wrong unless it’s 2AM. The winner (which Google Maps agrees with me on) is to take 87 to the GW Bridge, then the New Jersey Turnpike to one of several options getting into Jersey City (depending on where in JC you want to go, and traffic)

          The other route Google Maps gives me is the Cross County Parkway to the Saw Mill River Parkway to 9A through Manhattan to the Lincoln Tunnel, then 1/9 S to Jersey City. This is a pretty bad joke most times of day. The routes which go through Brooklyn or the east side of Manhattan are even sillier.

          • Chalid says:

            Agreed that with local knowledge you can do it, but, in general, GPS and maps are for helping you when you don’t have much local knowledge. I maintain that a random tourist visiting the area wouldn’t reliably pick a good route with just the map.

            FWIW the best route was not obvious to me in spite of having lived in the region for several years, though, as noted above, I’ve driven very little during that time (or ever for that matter). If you just gave me a paper map and said “go” I’d probably have gone down 9A to the Holland Tunnel. I would have known enough not to do that near rush hour but I would have incorrectly expected it to be fine by 9 PM when I wrote the post and did the search.

          • Well... says:

            How many utility points do you get from taking an optimal route everywhere you go? How do those compare with the utility points of generally being able to get around just fine without a GPS and with just a paper map in your glove box that you only need to refer to maybe once a month?

          • gbdub says:

            How many utility points do you get from taking an optimal route everywhere you go?

            Time is valuable and irreplaceable. So potentially a lot, if the non-optimal route wastes a lot of time (as the ignorant tourist route might in Manhattan). EDIT: and even the familiar local can get tripped up by unexpected congestion – sure they could listen to the radio, but it’s VERY hard to argue that’s better than e.g. Waze’s real time reports.

            How do those compare with the utility points of generally being able to get around just fine without a GPS and with just a paper map in your glove box that you only need to refer to maybe once a month?

            If I’m just visiting somewhere, those utility points are basically nil, because I’ll never gain that level of getting-around-ability during my (even more precious) vacation time. Unless I visit the same place over and over again, but that requires that I sacrifice novelty utility points for familiarity points, and those aren’t fungible.

          • quaelegit says:

            @Well… If you drive as infrequently as Chalid, it will take you* years to build up that level of familiarity that you don’t need to refer to the paper map every time.

            *er, depending on memory and navigation/orientation skills I guess. But for most people it would take quite a while.

    • AKL says:

      Some people really like Waze.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Since Waze is owned by Google, I doubt it addresses any of Odovacer’s complaints. It won’t do a better job of finding stores. It might give different directions, but probably is more likely to send him through residential neighborhoods.

        • MrApophenia says:

          I have run side by side comparisons of Google Maps and Waze (had access to 2 phones, live in a super congested area) and I can confirm that they really do give different directions when routing for purposes of speed through traffic. Waze generally seems to produce better results. Not sure why, since Google owns both, but it’s definitely the case.

          Waze will definitely send you through residential areas if the algorithm says it’s faster than main roads, though – that’s pretty much the whole point.

          The store finder also organizes results by proximity to your current location, so this definitely seems like a better option than Google maps.

          • Matt M says:

            Not that I doubt Odo’s story, but I use Google Maps to find stores and have never had this issue. It always prioritizes the closest ones.

          • gbdub says:

            So it pisses off homeowners, but that’s what you get for living on a public street unfortunately. Advantages due to information asymmetry are much harder to maintain in the internet age.

            Though it would be nice for default navigation behavior to be more like “stick to main roads unless time savings is > 5 minutes” or something.

          • bean says:

            Though it would be nice for default navigation behavior to be more like “stick to main roads unless time savings is > 5 minutes” or something.

            That is one of the things I find particularly annoying, particularly with how I use Google (give me the directions, and then I drive them myself). There’s no way to tell it to not try to steer you via lots of twisty side streets.

          • Don P. says:

            When I use Waze, I can’t help noticing that during my little twisty-side-street journeys, I am not alone. “Oh, I guess Waze is sending everyone THIS way today…”

      • gbdub says:

        Waze has been consistently pretty good for me for navigation, but the search tools aren’t as robust (i.e. you’re less likely to find an obscure location by name in Waze vs. Google or Apple Maps, but search-by-address is just as good). Waze seems best at real-time traffic and hazards, at least for practical navigation, and best at updating / suggesting alternate routes automatically as traffic problems occur.

        Honestly the best all-around solution I’ve found is to search for the address on the web through whatever search engine you prefer, and copy the street address directly into Waze.

        Another thing I’ll do, if it’s a long trip into an unfamiliar area, is input the trip into both Apple Maps and Waze (navigating on my iPhone) and compare the routes – if they are significantly different in any way, I’ll try to figure out why before continuing.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          This seems crazy. It seems to me that the first thing Google should have done after buying it in 6/2013 is replace Waze’s search with Google’s search. Is it possible that you established your opinion 3 years ago and stopped testing the search features?
          (The different navigation algorithms make sense. That’s the differentiating feature. Waze is for people who are willing to make changes en route. It’s a little weird that the real-time traffic info doesn’t make it to Google. The data probably goes to Google, but maybe it doesn’t display it because of more smoothing. Also, its reluctance to change routes probably makes you notice it less.)

          • gbdub says:

            Is it possible that you established your opinion 3 years ago and stopped testing the search features

            It’s entirely possible, even likely. I have noticed Waze has gotten a lot better, although oddly when you search, there’s now separate tabs for “search results” (basically useless except for addresses), “Places” (Waze search, with an apparent emphasis on sponsored results), and “Google” (same as Google search).

