OT129: Opaque Thread

This is the bi-weekly visible open thread (there are also hidden open threads twice a week you can reach through the Open Thread tab on the top of the page). Post about anything you want, but please try to avoid hot-button political and social topics. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server – and also check out the SSC Podcast. Also:

1. Thanks to everyone who made it to the San Francisco meetup today, despite my terrible directions and wild underestimation of the size of the park in question.

2. The Register of Bans now has a section for people who are banned from meetups. In keeping with the name of this thread, I won’t explain. If a banned person shows up, I’ll assume ignorance and ask them to leave. If they refuse, I may have to publicly announce the considerations that made me add their name to the list, in order to keep other meetup-goers safe. Please don’t make things reach that point. Thanks to the people who reminded me I should do this.

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610 Responses to OT129: Opaque Thread

  1. toastengineer says:

    Pain management tips and tricks?

    I get a lot of mileage out of heat packs and one of those “shiatsu” style electric massagers that has the balls on arms that rub and pinch the muscles in your neck. Don’t run those for more than 15 minutes, though, or you’ll just mess your muscles up worse than before and feel it all the next day. I use an electric heat pad while I’m working, but they always have hot spots that end up giving me minor burns. On really bad days I take massive doses of caffiene (2 liter of coke and a couple cups of coffee) and that’s usually enough to take the edge off – if that’s not enough I have to take a bunch of benadryl and sleep the day off.

    Does anyone know of more potent over-the-counter pain solutions I could try? Tried CBD oil but it barely does anything. What about that kratom stuff? That sounds kinda like overkill.

    • deciusbrutus says:

      Depends on the source of your pain. My guess would be that you’re experiencing muscle fatigue, because the things that you list all provide some relief from that kind of pain, while OTC NSAIDS provide little.

      Reducing use of the muscles in that area can be an option, if you can. I’ve heard unsubstantiated reports that intentional dehydration can help, but that goes against mainstream medical advice and I won’t test it myself.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Read a study that compared ibuprofen vs acetaminophen+caffeine vs morphine, and they ended up very similar. So you might try to cycle acetaminophen+caffeine and ibuprofen – neither is great long term, but probably more ok than stronger stuff. Look up safe upper limits – for example my neurologist advised me to keep under 10 days of ibuprofen per month (for migraine prevention), or I might get headaches without it.

      Also recently found out there’s a gene that defines your response to aspirin – which finally explains why mine is barely placebo.

    • Joy says:

      Mild and moderate pain is one of those sensations that respond really well to mental control, as it is, in Scott’s words, “low-bandwidth”. A competent hypnotherapist should be able to help you with drug-free pain management, and potentially teach you self-help approaches to pain reduction through self-trance. Won’t do a thing for severe pain, of course, like kidney stones, but can certainly reduce the amount of Tylenol 3 or similar if your chronic pain is due to, say, fibromyalgia.

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      If you experience tension headaches, I recommend yoga.

      If you find a good teacher, you will both build up the neck and shoulder muscles and relax them. My shoulders are usually a mess of cramped muscles and the only time they were really relaxed was when I did yoga twice a week. (Two hour session, Hatha yoga, pretty exhausting)

    • wheeler says:

      Given you think it’s muscular pain, I recommend this book: https://www.painscience.com/tutorials/trigger-points.php

    • Silverlock says:

      Kratom — the Bali type in particular — seems to help me, to a small degree, at least. It may just be in my imagination, but I will take what I can get. It can be fairly expensive, though, and may cause some uncomfortable side effects, but it does seem to help. Combining kratom with, say, one Aleve seems to work better for me than either of them separately.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      Kratom helps with pain relief, but some things to consider.

      It’s addictive, really truly classically addictive. Opioid users in recovery use it because it’s less damaging but it’s still addictive, so be aware that if you’re using it for self treatment it’s like all those people who started prescription pain killers for the same reason.

      It can have some pretty wildly different effects on different people. Nausea is common, but I only get it if I take it after eating too much, yet my friend gets in when she takes it on an empty stomach. I have not seen any pattern to this so it’s probably just something you’ll have to try for yourself.

      It may not stay legal. A thing to consider before starting something that could produce a dependency.

      Tolerance builds quickly. I only take Kratom once every week or two and primarily recreationally these days. People I know who took just a little every day at the start were soon enough buying and taking an order of magnitude more than I was, with the expected result in their budgets.

      Various strains will have different qualities. The effect of Kratom I usually describe as a mild body high with no foggy head stuff and less tingling than marijuana, but this is for the strains I prefer. Some trial and error might need to occur to find a strain with the right balance of effects and side effects.

    • dyfed says:

      For low-grade chronic pain, by far the best option is exercise, especially combined with mild lifestyle improvement.

      At least 30 minutes of continuous moderate (by moderate, I mean sweating freely but not puking) aerobic exercise, five times a week. I recommend an ergometer (rowing machine), as it’s zero-impact and difficult to injure yourself using as long as you maintain an approximation of correct form. It’s also impossible to avoid, since the erg goes inside your house and can be used rain or shine.

      Give up other drinks (especially anything loaded with sugar and caffeine) for lots of water. Go to bed early enough that you wake up without an alarm. Eat slowly, and don’t erg when you’re hungry or when you’ve just eaten a large meal (about an hour after lunch or breakfast works for me).

      There is really no use in talking about how effective exercise is. It’s really, really effective against pain and fatigue, but activities people commonly believe are sufficient substitution (“I spend all day on my feet at work,” etc.) are not, and lack of exercise creates fatigue, not the other way around, so being too tired is also a bad excuse. You have to experience how effective it is for yourself before you will believe it.

      • gleamingecho says:

        +1 to aerobic exercise. Add resistance training, too. Don’t necessarily disagree with the other recommendations, just have no comment on them.

    • AuralAlias says:

      How often and how long are you stretching daily? I’d recommend at least 30 minutes per day if you’re in that much pain all the time. You could easily go up to an hour. Do it while you read a book, or watch TV. Stretch the muscle for a 30 seconds or so at a time, stay in the zone where it’s slightly uncomfortable but not painful. Get all your muscle groups, not just the ones that hurt.

      And if you’re drinking regular coke, stop that ASAP. 200g+ of sugar per day will wreck your body. Switch up to caffeine pills or just more black coffee.

  2. Snickering Citadel says:

    I have figured out how people evolved to be gay and how people evolved to commit suicide. I made a comic about it: http://evolutions.thecomicseries.com/

    • dunkinsailor says:

      While I can’t say whether your theories are right or wrong, they are so full of assumptions that it hurts. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Too late, I’m sure, but I’m going to put this up near the top as a reminder…

        This is the Culture War Free Open Thread. Keep that in mind when replying.

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      Your comics are nice, but way too long.

      And the gay uncle theory is wrong no matter how the uncle turns gay. Uncles just don’t contribute much. And there is zero evidence that gay uncles are unusually interested in helping out their nieces and nephews. In fact, the historically common scenario would have been that a guy takes on his brothers widow as (second) wife and cares for her kids. Not very likely for a gay uncle …

      • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

        Uncles won’t contribute much in nuclear family, but they would contribute roughly the same in a clan/tribe/village – all men will go hunt mammoth or plow field more or less equally and share it with the rest of the tribe.

        • BlindKungFuMaster says:

          We have basically zero evidence of homosexuality in hunter gatherers afaik and a steady percentage of homosexuals in societies that haven’t had a clan structure in a 1000 years.

        • Deiseach says:

          I agree that the contribution by a single adult male would be more to the wider clan than simply ‘my sister’s kids’. But I also think the notion of homosexuality as we have it today would not have been the same category back then, it would have been more like the practice in most societies: you might prefer sex with men, but you get paired off with a female to produce offspring.

          Or maybe something more akin to the berdache: if you prefer sex with men, then you’re really a woman/have a woman’s spirit, so you adopt a female role and pair off with a male who has the traditional gender role/identification.

          Or this kind of preference marks you out as different, hence perhaps taboo and to be devoted to the gods – either as sacrifice or in role like shaman and so forth.

          As to why such genes (if any) survive, why do genes for other conditions survive? Why do diabetes etc. survive, since all those with such conditions should have all died off in prehistory and any descendants should also have died off? Evolutionary fitness and gene survival are a lot more complicated than a neat sorting into “this survived because it contributed to evolutionary fitness, and we know it contributed because it survived” circular logic.

        • Would studying modern tribal societies be worthwhile in answering this “gay uncle” question, or are modern tribes too “contaminated” by non-tribal societies to be considered worthy evidence?

      • meltedcheesefondue says:

        “Gay Uncle” can still be part of the explanation; for example, suppose male gayness is at the extreme end of traits that are generally adaptive (or that are adaptive for a female). Then some variant of gay uncle could explain why these traits are less maladaptive in the extreme end, thus they don’t have to be quite as adaptive in the general case.

      • Simon_Jester says:

        In a society strongly governed by cultural norms regarding gender relations, it is possible- even likely- for men who have no interest in having sex with women to nonetheless take on a wife and/or care for that woman’s children.

        See for reference a loooooot of historical men whom we are pretty sure were gay or bisexual, but who nonetheless married, regardless of whether we’re sure they ever had children of their own.

        Also, in a hunter-gatherer society, nearly everyone in the village is probably related if you go back 3-4 generations and include distant cousins and other collateral relations. Jared Diamond, in his book The World Until Yesterday remarked that at least among the New Guinea tribes he was familiar with, these kinds of distant family ties were a large part of how the society even conceptualized “other people I shouldn’t try to kill-” namely, your distant relatives out to the Xth generation, which included almost everyone you’d ever meet except for the scary tribe on the other side of the hill, whom you were at war with anyway. Meetings between strangers in the forests typically began with long recitations of all their respective relatives… in hopes that they’d find a shared relative and thus have a pretext not to try to kill each other!

        The corollary to this is that when all your 100 closest neighbors share at least some degree of cosanguinity with you, even if you’re childless and just sort of generically contributing to the fitness of your village as a whole, you have a fairly good chance of preserving SOME copies of your genes, somewhere, because there are just plain so many of them.

        The “gay uncle” hypothesis shouldn’t be conceptualized in terms of the “gay uncle propagates his genes through four nieces or nephews who each have 1/4 of his genes instead of two sons or daughters who each have 1/2.” It should be conceptualized as “gay uncle propagates his genes through 64 collateral relatives of varying degrees of cosanguinity, who all have somewhere between 1/4 and 1/128 of his genes.”

        • BlindKungFuMaster says:

          In a society strongly governed by cultural norms regarding gender relations, it is possible- even likely- for men who have no interest in having sex with women to nonetheless take on a wife and/or care for that woman’s children.

          In medieval western Europe 10-20% of men and women never married. If you were gay, it really wasn’t particular difficult to dodge that bullet. Just join a monastery! That’s basically medieval gay heaven.

      • AnteriorMotive says:

        Conversely, I know a guy who, every time his brother is about to have his house foreclosed, gets a phone call from his mother guilt-tripping him into bailing him out of his latest bankruptcy.

        This takes place in a more conservative country, with stronger norms of supporting one’s family, no questions asked.

        I agree that the math of the gay uncle theory is hard to make work.

        Also, the guy in question isn’t gay.

        • Jiro says:

          Conversely, I know a guy who, every time his brother is about to have his house foreclosed, gets a phone call from his mother guilt-tripping him into bailing him out of his latest bankruptcy.

          That’s called a poverty trap.

      • albatross11 says:

        The gay uncle theory sounds plausible, but the math doesn’t work out. Anyway, why make him gay? A heterosexual uncle who may end up involuntarily celibate because the village big man has taken six wives would do just as well at helping care for his siblings’ kids, but would also be able to adapt to a glut of available women in the tribe by marrying and having kids. Or he might manage to slip one in on the village big man. Making him uninterested in females for sex doesn’t help *at all* the inclusive fitness of his genes.

        • John Schilling says:

          It reduces the chances of his getting removed from uncle duty (and everything else on this mortal coil) because the village big man caught him trying to “slip one in” to one of his wives. But it’s still hard to see the math working out.

          Bisexuality is a better fit for that – assuming polygamy for high-status males results in a 5-10% undersupply(*) of eligible women, having 5-10% of the men be willing but not insistent on having sex with women and also willing to be “gay uncles” if the women just aren’t there, might make sense. And maybe if you have an evolutionary drive towards a small percentage of bisexual men you would wind up with an even smaller percentage of purely homosexual men by genetic accident. I don’t think that gets you the baseline 3-5% homosexual population, though.

          * After accounting for the higher mortality of marriage-age men due to getting themselves killed off in status conflicts and/or saber-tooth tiger-fighting, which also makes the math dubious.

    • Shion Arita says:

      I’m not convinced yet by the evidence given to support the specific claims, but more generally I’m willing to say that you may be on to something.

      I am very interested in the idea in its most general form: genes existing that affect one’s offspring in a specific way by influencing the developmental environment of those offspring, but the offspring themselves don’t necessarily carry the gene, and its effect being such that the gene helps itself propagate by changing the behavior of those who don’t have the gene. It’s certainly plausible.

      Another interesting thing is the possible explanation of birth order effects: because of siblings’ children, there may be ways to behave that are beneficial if one has siblings that are detrimental if one does not, thus only those who are ‘known’ by the biology to have siblings at birth are pushed in that direction. It’s probably the most ‘normal’ explanation for birth order effects I’ve seen, though it may be a just so story.

    • Robin says:

      I like your communication design, except for the part with the very repetitive panel of the two scientists.
      While I cannot say either whether the theory makes sense, perhaps consider that gay men might be married and have children, just out of peer pressure.

      • Protagoras says:

        That helps the theory. Surely gay uncles aren’t actually anywhere near as useful as this oversimplified story, but if they’re only 10% as useful as in the toy models, but gays have 90% as many children as straights (rather than not having any), the math still works.

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      About the suicide thing: Now the only thing left is to explain how Down’s syndrome evolved. (Hint: Not everything is adaptive.)

    • Butlerian says:

      Coincidentally I was asked “Why are some people gay?” last night and I know I had read a theory along these lines somewhere before, but in the process of explaining I realised that the effect of the gay gene on nephews’ survival chances would have to be implausibly large in order to make it adaptive.
      Also, having time for nephews doesn’t require you to not father children, it just requires you not to spend any time saving your own children from sabretooth tigers. Everything your gay gene does, a “negligent father” gene does better, so even if homosexuality were gene-propagation adaptive in the way you describe, it would surely still get rapidly outcompeted by the even MORE gene-propagation adaptive gene for knocking girls up and then skipping town?

      • Simon_Jester says:

        In a hunter-gatherer society, there may be strong negative pressures acting against “knock girls up and skip town” behaviors.

        Angry relatives may come looking for you. Life is harsh and survival without a social support network is difficult at the best of times. And the surrounding landscape is often hostile and filled with tribes who will view a stranger as a threat to their resources (you’ll eat their game and berries) or to their own persons (you might be a serial killer outcast from your village for being a serial killer).

        Since typical hunter-gatherer societies consist largely of extended family kin groups that at most exchange brides/grooms to avoid inbreeding, there’s not a lot of room for a class of roving philanderers who get a lot of women pregnant while not providing a correspondingly high degree of resources and support to the tribe.

        • Deiseach says:

          The only thing that does vaguely support the “gay uncle” notion is the role in many societies of the importance of the maternal uncle – the mother’s brother.

          Where you’re not very sure of paternity or even how babies get made exactly, you can be sure of children born of the same mother. So the important supportive male relative is not the father (who you can’t be sure about one way or the other, even if the culture is not ‘knock them up and skip town’), it’s the maternal uncle who takes on a lot of important duties – either literally in helping support his sister’s offspring or symbolically.

          There’s the argument about “brothers or first cousins?” for the family of Jesus, for example, where the Greek term is supposed to incorporate both, and watching Hindi mythological dramas the same comes in – for example, in the Mahabharat, the Pandavas and Kauravas are first cousins, but they are often referred to in terms of “these are your brothers”. So relationships between “cousins in the maternal line” seem to be very important, as do “relationships between maternal uncles and nephews”.

          Interestingly, none of the families there are actual blood descendants of the titular line – it’s all done via the mothers (as wives of the late king) and social roles that permit this kind of adoption – the niyoga practice where a woman could choose a man to father children on her on behalf of her husband (if the husband was sterile or died before they had children).

          So there’s two generations where the ostensible fathers have no blood relation to their offspring but since they are born of the wives, they are considered to be the children of that man. First, the king Vichitravirya has two wives but dies before he can father any children. So his mother, the Queen Mother, orders her son by another man to impregnate the widows in order to ensure heirs for the throne.

          The two sons born of this are Dhritarashtra and Pandu, and Pandu gets the throne but for reasons cannot have children himself by his two wives. His first wife has a boon whereby she can call down the gods to give her children, so her three sons and the two sons of the second wife are all fathered by different gods.

          The sons of Dhritarashtra are all his own legitimate sons, but the Pandavas lay claim to the throne, and nobody goes “Well your father is not actually your father, tough luck”. And the importance of the mother’s brother comes through as the Kauravas have the help of their clever, scheming maternal uncle while the Pandavas have the help of Krishna, who is the son of their maternal uncle.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            We also see this in the Matter of Britain: Gawain is King Arthur’s maternal nephew. The lesser knight Yvain ditto, by no less than Morgan le Fay. And as Mordred was firmly established as the villain, his lineage became specified as maternal nephew + incest bastard, poisoning the important relationships of son and maternal nephew.

    • deltafosb says:

      The argument needs some polishing and probably will end up being false (as most reasonings are), but it’s interesting anyway. (disclaimer: I haven’t followed the expectation value calculation)
      I didn’t know you are here on SSC as well, really enjoyed your brain chip series (to the point of reading it until 3 AM despite having classes on 8 AM).
      How would you explain overrrepresentation of bisexual people in certain circles? SSC surveys usually result in 10-20% bisexual population (and I can’t think of any SSC-specific gateway based on sexual orientation); as for anecdotal evidence, quite a few of my friends (I work in academia) at least declare they are not 100% heterosexual.

      • Simon_Jester says:

        Could just be generic correlation to traits like “openness to experience” and “ruthless self-honesty?”

        Two people with equal degrees of latent bisexuality may express that differently. One may dive deep into the closet and never admit anything, even to themselves. The other may experiment with it or at least contemplate it and be prepared to discuss it with others.

        • deltafosb says:

          I thought about this, but percentage of self-declared homosexuals (ca. 4% in 2017 survey) isn’t that far away from general population and I would expect it to be inflated as well if it was the major mechanism.
          EDIT: Apparently the estimates above combine all of the LGBT population in one category. From the looks of it, about ½ of this number are self-declared homosexuals.

      • Snickering Citadel says:

        Thank you. I don’t have a good answer to your question, what Simon_Jester said seemed smart.

