Open Thread 122.75

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

553 Responses to Open Thread 122.75

  1. Deiseach says:

    Now I do realise that there are two sides to every story, that a media report is about sensationalism rather than pure dispassionate fact, but all that taken into consideration, I think the hospital in the story badly needs to be told “When you’re in a hole, stop digging”.

    Summary: 78 year old man dying of chronic lung disease is admitted as emergency to hospital. Everyone more or less knows this is the end. However, the hospital decides – or maybe doesn’t decide, as in ‘nobody sat down and said yeah we’ll do this’, it was just a concatenation of ‘of course this could never go badly’ until of course it did – to tell the guy that indeed it’s time he should be picking out a coffin via robot. In the middle of the night.

    And the hospital, which naturally has to put the best face on things – doubles down with the No Honestly Cold Metal Is So Warm And Loving:

    The video meetings are warm and intimate, he said, adding that not all in-person discussions have empathy and compassion.

    I dunno guys, the last time any of you had a video conference, were “warm and intimate” the impressions you took away from it?

    As I said, it’s just a chain of stupid rather than any one decision by anyone to do it this way – I’m sure the doctor on the other end of the link thought “Okay they must have already told the guy and his family in person, I’m just signing off on this, no way they’re leaving me and my robot buddy to tell the bad news out of the blue, ha ha ha”.

    But hello Brave New World and The Shape Of Things To Come!

  2. Brassfjord says:

    What is actually happening in Venezuela? It’s hard to believe the common answer – ”as soon as you get a left leaning government, everything will fall apart and people will starve”. What exactly did the government do to suddenly make the country incapable of producing food or even to buy food with all the oil money they get? It’s almost like someone is sabotaging the country to make it an example of how bad socialism is.

    • Venezuela wouldn’t have done nearly as bad if they had kept their inflation in check. And it wasn’t something that just suddenly happened. They had years of regular ol’ high inflation before it kicked off in to hyperinflation. Price controls led to shortages, entirely predictable by textbook economics. It takes a special level of incompetence to do what Venezuela did.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      The answer you’re looking for is price controls.

      Venezuela had an economy which was, in large part, dependent on oil exports. Between years of mismanagement of their nationalized oil industry and a drop in the price of oil, they were hit pretty badly. But that on its own probably wouldn’t have been enough to reduce them to starvation. Prices for food and other essential goods would have gone up, sure, but that increase in price would also have made it more profitable to import them from overseas until supply met demand.

      The thing that pushed it over the edge was when the Venezuelan government instituted price controls to try to force the market to provide goods at cost. And while you can force domestic businesses to take a loss at gunpoint until they go under, it’s not feasible to force international businesses to export goods to you at a loss. So the situation got worse and worse without any means to correct it

      • Radu Floricica says:

        I wouldn’t mind if you or somebody else could go one level deeper. Why didn’t they correct for this once it became obvious it’s not working?

        • John Schilling says:

          The only way to “correct for” price controls is to let the price go up. The only way to “correct for” hyperinflation is to not print so much money. If you let prices go up, and don’t hand out enough money to compensate, people go hungry and in Venezuela’s case I think that presently means that people starve to death.

          More importantly, even if you catch it before that point, it means that hungry people vote for the opposition, riot when they find out that the elections are rigged, and desert from the Army when they are ordered to shoot the rioters. If instead you as El Presidente implement a combination of price controls and money-printing, you can arrange for the Army at least to be well-fed and first in line for whatever luxuries are available, and then the army will shoot the starving rioters for you.

          • Yair says:

            But other countries implemented price controls before, and sometimes it worked for example Israel in 1987 see

          • cassander says:


            They didn’t implement price controls while their government was systematically destroying (by accident, but still systematically) their only real export, printing money to make up for the shortfalls, and nationalizing other major industries.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            I think I realized something (it would be good if someone local could confirm or infirm, but oh well). My hunch is that fucking up the free market the way you describe is, maybe not “on purpose”, but it has an upside to them: some back channels will always remain open for party favorites, but only if they keep being favorites. So it’s a means to tighten control. You can’t really say “fuck you” to your local party leader if the party has been feeding your kids and the stores are empty.

          • cassander says:

            @Radu Floricica

            “Never explain by conspiracy what can be explained by idiocy.”

            The phenomenon you mention definitely exits (a version of the curley effect, perhaps), and definitely helps the party stay in power, but that doesn’t mean the current outcomes are desired, just that the policy failures don’t hurt them as much as one would expect.

          • and sometimes it worked for example Israel in 1987

            How do you know it worked?

            Were the controls at a price significantly below the market price? Did Israel continue inflating its money supply? A news story saying that Israel imposed price controls doesn’t tell us very much.

          • Radu Floricica says:


            Thanks for the Curley effect. Will have to read up on that. It’s happening on a whole country scale in Romania right now – we have about 1/4 of the population working out of the country, and effectively disfranchised because of that. With the acting government openly catering to its own electorate only.

      • Tenacious D says:

        To plagiarize Tom Wolfe, the spectre of running out of vital resources is always descending on capitalism run amok and yet lands only on command economies.

    • John Schilling says:

      What exactly did the government do to suddenly make the country incapable of producing food or even to buy food with all the oil money they get?

      Well, for starters they’ve arranged to get 29% less oil money than when Hugo Chavez took office and implemented the “let’s buy everybody a nice life with our oil money” policy, and 79% from their 2008 peak. Almost all of the net decline is from Chavez’s decision to fire all the damn dirty bourgeoisie technocrats who ran the oil industry and replace them with loyal proletarians who never actually studied petroleum engineering, but the post-2008 fall also includes a contribution from global market conditions.

      This was aggravated by the decision to pay their farmers with fake money once they could no longer get enough real money by selling oil, and then put hard caps on how much fake money they could be legally paid, which tested the patience of even the loyal proletarian farmers and drove the kulaks to either abandon their farms or sell their produce on the black market.

    • Uribe says:

      Dutch disease is the root, long-term problem with Venezuela.

      Venezuela has been in decline since the 80’s. Of course, all their attempts at political reform have only made things worse instead of better. Compare it to its sister country, Colombia. Not largely endowed with natural resources, they’ve had to develop a competitive economy and relatively decent governance.

    • broblawsky says:

      In addition to what everyone else has said, I just want to emphasize how bad the decline in oil prices had been for Venezuela. Venezuelan oil is unusually hard to process, being more sulfuric and viscous than many other sources. Their profit margins are tiny right now, if they even exist.

    • Erusian says:

      The idea this is sudden is your primary misconception. Venezuela has the misfortune of having been socialist and corrupt for about half a century, with each part of that equation feeding the other. Venezuela’s wealth primarily comes from three periods: the Gomez dictatorship (and his immediate dictatorial successors), which made Venzuela the wealthiest nation in Latin America, and the Jimenez dictatorship, which made Venezuela almost as wealthy as western Europe. However, the later was focused on massive deficit spending. To its credit, the succeeding Democratic Socialist government balanced the books and generally kept the economy humming along fine, if more slowly than before. However, they also suffered increasing Communist insurgencies backed by the Soviet Union and Cuba.

      A long economic crisis in the ’80s and ’90s, caused by basically taking the worst parts of capitalist deregulation and socialist state control and combining them, led to significant economic pain. This allowed Chavez, who had previously launched a coup, to win a presidential election. His supporters openly called for him to establish more authoritarian rule, which he did, eventually embarking on Communist style nationalizations even of relatively small businesses. Famously, he once walked into a bakery and nationalized it on the spot. Chavez claimed he would fight corruption, but effective investment went down, even more remarkable because the price of oil shot up early in his presidency. Basically, the Venezuelan government had more money than ever and yet was somehow investing less than its predecessors. Likewise, Chavez’s hostility to the US and insistence on nationalizing basically every industry killed investment and technology sharing. This increased Venezuelan’s reliance on oil.

      All this introduced structural weaknesses into the economy, which were already fraying about a decade in. However, unlike his democratic predecessors who chose to try and reform the economy and continued to run free and fair elections, the Chavez regime and his successor have become increasingly undemocratic. They’ve doubled down on their bad policies and engaged in conspiracy thinking. The Chavistas, who have had close ties to Cuba since Soviet times, have used Cuban troops to prop up their regime. And all that usual dictatorial stuff. It’s the foolishness of a dictatorial command economy where they are doing things like declaring bread has such and such a price and then complaining that doesn’t magically happen, laws of economics be damned.

      None of this is sudden: this crisis has been brewing since at least the eighties and was only put off by a huge climb in oil prices. The current crisis is simply the latest, worst stage in a more immediate downturn and wave of protests that has been ebbing and flowing for almost a decade. The first protest, one that has direct ties and the same organizers that are protesting today, was in 2010.

    • Clutzy says:

      Venezuela is simply the end road of their economy. There was no tipping point for the citizens, instead there was a tipping point for the foreign media.

      Most important to note is that they normally would be a poor country. Not nearly as poor as they are, but I just want to point out that they are similar to the Saudi Arabian saying of, “My grandfather rode a camel, my father rode a camel, I drive a Mercedes, my son drives a Land Rover, his son will drive a Land Rover, but his son will ride a camel.” Such was the prosperity of Venezuela. Its wealth never was related to the human capital of its citizens.

      Second we would point to the system of government (which reflects the populace) that does not respect the ideas of good governance. Instead, the majority of the systems encourage an attenuated tragedy of the commons situation.

      Third we would point that the petro government failed, because it sucked at its job as most petro governments do.

      And lastly we would point to authoritarian “solutions” to social problems that merely compounded the other causes.

  3. Controls Freak says:

    I have a relative with cancer. They were unable to remove all of it with surgery, and are going to recommend at least radiation, possibly chemo as well. What questions are best for this relative to ask the doctor in order to be optimally able to decide how to proceed?

    • marshwiggle says:

      My wife had cancer, and my questions were largely around trying to get statistics on treatment effectiveness and side effects. Mostly that’s not about specific questions – it’s about convincing the doctor you really actually want that information in that form. My wife wants me to point out that when using shibboleths one needs to be careful not to trip over a doctor’s pride, so she says stuff like “I don’t always remember which is a type 1 error or a type 2 error, but you know what I mean.” I don’t know how applicable that approach is if someone like you isn’t going to be present when the questions are asked. Especially if you won’t be there, do what you can to get a friendly nurse to go along with to help ask good questions.

      Anyway, it turned out that chemo was clearly a good idea.

      I asked my wife to answer the question too. Here’s what she said. Apologies in advance for any regexps.

      Suggested question: How effective are the anti-nausea drugs one takes for this type of chemo?
      s/are/do\ they\ tend\ to\ be/

      When I had my chemo classes, I was super-worried about this. I try to avoid taking various kinds of drugs. So worried, in fact, that I realized I was planning to skip some or all of my anti-emetics.

      But in a moment of brutal honesty, I asked the nurse who was giving me the class, “What if I don’t take the nausea-suppressants?” Her face totally changed. She was like “Oh, no. You don’t want to do that.”

      And she explained that if you don’t take the anti-emetic drugs to suppress vomiting and vomit the first time, they have a hard time suppressing vomiting in subsequent chemo sessions, even with the anti-emetics. That nailed that decision right there.

      But the really positive flip side I would note is this: the anti-nausea drugs were terrific. If I’d known they’ve gotten them that good, that would have made me a lot more comfortable bout the plan to take chemo.

    • Tarpitz says:

      My uncle who had cancer wholeheartedly endorses the anti-cancer diets he believes helped him beat cancer. N=1, and all that, but I slightly suspect he’s right.

      • marshwiggle says:

        I’ve looked into that myself. At least for more common cancer types, there exists decent research for the impact, positive and negative, for a variety of foods. That’s not a substitute for treatment, but it can help prevent relapse. Mind you, some of that might just be because more vegetables less meat/sugar is better for you in general, and a stronger body fights cancer better – but that’s hardly an argument against using diet to fight cancer. I don’t think it’s necessary to go overboard though. A slightly better diet informed by research probably gets you most of the improvement that an extreme diet would.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          My mother is on an “anti-cancer” diet. I thought it was ridiculous, but apparently cancer cells really do seem to favor different metabolic conditions than normal cells. Quick Google says it is the Warburg Effect, and there is at least some evidence that low glucose diets help reduce the growth of Cancer.
          Doesn’t seem particularly well researched, but if I had cancer, I’d probably try to go Keto if I could handle it.

  4. Trofim_Lysenko says:

    This is sort of a long shot, but here goes nothing:

    I was contacted just a few days ago by an old director asking me to apply for a position in their department at a property in Columbus, Ohio, and after a VERY fast interview period I got the job (Yay!). They want me to start the first of the month (Uh oh). I’ve got work handled and believe I can swing the packing and loading portion of the move (Yay!) but I have exactly clue zero about the Columbus area, and pretty much no time to do advance research or multiple trips up there (Uh Oh). I’ve managed to swing ONE advance trip next weekend, but so far I only have tours lined up at two apartments and I’m not super enthused about either one.


    1) Are there any SSC-ers currently in or formerly of the Columbus, OH area who can offer insight regarding neighborhoods (good or bad), apartment complexes and property management agencies (good or bad), and any and all other metis that I’m going to wish I’d known 30-60 days from now? My annual income is right on the order of $39K a year pre-tax, but after insurance and taxes and such that’s more like $1K a paycheck, so right now I’m finding all the “minimum monthly NET income must be 3x rent” requirements are restricting my options and seem to be pushing me towards complexes and neighborhoods that make me nervous from trulia and google searches. OTOH I very, very much want to avoid room-mates, much less room-mates I’m meeting blind in a city I don’t know yet.

    2) I’ve done an inter-state move before into a shared house in an area I didn’t know, and I’ve done a local move into a new apartment, but I’ve never done an inter-state move into an area I didn’t know AND into an apartment. Any tips?

    • Well... says:

      My first piece of advice is to try to live not too far from your job, unless you really don’t mind long commutes. Columbus at rush-hour reminds me of LA, except the rush-hour doesn’t last as quite as long as LA’s. Still sucks though. Ideally you’re positioned to drive against rush-hour traffic both ways. Then it’s really not too bad.

      As for neighborhoods, it depends on your sensibilities. Grove City and Hilliard look nice to me, but I’ve met a few people who say those areas are too “redneck”. Reynoldsburg and Gahanna seem really nice. I’m fond of the ruralish areas out east like Blacklick and Pataskala, but those are pretty far from Columbus proper. You probably can’t afford New Albany, Westerville, Worthington, or Dublin, but those are very nice areas. Bexley, Upper Arlington, Clintonville, and Grandview Heights are also very nice (and unaffordable) but they are also ghetto-surrounded. I’m not familiar enough with the southern end of town to speak on that in detail.

      If you tell me which neighborhoods you’re seeing and are unsure about I can try and give you my opinion if I have one.

      I’ve done an interstate move and into an apartment. It was on the opposite side of the country. I called up a friend there to go look at the places I found online. Some of them he just told me “No” without even visiting because he had information I didn’t, and some of them he visited and then told me “No,” but one of them he visited and told me “Yes” so we (my wife and I) moved there, and it was pretty great.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        commute time is definitely a concern. I haven’t dealt with city freeway logjams since negotiating the I-5 around the Seattle Metro area when I was in the military, and I never had to do that with a job in mind.
        I’ll be working outside the city proper at Eldorado, Scioto Downs. Grove City looks to be mostly out of my budget (aside from maybe one place called “The Grove” apartments), and I’ve got an appointment for a viewing next weekend with Hamilton Creek which is very close, but otherwise I’m basically shooting for something on the south side of the city and as close to the 270 outerbelt (if East or west) or straight up 23/S. High St. (if north).

        West Side: I know that Franklin and probably much of Hilltop is out, so what about Cherry Creek, Lincoln Village, and so on? The Trulia heatmap doesn’t look promising and I already wrote one off after finding there was a shooting there in the early hours of new year’s day…

        North of the casino: Know anything about the stretch of the city along 23/South High Street from 270 to…about the expressway that has four different names on Google Maps (Frank Rd., 104, Frank-Refugee Expressway, etc)?

        East: Out towards South and Southeast Columbus, neighborhoods as far as Reynoldsburg, though the commute makes me nervous.

        Thanks in advance for any information, and I realize I’m shotgunning questions here, so no worries if you have to ignore most of them.

        • Well... says:

          Like I said, I’m unfamiliar with the south side, so I can’t really speak to that.

          Reynoldsburg, as I said, seems pretty nice to me from the time I’ve spent there. I don’t know all that much about it though.

          Have you looked at Groveport, Canal Winchester, or Pickerington? Those last two would be long but potentially pleasant commutes.

          Hilltop is gentrifying, I believe, so it might not be as bad as it looks.

          Have you considered looking in some of the more rural areas even further south? Those could potentially be both safe/quiet and affordable.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:


          I’ll look into those suggestions, thanks!

          I have considered looking at Ashville and other outward options, but to be totally honest getting away from a rural/small town life (and the constrained options for social life, culture, career, and…well…everything that come with it) is the majority of the reason for me accepting this position in the first place.

          • Well... says:

            I hear that. I would say that when moving to an apartment in a new city in a new state, definitely try to think of it as your foot in the door. Maybe it’ll be great and you’ll stay in that apartment for years, but once you’ve landed you also have the ability to think of it as the place where you live for the first year while you get to know the area a bit and can do some real scouting from the ground. Plus you’ll have other social inputs by then. It’s even possible you’ll have a new job.

            I’m not sure I see such a strong and fast connection between ruralness and constraints on social life/culture, especially not when you have a car, but I guess it depends what you’re looking for. The hipster dream of dense living and a busy night life was never much other than a nightmare to me, so I’m not going to be a good concierge for that kind of thing.

            Just going off the few specifics you gave, I’m guessing you’re young (early 30s at the very oldest, most likely early or mid 20s) and single (and another wild guess: male), in which case I also think you can tolerate a lot tougher/cheaper neighborhoods than an older/married person/with kids can. At least for 6-12 months until you find something nicer and closer to the stuff/people you discover you want to be closer to.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I hate moving, but your point is well taken, and a local move is far less stressful than the sort of no-notice move I’m doing now. My big worry there is a lease.

            And constraints are more a matter of me being realistic about how likely I am to overcome even low barrier to entries like “Just a 30 minute drive into the City For X” once work kicks into high gear.

            As for age, I’m 37 actually, but I can understand why you’re thinking younger, my career/life was derailed for the better part of a decade by personal issues, and this move is another step in the process of pulling myself back onto some sort of satisfying track.

            But yes, to be clear about neighborhoods, my concerns are catching a bullet through a window/wall while minding my own business, being injured in a robbery, having my car stolen (because of the financial strain), and having my computer stolen (because of the financial strain). I can live with things like getting panhandled by drug addicts looking to score, as long as they aren’t likely to jump me with five of their friends because I’m getting back from a shift at the casino at 2AM in an unsecured parking lot.

          • Well... says:

            Sorry for the wrong assumptions, and thanks for understanding why I made them.

            If you’re willing to put up with panhandlers and nonviolent drug addicts, I think you would be fine in 99% of the city. Very few parts of Columbus have the kinds of problems you mentioned wanting to avoid, although you should take measures to keep your car and your computer secure no matter where you live here.

            People have guns and there are always shootings here and there…there was a pretty high-profile one where a guy shot two cops, and that was in a pretty nice part of town. I wouldn’t take one shooting, independent of other things, as a nonstarter. But it’s not a totally unreasonable thing to do either I guess.

            Most leases are 6-12 months long, and at the end of 12 months I believe it tends to default to month-to-month. You should be able to negotiate those things when you sign.

            PS. If you’re able to reach out to the interviewer local to the casino where you were hired, that might be a good resource. That person would know at least a bit of the area.

    • yodelyak says:

      Re: #2…

      I fairly recently moved… The move was myself and my then-partner and our dog and cat from Denver to Portland, OR on a tight budget. We made some mistakes–really, we were a new couple and most of our mistakes were caused by our dysfunctions, but what made it clear they *were* mistakes was how expensive they were. So some big dos/don’t dos coming at you.
      The bulk of the work of moving is the loading and unloading of the stuff into the boxes, not the loading and unloading of the boxes into the truck. Consequently it is not much more work to pack and re-pack a moving truck twice than only once. And a storage container for a couple months is usually not much more expensive than a couple tanks of gas (back when gas was $4/gal, a single tank for my car would cost more than a small storage unit for a month). Likewise, the expense of living in a motel for 10 days is a lot lower than the expense of needing to get out of a lease you regret signing, or of living in a situation that is not ideal. If you can see yourself maintaining good health while ‘roughin it’ and living out of a couple suitcases for a couple weeks so you can shop for apartments locally, then do that. Aim to minimize the need to pack or unpack anything other than your primary one-to-two suitcases more than once, ideally for many years. Aim to involve as few lawyers/realtors/professionals as possible, remembering that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. (So, if you are renting an apartment and pretty bright, maybe just reading online and asking some smart friends can get you ready to read and negotiate and sign a lease on your own.) If you can avoid needing professional movers altogether, do that, but if you have something too big for you to move (you cannot move a piano by yourself, btw) admit it and get the help you need scheduled in advance. Sometimes if works well to pay friends in pizza and beer, but realistically friends are usually not nearly as much help with the putting stuff in boxes as with the putting boxes into trucks–and putting boxes into trucks isn’t most of the work.

      Meet your landlord in person, see the place you are renting in person. (We did neither, and it was a fiasco of reneging by the person we hadn’t met. Eventually we got a $200 small claims court judgment, as further proof that it’s worth avoiding needing lawyers–including small claims court judges–because even with the trouble of getting the judgment, it was a judgment not worth the trouble to collect on, because small and the landlord lived several towns away, so we’d have had to hire a sheriff… ugh.) The most important things about a place are location, location, and location, and you can’t evaluate those remotely. The runner-up important things are usually intangibles like sunlight, smell, pet stains in carpets, laundry-in-unit meaning laundry available down four flights of narrow stairs versus laundry available on the same floor… being there is really helpful.

      Don’t take any risks while driving a rental truck with all your stuff in it. Drive a couple mph below the speed limit even on the down hills. Signal. It ain’t worth the stress you risk if anything happens.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        My current plan is to hire a well-rated moving assistance company out of Carbondale for assistance getting my furniture (Desk, bed, bedframe) and boxes into a U-Haul. I know it’s not the majority of the work, but I don’t want to deal with it and that $150 or so will allow me to focus on detail cleaning the apartment. And to be honest, I don’t have any local friends who would be willing to help me move. Right now my big internal question is whether I can fit said furniture and my possessions into one of their towable trailers (I did on the last move, but I didn’t have the bed or desk then and I don’t remember how much extra cubage I had left over), or if I have to bite the bullet and spend the extra $600 or so for their van and a car trailer.

        I have a lot of stuff that was never really unpacked from that last move, and if I can steal the time back from work I intend to deliver as much of THAT as possible to local Goodwill and similar donation places.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Have you looked at extended-stay hotels? At their prices, you might be able to afford one long enough to vet the neighborhoods you’re interested in.

      Meanwhile, you use SSC comments here as a source for leads.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        I have, but even $60 per day gets prohibitive pretty quickly when you make about $500-550 a week in take home pay after taxes and insurance, and that assumes my taxes aren’t going up in Columbus (which seems unlikely, I’m assuming a 10-15% increase to be safe). I’m going to end up having to throw some expenses on a credit card and pay it off later as-is, adding one or two grand in hotels to that is something I’d really rather avoid.

  5. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Youtube tweaks algorithm to support Left in Hollywood’s latest Kulturkampf kurfluffle.

    Youtube found that videos criticizing Brie Larson, star of Disney’s latest Marvel movie (out now!), were getting millions of views. This was construed as icky misogyny, so they tweaked their algorithm to bury the popular videos below ones from the MSM, which are all positive.
    OK, so granting that the critics are most likely low-status dudes with messed-up priorities, I still find this fascinating. Youtube’s parent corporation Google is trying to stifle the egalitarian, bottom-up potential of the internet to help the Disney corporation make more money on a ~$100 million film investment, justifying it by the little guys being wrong according to the hegemonic ideology taught in state-funded universities.
    I feel like I’m living through the period when the Catholic Church and the newly-founded Anglican and state Lutheran churches attempted to control the egalitarian potential of movable type technology.

    • Nornagest says:

      …80% critical and 34% audience on Rotten Tomatoes? Haven’t seen a spread that big for a while. Although it opened today, so I’m not sure how reliable the audience ratings are.

      • Nick says:

        The Last Jedi difference is actually a bit higher.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Yeah, this is a rerun of the The Last Jedi episode of Disney’s Kulturkampf.
          I’m remaining open-minded on the movie qua movie because I haven’t seen it. Star Wars VII & VIII were both incoherent piles of Bertie Bott’s Sci-fi and Feces flavour beans, yet the audience reactions were not the same, so who knows? Insufficient data to infer.
          What’s really interesting to me is the tight relationship between megacorps like Google and Disney and state-funded propaganda.

          • eyeballfrog says:

            TLJ is way worse than TFA. TFA isn’t exactly great cinema, but at least it’s fun in a fairly earnest way. TLJ is just insultingly stupid.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            TFA isn’t exactly great cinema, but at least it’s fun in a fairly earnest way.

            You’re not wrong, but IMO it was fun in the same sense that a 1980 Star Wars ripoff made by Roger Corman or some Italians can be a fun romp. That seemed to be the level the script was operating on with its assembly out of the most popular SW tropes and cavalier attitude to coherence (is the New Republic one star system or pan-galactic? What’s the scale of the First Order?)