            Part of it is I just tend to not use the search features on navigation all that often – e.g. if I want to find a restaurant, I use Yelp.

      • Nornagest says:

        I’ve found Waze’s performance in traffic not much better than Google Maps, and the slight improvement isn’t worth dealing with the ads for fast food places that I don’t want to go to.

    • Charles F says:

      My recommendation is to get to know your area really well and to reluctantly use google maps on the very rare occasions when you need to go more than 15 miles away.

  18. Hunter Glenn says:

    I’ve been much impressed by the community working around Street Epistemology. After imitating some of their techniques and mixing them with some of the stuff from the SSCphere, I’ve found that I can discuss highly controversial topics (like the polygamy of the mormons, the religion of the founding fathers, abortion, etc) with people who have their identity wrapped up in the issue, but without the usual tenseness and corresponding defensiveness that I used to experience.

    The basic idea of Street Epistemology is to basically practice the Socratic Method, mixed with good manners and social awareness. Where Socrates “won” while alienating the people he argued with, Street Epistemology practicers often find that the people they talk with want to have another talk on another occasion, or even recommend the chats to their acquaintances.

    Personally, I’ve found that not only is the initial discussion of a difficult topic much more comfortable, the subsequent discussions become progressively more so and more open. The technique actually reminds me a lot of the Double-Crux idea developed by CFAR.
    While not the resounding success of a complete change of mind that many have had (even with strangers), my own experience consists of people becoming willing to admit when they don’t know things, or that they would in fact be willing to depart from their tribe’s usual policies if certain reasonable conditions were met. Much better than things used to be 🙂
    (I know this might sound like just a normal level of epistemic hygiene to many of you, so let me clarify that I’ve been able to have that level of hygiene present in discussions with people who know nothing of our ways and do not ordinarily talk like this).

    There are many examples by different practicers around YT, but some of the best have been condensed here

  19. Gromoclen says:

    In one of the posts on the Prediction theory I found out that people on the autism spectrum pay much more attention to minor irritants on their body, such as clothing labels. Does anybody by chance has any stats how the rate of people on ASD being victims of pickpocketing compare to the rate of neurotypicals?

    • keranih says:

      I’d like to see a comparison of the rate of pickpockets vs the rate of muggings.

      Before seeing the data, my guess is: higher class people get pickpocketed, lower class people get mugged, and autistic people of any class get mugged more often than they get pickpocketed.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Does pickpocketing even occur in the US? I don’t know anyone who has been literally pickpocketed.

        • JayT says:

          I once caught a guy’s hand in my pocket. That was about ten years ago. I was in San Francisco’s Chinatown, in a huge crowd. For some reason I had the thought that I should probably move my wallet from my back pocket to my front pocket, and as I reached into my back pocket, there was a hand there.

        • Witness says:

          Someone attempted to pickpocket me at a Tool concert once, about 14-15 years ago. I had really deep pockets at the time, and was able to catch their arm at the wrist, but couldn’t turn around before they wriggled free (leaving my wallet behind, thankfully).

          It’s definitely not very common, though.

          • Well... says:

            I had really deep pockets at the time, and was able to catch their arm at the wrist

            Elbow deep inside the borderline, eh?

            I would bet most people at Tool concerts 14-15 years ago had really deep pockets (literally, not figuratively) owing to those big oversized pants popular among the set that included Tool fans at the time.

        • Standing in the Shadows says:

          Datapoint.

          I’ve not been a victim of street crime in the US in the past 40 years.

          *Every* *single* *time* I’ve visited Paris, except for just transiting CDG, I at least once find my grip around the wrist of someone’s hand, while that hand is in one of my outer pockets, uninvited.

          I’ve never lost a wallet or phone there, because I don’t ever keep anything in an outer pocket there. I have a friend who’s phone got taken in the lobby of their hotel, on the walk from the front door to the elevators. Reporting it to the front desk got the classic “Gallic Shrug”.

          I wonder what would happen if I then just happened to throw my weight to rotate my hip away from the owner of the uninvited hand, and maybe accidentally break that hand at the wrist. Probably get arrested for a hate crime or something.

          Instead I just glare at them, while they yell at me for a bit, and then I let them go, and they run away while still yelling. About 3/4 of the time, it’s a young woman, who really needs a shower. I’m told I’m not supposed to notice that it’s always a Romani or a Bulgarian.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            non-CW thread. Last sentence.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            Wait, it’s CW violation to be noticing the ground reality of the ethnicity of the pickpockets in Paris?

            The front of the CW keeps moving.

            I didn’t even realize this particular topic was one of the battlefields.

          • gbdub says:

            Making a specific comment about the race of the pickpockets adds nothing of non-CW value to the thread.

            Plus the “I’m not supposed to notice” is a pure CW shot at the outgroup – I’m having a hard time maintaining the assumption that you didn’t know that.

            But being charitable, before there was the “No CW open thread” it was “No race or gender on any open thread”. Avoiding comments about the racial profiles of pickpockets in Paris for one out of every 4 open threads does not strike me as a serious burden on commenting freedom.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            Romani are a different race? Bulgarians?

            Are the Irish now a different race again? Norsemen too? How about Hungarians?

          • Matt M says:

            Look Standing, I am very much on your side on these issues.

            But knock it off. You know what he means…

          • keranih says:

            What Matt M said. Dem’s da house rules. Leave off, for another day.