        • albatross11 says:

          Yeah, this seems plausible to me. It may very well be that many people are 95% heterosexual but occasionally find a member of the same sex attractive, and that among those people, more conservative-minded folks say “huh, that’s weird” and go on thinking of themselves as straight, whereas more liberal-minded folks say “wow, I guess that means I’m bi.”

          Note that there are also people who are just genuinely bisexual. A friend of mine[1] was in a several-decade stable relationship with a man, and eventually that broke up and she’s now in a decade-plus stable relationship with a woman. It’s hard to see how any other label would apply to her than “bisexual.”

          [1] She identified as bisexual even back in college.

      • JPNunez says:

        I think it will depend a lot on the group.

        I belong to a different forum where there was a surprising amount of trans and bi people, wrt the total population. Like a 10% of people overall were trans and the bi population was around that too (there was some overlap).

        I blame the founder effect. We are an offshot of another forum, that just went off and made our own forum. A few of the more popular people there were visibly bi, and one came out as trans later, so I assume the potentially trans people somehow followed them.

        A group as small as ssc may have similar effects.

    • TentativeQuestioning says:

      Oh my goodness. This is completely unrelated to the gay comic. But the transdimensional brain chip story was just freaking excellent. Thank you. I listened to the soundtrack from Endgame: Singularity while reading it. It felt it was fitting.

      (Perhaps I just have a thing for GAI[ish] stories. Does anyone have any recommendations? Things I’ve read that spring to mind are the Crystal series, Rapture of the Nerds, and Life: Artificial.)

      I’m going to have to read your other comics.

      • SnapDragon says:

        If you’re willing to try out some fan fiction, Friendship is Rational (and some of the derived works) are somewhat interesting takes on an AI that transcends, and takes everyone else with her.

    • vV_Vv says:

      You haven’t figured out anything.

      First of all, you are falsely assuming that if some trait exists then it must be adaptive.

      Homosexuals are about 2% of the population and not all of them are non-reproductive. Compare with schizophrenics who are about 0.3–0.7% of the population. Do you want to argue for an adaptive explanation for schizophrenia?

      Similarly, suicides amount to 0.5%1.5% of all deaths and 1-2 days of life lost per person. Compare with cancer, which causes 26% of deaths and 14 years of life lost per person. Do you think there is an adaptive explanation for cancer?

      Second, the rates are too low to allow any functional selection. E.g. if homosexuality rate is constant, then in a hunter-gatherer band of ~150 people there are about 3 “gay” people, who are probably not aware of each other, don’t know that homosexuality is a thing and thus presumably live as heterosexuals.

      • Snickering Citadel says:

        Robert Sapolsky argues for schizophrenia being adaptive:
        “So what’s the adaptive advantage of schizophrenia? It has to do with a classic truism — this business that sometimes you have a genetic trait which in the full-blown version is a disaster, but the partial version is good news.”
        “In the 1930s an anthropologist named Paul Radin first described it as “shamans being half mad,” shamans being “healed madmen.” This fits exactly. It’s the shamans who are moving separate from everyone else, living alone, who talk with the dead, who speak in tongues, who go out with the full moon and turn into a hyena overnight, and that sort of stuff. It’s the shamans who have all this metamagical thinking. When you look at traditional human society, they all have shamans. What’s very clear, though, is they all have a limit on the number of shamans. That is this classic sort of balanced selection of evolution. There is a need for this subtype — but not too many.
        The critical thing with schizotypal shamanism is, it is not uncontrolled the way it is in the schizophrenic. This is not somebody babbling in tongues all the time in the middle of the hunt. This is someone babbling during the right ceremony. This is not somebody hearing voices all the time, this is somebody hearing voices only at the right point. It’s a milder, more controlled version.
        Shamans are not evolutionarily unfit. Shamans are not leaving fewer copies of their genes. These are some of the most powerful, honored members of society. This is where the selection is coming from. … In order to have a couple of shamans on hand in your group, you’re willing to put up with the occasional third cousin who’s schizophrenic.”

        • vV_Vv says:

          A maladaptive trait being an extreme form of an adaptive trait is a different explanation than trying to justify a maladaptive trait as being actually adaptive, which is what you tried to do.

          As for the specific things being discussed, if homosexuality was an extreme form of an adaptive trait then we should presumably observe more bisexuals than homosexuals. This is the case in females but not in males.

          I have no idea what an intermediate adaptive trait between non-suicidality and suicidality would be.

          • Randy M says:

            I have no idea what an intermediate adaptive trait between non-suicidality and suicidality would be.

            Adaptive attitude: There’s probably going to be lots of tigers around today, so I better go armed and be cautious.
            Extreme version: I’m just going to get eaten by a tiger some day, so I might as well end it on my own terms.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Extreme version: I’m just going to get eaten by a tiger some day, so I might as well end it on my own terms.

            Doesn’t follow.

          • Randy M says:

            You aren’t suicidal, of course it doesn’t follow.
            But a predisposition to generally see the worst in things that shifts over into irrational nihilism seems biologically plausible. We aren’t talking about normal functionality in the extreme versions, but how traits might be broken by some hormonal (or neurotransmitter, etc.) excess.

          • abystander says:

            Genes aren’t just increasing or decreasing a trait, but are engaged in a large number of feedback loops with loose connection to a number of systems. So homosexuality or schizophrenia might have a genetic component of genes that also increase resistance to disease but some proteins that were generated also affected neurological development.

        • quanta413 says:

          Relying on verbal reasoning in biology is very likely to reach incorrect or not-even-wrong conclusions. Especially when humans reflect on humans. Math without data is also probably going to reach incorrect or not-even-wrong conclusions.

          Does Sapolsky have some data on the reproduction of actual shamans and their relatives and back it with a mathematical model showing that the pattern can be explained by an advantageous gene? Can he at least show that shamans tend to have genes that also contribute to schizophrenia and don’t just have behaviors that Westerners confuse with it?

          I am generally a big fan of adaptive explanations, but sometimes you need to channel your inner Steven Jay Gould and be like “THIS IS PROBABLY A SPANDREL!”

        • albatross11 says:

          No f–king way is schizophrenia adaptive. And ISTR that relatives of people with schizophrenia tend to have some cluster of personality traits/quirks that also lowers their fitness.

          When people first start thinking about evolution, it’s natural for them to imagine there’s an adaptive explanation for everything. But biology is messy, and there are pathogens, mutations, and lots and lots of weird additional things going on in evolution that don’t work with a simple “this showed up so it must be adaptive” idea.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            Evolution functions by throwing off random mutations and whatever doesn’t die, wins. Of course there will be maladaptive results.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Given the non-trivial heritability of schizophrenia, it is out of equilibrium. This is a mystery. It needs to be explained. Why aren’t these genes eliminated from the gene pool? It doesn’t need to be explained by unobserved positive selection on the genes,
            but it does need to be explained.

            And, no, random mutations are not the explanation. That’s more like 1/10k for a common mutation, like achondroplasia.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Given the non-trivial heritability of schizophrenia, it is out of equilibrium.

            Can you explain the math, please?

          • quanta413 says:

            Given the non-trivial heritability of schizophrenia, it is out of equilibrium. This is a mystery. It needs to be explained. Why aren’t these genes eliminated from the gene pool? It doesn’t need to be explained by unobserved positive selection on the genes,
            but it does need to be explained.

            And, no, random mutations are not the explanation. That’s more like 1/10k for a common mutation, like achondroplasia.

            I agree that something has to be explained, but I don’t know how much luck would be had at the moment trying to explain such a complex trait’s deviation from equilibrium.

            It might be easier to explain things like “how often do we expect a trait to be out of selective equilibrium by a certain amount in a constantly improving population?” Or “how many fitness-decreasing heritable traits do we expect to see due to linkage disequilibrium?” I don’t think I’m asking the second question right; it needs a lot of refinement. Or more broadly than the second question “how many traits will be out of equilibrium by amount X due to the combination of genetic drift and draft?” Or for the really tough questions “how much does pleiotropy foil naive calculations that look at one fitness affecting trait at a time?” You could imagine some mix of negative selection on genes causally related to schizophrenia due to their causing schizophrenia but positive selection on them for other traits they affect. Like the gene that causes sickle-cell but with many more genes in a much more complicated structure.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            The first consideration is not equilibrium, but dynamics. Take a simple example, like achondroplasia, caused by a single gene. If dwarfs have half as many children as normal people, then the prevalence of the gene should be cut in half every generation. And, yes, dwarfs are much rarer than schizophrenics. Since achondroplasia is a single gene with simple Mendelian (dominant) effects, we can see exactly what’s going on.

            But the breeder’s equation says that we should see exponential growth/decay in general. The change in population is the product of the fitness excess/deficit times the narrow sense heritability.

            Schizophrenia has a fitness of about half and a heritability of 80%. So the change is -.5*.8=-.4. That is, the population is multiplied by 0.6 each generation. If it’s 1% now, then it should have been 2% last generation and 21% six generations ago. That’s obviously not true. So either the observed fitness is wrong, the observed heritability is wrong, the environment this generation is not the environment five generations ago (in a relevant way), or … I don’t see many possibilities.

            For a smaller effect, like a product of fitness and heritability of 0.01 that’s a half-life of 70 generations. Five half-lifes take us back 10k years. Then it’s easy to suppose is that what happened is that the environment changed. It changed from hunter-gathers to farmers. But that’s still only half of an explanation. You still have to explain why the condition had positive fitness among hunter-gatherers.

            Equilibrium is a more difficult topic. With achondroplasia, it’s Mendelian (dominant) and we can see exactly what happens. 80% of achondroplasia is spontaneous mutation and 20% is inherited. This corresponds to a fitness of 1/5. The rate of spontaneous mutation is 1/10k, the highest of any condition, because the gene is so long. (There is a divergence between the fitness of the person and the gene. So the models break down and have to be considered carefully. While the achondroplasia mutation has a fitness of 1/5, I think that its carriers, dwarfs, have a higher fitness, maybe 1/2. That is, they have an average of 1 child. But they often marry other dwarfs and the miscarriage of homozygous achondroplasia means that the children of such a couple are dwarfs only 2/3 of the time and their genes carry the mutation at 1/3 the rate of their parents. This is assortative mating changing narrow sense heritability.)

            Schizophrenia is more complicated, the interaction of many genes of small effect, but if it were in mutation-selection equilibrium, I’d expect a similar prevalence, 1/10k, not 1/100.

          • albatross11 says:

            Disclaimer: I’m an interested amateur, not someone studying this stuff (quanta) or already an expert (I think a couple other regulars here).

            If there are a lot of genes of small effect, then selection will remove each one very slowly (on average each one has a very small fitness effect). So the prevalance we see might be an equilibrium between selection and mutation rate, right?

          • Douglas Knight says:


          • quanta413 says:

            Elaborating on Douglas Knight’s answer:

            Look at the Breeder’s equation R = h^2 S. R is the change in a trait between generations. h is the heritability. S is the difference in that trait between the whole population and the subset of the population that reproduces. None of these terms hide a dependence on the number of genes affecting a trait. Whether one gene or one million genes affect a trait, h may range from 0 to 1. S can range over the real numbers either way. So the change from generation to generation has no dependence on the number of genes affecting a trait.

            Looking at the Price equation the same thing is true. The strength of natural selection does not depend on the number of genes affecting a trait.

            Intuitively, you can think of it as although selection acts more weakly on each individual gene, it acts on all of them in parallel since natural selection operates on individuals which are bundles of genes. The summed effects of natural selection on each gene with small effect add up to the same strength of selection as that on one gene of large effect. So the number of genes drops out when calculating the effect of natural selection on a trait.

            The main way the number of genes can matter is more genes affecting a trait is more ways for a de novo mutation to change the value of a trait.

            Now added commentary:

            We know so little about the effects of all the genes contributing to schizophrenia or genes nearby them, that we don’t really know if there are either other fitness effects of those genes that overwhelm the penalty of schizophrenia (and the positive effects don’t have to phenotypically resemble the symptoms of schizophrenia in any way) or some nearby genes that were positively selected for temporarily increased the frequency of schizophrenia (linkage disequilibrium). In the first case, we would expect schizophrenia to remain near its current frequency if it was already in balance and the environment doesn’t change much. If it’s just linkage disequlibrium, then we’d expect its frequency to gradually decline as recombination broke up “schizophrenia” genes from the positive ones it was linked to.

            Being a bit less lazy and looking at an article on the genetics and heritability of schizophrenia. I think I favor an explanation involving pleiotropy rather than linkage disequilibrium. Pleiotropy is ubiquitous. Since schizophrenia is associated with many genes that makes linkage disequilbrium a really unlikely explanation for it’s prevalence. Linkage disequilibrium would require a bunch of genes with positive effects that just happened to be near schizophrenia related genes all spreading through the population all at once. I have trouble thinking of how that could happen.

            Unfortunately, saying “pleiotropy” doesn’t really explain anything specific about the case at hand. It’s like saying a physical system “minimizes the free energy”. It’s often a true statement, but not a very helpful one if you don’t know the form of the free energy function of the system. Similarly, without knowing what the effects of the many genes involved in schizophrenia are, pleiotropy doesn’t tell you much. But I think it’s probably better than coming up with crazy adaptationist explanations about slightly schizophrenic male shamans having enough sex with women to the point the trait actually spread. Like, is that even true about shamans? That they tend to have schizophrenic genes and that they have higher than normal reproduction when having those genes? I’m betting the answer is no to both, and the answer only has to be no to one of the two things to totally shut that explanation down.

          • albatross11 says:


            Thanks! I was trying to model this myself with some code and not really figuring it out, but your explanation makes a lot of sense to me.

            It seems like the place where the number of genes would matter would be in the mutation rate. The more genes are involved, the more likely one should be to mutate. But I guess that’s partly balanced by the fact that you need a lot of mutated genes to lead to schizophrenia.

  3. ManyCookies says:

    What’s a subject you’ve recently (<2 years) changed your stance on?

    • Anon. says:

      Police militarization. Used to be 100% opposed. Turns out it’s quite effective and in a very nice manner – it works through deterrence. The 1033 program which transfers military equipment to police causes a decrease in criminality, decrease in incarceration, no change in offender deaths. And it’s cost-effective.

      • broblawsky says:

        Can I ask for a citation on this?

      • Simon_Jester says:

        There’s militarization in the sense of “give police heavy weapons and scary-looking equipment,” and there’s militarization in the sense of “encourage and indoctrinate police to think of themselves as an occupying army in hostile territory, in an adversarial relationship with the citizenry.”

        The two are apt to work (or not work) in very different ways, I should think.

        Most objections to police equipment looking scary would be pure spinal-reflex mentality, things that have a fairly high likelihood of being irrational. Focusing purely on superficial aspects of how the police look obviously has a high risk of resulting in pointless objections to harmless things.

        Objections to police adopting an adversarial relationship with the citizenry may be better founded.

        But the two can get blurred together into “police militarization” rather easily in rhetorical circles, I would think.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          Another place where I could see the two getting blurred together is in the minds of the police.

        • albatross11 says:

          OTOH, showing up with overwhelming force can plausibly head off a lot of conflicts. It’s like having three or four huge hulking badasses as the bouncers at your bar, vs one little guy who’s got Connor MacGregor-level fighting skills. The little guy will still wipe the floor with you, but you’ll start that fight, whereas you won’t with the hulking badass squad.

          • ana53294 says:

            But normal police usually already show up with excessive force. When the police raids your house in the middle of the night, they are already at a tactical advantage.

            When they send the SWAT team in the middle of the night to a non-violent criminal’s house, they are killing flies with a bazooka.

          • Matt M says:

            When they send the SWAT team in the middle of the night to a non-violent criminal’s house, they are killing flies with a bazooka.

            The analogy fails, to the extent that flies are incapable of reason and fear.

            The police continually escalate their level of force in order to “set an example” because they believe that this will work as an effective deterrent. They are probably wrong, but good luck convincing them of that. They seem to operate as if the only reason people continue to say, consume illegal drugs, is that they aren’t sufficiently fearful of police retribution.

            So sending guys in army uniforms in the middle of the night to destroy your house and kill you for using illegal drugs is meant to increase that level of fear.

          • ana53294 says:

            The certainty of punishment works much better than the higher levels of punishment.

            It is much better to hire more police and train them better to give fines to every small drug dealer than to bulldoze one drug dealer’s house with a SWAT team and leave the rest of them alone.

          • Matt M says:

            But that’s not as fun. And probably harder to get funding.

            IIRC, part of the reason the US police get so much military equipment is that the US army is so huge and is constantly ordering such equipment, and needs to get rid of old equipment, and they’d rather not give all of it to foreign armies, so instead they give it/sell it for cheap to US police departments.

        • ksvanhorn says:

          Most objections to police equipment looking scary would be pure spinal-reflex mentality

          The standard objection to giving police heavy military weapons — especially in areas where crime rates are low — is that there is then a strong temptation to find reasons to use this equipment, even when it is not necessary.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, it’s not that I object to the local cops having a tank, it’s that I expect some yahoo to take it along on a small-time drug raid because he thinks it would be fun to knock down someone’s front door with a tank.

          • John Schilling says:

            Give the “tanks” to the local fire department and/or paramedic service, painted white with a red cross. The cited justification is usually “Oh noes, what if one of our Hero Cops gets shot and is bleeding out in the middle of a Hollywood gunfight, why you’re no better than a damn dirty cop-killer if you won’t let us have a tank to go rescue him”. Then because the police have a tank…

            So, yeah. Providing emergency medical care to people who have been injured and are still in a dangerous environment is a legitimate requirement, we’ve got people who specialize in that, and they aren’t the police. They get the armored ambulances, iff they think they need them.

          • JubileeJones says:

            See, e.g., “Sheriff: We Need Armored Vehicles to Intimidate People.” I’m sure there are plenty of more recent examples, but I never miss an opportunity to link to Lowering The Bar 😛

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Seems possible culture-warry, so keeping to non culture war things

      -Rex Grossman shouldn’t be blamed for Super Bowl XLI.
      -We should have dumped Jay Cutler a lot sooner than we did. Too toxic to the team culture.
      -Otto Porter actually is a pretty good addition….but still not worth the contract!
      -Crockpots have their uses, but, much like microwaves, they are tools often used to perform jobs that they shouldn’t, resulting in really crappy food.
      -Most people should not own cast irons, because they cannot take care of them properly, and do not know to use them properly.
      -Lawn work is relaxing, rewarding work.
      -Related to the above: Give me my chemicals, please. Roundup, roundup, roundup. Actually, dicamba, dicamba, dicamba.
      -My opinion of people who let weeds take over their lawns is extremely low.
      -One CW: Pro density, urbanist, YIMBY, whatever the name is, basically strikes me as a cult. I agree with making construction easier, but I can’t really talk to these activitsts on Twitter or Facebook without the same problems discussing any other fraught national policy.

      I have several that are probably too-CWy for the open thread.

      • Robin says:

        What do you have against weeds? Particularly in times of mass insect death, a lawn with daisies and dandelion not only provides some nice patches of color on boring green, but also some more insect life.