          • Clutzy says:

            TFA is a bad movie because it tries too hard to please the fans. TLJ is a bad movie because its goal is to insult the fans.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          There’s a site that comes close to tracking differences of opinion between critics and audiences. It won’t, however, tell you the most pretentious or most mass-market film in a group. (I get the feeling the owner has only limited resources to sustain the site.)

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        Bot-Net Trolling. Ive seen it. The 80% critical rating is an accurate enough number if you want an estimate of its quality.
        Competent entertainment throughout, but I am not going to go watch it trice like I did Wonder Woman or annually, like I do The Winter Soldier. The audience “Rating” is dishonest, as in, yes, my entire friend circle such as it is, saw it and very consistently rated it “Good, not a masterpiece”, which.. not data, sure, but.. – Very clearly people are gaming the numbers.

        • Nornagest says:

          I don’t find that theory satisfying. If there are enough people just itching to deploy botnets against any sufficiently woke blockbuster that they can make a perfectly good one look like a total dud, then why does Wonder Woman have an 88% audience approval rating? Black Panther has an audience 79% to critical 97%, so I guess that’s a reasonably wide spread, but it’s still nowhere near what we’re seeing for this one.

          I believe you when you say you enjoyed it, but based on your other comments here, you’re, uh, kind of the target audience for this sort of thing.

          • The Nybbler says:

            There’s competing botnets reviewing Captain Marvel. For a while RT was removing both, and it wasn’t moving the needle much. Now it appears they’re leaving more of the positive ones. I cynically suspect the majority of both bad and good could be connected to Disney if it were to be investigated.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think ideological motives are a lot less likely for a whispering campaign to screw up a movie than financial motives. That could be someone shorting the studio, or trying to screw over a rival or enemy, or someone running some kind of blackmail scheme against studios and they didn’t get the payoff they wanted.

          • BBA says:

            Did Gal Gadot and Chadwick Boseman make a point of antagonizing the right-wing hate machine like Brie Larson did?

          • The Nybbler says:

            It takes some serious chutzpah to call people a “hate machine” because when they are deliberately antagonized, they act antagonistically.

            However, according to reddit’s HQ for such things, Gadot refused to do so.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            BBA: Nah, Boseman is a cool dude and Gadot took some mild heat from the Left for being a Zionist and some questions over whether she counts as POC.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            I wonder if there’s a superhero called Lizardman who they could make a movie about.

            ETA: Tomatometer says: 5% Fresh!

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Bot-Net Trolling. Ive seen it.

            There’s competing botnets reviewing Captain Marvel.

            Citation needed, for either explanation. At this point claims of bots/botnets/sock puppet accounts/etc/etc are so rife that I pretty much ignore them unless someone can at least produce some level of evidence.

            Which is not to say I don’t think that it’s plausible. Just that there are so many claims that “eh, plausible I guess” doesn’t really move the needle anymore.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            Okay, data, it occurred to me there was a quick way to sanity check that my friend circle are not just all signed up members of the Feminist Council for the Overthrow of the Patriarchy, and get actual numbers not likely to be tainted by the efforts of US trolls, so I just swung by various European review sites, on the grounds that, eh, cough, american misogynist trolls probably do not speak enough German or French to effectively point a bot-net at those, and it wouldn’t occur to them to do so in the first place.

            None of the ones I visited before I got bored had any significant delta between critical and audience reaction whatsoever. – And also a very strong consensus that this is a four-out-of-five stars movie. So, yes, someone is fucking with the numbers.

          • Aapje says:

            @Thomas Jorgensen

            The Guardian and my own newspaper both gave it 3 stars and the Guardian and the movie section of my newspaper are both SJ Central and presumably give bonus points for the first woman in a sole lead role in such a movie.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            It seems like if you want a less biased measurement of how much audiences liked the movie, box office numbers are a much better choice than international reviews.

            It looks like Captain Marvel is having a strong opening weekend, $155 million dollars as of yesterday. It might not end up beating other Marvel movies like Doctor Strange but that’s not a given. It’s already made back its $153 million budget so even if it dropped off the face of the Earth on Monday it’s not possible for Disney to lose money here, only to make a lower than expected profit.

            The real question is, how many of the people seeing it now are going to recommend it to their friends or come back to see it again. If ticket sales stay high for the next week plus I would feel comfortable saying that the movie is more popular than its reviews suggest.

            Obviously box office totals aren’t an objective measure of quality but I can’t think of a better measure of popularity.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal

            The measure you want is the change between the first and second week. This indicates what the effect is of word of mouth.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal

            The $153 million budget is the production budget, which does not include the marketing budget, which was clearly enormous. Ghostbusters 2016 grossed $229 million with a production budget of $144 million, but is still not considered a success.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            For whatever it’s worth, I have seen Captain Marvel.

            I thought it was pretty good! Solidly in the upper half of MCU movies, all of which (besides Hulk) I’ve seen, and pretty much all of which I’ve enjoyed.

            It is a somewhat counterintuitive approach to a CM movie. If I had been able to do a Being Kevin Feige thing where I burrow into his head from the 13.5th floor, I would probably not have okayed this particular approach to a CM movie. But judging it for what it’s trying to do, I think it’s pretty successful.

            Larson tries to give a pretty nuanced performance, doing lots of emotion and reaction. I think she usually nails it and gives a character-focused movie more depth, but some of the details of the performance didn’t land to me — my friends with more movie-making knowledge called into question some of the directing and editing decisions.

            I liked it more than my three other friends who saw it (all men, all broadly but not psychotically on the left). Some of their criticisms were:

            * Movie feels “smaller” than it “should”
            * Did not like their choices for Nick Fury’s younger self’s portrayal
            * Some parts of the movie looked cheap.
            * Did not enjoy final action scene
            * A critical twist in terms of some antagonist behavior was under-sold

            I feel like the “some parts looked cheap” and the antagonist behavior ones have some validity, but did not get in the way of my enjoyment of the movie.

            The in-movie social justice stuff was pretty mild. Carol Danvers experiences a certain amount of hazing from male military pilots in the 90’s (like, someone says “you know why it’s called a cockpit,” and someone else says, “you’ll never be a fighter pilot”). Perhaps unsurprisingly, she (and Maria Rambeau, her friend) prove them wrong. There’s a late line of dialog about not needing the approval of a male authority figure that was maybe a little on-the-nose.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            Detailed reaction: The script and the performances are very solid indeed. Marvel shelled out on the talent, and it shows.

            Without excessive spoilers, this movie makes very good use of forshadowing. Its not the sixth sense, but it will probably reward rewatching once it heats the streaming services at least once.

            The “this movie is set in the nineties” callbacks are all amusing enough, although without a doylist excuse for era appropriate music like the guardians of the galaxy had, the soundtrack is not as impressive – but few movies indeed do soundtrack that well.

            Things that drag it down: It suffers from overuse of zoom and jump-cuts in fight scenes. I think this is to disguise the cgi, and also just the fact that while Brie put on enough muscle to credibly be a fighter jock, she got them from weights, she has not in fact spent the past 7 years maintaining a hand-to-hand combat training regimen. But the fact that they had reasons for doing it, does not mean it looks good. CGI sometimes just falls flat. Guys, do not do closeups of a cgi-model of your actors face that take up the entire screen. It is bad for suspense of disbelief.

            Also, pacing is sometimes really odd. This movie needed a better editor.

            Things that are just.. “wth?” Carol and Marias relationship was some “Fried Green Tomatoes / Top Gun Wingman” level queer coding. Trying to not offend China? This is bad because it robs the memory loss story-line of some impact.
            – That entire line really should just have had more follow through. More time spent with her Kree squad would also have helped, I think.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The in-movie social justice was toned down, if anything. Trying to be a pilot in the late 1980s (before Tailhook) would be pretty bad, and they only showed it as much as they had to.

            I didn’t read the media and was unaware of Brie Larson’s antagonism, or not, or whatever it was. (I saw second-hand complaining and voxsplaining in response, but only in headlines, and didn’t really care enough to read past that.) Casting-wise, it did seem like making Mar-Vell a women instead of a man was a little gratuitous — would a proper male mentor have ruined it?

            I enjoyed the movie, which is the best measure. I had some serious problems with it (some flat acting, completely boring final action scene), and even bigger problems with how it upsets the order of the MCU, but it was perfectly entertaining, as all things should be.

            Its not the sixth sense

            I had to re-read this, because Ms Marvel has that as a power (even a seventh sense, to go one further)./

          • baconbits9 says:

            I find these types of threads fascinating, I can’t imagine describing a movie as having bad sequences, boring action scenes, to much (or badly done CGI), poor acting etc and end up concluding “its pretty good, watchable, fun, 4/5 stars”. Movies just don’t work that way for me I guess.

          • Protagoras says:

            I liked it, and I guess I’m in agreement with some of the other people who said they liked it. I thought the acting was good. The plot had some issues but not any worse than usual for a superhero movie. The action sequences didn’t blow me away, but then they usually don’t; I feel like too many movies rely on that too much, and was happy that this one didn’t seem to make them drag on overly long the way some in this genre do. I also feel like love plots often end up feeling tacked on or otherwise end up being poorly done in a lot of superhero movies, so I approve of this movie trying the approach of just not having one.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          In this case I think it likely is botnet trolling. From what I understand:

          1) Brie Larson makes bigoted “Woke” comments about the movie.

          2) Upon release, the movie is Not That Woke.

          3) The resounding consensus of people who’ve seen the film: “‘sokay.”

          4) I find it very hard to believe that the people who went out and saw the movie on opening day all came back and said “it sucks” on RT while saying “‘sokay” everywhere else.

    • The Nybbler says:

      They must have known they had a real stinker with this movie. They’ve been going full-court press after detractors, and they don’t even have a single Return of Kings article to back them up. For instance

      After trolls tanked the film’s community reviews weeks before the movie came out

      is just a flat-out lie. Nobody tanked the reviews before the movie came out; after Larson went on her tour, people just posted that they didn’t want to see the movie, using a Rotten Tomatoes feature correctly.

    • Asclepius' Viper says:

      I’m a little skeptical of any explanation Google is offering for behavior which could more simply be explained “Disney is far more likely to throw us advertising money than these low-status nobodies.” I’m sure this is the first *ever* case of misogyny they’ve found on YouTube, but it’s awfully coincidental.

      I’m not trying to discount your concern, but am I missing something that makes Google’s excuse more believable than the standard “what’s the best PR reason we can give here”?

      • I don’t believe this at all. Republicans winning the presidency, Supreme Court and Congress didn’t have the effect of making companies more subservient to Republicans. In fact, it went the other way. Do you think Google would ever be tempted to stifle videos that were critical of oil companies, even if those videos somehow cost them money?

        • toastengineer says:

          Doing that would be more likely to have real consequences, at the very least they’d have something akin to the thing where Google employees pressured the company not to work with the military.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Do you think Google would ever be tempted to stifle videos that were critical of oil companies, even if those videos somehow cost them money?

          If you believe you have enough of a monopoly on public information to sway what people think they should buy, you would have an incentive to do just that.

        • broblawsky says:

          It actually did make them more subservient, briefly. There are plenty of early 2017 articles about the tech majors retaining conservative lobbyists. The problem is that the conduct of the Republican party in power didn’t actually change the minds of any of their employees, so it didn’t last.

          • There’s a big difference between hiring lobbyists and changing your business practices. If we believe the “follow the money” theory, then companies moving to the left following Trump’s victory is a complete mystery. We know that conservativism can sell(see the success of American Sniper) so why are movies with politics dominated by the left? If you believe the “follow the status” theory, it makes much more sense.

          • broblawsky says:

            God forbid that we admit that our political opponents honestly believe in something.

          • Baeraad says:

            God forbid that we admit that our political opponents honestly believe in something.

            Yeah. SSC’s eternal chorus of “STATUS! It’s all about STATUS! Everyone secretly agrees with me but they won’t admit it because then they’d lose STATUS!” gets really, really tiresome sometimes. Scott tends to be good at using the concept delicately and only to explain the otherwise inexplicable, but the comment section is… rather less discerning.

            Look, take it from someone who has absolutely no STATUS whatsoever – it is absolutely possible to find conservative positions objectionable without having anything to gain from it.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      Analogy with an introduction of a printing press to Europe is spot on.

      There is a new technology which reduces power of mainstream gatekeepers of acceptable debate. It would be actually very surprising if those gatekeepers didn´t try to fight back.

    • fluorocarbon says:

      Youtube’s parent corporation Google is trying to stifle the egalitarian, bottom-up potential of the internet to help the Disney corporation make more money on a ~$100 million film investment

      This is probably less about a sinister group of corporations protecting each other’s profits by defending a bankrupt state-funded ideology and destroying all independent thought and more about the challenges of having an audience that contains a small group of people passionate about a single issue and a large group of passive viewers who don’t care much about anything in particular.

      Most people don’t vote on videos in YouTube and a lot of people don’t even have accounts. If you display whatever has the plurality of votes, you could end up displaying content that 10% of the audience really really likes but 50% of the audience mildly dislikes, which is not optimal. This is a really hard problem to solve for aggregation platforms. There are also similar issues with plurality-based electoral systems

      I feel like I’m living through the period when the Catholic Church and the newly-founded Anglican and state Lutheran churches attempted to control the egalitarian potential of movable type technology.

      Without a doubt the most horrific thing that happened in Europe following the Reformation was hundreds of years of bloody warfare and oppression putting Catholic pamphlets in a slightly more prominent position than Protestant pamphlets.

      … according to the hegemonic ideology taught in state-funded universities.

      Is this really the most charitable way to describe your out group?

      This was construed as icky misogyny, so they tweaked their algorithm to bury the popular videos below ones from the MSM, which are all positive.

      OK, so granting that the critics are most likely low-status dudes with messed-up priorities …

      It seems like Disney’s marketing strategy for this movie was to get a bunch of unpopular people worked up about it so that all the people who don’t like those unpopular people would go to see the movie. In my opinion this is a pretty disgusting marketing strategy and it’s ridiculous that the media (and the unpopular people) are just playing into it, totally fine that they’re being used, or not seeing it for what it is.

      I do have to disagree with people saying “the movie must be really bad if they’re resorting to this.” Disney is a giant soulless corporation whose only goal is to make money. If they can squeeze an extra dollar out of a film by doing something, they’ll do it, whether or not it’s a good movie and whether or not it would be successful otherwise.

    • BBA says:

      Wokeness only became the dominant mode of cultural criticism in the 2010s, after a couple of decades percolating in universities without gaining any real traction. I don’t think it would’ve happened without Facebook and Twitter and, yes, YouTube giving the woke folk a way to make an end run around stodgy centrist traditional media. Now that they’ve taken over, they want to pull up the ladder… okay.

      Since right now most of the opposition is coming from actual honest-to-god misogynists, it’s easy to dismiss. When the left starts eating its own (e.g., something like the A Place for Wolves debacle on a national scale) things will get interesting.

      • albatross11 says:


        Can you explain why you think most of the opposition to wokeness comes from actual mysogynists? The opposition I see comes largely from smart people who disagree with some aspects of the expressed beliefs of the Woke or their tactics, alongside Republicans who enjoy making fun of SJW excesses for the same reason Democrats like making fun of Tea Partiers with “Keep Government out of My Medicare” signs.

        How would we get an actual measurement to decide where the opposition is coming from?

        • BBA says:

          Most of the visible opposition, I should say. For every whiny manchild ranting on YouTube about feminism there may be a thousand mature people quietly rolling their eyes at Brie Larson’s comments, but it’s the YouTube ranters that get the attention.

          • albatross11 says:

            This is probably the case for the woke, too. For every overwrought college student screeching that they’re threatened by allowing Ben Shapiro to speak on campus, there are probably ten people of broadly similar beliefs rolling their eyes at the whole thing.

      • Clutzy says:

        “Centrist Traditional Media” is a laughable idea from where I sat as a middleschooler right before 9/11 happened. It was clearly a massively anti-Bush media, on the level of modern day MSNBC on CBS, ABC, NBC, and CNN that was no different than modern Trump hate. 9/11 is the only reason we had any rest from such hysteria.

        • BBA says:

          We’re talking about movie reviews here. I remember when The Iron Giant came out, the Washington Post reviewer was rolling his eyes at yet another cliched left-wing message movie. Today that kind of stance is impossible to imagine the Post publishing outside the designated conservative op-ed columns.

          The real divide I’m talking about is stodgy vs woke, i.e. people who think Green Book is an inspirational story of overcoming differences versus those who dismiss it as a “white savior” narrative.

          • Clutzy says:

            How can you separate that from a change in leftism? In the 1990s we had a much more moderate left that wanted to reduce immigration levels, had a timeline for when they would end affirmative action, and signed on to a welfare reform bill. That is a huge pivot from the modern left.

        • Plumber says:


          ‘“Centrist Traditional Media” is a laughable idea from where I sat as a middleschooler right before 9/11 happened”


          When I was in Junior High 1980 to 1982 besides broadcast television and newspapers there were the “news weekly” magazines: Newsweek, Time, and U.S. News and World Report, and it seemed that all of the them spoke negatively of both “leftists”, and “right-wingers”, though they leaned one way or another (it seemed that Newsweek  was slightly more against “right-wingers”, and Time was more anti-“leftists”, but both seem to regard “the center” as the “one true path”), and I don’t recall much change from that stance into the early 21st century when I stopped reading them.

          • Part of the problem with this issue is that what looks like “center” depends on where you are. In principle one could define it in terms of the distribution of political views in the U.S. population. But each of us is observing the distribution of views in his bubble, which is likely to be different for different people, and judging the media as right or left accordingly.

          • Aapje says:

            Indeed. My newspaper had a black separatist columnist for quite some time, while the most extreme columnist on the other side was way more moderate. This shows what they consider centrist, which is actually substantially to the left.

  6. honoredb says:

    I was just prescribed Duexis, a pill that just combines two cheap over-the-counter medications at about a 100x markup. This is silly, but the incentive still seems to be for me to fill the prescription, since my insurance will cover it, rather than buying the medications (or one of them, since I already have lots of the other). But I understand this is kinda why we can’t have nice things. Is there an ethical argument that I should not fill the prescription and just roll my own at my own expense to save my insurance company money?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      There is an ethical argument that you should question your provider as to why they prescribed you that medication and didn’t simply recommend you take the OTC drugs. You should not simply assume that they have prescribed this for no good reason.

      If they can’t give you a good answer to that question, this is a potential indication that you may wish to look for a new provider.

      • honoredb says:

        I mean, their incentives seem pretty straightforward here: I’m more likely to successfully take 3 big pills a day than 18 small pills, and neither of us is on the hook for the price difference.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Scott describes the incentive structure in another post

          The point of Lovaza and Deplin is to make fish oil and folate Official. I wish someone would do the same with melatonin so I could start prescribing it in-hospital already.

          This does not answer your original question. Sorry.
          Edit: It looks like Scott says it does improve society, later on, but I might be failing to get through sarcasm:

          This system, bizarre as it is, is your guarantee against the pharmaceutical companies suppressing a promising new natural medication.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I’m more likely to successfully take 3 big pills a day than 18 small pills

          Well, unless you ask the provider, you don’t know that this is the answer they will give.

          But, to the extent that you just elucidated something that has impact on outcomes, this is a perfectly valid, ethical reason to prescribe the 2 in 1 drug.

          I highly advise against simply doing it yourself because you assume you know why the provider prescribed the specific drug.

        • acymetric says:

          Not only are you not on the hook, you would pay more for the OTC version since insurance wouldn’t cover it, right?

    • 10240 says:

      Is there a reason an insurance company can’t cover OTC drugs as long as they are prescribed/recommended by a doctor? In this case it would be in their interest to do so, as it would be cheaper for them.

    • honoredb says:

      Update: near as I can tell, the doctor signed me up for Capsule the robo-pharmacy, and Capsule discovered that my insurance doesn’t cover Duexis, but is still honoring their pledge to fill it for $10. So I suspect the insurance company is refusing to be gouged, but the whole VC-funded loss-leader tech growth model thing is totally cool with being price gouged. At this point, who am I to blow against the wind?

  7. sunnydestroy says:

    I was reading through Causeway Capital’s May newsletter as I’ve been reading up on growth vs value stocks for this upcoming year. They make some compelling arguments that growth will be underperforming in the near future.

    Some interesting bits:

    The -0.10 correlation with the MSCI World Index suggests that value has performed better in down markets, and the +0.13 correlation with GDP growth suggests some procyclical disposition for value, but both of these relationships have been very weak.

    The implication is that value has potential to perform no matter the market conditions.

    Moves at central banks would suggest growth stock prices won’t be growing like before:

    However, the U.S. Federal Reserve is now actively reducing the size of its balance sheet, a trend that other major central banks will likely follow (see Exhibit 5). Benchmark yields are on the rise, and negative rates now seem destined to become a temporary quirk for the economic history books. Rising interest rates have an important implication for the relative performance of value. Increasing the discount rate applied to cash flows will necessarily reduce their present value. Since growth stocks tend to have more of their cash flows expected in years far in the future (i.e. longer duration), higher interest rates should have a more negative impact on the present value of growth stocks relative to value stocks.

    Growth stocks are also looking expensive right now, which conversely would suggest value is a exactly as the name would suggest:

    Having climbed significantly in 2017, the P/E premium of the MSCI World Growth Index over the Value index is now 45%. This is higher than it was pre-GFC and the highest it has been since the tech bubble in the late 1990s/early 2000s. This current premium represents a rare 1.6 standard deviation event; the premium has been this high (or higher) in only approximately 5% of the history of the style indices.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      This article was written a year ago, In may of 2018, there was a steep correction since then, do you think the arguments made still hold up?

  8. proyas says:

    Does anyone know where I can find a bell curve graph showing the distribution of pant sizes in the adult population? Also, I’d like to see bell curves for the male and female distributions separately.

  9. Scott Alexander says:

    Question for any psych/neuro people who might be reading this:

    Is there a technical term for the mental function I am doing when I start my laundry, know that I need to take it out in an hour, and then (hopefully) an hour later, the thought comes into my head “you should go check your laundry”? Sort of like setting an alarm and then having it trigger at the right time, or holding a thought in your brain without it impairing everything else you need to think about in the hour it takes before it becomes relevant?

    • Aapje says:

      I seem to be able to wake up very close to a desired time, which is even more impressive, I think. I think this needs a superhero story: Wake up man – Always arrives on time, to combat crime.

      • Enkidum says:

        A propos of nothing much, when I in high school I got into more than one argument during D&D sessions when players argued that their characters could go to sleep and just choose to wake up at three in the morning when the sacred ritual had to begin, or whatever. Perhaps they were you.

      • Winja says:

        Do you need an apprentice or sidekick?

        I’d love to learn how to do that. It would save me a lot of grief.

      • carvenvisage says:

        me too

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Winja and carvenvisage,

        Have you experimented with choosing when you want to wake up? I just think about when I want to wake up– no stern voice, no visualizing a clock face (which is what James Bond did– I wonder if that was based on someone Fleming knew).

        In the spirit of belt and suspenders, I recommend starting with intending to wake up 15 minutes before your alarm goes off.

        • carvenvisage says:

          @Nancy lebovitz I meant that I can “set” a rough time to wake up to like aapje.

          some n=1 anecdata:

          I already tend to wake up before my alarm clock

          It feels like I’m using a synthetic internal metronome rather than something more circadian. Tinkeringly setting an alarm for a certain amount of hours later rather than adjusting the normal pattern of sleep–I assume the latter is possible too.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I’ve got a fair amount of that, including being able to wake up at a chosen time if I’m not too tired.

      I haven’t done it lately, but I might still be able to want to leave a store at a certain time, wander around, look at what I please, and be out at that time.

      As far as I can tell, the ability kicked in when I was watching a fair amount of television and got a good idea of what a half hour and an hour were.

      Having a duration sense seems biologically weird. It’s not as though biochemical reactions run on clock time, or do they?

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Having a duration sense seems biologically weird.

        Does it?

        We have biological clocks and they are fairly consistent. The most recent studies confirm a 24 hour day is hard-wired as long as there is an absence of the ability to control artificial light.

        Many other species also have hard-wired circadian rhythms.

        • carvenvisage says:

          Also consider all the time people spend adhering to a timetable in public education. Years with bells ringing every half an hour.

    • Enkidum says:

      Prospective memory.

    • qwitwa says:

      Enkidum’s got it with prospective memory.

      There’s this interesting section in the PNSE enlightenment study where it seems like that sort of ability substantially declines as you get more enlightened (pdf page 23):

      There was a noticeable exception that seemed to be a genuine deficit. As they neared and entered the farther reaches of the continuum, participants routinely reported that they were increasingly unable to remember things such as scheduled appointments, while still being able to remember events that were part of a routine. For example, they might consistently remember to pick their child up at school each day, but forget other types of appointments such as doctor visits.
      Often they had adapted their routines to adjust for this change. Many would immediately write down scheduled events, items they needed to get at the store, and so forth on prominently displayed lists. When visiting their homes I noticed that these lists could be found on: televisions, computer monitors, near toilets, on and next to doors, and so forth. It was clear that the lists were being placed in locations that the participants would look with at least some degree of regularity.
      Participants consistently stated that they would prefer to remain in PNSE even if going back to ‘normal’ experience meant that they would no longer have this type of deficit.

      • Enkidum says:

        Interesting. One finding I saw (which was just on a poster, not peer-reviewed, and I did not follow up on it) was that the only actual marijuana-related memory deficit this group could find was with prospective memory – it didn’t affect scores on working memory or episodic memory tests.