  20. Andrew Hunter says:

    At dance last night during a discussion of who was giving who a ride home I jokingly told a female friend that she was being lazy by not walking home. She replied that it was midnight, she was a girl, and she didn’t want to get murdered or raped. Reasonable, but I felt obligated to point out that statistically I was at considerably higher risk of getting assaulted, which seems pretty consistently true in crime stats: men are much more likely to be the victims of violent crime, especially from strangers. (Rape, outside prison, admittedly being an exception.) She responded that whatever the rate actually was, she didn’t feel like risking it. Fine by me, if you want to pay for a Lyft, even if I think you’re being overly cautious. But got me thinking: I think it’s well established that women are more cautious about avoiding crime risk, as seen here. This certainly fits with trends elsewhere: men tend to be overly risk-taking dumbasses. (Citation: literally anyone you’ve met with normal testosterone levels under thirty.) Being the off culture war thread, not going to speculate about why, we could name half a dozen reasons.

    How much would we expect this to affect the crime stats? Even if it’s true that most of the people who get murdered on a dark bike path at midnight are men, maybe that’s because only men are stupid enough to go out then. Can anyone think of a method to pull this confound out the stats–some way we can extract a population of men and women who necessarily perform some activity at the same rate, whose victimization rates we can compare?

    Now, there are of course a number of bigger confounds here. Realistically speaking neither me nor my friend is at *any* significant risk, given that we live in a nice-ish area of a rich city, we’re white, highly educated, and don’t involve ourselves in street crime, making us highly atypical victims. (Though I suppose all of those characteristics are, as above, correlated with us not taking stupid chances or hanging around potential criminals.) But I do wonder which parts of this we can eliminate.

    Thoughts?

    • Randy M says:

      Reasonable, but I felt obligated to point out that statistically I was at considerably higher risk of getting assaulted, which seems pretty consistently true in crime stats: men are much more likely to be the victims of violent crime, especially from strangers.

      Though I suppose all of those characteristics are, as above, correlated with us not taking stupid chances or hanging around potential criminals.

      I think these are the key parts of your considerations here; when one sees lifetime crime stats, these are due at least partially to behavior differences. In the first case, you would not necessarily be at a higher risk, because perhaps the difference in victimization rates is due to one sex not being willing to risk going out at night alone, and, in the case where one is already determined to do so, it is likely the chances at victimization will be more equal–though results are going to be related to reactions as well–perhaps criminals are more likely to kill men, for fear of a victim that fights back. Could we look at differences between rates of death by stranger and of mugging?

      This applies to race, as well; perhaps whites are less likely to be victims of homicide (if they are) because they are less likely to be walking in the city at night, having statistically more reliable transportation or living away from the city more often; but, having decided to go walking in the city, the crime rates are not going to help you. (of course, in as much as crime rates are composed of murder of an acquaintance, you are less likely to be killed randomly walking down the street, but that’s independent of race except insofar as black people perhaps are more likely to walk down streets in areas where murderers live)

      It’s like a woman saying “I’m safer if I speed because men are more likely to die in accidents.” Once you’ve taken up a behavior that accounts for some portion of the difference, you can’t really be sure of the resultant odds (unless you know every other factor involved).

    • The Nybbler says:

      Thoughts?

      That kind of talk isn’t going to get you laid. (joking, joking. well, mostly)

      It seems like a really difficult thing to study. In every situation where personal crimes happen, determine how likely it is for men to be in that situation vs women. This lets you figure out crime rate corrected for exposure. But you have to go further than that and determine how much of that difference in exposure is risk aversion. If the men are in the situation not because they’re blase about risk but because (e.g.) they’re more likely to be assigned shift work, you need to correct for that too. But wait, maybe the women are avoiding shift work because of risk aversion… yeah, it gets complicated.

    • gbdub says:

      Epistemic status: gut feelz

      I suspect men’s overrepresentation as victims of physical assault is due to behaviors other than “more willing to walk alone at night”. Behaviors like “being involved in gangs”, “getting into bar fights”, etc.

      Since you are not in a gang, and aren’t taunting bikers at the pub, it probably isn’t actually true that you are more likely to get randomly assaulted on the way home. Random stranger assaults would, I think, generally be muggings (monetary gain), sexual assault, or hate crimes. Muggings, women might be seen as easier targets. Sex assault is obviously more likely to fall on women. Only hate crimes would potentially be more likely to happen to men I think.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        Yeah, I’m super dubious that men are more likely to be assaulted walking home after dark.

      • Matt M says:

        This seems spot on to me. Random man being more likely than random woman says little about you being more likely than your female companion, because neither of you are random.

      • John Schilling says:

        I’d wager that at least 90% of the variance in getting assaulted walking home after dark comes from A: walking alone vs walking in a group and B: attitude/confidence as expressed by body language. In general, women are taught that they have absolutely no defense except strength-in-numbers and learn that lesson too well, whereas men are taught that a real man(tm) is enough of a badass to have no fear alone on the streets and don’t learn well enough how to convey badassery, which is bad for both genders but probably leads to more men than women being assaulted in that fashion.

        In the more specific case, my bet for walking home alone and unassaulted would be on the woman who chooses to walk alone, being selected from among the most self-confident yet still cautious subset of women. The woman who would not have so chosen but is forced or goaded into it, that’s another matter.

        • Rob K says:

          I’m gonna tentatively guess that you’re wrong about the confidence thing. I think that selection of where to walk, when, is a huge deal.

          I’ve had two encounters with street violence in my life. I’m a tall, physically fit guy, who walks with enough visible confidence that friends in college used to comment on my stride being recognizable at a distance.