        Oh, and PS: Dandelion leaves make salad, buds make capers, from the flowers you can make jelly or syrup, and from the roots coffee
        (But don’t snort them)

        • Nick says:

          My grandpa used to make salads out of dandelions.

          • theredsheep says:

            Dandelions are nutritionally superior to most of the produce you can buy in a grocery store. Pick them before they flower and they’re good as-is; pick them after and they’ll need to be boiled to get rid of the bitterness.

          • marshwiggle says:

            My parents taught me to eat dandelions in spring as a salad. I decided that they work better in a tortilla or other flatbread with some sort of salad dressing. I understand that this is a heretical opinion on top of a fairly unusual thing to eat in the first place.

          • Hoopyfreud says:


            Makes sense to me

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Weedy lawns look terrible. Color is good, but clean-cut grass is the best looking turf around. A weed here or there isn’t particularly bad, it’s when the lawn is half overrun with weeds that it begins to look like total crap.

          If you plan to get rid of your lawn, whatever, that’s fine. Alternative landscaping can look nice, and is particularly nice in my area where front setbacks are minimal.

          • ana53294 says:

            Weedy lawns do look terrible, but they could look good without being cut. It’s all the fashion in the Chelsea Flower Show, and it looks very pretty.

            In Switzerland, they are having a campaing of introducing more flowers into the city environments for the bees and other insects. So they plant a mix of wild flowers and grasses in every bit of grass that doesn’t need to be cut. It actually looks very pretty, and looks quite cultivated. It’s not a look you can achieve without some effort, though, because you don’t get that many flowers without planting them.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Why on earth would I want more bugs around my house?

          • Robin says:

            In the case of ladybugs: They look fun, bring luck and eat aphids.
            Soon comes the season to enjoy the fireflys.
            And in general, a richer ecosystem is good pest control. But for that some part of the garden needs to be a little untidy, because our invertebrate friends have a somewhat different sense of aesthetics.

      • jgr314 says:

        What are your care and use tips for cast iron? I seem to be in the category of people who shouldn’t own them…

        FWIW, our intended use case is a cast iron griddle that goes across two (gas) burners that we want to use for thin-sliced grilled meat to recreate Korean bbq at home. The meat turns out ok (perhaps mainly due to good marinade) but we get a clean-up disaster (impossible stuck bits of burned sauce/food residue).

        • Plumber says:


          “What are your care and use tips for cast iron?….”

          I’m not @A Definite Beta Guy, but I own and use cast iron pans, but what I do and don’t is:

          1) Don’t “shock” the pans with cold water when they’re really hot as that may crack them (allegedly).

          2) Don’t store wet as that may encourage rust (allegedly).
          Usually after I wash the pans I heat then up until they’re dry.

          3) Use lots of oil or butter when cooking with them.

          4) When stuff starts to stick to them to much, after cleaning them I smear oil on the pan and bake it on a bit, either in the oven or on the stove top.

          5) The pans that I use less often I leave some oil on them to keep them from rusting.

          6) To clean them I do use soap most of the time, seasoning schmeezonning, it’s fine, just rinse it off fast, and don’t “soak” it long in soap, I find that the green clothes work best, as does most anything that I use to clean copper pipe for soldering.
          I bought a small piece of chainmail to clean the pans with, but it’s not necessary, but it looks cool!

          Mostly I think that the legends of having to be careful with the pans are bogus, they’re pretty resilient.

          They’re also good for keeping elves, fairies, hulderfolk, and the Sidhe away, as are electricity and holy symbols, in case you have an infestation in your area.

          • jgr314 says:

            @Plumber: thanks! Considering those points, the only error I can see that we’re making is using too little oil when cooking.

            As to the defensive uses of iron cookware: while reading OOTS plots including Sabine, I wondered how you could test if you had cold iron? Trying to wield it against a fiend in battle would give you the answer, I guess, but seems too risky.

          • Protagoras says:

            All iron is cold. The moderns who interpret “cold iron” as meaning a specific kind of iron are misinterpreting tradition, which was being somewhat flowery and applying an adjective for emphasis, not to identify a sub-category.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            +10 to what Protagoras said. Ugh.

          • beleester says:

            @jgr314: Summon Monster III lets you summon a Dretch for controlled testing. You can similarly summon a Lemure to test alchemical silver.

            Also, there are neutral or good-aligned Fae that have the same vulnerability, so you could possibly hire one to check it with a finger prick.

            If you don’t have any supernatural methods, there might also be some sort of difference in material properties – flexibility, hardness, color, texture, etc. – that are different from regular iron or steel, but that’s up to the DM. And there’s also the option of hiring a guy to visit the blacksmith at random and make sure he’s doing it correctly.

          • Nornagest says:

            Unless it’s shitty cast iron, you’re probably not going to destroy it by pouring in cold water while it’s hot. It’s not that fragile; I’ve got a pan from the 1920s that I use almost every day. If you’re feeling paranoid, just don’t turn the tap on full blast at first. You’ll be fine.

            On the other hand, leaving them wet after use or washing definitely causes rust. Even in a well-seasoned pan, although that gives some protection. Wipe it down with a towel, it’s not hard.

            The seasoning can tolerate small amounts of soap, but simmering acidic stuff (like tomato-based sauces) for hours in a cast-iron pan will break it down; I’ve seen it happen. Keep a saucepan around for that and use your cast iron for stuff like bacon; it’s good at that.

            And one you didn’t mention: don’t use metal tools in your cast iron, it scores the seasoning layer.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          I’m not familiar with Korean BBQ, so I don’t know if you can switch to another pan. I do have similar problems with marinated chicken, and my solution would be to just use a standard stainless skillet or try-ply skillet if you have one. If not an option (and it’s not me for me because I don’t have one), I clean the cast iron immediately, and am not afraid to use elbow grease/dish soap to clean them.
          If need be, I even boil water inside of it for a while, and THEN rinse and clean.
          But that’s pretty rare. I re-season all my skillets about once a month, which just involves rubbing them with oil and essentially leaving them in the oven at 500 degrees for 20-30 minutes. They come out non-stick, enough that I can cook eggs on them without a problem.

        • Clutzy says:

          I have one of those. I don’t use it much, and don’t find it very useful. My large cast iron pan, on the other hand, is super useful and I basically keep it on/next to the stove all the time.

          If you get on of those they are great for searing steaks, and cooking all sorts of things. My two top maintenance tips are:

          Cast irons are why serving plates exist and were super popular before nonsticks were invented. Don’t leave stuff in them, it will crisp up to the bottom and strip your coating, and be impossible to clean.

          If you cook something in your nonstick that renders oil (bacon) just pour the excess into your cast iron, if there is too much wipe it with a paper towel once you are cleaning up. This ensures you have a nice cast iron ready whenever you need it.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Can I leave bacon grease on my cast iron? (Assuming I wipe it and don’t leave gobs of it.) Will it attract bugs? We are having problems with bugs in the house and I’m eliminating anything they can live on.

        • Nornagest says:

          Try squirting a bit of water into the pan and bringing it back to a boil while scraping with a (wooden or plastic!) spatula. Works pretty well for getting the gritty bits off of cast iron in my experience. Just be sure to dry it off well afterwards.

      • j1000000 says:

        Why did you so recently change your opinion on Sexy Rexy in the blowout Super Bowl? Certainly doesn’t seem like he helped much, glancing at the stats (all I remember is Prince’s halftime performance). Was it about just letting go of residual anger?

        • Tarpitz says:

          As far as I remember, the Sex Cannon was just a bad player who continued to be predictably bad in the Superbowl. I’m not sure it’s reasonable to blame bad players for being bad in most cases – maybe ADBG previously thought it was and now doesn’t.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Pretty much. Rex is going to play like crap a good portion of the time, there’s nothing you can really do about it. Either way, the offensive plan was pretty “meh” against a Colts team that was pretty crappy defending against the run. Benson picked up no yards and TJ got fewer carriers than some of the Colts RBs, even though TJ was a great RB.

      • ManyCookies says:

        Oh shit it’s the non-cw thread, whoops. That’s obviously gonna account for a lot of stance changes, might need to repost in a later hidden thread.

    • J Mann says:

      I though air fryers were just gimmicks, and then I tried one. It’s the first kitchen appliance since the stick blender that’s a net positive addition to my kitchen.

      • Beck says:

        I’ve been kind of interested in those for a while, but get distracted and haven’t followed up. What are you using it for that you’re really pleased with?

        • J Mann says:

          Uses so far: french fries, steak, baby carrots, zucchini fries, and pierogies. I’m eager to try pretzels, egg rolls, and latkes. We have a machine with a 9×9 basket, and it’s probably an 18+ inch cube overall. That’s a lot of space in my kitchen, but I don’t regret it.

          Background: an air fryer is an electric convection oven with a non-stick basket. You baste or toss ingredients in a little oil and seasonings, then cook them in the oven, and they come out hot with crispy sides. Once you get the temperature and time down, you get a crispy “fried” exterior without the food feeling greasy or the mess of deep frying.

          – Steak: Surprisingly good, and very easy. It was pretty easy to get a medium rare. The outside didn’t have a true sear, but had a nice maillard reaction. Excess fat rendered through the basket to the secondary catch basket.
          – Fries: So far, not as good as the best fast food fries, but not bad.
          – Zucchini fries: I egg washed these and dipped them in bread crumbs. Pretty good but not great.
          – Carrots: very good
          – Pierogies: The star of the show. I got frozen pierogies from Costco and thawed them, then tossed them in a little oil. They came our hot with crispy brown skins. So good.

    • Peffern says:

      This one’s only a week old.

      Content Warning: programming.

      Package Managers, specifically npm.

      I still kind of hate NodeJS because JS is a bad language with bad development paradigms that we should be using less, not more.

      However, I used to be very skeptical of package managers since I was taught to always minimize dependencies and make sure you hand-vet each one. As such, the npm ecosystem where a relatively small library might pull in hundreds of dependencies, nobody knows what they do, and I might not even have matching dependencies to someone on the same project.

      This has changed somewhat since I started using npm for my job, in the last month or so. Being able to just trust the manager to correcr version skew and dependency loops is incredibly nice, and made me realize how much time I spend not coding when I was doing it the old way.

      If only it was better documented.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Started with NPM after the left-pad saga, I’m guessing?

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Maybe npm is a good package manager because any old yahoo can make a package. In other languages, when a package sucks, you spend your time having an adult rewrite it, but npm made the decision not to do that, for whatever reason, and instead handle all the edge cases that are bound to show up.

      • dodrian says:

        I used to hate JavaScript, but in the past few years I’ve really begun to appreciate it.

        Though to be honest it might not be that I like JavaScript any more, but that I’ve started picking up Python, and loathe Python.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          “Hey, C-like losers! You know what’s an even better game than Find The Missing/Extra Semicolon? Find The Missing/Extra Whitespace!!!”

          (Yes, yes, IDEs make such problems trivial. But they don’t give those to undergrads. I can only assume to build character)

          • J says:

            They won’t let you code on your own machine in your own environment?

          • moonfirestorm says:

            They won’t let you code on your own machine in your own environment?

            My experience with undergrad coding was that you could use whatever you wanted to write the code, but you’d have to figure out any problems with your IDE on your own (since the teachers were just using emacs or whatever), and this could often be more trouble than it was worth when you were writing the simple coding problems of early undergrad.

            If you were already doing a bunch of your own coding work and were familiar with an IDE you’d probably be fine, but you probably weren’t having trouble with missing semicolons in that case anyway.

            I seem to recall Eclipse having bad interactions with the teacher’s automated grading system at times as well, but I can’t back that up.

          • Nornagest says:

            Learn to use vim. It’s… got a learning curve to it, but everything has vim (except for Windows, and even there you’ve got Cygwin), and it’s just as good at syntax as an IDE.

        • thevoiceofthevoid says:

          These are the two languages I’m tryna learn this week for my first software engineering internship.

          This is gonna be fuuuuunnnn.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            If you already know other languages, I don’t think you’ll have any real trouble. In my experience, the problems with both JavaScript and Python mostly go away if you’re already used to coding. It’s when you’re not that you have trouble.

            When I was learning some basic JavaScript last year to expand my skill set, a friend started telling me about all the ways it was easy to go wrong in JavaScript, and my reaction was almost always “why would anyone want to do that”, because most of the stuff was either bad programming practice or straight-up impossible in Java/C#.

            When I was helping a friend with his Python class, the experience was mostly “why is this not working… *googles* oh that’s how you do that in Python”. It maps pretty well to Java code, but occasionally has weird syntax quirks you’re going to have to look up and get mildly annoyed at.

    • proyas says:

      In the last two years, I’ve come to agree that “Columbus Day” should be rechristened in light of Christopher Columbus’ crimes against Native Americans. I think renaming it “Indigenous Peoples Day” it might be “swinging the pendulum too far,” so I favor something more neutral like “Discovery Day.”

      • Matt M says:

        I feel like this topic cannot possibly avoid becoming CW.

        All I will say is that I would be far more open to this option than to “Indigenous Peoples Day,” which, to me, comes across as pretty blatant zero-sum tribal (no pun intended) warfare.

    • Tatterdemalion says:

      I have a higher estimate of the intelligence level of great apes, and a correspondingly slightly smaller estimate of the size of the gap between humans and animals, than I did, as a result of learning about Sue Savage-Rumbaugh’s work with bonobos.

  4. johan_larson says:

    You hate McDonald’s. You have dedicated your life to wiping every last McDonald’s restaurant off the face of the earth. How will you do this?

    • James Miller says:

      Study drones. Get a job at Amazon where I disrupt the existing fast food industry by having drones deliver fast food.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Step 1: Scotland Rising! In the aftermath of Brexit, opportunity arises. I join with other McDonald’s-haters and back a new Scottish party which pushes not only for Scottish independence, but Scottish dominance. First it takes over the UK, then it takes over the world.

      Step 2: McDonald’s is banned by the Scottish World Government for appropriating the “Mc” Prefix and for its years of attempting to claim it as its exclusive trademark. McDonalds is given the opportunity to challenge this decision, but only by a personal claymore duel between the chairman and any MacDonald, Macdonald, or McDonald of the government’s choice. This becomes the most popular, but shortest ever, event on MacCSpan.

      • bean says:

        Problem with the last bit. What’s to stop them appointing the claymore world champion as chairman?

        • The Nybbler says:

          The government specifies that it must be the chairman at the time of the announcement. They’ve got lawyers to think of this stuff.

        • John Schilling says:

          If it’s a conflict between a Scottish guy with a Scottish claymore and an American guy with an American claymore, I’m pretty sure the CEO of McDonalds can read “Front Toward Enemy“. The Scottish World Government will of course attempt to assert an exclusive trademark on the term “claymore”, but since the traditional appeal in such matters is a claymore duel…

      • Matt says:

        I always refer to trips to McDonald’s as “Scottish Dinner” or “Scottish Breakfast”.

        The kids (teens) hate it.

      • b_jonas says:

        Even if step 2 worked, McDonald’s would just change its company name to something else, along with the name of some of their products. That would incur some cost to them, but probably not enough to wipe them completely off the face of earth. There’s already a precedent: KFC got renamed (in some countries) because of a trademark dispute, but the chain survived.

      • Bamboozle says:

        As a scot i approve of this message.

        To get around the “claymore issue” i suggest using basket-hilted broadswords and targes which will make for a better spectator sport as well.

        Alternatively the Scottish Government world Government could always split up the franchises among the other clans and let them fight for dominance. I can’t imagine going for a quick burger at Argyle’s or Ferguson’s though.

    • Peter says:

      There’s a saying that democracies don’t make war on other democracies; and a whole bunch of critics arguing with it. Someone (I think it might have been The Economist) pointed out that if you said “No nation with a McDonalds has made war with another nation with a McDonalds”. This was true until the NATO action in Serbia in the late 90s. Anyway, I think the idea was to try to assert that the correlation between peace and McDonalds was spurious and so the thing about democracies might be spurious too. But that’s no fun, there are much more interesting and relevant ways of interpreting the observation.

      One suggests a strategy: destroy democracy. And by “destroy democracy” I don’t mean “make it all dysfunctional so that people who like clickbait-tastic strongly-stated contentious opinions can say ‘it’s been destroyed'”, I mean do the job good and proper so that it takes North Korea levels of shamelessness to assert that democracy is still there. Then the natural habitat for McDonalds will be gone and it will wither away of its own accord. Or possibly they’ll all be destroyed in the wars between former democracies.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        There’s something of a proxy war between Russia and the US as well Syria and the US, also Iran and the US, also Venezuela and the US. [Replace US with US et al. if you like] The former country insists it is a democracy [of sorts] and the latter insists that it isn’t.

        If democracies to go war with each other in the future their leaders will likely insist that the other country isn’t a “true democracy”.

        That being said, the reason why I think this is a ‘mostly true’ statement in practice is, and I have to don my tinfoil hat for a moment that the countries in question that don’t make war on each other have leadership with integrated geopolitical interests. Extra super tinfoil hat for saying that at this point all democracies are geopolitically satellites of the US.

        The more wholesome interpretation is that “well functioning” democracy tends to be co-incidental to property rights and contractual rights norms that have over the last 100 years or so integrated economies to the extent that there are far too many economic interests dead-set against one national government bombing businesses that have headquarters in both countries etc. etc. The so-called pseudo democracies tend to have weaker institutions and are as well less integrated [due to some combination of regime anxiety, past expropriation, sanctions, etc.]

        Note that my conspiratorial and wholesome explanations feed off of each other [somewhat]. The only way for a country like Iran or Russia to integrate itself into the world economy would first involve having sanctions lifted. Depending on what actions are seen as required for that to occur you could argue that integration into the economy means submission.

        • Furslid says:

          The problem I have with the democratic peace theory is that it looks like a “no true Scotsman.” Whenever two countries with a democratic form of government go to war, there’s excuses made why one doesn’t count as a democracy. Countries that don’t get into wars don’t get the same scrutiny.

        • The more wholesome interpretation is that “well functioning” democracy tends to be co-incidental to property rights and contractual rights norms that have over the last 100 years or so integrated economies to the extent that there are far too many economic interests dead-set against one national government bombing businesses that have headquarters in both countries etc. etc.

          As explained by Rudyard Kipling some time ago.

      • bullseye says:

        Looking at a list of countries with McDonalds, I see that Saudi Arabia and Communist China have them and Iceland does not. The impression I get is that the presence of McDonalds correlates weakly with capitalism and even more weakly with democracy.

        • Matt M says:

          The impression I get is that Iceland is part of the axis of evil, and in dire need of some involuntary regime change.

        • Peter says:

          Saudi Arabia does fit into the idea that democracy, capitalism and McDonalds are all just correlates of a geopolitical sphere centred on the USA.