      • acymetric says:

        Maybe I’m off here, but these seem like different things to me (or at least different subcategories that are different enough to require different evaluation). I guess you could frame “check laundry in an hour” as “I have an appointment to check laundry in an hour”, but that seems like a different mental process than “I’ve scheduled an appointment with my podiatrist on Thursday, June 3 at 6:00”. One is remembering a schedule, the other (laundry) seems more like an internal timer.

      • yodelyak says:

        Hah, I love this thread. I am going to do so much reading about PNSE and prospective memory, both which I’d never heard of.

        These two concepts don’t seem that clearly linked to me, but there have been times in my life when I could direct myself in a stern voice to wake up at a certain time, and it would work, plus or minus <15 minutes on an 8 hour night, or plus or minus 2 minutes on cooking a pizza. For me the limit has usually been self-control/motivation/akrasia, and failures feel like failures of will.

        As a kid of about 8, I had a very intense religious experience when I started thinking carefully about being, time, identity, and how actions have consequences. I don't have many crisp memories from before that. I have had a very good PNSE experience since then, which made me weird and/or deep in the eyes of kids my age, and more than a handful of adults. (At least for a kid, when I was enough of an outlier that I'm comfortable rating myself. It seems likely others have caught up.) At one point as a kid I deliberately got up early, before my parents, and sat at the kitchen table singing a simple song (little red caboose) while watching the clock and noticing how much time went by with, e.g., 10 full repetitions of the song.

        At some point as a young adult, it became obvious that my inability to remember things like sporadic appointments was going to be a major challenge in life. (I missed so many appointments it took me 5 years to sorta finish a 2-year course of orthodontic treatment.) It still is. I hadn't connected it to my PNSE, but I wouldn't trade them.

        (Comment was posted unfinished by mistake, edited to finish thought.)

      • carvenvisage says:

        What’s PNSE enlightenment? I wonder if this comes from a habit of dissolving mental habits, which seems to be a goal of a lot of meditation

        (negative ones especially, but if you’re e.g. supposed to look at a rose and not think *anything*, one way to do that is to form a habit a level deeper of dissipating mental structures (e.g. thoughts) that exist at a certain (idle) level of intensity, and my ‘biological reminder/alarm clock’ (at least/n=1) exists at a very ephemeral level, so I could imagine a strong enough habit of dissolving ruminations eating that up as well. (Which I totally wouldn’t mind, because who needs a biological timer when you have a phone.)

  10. Aapje says:

    Today in weird things about The Netherlands:

    There is a fairly new Dutch brand called Sissy-Boy. The name is really quit absurd, making me think of the apparent Asian custom of people getting trolled by their clothes suppliers (don’t forget to check out the shirt at #24). Sissy-Boy doesn’t have very visible branding on their clothing, so it isn’t that bad, but the ads do make me double-take. It seems like a rather dumb name if they ever want to expand into the English-speaking world.

    The most Dutch snack might be the cheese soufflé. It consists of melted Gouda cheese inside a thin dough-based wrap which has been breaded and then deep-fried. I’m personally not a fan, but it is a fairly popular snack over here.

    • suntzuanime says:

      That snack sounds good as hell, like a classier version of mozzarella sticks. Do you eat it with any dipping sauce, or just dry?

      • Aapje says:

        We actually also have cheese sticks, which are long thin spring rolls filled with Gouda cheese. These are commonly served as finger food during informal gatherings and dipped in a chili sauce (Sambal Oelek, I think).

        The cheese soufflés are usually eaten just dry.

        There are people who put it into a bun, sometimes with sauce. Sauces I’ve heard people use are peanut/satay sauce, mayonnaise and chili sauce.

        I tend to prefer to eat things with bread, that are commonly also eaten separately (like raw herring, fried cod, croquettes), so I might like that better, although I’ve never tried.

    • When I was recently in the Netherlands, I had some stroopwafels, which were quite tasty.

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        I have heard people swear by stroopwafels, but when I’ve had them they’ve merely been good.

  11. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    Just finished shaving with a safety razor after seeing it shilled forever on the internet as the one true shaving method, and, OMG, this is like the best thing ever? It works just as well as those disposable triple blade Equate razors from Walmart, except that the disposable razor costs $0.61 each and take up a lot of space because they come in packets of 8 while I got the safety razor for $13.66 and a 400 blade pack for $31.25 meaning I got each razor for $0.11 to start and $0.08 for future refills so they are much cheaper and they take up like no space. Assuming each razor lasts me a week, I just got an 8 year supply of blades and combined with the razor box they take up as much space as a single hardback book. I can’t believe we used to have this technology and we gave it up in favor of disposable plastic crap and overengineered electric razors (which I have also tried; I found that they are very bad at removing under chin hair, but that might just be because I am fat).

    • Nornagest says:

      Welcome to the cult; robes are in the corner.

      The thing I really like about safety razors is that they handle adverse conditions way better than any of the alternatives (except maybe straight razors, but I’m not that cool yet). Try to use a disposable razor with less water than ideal (perhaps because you’re camping and need to drip it out of a Nalgene bottle like some kind of caveman) and it’ll clog. Electric razors need to be charged and are sensitive to dust and moisture. But a safety razor has bigger ports than a disposable, and if it clogs you can just pop it open and clean it manually.

      It’s just a shame they’re not carryon-friendly.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        The thing I really like about safety razors is that they handle adverse conditions way better than any of the alternatives (except maybe straight razors, but I’m not that cool yet).

        My theory is that Emperor Nero had a neckbeard because straight razors were the only shaving technology, and he was scared.

        • Winja says:

          Razors didn’t really exist in ancient Rome.

          Evidently Roman men didn’t shave so much as go to a barber for a good plucking.

          Source for this information is either Mike Duncan’s “The History of Ancient Rome” podcast or Alberto Angela’s book “A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome.”

          I can’t remember specifically.

          • quaelegit says:

            There seems to be a lot of confusion about Roman shaving practices on the internet; but the Romans definitely had razors. For example, take this passage from the first-century AD medical text De Medicina by Celsus:

            But there is nothing better than to shave the part daily with a razor, because as the surface skin is gradually removed, the hair roots become exposed; and the treatment should continue until a number of hairs are seen to be growing up. Following upon the shaving it is sufficient to smear on Indian ink.

            ( English text here;

            Latin text here: ctrl-f “novacula” for the relevant sentence)

          • Nick says:

            There’s a passage in Cicero’s second oration against Catiline where he makes fun of one bloc’s facial hair:

            There is a last class, last not only in number but in the sort of men and in their way of life; the especial body-guard of Catiline, of his levying; yes, the friends of his embraces and of his bosom; whom you see with carefully combed hair, glossy, beardless, or with well-trimmed beards

            Here’s the Latin, which I found, as you can see, because I remembered the hilarious insult “suas mulierculas.”

          • quaelegit says:

            @Nick — shouldn’t “mulierculas” mean something like “woman-like” (or maybe “girlish” taking -cul as a diminiutive suffix)? Where does that fit into the English translation you gave?

          • Nick says:

            We took it as a diminutive when we translated it in class. Unfortunately, there it’s just translated, “Are they going to take their wives with them to the camp?”

      • Garrett says:

        adverse conditions way better than any of the alternatives

        Perhaps adverse conditions, but not adverse users. Other than when operating a soldering iron I am dexterity-challenged. Doubly-so when my concentration drifts. For all their faults, electric shavers can be used single-handed without a mirror without having to risk exsanguination.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Yeah, it’s far more economical. I went crazy buying packs of blades, soap, etc… and with the stuff I’ve bought, plus some stuff I was given that belonged to the father of a friend, I’ve probably got shaving equipment to last me 5 years, at least? Maybe more.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I bought an electric razor several years ago. About $50. Still works. I have to clean it periodically with soap and water, and of course, it uses some electricity. Portable; usable for at least a week without recharging. I keep a beard, so the only chin hair I have to remove is further down, and the electric razor seems to handle it about as well as anything growing on my cheeks.

      $13.66 for safety razor + 400 blade pack for $31.25 is $44.91 – just about $5 shy of mine. The pack lasts for 400 uses – 1.3 years? – vs. mine, which lasts as long as I spend electricity recharging the battery, something like 5+ years so far. (So a relevant question is how much I spend for one use worth of electricity, which I don’t know OTTOMH.) Figure water usage is a, err, wash.

      • Statismagician says:

        Not quite – each ‘use’ is weeks to months, depending on how often you change blades. He might very plausibly never have to buy razor blades again.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Good point, which I overlooked.

          Then again, he’s also presumably using shaving cream, which I’ve never bought.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Electric razors do need replacement parts — the head with foil or the cutter/comb set, depending on which type. I replace mine about once a year but probably should do it more often. A Braun Series 7 head runs about $30 nowadays, though it has been more. A Series 3 head (more representative of a $50 shaver) runs $25, so not that much cheaper; it looks like Remington and Norelco are similar.

        The refills for the fancy cleaning bases increase the cost even more, but aren’t actually necessary.

    • Deiseach says:

      I’m laughing here because everything old is new again; when I was a little girl, my father shaved with a safety razor because electric razors were new-fangled expensive fads and disposable razors hadn’t yet been invented.

      Truly, there is nothing new under the sun!

      Honestly, this is calling up long-forgotten memories of razor blades individually wrapped in paper and being warned never to touch them because they were sharp and would cut you to ribbons, and the old razor that the head screwed off the handle when you wanted to put the new blade in, and all the rest of it 🙂

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      In his January 19th Links post, Scott had a link to a bunch of razor stuff, including a pretty good Voxsplainer, and this money quote

      “The ludicrousness of today’s open [razor] market means, mostly, having the option to pay a lot of money for something or not a lot of money for something, without ever really approaching a concrete, evidence-backed reason for the decision.”

      I need to take the plunge, get rid of all my razors, and just go with something, and your link has a good chance of being it.

    • Plumber says:

      I’ve used electric, old-style safety, old (1980’s) style disposable, new style disposable, and a straight razor.
      The electric works well for shaving without using a mirror (except for the sideburns which I’m particular about) but the shave is never as close as a blade shave.
      Old-style safety razors still require blade replacement, which I don’t find much cheaper than the ’80’s style disposable blades (“Atra” and “Trac-II”) but those are seldom in stores anymore so you need to stock up when you can and sometimes (depending on what’s on sale) the safety razor blades cost more, the new-style three and four blade razors are “too rich for my blood” (more than I’m willing to pay), plus they stop supplying the replacement blades with the next “improvement”.
      The straight razor gives the closest shave, but using the strop and hone to keep it effective is time consuming, plus the shave itself is a little longer, and I haven’t used it much since our son was out of diapers (we only have one bathroom in our house), but in the years I used it I found that its “cut throat” reputation much exaggerated, when I kept it sharp with the strop and hone I didn’t cut my face any more than with any other type of non-electric shaver (and I’ve had some older electric shavers that also sometimes broke skin).

    • andrewflicker says:

      I have a good safety razor with accoutrements, but I find I often use a high-quality disposable anyway, just because it saves time and gives an almost-as-good shave. Do all of you find safety razor shaves equal in time to disposable razor shaves? Perhaps I didn’t stick with doing it daily long enough to speed up sufficiently.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I’ve found that as I’ve gotten used to it, it doesn’t take very long – maybe 5 minutes to shave, all told?

      • Nornagest says:

        Almost the same for me; I need to change blades a bit more often to get the same performance, but that’s not a big deal when they cost a tenth as much. Lathering up shaving soap takes time, but if you don’t feel like doing that you can just use canister shaving cream.

        • andrewflicker says:

          Yeah, that might be the issue. Lathering up the soap (and warming the bowl I keep it in) takes time.

  12. Evan Þ says:

    What would a flat world look like? Let’s ignore issues of gravity (perhaps the plane of the world really is accelerating upwards at 9.81 m/s/s?); what would it be like to live there?

    For one, there wouldn’t be any horizon. To take Lewis’s flat Narnia, someone could stand on the balcony of Cair Paravel and (given a strong enough telescope) see someone standing hundreds of miles south on the wall of Tashbaan… or at least he could if the mountains of Archenland weren’t in the way. But, he could look out to sea and see the Lone Islands and beyond. Or, could he? How far would it be till atmospheric diffraction renders everything into a vague background blob?

    For another, navigation would be weird. I’ll defer to the blog on the details, but to make things short – yes, you can navigate using trigonometry and multiple stars at night (assuming the stars stay in their orbits and don’t dance off… in Narnia, they’re living creatures); no, it’s nothing like in a round world; no, you can’t check your work during the day.

    For a third point, seasons might not exist or would at least be different. There’re so many variables I’m not sure how, though. Polar and equatorial climates would probably be similar, though, assuming the sun stays above the equator. (Lewis briefly mentions ice in the north of Narnia; the map cuts off to the south without letting us know whether hot Calormen is truly on the equator and there’s a southern hemisphere beyond it.)

    Are there any other differences? And, can someone run the numbers on atmospheric diffraction?

    • bullseye says:

      If you can see both the ground and the sky, the apparent edge (which might be the actual edge) is the horizon.

    • JPNunez says:

      I think it depends a lot on the setting.

      Does the flat earth still have a sun rotating around it? If it’s flat, beacons become way more useful as long as the sky is clear. Tall mountains become a landmark everywhere. However there’s a limit on seeing things on land due to the density of air. Maybe you’d only see a blur beyond a certain distance, and the occasional mountain over it, where air pressure render them visible.

      Seasons are even more complex; does the sun alter it’s inclination over the planet?

      If the setting is more “realistic”, maybe the stars remain largely fixed over the horizon, if the flat planet remains fixed and only the sun rotates around it; more probably, both rotate, providing a “year”. Depending on how the rotation happens (yaw would move the stars around, while roll and pitch would reveal new stars) how you count this year would vary.

      That’s assuming you even have stars there. If there’s a flat planet, things may differ on the cosmic stage too.

      A flat planet may have to deal with losing atmosphere and water and, well, basically anything over the border. Is there an underside, or just the four elephants and the turtle?

      Are there still meteorites falling on it? other flat planets around which the sun rotates? Even a sun? Tolkien’s world didn’t have a Sun or Moon at first, and everything was illuminated by the two holy trees, Telperion and Laurelin. This must have been hell on sleep cycles, building codes, agriculture, climate, walking in the general direction of the trees, and well, everything.

      If you have the sun rotating around it, the sun rise and setting may be espectacular, as suddenly you may see for thosands of kilometers due to the high contrast. Depending on what keeps the water from being lost, you may lose the beauty of sunsets on the sea.

      Maybe you just flatten Earth like a coin and leave everything else equal; you’d have seasons still, but there may not be a tropic and artic/antartic climates. If the moon is flat too…did it stop rotating? or sometimes you have partial eclipses where you see the side of the moon, and full eclipses are even rarer.

      One of my fav ideas is a giant snowball earth, where there’s still a spherical planet, but the inhabited zone is just a small clearing in a world of ice, rendering the map flat, but providing other “worlds” far away reachable by traversing the ice. This simplifies a lot for the physics while still having a flat map.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        How bright would the two trees need to be?

        • JPNunez says:

          Since magic was involved, probably not as much as the sun. But still really bright. Dunno if they heated too.

          It was probably very very very very impractical. Morgoth was right in destroying them.

      • LHN says:

        The Trees’ light was regional, and limited to part of a continent. Their light waxed and waned alternately so there was something of a light cycle, but over seven hours, so it wouldn’t support a diurnal cycle like the one we’re familiar with.

        Middle-Earth, meanwhile, had only starlight (and some of the brightest stars came later). Since everything didn’t die, presumably plant life was being stimulated by Yavanna and/or Elvish arts in lieu of photosynthesis. (With something similar but doubtless more horrific keeping the Orcs et al. alive in Angband.)

        Before the Trees there were the Two Lamps on top of mountains, and they may have illuminated the whole world. I don’t know if their light oscillated at all or if it was just really bright all the time.

        • JPNunez says:

          The lamps sound more practical, as they were on opposite sides of the world.

          Both trees seem to have been together.

    • Well... says:

      In case you don’t want to ignore issues of gravity, see this interesting video: [link]

    • bullseye says:

      If you’re in the northern hemisphere, the sun appears further north (closer to your latitude) during the warmer months. A flat earther might interpret this as the sun being actually closer, thereby explaining the warmth.

      You might want to look up ancient Chinese astronomy; they were flat earthers, but I assume they had a logically consistent cosmology.

    • beleester says:

      Time zones don’t exist – the sun will rise at the same time everywhere in the world. (Discworld mentions that the speed of light on the Disc is slower than on Earth, so that the sunlight slowly flows from one end of the disc to the other.)

      Seasons could probably exist if the world tilts relative to the sun and the angle of the tilt changes (perhaps the great turtle is swimming around the sun at various angles?). But climate variation will be a lot less since the ground doesn’t curve away from the sun. Perhaps you could have a sun that is smaller and cooler but closer to the Earth?

  13. sharper13 says:

    Based on past surveys, many SSC readers have an advanced degree.

    If your degree is in a non-engineering discipline, what has been your experience with groupthink in the academic department you took classes in? (And how long ago was that?)

    Specifically, I’m wondering about the notice-ability to students of the groupthink measurements in Klein’s recent presentation.

    I’m not looking for a debate on the concept of groupthink, more interested in people’s personal experiences and how much ideological conformity stood out to you as a student.

    In my own experience, I could generally tell from instructor to instructor where they fell on the ideological spectrum, particularly if it was a more “political” course, like history. I generally argued with my left-wing instructors, while the right-wing instructors seemed to be more balanced because they hid their personal beliefs much more. I also primarily took STEM-style courses, so I don’t qualify in the non-engineering sense. Through a (long story) I did manage to take US History (both semesters) at the college effectively three different times, taking it once in college, then AP US History, then again later in college, so I could compare and contrast each iteration of that.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      Is physics a non-engineering discipline?

      • sharper13 says:

        Technically, yeah, as long as you keep it relatively theoretical. 🙂

        In the linked presentation, it is on the Math/Computers/Chemistry end of the spectrum in terms of ratios, but it’s still 3.875x as unbalanced as engineering.

  14. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I realize ASoIaF isn’t exactly formal world-building, and I was wondering about what the effects of a cycle of super-seasons might be on the evolution of plants and animals. Are there any plausible theories about what could cause a cycle of super-seasons?

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Extreme planetary tilt.

      I’m ignorant of how an early society invents the concept of “a year” if they don’t have seasons, though. Sure, some geeky stargazers would figure it out, but who else would care?

      • cassander says:

        yeah but the seasons are irregular in length.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        As I understand it, Westeros has normal seasons with a length not too different from earth seasons, but then there’s the big cycle of irregular long seasons superimposed on the ordinary seasons.

        I’m guessing that the long spring and fall are periods of milder climate.

      • Nornagest says:

        The cycle of day and night lengths would be pretty noticeable. Maybe a year to the Westerosi means the approximate length of a sun cycle, like a month means the approximate length of the moon cycle to us.

        • bullseye says:

          IIRC, their weird seasons do come with changing day and night lengths, so keeping track of those would mean keeping track of the weird seasons instead of a normal year.

      • bullseye says:

        I assume ordinary people care about a year, even if it’s only obvious to astronomers, because calendars are useful even if they can’t guide agriculture.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I think they do have a yearly cycle that can guide agriculture, it’s just that you can’t grow much during the winter part of the the supercycle.

          Has there been any speculation about what the long summer would be like?

    • Randy M says:

      Are there any plausible theories about what could cause a cycle of super-seasons?

      Binary star system?

      • Protagoras says:

        This could produce interesting patterns, but while it might produce cycles that are more complicated than those we’re familiar with, I don’t think there’s any way such a system could be stable and not produce predictable cycles that people would eventually have figured out despite the extra complication. And this one also has the problem that people would obviously notice that there are two suns, and there is no reference to that in canon.

        • Working of the Unborn God says:

          I have a pretty meager knowledge of Game of Thrones but while there’s never any reference to a second sun, there is a reference to a red “comet” in the sky seen before a major seasonal change.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I have a pretty meager knowledge of Game of Thrones but while there’s never any reference to a second sun, there is a reference to a red “comet” in the sky seen before a major seasonal change.

            That’s just a masked man in a mecha who is secretly the son of the True King.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      A high eccentricity in the planetary orbit would do it I think. But that wouldn’t explain the irregularity of Westeros’s seasons. Maybe weird climate instabilities that cause rapid Ice Ages?

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I believe the cause is wizards.

        • Nick says:

          I suspect this is the actual answer. Do we have textual evidence that the seasons were always that way? ASOIAF talks in some passages as if there is ten thousand years of medievalish history in Westeros, which… is a long time of stasis. Were the seasons that way all that time, or have they gotten longer, or was there an abrupt change before, say, the construction of the Wall….

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            The books are also clear that the records of that early history are unreliable. I don’t have the books in front of me but I remember a Maester complaining about accounts featuring “knights thousands of years before there were knights” or something along those lines.

            The period with reliable record-keeping is still seemingly much longer than the medieval period in the real world, but it’s almost certainly much less than ten thousand years.

        • Tarpitz says:

          I think it’s magic, but not wizards. The world has some kind of cycling or fluctuating magical field (perhaps as many as three, actually) which affects the climate among other things.

          Or alternatively the whole place is a kind of grimdark medieval fantasy Truman show set up by sufficiently advanced aliens, and there’s a GSV-equivalent parked somewhere in-system doing the whole thing manually with effectors.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      Highly irregular sun spot activity.

    • bullseye says:

      The new book Fire and Blood (a “history” book written in-character) includes a war that happened during an unusually long and harsh winter (though probably not near as bad as the winter that’s coming in the novels). Famine only strikes in the North and Iron Islands, and only in the last year of a five or six year winter. Also the Iron Islands would have been fine if the Lannisters hadn’t stolen/destroyed their food.

      So I don’t think winters in Westeros are typically all that bad; you might have a few years of poor crop yields, but you have several good years ahead of time to stockpile. As for animals, I figure they would all have to stockpile, or hibernate, or maybe just die off and leave eggs to hatch in the spring.

    • JPNunez says:

      Maybe it is actually set in Trisolaris? And the Trisolarians haven’t evolved cryptobiosis yet.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      My first guess for super-seasons would be some variation on Milankovitch cycles, which are based on oscillations in orbital eccentricity, angle of inclination, and precession. So I went looking for an online app that would show off the curve for whatever values of the three you put in, with a prediction of global average temperature if you assumed that that was the only factor (plus perhaps a simple arrangement of land masses and a fair bit of SF-grade handwaving). Alas, I could find no such calculator. But perhaps others would have better luck.

    • myers2357 says:

      Are there any plausible theories about what could cause a cycle of super-seasons?

      Beyond the planetary-tilt-related options, certain planetary issues cause what-could-be-called super-seasons. For example, El Niño vs La Niña years could be considered superseason cycles.

      Chaotic Hysteresis could extend regular seasonal intervals into super-season cycles: El Niño vs La Niña is determined by above (or below)-average sea surface temperatures across the east-central Equatorial Pacific: if the temperature variation was Volcanic in nature (in a worldbuilding scenario) then it’s atmospheric effects would be unchained from typical days/years/seasons/etc.

    • Michael Handy says:

      My personal Headcanon is a normal orbit, of a very mildly Periodic Variable star.

      • Protagoras says:

        I thought of that, but so far as I can tell there’s basically no overlap between the kinds of stars that display intrinsic variability and the kind of stars that are likely to have planets supporting life. It seems to happen almost exclusively with a variety of different kinds of giants and supergiants that don’t last long enough for life to evolve, and which usually also have other problems that would prevent life-supporting planets. And the variability seems to almost never be mild, anyway. Though perhaps there are milder kinds of variability that can happen in less extreme stars that we haven’t detected because the change is so small; we certainly don’t know everything about astrophysics yet. The sun varies a bit due to irregular sunspot cycles; I don’t think it’s known whether it’s possible for an otherwise mostly sun-like star to have much more dramatic sunspot cycles, but that might do the trick. Though the sunspot cycle has other effects; increase it enough to make it have substantial effects on temperature, and the other effects would presumably also increase, and some of those might be very bad for life.

        • The Nybbler says:

          The sun is a variable star, just not very variable. It’s largest variations are also very regular (the 11-year sunspot cycle). Westeros’s star would need to be either irregular or have a very complicated cycle.

          • Michael Handy says:

            A Red Dwarf, maybe? Though that might make the years too short.

          • Protagoras says:

            Are red dwarfs ever significantly variable? And those are generally thought to be poor candidates to support life, as the habitable zone ends up close enough to the star to make tidal locking likely. Though some science fiction writers have come up with clever ideas like double planets tidally locked to one another to get around that problem with red dwarfs.

          • Nornagest says:

            BRB, got an idea for a Deepness in the Sky / Song of Ice and Fire crossover fanfic.

          • johan_larson says:

            BRB, got an idea for a Deepness in the Sky / Song of Ice and Fire crossover fanfic.

            You know what pillow-cases are good for? Catching the mess when your head explodes.

      • A1987dM says:

        IIUC those tend to be more or less regular — there’s no way one summer+winter could last three times longer than the previous one.

    • A1987dM says:

      Westeros is on a planet without much axial tilt, so no seasons in Earth’s sense, and either 1. summer and winter are kind of like our El Niño and La Niña respectively, or 2. summer is the natural climate of Westeros and winter is somehow White Walkers’ fault, or 3. winter is the natural climate of Westeros and summer is somehow humans’ fault.

      (I’ve never read any of the books and I’ve only seen the first episode of the TV series, but IIRC I’ve heard that as far as we know there are no seasons beyond the Narrow Sea, only in Westeros — is that correct?)

  15. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I have close to four pounds of goose meat (in pieces). I have never cooked goose before. I’m planning to divide it for three recipes. Suggestions?