          In both cases, though, I was out late on a street that people did not tend to walk down late – once because I was 21, I’d gotten off work at 10, and hell if I was going to take the long way to the grocery store just to be under the streetlights, and once because I was drunk, 22, and in a city I’d never been in before.

          In the latter case the guys clearly wanted my wallet, so I assume pretty much anyone on that spot would have gotten the same treatment. The former was a group of teenagers who apparently wanted to beat me up, and it may be that the fact that I looked like a challenge was part of the appeal.

          (In both cases, since I was pretty fleet of foot back in the day, I removed myself rapidly from the environment with minimal damage.)

          To the best of my knowledge, this is the only experience with random street violence among my friends (who live in similar environments to me), so I assume that my greater risk tolerance (/risk obliviousness) in my early 20s accounts for the difference.

    • JayT says:

      statistically I was at considerably higher risk of getting assaulted

      I’m not so certain this is actually correct. It’s true that _men_ are statistically more likely to be assaulted, but I would guess that is pretty much completely due to the fact that men are disproportionately involved in criminal activities, and therefore tend to be around other criminals more often. You on the other hand, as a well educated affluent man are no more likely to hang around the criminal element than your female friend. The only concern either of you have would be a random mugging or act of violence. Since she is most likely and easier target than you, I’d guess that she is actually less safe walking home at midnight than you are.

      To test my theory, I’d look at the gender differences in victims that don’t have prior felonies, and see if men are still more likely to be victimized.

    • Well... says:

      I was distracted by the Lyft thing.

      Is it common for people to pay for a Lyft to get somewhere but then consider it an inconvenient expense to have to pay for a Lyft back home? I thought if you’ve budgeted a taxi ride from A to B into your plans, a taxi ride back from B to A is automatically added to the budget too.

      But it’s been years since I lived somewhere where taxis were a common way to get around, and I’ve never used Lyft or Uber, so maybe things have changed.

      • quaelegit says:

        I could see someone being comfortable making walking through an area during business hours/daylight, but not at midnight. [And yes, a dance in mid-November in Seattle means it was probably already dark when the dance started, but a) the general case is still illustrative and b) businesses open/more people out on the street still applies]

        Also I’m not seeing where someone complained about the ride home vs. to the event? By my reading, Andrew thinks taking Lyft home would be a waste of money, but there wasn’t any discussion of the price/convenience/merit of taking Lyft TO the event.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        The friend in question is broke as hell, and I think she may have hitched a ride there with someone who left early. Lyft provides a worst-case bound allowing her to go out dancing without worrying that she couldn’t get home, but is not a perfect choice when there are other options.

    • keranih says:

      Once a great many years ago, I (young, female, redneck) got a ride home with friends (older, straight female, bi male, both so progressive it hurt) from a local urban eatery to my flat, located in a very not-up-scale part of town. I had them stop a bit up from the house, because turning around on the dark street was a right bitch and I didn’t want them to scuff her nice car on the turn.

      Weeks later, I found out from the guy that the older gal (A) had fretted all the (long) ride back about letting me out on a dark street. (My own street, mind you. It wasn’t like I actually knew the names of the hookers who banged their johns against my fence, but I knew them enough to wave hey as I went past when they were combing their hair on the corner.) My guy friend G had snorted and eventually said, “Look, she walks down the road like she owns it. She’s not going to have any trouble.”

      I really never did have any trouble at that house. And I have lived in more sketch places since, and had multiple house break-ins, but never what I would consider *personal* danger.

      Now, nearly two decades later, I wonder how much of G’s attitude was a) justified b) coming from being male or c) coming from a lower class background (unlike A, who came from money, and so did her first husband.)

      All of which is maybe treading far too close to CW, but my point is that from an n of 2 you can’t figure if sex is all that definitive. Even for such an important thing as sex.

    • 天可汗 says:

      How much would we expect this to affect the crime stats? Even if it’s true that most of the people who get murdered on a dark bike path at midnight are men, maybe that’s because only men are stupid enough to go out then.

      Right, and, as I’ve said before, this has serious implications for the interpretation of crime statistics.

      On New Year’s Day, 2067, DC’s army of flying death robots goes rogue, takes over every state with a coastline, and kills everyone who doesn’t flee fast enough. What this looks like in statistical terms is a spike: the robomurder rate shoots up when the drones take over, and drops back down to about where it was before after everyone flees. Since everyone knows that the consequence of setting foot in a coastal state is death, no one does it — except maybe a few very unlucky people, by accident, but there won’t be enough of them to have a significant impact on the statistics. So, by February 2067, the robomurder rate is back down to where it was before, but the social consequences of robomurder have expanded significantly: only 27 states are fit for human habitation!

      The application of this to 2017 America is left as an exercise to the reader.

  21. Le Maistre Chat says:

    How badly does the legendary roc break the laws of physics?
    One obvious answer would be that any flying animal bigger than Quetzalcoatlus is impossible, but it seems to me that biologists have a very conservative view of biophysics that only begrudgingly accepts evidence for giant animals. It’s been argued the largest pterosaurs were flightless, and more famously that sauropod weight could only be supported by water like whales.
    So are there any tricks a writer could use to rationalize a flying feathered animal as massive as an empty DC-3 that can snatch a 3-ton Asian elephant, short of prop engines built by self-replicating nanomachines and feeding on trees that naturally produce ethanol juice?