          China… well sometimes I like to call their system Socialist In Name Only, or SINO for short. This may be not be entirely fair but the “Chinese characteristics” in “Communism with Chinese characteristics” look an awful lot like capitalism. My understanding of the US-China relationship is that it has been “It’s complicated” ever since the Sino-Soviet split, Nixon, etc. It seems McDonalds came to the PRC in 1990, too late for the Cold War.

          Now Iceland occasionally gets rolled out as a half-baked exception to democratic peace theory – the “Cod Wars” between the UK and Iceland. In which one person died… in an accident. Warships were involved, and damaged, though. However, now you point out that Iceland doesn’t have a McDonalds, it all makes sense now.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            I think the usually-cited exemption to the democratic peace theory is the UK and Finland in WW2. There were obviously other democracies on the Allied side, but Finland was probably the only Axis democracy and the UK was the only democratic Allied country that actually attacked it- specifically the unsuccessful raid on Petsamo.

            As for Icelandic McDonalds, Iceland did have McDonalds from 1993 to 2009 (so not during the Cod War). The franchisee gave up the franchise after the financial crisis because it was too expensive to import ingredients from Germany. Apparently the last McDonalds hamburger sold in Iceland is in a museum in Reykjavik.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        Someone (I think it might have been The Economist) pointed out that if you said “No nation with a McDonalds has made war with another nation with a McDonalds”. This was true until the NATO action in Serbia in the late 90s

        Unless you count the US invasion of Panama (1989, Panama has had McDonalds since 1971).

    • Matt says:

      Ever see the movie Children of Men? That would probably do it.

    • 1. Assassinate the emperor CEO of Mcdonalds.
      2. Bribe the Praetorian Guard the board to pick your preferred candidate
      3. Have them pick your weak-willed, decadent son
      5. Get taken over by foreign invaders their competition

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Seriously: Poison their food supply, non lethally if you are willing to accept a delayed victory.

      Their supply chain must be pretty well locked down, since there are many people who hate McDonald’s and have not managed to pull this off.

      • johan_larson says:

        I kind of doubt this would work. Remember the Tylenol poisonings back in 1982? Tylenol is still on the market.

        The only way I could see this working is if you managed to poison a big chunk of McDonald’s food supply or the company really mishandled the problem.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          There are very easy substitutes for McDonald’s, such as every other fast food restaurant. It is trivial to switch to another, like Wendy’s. The Tylenol poisonings all likely occurred at the retail level, outside of their supply-chain, meaning that switching to another pain medication wasn’t necessarily safer.

          Speaking of Wendy’s, look at the damage to Wendy’s from the finger-in-the-chili or Pepsi’s from the syrine-in-the-can. https://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/29/business/media/wendys-gets-a-break-but-still-has-work-ahead-of-it.html Now imagine those cases were actually real and took place at at least two separate locations in the US. The customer bases switches away. Losing half their traffic for a month or two is enough to kill a lot of franchises which have large fixed costs.

          I’m sure all the fast-food restaurants have threat-modeled this.

    • Tarpitz says:

      Wait till 2032. After the Franchise Wars, all restaurants will be Taco Bell.

    • zzzzort says:

      The boring, unworkable answer would be, work to undermine the legal advantages that the franchise structure enjoys, most notably by allowing pan-franchise and pan-sector unionization. Then degrade their brand through whatever negative publicity you can muster and wait for them to get the sears treatment.

      The more realistic answer for what one person could accomplish would be a terrorist campaign. Which isn’t elegant, or ethical, but does seem to be the strategy of choice for enforcing unpopular demands on a much larger, richer organization.

    • Aapje says:

      Dress up as a clown and molest people.

      David Friedman* & his dad may team up on this mission.

      * Not our David Friedman 😛

    • b_jonas says:

      In Terry Pratchett’s novel “Johnny and the Bomb”, a character destroys McDonald’s. He doesn’t hate McDonald’s, his motivation is different. This, however, is a science fiction novel, and his method isn’t workable in real life.

      That said, other practical methods to destroy McDonald’s might involve destroying civilization entirely. Total thermunuclear war, or global warming followed by extinction, or something like that. McDonalds would just fall as a consequence.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      1. Apr. 20, 1889, Braunau-am-Inn, Austria, Adolf Hitler.
      2. Oct. 5, 1902, Oak Park, Illinois, Ray Kroc.
      3. Origin. Reload.

    • I have nothing to contribute to this thread, but I wanted to thank you for making it. Very entertaining!

  5. Elliot says:

    Offering ~£60~ if anyone comes up with a good name for an app we’re developing: its purpose is to give people in the UK practical help accessing mental health treatment, and it also includes info on evidence-backed self-help advice; quizzes to see if you might benefit from help; and a daily reminder system to make the tasks manageable.

    The intended user is someone with mental health issues who isn’t currently receiving treatment, or doesn’t feel like they know how to help themselves. We hope it’ll be especially useful for those who are too depressed or anxious to get started on treatment.

    We were working with “Headstart”, but there were trademark issues. My favourite suggestions from last time I posted were Wellspring, reMind, and WellBean. If anyone has any ideas, put them here. Thanks guys : )

    • johan_larson says:


    • emiliobumachar says:


    • Incurian says:


      • Bugmaster says:

        Shouldn’t that be “Nuttr” ? In any case, I second this. You can make the logo look like a cute nut-chomping squirrel, just for camouflage reasons.

      • theredsheep says:

        I think that might perhaps be characterized as slightly insensitive.

        • anon1 says:

          I’ve been in the target audience before, and for me slightly insensitive would be a big plus. It was obvious that something in my head was badly fucked up, and joking about being crazy was sometimes a really helpful way to cope.

          Most sensitive approaches to mental illness have always made me super uncomfortable. They tend to minimize personal agency. They often (though not always, as I’ve learned from our host) require admitting that my problems are, in an important sense, not real. I don’t feel awful because my dog died and I have no close friends and I’m falling behind in school, I feel awful because I have depression and anxiety. It all smells a little dehumanizing. Being a bit insensitive or even offensive can clear the air and make me feel safe and respected.

          Related: Such Mixed Feelings about CrazyMeds

          • theredsheep says:

            Well, I’m with you insofar as I hate the whole cluster of attitudes characterized by “person-first labeling” (is Barack Obama a “person with blackness”?). I’m just saying, there’s going to be a ferocious uphill battle against a mob of self-appointed moral authorities protesting against the implied ableism, etc. I suppose there could be a bonus to that as well, insofar as it’s free publicity.

      • Richard says:

        One word of warning: my immediate mental association was not “nutter” as in a crazy person, but “nut” as in the slang verb for ejaculating. The “add just an r with no e” formulation just made me think of apps like Grindr, not nonsexual ones like Flickr. Dunno how common this will be, but for a young crowd I think “nutter” is a much less common slang term.

    • Rachael says:

      Mind You (as in “look after yourself”; “mind you…” as in “by the way…”; and the “you” in the name suggesting personalisation/ownership/decentralisation, as in YouTube).

      Other suggestions:
      HelpHelp (as in helping you to access help).
      Help with some trendy suffix (-r, -ly, etc).

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        “HelpHelp” makes me think of someone drowning and calling frantically for assistance.

      • Bugmaster says:

        My problem with all those “SomethingMind” or “SomethingWell” names is that they all sound totally generic. Yes, they convey the message, but they do not stand out in a crowd, and standing out is very important for startup apps.

    • broblawsky says:


    • helloo says:

      I like ReMind or ReMinder better than the other suggestions including mine (no lowercase first letter as it seems kinda tacky) , but here’s some additional ideas-
      Ease of Mind
      MentalHelp (keeping it simple)

    • honoredb says:

      Voice Of Reason
      CBT Oil

      Curated suggestions from GPT-2: Breathe Now, WellFinder, Treatment.

    • Hoopyfreud says:


    • Erusian says:

      Mindwell? I sympathize: I’m terrible at naming.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      On Your Mind

    • honoredb says:

      Meta: There’s a stigma against seeking mental health treatment, and for some people your list of installed apps is semi-public (e.g. if you’re giving your phone to someone else to DJ or if notifications are showing up on your lock screen), so a more ambiguous name might be helpful.

    • zzzzort says:

      Mind the Mind

    • Clutzy says:


    • Bugmaster says:

      “Autoshrink” ? I personally think Incurian’s suggesion — “Nuttr” — is better, but this is my shot at it…

    • goszs says:


    • MostlyHamless says:


    • Loris says:

      Dnim (get your mind back)


      … some more suggestions from Entendrepreneur (If one of these is picked, give the reward to that site):

      Agreemind (Similar to reMind I know, but possibly different enough to be useful)
      Asylumeliorate (OK, no… maybe not)

    • Bamboozle says:

      Composur or something similar to Composure

      Mindcare or Mindstart or Mindcheck

      something really generic like MyMentalHealth

      Hygieia for a more abstract root. These are greek deities of health

  6. Oleg S. says:

    “In order to understand recursion, one must first understand recursion”

    “Everyone who confuses correlation with causation will eventually die”

    “Ever since I first learned about confirmation bias I’ve been seeing it everywhere.”

    Does anyone know other examples?

  7. Andrew Klaassen says:

    In high school, I thought of biology as the “girl science” and physics as the “boy science”. I came up with theories as to why that was the case. I obviously couldn’t be interested in a “girl science”; too boring, too much memorization. I got a degree in math, and ended up in IT and then software development.

    Years later, I realized that biology was more interesting to me than all of those other subjects.

    Has something similar to this happened to any of you?

    • j1000000 says:

      Well, on a much less intellectual subject: I made fun of a friend for years for watching Gilmore Girls because it was a show for women. Eventually I actually watched an episode and found myself charmed by the quirks of Stars Hollow and the deep bond between Lorelai and Rory.

      • AG says:

        Apparently, men have also been really enjoying HBO’s Big Little Lies.

        • theodidactus says:

          Um yes absolutely. Both Gilmore Girls and Big Little Lies started out as “favors” with my wife. I’d watch it with her and in exchange she’d start watching firefly or star trek or something dweeby I liked.

          …but I REALLY grew to like both shows, especially Big Little Lies, which has a web of intrigue and divided loyalties infinitely more complex,interesting, and believable than game of thrones or anything like that.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I thought collard greens were “a Southern thing” and didn’t try them.

      It turns out I really like collard greens. I usually stir fry them, which I realize isn’t the standard approach;.

      They’re a relatively delicate dark green veggie. I’d rank delicate to robust as spinach, collard greens, chard, kale, mustard greens.

      • acymetric says:

        I mean…they are kind of “a Southern thing”…is there a reason that made you not want to try them?

        Admittedly, stir-fried collards is not a southern thing.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I was going post something on the likely implication, but I will try and bite my tongue and wait until she replies

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I’m from northern Delaware– I identify as not Southern. This no doubt has something to do with the civil war, but the the fact is that I don’t identify with the culture. It just isn’t home for me. This doesn’t mean I think it’s awful.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            But does this hold you back from trying, say, an Ethiopian restaurant?

            I feel like there are cultural implications here about Urban-Rural and Northern-Southern and the “feeling” of out-group vs. far-group.

            Plus collards traditionally code, like, say, chitlins or pork rinds, as foods of poverty, however, in ways that urban foods of poverty usually don’t.

          • Plumber says:

            FWLIW, my father often took me and my brother to “Soul Food” restaurants when we were growing up, and I still prefer collard greens to the now fashionable kale, my mother also cooked them a lot, and she was from the south…

            …Orange County, California that is, not “The South”.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            It didn’t hold me back from Ethiopian restaurants, and it certainly didn’t slow me down with barbecue. The poverty food thing might be part of it, I’m not sure.

      • marshwiggle says:

        I too stir fry collards as my preferred cooking method. Cooked in soup with peanuts and sweet potatoes and a ham bone is also very good.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        Any special trick to stir-frying them?

        Google finds lots of recipes, some of which involve blanching them first. They also often cook with onion or garlic, to which I certainly have no objection.

        • marshwiggle says:

          I think the most important thing is to separate stem from leaf and chop the stem fairly thinly.

      • AG says:

        How do they compare to asian greens like bok choy, shanghai cabbage, or gailan?

        • marshwiggle says:

          I’d say it’s closer to gailan in texture and taste and so on, and closer to bok choy in shape?

    • Murphy says:

      I had the options of physics, chemistry and biology … and picked all of the above.

      Biology definitely had more girls but then it was by far the largest class overall.

      I suspect because it satisfied Uni requirements for a lab science and had the most rote memorization vs calculation and so was a lot more approachable for people who prefer reeling off memorized facts.

      Got a degree in Comp Sci, then one in Bioinformatics.

      Biology in highschool was far more boring than biology where I work. In school it was endless reams of definitions.

      In the real world the definitions are just tacked on labels for bits of the most terribly complex machines.

    • metacelsus says:

      Yes, I started in chemistry and moved into stem cell biology recently. I remember thinking that high school biology was boring, but now my interests have definitely changed.

      • Clutzy says:

        High school biology is boring exactly because of that. Its a memorization course. If you “learn” something that is interesting like the Krebs cycle you aren’t taught why it is as it is (indeed most HS bio teachers don’t have the mastery of O-Chem to do this), you are just forced to replicate it by memory onto a series of sheets of paper.

    • Tarpitz says:

      When I was 11 or 12, I was an enthusiastic player of card counter wargames (War in the Pacific, World in Flames, War and Peace, etc.) and Games Workshop tabletop games. Many of my peers were into Magic: the Gathering, but I refused to even try it. As far as I remember, I determined based on no evidence that it was simplistic and beneath me.

      Almost twenty years later, I was introduced to Magic by friends who had played casually as children and had just started playing casually again. I quickly became hooked, to the point where (another 6 years on) it is by a considerable margin my biggest hobby. I’ve traveled to other countries (and in one case another continent) to compete in tournaments. It’s the source of most of my new friends over that time period. I think it’s probably the best game ever made; at the very least, it’s vastly superior to Blood Bowl or Necromunda (the best GW games I’ve come across).

    • bullseye says:

      My high school had a choice of three different foreign languages: Spanish, French, and German. Spanish had a reputation for being the easiest, so it was by far the most popular. The artsy kids picked French and the nerds picked German. Obviously I picked German.

      If I could go back, I’d pick Spanish. Of the three languages I think it’s closest to Latin, which I’m interested in; also almost everyone I’ve met who doesn’t speak English speaks Spanish.

      On the other hand, German is the only foreign language my current friends show interest in, even though none of them went to the same high school.

      • Matt M says:

        I had the same choice. Picked German. It turned out the teacher was mostly blind, and his hearing wasn’t too good either, so it was trivially easy to cheat on all of his assignments and tests. I took it for two years and didn’t learn much of anything other than that “Du hast mich” actually means “you have me” and not, “you hate me”

        • Aapje says:

          @Matt M

          I assume that this refers to Rammstein. The song is quite clever in that the beginning is ambiguous, where it is unclear whether they are singing “Du hast mich” (you have me) or “Du hasst mich” (you hate me), but then the reveal is that it’s actually part of a past-tense construct: you have asked me (or more literally translated: ‘you have me asked’). However, one can imagine that either, or both meanings of the partial sentence are intended as well.

          The entire song is full of ambiguity. The wedding vows are peculiar and focus on faithfulness. On the one hand, the singer says that he didn’t answer the question, but he also answers: No. Perhaps the ‘no’ doesn’t refer to what he actually said, but that he was unfaithful.

          So the song might mean that the other person wanted to marry the singer, but that he held off and cheated on the other person.

          However, ‘scheide’ means vagina, so the question might also be: “will you be faithful to me until the death of the vagina.” Perhaps the singer married someone who stopped wanting to have sex and the singer cheated in response?

          Peculiarly enough, the English version of the song has ‘you…you hate…you hate me.’

          PS. Funky Rammstein

      • metacelsus says:

        For reading old scientific literature, German is quite useful. I’ve only seen a few scientific texts in Spanish (mostly neuroscience stuff by Ramon y Cajal).

        I studied Spanish in high school, but I think German also would have been useful.

    • b_jonas says:

      Not often, because I’m pretty conservative and always resist trying out things that I’ve discarded. I’m especially picky about food.

    • a real dog says:

      Actually the exact same thing happened to me, though in high school I just considered biology inferior as it’s about memorization, while CS/math is about interesting systems that can be understood and tinkered with.

      Now it turns out that IT is a cesspool of largely useless projects to build a marginally better mousetrap, while biotech is about saving lives and/or reshaping the world using mad science, and the systems there have far more logic behind them than “an incompetent programmer said to do it this way”.

      So yeah, I’m currently building a stash of enough fuck-you money (via corporate mousetrap construction) to pursue science full time, and in the meantime starting a biotech degree. We’ll see how that goes.

  8. bean says:

    Friday was the 103rd anniversary of the Battle of Jutland, and I posted a (relatively) short summary of the battle in celebration. It also includes links to the big series I did last year. I also posted on one of the great controversies of the battle, the performance of British shells.

    My series on US battleship design has reached its end with the Montana class, the last and most powerful battleship design ordered by the United States.

    Battleships during WWII often carried aircraft, primarily for spotting, and I’ve discussed both the evolution of battleship aviation after WWI and the procedures used to fly airplanes off of them.

    So You Want to Build a Modern Navy has returned, at least briefly, for more discussion of the best way to build carriers.

    And as always, there’s a new Naval Gazing Open Thread.

  9. Jeremiah says:

    Based on some feedback the last time around I’ve decided to turn a classic SSC post into audio/podcast form every other week to correspond to the visible open thread. This time it’s:

    In Favor of Niceness, Community, and Civilization (Original post here.)

    Also you could say that the SSC podcast is sponsored by my own blog/podcast. Recently I posted:

    Books I Finished in May (With One from April)

    Which includes reviews of:
    – The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
    – Porcelain: A Memoir by Moby
    – Possible Minds: Twenty-Five Ways of Looking at AI an essay collection
    – Walls: A History of Civilization in Blood and Brick by David Frye
    – The Inevitable Apostasy and the Promised Restoration (Religious) by Tad R. Callister
    – The City & The City by China Miéville
    – 13 Ways of Going on a Field Trip: Stories about Teaching and Learning by Spotted Toad
    – Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep
    – The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms (Incerto) by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

  10. RDNinja says:

    A couple of people were talking about their RPG campaigns in the last Open Thread, so now I’m curious about everybody else’s. What interesting RPG campaigns are you all running?

    I’m running three separate Play-by-Post games right now. Two are Shadowrun 5e (one traditional, and the other focused on the resistance against an alien invasion), and the other is using the Conan 2d20 system.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Interesting ones? Uhhhh….fresh out of those.

      5E D&D, setting close to 1300 Europe. 1st time DM, mostly 1st time players. The party went through great efforts to steal unaged whiskey, pissed off a local Duke, accidentally started a war with Lizardfolk, and now hunt a Hag in your typical fantasy swamp.

    • Jeremiah says:

      I could see where Shadowrun might work well as a pbp game. I’ve always loved the setting, but had a hard time with the system. I guess they’ve announced a 6E?