    I’ve been told there’s a gray membrane I should remove

    One recipe might well be mostly pomegranate juice and black pepper.

    I like spicy food, so one recipe could be pretty hot.

    • DragonMilk says:

      How did you chance upon four pounds of goose meat in pieces that has a gray membrane?

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I’m not sure about the gray membrane, I haven’t taken the meat out of the plastic yet. I found out about the gray membrane from a video about cooking goose.

        As for how I happened upon it, my local somewhat gourmet butcher shop has a vertical freezer. There’s a narrow compartment between the two main sections. There was an intriguing package there, and I asked about it.

        They were thinking about maybe making sausage with the goose, but they were willing to sell it to me.

    • Nornagest says:

      I’ve only ever cooked goose whole (and that only once), but it’s got a pretty rich, duck-like flavor that goes well with citrus. I might try an orange glaze.

  16. Nick says:

    SSC, what are you giving up for Lent?

    I’m giving up political news, especially Church news. It’s becoming a terrible vice. I won’t pass up something someone sends me, but I won’t be seeking anything out, and I’ll be refraining from talking about politics too. You’ll just have to correct your own opinions for the next 40 days.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Alcohol. I haven’t given up anything for years but I could stand to lose a few pounds and have been slowly increasing my beer intake with dinner up from 3-7 a week to 5-10 a week over the last few years.

    • SamChevre says:

      I’m trying to do something closer to the traditional fast for Lent. Alcohol, sugar, animal products at meals other than the main meal.

    • cassander says:


    • A few years back, following my son’s suggestion that giving up something for Lent was a useful custom, I gave up arguing climate issues on the FB climate group. I never went back to doing it.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Same thing I give up every year, Pinky: booze.

    • Walter says:

      Candy this year. The diet is back on, and that is sort of a prerequisite.

    • JonathanD says:


    • Tenacious D says:

      Reddit (and a few other high time-sink websites).

      • Winja says:

        Walking away from Reddit on a nearly permanent basis was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      1. Sweeteners. Sometimes this means buying the plain version of something, like yogurt.

      2. Reducing video games that were intruding on my life.

      3. Long-form YouTube entertainment. I will probably make an exception for background music, and I will watch short clips that people send me, but a lot of Youtube streams are designed to activate my id, and aren’t good for my soul.

    • spkaca says:

      This year, alcohol. (Last year it was meat, the year before chocolate.)

    • theredsheep says:

      Most internet use–FB, forums, and blogs, including here (I do this for all four of the Great Fasts, but had to break it last year for Hurricane Michael-related reasons, and got really sloppy about it after). Orthodox Lent starts this coming Monday.

    • j1000000 says:

      Twitter and one extremely-liberal-but-very-dumb website I visit basically just to argue with sanctimonious people. I’d say without question I’ve felt better since doing so.

      I hadn’t given up anything for lent since I stopped attending church 15 years ago, but last year I decided I should take the occasion to give up booze, and it was nice. As a replacement for the purely mechanical aspect of drinking beer, I started drinking cans of seltzer. The seltzer habit has stuck with me and been a net positive in my life.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      I recommend ColdTurkey. I’ve been free from reddit for a few months now, and much happier for it. Almost did the same to facebook but I need it for work. I actually read again…

  17. AlesZiegler says:

    Are there any credible estimates of how large fraction of Ancient Egyptian GDP was devoted to building of the Great Pyramid? Or is such estimate totally impossible?

    • j1000000 says:

      This is a cool question someone answer this

    • dndnrsn says:

      Not anywhere close to my wheelhouse, but I imagine it would be possible to look at arable land, crop yields, etc and guess at various details of the Egyptian economy that way. Look at the manpower used in the construction. Etc. Googling, there’s a bunch of estimates of how much the construction cost, and how much it would cost today with modern methods. I imagine there’s academics who could take a stab at the question of what the Egyptian GDP was back then.

      • AlesZiegler says:

        Yes. My guess is that it should be easier/way more reliable to estimate fraction of Ancient Egyptian GDP used to built The Pyramid than to estimate relation of Ancient Egyptian GDP to current GDP.

    • Concavenator says:

      This is not really GDP, but…
      Looking at Vaclav Smil’s Energy and Civilization, he estimates the energy cost of the Great Pyramid as 2.5 terajoules (just to put the stone blocks into place) over 20 years of work; assuming a 120-days workyear (the flood season) and 12-hours workdays, that makes an average 24 kilowatt of power during active construction, but only 4 kw as yearly average.
      Including all the collateral work like cooking meals, building tools, washing clothes, etc. Smil estimates 1.1 MW of power as collective output (from 10,000 workers) during peak labor. That’s about 45 times the requirement of direct construction work, and 275 times the yearly average.
      I assume virtually all that energy would come from human workers, and thus from agriculture. An exception would be the transport of the stone blocks from the quarries along the Nile.
      The same source states that Roman Egypt had 2.7 Mha of farmland, which could have produced a bit more than a million tons of wheat per harvest at 0.4 tons/ha. If there was one harvest per year, that makes an average of 3000 tons of wheat per day. That’s only with Roman-era techniques, though. By that time Egypt’s population density had risen to 2.4 people/ha of farmland from the 1.3 people/ha of 2500 BCE. Assuming land productivity rose proportionally, and total extent didn’t change, that makes only 1600 tons of wheat per day, Egypt-wide, during the Old Kingdom.
      As it seems that the energy content of wheat is about 13 MJ/kg, that would work out to 21 TJ per day, or 240 MW as average.
      My conclusion, however tentative and laden with dubious assumptions, is that that the basic work of building the pyramid itself (putting the stone blocks one over the other) consumed about 0.0017% of Egypt’s agricultural production as an average over the 20 years of construction; but the whole industry with all the secondary jobs of transport, feeding, and maintainance, cutting and transporting the blocks, etc. during peak labor, would consume 0.46% of the energy that Egyptian farmland could produce.
      Does this make sense? That seems… suspiciously low.

      Also hi, I’m new here.

      • johan_larson says:

        The question I would start with is how much agriculture surplus the Egyptian agricultural economy actually produced. Most of the result of low-tech agriculture goes into feeding the farm families that do the work. I seem to recall that before mechanized agriculture, it took something like ten farmers to feed one other person. So what’s available for building projects and such should be considered not in terms of the total agricultural capacity, but in terms of its surplus, since the surplus is what is available for actually doing non-farm work.

        • Lambert says:

          Are we talking about farm work or marginal farm work?
          My understanding of Ancient Egypt was that it involved the farming of a very narrow strip of land beside the Nile, which was incredibly fertile due to the season of flooding.

          So I would not be surprised if a lot of the labour used to build the Pyramids was labour that could not easily be funged into more crops anyway.

          • johan_larson says:

            Sure, but the surplus could have been directed toward other things than building pyramids. It could have been used to feed armies or priests or textile workers, or simply building other structures.

        • Deiseach says:

          The question I would start with is how much agriculture surplus the Egyptian agricultural economy actually produced.

          Supposedly incredibly fertile in a narrow strip (due to Nile flooding and deposit of alluvial soil). There’s a reason Egpyt was the breadbasket of Rome. For various reasons meat was not a large part of the diet but there were varied foodstuffs.

          Between the inundation (when the Nile flooded and deposited the soil on the fields) and when it was time to sow crops, it seems the farmers and villagers went to work on the pyramids, though there were certainly professional workers associated with the pyramids.

          • Lambert says:

            And lugging big bits of rock around sounds like the kind of things peasants should be able to do pretty easily, compared to other kinds of work.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Does this make sense? That seems… suspiciously low.

        No, it sounds about right (ie not likely to be off by an order of magnitude to the upside at least). Agricultural economies tended to have extremely little surplus, a 2% tax rate could ruin such a culture with a couple of bad growing seasons.

        For a modern example the GDP of New York State was around 1 trillion a year and the new world trade center building cost around 4 billion, so that took roughly 0.4% of GDP of NY state for one year, not 20, so that puts it in perspective a little.

      • Protagoras says:

        Half a percent doesn’t sound wildly implausible to me. For various reasons, including the lack of surplus the others have mentioned, ancient societies were much, much less successful at mobilizing resources at the direction of any central authority than modern governments. The Egyptians seem to have been exceptional among the ancients in this regard (and agriculture along the Nile seems to have produced more surplus than was the case for less fertile regions), but exceptional among the ancients is still not all that great.

      • cassander says:

        Doing the calculation in terms of joules strikes me as very wrongheaded. you have to do a lot of conversions to get human work into joules, most of which are going to be very rough approximations, and I don’t think it buys you any accuracy. You’re better off measuring how many many man years of labor it took, then comparing that to the total amount of labor available and how much it took to bring in the harvests.

        • baconbits9 says:

          How are you going to measure person work hours?

          • cassander says:

            well I’d measure it in days, probably.

            My understanding is that we have reasonably good information about the work process that the pyramids would have required, which lets you work out roughly how many workers would have been needed for how many days. You do the same thing for the harvest, then compare those numbers to each other and the overall demographic information as a sanity check. Granted, the work was probably heavily seasonal, which complicates things, but presumably corvee laborers would have done something else had they not been pyramid building

        • Concavenator says:

          True, but most of the data in Smil’s book are given in joules and watts, except for agricultural production. I did the calculations that required the fewest conversions, but it might be different with another source.

  18. Scott Alexander says:

    One of the big sticking points about Medicare For All is that (unlike in current Medicare) people won’t be allowed to keep their private insurance even if they want to. Polls show that the average person supports the proposal before they know this, then switches to opposing it afterwards. And opponents are starting to emphasize this as the biggest downside of the plan.

    Why is this part of the proposal at all? Why not just say everyone gets Medicare whether they want it or not, but if you really want to pay extra for private insurance, you can do that too? There isn’t even an adverse selection problem; you’re paying the same amount of money in taxes either way. All you’re doing is giving the government free money by consuming less government-funded care even after you’ve paid for it.

    Does anyone know why banning private insurance is part of the plan?

    • Randy M says:

      Is “you can’t keep your private insurance” part of the proposal, or an anticipated second order effect?
      Medicare doesn’t have a premium, does it? Obamacare wanted everyone on insurance so the healthier, younger citizens would be subsidizing the sicker through their premiums by being a part of the insurance pool; I’m not sure that’s applicable in this case.

      • cassander says:

        medicare does have premiums, but they’re considerably below the what the “market rate” would be for an equivalent package.

    • cassander says:

      See the reasons the canadians actually had such a ban, and the reasons that at least a couple countries ban private schools. Desire to avoid a “two tier” system on the basis that the private system would be better or drain the public system of funds and that money will be saved by getting everyone into one system.

    • Erusian says:

      I suspect it’s because they’re afraid of being outcompeted by private healthcare.

      Private insurance needs to offer something better than that or people will just use the government plan. So they either need to be cheaper or offer better service or both. But if the government is providing this for free or forcing people to pay with their taxes, ‘cheaper’ isn’t really possible. So better services.

      How do you get better services? You offer to pay the doctors/institutions more than the government will. That means those patients will get treated preferentially. In the extreme case, people on Medicare-For-All might not even be able to get seen because the government reimbursement rate is so low. The doctors will always prefer the higher paying private insurance clients and there are so many of them that people on the government plan will have trouble finding care.

      Banning private insurance, creating a monopoly, is one of two ways around this problem. The other is to compete with private insurance. But if they do that, then they have to admit their plan will be fantastically expensive because much of their healthcare cost savings is based on paying companies less. Such attempts have already fallen apart repeatedly.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        You offer to pay the doctors/institutions more than the government will

        If you really want to clamp down on prices, monopsony power is a great way to do it.

    • johan_larson says:

      Wouldn’t it be a more accurate statement that you won’t be able to afford the private insurance you have now once Medicare for All is instituted? First, because your tax rate will rise. Second, because employer-provided medical insurance will (presumably) become a taxable benefit.

      And basically you’ll substitute medical care paid for by private insurance companies for medical care paid for by the government. I bet lots of Americans expect, rightly or wrongly, that anything the government provides will be more expensive or of lower quality than what private industry provides.

      • Winja says:

        Nearly every American has had to wait in line at the DMV, and the expectation is that Medicare for all would basically end up being the medical equivalent of that.

        • cuke says:

          I think there may be an important distinction between single-payer insurance and government-provided healthcare, like the VA or the NHS in the UK. People who currently have Medicare in most cases see all the same doctors as people who have private insurance. Medicare for All isn’t going to turn doctors into government workers like DMV workers are.

          • John Schilling says:

            People who currently have Medicare in most cases see all the same doctors as people who have private insurance.

            Most cases, but not by an overwhelming margin and not guaranteed to remain “most”. As of 2015, only 72% of US primary-care physicians accept new medicare patients. Most of the rest will at least keep their current patients when they retire and switch from private insurance to Medicare, but if we posit a model where there the line between Medicare and not-Medicare is not drawn between “workers” and “retirees” but between “haves” and “have nots”, there’s a good chance that at least 28% of the physician pool will decide to limit their practice to the “haves” going forward.

          • cuke says:

            Perhaps this possibility is why some of the MfA proposals intend to eliminate private insurance — so that providers only have one choice to get paid by an insurance company?

            What we may see then is Medicare paying for the vast majority of providers and the same segment we have now of “boutique” providers who charge using a variety of different models.

            It looks to me like our healthcare system is already very well divided between haves and have-nots based on who has insurance and who doesn’t and between who has private insurance or Medicare and who has Medicaid. In the state where I practice, over a fifth of people are on the state’s version of Medicaid. Many private and group practice healthcare providers either don’t take Medicaid or they severely limit the number of new patients they accept who are on Medicaid.

    • brad says:

      I didn’t realize that. Even the U.K. doesn’t ban private insurance.

      I would have thought the distinction would have been between public option (opt in) and pay for it whether you use it or not.

      • cuke says:

        I would be very surprised if once these various proposals get sorted out that supplemental private options do not continue to exist. My read is that Bernie’s proposal is aspirational in the same way his free college proposal is aspirational. Whatever plan unfolds next is going to be a huge compromise that falls very far short of what is currently described as Medicare for All.

        Though it does seem that people like Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris need better answers when the press asks “why does this proposal eliminate private insurance?” I haven’t seen a good response yet but I might just be missing it.

    • rlms says:

      A government monopoly on buying healthcare services from hospitals would reduce the cost, but it’s difficult to imagine that would outweigh the savings from private patients not using the services and that doesn’t make sense if for-profit hospitals are being banned.

      My guess is either it’s a weird North American thing (I know Canada has something similar but to my knowledge no other developed country does) or it’s something to negotiate away.

      • cassander says:

        >A government monopoly on buying healthcare services from hospitals would reduce the cost,

        It doesn’t do that for public schools, fighter jets, or the mail. Why would it for healthcare?

        • rlms says:

          I’m not saying that it would make government healthcare cheaper than private healthcare, but rather that a monospony would make it cheaper relative to a counterfactual with other buyers.

          • cassander says:

            I don’t think it will. Economies of scale are not universal. They exist in some circumstances more than others. In particular, they tend to exist most where you have high ratios of capital to labor. medical costs are dominated by large amounts of expensive labor. Training a surgeon and his nurses costs a lot more than the tools he uses. There is little reason to assume that there will be serious monospony benefits, particularly when the government spectacularly fails to realize them in areas like education.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            It’s not economies of scale. It’s preventing other people from bidding up the resource you are trying to buy.

            Mind you, I’m not really optimistic that the government would actually reduce costs, just one reason being that doctors are really good at lobbying. But @rlms isn’t making an economies-of-scale argument (which would be silly and stupid).

        • Public schools are run by state or local governments, and the suppliers are mobile enough so they are competing against each other. Hence not really a monopsony, just a monopoly against less mobile consumers?

          Not true for the mail. For fighter jets, to some degree competing against other air forces.

        • Winja says:

          Because this time it’ll work!

          We promise!

    • secondcityscientist says:

      I don’t know if private insurance would be banned, but it is unlikely that it continues as-is (particularly if Medicare for All is financed through employer-side payroll taxes, as seems likely). I don’t think Democratic politicians want to over-promise on “If you like your plan you can keep it” after that promise was broken by the Affordable Care Act. It seems very likely that if we pass a M4A plan, most employers will discontinue their current health insurance.

      Side note though – do people actually like their insurance? Every interaction I’ve had with insurance providers even indirectly has been miserable, although a good interaction with an insurance provider would be that they never contact me at all whatsoever and just pay the bills from the doctor’s office or hospital. I get that there’s loss aversion, but it seems what people really don’t want to change is their doctor – I can’t imagine caring about insurance so long as they pay for the doc I want to see.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        do people actually like their insurance?

        They like it better than a bird in the bush.

        I don’t trust my insurance company further than I can throw them, but my employer is big enough that they are forced to care what I think.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        As you said, any time you are dealing with an insurance company, it generally means there is an issue of some sort. Plus, insurance companies are basically faceless Kafka-esque bureaucracies, so dealing with them is pretty annoying.
        That being said, most of my issues with insurance companies are actually issues with my employer. The insurance company is a middle-man acting on behalf of the employer, and part of being the middle-man is being the scapegoat when your employer decides to minimize costs somewhere.

        Medical professionals in general tend to rate very high in terms of trust. Must be a “TV says they are smart and hard-working, so I love them” thing. A few years of audit was enough to weaken my trust in doctors, hearing similar stories from other family members in the field pretty much broke it, and sitting through obviously wrong or oversure lectures from other doctors shot it into the sun. I trust medical professionals to not immediately kill me, but I’m almost always going to seek a second opinion and I’m almost always going to reference Dr. Google.

        • Deiseach says:

          I trust medical professionals to not immediately kill me

          You crazy cock-eyed optimist!

          I trust our local (and only) hospital to be able to treat a broken leg – once you convince them that the bone sticking out and not being able to walk and being in hideous pain isn’t a sprained ankle (“but you said you can’t walk on it… that’s a sprain!”). Anything more complicated than that? No, not really.

        • cuke says:

          This is an interesting perspective to me — that the insurance company is a middleman between you and your employer. Companies like United Healthcare and Anthem/BlueCross Blue Shield are enormous corporations that are larger than most employers. Most employers have limited choices about which healthcare plans to buy for their workers and they have to pay the going rate for whatever those contracts offer. An employer might get to comparison shop for a slightly cheaper plan or pay less for a higher deductible, but they otherwise are at the mercy of the insurance companies like the rest of us.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I like my private insurance because they get out of the way and let me choose which doctor to see, let me self-refer to specialists when I want to, let me stash away money in my HSA, and they bill and reimburse things correctly. I’ve only had to call them twice – one when I’d gotten my first-ever Explanation of Benefits and called to ask for an explanation of some lines, and again when it turned out a blood test wasn’t reimbursable as Preventative Care and I needed to pay $20 or so – and that’s how I like it.

        I expect any Medicare-For-All would be much more restrictive, wouldn’t let me choose doctors and specialists on my own, and wouldn’t let me use an HSA as essentially a backup retirement account. You could perhaps convince me to sacrifice my convenience to help others – if you manage to overcome my significant distrust in government effectiveness – but it’d definitely be a sacrifice.

      • cuke says:

        As a solo healthcare provider (I’m a psychotherapist in private practice who files insurance) I want to add that as much as I hate my insurance company as a consumer, I hate all the insurance companies ten times more as a provider.

        Most healthcare providers are insulated from the insanity of insurance companies because they are part of larger organizations (hospitals, group practices, etc) that have billing specialists who handle the insurance claims for the care they provide. Because I’m a solo practitioner, I do all my own billing for my clients and I have tons of direct contact with a wide variety of insurance companies. I get to see how they are all broken in a huge number of ways, while as a consumer I only experience how my one insurance company is broken when it comes to my own healthcare.

        About a quarter of my time (and this part is unpaid) is spent doing billing and going back to correct screw-ups the insurance companies make which results in my not getting paid for work I’ve already done. Not only do I deal with multiple insurance companies, I deal with as many different plans as I have clients. Every client has a different deductible, a different co-pay, different limitations on what procedures I can bill, different reimbursement rates for the same procedure, and different reporting requirements. They also have different physical procedures for submitting claims, including different forms, portals, and processes. It is quite literally insane, and that’s when everything is working smoothly, which it never does.

        The list of regular screw-ups I encounter in getting paid is very long. The number of times the mistake was on my end is very small. The amount of everyday incompetence I encounter from customer support at insurance companies is astounding. Insurance companies are very good at selling insurance and very bad at paying claims — that’s how the incentives are set up. You may not always see this as a consumer, but I can tell you on the provider end it’s way more broken than we imagine.

        Okay, thank you for listening. This is why most solo practitioners end up going out-of-network eventually, because so much time is being taken away from patient care to navigate the unique labyrinth that each individual insurance company is. Just having one labyrinth to navigate would be a huge improvement. In the meantime, the only option most of us have is to not accept insurance at all so that we can focus our energy on patient care, a solution that obviously favors people with more disposable income.

        • johan_larson says:

          Presumably you have spoken with colleagues in different circumstances, who either deal primarily with one insurance organization, or who are on salary as part of some larger organization, like the Navy Medical Corps. That means they only have to deal with one organization’s peculiarities, but that organization has a LOT more leverage to push them around. Do these colleagues seem to be happier?

          • cuke says:

            Medicare is an insurance system, not a health delivery organization. So the comparison here is what it would be like for me to bill one entity instead of ten.

            Having said that, many of the colleagues I know who do my kind of work as staff in agencies and organizations are quite happy with their work. The barriers to entering private practice in my field are pretty low.

        • albatross11 says:

          I remember going on a kick of reading doctor blogs a few years ago, and there was one blog whose writer kept pointing out that doctors could double their income by understanding the details of billing codes and playing the game right.

          It looks to me like this is a huge destructive zero-sum game–lots and lots of people, many of them folks whose time is very valuable (like yours!), are engaged in an endless game to shift costs between insurance companies, providers, and customers. I don’t know how much wealth is poured down that sewer every year, but it must be a really big amount.

          • cuke says:

            Yes, that seems right to me, that a lot of wealth or productivity or both is being wasted that way.

            I’ve worked in non-profits, for profit firms, and higher education in multiple cities and sectors and I’ve not met anything nearly as dysfunctional as health insurance companies.

          • cuke says:

            That’s a good one, thanks for posting.

            It makes me think of a podcast I listened to recently about the idea of using “sortition” instead of elections to pick political representatives because political campaigning optimizes for not the kind of person we necessarily want for governing.

            In the same way, getting really good at maximizing income within our current very broken system of healthcare reimbursement is a different skill set from the kind of person who is good at helping people heal.

            In the big scheme of things, I have no real complaints about any of it and am confident that there will still be room for people to do good work within whatever larger insane framework we have.

          • cuke says:

            Which makes me realize that in some ways my biggest gripe about our healthcare system is how irrational it is. Is there a diagnosis for a person who despises irrationality? 🙂

            I would like to be governed by nerdy technocrats, historians, and philosophers. I would like them all to be wicked smart and to not have to worry about raising money. If we use sortition and pick people randomly, I would like them all to be advised by nerdy technocrats, historians, and philosophers. I would really like all elected or appointed officials to have to justify their policies based on some shared conception of evidence.

            I would like to never hear another rousing speech by a politician as long as I live. Just quiet bureaucrats toiling away for our benefit.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Dealing with the insurance company is the bureaucracy. Also, why would you want a historian in charge of your insurance companies rather than people who actually handle money? You still need money, you need to raise it from taxes and you need to pay doctors and suppliers with it, and there will always be the question of “how do we spend this money the best?”

            Also, regarding that article, yeah, if you are a doctor running your own practice, how much money you make is going to depend on your business skills, how much income you make depends on how well you can argue with your principal payers.

            This talk reminds me of the production people at my plant who don’t want to be judged based on their actual monetary losses. “well, we made all the food we were supposed to!” Yeah, and you did it using materials that cost twice as much and you overstaffed by 25%. You lost money. Yeah, I understand it is impossible to lose money on this line: that’s because you scanned the inputs wrong or recorded your production off. Probably because you overfilled your end product by 5% because your employees were too lazy to measure it properly.

          • cuke says:

            Sorry, I switched topics between my two sequential posts there. I don’t want historians running my insurance company. I was talking about the parallel perverse incentives between person who is good at winning elections versus person who is good at governing in the realm of politics, and person who is good at healing people versus person who is good at maximizing profit out of labyrinthine, broken insurance system in the realm of healthcare.

            In the first instance, I want people who are very smart about the history and present day challenges of governance to govern us, not the people who are good at winning popularity contests. In the second instance, I want people who are very good at their particular arena of healing sick people to heal sick people, not people who are good at gaming a broken system.

            I think it’s perfectly fine to expect the person who makes widgets for a profit to do that well. The problem with parts of our healthcare system and our current way of electing politicians is that they build in perverse incentives that lead to inefficient, irrational, bad outcomes.

    • Under current medicare, you can pay for a supplemental plan which gives you additional support that medicare doesn’t cover. I would think that should still be an option under medicare for all.

      There are several possible arguments against:

      1. The egalitarian arguments. Allowing supplemental plans makes medical outcomes more unequal, even though it does so not by making things worse for some people but only better for others.

      2. “A program for the poor will be a poor program.” This is a quote, from memory, from something someone, I think the then person in charge of Social Security, said to my father, with regard to why social security had to cover everyone.

      It’s not an absurd argument. If the result of medicare providing very poor medical service is that everyone gets poor medical service, then everyone, including influential and well informed people, will apply pressure to improve it. If the top 70% are getting good medical service because of their supplemental plans, not so much.