    • Protagoras says:

      Apart from obvious tricks like lower gravity and denser atmosphere? I doubt it. Biologists are conservative about biophysics for reasons.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Greater animal sizes allowed by lower gravity should be easy to math, but how do you tell how much denser atmosphere gets you?

        • Protagoras says:

          Well, if the air is dense enough for creatures to be able to make themselves less dense than the air to be feasible, creatures of arbitrary size should be possible. If it’s close to that point, creatures should be able to take advantage of that to reduce the amount of power needed in power assisted flight. Anything short of that it’s going to be complicated; one would expect soaring to benefit a lot, but even in the case of soaring the ability of denser air to exert more pressure means the wings have to be stronger to hold up under the strain. I don’t know the relative importance of the different factors. I expect flapping to be just hideously complicated math.

          • bean says:

            even in the case of soaring the ability of denser air to exert more pressure means the wings have to be stronger to hold up under the strain.

            Not really. We’re dealing with a given amount of lift required. If you can shrink the wing, you reduce the bending moment, which makes the structure more efficient.

    • Wrong Species says:

      You’re much more ambitious than I am. I just wanted to come up with a bird that could carry a person. I did a little googling a couple years ago and the consensus seemed to be maybe, but it would be close. I think an elephant is pretty much out, as far as nature is concerned.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Quetzalcoatlus might have been able to carry a 150 pound person, but they had very different biophysics than birds. The muscles they took off with were also their wing-flapping muscles, while birds use their legs to get off the ground.

    • hlynkacg says:

      You’ve got me thinking now, I’ve got a whole bunch of material on lift/drag coefficients for various wing forms including assorted birds but I’m not sure how to figure out the associated muscle and bone requirements.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I might as well mention The Dragon Lord, an early novel by David Drake. I was charmed by the method of getting a dragon. Dragons don’t make sense in terms of our physics, but if you invoke a dragon, what you get is a series of momentary slices of dragons from universes where dragons do exist. The computational challenge is ignored.

      It was written in 1979 and revised in 1982. I don’t know which edition I read. At the time, it was kind of fun to have Arthur and his round table as a bunch of thugs. Things have gotten edgy since to the point where cynicism is a cliche.

      • quaelegit says:

        Reminds me a bit of dragons in Discworld, where dragons are invoked by people who believe in them in specific circumstances (or something like that, I forget the details). Not that Discworld is concerned with real world physics…

    • johan_larson says:

      Gliding only.

      Suppose the rocs live in an area where there is a very steady supply of rising air, perhaps because of a mountain range that gets a very steady wind or a rocky plain that consistently heats up from the sun to provide thermal instability. That way, the rocs don’t need to be able to keep themselves airborne by flapping, just keep their wings extended.

      The largest airborne birds today, such as condors and albatrosses, are primarily gliders.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        The extreme case of this would be what I already mentioned: biological airplanes that just hold their wings perpendicular to their torso and whose only food is a plant that produces ethanol juice.

  22. wearsshoes says:

    With my eyes closed, my sense of touch (at least in my hands) becomes a lot more… spatial, shall I say? Rather than just feeling the object, I feel like my brain engages in actually mapping it in a way that is mainly vision-based otherwise. Crucially, this feels true even when my hands are out of sight (like behind my back). Not sure if just self-reporting bias.

    I wanted to know if other people also experienced this (what universal experiences are you missing out on?) and also if anyone knew why this happens, or if anyone’s studied it.

    A couple of competing self-generated hypotheses (am not a neuroscientist):
    1) Tactile signals contribute a constant amount of data, which is drowned out by visual signals while eyes are open. With eyes closed, the touch signals become much more distinguishable, like stars in the night sky.
    2) Sense of touch is partially suppressed while eyes are open, and sense of sight is suppressed when eyes are closed. Your brain shifts the amount of allocated bandwidth to touch vs. sight based on the available sensory environment.

    Plugging my ear doesn’t make a difference, but if data rates for brain signal processing are anything like those for digital signal processing, sound is a comparatively minor part of the bandwidth.

    • Don_Flamingo says:

      I just tested it. When I close my eyes and touch and manipulate things around me, it feels like I’m following the things, that I am touching with a camera in a movie generated by what I know my hand position to be relative to my body and what I remember from seeing and knowing about my room. That movie isn’t limited by the perspective of where my eyes would happen to look at, if they were open. A movie is overselling it, just flashes of pictures that I don’t really ‘see’, but visualize. I’ve got the slight sense, that it’s easier to mentally map out things behind you, by touch, with your eyes closed, rather than open. But when I would consciously test this, I’d automatically focus on mapping the spaces around me and comparing them against my memory. I don’t think, I feel this, when I’m lying in bed with my eyes closed, because I don’t care about the space around me then.
      I wouldn’t say that my touch gets more spatial, but more visual. I don’t think I can really comprehend spaces, without in some way seeing or visualizing them.

  23. johan_larson says:

    I am organizing a regular games night in downtown Toronto. We’ll be meeting once per week on Saturday evenings to play board-, card-, and role-playing games. Exactly what we’ll do each week will depend on who shows up. The first meeting will be on Saturday, November 25th at 7 pm at my home near Yonge and Eglinton. We’ll be playing Pandemic.

    Contact me at johan.g.larson@gmail.com if you’d like to join us. I am somewhat flexible on exactly when and where we’ll meet; we can discuss that on email.

  24. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    BBC history of mixed martial arts

    Eliezer’s been writing a series about how you can tell whether you might know better than the experts, and the experts generally didn’t think no holds barred fighting could be a public sport these days.