    • J Mann says:

      I’m running mostly vanilla 5e D&D for my extended family using the Roll20 virtual tabletop and voice chat on Discord. (Two teens, 3 adults and me). The main campaign is one of the recent official releases, Waterdeep:Dragon Heist, and I’ve started running Adventurers’ League one-shots.

      I have to say, I appreciate the relative simplicity and large user base of 5e. It makes it easy to get suggestions of how to adjust or improve the official materials, and people can learn it fairly quickly.

    • Mwncsc says:

      I finally gave up on my last DM & group, but I’m about to start DMing a new campaign with a new group composed of neighbors. I’ve never run a game for strangers before, so I hope our session 0 in a couple of weeks will be illuminating. I’m going to lightly push for GURPS Dungeon Fantasy (my preferred system), but I suspect we’ll end up playing Pathfinder or 5e.

    • realitychemist says:

      I’m currently only running one: a game about political intrigue and espionage using the Mythras d100 system. It’s going OK, but I feel the level of excitement has been a bit too low the past couple games, so I’m planning on ratcheting it up next game by doing my utmost to have one of the NPCs blow their cover.

      I’m also in three more as a player (on a weird rotating schedule): one D&D 5e game that has become a pretty traditional dungeon crawl, and two are Shadowrun 5e games – one is set in post-lockdown Boston doing traditional jobs and fucking with the Matrix, and the other is set in Australia with the team working on one long-form courier job that is becoming more and more Mad Max as time goes on.

      Oh, and I also run a game of Stars Without Number for the D&D group when not everyone can show up. We’ve only run it twice, but it’s a good system to just have fun messing about in space.

    • OriginalSeeing says:

      I’m not playing anything right now, but have a growing itch to start a new in-person tabletop game of some sort.

      • RDNinja says:

        I’ve got the itch too. It’s trivial for me to put together a table of randos via the FLGS’ Facebook pages, but it’ll be filled with stinky, immature slobs. I’m trying to find players I like, but it’s tough.

        • souleater says:

          I can only play around once a month due to scheduling conflicts.. But it’s so hard to find normal people to play with so I can start a second campaign.

    • Joseph Greenwood says:

      I am starting a new campaign in (mostly) 5e where my players wake up without any idea who they are or what they are doing there. But there’s a big war going on, and someone (one of them, actually, but pre-amnesia) animated an angry undead golem that will wreak all sorts of havoc. The most interesting feature of the world (to me) is the cosmology: a human has three parts: a body, a shade (roughly an Aristotelean soul: the pattern by which their body is organized and maintained over time), and spirit (energy, life-force, capable of experiencing and changing things). When they die, these three parts go their separate ways: the shade becomes a p-zombie that’s locked in old habits, the body molders into the earth, and the spiritual energy is absorbed by the moon where it revels in bliss without thought.

      I am also running a fairly standard 5e campaign for my wife and a few newcomers. They’re currently trying to track down the source of a wererat infestation.

      I just joined the RPG alluded to in the last thread; I am still trying to figure out what it is like and what sort of character to have.

      And a cousin of mine is starting up a low-magic campaign where the world is recovering from a massive war and there are some cool magic swords.

      • Nick says:

        That sounds really cool; I love the idea of the Aristotelian soul becoming a p-zombie. Is it possible for the spiritual energy to sometimes remain on earth as ghosts of sorts? Or for other substantial forms to possess the body, or the spiritual energy to be separated from the body without the Aristotelian soul being separated?

    • DeWitt says:

      I’m running a 3.5 campaign I adapted to 5e twice; one on tuesday, one on saturday. The saturday one got derailed a bit, but that should be only a momentary issue, so things are fine.

    • broblawsky says:

      I’m currently playing in a 5E D&D campaign that is extremely meta: levels, classes and experience points are all well-understood phenomena that are observable, as is the distinction between people able to gain levels and those who are unable to do so, and societies are built around dealing with those facts in various ways.

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        This is really interesting! What is the in-world explanation for the existence of levels, classes, and so forth?

      • Skeptical Wolf says:

        This sounds very interesting. I’ve played around with in-character mechanics before (and want to do a lot more), but never in a D&D context. Would you mind sharing some of the interesting social structures that have sprung up in the course of societies dealing with these facts?

      • broblawsky says:

        I think my GM actually reads this site and wanted to give him a chance to post, but he’s sick as a dog and doesn’t seem to want to de-lurk. Ergo, I’ll explain what we’ve pieced together so far:

        a) There’s a qualitative difference between people with classes and levels (the Ignited) and people without, who are permanently stuck at 1st level (the Unignited). What causes someone to become Ignited isn’t totally clear, but it isn’t hereditary and seems to be linked to moments of extreme stress. We met one person who Ignited right as he was being hanged, which saved his life since local laws didn’t allow the Ignited to be executed without being given a chance to fight for their lives. Anyone can tell if someone is Ignited and how many Elevations (levels) they have by concentrating on them; until recently, we thought it was impossible to hide your Ignited status. Ignition appears as a kind of flame hovering over someone’s head, although it’s only visible if you’re looking for it.

        b) When you kill monsters (but not humanoids or natural animals), a kind of little berry bush sprouts from the corpse almost immediately. Eating the berries (‘coup’) is how you get experience points. Coup can’t be preserved without losing 80-90% of its value. The explanation for this appears to be related to the Astral plane, which is the source of virtually all monsters; it seems to like to force people to go through the Campbellian monomyth. Fulfilling the stations on the Road of Trials makes you stronger.

        c) We’ve only had the chance to really explore one society so far, but it’s the one most shaped by the Ignition phenomenon. That’s the Hierarchy: a society built on a strict and draconian aristocracy (in the Greek sense) dividing the Ignited and the Unignited. In the Hierarchy, the Ignited can legally do anything to the Unignited short of killing or crippling them. The only exception is Unignited who are directly related to someone who is Ignited, and even then only as long as their Ignited relative is alive. This deeply inhumane society was set up as a deliberate attempt to create as many Ignited as possible: the extreme stress most Unignited live under in the Hierarchy results in it having more Ignited per capita than any other state. The Hierarchy has no natural resources other than people, so it relies on its Ignited very heavily.

    • souleater says:

      I’m running a pathfinder campaign, where the players are “mongolian” Orcs sent on a special-ops style mission to destabilize a neighboring “british” kingdom with dreams of human domination. They’re currently in occupied “scotland” allied with a secret resistance of oppressed dwarves and elves trying to get the scottish citizens to rebel.

      Best of moments:
      They accidentally tell the smuggler ally about their secret mission, and decide to kill him in cold blood. He later comes back as a revenant as punishment for murderhobos a vengeful spirit.

      They are making their hideout in the basement of a british owned gay bar (Named Spearwielders), the LGBT community has a special sympathy for the oppressed because of their own experiences as a sexual minority before the british culture shifted.

      They adopted an old goblin slave named Mart who they clothe in fancy british military attire.

      The map I use is an old (~1500?) upside down, and heavily edited map of the Korean peninsula, with the british being North Korea, the scottish being in modern day South Korea, and Shanghai being the Orcish capital city. My players think I’m just really good at cartography in my spare time

      Lightly inspired by The Spearwielder’s Tale by R.A. Salvatore

    • Unsaintly says:

      I run several games, but I think my most interesting one is Vampire: the Requiem. It’s a game set in 13th century London (for now), but with the intention of skipping ahead decades at a time between each arc. I have found that the immortality angle of vampirism – both the benefits and costs – frequently goes unexplored in roleplaying games. After all, if most games take place over the course of a month or year in-game it doesn’t really matter if you age or not. However, it’s an interesting and important part of the vampiric condition.

      We’re currently still in 1255, since the game only started quite recently, but there are a lot of future developments I’m looking forward to.

    • BillG says:

      I’m in a fun Star Wars campaign where I play a Twi’lek who’s, for lack of a better term, full of shit about everything. Constantly overstating what I can accomplish. The character was designed to plug two holes– my lack of in-depth knowledge of the setting and my group’s tendency to defer to me as a face. It’s working great.

      And, I’ll soon be GMing a Numenera campaign in which I’m using some of the community building rules to run a campaign centered around individual versus group morality. Concept is the characters will lose a NPC close to them early on, but soon after discover an artifact that allows something like the rewinding of time. Those within a small circle retain memory/stuff, those without are reverted. Over the course of the campaign they need to collect the batteries to power the artifact to turn back time and save their friend. What complicates it, is soon after they discover the machine, they save a village from a painful disaster. And over the course of the campaign they develop connections, see the community thrive.

      The real hope is to pit a final decision about whether the loss of their friend is a worthwhile price to pay for the community.

      • Skeptical Wolf says:

        That Numenara game sounds like a fantastic idea, I wish you the best of luck pulling it off. Do you happen to remember where the Numenara community-building rules can be found? Of the Cypher System flavors, I prefer the Strange, but haven’t found any good community rules for it and expect they’d be easy to translate over.

        • BillG says:

          Yes! The community building stuff is in the “second” core book: Numenera-Destiny. There are three new types in there too, at least one of which I think is really core and the other two are nice in light of the community rules.

    • Skeptical Wolf says:

      I’m currently running a heavily-houseruled high-power Pathfinder game about travelling between worlds via traversing malicious, deliberately unrealistic dungeons.

      Also in the process of starting up a small pickup game based on Magic: the Gathering via a system someone on 1d4chan threw together. Have only done character creation so far, but it looks promising.

      Recently concluded an epic (Avengers-level) superhero game in a homebrew setting run in Champions 6E. Now working on starting an Illuminati University game in the same timeslot using a diceless hombrewed system.

      I’m playing in an Anima game and an Invisible Sun game, both of which are a lot of fun (though in very different ways).

    • dndnrsn says:

      Delta Green, in person, is all I’m running right now. Fairly standard game, going pretty well. So far the team hasn’t had any real catastrophes, but several close calls. Going to run missions until the party is wiped out or rendered useless. Probably give 5th a try after that.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I’m running a 5e game set in Waterdeep. The players haven’t put all the pieces together yet, but the various problems they’ve been dealing with up to now are the omens of a kraken which has been slowly approaching the city. It’s been interesting to run because the Forgotten Realms has so much lore that I can easily populate scenes with characters and locations after a short Wiki-walk. 5e already simplified adventure prep and having reams of obsessively-detailed setting information at my fingertips means that the plot hooks write themselves.

      I’m also putting together a Pokémon PbtA game. I always wanted to play a Pokémon RPG but the available options suck: PTU is so crunchy it’s basically like running a pen-and-paper emulator, and as much as I love 5e it’s a totally inappropriate engine for a Pokémon game. If I finish it and the play test goes well I’ll link a PDF here and on /tg/.

    • theodidactus says:

      Always love a chance to talk about this.
      I’m running a 5E campaign set on a world called “Bayal” which has been going for several years now. The whole world is an enormous swamp at the edge of the multiverse, and is thus in a constant state of utter peril from dark forces outside. Long ago, a deity named quohelet built his home here, intending to build a paradise at the edge of space and time…but his power grows weaker by the day, and malevolent demons and fey get ever-closer to taking over.

      The party are all human magic users, on a world where everyone is especially suspicious of magic. They’ve spent the whole campaign torn between helping out the lawful good servants of Quohelet (who hate magic, but have no power) and opposing the nightmarish forces of the chaotic evil devilish one (who frankly LOVE magic, and have LOTS of power, but are generally unfriendly to entities with souls and brains).

      The best gimmick of the whole campaign is that night travel is essentially impossible. ANYONE outside of a city or a church after nightfall is summarily eaten by monsters, demons, or fey. This means that our heroes must be very very careful about where they travel and when and what they do during daylight.

    • andrewflicker says:

      I’m running a 5E campaign in a homebrew universe with a “time loop” feature- the party keeps “resetting” when they die to a particular point in time, except with their memories and skills (experience) intact. Gear/physical changes are gone, but they retain all of their knowledge, powers, etc. Minor rules changes like the elimination of spellbooks to keep prepared casters more viable.

      It’s quite entertaining, and they are surprisingly loathe to game the time-reset effect. I was expecting a lot of deliberate suicide to learn key plot points- instead they have played it mostly straight in avoiding danger and death, despite knowing that they have “reset” every previous time!

      • andrewflicker says:

        Oh, and unrelated side note, but still has been interesting to me- I’m a male DM, and this is my first all-woman group of players. I’ve always played with mixed-gender groups, so I was a little interested to see how this would work out. Really, it’s been very little difference from any random mixed-gender party I’ve worked with before. Score one point to the “sex isn’t all that meaningful in purely social/mental contexts” crowd.

      • moonfirestorm says:

        That’s a really cool concept, I like it a lot.

    • moonfirestorm says:

      I just started my first D&D game, as DM, running 5e on Roll20.

      The setting is homebrew corner-of-Faerun, a nation called Paleas ruled by a a gold-hungry dracolich. After killing the royal family and enslaving the populace to work in the gold mines, it realized it wasn’t really getting that much gold and started looking for better ways to do it.

      Eventually it just released everyone, let them live their life, and imposed a tax instead, in exchange helping to improve the nation to be more productive(for example, thanks to dracolich magical engineering, all the rivers now flow into a single massive port city). It used to wipe out monsters and bandits attacking the land too, but realized it was more productive using its magical powers to improve infrastructure and letting adventurers handle the monster-slaying.

      I’m trying to let the players choose their own path a bit, so I’m just developing plots as fast as I can, and letting them discover whatever of that they want to discover. Bit linear at the moment though, since we’ve just started and it’s not realistic for level 1 PCs to do any of the stuff I’m expecting them to eventually do.

    • Freeform, on IRC, Tarnish. Space dinosaurs and humans get to interact for the first time and uncover the mystery of why they even exist simultaneously together (because of course there is a reason), and what this means for both of them, and whether this gives the (carnivorous) underdogs some hope about getting out of the cultural-survival dead end they’re in.

      It’s full of ridiculously heavy spoilers for a book I’ve written, so if you for some reason found out I was writing a book and wanted to read it, and also are generally interested in roleplaying stuff and were going to click on Tarnish, maybe don’t.

      If you want to learn more about the setting for some reason, here are some schlaughs about it (the titles are mostly nonsense, but I guess it beats just enumerating them with digits):

      Book book book book book
      Self-extracting starfish
      Brimming glass of spiders
      He raised his disfigured gaze as if it had always been his own
      Stardust and strange topologies
      Animal or terrorist? You decide

      …I wonder if this post is going to be eaten by spam guard stuff? It does contain a huge amount of links. Edit: Looks like it made it through! Sweet.

  11. Nick says:

    @Scott Alexander
    Speaking of the Register of Bans, was Ma​tt M ever unbanned? His name’s not crossed off, and we still haven’t seen him back, but those aren’t dispositive. I recall Plumber drawing attention to this a little while ago, but it still hasn’t changed.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I think if you’re banned you can’t say someone’s name in a post. Since you said Matt M that means Matt is not banned. He probably found another hobby than posting here. That’s why I think 6 month bans are bad. Either ban someone permanently, or ban them for a short cooling off period.

      • Nick says:

        No, I stuck a zero width space in his name specifically so I wouldn’t be tripping the filter.

        ETA: Pretty silly on my part. lol

      • vV_Vv says:

        I think if you’re banned you can’t say someone’s name in a post.

        Indeed, I’ve just tested it with one of the banned names and the post didn’t show up.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Thanks for the reminder. I’ve unbanned Matt M.

      • Matt M says:

        Thanks, Scott!

        Unfortunately, Conrad, I tried to find something else, but nothing else can fill the void! I was pretty active in the WSJ comments for a bit, but they eventually succumbed to the process Scott described in the post about the culture war thread (except they only shut down most of their comments, not quite all).

        For the record it is not necessarily true that banned person =/ banned name in posts. That seems to be on a case by case basis, probably with Scott having to do it manually for people who are so controversial that they must-not-be-named. I am glad to have not been considered that far gone!

        • Plumber says:

          Glad you’re back Matt M, looking forward to your takes on those among whom I’ll likely vote for (and you likely won’t) March 3rd 2020.

  12. toastengineer says:

    Helios, because, like, of course.

  13. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    How do you tell the difference between an adaptation and a best available compromise?

    For example, bones break, but I don’t think anyone would suggest* that broken bones are somehow good for people. Instead, it’s better to have bones, but they’re only so strong, so sometimes they break.

    I believe a lot of death in childbirth is in the same category– it’s good to have large brains and it’s good to walk upright, but these conflict with each other to some extent.

    It’s possible that the tendency for later-born sons to be homosexual is in the same category.

    *Why do I say things like that? I’m surrounded by compulsive arguers, and someone may well suggest it.

    • Randy M says:

      *Why do I say things like that? I’m surrounded by compulsive arguers, and someone may well suggest it.

      It’s true at least inasmuch as it is necessary for bones to be light enough to enable the creature to move, and thus be relatively fragile, and also solid enough to provide protection to internal organs, and thus not flexible. Consider bird bones are more breakable, being hollow, because they have to be even lighter. Of course, when a bird falls, there’s less force because the total weight is reduced, so the bones might not break from falling when they would in a mammal. (I have not done this experiment myself). I can’t think of a reason for broken bones to be superior to non-broken ones in any context, though. If evolution had happened upon an equally light weight, literally unbreakable material that was also able to grow with the organism and had the same ability to attach ligaments and durability and strength, etc., it would have used it.

      It’s possible that the tendency for later-born sons to be homosexual is in the same category.

      So in this case, what is the trade-off? Sexuality cannot be more fixed upon the opposite gender because otherwise, X? My hypothesis would be something like “psychology is very complicated and the hardware of brains doesn’t perfectly run all software modules evolution would prefer it to, but it works out pretty well enough of the time.”

      edit: Didn’t realize that this was part of the discussion below.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I have no idea what the trade off might be. Sexual preference is probably some deep hormonal thing, and I’m not sure the biological basis of heterosexuality is understood.

        I just think people should be looking for trade-offs as well as optimization.

    • Drew says:

      In micro-econ, you’d approach this by distinguishing options & features. An option (as in ‘nature has some options: It can build this creature with an exoskeleton, or it can use bones’) is made up of a bunch of features.

      Bones have a bunch of relevant features. They’re relatively strong (+++), but slow to repair (-), grow with the organism (+), and require a bunch of calcium to make (-). Exoskeletons are somewhat strong (++), can repair via molting (+), do not grow with the organism (-) and require a bunch of calcium (++).

      This gives you a couple ways to talk about preferences. When we’re discussing features, we generally think about them at the margin and don’t worry about the constraints of physics. So, we can say, “It’s good that bones are strong. But it you know what would be great? If they were 10% stronger,” without worrying about if that’s actually possible to build.

      When you’re talking about options, you’re often talking about the choice you’d make, given the options available to you. “I chose calcium-bones because they are, on net, better than exoskeletons, and adamantium-bones aren’t available.”

      From there, you can talk about a possibilities curve. This describes the set of options that exist under physical constraints. And there’s a notion of “shadow price” that measures how nice it would be to have those constraints relaxed by 1 unit in some dimension.