      The downside, as in most such strategies, is that if it doesn’t work, if, for instance, the government is unable to provide medical care well, everyone is screwed instead of just the bottom 30%. Also, it’s harder to judge whether the government is doing a worse job than it should if there is no private alternative to compare it to.

      3. The monopsony argument. If government is the only purchaser of medical services it can insist on paying a low price for them. That results in some reduction in quantity supplied, but less than if there are competing purchasers who can bid services away from the government supplier.

      • AG says:

        Under current medicare, you can pay for a supplemental plan which gives you additional support that medicare doesn’t cover.

        This is the USPS model, right? USPS gets to set and monopolize the floor on pricing, so the private postal services compete on premium service at higher prices.

      • Garrett says:

        One of the challenges seems to be that there’s no way to pre-select a level of care. That is – the “standard of care” is the standard of care for everyone. There’s no way to get a discount for a plan that only covers high-QALY services. Or that rules out expensive but limited-value “medically-necessary” testing.

        As an example I see when volunteering in EMS: a patient on blood thinners who has a fall and hits their head automatically gets an ambulance ride to the hospital to get a CT scan to rule out head bleeds which can cause death. This might be fine for the active patient, but when you have someone who’s in a dementia unit, you aren’t exactly helping much.

        So being able to select in-advance that non-generic chemo for stage 3+ cancer won’t be covered might allow for great opportunities for competition. But we aren’t seeing such things.

    • Clutzy says:

      I don’t KNOW why, but I have many suspicions. Unfortunately I can’t think of any good reasons for it to be part of the plan. It seems mostly an acknowledgement that Medicare for all is really going to be more like Medicaid for all, with low compensation, and eventually many doctors opting out of the system.

    • John Schilling says:

      One almost uniquely American aspect of this is that it isn’t a choice between Medicare(*) and paying for private health insurance, it’s Medicare vs private health insurance vs employer-provided health insurance. Thanks to FDR, Americans are accustomed to having their employer (or their parents’ or spouse’s employer) pay for a first-rate health insurance policy that they don’t have to think about or see the bill for, and while that tradition has weakened there’s still an awful lot of Americans who both have and are happy with their employer-provided health care.

      “Medicare for All” will almost certainly be the end of employer-provided health care for middle-class Americans. If you take that away, and tax them enough to even imagine you are making Medicare-for-all viable, then telling them they can take whatever money they have left over and use that to pay full cost for private insurance that used to be given to them for free, really won’t cut it. If they don’t find Medicare to be fully adequate replacement for the insurance they used to have, it probably doesn’t matter whether private insurance is technically legal or not.

      If it is legal, one stable equilibrium is that only rich or near-rich people buy private insurance, which means no economies of scale and no demand for low-cost alternatives which means only rich or near-rich people can afford it. Another stable equilibrium is that everybody who isn’t poor or sick buys private health insurance because everybody knows that Medicare-for-all is crappy insurance for poor people, which gives you about the price structure of current private health insurance but a hefty tax increase that most people don’t see themselves getting anything out.

      And both of these are explicitly two-tiered systems with first-rate health care for the Haves and second-rate for the Have Nots. Cue Dr. Friedman’s “A program for the poor will be a poor program”. In the first case, there will be middle-class political pressure to keep MfA from being truly poor, but the rich people will look like selfish defectors. Couple that with the near-explicit classification of the middle class as Have Nots in this context, and you get pressure to either ban private insurance or tax it into nigh-oblivion out of spite. In the second case, Medicare for All becomes little more than Medicaid, and Medicaid doesn’t satisfy the political demand that is driving the push to MfA. Since we’re presuming that political demand was sufficient to abolish the current system, it will presumably also be sufficient to abolish Medicare for Really Just The Old, Sick, and Poor and the way to do that is to put private health insurance out of reach of the middle class so they will be forced to join the proletariat and the precariat in Medicare for Truly All.

      A third equilibrium is that MfA does just become Medicare v2.0 and socialist/egalitarian pressure peters out before it can change that, in which case why bother.

      * Or state-financed-and-managed health care generally

      • HeelBearCub says:

        private insurance that used to be given to them for free,

        This is not true. I don’t think you would normally make this kind of elementary mistake, so I would normally chalk this up to simply poor wording, but much of the rest of your analysis depends on it.

        First, health insurance premiums take a large and increasing chunk of most private employee paychecks. That is a line item on their paystub. Under a system wherein MFA is payed for entirely through the federal government that costs goes away.

        In addition, the government already knows how much employers are paying for their employees healthcare, as employers are deducting it. That could be mandated to to be put into employee paychecks, even if the market would like to reap that as a windfall profit (no matter what efficient market theories would say about whether that should be possible).

        At the end of the day we spend far more on healthcare than other first world countries, who do not, in fact, have hell holes for health care systems. Managing the transition from an employer based system to some other system would be difficult, but that says very little about whether it’s possible to have good, universal, single payer systems.

        • Nornagest says:

          WRT what Americans are accustomed to, it doesn’t matter if it’s actually free (which it isn’t; no free lunch). It matters if it’s perceived as free, or at least as a benefit of employment (which it is).

          Most Americans are not going to support or reject a proposal as complex as medicare-for-all on wonkish accounting grounds. They’re going to support it first on tribal affiliation (which is pretty close to 50/50, so this cancels), and second on how the pitches sound from its supporters and opponents. If one sounds like “we’re going to take one of your bigger employment benefits away, but we promise we’ll make it up to you”, that’s not a good pitch no matter how good the promise is.

          • cassander says:

            americans are going to reject medicare for all on the basis of the trillions of dollars a year in new taxes it would require, which will scare off all but the most passionate of partisans.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Compare –

            You are going to pay new taxes to give poor people coverage, plus we are taking away your insurance.

            – or –

            Your insurance premiums will now pay for insurance that is universal and permanent. It can never be taken away, even if you get sick, become disabled, get laid off, or just lose your job.

          • Nornagest says:

            The second one is a better pitch, but it will be seen as a lie. That’s partly because most people actually will be paying more in taxes than they were paying in premiums (assuming equal levels of coverage and equal efficiency), to cover people who were previously un- or underinsured, but mostly because the line item on your paycheck is the employee contribution only. The employer contribution, which is invisible to you, is at least as large (50% by law) and often much larger — usually 70 or 80%. (Probably because employers benefit from their employees perceiving more benefits for less out-of-pocket expense.)

            You could maybe write the law such that employers then have to roll that part of compensation back into your paycheck — although it’s harder than it sounds, and every fluctuation in average compensation will be held up as proof that they’re not — but I guarantee that a lot of people won’t make the connection.

          • ana53294 says:

            In countries with public medical care, such as Spain, healthcare related payroll taxes are paid by the employer, also. You just have to make those payments equivalent to the employer provided healthcare.

            And yes, the whole idea of Medicare for-all would be efficiency. Instead of having huge billing departments, hospitals and doctors just get cash payments at the end of the month. They don’t have to engage in litigation.

            The government can also negotiate drug prices (once they change those stupid laws). Negotiating prices is one of those things that both Trump and Bernie Sanders agree on – why hasn’t this been passed?

          • Plumber says:

            "...The government can also negotiate drug prices (once they change those stupid laws). Negotiating prices is one of those things that both Trump and Bernie Sanders agree on – why hasn’t this been passed?"

            Because the pharmaceutical industry lobby has influence and neither Sanders or Trump has much influence on the rest of Congress. 

            Sanders has had the same proposals for decades without his agenda passing and Trump’s “biggest priority” (the border wall extension) wasn’t achieved when he had his nominal party control congress for two years.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            And yes, the whole idea of Medicare for-all would be efficiency. Instead of having huge billing departments, hospitals and doctors just get cash payments at the end of the month.

            The entire current medical billing system is based on Medicare Billing codes. We will still have billing departments.

            I think putting doctors on a salary is a good idea, and instead of forcing people onto the system, you could switch to one of the systems right now that pays doctors a salary, like KP.

            They don’t have to engage in litigation.

            This was a major way that Hillarycare was going to save money: you cannot go to the court system to fight for something to be covered. Once you exhausted the system’s built-in appeal process, that was it: you were done.

            That also turned out to be a major way to attack the law: you had no due process appeal in the courts. Now, I think this would have actually worked, in that it would have lowered costs without lowering outcomes. But it was also really really unpopular.

            That’s the case with a lot of proposed reforms: they would save money without harming outcomes, but people don’t like them anyway.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Edward Scizorhands

            Few believe that having the only remedies for malpractice by the system being the system’s own arbitration will be anything short of Kafkaesque, and the incentives certainly point in that direction.

          • ana53294 says:

            In Spain hospitals are publically owned (most of them), so they don’t provide services that are not covered. So there is nothing to sue about.

            When people are unhappy about things that are covered, they organize political campaigns, and they don’t engage in litigation.

            For example, back in 2014 the Spanish government was engaged in negotiations with Gilead over sofosbuvir, a drug for hepatitis C that cost 60000 euros. Now, in Spain, until the price is fixed, a drug is not offered by the health service, so the drug was offered to patients in extreme need only.

            So the patients organized a huge political campaign and got the government to buy more of the drugs, until the government finally negotiated a price.

            Public hospitals are not strictly necessary, though; private hospitals and surgeries can function within a single payer system, also. But at least in Spain, the most expensive treatments are all given in public hospitals, which I guess makes it easier. Major burns, materno-fethal surgery, organ transplants, oncology, emergency is mostly handled by public hospitals.

        • Evan Þ says:

          How could employers be mandated to actually put healthcare costs into employee paychecks? “Sorry, Mr. President, but market conditions made us, after increasing wages by $N, immediately reduce them by $N*0.9. Totally a coincidence.”

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Well we can just pass another law that stops employers from reducing pay! Easy!

            It’s the classic Adam Smith chessboard analogy:

            He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board. He does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might choose to impress upon it.

            And if the chess pieces don’t like where they are moved, we will pass another law mandating they like it!

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Tax the employer. That’s the most effective way to manage the transition from employer based healthcare to a single payer system. The current money is being mostly spent by businesses. There can be other revenue streams, but that one almost has to be in the mix to avoid severe economic disruption.

            One idea that makes this clear is to require showing an individual allocation of the corporate tax on the W2 as health insurance credit. As well as to require showing an insurance premium payment. I’m not sure if that is the best way to do it, but it is one possible way.

        • SamChevre says:

          Health insurance premiums take a large and increasing chunk of most private employee paychecks. That is a line item on their paystub.

          This isn’t quite right. The line item on your paycheck is only the employee portion of the cost–with “good” benefits, it is about 20% of the total cost. The other 80% is invisible; the employer deducts it as a benefit, but it never shows up in the employee’s pay. And it is very difficult to allocate among employees so that most people do not feel worse off.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Nothing you are saying invalidates what I said.

            Healthcare premiums are a large line item on your pay check. Those costs have been rising faster than wages, consuming a larger share of the employees paychecks.

            Employees typically don’t perceive healthcare as “free”. This is especially true if you have a spouse and/or kids on your plan, as the share of insurance for family plans payed by employers is more like 60 to 70%.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:


            The point is that right now, I can look at my check and see a 20%-of-true-cost line item that in my head = “Insurance is covered.”

            In the MFA future, I will see a tax level that will likely vary heavily based on my income. If I’m below a certain threshold, I will see 20% or less of the cost of “my insurance” being paid in taxes. There will also be a level where I see more than 20% of the cost coming from me, and levels where the taxes are well in excess of 100% of a full Cadillac family plan.

            Based on the projected costs, it seems very likely that the number of people who are currently paying [20%]* of true cost that will be paying closer to 50-150%+ of the true cost will be significant. If so, then the number of people who are unhappy with this arrangement might be quite high. Even if employers (slowly, I’m sure) reallocate the funds that were paid for insurance to the employees, the direct connection will not be “I now make X dollars more, but spend Y dollars more in taxes – fair trade!” Instead, it will be, “I use/need/cost X dollars of medical care, but I spend X/2X/10X in taxes to cover it!” Those who recall the current arrangement will think of it as spending the multiple-of-X now, verses the 0.2X they used to spend.

            *-Placeholder for the real rate, which is generally less than half, and can be fully paid by the employer.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Why are you assuming that the initial taxation scheme would mostly be levied on individual income?

            As businesses currently pay the lions share of of these costs, the least disruptive revenue source for the lions share of the tax revenue is businesses. These are just as hidden from the employee.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            Not all businesses currently pay for insurance, and even among the majority that do, the actual amount expended varies very widely. There are places that pay the legal minimum for legal minimum coverage, and places that offer full family coverage with zero cost to the employee.

            I’m open to your thoughts about where to set a taxation scheme that raises the necessary revenue but accounts for those differences.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If nothing else, health insurance is employee compensation, and should be taxed as such. We encourage over-consumption of insurance by making it (where under the Cadillac limit) tax-free.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            If nothing else, health insurance is employee compensation, and should be taxed as such. We encourage over-consumption of insurance by making it (where under the Cadillac limit) tax-free.

            Politically, you need to convince people on employer-sponsored plans that the government plan will be better for them. If your argument is essentially that their insurance is way too good and we need to tax them more so we can give healthcare to other people….welp, kudos for honesty, but that’s DOA.

          • The Nybbler says:

            If your argument is essentially that their insurance is way too good and we need to tax them more so we can give healthcare to other people….welp, kudos for honesty, but that’s DOA.

            That’s the Obamacare Cadillac Tax.

          • baconbits9 says:

            That’s the Obamacare Cadillac Tax.

            But one of the selling points of the ACA was “if you like your insurance you can keep your insurance”, obfuscating the impact of the program.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            The Cadillac Tax didn’t affect most plans, was heavily contested by unions, and has been continuously turfed off to future points. Right now it’s delayed until 2022, and it was supposed to start in, like, 2016. The taxable amount is above $30,000: anything below that isn’t taxed at all.
            If they actually tried to primarily finance ACA through the Cadillac Tax, ACA wouldn’t have passed.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            It wasn’t necessarily to fund the ACA or whatever. It’s just that employee compensation should be taxed as income, no matter if it’s delivered in dollars, bitcoins, a company car, or health insurance.

            Before the Kennedy and Reagan tax reforms, there was a lot of stupidity that occurred because compensation that wasn’t readily fungible wasn’t taxed. [1] While we got everything else, health insurance somehow escaped.

            I will probably end up paying more, since I tend to have really good coverage provided by my employer. Okay. I’ll still fight for my taxes to be lowered in general, but there’s no reason this part of my compensation should be preferred.

            [1] Remember this the next time someone guffaws “well we had 90% tax rates 70 years ago and things were fine.” Because it was trivial to bypass the income tax system, those rates didn’t really matter.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            1] Remember this the next time someone guffaws “well we had 90% tax rates 70 years ago and things were fine.” Because it was trivial to bypass the income tax system, those rates didn’t really matter.

            Similarly, significantly lower incomes for CEOs in foreign countries (Japan is one I am more familiar with) is a result of this dynamic. A six-figure CEO of a major corporation might have significant benefits that are paid by the corporation. Housing, travel, luxury accomodations, etc. that are paid by the corporation, with a fairly low cash salary.

          • rlms says:

            @Mr. Doolittle
            The average salary of an American CEO is 8 figures. I find it hard to imagine a combination of benefits a 6-figure Japanese CEO could be given that would make up that difference.

          • cassander says:

            @Edward Scizorhands says:

            One of the essential features of selling the ACA was keeping up the pretense that it was “paid for”, and one of the main talking points supporting its passage and opposing its repeal was that it lowered the deficit. This was never really true, the savings were the result of budgetary gimmicks and taxes/savings that were never going to be implemented, but they were essential to getting the thing passed.


            the average salary for a chief executive is 200k, not anywhere near 8 figures.

          • ana53294 says:

            POTUS gets 6 figures.

            And Presidents of many other countries, too.

          • rlms says:

            My figure was from somewhere like this. Since we’re talking about CEOs of “major corporations”, using the average value for the S&P 500 seems more relevant than the figure for the general population which presumably has a long tail of small businesses (but I should’ve specified).

          • BBA says:

            Here’s something that ties into all this: there’s a minor scandal about the $19 million earned last year by the CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nominally “nonprofit” health insurer. Some on the left are apoplectic; I’m not nearly as hostile as they are to the existence of health insurance, but for a company that only operates in one mid-sized state that’s still an eye-popping number.

            A side note: Blue Cross and Blue Shield are nationwide brands but the regional affiliates that use those brands are largely independent of each other. Some of them are for-profit, some aren’t, in practice there’s not really much of a difference because margins are relatively low.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Michicgan is a bit more than a midsized state, its 10th in total population and while it isn’t a NY or California it has a population more than double the median US state.

            Wikipedia has BCBS of Michigan with 4.3 million customers so you are almost certainly talking billions in revenue a year, with the CEO making between 0.01 and 1% of total revenue.

          • brad says:

            If you are distributing that kind of loot to powerful insiders, you aren’t non-profit you are a partnership (employee co-op?). See, also, most hospitals and universities.

          • cassander says:

            @rlms says:

            My figure was from somewhere like this. Since we’re talking about CEOs of “major corporations”, using the average value for the S&P 500 seems more relevant than the figure for the general population which presumably has a long tail of small businesses (but I should’ve specified).

            Well, one, that’s a bit like complaining that athletes are overpaid as a group because the Yankees make so much money. You’re picking a massively unrepresentative sample and generalizing.

            Two, you seem to be comparing major US CEOs to all non-US CEOs. The head of toyota and Volkswagen aren’t getting as much as the head of GM, but it’s not a two order of magnitude difference. As others have mentioned, non-cash compensation can be difficult to asses but it must be considered.

          • rlms says:

            I was comparing the figures I’d looked up for US firms with the six-figure number for a “CEO of a major corporation” given by Mr. Doolittle for Japan. It looks like that might be a bit low, but not by that much. To take your example, there is a one order of magnitude difference between the GM and Toyota CEOs.

        • John Schilling says:

          @HeelBearCub: As Nornagest and others have noted, the definition of “free” that matters in the political discourse of a democracy, is the one that goes “do I have to budget for it?”, not “can an economist find an opportunity cost hidden in my lost ability to negotiate a higher salary?’. And it is hidden; the numbers in your pay stub are deliberately lowballing the cost by almost an order of magnitude. So if you want to play the game where you note that TANSTAFFL so nothing is truly free so anyone who uses the word “free” is making an elementary mistake and you win, have at it.

          In order to pay for any plausible version of Medicare for All, in the US economy as it actually is and not in some fantasy realm where you e.g. have millions of doctors who will work long hours for five-figure salaries like they do in other countries, you will have to effectively abolish employer-provided health care. And you will have to impose payroll taxes that pull all of that money from the employer, so that the workers won’t see a dime of it returned to them in salary. And you’ll still have to impose substantial tax increases elsewhere in the economy, ones that will necessarily per Sutton fall heavily on the middle class.

          At that point, they will see you as having taken away whatever health insurance they previously had, and as having placed private health insurance beyond their reach even if it is still technically legal to buy. If they don’t see Medicare for All as a fully adequate substitute for what you have taken away, if they aren’t confident going in that MfA will be a fully adequate substitute for what you are taking away, you won’t get their approval. And, this being still something approximating a democracy, you’re going to need their approval.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “Nearly an order of magnitude” is plainly false on an overall scale. It may be true for some employees who contribute almost nothing of their salary, but the average individual employee sees 1/5th the cost, not 1/10th. The average employee with family coverage sees between 1/3 and 2/5ths of the cost.

            Second, the total dollars involved in spending on healthcare are close to being able provide universal coverage already, even at our current costs. The ACA already achieved 90% insurance rates.

            There are trust issues around new government programs, to be sure. But that is different than whether we need a gigantic tax increase from the status quo to achieve universal coverage.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Second, the total dollars involved in spending on healthcare are close to being able provide universal coverage already, even at our current costs. The ACA already achieved 90% insurance rates.

            Not really, both health care costs and insurance premiums are expected to rise faster than economic growth over the next decade, so at current levels of spending as a % of GDP there is an expected decline in the covered rate, at the same $ value its a much faster decline. Saying that we got over 90% insured means that we are almost spending enough to cover everyone is misleading when costs are expected to double over the next 10-15 years, to say nothing of likely diminishing returns on trying to cover the last 5-10%.

          • Plumber says:

            " say nothing of likely diminishing returns on trying to cover the last 5-10%"

            I think I remember reading that a surprise to the architects of the ACA was just how sick the uninsured turned out to be, as the had a mental model of many young healthy people who gambled on not needing medical insurance, but instead there were more who were poor and sick, ’cause you know it’s hard to get much income when you’re unhealthy, and harder to stay healthy when you’re poor.

            WHO!!! could have guessed?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            costs are expected to double over the next 10-15 years

            And you think you will continue to be covered? Yours is not an argument against single-payer and large scale government intervention, but rather an argument in favor of it.

            Put another way, if the nation’s healthcare spending is already predicted to double, that’s true under the existing system. Those dollars will be spent on healthcare regardless. You can’t we “can’t afford” to spend that money when we already are…

          • baconbits9 says:

            And you think you will continue to be covered? Yours is not an argument against single-payer and large scale government intervention, but rather an argument in favor of it.

            Mine is a refutation of your statement that we almost pay enough to cover everyone as no one views a single year of coverage of everyone universal healthcare it is misleading.

          • acymetric says:


            It seems like although that realization makes funding a more difficult problem, it also reinforces the need for ACA/Medicare for all/[insert your preferred solution for increasing access to healthcare here].

          • HeelBearCub says:


            I was responding to an argument that providing universal coverage under current conditions is not possible without the average citizen paying much more overall for healthcare than they currently do.

            Given that current conditions allowed us to achieve 90% coverage, clearly currently it is possible to achieve universal coverage without massive increases in overall spending for healthcare.

            You are making a separate argument, that this would not be sustainable. But that argument about sustainability applies equally to the private market. Your implicit argument is that the proper solution is that fewer people in the future should receive healthcare.

            As to whether your argument is correct, the ability of all of the other industrialized nations to achieve universal coverage suggests it is not. As with all systems, there are trade-offs and imperfections, but the goal is inherently achievable.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            Hovering up the money from the employers should suffice – The US currently has way higher administrative costs than anyplace else, so there are outright “full 2-3 percent gdp” savings to be had from just burning down the entire insurance industry.

            The issue is.. what are you going to do with the ca one million medical billing specialists and insurance salesmen and women you just not only rendered unemployed, you rendered their current skill-set obsolete?

            Because, to Joe and Shawna six-pack, “My employer is now paying the government for my healthcare instead of an insurance company” is a distinction without a difference. Once they, or a cousin, have visited a doctor and not had a door slammed in their face, they will proceed to ignore all the political fuss, but Billy Specialist the third, will be pretty unhappy.
            Send the lot of them to trade schools? Still going to be pretty cranky, since a lot of them are on in years.

    • benwave says:

      ‘Everyone gets government-funded healthcare but you can buy extra insurance if you want it’ is how it works in New Zealand. As far as I can tell it hasn’t caused any terrible problems, but it’s not an area I’m very well read in.

    • Etoile says:

      If you can opt out of it, you get an adverse selection problem.
      If private insurance is an option, you will get a “two-tier” system where the rich and those who buy the extra insurance enjoy lower wait times and better service, and possibly access to new treatments not covered by Medicare for All. They get to cut in line too.
      For those who care about “equality” more than actual access, they’d rather nobody be able to get the above than only the rich …. Hence you have to outlaw it.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Insurance generally works by pooling risk and income, people often leave off the latter but its there. If you are citing individual countries with a two tiered system you are missing a major point, Europe (and NZ, and Canada to varying degrees) has already largely segregated out by income and is functionally running a 30+ tiered system. It is much easier to figure out insurance and spending levels for Norway than it is for Norway + Greece, as you can’t give the Greeks the levels of healthcare that Norwegian’s are accustomed to as they can’t afford it, and the Norwegians won’t take the cut down to the Greek’s level. You can tax the top earners, who will be mostly Norwegians and transfer to the Greeks but this is going to risk being wildly unpopular, and wildly expensive. You can set the benefit level to that of the Greeks but then the Norwegians will be taxed and buying private insurance, which will leave the bottom end of their distribution out in the cold, either paying a lot more for similar coverage or taking the worse public option.

      If you try to apply that situation to the US then a large chunk of Democratic voters, like say our own Plumber, are going to find out that they are in the top 25% of the country in terms of income and some of them are going to be pissed to find out that they are being taxed to pay for healthcare of people in Mississippi, while seeing the rich still getting better healthcare than they do. Banning private health insurance is a way to mitigate those feelings, you can raise the standard a bit above what the bottom end currently gets without making the losses in potential coverage so obvious.

      • cassander says:

        >Insurance generally works by pooling risk and income

        No, it doesn’t. Insurance works by charging people their expected actuarial cost. Only the bizarre creature we call health insurance which has nothing to do with actual insurance pools risk that way.

    • Guy in TN says:

      One of the big sticking points about Medicare For All is that (unlike in current Medicare) people won’t be allowed to keep their private insurance even if they want to. Polls show that the average person supports the proposal before they know this, then switches to opposing it afterwards.

      I’m looking for the polling you are basing this on, do you have a link? The Kaiser poll that I keep seeing referenced online does not ask this question.

    • James Miller says:

      What most people like most about their insurance is that their employer pays for it, and this is what would have to change for almost everyone under Medicare For All. Currently, there is a huge tax benefit for your employer to pay for your health insurance. Under Medicare For All, there would be a penalty for all private insurance as it would be paying for a version of something you could get for free so it would destroy almost all firm-paid-for private health insurance. Also, if they tried to say that you could keep your private insurance, many insurance companies could honestly answer that you couldn’t keep our insurance since we would be forced out of the market.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Employers, of course, don’t actually pay for it. Not any more than they pay for the employer’s portion of payroll taxes.