    Well, they were kind of right, in the sense that the earliest MMA tournament only forbade biting and eye-gouging and the sport evolved to have more rules.

    On the other hand, it was hard to get the sport started, but the first tournament was wildly popular.

    One clue that the organizer had was that no holds barred fighting was historically very popular.

    • Nornagest says:

      Over the last 150 years or so there has been a tendency for long-running combat sports to start out fairly freeform but accrete new rules and levels of formalization as they go, making them less “combat” and more “sport”. Every so often new, more combative sports become popular, and the cycle restarts.

      It’s happened to boxing, fencing, judo, kendo, collegiate wrestling, and TKD among others, and MMA is in the early stages right now.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Weren’t the rules for a downed opponent changed in the other direction in MMA, for the purposes of knees/kicks to the head? It used to be 3 points of contact, now it’s 4, if I’m reading the rules right. That seems to move in the opposite direction away from gamesmanship.

    • dndnrsn says:

      My guess as to why MMA is popular is less “people want to see the most egregious brutality” (though that doesn’t hurt) and more that the mishmash of styles and need to crosstrain heavily means that things tend to occupy a happy middle ground. High-level BJJ or submission grappling is really technical – I do BJJ and the stuff at the higher level can feel a bit above my pay grade when I’m watching it; can’t imagine what it would be like for the sort of person who boos when it goes to the ground in MMA. In MMA, the punching means that things on the ground stay more basic. Meanwhile, compared to boxing or kickboxing, the standup in MMA is always limited in how focused any one fighter/fight can be on it by the fact that they could be taken to the ground or pushed up against the fence.

      It forces things towards generalization over specialization, which tends to be more fun to watch, especially for people who aren’t that informed about what’s going on.

  25. Anatoly says:

    There’s a physiological sensation I have, and I think some other people do too, but I’m not completely sure because it’s hard to explain well.

    Consider “deep breaths”. I think people use this phrase to talk about two different things, let me call them Deep Breath 1 and Deep Breath 2.

    DB1 is simply when you draw in a lot of air, as opposed to a shallow breath. I can breathe DB1s one after another without any problems, although that’s not how I usually breathe.

    DB2 feels different, subjectively; it’s a sort of a deep breath when I draw in a lot of air… and I feel something *change* at the end of it, something that’s hard to describe, but feels like a binary switch of sorts, like something going from a 0 to a 1. Crucially, I can’t do DB2 twice in a row; if I try to breathe in deep after a DB2, it’ll “merely” be a DB1, just lots of air – I won’t get that “switching” feeling. I need to wait a bit for some time to pass and “something”, I guess, to “build up”, before I can do another DB2. That “switch” feels very binary to me; I always either experience it fully or not at all, there’s nothing in-between.

    Does anyone else experience deep breathing in this way? If you’re familiar with this, do you know what’s the physiological basis for that feeling of a “binary switch”, what is it exactly that changes and/or accumulates? I tried asking some doctors and they didn’t tell me anything helpful beyond “deep breathing involves the diaphragm” and such.

    I think (based on doing some searching and forum-reading) that when people complain that they can’t do deep breaths, sometimes they can’t do DB1, but can only breathe shallowly; and other times what they can’t do is DB2, but they don’t have a separate vocabulary for this. A few times I saw someone saying something like “I can’t do a *satisfactory* deep breath, I breathe in deep but it still doesn’t feel right” and I think that refers to a problem with doing a DB2 as I described it above. But I’m not sure.

    • johnjohn says:

      I’m not sure it relates to what you’re talking about.
      But taking a deep breath that centers in the stomach, and a deep breath that centers in the chest, are two very very different experiences, both in amount of volume of air, and the sensation in the body.
      Chest centered deep breaths basically feel like deep shallow breaths, and can be quite uncomfortable when done in succession

    • quaelegit says:

      If I intentionally try to take deep breaths (which I guess would fit DB1 in your scheme?) I usually feel a physiological effect but its very temporary. Breathing in seems to ease tension and anxiety, but breathing out again brings it right back. Holding in my breath seems to keep the sense of ease a bit longer but you have to breath out eventually. This is a big part of the reason I’ve never had success meditating (or even really tried very hard… the reason I didn’t reply to the earlier threads on this is that I’ve spent <5 hours over two years trying, so I don't think my experience counts as "really tried to learn.")

      • gph says:

        You aren’t really supposed to intentionally control your breath during meditation, in fact it really shouldn’t matter if you’re breathing deep or shallow so long as you pay attention to it in a dispassionate and mindful manner.

        But that’s probably a discussion for another thread.

        • quaelegit says:

          You’re right, I was confusing meditation with breathing exercises for dealing with anxiety.

          “Being mindful of the breath” without controlling it (like I think some guided meditation sequences tell you to do?) have also made me aware of this effect, but I suppose in that case it would be normal breathing rather than deep breathing?

    • Randy M says:

      I think it’s a chest muscles vs diaphragm thing.

    • gph says:

      I’ve been having a sort of related problem, recently whenever I try to yawn it just doesn’t feel right. Like it doesn’t feel satisfying and I feel the need to take another yawn immediately. Sometimes I’ll yawn three or four times in a row and it just build up this feeling of frustration and lack of satisfaction, it can be quite distressing. Have to try and relax my mind and distract myself to let it pass.

      Somewhat related whenever I take a deep breath it doesn’t feel like I’m really getting a full “deep” breath. And I think that might be what you call DB2. I don’t know if I remember intentionally taking a deep breath like and not have it feel like a DB2, except maybe in situations like exercising or holding your breath underwater where you take in a lot of air but it’s not really a “deep” breath, your just breathing hard for a specific reason.