      • SamChevre says:

        Just because I don’t follow–or I think I’m following, then get lost: why is “require a bunch of calcium” a negative for bones, but a positive for exoskeletons?

        • benjdenny says:

          Chitin isn’t made out of calcium, so he probably meant “doesn’t need calcium” is a plus.

      • I wonder how machine intelligence compares to biological intelligence using the same trade-off analysis.

  14. PedroS says:

    I just learned that the Argentinian Navy purchased, with 9 year intervals, two Colossus-class carriers. When the second carrier (Veinticinco de Mayo) was commissioned into the Argentinin Navy, the first one (Independencia) was decomisisoned. Since they were the same class and as old as each other (they were first commissioned into the Royal navy within months of each other in 1945), what was the logic behind this strange procurement schedule?

    • bean says:

      Age isn’t just a matter of calendar days. It’s also maintenance history. I don’t know exactly what went on with these two ships (I have the relevant book, and will look later) but I’d guess Independencia was in bad shape and needed a major refit, while the Dutch were looking to dispose of Karel Doorman, which had just been refitted, including new boilers after a fire. The exact timeline of the Dutch disposal decision isn’t clear, but Argentina buying a just-refitted carrier that the Dutch had decided to drop (this happens surprisingly often) makes a lot more sense than paying for a refit to a different carrier than the one they already owned.

      • bean says:

        Checked the book, and I was slightly off. Karel Doorman had been refitted more comprehensively than Independencia, most notably gaining a steam catapult while the Argentine ship’s was still hydraulic. After the fire, the Dutch decided to write Doorman off instead of repairing her, and Argentina bought the ship as-is and had her refitted with boilers from the incomplete HMS Leviathan, which was apparently still on the slipway 20+ years after being laid down. It’s plausible that this was cheaper than upgrading Independencia, particularly if their own ship was also not in great material condition.

  15. John Schilling says:

    It was a tough call, but I ultimately uploaded myself into the transcendant AI God-Emperor of Man.

    All three endings had appealing elements, by design I am sure, and I was leaning towards joining the Reformed Illuminati on the grounds of greater flexibility – the other two involve irrevocably destroying key elements of the existing human civilization, whereas the Reformed Illuminati could take a lighter touch with the option of decisive intervention later. But I ultimately didn’t trust even the less-evil the Illuminati SOBs as partners in a power-sharing regime.

    Of the two absolutist outcomes, transcendant AI God-Emperor seemed more in-character for someone as heavily nano-augmented as “I” had become by that point, and the other AIs seemed decently Friendly.

  16. eddie.purcell says:

    Does anyone have any recommendations for resources on getting started with hair care? It’s a pretty overwhelming amount of information, but it seems like some of it isn’t bullshit. Like: What’s the difference between all those shampoos? Are some shampoos better for certain kinds of hair? Why do some shampoos make my hair curly while others leave it straight? What qualifies as healthy hair? What should I look for when buying shampoo?

    • zzzzort says:

      This is supremely unhelpful, but I’ve always liked VO5 shampoo for normal hair, because I always thought “yeah, I guess my hair is pretty normal”

    • compeltechnic says:

      One thing I learned from the past few months, for those of us that have dandruff-

      Making sure to dry your hair thoroughly and quickly after it is wet does a better job at preventing dandruff than anything I have ever tried. I now scrub my (~1.5 inch long) hair vigorously with a dry towel for about 2 minutes after showering and don’t get dandruff anymore.

    • methylethyl says:

      Try looking up the long hair community forums archives. They contain more than you ever wanted to know about different hair types, different ways of caring for hair, effects of different hair treatments and products, etc. Exhaustive resource.

      The main differences between shampoos:
      A) silicones or not: Shampoos that have ingredients ending in -cone contain silicones, which coat your hairs and do not entirely rinse out. This can be a plus or a minus depending on what look you’re going for and what kind of hair you have. They can build up on your hair over time and need to be stripped off with a fairly harsh non-silicone shampoo, once in a while. Silicones increase the “slipperiness” of your hair, and (particularly if you have very fine hair) can also make it appear straighter by weighing it down a bit. If you’re looking for more volume, they’re a thing to avoid.

      B) Harshness of the detergent: shampoos containing sodium lauryl sulfate tend to be stronger detergents than ones that use sodium laureth sulfate. There exist shampoos that contain neither, that may or may not be gentler than those options. They also may or may not be effective at degreasing your hair.

      Healthy hair is undamaged hair. Everything you do to your hair that causes friction, adds heat, or involves chemicals, is damaging your hair– since it’s not a living thing like your body’s tissues, it doesn’t have the ability to repair itself. Once your follicle creates it, that’s it. Damage is cumulative, and the less damage you accumulate, the healthier your hair is (scalp health is another subject). Damage is also inevitable, but anything you can do to minimize damage is going to help keep your hair looking healthy. These things include (but are not limited to):
      –Using a seamless comb. Most plastic combs have seams between the teeth from the factory mold they came out of. These rip their way down your hair, stripping off little bits every time you detangle. Combs made from wood or animal horn cause far less damage, and there are also seamless plastic and resin combs (they’re harder to break). You can find all of those things on amazon or etsy, but they’re almost impossible to source in your average drugstore or whatnot.
      –Never combing or brushing (frankly, brushes encourage ripping your hair out and should be avoided) your hair while it is wet. Hairs are weaker when wet, and break more easily.
      –Not blow-drying: the heat damages hair.
      –Not dyeing or bleaching your hair: damage damage damage.
      –If your hair is long, it’s important to protect it from friction with chair backs, getting caught in doors, and unnecessary tangling while sleeping, wind, etc. (i.e. wearing your hair “up” protects it)
      –If you use hair elastics, barrettes, or other hair restraints and devices, it’s important to select ones that aren’t going to snag or rip your hair.
      –Any kind of soap or detergent you use on your hair is going to be at least a little alkaline. This “fluffs up” your hair cuticle, and unless you’re using a shampoo (or conditioner) loaded with silicones, this will make your hairs want to stick together and tangle. You can remedy this (if your scalp tolerates it) by following up with a quick, somewhat acid rinse, to “close” the cuticle again. I keep a spray bottle of diluted vinegar in the shower for this purpose, rinse with cool water after to avoid smelling like salad dressing, and it works great. Haven’t needed conditioner in years.

      That may already be more than you were looking for. Please refer to LHC forums, though, if you want to know everything there is to know, and then some 😉

      • eddie.purcell says:

        Thanks! this is all super helpful

      • medvssa says:

        I spent years on the LHC way back then. Agreed on everything except the combing wet thing. This is certainly the case with finer to medium (individual strand), straight or wavy hair. Not the case with coarse and curly hair. Huge breakage ensues when combing dry, brushing is mostly insane. Wide toothed comb on hair saturated in conditioner is mostly the way to go. Another reason why browsing the archives is a good idea, since advice differs with hair type, sometimes diametrically. It is a hugely complicated subject, funnily enough.

        I’d add that with short hair (ie shorter than shoulders) it really doesn’t matter, unless the hair is super fine. Have fun. It grows back before damage is
        too evident.

      • Aapje says:


        I’m still wondering why the Large Hadron Collider people are obsessed with hair.

  17. theodidactus says:

    This year’s Interactive Fiction Competition is now open, you may register text-based games for the competition, beginning in September:

    IFCOMP is a great way to make, or play, really creative games made by individual designers, not big honking studios. Year after year, I’m impressed with the competition entries, which tend to be bug-free, engaging, and ultra-well-written. If that’s not incentive enough, let it also be known that there are a bunch of cash (and service) prizes for the winners. Last year, I got 31st place outta 70 something and won some professional voiceover work, which I’m using for this year’s game.

    • SnapDragon says:

      Very cool! I keep meaning to check out more modern IF, and keep putting it off. There’s some great stuff out there. Do you have a link to a playable form of your game from last year?

      • theodidactus says:

        I have two games out there:

        Six Silver Bullets was in last year’s IFCOMP: https://ifdb.tads.org/viewgame?id=osaqoppea2bdvvpf
        It placed 31st but I don’t mind saying that at least two people said it was their favorite game. It’s admittedly a little buggy. It is a surrealistic spy game.

        Tingalan is the largest and most complex game I’ve made so far: https://ifdb.tads.org/viewgame?id=yt0l0nzzztygdn12
        It is a survival/horror game where you explore a fairy-forest in the dead of night.

        Both these games are very dark and feature scenarios in which it is quite easy to die. My next game for IFCOMP will be roughly as large as both of these games combined (and therefore I believe one of the largest and most complex games ever entered in IFCOMP). I intend to atone for past dark and depressing games with an open-world science fantasy game where you go up against the betentacled forces of darkness and win (almost) every time.

  18. compeltechnic says:

    Here’s a few thoughts about conservatism that I’ve been stewing over lately. I think this avoids the category of “hot-button political and social topics” but if it doesn’t I’ll comply with the authorities as needed.

    A Pascal’s Wager, of Sorts

    Starting with a few research-based claims about Republicans

    From Pew Research:
    1. They are happier than democrats (this has been replicated consistently for >40 years)
    2. They are richer than democrats (duh)
    3. They are healthier than democrats
    4. They are more likely to feel like they are in control of their own success or failure
    5. If one were to compare a theoretical Republican and a theoretical Democrat who had the identical age, ethnicity, race, gender, income, marital status and education level, the Republican would be 13% more likely than the Democrat to be very happy.

    To me, point #5 is a very strong point all on its own.

    6. (Using the OCEAN model of personality) They are less open, more conscientious, and less neurotic than Democrats (agreeableness and extraversion are roughly a wash) (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/liberals-and-conservatives-dont-just-vote-differently-they-think-differently/2012/04/12/gIQAzb1kDT_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.b27068bf4a6c) (https://www.elephantjournal.com/2018/02/the-big-five-personality-traits-what-they-mean-for-your-political-views/)
    7. They are more charitable than Democrats (Different sources have breakdowns that show interesting patterns, esp. W.r.t. Income differences. some of this increase goes to church.)(https://www.philanthropyroundtable.org/almanac/statistics/u.s.-generosity)

    >Economist Arthur Brooks, author of the detailed charity analysis Who Really Cares, likewise states that “the electoral map and the charity map are remarkably similar.” He notes “there is a persistent sterotype about charitable giving in politically progressive regions of America: while people on the political right may be hardworking and family-oriented, they tend not to be very charitable toward the less fortunate,” while, “those on the political left care about vulnerable members of society, and are thus the charitable ones…. This stereotype is wrong.”

    >“Brooks points out that these differences go beyond just what households donate in money. He cites studies showing that conservatives are more likely to do things like donate blood, and to volunteer. Much of this difference he credits to the comparative religiosity of conservatives. The fact that liberals call for government to help others while conservatives feel called to help directly also seems to factor into differences in behavior.”

    8. They report better mental health than others, even when controlling for other variables (https://news.gallup.com/poll/102943/republicans-report-much-better-mental-health-than-others.aspx)

    Claims 1-8 sum up to evidence that adopting a conservative philosophy results in better outcomes for yourself and for the people around you.

    There is an argument that these differences are all correlation rather than causation (point #5 is the best data I have against it, with the caveat that studies are not the same as experiments). There is no proof here. Given the limitations of social science, there is unlikely to ever be any proof in either direction within our lifetimes. However, it presents a wager in the style of Pascal’s wager:

    If you can choose to adopt a conservative life philosophy that creates better outcomes for yourself, and for those around you, would you?

    Some other claims that are entirely my own, and are not backed by data:

    9. Most of our moral actions in life do not arise from our political affiliation, our virtue signalling, or our prognostication. They arise from diligently striving to do our best.
    10. Spending too much time dwelling on the infinite number of injustices in the world is damaging to your ability to act as an effective agent in the world.
    11. As an individual your ability to correct for systematic injustices is extremely limited. Voting does little, considering that politics is a noisy and inefficient process. Most of this ability comes from point #10 above. If you do find yourself in a position of power, becoming Democratic makes more sense.
    12. Most of the time, when people talk politics (aka group morality) with each other, the opinions they express revolve around virtue signalling, the way the world should be, and other ideals that are not actionable. However, when discussing individual morality, Republicans are more likely to focus on giving actionable advice, which Democrats are more likely to construe as shaming of individuals or outgroups who fail to follow this advice. Often, group and individual morality overlap in ways that cause communication to break down.
    13. (kind of an obvious one) If I had to express the difference between the day-to-day political moral strivings of a principled Democrat versus a principled Republican, I would describe them as:
    Democrat: We should push to reduce systematic injustices by changing the systems to make them more fair, and force fair outcomes.
    Republican: We should all try to be better individuals. By acting more morally within existing systems, outcomes will be more fair.
    14. To the majority of people, your personal philosophy is somewhere between difficult and impossible to disentangle from your political philosophy. It is To the maximum possible degree, I try to separate these two realms. This may explain why I don’t vote- I do not want my political philosophy to dominate my personal philosophy- I would prefer the opposite.
    15. Principled conservatism as described in my arguments above is not antithetical to empathy or charitableness.
    16. One failure mode of a highly Open personality (correlating with Democratic modes) is a failure to make strong enough value judgements to drive courses of action as an individual.
    17. Social science does not have the tools to adequately determine how much of this is correlation vs. causation. Any choice one makes regarding Utilitarian outcomes of one’s own philosophical positions is analagous to Pascal’s wager, hence the title.
    18. My answer to the wager: I adopt the portions of conservative philosophy that promote my individual agency.

    • broblawsky says:

      How many of those qualify of life factors are predicted by income alone (claim #2)? Rich people can generally be predicted to be happier and healthier than poor people.

      • compeltechnic says:

        Several of the variables mentioned were controlled for socio-economic status, but not all of them.

        I think that the social sciences are insufficiently equipped to remove correlation from causation in this case- it’s all studies and no experiments. Who could even design an experiment that forces one group to be political tribe A and one to be tribe B, and a third to be control group, anyway?

      • Anon060319 says:

        I consider myself to be conservative. My annual spending is about equal to my state/city poverty line. I make about 60% more than I spend however, which I either invest or donate. I do not feel as though I live in poverty, I have much more than I need. I experience nearly all of the listed quality of life factors, am very healthy and have a higher life satisfaction than I’ve ever had.

    • alwhite says:

      I think the studies of happiness are skewed and this kind of comparison is likely finding the bias you are looking for.

      Here’s a study stating that self-report measures aren’t that accurate and that the self-report of conservatives doesn’t match their lived behaviors.


      • compeltechnic says:

        That is a good piece of contradictory evidence, thanks. I’ll weigh it as “somewhat significant” against what I’ve read so far.

      • Anon060319 says:

        As also mentioned above, conservatives also exhibit less openness than liberals. Measuring only from observation is likely to skew the other way as conservatives may be less likely to exhibit happiness even if they are happier.

        From my own life experience, I used to be much more liberal. Outwardly I expressed much more happiness when I was more liberal than I do now. However, my level of happiness and the amount of happiness that I experience is much higher now than it was back then, though I show it much less. There could of course likely be many other factors at work that are responsible for my happiness than solely being more liberal or conservative.

        • alwhite says:

          Ultimately, I think trying to figure out which side is happier is a meaningless pursuit. It’s too simplistic and you will probably only find what you want to find.

          • compeltechnic says:

            I think it is an incredibly worthwhile pursuit. Applying your findings can make you a happier person, and one that makes everyone around you happier as well!

    • AG says:

      “creates better outcomes for [..] those around you” is a big point of contention from the opposition.

      • Cliff says:

        Remember we are talking about personal life, not political. Donating your time and money and being happier seems likely to result in better outcomes for others

    • meh says:

      Ignoring for the moment any nuance of the data, or conclusions that can be drawn…

      The answer to any such wager is
      “That way is closed to you”

      • compeltechnic says:

        I disagree here. Your link is presupposed on the idea that the chosen belief contradicts empirical evidence, or that it is willful self-deception. My claims are essentially that, given that sufficient evidence will never exist whether one political affiliation or another is true (just as is the case for Pascal’s wager re: God), and that one essentially must choose, it is good to choose that which has positive Utilitarian outcomes, and my research and assumptions point to conservative viewpoints that emphasize individual agency having better utilitarian outcomes.

        I admit that my research was motivated and biased. This did affect the quality of my research, but I find it to be of sufficient quality to still be worth believing in. This does not mean I am deceiving myself. To the extent that I found contradictory evidence, I mentally incorporated it into the gestalt as best I could.

        • meh says:

          well it sounds like this is not quite a Pascal’s Wager, it sounds more like actual belief of what is good/right; though I am now considering I am not sure what causes something about well being to cross over to a Pascal Wager?

          If empirical results show meditation to cause well being, yet we do not understand the mechanism by which this happens, is meditating a Pascal’s Wager? I don’t think it is, but can’t quite explain the difference between this and the original Wager.

          • compeltechnic says:

            Well, I suppose the difference is that for this political case, there is *some* empirical evidence that can be observed for the correctness of either political viewpoint, whereas for the original God case, there is 0 empirical evidence to base the decision on, only spiritual evidence and reasoning.

            Additionally, in this case, the empirical evidence that does is exist is mediated/diminished by the fact that around 50% of the population falls on either side of political center, and social preferences likely dominate the decision-maker’s viewpoint; for most people the emperical evidence of Utilitarian outcomes of the decisions matters much less than their moral intuitions; and in this way it remains similar to the original case.

          • It’s a better wager than Pascal’s.

            Pascal can’t even prove that heaven exists, let alone that following the Catholic version of the Christian religion will get you in, so he doesn’t even have correlation, just a conjecture about causation.

      • J Mann says:

        That way is closed to you

        IMHO, not necessarily. You’d need to ask yourself what it means to be a Republican for purposes of happiness.

        1) It might be priorities. According to page 8 of OP’s linked materials, Republicans assign a relatively higher priority to family formation, churchgoing, etc., and Democrats place a relatively higher priority on career success. Assuming this isn’t just an artifact of Republicans being better off to begin with, maybe that’s it.

        2) It might be living your life according to some unverifiable concepts. Let’s hypothesize for a moment that Democrats are more likely to believe that misfortune and success are the product of powerful outside forces over which they have control, if at all, by banding together and demanding social change, and that Republicans are more likely to believe that misfortune and success are the results of individual choices.

        In this hypo, it’s entirely possible that Republicans are more likely to achieve their goals and to be less stressed about the ones they don’t achieve. (or not, but it’s just a hypothetical).

        • meh says:

          I don’t think ‘that way is closed’ contradicts what you say. It means that if you already believe in one thing, you can not believe the opposite just for reasons of happiness. Whatever in your mind caused you to believe one thing still exists.

          • compeltechnic says:

            I think the way to resolve this conflict is to understand that goal-oriented beliefs are a special case of beliefs.