        And that’s leaving aside the fact that there are very few employees who have their full premium covered by employers.

        • Employers, of course, don’t actually pay for it. Not any more than they pay for the employer’s portion of payroll taxes.

          The division of payroll taxes between employer and employee is illusion, but that doesn’t tell you who really bears the burden. That depends on the relative elasticity of the supply of and demand for labor. It could fall almost entirely on the employee, almost entirely on the employer, or anywhere between.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I think you are referencing starting conditions. Once equilibrium has been reached these costs are simply factored in to the hiring decision, and therefore are simply part of the employee’s compensation.

          • I think you are referencing starting conditions.

            You are mistaken. I’m referring to equilibrium.

            The employer spends $X for an employee, including whatever portion of the payroll tax he pays. The employee receives (after paying his portion of the payroll tax) $Y. X-Y is the amount of the payroll tax.

            X is the number that goes into the employer’s demand for labor. Y is the number that goes into the employee’s supply of labor. Equilibrium is reached when D(X)=S(Y).

            It doesn’t matter whether the government takes the money out before the wage is paid (from the employer) or after (from the employee).

            The question is how Y compares to W, what the wage would be if there were no tax. Equilibrium for W is D(W)=S(W).

            If labor supply is perfectly inelastic, S(W)=S(Y), so equilibrium is at X=W and the employee bears the full cost of the tax. If labor demand is perfectly inelastic (and supply is not), D(W)=D(X) so Y=W and the employer bears the full cost of the tax. For any intermediate conditions the burden of the tax is split between the two, with the division depending on the relative elasticity.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            For that equation to make sense, I believe Y has to be the value leftover to the employee after all taxes. The taxes being being paid are contingent on the employees income, thus the employee makes the decision to work based on total compensation after taxes.

            Given that, it doesn’t matter whether the taxes are taken before or after the employee is given their wage.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        If Medicare became a basic plan, employers could still offer supplemental plans. Canada has a bunch of employer sponsored plans that cover prescription drugs and other benefits that are not typically covered by the government.

        However, this would still obviously generate inequality, which Bernie Sanders is opposed to, so it is not permitted in the Bernie Sanders plan. He’s also morally opposed to profit on healthcare, so his plans do not have any place for profit-seeking companies.

        Gillibrand and Booker aren’t seriously going to support this stupid plan. They just want to identify as Progressive.

      • albatross11 says:

        What I like about my current insurance is that I have what seems to be pretty high quality health care set up for myself and my family, and it seems to mostly get paid for without completely breaking our budget. I am intensely skeptical of the ability of some new engineered-from-the-top, negotiated-in-Congress health plan to provide anything like the same setup.

        What I dislike about it is that even with insurance, medical billing is optimized for fraud. Nobody can or will tell you a price ahead of time, and billing for procedures is incredibly opaque. ISTM this could probably be resolved in the law–require an up-front agreed-upon price with a schedule for extra charges as needed, forbid third-party billing, and make “accidental” medical billing fraud uneconomical by imposing a big painful fine for doing it. (Fine = 5*error, say.) We’ve seriously thought about switching over to Kaiser, even though we’d lose a lot of choice and we’d all have to change doctors, just to avoid the billing hassles.

        • Jake says:

          There is a law now that requires up-front pricing information to be available. The problem is the pricing information is the over-inflated pricemaster prices that no one actually pays because the insurance companies negotiate discounts independently on just about everything in it. You’d need an additional set of regulations outlawing charging different negotiated prices to different patients in order for that pricing information to actually matter.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      people won’t be allowed to keep their private insurance even if they want to.

      Which specific plan are you referring to?

      I do not think that all, perhaps not even most, of the things calling themselves “Medicare for All” have this as a requirement. IIRC, at least one person’s plan is simply a “public option” that guarantees that people can buy in to Medicare.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Those plans are specific to those candidates Medicare for All plans.

          Even in the Harris article itself it points out:

          many other proposals lawmakers have created to expand government coverage, … all have been described under the rubric of “Medicare for all”?

          Harris was a co-sponsor of the Bernie plan, but that doesn’t even commit her to maintaining that stance. She can release her own proposal.

          I think the answer to your initial question is that most candidates don’t want to get too specific about what they mean yet and lock themselves into a “we are taking away private healthcare “ message in the minds of the public. Any attempt to positively spin that message is still locking in that message. “Let’s get rid of all that” is a message that says “let’s get rid of the frustrations with crappy private coverage” without necessarily locking you into anything.

    • BBA says:

      People hate health insurance companies. Getting rid of them is popular. It would be horrendously expensive and disruptive for minimal to no benefit, but these kinds of popular-but-stupid ideas are what win elections nowadays, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      I think one of the IMPLICIT assumptions of advocates of state provided medicine is that the supply curve for medical services is basically perfectly inelastic, in which case there’s no social benefit to allowing people to simply bid higher on a finite resource. This also appears to be the logic of ‘certificates of need’; health care isn’t produced, it’s rationed.

      Of course it’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophesy as far as inelastic supply goes, especially as far as regulations are concerned.

      The other thing might be the egalitarian impulse, even if the supply curve were not perfectly inelastic, a private option would probably attract better technology and personnel. Hence the 2 tiered system. Though I am as far from egalitarian as one can be I can kind of sympathize with this impulse at least with respect to lawmakers. It would be a serious issue if the entire health sector was nationalized but 50-80% of the people working in Washington had concierge doctors. However my gripe would be more to the hypocrisy of the situation rather than the ‘inequality’ — I hold no grudge for a critic of the system putting his money where his mouth is.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        The implicit assumption is that the profit motive is uniquely evil when it comes to health markets and we can magically make everything better by eliminating market motive. This isn’t so much an implicit assumption, but an explicit assumption of the Sanders Medicare-for-all plan.

        There’s also the assumption that we can simply negotiate our way into better healthcare, or that can magically cut out Fraud,Waste,and Abuse to come up with much lower administration costs.

      • DinoNerd says:

        I believe the impulse is primarily egalitarian.

        + a lack of belief in certain truths believed self evident by people who believe in free market solutions to everything

        + in some cases a lack of belief in other axioms of what I can only call mainstream American economic orthodoxy.

  19. J Mann says:

    For anyone with first hand experience, what’s it like on a tech company commuter bus? Is it nice or just a bus that comes to your house?

    • mrr says:

      It’s a nice bus – clean, soft seats, appropriate A/C, spotty wifi – but it’s still a bus. I tend to get motion sick on buses (and the route near my house took half an hour longer than driving) so I almost never used it.

    • Evan Þ says:

      I’ve occasionally ridden my Very Big Tech Company commuter bus to get places after work. It’s a nice bus – soft seats, guaranteed seats (you can book one every day, book one for a specific day, or show up in the afternoon / at the last morning stop and see if there’s room for you like I did), and decent wifi. Some people had their laptops out presumably doing work.

      All else equal, I’d definitely choose it above the city bus or driving, but I live close by work and I usually like biking the short distance there.

  20. Paul Brinkley says:

    A subthread in Prospiracy Theories got me wondering: has anyone made a 3D model of earth, with land / water features, with attention to their proper scale? Preferably billiard ball-sized, although other sizes would also be interesting. True color and water oceans optional; definitely not required.

    • Nornagest says:

      I’ve seen globes with vertical relief (usually exaggerated).

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Right; so have I. I even owned one at one time. This is precisely one of the things I’m rejecting. I specifically seek vertical relief to scale.

        • defab67 says:

          According to some very brief math it looks like a scale model of the Earth with radius 5cm would feature Mount Everest at a towering height of… 0.7mm. It seems like very few features would be noticable at scale.

          I have no experience in manufacturing or molding, but it also seems perhaps expensive to produce something with such fine details accurately.

          • bullseye says:

            I think it would be 0.07 mm for a 5 cm radius model, and that’s a huge billiard ball. And it would be even less noticeable because Everest is surrounded by other high ground; the standard answer to “how high is Mt. Everest” is its height above the sea.

    • LesHapablap says:

      Not a billiard ball, and not the whole earth, but this does relate to some of the words you just used. I visited on a school trip as a kid:

  21. Silverlock says:

    Hello, delicious friends,
    Anybody out there playing “Fallen London?” I’m looking for tips as to the best storylines to pursue. Right now I am thinking of maybe “The Blemmigan Affair” or “The Bones of London.” What would give me the most bang for the buckFate?

    • andrewflicker says:

      I was once a denizen- Flint is pretty great, I recall. Search reddit for recommendation threads, there’s a lot of good reviews out there.

      • Silverlock says:

        I was thinking about Flint; I just didn’t know whether I wanted to drop 120 Fate on it. Thanks for the Reddit suggestion. I will check there.

        I have started playing “Sunless Skies,” too, so I am visiting London both underground and in space. It is a fascinating universe they have come up with.

        • Gray Ice says:

          A bit of interesting contrast: In Fallen London, you are limited by actions per time (ever 10 minutes). In Sunless Seas, you are limited by travel ( time at sea or actions on other islands), which often works out to time as well.

        • Silverlock says:

          I haven’t played Sunless Seas — I’m not that keen on parma-death in most cases — but I am enjoying Sunless Skies. And you are right: even knowing the small portion of the lore that I do adds a lot.

          Also, the writing is (usually) of high quality. The designers are a creative bunch.

    • Walter says:

      Hi, that salutation is uh… concerning. Just to be clear, we are all non cannibals here, yeah?

      • Nick says:

        I like to think we’re humanitarians.

      • quaelegit says:

        IIRC it’s the customary greeting in the game. (See the login page for example). I don’t remember if there’s cannibalism, but tbh I didn’t get that far.

        • Silverlock says:

          I haven’t run into any cannibalism yet, but if I do I am sure it will be described in terms of the utmost elegance.

          Now that I think about it, though, the devils do get up to some unsavory mischief, so perhaps they get up to some savory mischief also.

          • Tarpitz says:

            I haven’t played the game, but the man most responsible for Sunless Sea is a friend and did once ask those present, à propos of not a lot, whether if we were going to eat someone we’d rather they were attractive.

          • EchoChaos says:

            à propos of not a lot, whether if we were going to eat someone we’d rather they were attractive.

            Pretty obviously yes.

  22. Well... says:

    Did anyone watch/listen to Joe Rogan’s podcast interview with Tim Pool, Jack Dorsey, and Vijaya Gadde? Just curious about y’all’s thoughts.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I’m not sure I’m going to listen to the whole thing, but I’m wondering whether people who get a cure from the carnivore diet need to stay on it indefinitely.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I’m listening to efforts to moderate twitter, which seems like an insanely difficult at that scale.

        Just having automated detection of doxxing– something Twitter would very much like to have– strikes me as just about impossible. There are so many ways to convey an address.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Still slogging through the return of Alex Jones. Clockwork elves, man. Clockwork elves.

    • baconbits9 says:

      I listened to about half. It sounds to me like you simply can’t have an unbiased platform like Twitter, that is basically my default. They can’t follow their mantra of protecting people from harm and deplatforming without defining those two things, and they are going to be forced (ie are going to be totally happy to) pick sides in those definitions. If they are protective of individual activity they will default to protecting the most sensitive groups, there is no way around it.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I guess I would just like them to be honest about it, then. “Here are the groups of people you are allowed to criticize. Here are the groups of people you are not allowed to criticize.”

    • Well... says:

      All three guests seemed to agree that being able to use Twitter was extremely important, and that not being able to use Twitter was approximately tantamount to not having a public voice. What do y’all think of that?

      • John Schilling says:

        I think if that were a necessary part of their thesis then they should have conducted the debate via interlaced tweetstorm.

        • Well... says:

          Just to be clear: it wasn’t really a debate, more of a conversation (despite Tim Pool’s efforts to make it a debate by impersonating Cathy Newman with Dorsey and Gadde in the role of JBP).

      • Tarpitz says:

        I have a number of Twitter accounts, use none of them, and have no intention of ever doing so. Should I become a public figure, that would go double.

      • acymetric says:

        That would mean about 75% of US adults don’t have a public voice (including some people that very clearly do have a public voice). The importance of Twitter is overblown by people who use it (or want to).

        • Gobbobobble says:

          You can read a newspaper without publishing your own. And even if you don’t read any, if they have enough market share then you are still impacted by how they frame public policy issues

          (speaking as someone who utterly despises Twitter and refuses to use it, other than reading the occasional linked twit)

          • Well... says:

            I wonder:

            In the podcast, Gadde made it clear that users only get banned for repeated attacks on (or, apparently, misgendering of) other individuals. Does this include individuals who aren’t on Twitter?

            Like, let’s say @Bob on Twitter repeatedly said stuff like “Fuck you, David Friedman!” “David Friedman, you’re a woman!” Etc.

            David Friedman doesn’t use Twitter. Would @Bob be banned?

        • I don’t use twitter.

        • Well... says:

          So, if the importance of Twitter is overblown, then isn’t the impact of whatever biased moderation does or doesn’t go on there overblown too?

        • IrishDude says:

          Pretty much all politicians and media are on Twitter, as well as many academics. To the extent their views on matters impact the public, and to the extent their views get shaped by the public discourse on Twitter, Twitter is important. So while most adults may not be on Twitter, the ones who are have outsized influence.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The media all exist on Twitter, and since they don’t get paid any money any more[1], instead of doing their jobs and finding an expert, they search Twitter for an expert[2] that’s already given a quote, and include that there, which becomes the public record.

            [1] I kid. I think.

            [2] Expertise not required.

          • Mr. Doolittle says:

            @ Edward

            It’s odd how accurate this tongue-in-cheek (I think?) description really is. It’s weird how many articles are written with:

            1) Intro to the issue
            2) Twitter links to other people’s reactions
            3) Conclusion about how people feel about the issue

            There’s often not even a conclusion about the issue itself, just the conclusion about the reactions. “These people are reacting poorly to [thing]!”

          • Well... says:

            To be fair, drawing conclusions about people’s reactions to some issue, based on a few people’s Twitter posts, is at least a bit more honest than drawing conclusions about the issue itself from those people’s Twitter posts.

            I’m guessing with all the increased pressure from competition, journalists face a huge amount of pressure to get their stories written now now now and to make them relatable. Since journalists all use Twitter, it’s always right there in their pockets, plus they figure the most relatable stories include Twitter content. Also, Trump Twitters all the time, further convincing them it’s a place where all the newsworthy statements are found.


            To what extent do you think policymakers and media personalities’ views really get shaped by the discourse on Twitter?

          • IrishDude says:


            To what extent do you think policymakers and media personalities’ views really get shaped by the discourse on Twitter?

            A related question is to what extent do views get shaped by discourse on SSC or anywhere else? For the most part, views don’t change from any single interaction. But if an interesting or compelling argument is made, it can plant seeds that allow growth in views way down the line. That’s certainly my experience, where I rarely change my view in any one conversation, but often through quiet reflection on the conversation later on, or through seeing compelling arguments repeated across time, I slowly adjust my views.

            Twitter allows global public discourse, where anyone can state their views, and anyone can respond. There’s certainly a lot of toxicity and bad incentives to ‘dunk’ on people to get retweets. But I also see a lot of interesting point/counterpoint discussion, and a diverse set of views that broadens my internal dialogue of what is and what ought to be. Even if any one policymaker or media personality is immune to changing their views, they’ll still have their views challenged and a large set of lurkers can see the multiple sides to any issue.

            One additional aspect to Twitter that makes it an important platform is that it allows unfiltered access to any person’s thoughts. Instead of views getting filtered, cut, edited, and packaged through the traditional media, any academic, politician, media figure, scientist, technologist, etc. can give their views directly to the public. Twitter greatly reduces the friction for people to share unfiltered views with anyone who cares to listen.

          • But if an interesting or compelling argument is made, it can plant seeds that allow growth in views way down the line.

            One of my father’s lines was that the purpose of an argument is not to persuade someone but to provide him the ideas with which he may later persuade himself.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’ve had my views changed over time by online discussions–usually not one discussion, but by exposure to a whole set of ideas/facts. And I learn things all the time in SSC discussions–one reason I keep coming here, despite the fact that it’s a huge distraction hazard and time sink.

    • proyas says:

      I listened to the whole thing. Both sides brought up good points, but I tended to side slightly more with Jack Dorsey and Vijaya Gadde (and no, I’m not pro-censorship or an SJW).

      The difference in breadth of perspective is important to note: Tim Pool is narrowly focused on (and impacted by) Twitter’s bias in handling extreme speech on the platform, whereas Jack Dorsey and Vijaya Gadde are high-level people trying to track and manage a much larger array of issues facing their organization. That and obvious differences in temperament created what could be called a “passion and focus asymmetry” that made Tim Pool come across as making the stronger case. However, the aggression and quick-wittedness of the individual making an argument should always be disentangled from the quality of the arguments he is putting forth, and once I did that, I realized his arguments were more muddled than they look at first glance.

      Tim Pool also seemed to be blowing many problems out of proportion, and was too pessimistic about many things. For example, the notion that American elections are now being determined by Twitter, or soon (or ever) will be, is laughable, as is the notion that an election could swing a certain way thanks to extremists like Alex Jones being blocked from countering rhetoric from fake foreign bot accounts.

      On that note, I appreciated how Vijaya went into depth explaining why Alex Jones was banned, and actually read one of his offending Tweets, which I agree was insane and could have been interpreted as a call to violence.

      I don’t have time to list all of my thoughts, but the podcast left me thinking that it would be good if Twitter could release annual reports showing what the political leanings of its employees were, would adopt a “hate speech” policy that banned anything that mocked any demographic group (and not just the “Protected Categories” recognized by the U.S. government), and would experiment with a “jury system” to decide whether to restore the accounts of banned users.

      • Well... says:

        it would be good if Twitter could release annual reports showing what the political leanings of its employees were

        Is it legal for any company to collect that information about its employees?

        would adopt a “hate speech” policy that banned anything that mocked any demographic group (and not just the “Protected Categories” recognized by the U.S. government)

        If I understand Vijaya correctly, their current policy is far more lenient than this. First, you have to direct derogatory speech at an individual, then you have to do it repeatedly despite warnings, in order to be banned.

        I liked the jury system idea too.

        the notion that American elections are now being determined by Twitter, or soon (or ever) will be, is laughable

        As I mentioned above, it seemed like all three guests (and Rogan too, as I recall) thought having access to Twitter was extremely important in terms of having a platform to exercise one’s right to speech. Are they right?

        • proyas says:

          Is it legal for any company to collect that information about its employees?
          Aren’t voter registrations (which include an individual’s political party affiliations) public?

          BTW, I don’t think Twitter should list the names of their employees alongside their matching political affiliations. Rather, I think the data should be gathered internally, and then published annually in the form of a pie chart that doesn’t identify individuals.

          As I mentioned above, it seemed like all three guests (and Rogan too, as I recall) thought having access to Twitter was extremely important in terms of having a platform to exercise one’s right to speech. Are they right?
          I don’t think they’re right. It only seems that way to a small slice of the population that frequently uses Twitter to obtain and spread their political ideas. The platform could vanish tomorrow without affecting how the vast majority of politically engaged voters think or get their information. Even ex-Twitter users could still get information and find new forums for political dialog through countless other means.

          As I alluded to earlier, I think “Tim Pool also seemed to be blowing many problems out of proportion” because he’s unusually engaged in Twitter. His perspective is a skewed and highly specific one.

          • Well... says:

            I think the data should be gathered internally, and then published annually in the form of a pie chart that doesn’t identify individuals.

            I don’t see a good reason why Twitter should publish any such thing even if it’s legal to do so. The idea strikes me as preposterous. Even if they did it it wouldn’t prove much of anything.

            If the concern is that there’s a large majority of left-leaning moderators and some right-leaning people feel this causes them to be treated unfairly, then those right-leaning people have the option to leave Twitter. I’m not on Twitter and it’s great.

            But anyway Gadde and Dorsey said they’re working on a way to make the rules and how the rules are enforced more transparent, and the appeals process more robust.

          • proyas says:

            I don’t see a good reason why Twitter should publish any such thing even if it’s legal to do so. The idea strikes me as preposterous. Even if they did it it wouldn’t prove much of anything.
            I think it would be valuable since it would show Twitter was being up front about the political leanings of its staff. At least conservative critics couldn’t complain about the company trying to hide anything.

            Moreover, if Twitter embarked upon a long-term project to increase sociopolitical diversity within its ranks (which I believe they should), then the annual releases of the data could show critics the progress they’re making.

          • Well... says:

            Yes, obviously, doing these things would appease their critics, but how important actually is it for them to do that?

            Also, what would be the point? Imagine the report is produced, and it shows that 19 out of 20 voting Twitter employees are registered Democrat. What does it really show, other than “company in Silicon Valley hires people in Silicon Valley, and so a survey of what party that company’s employees are registered with ends up reflecting the demographics you’d expect to see in Silicon Valley”?

            I’m registered as a Republican in the state where I vote. If I was a Twitter moderator I don’t think it’d be fair for someone to therefore assume that whenever I took action against users who happened to be liberal it’s because I’m driven by my ideological difference with them. If someone accused me of this I would gather tons of evidence to prove that I was actually just doing my job as I was instructed to do it, and I’m sure my employer would too.

            In the podcast I believe Dorsey said they were working on ways to improve the intellectual diversity of their staff. I believe this is possible for an organization to do, and people like Jonathan Haidt have laid out actionable ways to do it. Other commenters here have scoffed at Dorsey’s apology and expressed skepticism that anything will change, and they might be right or wrong. For whatever reason, I get the feeling Dorsey was being genuine, but I admit it’s possible I’m falling for some “authentic down-to-earth-guy” act he’s putting on.

          • proyas says:

            Yes, obviously, doing these things would appease their critics, but how important actually is it for them to do that?

            I think it’s important enough to do.

            Also, what would be the point? Imagine the report is produced, and it shows that 19 out of 20 voting Twitter employees are registered Democrat. What does it really show, other than “company in Silicon Valley hires people in Silicon Valley, and so a survey of what party that company’s employees are registered with ends up reflecting the demographics you’d expect to see in Silicon Valley”?

            The reports would show that Twitter had taken the first step to reducing its internal bias by being forthright about the scope of its likely bias. Such a good faith effort would at least placate critics who claim Twitter is hiding that. The reports would also serve as datapoints for see trends in the company’s membership. Ideally, they’d show widening sociopolitical diversity over time, which would probably also necessitate hiring more people from outside Silicon Valley (or at least on its fringes).

            I’m registered as a Republican in the state where I vote. If I was a Twitter moderator I don’t think it’d be fair for someone to therefore assume that whenever I took action against users who happened to be liberal it’s because I’m driven by my ideological difference with them.

            But it is fair for them to assume that your personal beliefs might influence your decisions at work. Even among U.S. court judges, there’s evidence that personal political beliefs consistently influence how they rule on cases. If that subset of older, more mature people who are sharply aware of the need for impartiality in their own thinking are nonetheless guilty of systematic bias, then we should assume the problem also exists at much lower rungs of the “justice system” (if it could be called that), such as Twitter moderation.

            I think Twitter’s staff and really everyone in the world should accept this. “I have my own biases, I am not impartial, my biases influence my decisions and actions at least some of the time and often unconsciously, that isn’t good, and I need to work on taming my biases for everyone’s sake.”

            In light of that belief, I do think there would be value in Twitter publishing (anonymized) data on the political leanings of its staff, and then forthrightly admitting (as Jack Dorsey did during the Joe Rogan podcast) that the company’s general political leanings bias its rules and moderation behaviors.

          • albatross11 says:

            I don’t really have an opinion on whether Twitter should publish this information, but I do think that decisions related to politics are almost guaranteed to be different if the moderator pool is 90% Democrat vs 90% Republican.

        • Clutzy says:

          I find these conversations overwhelmingly tedious anytime people question the censors, and it seems to me the people in charge are overwhelmingly dishonest when conducting themselves. Another example is Riot gaming and their policing of chat in their game League of Legends. This Vijaya executive reminds me (with creepy similarity) to a riot moderator who used to always post “smackdowns” whenever a user would complain about the ban.

          Inevitably the Twitter censor or the Riot censor has access to everything the person ever did, and thus they find a number of “abusive” instances and it thus appears that they have justified the ban. No one has ever said Milo Yiabopolis and Alec Jones aren’t asses, they say that they got excess scruitiny because of politics, whereas their left wing clones remain unbanned.

          Also, a lot of the incidents are inevitably taken out of context. Usually in the most vitriolic cases its not really clear that the person banned “started it” or was merely “clapping back” and due to the nature of the other party they appeared more aggressive because the other person just kind of crumbled under scrutiny and hit “report”. The LearntoCode incident is such an example and Twitter’s behavior there was indefensible, and they really failed hard in defending that.

          • Well... says:

            Are you suggesting that Dorsey et al. are “censors” who are “in charge”? I don’t really see it. Aren’t Twitter’s users actually in charge since they are the ones who decide to sign up, and they have the choice to keep using or to quit?

            On the podcast Gadde stated exactly why Alex Jones and Milo got banned. In Jones’s case at least it made perfect sense, and didn’t seem to require digging deep into his back history. In Milo’s case I think the moderators probably failed to understand his irreverent brand and how his statements fit into it, but then so probably did the people he was targeting with his statements.

            Dorsey at al. admit on the podcast that they probably made a mistake with the Learn To Code thing. In fact, the candor and willingness to say “we made a mistake” was one of the things that made the podcast so fascinating, for me anyway.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Dorsey at al. admit on the podcast that they probably made a mistake with the Learn To Code thing.