      Either way it has become quite annoying for me. I remember searching the web for people with similar experiences and it seem like there’s quite a few. A bunch mentioned it was often related to anxiety or possibly OCD. I don’t know tho, it’s seems to have persisted for me over a long enough period of time that it’d be hard to put down to anxiety. But maybe.

      • Randy M says:

        I have this come and go for the last year or so. Basically sometimes deep breathes aren’t satisfying for a few attempts. I’ve chalked it up to either needing more sleep, needing more exercise, or getting older, with periodic attempts to mitigate the first two possibilities.
        Oh, also making sure my pants fit :/

  26. johan_larson says:

    Timmins is a small town in Canada. Darwin is a mid-sized town in Austalia. Both have airports, and you can get from the one to the other in about 30 hours flying commercial. That’s Timmins-Toronto-London-Singapore-Darwin.

    But you don’t fly commercial. You walked in from a power-trip fantasy, and have the kind of pull that gets national-level officials nodding along and makes seven-figure sums a mere matter of accounting. How quickly can you get from Timmins to Darwin, and how do you do it?

    The distance is 9333 miles. That’s about 12 hours away at Mach 1.

    • bean says:

      Ballistic missile, obviously. Something like Mercury-Atlas should work well enough.
      Wait. London? Why are you going east? Wouldn’t it be easier to go through Tokyo or Seoul to Singapore? (Which you should definitely use as the final stop before Darwin, because Changi Airport is the best.)

    • Nornagest says:

      If you can scrape up an airworthy SR-71 somewhere and arrange for aerial refueling along the way, some sketchy statistics I just Googled up say that it should just be able to land and take off at Timmins’ airport (with a 6000-foot runway). Darwin’s is 11,000 feet, more than long enough. Take the recon officer’s seat, take a nap, you’ll be there in about four hours.

      Runway condition might be an issue, though. And I imagine qualified pilots are hard to come by these days.

    • John Schilling says:

      A Gulfstream G650 can do it in 15 hours 16 minutes flying time with a refueling stop in Anchorage, so maybe sixteen hours total. The runways at Timmins and Darwin will handle it, and the great-circle route doesn’t go through any troublesome airspace. The Citation X+ is slightly faster but would require a second refueling stop. And you should be able to keep the costs in the high five figures one

      There’s nothing currently flying that could sustain higher speeds over that distance; we’ll eventually see supersonic business jets but not in this decade. The Concorde, etc, aren’t ever going to fly again. And Elon Musk isn’t actually going to build a suborbital version of his Mars colony transport or whatever he’s calling it this week, any time in this decade or the next. If he did, Timmins wouldn’t have the infrastructure to support it (Darwin might; it’s not a bad location for Australia’s spaceport though Cape York is probably better).

      • johan_larson says:

        That’s a bit disappointing. I was hoping for something involving a supersonic bomber or spy-plane. But perhaps all of that went away with the Cold War.

        • Nornagest says:

          Not too many of those ever flew. The XB-70 Valkyrie cruised at Mach 3, but only two were ever built; its Warsaw Pact counterpart the Sukhoi T-4 was similar. Either one would be impractical even by the loose standards of my Blackbird fantasy upthread. The Soviet supersonic interceptors were nearly as fast, and I think some of them are still airworthy, but they had a short range and a nasty tendency for the engines to melt if you push them too hard. The B-1 is still flying, but it’s tapped out at Mach 1.25.

          Realistically a good bet might be an F-15D or E (other variants are single-seaters); those are relatively easy to come by, have decent range, a high top speed, and can do aerial refueling. But that top speed’s in wet mode, which isn’t designed to be sustained for long, and which sucks up fuel like a varsity football team sucks up tacos. Supercruise-capable aircraft are still pretty thin on the ground, and most of them are single-seaters.

          • bean says:

            I think we should restore Valkyrie AV-1 to flying condition. After all, they did it to XH558, didn’t they? How much harder can this be?
            OK, fine. You’re right. AV-1 is far too valuable to risk in such a manner. We should instead build more!

          • johan_larson says:

            Well, once upon a time there was the B-58 Hustler, which could reach Mach 2, and was all the better for being named after con-men and gay prostitutes.

          • Nornagest says:

            True; I suppose there’s some stuff of that vintage that I’d overlooked. I was thinking more of cruise speed than afterburning dash speed, but the aircraft records in the article show that it could have spent substantial portions of the flight above Mach 1. Must be that enormous and, ah, suggestive drop tank.

            Its successor the F-111 would also have been a respectable choice, and you’d probably have an easier time finding a flying one: the Australians flew them until 2010.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            Typhoons and Rafales will supercruise- I have seen figures of Mach 1.4 for the Typhoon and 1.5 for the Rafale. Those are for the single-seat variants, but there is a two-seat version of both (in the case of the Typhoon it’s a training aircraft, the Rafale-B is used operationally for strike missions).

            Of course, all these run into the issue of how much lead time you have to position tankers for aerial refuelling.

            Another possibility I thought of was the Mach 2-capable Tu-160 Blackjack, but it won’t go supersonic without afterburner- and filling the bomb bay with fuel wouldn’t make an appreciable difference to fuel load, the Blackjack’s maximum weapons load is 40 tons (half of which is external) while its maximum fuel load is 130 tons.