            Believing in the theory of gravity has little bearing on whether you can walk across the room without floating into space. It is unlikely that you actually have a deep-seated anxiety that gravity will stop working, or that you have been hallucinating its existence your entire life.

            However, believing in a political philosophy is an intrinsically goal-oriented belief. Believing in the virtuousness of the Soviet state will effect your willingness to participate in it, just as believing in the virtuousness of the free market will effect your willingness to participate in it. Participating in and being rewarded by a system also reinforces your belief in it, just as being punished by the system would diminish it.

            For any individual you debate politics with, you should evaluate their viewpoint from the lens of how political systems have punished them or rewarded them.

          • J Mann says:

            Thanks for responding!

            IMHO, presumably “that way” in this context means “being a Republican in the ways that cause Republicans to report greater happiness.”

            Closer to home:

            1) I choose to assume motives for other people that make me less angry at them. If someone cuts me off in traffic, I choose to assume she didn’t mean to, but didn’t see me. If she flips me off or honks at me, I check to see if I’m comfortable with my driving, and then I assume she’s having a bad day or has personal problems and let it go.

            Intellectually, I know there’s a possibility she cut me off or honked at me because she had the chance and doesn’t care about me, and I probably wouldn’t make a decisions with serious consequences that depends on her good will, but it makes me happier to assume she’s a good person when it doesn’t matter, and I don’t really know anyway.

            2) Getting closer to Pascal’s wager, I believe I am very familiar with the case against it, but am a Catholic. I pray to God, I choose to believe in Him, and I believe it makes me happier. I would absolutely not sacrifice a kid if I heard God tell me to (but I would feel bad about it, so there are definite limits to my “belief,” but I do work as hard as I can to believe it.

            Maybe I’m just a bad rationalist, but I think more people are capable of that kind of voluntary belief in the grey area of uncertainty than EY gives them credit fo

          • meh says:

            IMHO, presumably “that way” in this context means “being a Republican in the ways that cause Republicans to report greater happiness.”

            right, but also “for the sole purpose of increasing happiness when you actually believe the oposite”

            1. Agree with this. I find it amazing how good it feels now to not care about people cutting you off (I wish I realized this when I was younger).


            I would absolutely not sacrifice a kid if I heard God tell me to

            Interesting. This would be in known defiance, or would it be a questioning of the authenticity of the voice telling you?

    • metacelsus says:

      Claims 1-8 sum up to evidence adopting a conservative philosophy results in better outcomes for yourself and for the people around you.

      Be careful. It may simply be that people with the mental traits you desire may be more likely to adopt a conservative philosophy. The causality might not be “conservative philosophy -> desirable mental traits”

    • albatross11 says:

      One obvious possibility is that your life experiences push you toward identifying as conservative vs liberal.

      For example, it seems likely that having kids pushes you toward being more conservative in many ways–particularly socially conservative. Having kids also pulls a lot of fallen-away Christians back to church, if only to raise the kids with some value system other than what’s on Disney, and that has consequences downstream. Having a big family also usually means moving out to the suburbs so you can have a house, worrying about quality of schools and neighborhoods, and seeing both crime and many social problems as potentially applying to your kids. (As a single 25-year-old, I was a *lot* more blase about the risks of drug addiction than I am now–I sure as hell wasn’t going to start using addictive drugs, so it wasn’t something I needed to worry about. Now I’ve got three kids who might also get hooked, and things look a bit different.).

      Imagine a pair of identical twins. Alex becomes a petroleum engineer, moves to Texas, gets married and has four kids. He goes back to church to raise the kids with some values, and to keep his traditionalist wife happy, and finds himself increasingly leaning on it when he goes through hard times. He buys a big house in a suburb of Houston with good schools, drives a big SUV to haul kids and their stuff around, and votes Republican.

      His brother Bob goes into software, moves to the Bay Area, and gets a very small house in Mountain View for more money than his brother’s McMansion. He lives there with his girlfriend and their cats, but kids never really made sense for them between career and living expenses. He has vague positive recollections about the church he went to as a kid, but seldom manages to darken the door of a church as an adult other than for weddings and funerals, and most of his friends aren’t religious so those usually aren’t in a church anyway. OTOH, he and his girlfriend have been vegetarians for many years, and are active in some social causes. He and his girlfriend share one car (a hybrid), but he bikes to work most days. He votes Democrat.

      • compeltechnic says:

        That is entirely possible. I would also add that:

        It is less morally correct to choose your personal and political leanings based on the average opinion of your friends, and more morally correct to choose the leanings that result in beneficial outcomes.

        • albatross11 says:


          There are two ways to read your comment:

          a. You should choose your personal and political leanings based on the ones that lead to a better outcome for *you*.

          b. You should choose your personal and political leanings based on the ones that lead to a better outcome *overall*.

          If you mean (b), then, the disagreement comes with which personal and political leanings will actually lead to better results. For example, I have a close friend who is a big advocate of rent control to bring down Bay Area housing costs. I disagree with her, because I think more/stricter rent control will probably make things worse, instead of better.

          If you mean (a), then maybe we just disagree on moral principles. There’s certainly nothing wrong with preferring values that make you happy to ones that make you unhappy, but to the extent we’re talking about political ideas, some political ideas will work out a lot better than others. Forcibly collectivizing the farms or setting a maximum price of bread below the market clearing price may both be done based on people choosing political beliefs that make them personally happy, but the outcomes of those policies aren’t going to be happy ones for very many people.

          • compeltechnic says:

            I think that the positions a lot of principalled conservatives find themselves in is b). They understand that their personal ethos effects their actions, and choose to abide by this ethos for the betterment of themselves and others, directly, through their own actions.

            Meanwhile, there are a large number of liberal folks arguing that, if it weren’t for this large voting block of conservatives,

            A reasonable conservative may still remain conservative, because of its beneficial direct effects, while knowing they are part of a voting block that has negative consequences. You could argue that somebody can, in theory, separate their virtue ethics from their political position, and vote left while living the virtue ethics of the right, but I’ve observed over time (mostly anecdata) that this is difficult. It creates cognitive dissonance. (It also relates to the openness trait, in that highly open people can tolerate ambiguity to a higher degree). For certain people with low openness characteristic, this is not a realistic outcome for them. And also, with individualistic conservatives, they will understand that their vote is a drop in a bucket anyway, and not care too much about it.

            It’s also true that unprincipaled conservatives exist, that just spend their time yelling at the moon, but that is not the discussion topic I would like to focus on.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Maybe this is CW about CW … but dang it chafes when people think that their special take on clear CW topics deserve a special exemption.

      “Clearly Republicans are just better than Democrats, let’s discuss the implications and why it makes Grey Tribe superior.”

      Nah, bruh. Cashmeousside, Howbowdah!?

      • John Schilling says:

        Agreed – this could be basis for an interesting discussion, but I would prefer the OP had done a bit more self-steelmanning to A: anticipate more of the obvious objections and so improve the post and B: push it to one of the 0.25 Open Threads.

        • compeltechnic says:

          Most of my decision was from an intent to keep the discussion at the meta-level, and the tendency for the audience of the culture wars threads to pull things out of the meta-level.

          • John Schilling says:

            This tendency is approximately as strong in the no-culture-war threads.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Then ask a meta-level question.

            As written this is much more an invitation to contest the premises of your formulation than your resolution. And if it isn’t, it’s a soapbox. “On the assumption (backed by correlative data) that conservatives are happier people, I’ve decided to be sorta conservative because it will make me happier.” I mean, congrats, that seems like a fine choice to make, but what exactly are you hoping to talk about?

            I strongly suspect that if you wanted to talk about Pascal’s wager, you’d talk about Pascal’s wager, because literally every one of your points can be formulated in that context and the standard reply is to accuse you of caring about the wrong things. I think that’s a worthwhile conversation, but it requires so much careful construction to avoid stepping over the line that it’s more trouble than it’s worth. By posting this on a CW-free thread you’re protecting yourself from all but the most anemic of criticisms (whether or not this was your intention), and I find it extremely frustrating.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            By posting this on a CW-free thread you’re protecting yourself from all but the most anemic of criticisms

            Not just protecting himself, but also attempting to prevent others from hearing those criticisms. This is cheating in order to favor yourself.

            In other words, OP has failed to act morally within the existing system. How is that for ironic.

          • compeltechnic says:

            Considering that I cannot reply to the replies to my post above (not sure why, it does not seem to be a minimum waiting period, might be a thread depth limit), I’ll say:

            1. I failed in my intent for this thread to stay at the meta-level. There’s a good few constructive posts about the epistemology of political beliefs, but to the degree that other people focused on the CW implications, many also insulted me, and that hurts. Not that I didn’t deserve it, but dang.

            2. Another part of my motivation which I was too ashamed to admit at the time is that I literally cannot find the culture wars thread on this website. Where do I click? Someone please enlighten me.

            3. Admin/Scott- please make the culture wars thread easier to find. It will help direct the distractions to where they deserve to be, albeit at the cost of increasing their prominence.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The way threading works on this site has a maximum depth and then you just reply at that maximum depth. Look for a little up arrow on the posts to make it easier to navigate to the place to reply.

            A new non-CW free open thread is posted roughly the subsequent Wednesday, Sunday, and Wednesday after the CW-free open thread. The side-bar on the left, which may be collapsed for you on mobile, shows the last 5 posts, including the ones you are interested in.

            You can also always click the ARCHIVES link at the top to get to them.

            ETA: The non-CW threads are hidden by Scott for several reasons, and they make sense. One is that he didn’t want Open Threads to dominate the list of topics, but they get too much traffic to not cycle them frequently. The non-CW thread was a community suggestion and so it was put into place by Scott. Making it the visible open thread was designed as a way to encourage more non-CW participation by the overall community.

          • Hoopyfreud says:


            Rereading the thread, the only posts I would call (possibly) insulting are mine, HBC’s, and valleyoftheking’s.

            I can’t speak for the other two, but I think this is a good thread made in good faith and with poor forethought. And that’s OK. Transgressing boundaries is how you learn where they are. I’m sorry if the rap at the knuckles came across a bit more forcefully than I meant it to, and can only plead frustration. FWIW, I would like to talk to you about this on Wednesday’s thread.

          • compeltechnic says:

            Thanks, @Hoopy and @Heel. Also geez having to catch flak from 10 people simultaneously sucks. Found the CW open threads now. Posted on the stale one, probably will be more inclined to follow up when Wednesday’s thread isn’t stale.

            I’ll go ahead and write this as a user experience report for the website(chrome, windows 7):

            If I click on the “open thread” link at the top banner on the homepage, I momentarily land at https://slatestarcodex.com/tag/open/?latest, but within 1 second I am redirected to this page (https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/06/02/ot129-opaque-thread/). Hence my confusion. Woulda thought the CW open threads would be accessible from there. Got the sidebar link figured out now though.

          • Plumber says:


            “….please make the culture wars thread easier to find…”

            An easy way to find the “culture war allowed hidden open threads” besides going to the top of the page and clicking on Archives, is that you may also click on the tagged bookmatk OPEN that’s near the top of the page after the words: “THIS ENTRY WAS POSTED IN UNCATEGORIZED AND TAGGED”, and then you click on a “fractional Open Thread”.

            My own thought concerning partisan affiliation is that it’s strongly correlated with how many neighbors live in the square mile near you, a topic I’d be much more willing to discuss in a thread that doesn’t request “please try to avoid hot-button political and social topics”, because for me that relates to the hottest of my personal ‘hot buttons’.

            Please remind me in two days.
            EDIT: I see you’ve now asked the question at the previous Open Thread.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Agreed. I like the rule where we pretend to be nice to each other 25% of the time.

      • quanta413 says:


      • Jaskologist says:

        It’s at least the second large thread violating the CW rule in this OT. I think Scott is just going to have to let fly with the Delete Hammer on them all.

        • compeltechnic says:

          Yeah, I’m fairly ashamed at how this turned out. My bad. Turns out that shoehorning “epistemology of political beliefs” the way I tried to do it leads to scathing insults directed at me. Oof.

    • quanta413 says:

      All the data is correlative and highly questionable. It’s about as good evidence as noticing that all Western nations moved towards larger welfare states and got richer over the past century is for the proposition that “the course of history proves all countries should become social democracies”.

      Also I completely and utterly reject (13) as being a pair of the most pernicious simplifications that are made. Good systems encourage good individual moral behavior, and good individual moral behavior helps build good systems. It’s madness to try to force outcomes from the top of a system without considering the incentives a system creates for the people at the bottom of the system, and it’s also madness to tell people in a system that rewards lying, cheating, stealing, or some sort of negative behavior to just suck it up and be moral anyways rather than trying to change the system.

      • and it’s also madness to tell people in a system that rewards lying, cheating, stealing, or some sort of negative behavior to just suck it up and be moral anyways rather than trying to change the system.

        It may or may not be correct, but it isn’t madness. It depends on how much change you can produce in the system for how much effort. If the answer is “none,” then being moral within a system that sometimes rewards immoral behavior still makes sense, and similarly if the answer is “almost none.”

        The average citizen of a country the size of the U.S. has very little ability to change the system, and the system itself is sufficiently complicated so that if he did change it he might easily make it worse rather than better. On the other hand, he has a significant ability to affect the people immediately around him—to encourage honesty by praising it, for instance.

        • JPNunez says:

          This attitude can only go so far. In the US there was the chance of, for example, having a better healthcare system, but it was thrown out by lying, cheating and stealing.

          It is very hard to convince your friends of not catching cancer, not being ran over by a car, not being shot at a school or a mall. It is madness to pretend that this kind of change can be achieved individually or praising the ability of, you know, not getting cancer. That kind of change _must_ be achieved systemically.

          Of course if you have the luck of being able to pay your health bills, you may not care that others cannot, and this state of being is probably leading to more happiness. So yeah, I am not surprised by conservatives being happier overall. Either they are well off, or they are so myopic that they do not care.

          • compeltechnic says:

            David Friedman directly addressed problems that are within an individual’s locus of control. People that are individualistic are more concerned with problems that are within their locus of control, and may be better at addressing these problems, and may even be better at extending their locus of control to help their friends. Whether or not this is true is worth debating. You specifically focused on problems that are outside of anyone’s locus of control. Both types of problems exist, and the fact that you can get cancer at no fault of your own does not diminish the fact that lifestyle diseases are the leading killer in the United States, which are by definition directly caused by choices made by individuals.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            This is very CW

        • quanta413 says:

          It may or may not be correct, but it isn’t madness. It depends on how much change you can produce in the system for how much effort. If the answer is “none,” then being moral within a system that sometimes rewards immoral behavior still makes sense, and similarly if the answer is “almost none.”

          The average citizen of a country the size of the U.S. has very little ability to change the system, and the system itself is sufficiently complicated so that if he did change it he might easily make it worse rather than better. On the other hand, he has a significant ability to affect the people immediately around him—to encourage honesty by praising it, for instance.

          I think the difference in our viewpoint is partly that I consider encouraging others to do something by praising can be a small effort to change the system. Assuming there’s at least a small cost to that praise and it’s not meaningless praise- if everyone already says honesty is good but no one rewards it then your words alone should be ignored. Revealed preferences and all that. Systems are big conglomerations of humans. That’s half of what I mean by good people make good systems and good systems make good people (the other half would be that organization and incentives matter; if you start with good people but bad incentives, you’ll slide towards having bad people even if it takes a couple generations).

          I’m not saying you have to act politically. I’m saying that telling people to act moral on their own and doing nothing yourself to reward good or punish bad is usually crazy. It’s better to say and do nothing than tell people to act against their own interest and offer them no support. You’ve got to offer a little support, or you’re just spitting in the wind. If that support just consists of trying to reward the good and honest people around you, you can build a bubble in the system where things are better. Hopefully that makes you and a few others better off. And if you’re really lucky, maybe the bubble grows. But there’s some little piece of the system you’re trying to change.

    • valleyofthekings says:

      Rich people are more likely to be conservative, but choosing to be conservative won’t make you rich.
      The other stuff you mentioned, like being happy and healthy, is probably a result of being rich.

      You’ve acknowledge that this is a possibility, but dismissed it as “there’s no way to prove that”. ಠ_ಠ

      I really think this should have been in a culture-war-allowed thread, especially since it feels to me like you’re being dishonest with statistics in order to promote a conservative viewpoint.


      For what it’s worth, if I genuinely found a viewpoint that was demonstrated to improve my happiness and the happiness of the world in general, I’d try hard to adopt it.

    • raj says:

      Personally, I almost entirely discount self-reported happiness as meaningful because it seems entirely subjective and contextual. I.e.: what you think it means to be “happy”, how that fits into your broader system of beliefs, and what you think you are supposed to signal about that. Until we can peg happiness with a blood test/brain scan, I’d rather look at things like educational attainment, income, lifespan, etc.

      (But mainly, changing your deep priors based on correlations of said priors with outcomes in others is a really heinously bad mistake to make. It’s like replacing a neural net with a picture of a brain, or something.)

      • compeltechnic says:

        This post gets back to epistemology, I like it.

        Do you consider goal oriented beliefs to be a special class of beliefs? In one of my posts above I addressed that topic. It seems to me that whenever you are acting toward a goal, you are reflexively and iteratively changing your beliefs based on progress toward the goal.

        Changing my priors based on statistical correlations with outcomes seems to be acceptable to me from a bayesian perspective. Especially in the absence of hard evidence, and especially if anecdata is considered even less trustworthy than the limited statistics from scientific research.

        I fall on the “instrumental rationalist” side of the debate, for reference.

    • Clutzy says:

      Personally, I’m just happy to find people who know what Pascal’s wager is. Seems that very few people knew he as a philosopher as well as a physicist.

      • Dan L says:

        I’m not sure how many levels of irony I’m operating on here (3?), but Have You Read The Sequences?

        • Clutzy says:

          As anticipated by Less Wrong and Elizer, I couldn’t get through it. Like his basilisk it operates in a space I don’t relate to.

          • Dan L says:

            Fair enough. Object-level point is that decision theory is a major topic in the core Rationalsphere, and Pascal’s Wager and variants thereof come up reasonably often. Not surprising to see wide familiarity on SSC.

            (Except, hang on – the article I linked isn’t in the core Sequences. Four levels then, I guess.)

    • JPNunez says:

      I don’t see anything surprising; if you tell me that you believe that your society is so well off, that you support the political party that defends the status quo over reforms, well, chances are you are happier than the reformists.

  19. JohnNV says:

    When I was in elementary school (mid 1980s), there were a lot of mean-spirited, stereotyping jokes about the stupidity of Polish people. I think this has mostly gone away now; I haven’t heard an anti-Polish comment in decades and my own kids in elementary school have never heard the Poles singled out in any way, good or bad. Does anybody know where the stereotype originated, and have any theories on how/why it disappeared? Maybe it has something to do with no longer being an eastern-bloc Soviet puppet state? (Please answer without being racist). It might provide insight in how stereotypes dissipate and how we might expedite that process for other groups that currently suffer from negative stereotypes.