            But what will they do about it? Will they avoid making similar “mistakes” again, or will they simply play the “apologize but never change” game? I know where my priors are.

          • Nornagest says:

            To be fair, if I had a nickel for everyone who’s apologized and then not changed, I’d have about six billion nickels.

          • Clutzy says:

            Are you suggesting that Dorsey et al. are “censors” who are “in charge”? I don’t really see it. Aren’t Twitter’s users actually in charge since they are the ones who decide to sign up, and they have the choice to keep using or to quit?

            Sure, we can be mildly pedantic in this case. Yes you dont have to play league of legends or use twitter but if you want to they are in charge.

            On the podcast Gadde stated exactly why Alex Jones and Milo got banned. In Jones’s case at least it made perfect sense, and didn’t seem to require digging deep into his back history. In Milo’s case I think the moderators probably failed to understand his irreverent brand and how his statements fit into it, but then so probably did the people he was targeting with his statements.

            It actually did involve quite a bit of digging she cited reports that went fairly far back. And still the point is not that they are bad and objectively should not be banned, it is that if those people should be banned, Twitter is obligated to ban a bunch of other people they have not, or say, “we are a left wing site”.

            Dorsey at al. admit on the podcast that they probably made a mistake with the Learn To Code thing. In fact, the candor and willingness to say “we made a mistake” was one of the things that made the podcast so fascinating, for me anyway.

            Its interesting, but altogether not that relevant. Its like when a newspaper reports an obviously fake story like Duke Lacross, then admits they were wrong, but then reports UVA Frat, and then Brett Kavanaugh, then Jussie Smollett, then Covington.

            Its like you said, you’d have a billion nickles.

          • Well... says:

            The comparison to newspaper errata doesn’t seem right. Newspapers publish erroneous stories because their incentive is always to jump quickly on the most sensational thing so that they can convince advertisers there are lots of eyeballs looking at their pages. This incentive system will not change, and so we can expect the errata to keep coming.

            Twitter must appeal to advertisers too, but there’s no reason why the number of eyeballs looking at Twitter would have anything to do with the number of erroneous bans. If anything, fewer erroneous bans means more eyeballs. So, Twitter’s incentive really is to improve in this area. That’s part of why I’m inclined to believe Dorsey when he says they made mistakes and are trying to fix them.

  23. mrr says:

    I’ve been researching antidepressants, and I haven’t been able to find any research about how different drugs compare when it comes to the effect of a missed dose. In my experience, missing a dose of an SSRI (fluoxetine) was no big deal at all, whereas missing a day of an SNRI (fluoxetine) is exceptionally unpleasant. If I expect to miss one dose a month, which drugs are going to make that more or less unpleasant? I’m particularly interested in learning more about bupropion.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      There are two things going on here – first, longer half-life means it will stay in your body for a while even after a missed dose, so as long as you don’t miss several doses in a row you’re fine (it also means you get a weak “auto-taper” effect). Second, as you point out, SNRIs are just worse than SSRIs at this.

      Wellbutrin (AFAIK) doesn’t really have discontinuation/withdrawal effects, so that should be fine. In terms of SSRIs, your best bet is Prozac. Stay far away from Paxil and Effexor. I don’t know as much about Remeron and the newer agents like Trintellix in this context, but I don’t think they’re too problematic.

  24. Well... says:

    “The grass out front is turning brown,” said Tom, doing laundry.

    • AG says:

      I’d switch it to “said Tom, watching his laundry.”

      (optional to hide the wordplay a little, “watching his laundry cycle.”)

    • Well... says:

      “I believe an AI can have a will,” said Tom in Botswana.

    • Nick says:

      “Bah, I can barely breathe anymore,” Tom said exasperatedly.

    • Well... says:

      “I’m here at the beach and for lunch I’ve wrapped a bunch of ingredients in a tortilla. It’s delicious!” said Tom, with buried toes.

    • moonfirestorm says:

      I’m really confused by Tom Swifties.

      Sometimes they’re incredibly obvious, sometimes they’re totally opaque.

      At the time of posting I understand every one in this thread except the original post… and as I type this I just got it.

      It’s like one of those optical illusions where the object is rotating one way and it’s obvious it’s rotating that way, and then it suddenly starts rotating the other way and you can’t believe you ever saw it rotating the first way.

    • Nick says:

      “Fine, fine, I’ll sacrifice something again this year,” Tom relented.

    • Alejandro says:

      “Iron is the most inferior metal for jewelry” said Tom, fearing the worst.

  25. haikuseminar says:

    Question time:
    What odds do you put that nuclear weapons will be used in aggression within the next 100 years?

    • John Schilling says:

      100 years? Roughly 1-p(singularity), with flock of black swans circling just out of sight to complicate things.

      • Evan Þ says:

        What makes the future so different from the last seventy years? Or, are you maintaining that we did hit a cold black swan?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I think he’s saying that any use of nuclear weapons would be a black swan. What’s the probability of a black swan event? Essentially unknowable.

        • John Schilling says:

          No, I’m saying it would take a black swan or a singularity to achieve stable non-use of nuclear weapons.

          The difference between now and most of the past seventy years is that now we have roughly twice as many independent nuclear powers and counting, and roughly half as many superpowers trying to make everyone else behave. And there was a fair bit of luck involved in the past seventy years; anyone saying “…so obviously we see that nations will never be stupid enough to actually fight nuclear wars”, is in danger of failing history forever. So even assuming we don’t get any new nuclear powers, we have to be roughly four times as lucky for half again as long to meet the 100-year standard.

          Also, the Gaddafi and Kim precedents mean that we’ll be getting more nuclear powers, recruited from the ranks of nations most likely to wind up using nuclear weapons and say “look what you made me do!”

    • johan_larson says:

      We’ve had nukes for 74 years now. They were used twice in that time, in the first war in which they were available, and never thereafter. 74 years of nothing is a long time, easily enough to make even cautious men suspect a pattern. Granted, the scene has changed. There used to be one nuclear power; now there are nine. But still, all of them are nations, and most of them are large nations, at that. And while such nations are sometimes run by villains, they are not often run by fools.

      My best guess is that there are two scenarios where nuclear weapons might be used in the next hundred years. The first is that some nuclear power is faced with a true existential threat, where they have to do something dramatic or they’re gone. The other is that some non-national force with a grudge manages to acquire and use a nuclear weapon.

      Neither of these scenarios seems very likely, but neither is impossible. I guesstimate the chance of one or more nuclear weapons being used in the next hundred years to be 1/6.

      • JPNunez says:

        India is expected to be hit very hard by climate change. However this may be a slow change punctuated by some disasters, so maybe it won’t be a complete existential threat. But their lifelong enemy, Pakistan, also has nukes, so…gonna go with 1/5.

  26. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I don’t think we can manage to give humanity a change of surviving off earth within five years.

    What would be a reasonable time scale? What are the prerequisites?

    • haikuseminar says:

      This is an interesting question if you consider what it is actually asking. Are all of humanity collaborating and pooling their resources? If that’s the case, you could imagine a self supporting colony on Mars, say, within two or three launch windows (roughly two years apart). But if you consider the question to be more along the lines of “will anyone actually do this?” It’s highly unlikely to happen quickly. This is the sort of project that is going to take more than just a few American techno-plutocrats throwing their fortunes into.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Imagine the test was if a colony of X people could create a second colony of X people, which would be capable of creating a third colony if it wished. The big four are housing, air, water, and food, with energy being a necessary input at some step for most of those.

        For simplicity, all housing is underground, so you need digging equipment. You need to be able to make metals and plastics, which is doable with local resources. Hand-wavey, I think 1000 people to have enough division of labor to do that.

        If you have enough industry for metals and plastics, you already will have the ability to make air and water. Food is also straightforward if you can make plastic domes for greenhouses.

        Power generation is hard to bootstrap. You can technically make solar panels using local silicon and oxygen. The efficiency won’t be as good as the best on Earth, and Mars only gets about half the solar flux that Earth does, so this would be a very slow way to grow. Wind power is a joke. And the division of labor to harvest nuclear fuel is way bigger. (If you assume second-generation fusion that can run on Helium-3, that could change a lot. But that’s two generations away.) Tapping geothermal is nearly required.

        They won’t have CPUs for a long time. It’s certainly possible to make metals and plastics without CPUs or complex control mechanisms, since we were doing it 50+ years ago. How much manpower is that to run those? I honestly don’t know.

        And I know I am forgetting that last 1%, which will be some necessary but rare (on Mars) element humans needs to live.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        “If that’s the case, you could imagine a self supporting colony on Mars, say, within two or three launch windows (roughly two years apart). ”

        Do you mean six years from now?

        We don’t even know how to build a Mars colony yet.

        I consider a century optimistic, considering that there’s a lot of design and testing needed before we get to the serious building part.

        Have some music

    • Shion Arita says:

      out of curiosity, why is everyone suddenly talking about mars colonies? what did I miss?

      • Well... says:

        My guess is it’s because last OT I asked about the plausibility of a scenario somewhat like Neal Stephenson’s novel Seveneves where lots of humans had to leave Earth, quickly, and create a self-sustaining society in space.

  27. DragonMilk says:

    You have been selected to design a habitation dome on Mars.

    1. What Materials/Supplies do you request
    2. How do you get them there?
    3. How much will it cost (materials vs. transport)?

    • woah77 says:

      1. I’d request whatever we’d make such a habitat like that underwater
      2. Verne Cannon
      3. Probably a couple million. Transportation being less expensive than the shelter.

      • bullseye says:

        A couple million? If it were that cheap Elon Musk would already be there.

        • woah77 says:

          Elon Musk can’t use a Verne Cannon. In order for my plan to work, you need access to nukes.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            From Wikipedia:

            For instance, with a space gun with a vertical “gun barrel” through both the Earth’s crust and the troposphere, totalling ~60 km of length ( {\displaystyle l} l), and a velocity ( {\displaystyle v_{e}} v_{e}) enough to escape the Earth’s gravity (escape velocity, which is 11.2 km/s on Earth), the acceleration (a) would theoretically be more than 1000 m/s2, which is more than 100 g-forces, which is about 3 times the human tolerance to g-forces of maximum 20 to 35 g[5] during the ~10 seconds such a firing would take. Theoretically, a space gun with a circular (ring shaped) track could utilize much lower accelerations because its effective track length is infinite (with the object going around the ring numerous times), though the centripetal acceleration could be enormous as the payload neared escape velocity, depending on the track size

            I’m reading this to mean it doesn’t care how you power the gun, you’ll only ever be sending raw materials to space using it.

            With nuke, you’ll want either Orion or, even better, Pluto

            Both are probably too dirty even for Siberia or Pacific.

          • Protagoras says:

            On Orion, if the best modern techniques are used to minimize radiation and fallout, how much can they be reduced? I know that the difference between a “clean” design and the standard weapon designs is pretty huge, but I don’t have a good sense of exactly how clean the clean designs can get. Obviously perfection is impossible in this area, but is the fact that clean weapons are treated as a joke a result of their still being a serious problem on the radiation front, or a result of people’s tolerance for anything nuclear producing any radiation being irrationally low?

            Clean approaches might still not be enough to help Orion, as my impression is that clean designs work better for bigger bombs, and Orion works better with smaller bombs, but I’m also not certain of how much difference size makes to the practicality of making a design clean; so hard to get good info on this!

          • Lambert says:

            I think it’s largely a matter of uranium vs inert tampers.
            The issue with clean H-bombs is that a lot of the energy still comes from fission.
            The main benefit of the fusion stage is producing energetic enough neutrons to fission U-238.
            Actual weapons are built using uranium tampers, to maximise this effect, but test shots tend to use lead tampers to minimise fallout.

            But you can switch to high-yield uranium tampers once you reach space.

          • John Schilling says:

            On Orion, if the best modern techniques are used to minimize radiation and fallout, how much can they be reduced?

            Almost none, because for any plausible Earth-launched Orion you’re going to be using devices in the 0.1-10 kt during the boost phase and those are going to be pure fission or boosted fission devices. And that’s ~60 grams of fission product plus ~2E23 free neutrons per kiloton no matter how you do it.

    • John Schilling says:

      The dome itself is a fairly serious pressure vessel. Even something the size of a tennis court is going to have about two thousand tons of force trying to tear itself apart from the inside.

      If I have to send everything entirely from Earth, I’ll use titanium and Lexan, delivered by the best reusable space launch vehicle I can find, an ion-drive space tug or two, and an aerodynamic entry capsule with some retrorockets. If I can set up any sort of industrial site on Mars, then probably steel and Lexan but I might have to back off on the latter and use polyethylene or silicate glass for the windows. And there’s an intermediate state where I use Martian steel and Earth-made plastics (and elastomers for seals, etc), also Martian-made rocket fuel for a reusable cargo shuttle to bring things down from Low Martian Orbit.

      For a very large dome, it might be possible to build a compression structure out of Martian concrete, but I’m not confident of that.

      Cost will depend heavily and non-linearly on scale; how big and how many do you need?

      • albatross11 says:

        Couldn’t you build underground and then cover your dome with enough dirt to more than balance the atmospheric pressure inside? I think that was Zubrin’s idea in _The Case for Mars_.

        Would it make sense to build the greenhouses indoors, using high-efficiency lights (fluorescent or sodium lights probably aren’t too high-tech to make on Mars)? You could either power them from solar panels or a nuclear plant (assuming you brought a lot of reactor fuel or can find new fuel). That would let you do everything underground, and would probably be less likely to succumb to disaster of various kinds, but it would also mean you had to keep a large power supply available forever.

    • Thomas Jorgensen says:

      Okay first you need to get the EU onside. Well, mostly the French. Because we need two things: French Guiana, and 8 EPRs. Also all the expertise we can find with magnetic levitation tech and mechanical engineering.

      Because step one is building a Lofstrom Loop.

      This lowers launch costs to 3 euro per kilo, as long as you can sell 6 million tonnes of launch-slots a year. Shouldnt be a problem. Now, you can actually send enough stuff to mars to build a city there. There, done.

  28. Well... says:

    Last OT there seemed to be a consensus that getting lots and lots of humans off Earth and creating a self-sustainable colony either in space or on a nearby moon/planet within 5 years would be an impossible or nearly impossible challenge.

    What if the goal was adjusted so we only needed to get about 100 humans off Earth and into some kind of extraterrestrial startup civilization they could reasonably hope to self-sustain indefinitely, and we had 75 years to do it?

    • EchoChaos says:

      100 people are going to run into massive inbreeding issues if they try to sustain indefinitely.

      • Well... says:

        Really? 100 people who aren’t closer to each other than, say, 8th cousins or something?

      • baconbits9 says:

        100 related people who are all perfectly monogamous at a stable population level yes, 100 intentionally chosen people who agree not to be monogamous for the first generation with a growing population, no.

        • Randy M says:

          Can you break that down for me? Why does monogamy make the problem worse?
          So long as you control who the off-spring mate with, it doesn’t seem like that makes the long term prospects more or less mixed.

          • Well... says:

            Even controlling it seems like it would be a temporary issue and not a terribly challenging one once you’re more than 4 or 5 generations deep.

          • acymetric says:

            I assume a non-monogamous population would have more genetic diversity (fewer or no full siblings).

          • baconbits9 says:

            Small populations have issues with genes dropping out of the pool, once they are gone they are gone so you want lower variance. If I have a unique gene and have 2 kids then there is a 75% chance that it is gone in the next generation. If you and I have the only two copies of a gene and we happen to have kids then even when we pass on 2 copies of that unique gene there is a high chance that we pass on 2 copies into one person, and if they fail to reproduce you lose that gene. Lack of monogamy makes it less likely that low frequency genes get consolidated into individuals and makes it less likely that they will drop out of the gene pool early.

          • Jaskologist says:

            How does polygamy help, rather than having more kids? If I have 2 kids either way, aren’t my genes still at about equal risk?

            (For the first generation, at least. If you get an unequal number of men and women in the next generation, I can see how you’d want to make sure that everybody reproduces.)

            [Edit: baconbits9 adequately answered this just above me.]

          • Randy M says:

            Ah, so the primary problem is loss of diversity and not over-abundance of more common specific alleles?
            I might have been looking at it backwards.

            @Jaskologist–that makes sense, though.

            edit: Atomic Rockets has some math on this, but I’m not sure if their models assume monogamy; they didn’t indicate it had any importance.

      • johan_larson says:

        Not many problems can be solved with a massive injection of sperm from diverse sources, but this is one of them.

        • bullseye says:

          Having a supply of frozen sperm and eggs sounds like a solid plan.

          • albatross11 says:

            Will the frozen sperm/ova keep indefinitely? It seems like the main issue you’d have to worry about would be damage from radiation, but I don’t know enough to be very confident in my guess.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I don’t know how to store sperm, but whatever issues there are, radiation won’t be one. If it survives the trip without a solar flare sterilizing it, then you just store it in an underground vault, or dedicate several inches of steel. It’s small enough that, given everything going on, that will not harm the mission.

        • Gray Ice says:

          If genetic diversity is the primary goal (or highly important for other reasons), you could select the initial group of colonists to be all female, and then send a supply of frozen embryos so each lady could have several children that are half siblings.

      • Lambert says:

        I wonder how many of these problems go away is you get to choose the most diverse set of people.
        You’ll probably end up with 90 East Africans, or something.

    • DragonMilk says:

      Ha, we posted similar questions. First I’d start with parameters:

      1. 100 humans is fairly arbitrary, so let’s start with family units – what is the daily caloric intake of a male-female pair, and for each marginal child, and how many liters of water are consumed?
      2. What combination of foods can be grown in a garden, low-gravity of foods for highest caloric intake to energy input?
      3. What amount of water, space and energy do those foods require?
      4. What amount of space and energy is required for the humans to have both productive and leisure activity?
      5. What amount of engineering material is required to deal with an expanding population?
      6. How to deal with circadian rhythm synchronization issues?

      Next, assess locations for such a population:
      1. Orbital habitation – close, but very low g, no radiation protection, no materials locally for expansion, artificial night/day
      2. Moon – farther, no atmosphere, prospecting required to determine resource distribution of moon, terribad night/day issues
      3. Mars – largest distance, prospecting required, smaller but still serious night/day issues

      And then, design the environment and select essential crew for mission:
      1. Engineers, programmers, pilots, mechanics, agricultural experts, doctors, autocrat (justice system needed in any community), laborers, entertainers, etc.
      2. Habitat design and maintenance
      3. Emergency back-up supplies/redundancies
      4. Transportation and construction of said habitat

      Finally, execute if feasible…but I suspect it is not yet feasible due to the reproduction issue. I just don’t see how a small number of people are able to expand a colony without help from the mother planet. Many materials are possible through a global supply chain, and a village will struggle to maintain much less expand its habitat off-world.

      • Well... says:

        Hah, yeah, Nancy Lebovitz basically posted a variation of this question too.

        I don’t have time right this second to think about each item you mentioned. I will say I picked 100 people because I know that’s about 2/3 of Dunbar’s number. Also, remember that wherever the self-sustaining colony is, it would be given 75 years to get off the ground (pun intended I guess).

      • You should consider the asteroids as a fourth alternative. Once you get down to Mars, getting back up is very hard. Not true from an asteroid.

        Unlike a space habitat near Earth, a location in the asteroid belt gives you access to lots of raw material that doesn’t require lifting out of a deep gravity well. And a large asteroid gives you at least a little gravity—.03g for Ceres. On the other hand, spinning an asteroid is harder than spinning a space habitat, unless it’s a very small asteroid. But, on the third hand, reaction mass for spinning it is free.

        What you want is a small, naturally hollow, asteroid. Build your colony in the interior, air locks in the entrance, spin it up, walk around on the inside, head down. Someone must have written that into an sf story.

        • Skivverus says:

          Troy comes to mind.
          Though the goal there was less “orbital habitat” and more “Death Star”, the genre being military SF. And it wasn’t naturally hollow when they started.

        • John Schilling says:

          Fortunately, Mars comes with two very nice asteroids conveniently located – Phobos and Deimos are actually easier to reach from Earth than all but a handful of (much smaller) “Near-Earth Objects”, and much easier to reach from Mars than even the lowest Earth orbit is from Earth. Any Mars outpost that isn’t the bare-survival Hail Mary play from the last OT will almost certainly include a “free” asteroid outpost established en passant, and which one grows to be the real colony and which is just the specialist mining/scientific outpost depends on TBD economics.

          If you are doing the bare-survival Hail Mary it makes little difference because you aren’t going to be operating serious spaceships for a couple of generations and whatever your initial destination is has to be wholly self-sufficient with no more than a few rovers.

          And caves, etc, aren’t as useful as you’d imagine because any significant habitable volume, once pressurized to a habitable level, will result in stresses far exceeding the tensile strength of random agglomerations of rock (or the weight of any plausible overburden under asteroidal gravity). Pressurize a shallow cave and you’ll get an explosively-formed crater; find one that can hold the pressure and you’ll probably have to tunnel through ten kilometers of hard rock to reach it. There’s no good way around the requirement to do serious metalworking and build large pressure vessels. Which, see the history of 19th-century steam technology, is not a matter to be taken lightly.

        • haikuseminar says:

          plug for Kim Stanley Robinson’s “2312”

        • albatross11 says:

          I think this has been done for several asteroid habitats in _The Expanse_. L Neil Smith’s novels _Pallas_ and _Ceres_ involve asteroids that have had some kind of atmosphere-containing plastic envelope placed around them. (The plastic would have to be insanely strong.).

          Is it possible that one of the moons of Jupiter or Saturn might be a better environment than Mars? That’s another possibility.

          • Nornagest says:

            Titan got some attention in old sci-fi. It has a dense nitrogen-methane atmosphere (denser than Earth’s, actually), a reasonable amount of gravity, and lots of useful volatiles floating around, including water (well, ice). Downside is that it’s incredibly cold, which is harder to insulate against when your habitat has to deal with frigid methane drizzle all the time, and probably short on accessible metals.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Follow-up: what level of population growth would Mars Colony need to support to be self-sustaining? It has to grow its facilities to match, so this is something that needs to be carefully planned for.

    • John Schilling says:

      There’s no part of this plan that should require more than ten years, including the part where we retool existing factories to build what we need. Twenty years would be better, and ultimately cheaper, because it allows for a reasonable number of build-test-redesign cycles. If it takes longer than that, it will be because it takes more than twenty years to gather the requisite gigabucks – which is a reasonable and likely driving factor.

    • albatross11 says:

      You need to figure out what lower gravity does to humans first. If humans can be conceived, develop in the womb, be born, grow up, and live a long life in Martian or Lunar gravity (perhaps with the caveat that those humans can’t then be healthy going back to Earth gravity), then that makes planning the colony a lot easier. In that case, your colony is probably on Mars.

      If we can’t do all those things in Martian or Lunar gravity, then we either have to re-engineer humans to be able to deal with low gravity (sounds like a lot of work and a very long research project) or build spinning space habitats instead of living on Mars/the Moon (lots of extra engineering problems, radiation is going to be a big issue, no easy-to-reach resources, etc.).

      • Walter says:

        If we can’t survive in low gravity long term but don’t want to deal with space radiation, could we do a hybrid, a spinning mars colony?

  29. kipling_sapling says:

    The book A Short Guide to a Long Life recommends eating a lot of coldwater fish. Anyone know why coldwater specifically?

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      My guess is it’s about the oils.

      Fats are similar to proteins in that we can’t synthesize all of the fatty acids our body needs any more than we can synthesize essential amino acids: they need to come from dietary sources. Fish are a rich source of certain fatty acids, most famously Omega 3, and cold water fish probably produce more fat / oil as insulation.

      That said, the vast majority of advice related to diet and longevity is worthless. The state of the field is not very impressive: there are a few tricks that slow or partially reverse the effects of aging in mice ike protein restriction or parabiosis, and a few interesting drugs like metformin that may buy a few more years in humans, but right now too little of the underlying biology is understood for scientists to make intelligent recommendations.

    • metacelsus says:

      Probably they have a different fatty acid composition (biochemically, a higher % polyunsaturated fatty acids improves membrane fluidity at cold temperatures, so it makes sense for cold water fish to have lots of these).

  30. johan_larson says:

    Santa Rosa (pop. 175,000) is about 60 miles north of San Francisco. Unfortunately traffic between the two is very congested at peak hours and commutes of two hours or more each way are common. In order to facilitate the orderly growth of the San Francisco Bay area, the Government of California has commissioned you to find a way to reduce the Santa-Rosa/San-Francisco commute to one hour, downtown to downtown. What will you propose?

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Build a railway line? (Though given what I hear about the US planning system, that might not be possible, I suppose.)

    • Well... says:

      Is this type of traffic congestion is created because you’re driving from a very dense area through a sparse area to another very dense area along with a bunch of other people, creating bottlenecks at both ends? If so, could the problem be mitigated with initiatives that create a more diffuse spread of population density across the region?

    • Chalid says:

      Helicopter commuting; currently very expensive but within reach for very successful tech employees.

    • 10240 says:

      I haven’t looked at the specific situation, but making the highway between the two cities wider sounds like the most obvious solution. (Or building a second highway if making the existing one wider was impossible for some reason.)

      • Nornagest says:

        You’re not going to get 60-minute downtown-to-downtown commute times by widening the highways in between the two cities. There are no freeway links between SF downtown and the SF terminus of the Golden Gate; between the Presidio and the Central Freeway, Highway 101 runs along surface streets.

        You’d pretty much have to come up with a totally new highway plan, and probably another bridge as well — 60 minute commute times means no significant congestion anywhere, and the Golden Gate’s a bottleneck.

    • myers2357 says:

      Golden Gate Bridge 2: Electric Boogaloo.