        • cassander says:

          Well there are still a fair number of MiG-31s in russian service. I believe they are the fastest thing flying today, I’m not sure how fast they can cruise.

          The f-22s can supercruise, but they’re all single seaters.

    • gbdub says:

      Uh, why exactly would you want to do such a thing? I’ve been to Darwin, there’s nothing particularly remarkable about it. Given the pull you require for your fantasy here, there are many more interesting places to go that are closer (and some that are a little farther, but not much).

      • johan_larson says:

        I just wanted a faraway place that wasn’t a major airline hub. I tried to find something exactly at the other side of the world, but Australia is too far east.

        If you want to conjure a more appealing fantasy, the stage is yours.

    • dodrian says:

      I would call up my buddy Elon and ask to borrow a rocket or two.

      (It may end up taking longer than planned, as he’s not very good at keeping to deadlines, but the actual flight itself would be quick.)

    • Chalid says:

      Any way you could do better if your good friend Donald Trump had strategically moved several aircraft carriers into the Pacific in advance so that you could hop between them? The aircraft would be a lot faster than a Gulfstream but you’d lose time (how much time?) landing and switching between planes.

      So you could imagine hopping on a fast military plane that takes you to an air force base in Alaska, where you then take a series of hops between a string of carriers.

      • John Schilling says:

        Most military jets are supersonic (if at all) only when using afterburners, which burn fuel at such a prodigious rate you’d be lucky to cover a thousand kilometers before running dry. There aren’t enough aircraft carriers in the world to make that plan work.

        As noted upthread, the US and Russian air forces (but not navies) have a few aircraft that can go supersonic without the afterburner, but only mildly supersonic and not halfway around the world. You’d need to arrange a prodigious number of in-flight refueling stops, which occur at decidedly subsonic speeds, and I’m not sure 10+ hours of near-continuous supercruise is practical from a maintenance/reliability standpoint.

        For sustained supersonic flight, there’s basically the Concorde and the footnotes. There were fourteen Concordes built for commercial service, and they accumulated between them more supersonic flight experience than all other aircraft ever built combined. By a large margin, because they were basically the only aircraft built to actually go places faster than the speed of sound. The military has occasionally flirted with the idea (XB-70, B-58, SR-71), but always falls back on just using brief bursts of supersonic speed to evade or engage the enemy, and that won’t help us here.

        • bean says:

          By a large margin, because they were basically the only aircraft built to actually go places faster than the speed of sound. The military has occasionally flirted with the idea (XB-70, B-58, SR-71), but always falls back on just using brief bursts of supersonic speed to evade or engage the enemy, and that won’t help us here.

          No, the B-70 cruised at Mach 3. The original plan was subsonic cruise/supersonic dash, but the math came out that it was in fact more fuel-efficient to just stay supersonic all the time. The XB-70s SAC doesn’t even list a subsonic cruise speed. The SR-71 had similar performance, IIRC, although I don’t have the same documents for it.

          • John Schilling says:

            Yes, and the Air Force fell back on not using the B-70 at all, instead going with the B-58 and its subsonic cruise / supersonic dash mission profile.

          • bean says:

            You originally said that Concorde was “the only aircraft built to actually go places faster than the speed of sound”. That’s definitely not true, regardless of that idiot McNamara’s decision to cancel the B-70 program. Operationally used, yes, with the possible exception of the SR-71. But I’m willing to be as pedantic as I have to here.

          • John Schilling says:

            If we’re being pedantic, the XB-70 was built to conduct engineering experiments and the B-70 wasn’t built at all. The SR-71 might be a better case.

  27. johan_larson says:

    China recently constructed a naval base in Djibouti. But it turns out they’re not the only ones there. The US also maintains a base there, as do France and Japan. What a strange way to run a country. You’d think a country like that would either try to avoid foreign entanglements entirely, or find one major power to partner with. Hosting four foreign powers, two of which have a habit of glaring daggers at each other, sounds like trouble.

    • bean says:

      A couple of thoughts:
      1. These things can be pretty lucrative for the host country. If China offered a good enough deal, why not?
      2. Their base is probably mostly for anti-pirate patrols. This is also good for your economy, and the Chinese have a very good reputation for their work in that role. Mostly the fact that their ROE is “Shoot first, don’t bother asking questions.”

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      My sister used to be stationed at the embassy there. The bases–and the country!–exist because it’s the best (only?) deep water port on the horn of Africa. Makes sense that multiple people want access, and we’re not sufficiently unfriendly with China that we need to lock them out.

    • cassander says:

      If you adopt a policy of letting anyone who wants to (and who pays the appropriate fees) build a base, then no can really get mad at you. Powers mostly get annoyed when they’re told no, less when others are told yes.

      In the event of a war between the US and China, it’s not going to be fought in Djibouti, and even if it were, the politicians get paid today and the problems only come up tomorrow.

  28. Granjoroz says:

    “If you give ten percent, you can have your name on a nice list and get access to a secret forum on the Giving What We Can site which is actually pretty boring.”

    OK, I was going back over everything is perfect, nothing is commensurate again, and…how secret is this place? Because I took the pledge, and I was told nothing about this, I can find nothing about this, and even if it is boring I do want to look it over at least.

  29. Granjoroz says:

    “If you give ten percent, you can have your name on a nice list and get access to a secret forum on the Giving What We Can site which is actually pretty boring.”

    OK, I was going back over nobody is perfect, everything is commensurate again, and…how secret is this place? Because I took the pledge, and I was told nothing about this, I can find nothing about this, and even if it is boring I do want to look it over at least.

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