      I’ve only visited once or twice, so I’m putting this together from google maps. That being said, I’m assuming that AM traffic between the two is mostly Santa Rosa->San Francisco. The 101 should be able to handle the traffic between only Santa Rosa->San Francisco. Seems like the issue is *insert every city between Santa Rosa and Richardson Bay here*->SanFran Traffic. So how to we mitigate that traffic?

      Bridge #1: Tiburon->Angel Island->Alkatraz -> Ft Mason
      Bridge #2: Point Richmond->Angel Island

      (You never said the idea needed to be politically feasible)

    • John Schilling says:

      10240 has almost certainly got the only remotely plausible solution, and even that may not work for a BANANA republic like California. The Golden Gate Bridge, in particular, may be a choke point.

      As a partial workaround, State Route 12 looks like it goes through fewer high-value back yards, and even in its current form will get one to the north shore of San Pablo bay in perhaps 40 minutes at rush hour. A 60-knot hovercraft ferry to the San Francisco waterfront would be about 25 minutes, so that’s five minutes behind your schedule before we consider loading/unloading time.

      But maybe with a well-designed terminal on both ends and some upgrades to SR12, along with a dozen or so improved Mountbatten or Naviplane-class hover ferries, we could bring ~20% of the population of Santa Rosa to San Francisco in an hour each, averaged over a 2.5-hour rush “hour” each morning and evening. With other sorts of high-speed watercraft you’re probably stuck with an hour twenty at best.

      I don’t think you can do it by air on the necessary scale without going full TSA on each end, which will probably kill the schedule. Also, there aren’t any suitable landing sites in or near San Francisco unless you eat into a park (dream on) or build into the bay (maybe possible).

      • Lambert says:

        How bad do sea conditions get there?
        Hovercraft are not fun in rough seas.

        My solution is a government-subsidised service of slapping folks upside the head and telling them that if they live 60 miles from where they work, of course they’re going to spend a long time commuting.

        • John Schilling says:

          How bad do sea conditions get there?

          San Pablo Bay is an inland waterway by DoT definition at least, so “sea condition” may be a non sequitur on the basis of not being a “sea”, and wave height should in any event be small for most of the trip.

          • haikuseminar says:

            The north bay can get some pretty wild waves year round. It’s very popular with windsurfers for that reason

          • bean says:

            On the other hand, so is Lake Superior. And we all know what happened there, when the witch of November came early…

      • johan_larson says:

        John, I’m not seeing anything here about an ekranoplan. I am disappoint.

        But maybe you’re saving it for the commute from Santa Cruz to SF.

    • Plumber says:

      My boss lives in Petaluma (so not even as far as Santa Rosa) and he gets up and commutes before 5AM and then sleeps in his office before the 7AM start time in San Francisco. 

      Short term, impose higher bridge tolls (yes this hits the poor more than the rich, what else is new?), long term that doesn’t work because the difference in housing prices and wages will adjust to accommodate the increased commute expenses, with no real change to congestion after a few years.

      For long-term changes I’d go after tax policies: have some of the income taxes collected by the State be mandatorily turned to municipal and county governments, divided between home and workplace, so (in my bosses case) some of his income taxes would go to Petaluma, Sonoma County, and some to the City and County of San Francisco.

      The goal is to encourage local governments to promote both job growth and housing in tandem in order to collect the revenue from both employees and residents in there area, so less “bedroom community”, and “job center” specialist locations, maybe the State will kick in more when someone lives close to work.

      You could also just directly tax people with shorter commutes less, and longer commutes more, but I imagine that differences in housing prices would quickly change to counteract much effect.

    • baconbits9 says:

      How feasible would it be to shut down traffic going in one direction and just have the highway be all Santa Rosa -> SF for 3 hours in the morning and all SF -> SR for 3 hours in the evening? Do we need to rebuild almost everything or just a few on ramps to make that work?

      • Plumber says:

        There’s already variable lanes on the Golden Gate Bridge, so they adjust how many lanes are open going north or south based on traffic.

      • ana53294 says:

        In Spain, we do have roads with reversible lanes, but they usually limit the speed to 60-80 km/h, and it is only one or two lanes in the middle of the road.

        In Spain, the speed limit on a road is determined by the width, the number of lanes, and whether there is physical separation between lanes in different directions. In roads without physical separation, the speed does not exceed 80 km/h.

        I don’t think it would be a good idea to have reversible lanes and people circulating faster than 60 km/h.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          A section of Colesville Road in Silver Spring, MD has a reversible center lane. It’s a major road into downtown, but the speed limit is only 45.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          In the US there are “road zipper“machines that actually move the physical divider between lanes across while traffic is moving.

          • ana53294 says:

            Those machines work at 5 and 10 miles per hour; Santa Rosa to SF is 54 miles; that means at least 5 hours to change it, with one machine. You could also divide the road in segments and use several machines.

            How many machines would you need in order to make this in a reasonable amount of time, and how much do they cost?

        • Evan Þ says:

          Up here in the Northwest, we have one set of high-speed reversible lanes that’s separated from both mainlines with a few discrete entrances and exits that get closed or opened based on the time of day. It takes about fifteen minutes to reverse direction, based on the length of time for someone who just beat the entrance closing to get to the other end plus some buffer (and a WSDOT truck driving after them just to make sure there’re no stragglers.)

    • INH5 says:

      Build a special highway for use by high-speed “superbuses”. Increase the number of superbuses and charging stations and so on until the average commute time falls below 1 hour.

      I actually have no idea about the feasibility of this, but it seems like it might be worth a try.

      • johan_larson says:

        Dedicated bus-lanes along the 101 might just work. If the buses could maintain 75 mph they would be a satisfactory solution. But that probably means they run express service: Santa Rosa to San Francisco with no stops in between.

        Or maybe they run along SR12 and then load into John’s hovercrafts on the shores of San Pablo Bay.

        • INH5 says:

          Check my link again. The buses that I’m talking about have a cruising speed of 160 mph.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            This looks much more likely to work than HSR. How much separation do the buses need from other traffic? How straight do the lanes need to be?

            This is also a good candidate for battery swap.

          • johan_larson says:

            I saw. But I don’t think we need anything quite so exotic to solve this problem. Properly run conventional buses might be good enough.

          • INH5 says:

            @johan_larson: Maybe, but conventional buses are boring. I want to think outside the box a little.

            @Edward Scizorhands: I imagine that you’d want some sort of physical barrier between the high-speed buses and regular traffic. As for how straight the lanes need to be, since in this context the biggest problem is likely to be NIMBYs, I think a better question would be: how fast could a superbus safely move along the existing path of Highway 101 with a dedicated lane and some basic autopilot systems? I’ve read that on the Autobahn, it’s not uncommon for cars to drive faster than 100 mph, but I have no idea how that compares to 101.

          • cassander says:

            how about we just raise the speed limit to 160 and let everyone join the fun?

          • Lambert says:

            Rather than use an unreliable bus autopilot, why not use metal rails to make sure the large, high-speed busses go the right way?

          • INH5 says:

            @Lambert: Because rails are expensive. See the failed California high-speed rail project. The idea is that high-speed buses might be able to provide a lot of the benefits of high-speed rail for a cost not much higher than building a conventional highway/highway lane.

            Over short distances, at least. But this thought experiment’s distance of 60 miles is perfect for the range of already existing prototypes.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:


            “Bus good, train bad” [sums] up the accepted wisdom gleaned from 40 years of transportation economics at Harvard.

            You can dynamically move buses around depending on need. You do not need to precommit to a path and hope that the people end up using it. If you just need a lane separated by those sticky breakaway road markers that is dedicated to high-speed buses, and if it turns out to not be a good idea, you can take out the road markers in a single night and at least have a new lane of road.

            But lots of people have romantic attachment to trains, and associate buses with riding along with poor people. Buses could be nice, like the Google bus. It involves making choices that the buses will be good, like not letting homeless people live on them.

    • valleyofthekings says:

      Build more housing in or near San Francisco. If people want a fast commute, they can move to somewhere that isn’t unreasonably far away.

      Also, I add tolls to the congested highway during peak hours.

      • Plumber says:


        Lots of housing has been built (and is still being built) in San Francisco, but much of it is occupied by people who work in San Mateo County and far away Santa Clara County (the riders of the Google buses).

        People work in Silicon Valley but live in San Francisco bidding up housing there, so those who work in San Francisco are displaced, move elsewhere, and commute in.

        Tax Silicon Valley out of existence and the problem is solved! (Or some way to incentivize local hiring and housing next to jobs, or jobs next to homes).

        Bridge tolls have more than tripled in less than a decade, and more is charged during rush hours already.

        Building close to San Francisco is problematic because much of it is Federal parkland or water, and in San Francisco (and the older nearby cities) the Federal clean water act is violated during heavy rains from overtaxed sewer waste water plants that don’t have land to expand to, and Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco are regularly fined by the Federal government because of this.

        • valleyofthekings says:

          San Francisco has long rows of residential area that is just houses, 2-3 stories tall. I start converting it into apartment buildings. The new law is that an apartment developer can build over people’s houses, provided that (1) the apartment developer moves them into free equally-good housing while it is doing so and (2) it gives them free equally-good apartments in the new apartment building once it is built.

          I’ve heard that much of the objection to apartment buildings is that people worry it’ll lead to them losing their homes. This law avoids that.

          I predict that most people won’t care / will weakly approve of this plan, and that ten percent of the population will be violently upset on general principles.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            The new law is that an apartment developer can build over people’s houses, provided that (1) the apartment developer moves them into free equally-good housing while it is doing so and (2) it gives them free equally-good apartments in the new apartment building once it is built.

            What if a significant point of value in a free-standing home is not having to deal with the various pollutions (most notably noise, also smells, sometimes security issues) of neighboring units – and simultaneously the ability to not have to worry about whether your day-to-day life is polluting any neighboring units?

          • Plumber says:

            I know the State plans on overruling municipalities, but having lived in apartments for 20 years, and then moving to a detached house, not having to hear footsteps on your ceiling and other people’s talking, radios, and televisions is so precious that I expect a lot of fight on this.

          • I’m not sure compulsion is needed here. If you don’t have zoning restrictions, isn’t it going to pay to build very high rise apartment buildings, possibly even to Hong Kong scale, in or next to SF? You don’t have to be able to put them everywhere, just somewhere.

          • valleyofthekings says:

            Good point, DavidFriedman — I hadn’t realized zoning laws were as bad as they are.

        • valleyofthekings says:

          You’ve written that “bridge tolls have tripled in less than a decade, and more is charged during rush hours already”. I looked at and I see a toll of seven dollars and no mention of rush hour.

          But I was proposing to put a toll on the congested highway that leads to the bridge, not on the bridge itself. If the congestion is between Santa Rosa and San Rafael, then putting a toll on that section specifically will solve the problem more effectively than putting a toll on the bridge.

          • Plumber says:

            It used to be a $1 more to cross the bridge during rush hours (and it still is on the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge), and it’s $7 now?

            The last time I paid to cross the Golden Gate Bridge it was $5, I thought it was still $6 like the Bay Bridge.

            It doesn’t seem that long ago that it was a $1 toll to cross the bridges.

    • Nornagest says:

      A magnitude 9.0 earthquake, or maybe a comet strike.

    • Skivverus says:

      Add a second level of highway over top of (or directly underneath) the current commute routes.
      This will be hideously expensive and/or infeasible from an engineering standpoint (CatCube could probably give specifics, but I’m mostly just assuming this based on the evidence that no other such highways exist to the best of my knowledge), but it would almost completely remove eminent-domain-style property issues.

      • Plumber says:

        After the Cypress Structure freeway collapse in the ’89 quake there was a move away from doubledecket freeways, some were torn down and rebuilt wider to not be so stacked.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          I have a strong visual memory of that collapse, and I wasn’t even within 2000 miles of California.

      • CatCube says:

        @Plumber has it. Not only is this possible, it’s been done. As he said, in California there’s been a move away from them, as well as one being removed and replaced with a tunnel in Seattle (because it was damaged in an earthquake). I-64 through St. Louis from the Mississippi to 14th St is another one I know of. The bridges in Portland carrying the Interstate highways over the Willamette are another example of reducing width by stacking the traveled ways over each other. I’m sure there are a bunch of other examples.

        Bridges are very expensive from a construction, inspection, and maintenance standpoint compared to at-grade construction, so you have to have *really* expensive land before they pencil out–especially if seismic design is a consideration–but it’s certainly technically possible and economically viable in certain circumstances.

        • Garrett says:

          It’s possible to combine all of these terrible and expensive designs at once.

          On this side of the two-level bridge we have 5 lanes merging to 4. The middle lane is the one going away.
          On the other end of the bridge we split 2 lanes into a mile-long tunnel, and the other two lanes exit. So you have 5 lanes of people trying to squish into 2. The tunnel is in a hill in coal country where there totally isn’t a bunch of abandoned mines of unknown location.

      • Skivverus says:

        Pleasantly surprised to hear it’s under the “hideously expensive” half of the dilemma, and to learn of examples. Thanks!

    • BBA says:


    • LesHapablap says:

      Sometimes to be truly forward looking you have to look backwards. Presenting the AIRLANDER 50:
      A helium airship with an airfoil shape, cruises at 105 knots. Can operate on land, water, snow and ice. Needs no runway and very little approach and takeoff area.

      Up to 60,000kg of payload divided between a cabin compartment comfortably seating 50 adults, and a cargo area with room for 6 ISO containers (we’ll call this economy class), means the Airlander 50 will easily accommodate up to 650 commuters at a time.

      Trip times will be 25 minutes flight time from the SF waterfront to the Park and Ride on Bennett Valley Road in Santa Rosa. This will easily be within the 1-hour time limit, particularly in conjunction with lifting the speed limits on the freeways for those that drive.

      If 10% of the population is commuting over a 4 hour period each morning and night, and flying 70% of those decongests the freeways, then we will need to move 12,250 people per four hour commute. Each Airlander will be capable of one return trip per hour, so we will only need five Airlander 50s to service demand. An airship will depart every 12 minutes from SF and SR, pretty good service!

      Running costs: 4x2350hp turboshaft engines drive four ducted fans, only two of which are used in cruise flight. So we’ll plan on average fuel burn of 1400 litres per hour. So that’s around $1600/hr in fuel cost, add in $400/hr for maintenance, $400/hr of engine overhaul reserve, means $2400 per trip direct costs. These things will be flying 10 to 15 hours a day for 21,900 hours per year. $53MM in direct costs doing an average of 60 trips per day.

      Fixed costs: purchase price of $100MM USD per Airlander 50, call it 15% for capital/insurance. We’ll need five, so that’s 75MM per year. We’ll need 30 pilots, 30 hosties, 20 ground staff, that’s $10MM per year.

      Cost per passenger: 60 return trips per day, 365 days per year, 70% occupancy means 19.93MM passengers per year. $6.40 per passenger.

      We can reasonably charge $59 each way for cabin class and $15 each way for steerage given that cost of driving plus parking must be near $40 for the day. This yields revenue of $366MM with direct costs of $53MM and $85MM in overheads, giving us $228,000,000 profit.

    • Walter says:

      Wanting to go 60 miles in one hour means basically no traffic, such that you can go 60 MPH all the way.

      1. We will eminent domain all property on a straight line as wide as the narrower of the two downtowns between the two.
      2. We will create bridges this wide over any water feature between the two.
      3. We will knock down any forest, hill, building or other obstruction between the two.
      4. We will create, in the new corridor of flat ground / bridge between the two, a new SUPERHIGHWAY as wide as the two downtowns.
      5. We will establish a tracking system, whereby citizens who are judged to be part of ‘the Santa-Rosa/San-Francisco commute’ are given transmitters to attach to their vehicles.
      6. We will create a new military/police force whose remit is to remove any and all vehicles without transmitters from the SUPERHIGHWAY in such a way as to not impede legitimate traffic too much (I am currently thinking police vehicles to ram them off the sides, but ‘helicopter fishing’ has been suggested by my daughter, and I have to admit that may well be the way of the future).

      At the conclusion of these activities, we have a situation where the commuters are the only ones using the SUPERHIGHWAY, where it is as wide as it can possibly be without needing to ever undergo narrowing, and where it proceeds along the shortest possible line. This might well give us our sixty minute target.

  31. Epistemic_Ian says:

    I’m going to graduate high school soon, and go to college this fall. Right now, I’m trying to figure out what to do with the summer in between.

    So, SSC, what’s the best way to spend the summer before college? Any advice is appreciated.

    • Incurian says:

      Have you read the Sequences and HPMOR?

    • johan_larson says:

      I think I spent mine in a sort of internship at a software company. I wouldn’t recommend it; plenty of time for that in college.

      I’ve had very positive reports from people who got a bunch of friends together and toured Europe on the cheap by rail. Not exactly the most innovative answer, I know.

      Whatever you do, make it something fun. If you were at all ambitious about where to go for college, you probably pushed pretty hard in high school. And if you’re at all ambitious about your first job, you’ll probably push pretty hard in college too. This summer is going to be your last opportunity for a break in quite a while.

    • LesHapablap says:

      Travel is one of the fastest ways to get life experience. Would need to know more about you to give more specific advice.

    • Rack says:

      If you have good high school friends, spend time with them. You’ll have trouble finding those opportunities in the future. And travel.

    • Etoile says:

      Spend it with those friends and girlfriends you won’t get to see nearly as often anymore.

      If you don’t have it, and your state lets you do so in the remaining time frame, get a driver’s license. I didn’t have one when I went to college and independent transportation on my own schedule remained a state of grace unimaginable to me for a while, which I much regret.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      This is a very boring answer, but the smartest thing to do in my experience is to take summer courses at a community college.

      Depending on how your school treats AP classes and their relationship with community colleges, you might be able to bypass a semester or more of general education courses with a few weeks of classes this way. Fewer GenEds mean that you can get to your real coursework that much faster, not to mention sparing yourself the tedium of “learning” middle or high school level curriculum in a crowded auditorium full of bored illiterates.

      In the SUNY system, and possibly other state universities, they generally won’t let you skip a class required by your major even if you got a 5 on your AP exam but will let you transfer in credit from an affiliated community college. Community college tuition is very low, possibly even free depending on your circumstances, and the environment is extremely laid-back so it won’t be a stressful summer even if you’re taking something like organic chemistry for the first time.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        I vote this, your expected lifetime earnings will go up if you can graduate early, and your expected costs go down if you can substitute cheaper community college classes for expensive State U classes.

        Personally, I spent my summers playing video games. The only change I’d make now is getting an internship earlier on, but that’s not relevant for HS>>>College. Do what you want, who really cares? Just don’t get addicted to meth and don’t get anyone pregnant.

    • Well... says:

      Just curious: how are you going to do anything without a job?

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I can see several options, depending on your local situation:

      1. move to your college town early, and get familiar with the people there
      2. travel abroad, see how other people live
      3. get a summer job and accrue a little money
      4. study for and test out of as many college courses as possible

      The general idea here is to get experience, either to help you with college, or with what comes after.

    • baconbits9 says:

      If you like the outdoors, hiking and camping, check out the SCA (no David Friedman, not that one, the Student Conservation Association), they run summer trail work programs where you camp and cut trails for 5-8 weeks. You’ll be really fit and have just as many stories/experiences as someone who bummed around Europe for a month, without any of the cost except the bus/plane ticket to your location plus gear that will last you a decade. It can also lead to summer jobs as the leaders are paid a bit and they line up well with your summer breaks from college every year, plus they have some longer (10 month) programs at low pay if you want to take a year off during or after college before hitting the full time workforce.

      Definitely not for everyone, but for some.

      • psmith says:

        Endorsed. In this vein, I’ll also throw in a good word for wildland fire with a contractor or government on-call crew if you’ll be 18 by summer and live out west. It’s a rougher crowd than SCA and you’ll eat some smoke, but the money’s better and it can get you a foot in the door for that kind of thing too.

    • Jake says:

      If you can afford travel with your friends, do that. If you need to support yourself, find a summer camp somewhere that aligns with your interests and see if you can get paid to be a counselor there. Most places don’t pay that well, but will give you pretty much free reign of the camp in your off-hours so you get paid to be in a fun place, and meet people of a similar age with similar interests. I did that between high school and college and had a blast.

      • baconbits9 says:

        To each their own, but I disagree with travel barring some near perfect circumstance. 18 is one of those ages where you can work 40 hours a week and still have a ton of time and energy to have a ton of fun, and its also the best chance you can have to compound your time into greater success down the road. $10,000 invested at 5% interest should be ~$70,000 (in todays dollars) when you are ready to retire. Thats a full years worth of retirement at least for a summer when you are 18, even if you only squirrel away 5 grand or so it can significantly improve your life down the road. Working now also means its easier to find work in the future which means it is easier to find better paying work and more enjoyable work.

        • LesHapablap says:

          Trying to build character and experience can also pay off in a big way, through better job and relationship opportunities down the track. That’s why travel is really good: it compresses a lot of experience down into a short time. Your SCA job above would also build character as well as get the guy in good shape, which likely has much greater benefits, both financial and life satisfaction, than 10k earning interest.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I did an SCA crew as a junior, and a full year SCA program at 20, and worked a variety of jobs. I would say that the most important single job I’ve held was at a bakery the summer of my senior year, but then I have lived a weird life by most people’s standards.

            I disagree that traveling compresses experiences, I think more of what it does is associate more of your growth during that period with traveling because its 24 hours a day. If you took all the time I spent at work the summer of my senior year and compared it to the experiences of someone traveling theirs looks better because you are trimming out 8-10 hours a day on one end and treating traveling as if its responsible for all of your maturation during a period of high maturation.

            I also like(d) traveling and did more than average in my 20s, spending some time (ie more than a day) in Canada, Mexico, England, France, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, South Africa and Zimbabwe as well as a bunch of US states between 18-25, and found working a generally more valuable experience. How idiosyncratic this is to me I don’t know.

        • Jake says:

          A single summer before school starts doesn’t earn you all that much money though. If you had a decent short-term job for a high school kid, making $10/hr, 40 hrs a week for the 12 weeks of summer only makes you about $5k, and that’s before you spend anything on living expenses and fun. I proposed the camp solution, because there, a lot of times your expenses are close to 0, so for 12 weeks, I think I earned something like $1700, but spent almost nothing, so I ended up able to save most of that.

          • baconbits9 says:

            If you have never worked before and are just taking whatever job, then yeah, you will cap out much lower. Of course if you have never worked before at 18 that is more reason to go get a job and start learning the things you are way behind on.

            19 years ago I was making $10 an hour washing dishes at a small town Applebees and then moved up to serving which was more like $14 an hour, and $16-$17 an hour when most of it was untaxed cash. Those weren’t my right out of high school jobs, but right out of high school I picked up work at 2 bakeries for 50+ hours a week and late in the summer added coaching kids soccer on Sunday mornings, between that and picking up shifts on weekends a month or so before school let out I was near the $5k mark, and that was more than 20 years ago with no real paid work experience. Had I picked up one of those jobs the summer before I would have been making $1-2 more an hour that senior summer, and had I gone after the better paying jobs around (caddying, waiting tables, babysitting) I would have made 20-40% more than that.

            $10,000 might be pushing it (ie take some initiative and gumption) but $5,000 for a summer+ of work should be doable.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      This question is under-specified:

      – What resources do you have available to you now?
      – What resources will be available to you in college?
      – What kind of school are you going to? how far away is it? what will you be leaving behind?
      – What interests you?
      – What do you fear?
      – Why are you asking us what to do?

    • Drew says:

      General advice: If you have an All Consuming Passion, do that. If there’s a variety of stuff you kind of like, then make a list of options, and sort based on a combination of: sustainable lifestyle, transferable skills, and pay.

      Depending on your interests, you’ll probably find yourself looking at either high-status/middle-pay careers (eg journalism, environmentalism, academics), or middle-status/high-pay careers (eg. finance, software engineering)

      If you’re learning towards competitive, high-status jobs, you should get an internship. High-status jobs mean that you’re trading money for the ability to work in a cool field. That can be worth it. But ONLY if you actually like that field. Find out now.

      If you’re leaning towards technical, but well-paying jobs, you should travel. I took out about $20k of student loans that I used for personal consumption. I’m happy with the choice because, in my current situation, the loan payments don’t have a real impact on my lifestyle. And now that I’m older, I don’t have nearly the freedom to see europe for a month.

    • I don’t think there is any general answer. One possibility that hasn’t been mentioned is to spend the summer reading books on everything you might be interested in—evolutionary biology, economics, anthropology, physics, mathematics. Maybe take some online courses too.

      The idea is not to get out of classes when you start school, although you might be able to test out of some if you end up getting very much into one of the subjects. It’s to tell you enough about what is out there to be learned to give you a better chance of making the right choices of what to study.

    • Enkidum says:

      I got a crappy job, then fucked off and hitch-hiked around North and Central America for several months, which did all right by me, but it’s probably not to most people’s taste.

      I’d read a lot. And make sure to get some exercise. Beyond that I don’t think it matters much.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Since two repeating ideas seem to be reading and travel, I just want to point out they’re not mutually exclusive. There are _a lot_ of dead times when traveling. Not to mention whenever I prepare a trip I end up looking forward at least as much to the kindle+park times as actual sightseeing. As for what to read, the sequences are really not a bad idea. A good part are also out as paper/ebook.

      As for “doesn’t matter what you do”, yes it does, very much. I spent about 6 months each on indoor climbing and archery. Archery is incredibly fun, but also completely useless outside being fun – while indoor climbing gave me quite a lot of transferable skills, up to, weird enough, dancing. Also my own summer before college was spent binge watching TV shows. Yeah, there is quite a bit of stupidity in my early life.