    • SamChevre says:

      I believe the Polish jokes originated in the era when Poles came to the US in large numbers, from a country which was poor and not very literate. (It may have originated as a intra-Jewish stereotype.)

      • HeelBearCub says:

        To piggyback, the jokes in question aren’t really any different in form than any other “mock the outgroup” types of jokes. I think every culture has these kinds of jokes.

        The Polish immigration waves were large enough that large cities such as Chicago and Cleveland had Polish communities where Polish was spoken exclusively. They also were, I believe, primarily employed as unskilled, manual labor. Unskilled labor tends to be the butt of these kinds of jokes about mental faculties, but especially so when their local language skills are poor.

      • Don P. says:

        As a Jew, I’ve never heard another Jew use a Polish joke to refer to Polish Jews. I won’t pretend that no Jew ever told a Polish joke in my hearing, but a) not for a long time (in keeping with the premise of the question) and b) only in reference to non-Jewish Poles, in the abstract. (The “traditional” Jewish equivalent is jokes about the people of Chelm, which…ok, it’s in Poland. But it’s still different, I swear.)

        • Chelm jokes are not in the same category as Polish jokes, because Chelm is a fictional place. They are jokes qua jokes, not jokes qua putdowns.

          • Don P. says:

            Yes, thus, “it’s different”. (Per WP, Chelm _is_ a real place in Poland, but the notional Chelm of the stories is detached from reality.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            b) only in reference to non-Jewish Poles, in the abstract.

            Ok, now you guys seem to be protesting too much.

            If Jews are telling jokes about non-Jews in Poland, “fictional” place or not, I’m going to guess this is not nearly as different as you guys are making it out to be.

            That’s basically like “Polaks” aren’t really people from Poland.

    • proyas says:

      I grew up in the U.S., am slightly younger than you, and only once heard “Polish jokes” from one person as a child–a classmate from Ukraine. I didn’t find out until later that the two countries fought a war.

      I also knew a Romanian man born in the 1920s who hated Poles and called them “the worst people in Europa.”

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I heard a lot of them, but I was in an area with a lot of Polish people. I don’t know whether it’s age or that I now longer live in a place with so many Schimanskis.

    • ksvanhorn says:

      My theory is that Solidarity’s struggle with the Polish Communist state — which was prominently in the news — changed perceptions. I remember as a child that “Polacks” were almost mythical creatures to me, as I had never met any Polish people. Lech Walesa and Solidarity put a face on the Polish, made them sympathetic figures.

      • keaswaran says:

        I don’t think this is sufficient explanation for why the jokes disappeared. I certainly heard a lot of these jokes in 1986-1988 or so, growing up in New Jersey (not an area known for having many Polish people).

    • zzzzort says:

      I think it’s just a question of numbers. The last big wave of polish immigration to the US was just after WW2, and any backlash has since died down. In the UK there is significant resentment towards polish immigrants who have come through EU freedom of movement, and a stereotype exists of a “polish plumber” undercutting native labor.

      • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

        But the UK stereotype doesn’t include stupidity in my experience (if anything, it’s the opposite — a lot of Eastern European immigrants are overqualified).

        • Tarpitz says:

          Seconded. There’s (some) resentment towards Poles, but I’m not aware of negative stereotypes (in contrast to, for example, Romanians or Albanians, of whom negative stereotypes certainly do exist).

    • Plumber says:

      I remember hearing “polack” jokes as a kid in the ’70’s, but seldom since except in such ‘witticisms’ as calling hoodies “polish tuxedos”, though I’ve heard the almost exact same ‘jokes’ but his the protagonists being “Cajun”, “Ghetto”, “Hillbilly”, “Portuguese”, and (only at Renaissance Faires) “the Welsh”.

    • metacelsus says:

      My dad’s family is Polish (he grew up in a suburb of Newark; this was around the 1970s-1980s). He’s never mentioned anything about facing anti-Polish discrimination, although he knows a lot of off-color Polish jokes.

      Here in England, there definitely is some anti-Polish sentiment. You’ll hear people comment about how Polish people only exist to be janitors. I think it’s driven by immigration (“the Poles are stealing our jobs”).

    • Enkidum says:

      I grew up in an English community in Quebec in the 80’s and can remember quite a lot of Polish jokes, although they were less common than Newfie (Newfoundlander) jokes, which were exactly the same with the targeted region substituted. No idea where either came from for certain, although it’s worth noting that both communities had very noticeable accents and a lot of emigration to the rest of Canada / the West in recent-ish times.

    • MostlyHamless says:

      In my recollection of the 1980’s, lots of ethnicities were telling jokes based upon an association between certain traits and other ethnicities. In the multitude of human traits, dumbness was the one trait guaranteed to be pegged onto someone, to facilitate the telling of related jokes. Laziness and stinginess were commonly tagged too, and then there could be a tail of other “tagged traits” depending on the region.

      For instance, the French had tagged dumbness onto Belgians, and IIRC, that was about it. The English had tagged dumbness and stinginess onto Irish and Scots, respectively. The Americans had tagged dumbness and laziness onto Poles and Mexicans, and so forth. The jokes would often travel – at pre-internet speeds – while duly adapting the tagged group to the local context.

      Now why Americans had tagged dumbness specifically onto Poles – I don’t have an answer to that. I’m not even convinced there is a simple answer. I’m from ex-Yugoslavia, which had been an absolute cornucopia of trait/ethnicity taggings. There were actually more tagged traits than there were ethnicities to go around. Dumb and/or hard-headed? Bosnians. Uppity and/or stingy? Slovenians. Permanently drunk on crappy homemade wine and/or forever engaged in schadenfreudish feuds with their first neighbor? North Croats. Irreverent womanizers and/or lazy? South Croats. And so forth. In spite of me having lived through this first hand, I couldn’t ascertain why those taggings were dealt out in that particular manner — and yet everyone in Yugoslavia knew the same script.

      But it’s easier to answer how/when it all disappeared. It all got washed away in the PC wave that started out in the 1990’s.

      I mean, that’s what did it in the West. In Yugoslavia, it evaporated in the overall loss of humor that accompanied the civil war, and in the severing of the connecting tissues that once held together that federation. The PC wave of the 1990’s per se never made any inlets into [ex]Yugoslavia — as opposed to the PC tsunami of the 2010’s which made some inlets. (mostly with the uppity Slovenians)

      • Dack says:

        I hypothesize that people generally hear a lot more impolite jokes when they are kids.

        • MostlyHamless says:

          Not [only] hear. Read. It’s not an age thing, it’s an era thing.
          In the 1980’s that stuff was commonly printed.
          As an expat kid going to French school in an Arabic country, I’d had my share of French kids’ magazines, with the said Belgian jokes. As well as kids’ magazines I’d nab from friends going to English language school, with a supply of their Irish and Scottish jokes.
          It was thus hard to miss how the French would occasionally retell an English joke while replacing $ETHNICITY_DUMB from Irish to Belgian. I also recall seeing the odd Scottish joke in French, which I attribute to the French not having come up with a $ETHNICITY_STINGY tagging of their own.
          Anyway, this stale rote stereotyping has pretty much evaporated in the 1990’s. At times some truly hilarious stereotyping would resurface, such as John Cleese’s National Threat Levels – but that is on the wane too.

    • Don P. says:

      It’s also been suggested that the fact that the Pope became Polish in 1978 had something to do with the stereotype/joke fading away.,

      • Karl Narveson says:

        I remember a classmate reporting the first miracle of the new Polish pope : he had made a blind man limp.

        I miss rotary dials and typewriters, but I don’t really miss Polish jokes.

  20. Phigment says:

    New Dark Age, obviously.

    Turn off the internet, tell everyone to go home.

    Giving more power to the Illuminati is just going back to the same bunch of chuckleheads who caused all the problems in the game originally, except now with even more ability to screw up.

    Merging with the Helios AI is at least handing ultimate power over to a different chucklehead, but I’m deeply suspicious of granting anyone dictatorial power over the world, forever, even if it’s me. And especially if it’s someone running a poorly explained brainlink to a rogue AI system that has only been active for days and has a history of manipulating people around it and scheming to bypass its creators. Even if the creators were evil, that doesn’t argue for it being trustworthy enough to hand control of the world to.

    Turn off the surveillance, take the keys away from all the various conspiracies that originally created the mess, let people sort things out, and trust that with less meddling, it’ll get done slightly better this time.

    Frankly, though, for any of the endings I sort of don’t expect them to play out like the game designers said they would. So, I expect the New Dark Age to not actually be a dark age, just a temporary disruption. Likewise, I don’t expect Helios merger to been reliably capable or benevolent, or the Illuminati to be either well-intentioned or competent this time around.

  21. johan_larson says:

    Helsinki, Finland, is having some success with a housing-first policy for dealing with homelessness.


    This bit seemed a bit strange:

    Helsinki owns 60,000 social housing units; one in seven residents live in city-owned housing. It also owns 70% of the land within the city limits, runs its own construction company, and has a current target of building 7,000 more new homes – of all categories – a year.

    In each new district, the city maintains a strict housing mix to limit social segregation: 25% social housing, 30% subsidised purchase, and 45% private sector. Helsinki also insists on no visible external differences between private and public housing stock, and sets no maximum income ceiling on its social housing tenants.

    • Randy M says:

      How do you have homeless in Finland? I assume all the surviving ones sleep in shelters?

      • johan_larson says:

        There must be very few on-the-street homeless. And even the most determined probably get into shelters in the worst days of winter.

        But the Finns’ definition of homelessness is pretty broad. It includes people who are couch-surfing.

        Finland has not entirely solved homelessness. Nationwide, about 5,500 people are still officially classified as homeless. The overwhelming majority – more than 70% – are living temporarily with friends or relatives.

      • zzzzort says:

        Helsinki isn’t any colder than Milwaukee, much less Minneapolis.

        • AlesZiegler says:

          Google tells me that Minneapolis is considerably colder than Helsinki.

          • Randy M says:

            That’s what he implies as well.

          • metacelsus says:

            And when I was living in Minneapolis, there were certainly plenty of homeless (although not as many as in other cities). However, few of them slept on the streets in the winter. It’s an easy way to freeze to death.

          • RavenclawPrefect says:

            I live in Minneapolis, there are a decent number of homeless during the warmer months but much fewer come winter. Would echo metacelsus’ impression that it’s somewhat less than other cities, though.

        • FLWAB says:

          I live in Anchorage, Alaska and we have plenty of homeless, even during the winter. I can’t pretend to know how they manage: we have some shelters, and I see tents in out of the way places around town sometimes. I think there are a few places near the soup kitchen that become very small tent cities during parts of the year, but I’ve never gone down there to see it myself so it could be exaggerating. I do remember an article in the paper about a homless lady who died in a tent she was heating with a gas camping stove: I think it was carbon monoxide poisoning? Some kind of bad air from the stove. People make do, or they freeze to death. It is good that there are organizations that want to help, but some people don’t want help or have mental health issues that keep them from seeking it out.

      • bullseye says:

        I live in Cleveland, which I guess is warmer than Helsinki but still unlivable on the streets in winter. I don’t see them even during the day in winter. I have no idea where they go, but they come back in spring.

    • JPNunez says:

      What’s odd? the government owning lots of land, or the limit to social segregation?

      First one is rare yeah, but maybe it’s due to most of Finland is subartic, so the inhabitable area to the south is way more valuable, and the state may want to keep control of it. See also, Singapore.

  22. AlesZiegler says:

    I noticed in previous comments some negative reactions to California court decision awarding damages for alleged deleterious effect of glyphsophate based weed killer called Roundup on human health. I am not an American, but in my country Roundup is also contentious political issue, and there was a government proposed ban of it, which was subsequently walked back.

    European Commission declared glyphosphate unlikely to pose carcinogenic hazard and in 2017 approved its use for next 5 years.

    I have no real opinion on the matter, since I am not well acquinted with this subject, but perhaps some people here are.

    (hope this isn´t CW)

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      The problem with banning Roundup is that while it may or may not be harmless it’s still much better than alternative herbicides which we know are harmful to human health and the environment.

      Before we had Roundup Ready crops it’s not like farmers didn’t use herbicides, they just used more and harsher herbicides. Runoff has greatly decreased since the adoption of glyphosphate-resistant transgenic crops. There have been problems with use that are leading to resistant weeds but overall the environmental and health impact has definitely been positive.

      Modern agriculture requires herbicides of some kind and glyphosphates are among the least-bad herbicides we know of. Unless and until new safer herbicides are developed, banning the use of Roundup is going to either reduce the availability and increase the price of food or lead to increased herbicide use overall.

    • Matt M says:

      I’m not the biggest fan of governmental commissions… but keep in mind the California case was a jury verdict in a civil trial.

      Which basically means they grab 12 people off the street (highly selected towards the poor and uneducated, as those are the people least likely to be able to find a way out of jury duty… also highly selected towards people who know very little about the relevant issues, as the attorneys on either side would strike those sorts of people as potentially being prejudiced), they have these people listen to lawyers for a while, and then at least 7 of those 12 voted that the big, evil, corporation should have to give money to the poor, impoverished folks they maybe poisoned.

      Regardless of where you stand on Roundup, on Monsanto, or on anything, I think we can all agree that this is not the best method of resolving complex scientific issues…

    • Douglas Knight says:

      The dose makes the poison.

      I’m not going to click through to your links, but they could both be true: it’s possible both that it causes cancer in commercial farm workers and has a negligible effect on individuals working on their personal lawns. Indeed, that the effect on farm workers is small pretty much proves that personal use of 1/1000 as much is safe.

    • toastengineer says:

      My father spent most of his life huffing glyphosate from a mistblower all day every day and he never seemed to feel any ill effects. Stuff made me dizzy but that was probably just the smell.

  23. Matt M says:

    During my time away, I finally finished watching Star Trek: Voyager. I’d like to thank you all for setting my expectations so low that they were pleasantly surpassed. I actually feel like I enjoyed it quite a bit, and would only rate it slightly below TNG and DS9 (and only because it was more episodic and didn’t have as much of a direct arc). I ended up liking pretty much all of the characters, even the ones I didn’t really expect to (Neelix really grew on me, and Kes struck me as just the right amount of “vaguely powerful in a never explicitly specified way”). I didn’t notice the show getting a lot better at any specific moment (a lot of you advised me to skip the first few seasons, but I liked them just fine, not at all like TNG which was near-unwatchable until Season 4, IMO).

    In terms of characters, I probably had the biggest issue with The Doctor. You all warned me that the writers begin to obsess over both him and Seven, which was certainly true. I don’t have a problem with that necessarily, but I do think the way he was presented basically flies in the face of everything we are to believe about how artificial intelligence works in the Trek universe. To explain further, I’ll use an analogy.

    Seven of Nine : Data :: The Doctor : Wesley Crusher

    That may seem a little harsh, but follow me on this one. In TNG, there were numerous episodes where the Enterprise was on the verge of destruction, only to be saved at the last minute by the ingenuity of Data… or of Wesley. Data became quite popular, Wesley despised. But why? Because Data is, in fact, truly unique. It makes sense that he can save the ship in ways no one else ever could, because he is categorically different from everyone else aboard. Wesley, on the other hand, is just a cleverer-than-average kid who gets to hang out on the bridge because Picard wants to bang his mom. There is no justifiable reason he should think of cool ways to save the ship that the hundreds of experienced and highly trained elite Starfleet officers did not. So when he does, it’s a smack in the face to our suspension of disbelief. It reminds us that we are watching a fictional program, written by folks whose decisionmaking has been warped by conventional storytelling tropes (and possibly influenced by advertising demographics). This is uncomfortable, and produces an instinctual negative reaction towards the character.

    Now, back to Voyager. Seven is truly unique. It makes sense that she can save the ship in ways that no one else possibly could. You may notice that it’s awfully convenient they picked her up, in the sense that had they not, they’d have been destroyed a dozen times over. But ultimately, it doesn’t trigger the negative reaction nearly as much. The Doctor; however, is not actually unique. They try to act as if he is, but in fact, he isn’t (as he himself implies when he expresses concern that his fellow EMHs are being relegated to manual labor – he is directly suggesting they could all be just like him, if allowed). The notion that he can suddenly become “just like a person including expressing a full set of emotions” solely by… leaving his program turned on for a bit and the Captain saying “feel free to study opera if you’d like” is ludicrous. The notion that Starfleet never bothered with “let’s leave it on a bit and allow it to do non-medical things and see what happens” during the beta testing phase is absurd. I know I’m not supposed to dwell on this, and I’m supposed to just let it go and enjoy the pretty good acting performance, but it just produces that Wesley-like instinctual annoyance in me. It sucks me out of my suspension of disbelief and reminds me that I’m watching a scripted show that is optimized for things other than narrative consistency.

    I also thought Janeway was written *very* inconsistently, especially when trying to reconcile some of her major early decisions with some of her major later ones. They never really figured out whether she was loyal to Starfleet principles above getting her crew home, or whether she was “get the crew home at all costs.” There could have been a slow building narrative there, where repeated casualties and setbacks wear on her and eventually slow build a clear and obvious transformation, but it never really worked out that way. It came across as more random and scattershot than anything else.

    Overall though, still liked it, and still think you folks were entirely too hard on it!

    • Randy M says:

      TNG which was near-unwatchable until Season 4, IMO

      Season 4? Best of both worlds was the season 3 finale, and there were decent episodes before then.

      • Matt M says:

        Right. I bucket Best of Both Words Part I into Season 4 in that sense.

        Decent episodes in the first three seasons existed, but they were few and far between.

        • cassander says:

          I’d disagree strongly about season 3. Yesterday’s enterprise, the Enemy, the Defector, Déjà Q, Sins of the Father, the Price, are some of the best episodes in the series, and those are just the highlights.

          • Yeah, I started rewatching it and forgot how good the normal episodes were. There’s some leftover aspects from the first couple of seasons but it’s still more similar to the latter seasons.

          • Incurian says:

            There are even excellent episodes in the first season, you just need to watch a curated list.

          • Matt M says:

            Does someone want to curate a list for me?

            On a personal note, I moved in with my girlfriend and she started watching Voyager with me right about Season 4. It’s the first Trek she’s been exposed to, and she actually liked it quite a bit. She was particularly interested in the Borg.

            I figured that meant we should probably watch First Contact at some point, but of course, that would be meaningless to her without a good understanding of the TNG crew. But I’m not up for re-watching the entire series. Especially the first few seasons… anybody willing to compile a “here are the episodes you need” list for me?

          • cassander says:

            @Matt M

            There are only 6 episodes with the borg in TNG, and the last two aren’t real borg, they were Borg that were severed from the collective.

            “Q Who”
            “The Best of Both Worlds”
            “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II”
            “I Borg”
            “Descent, Part II”

          • Matt M says:

            To clarify: The purpose isn’t to get her caught up on just the borg elements of TNG. It’s to get her to a place where she’s familiar enough with the TNG characters that she will more thoroughly enjoy First Contact. And to expose her to a better cast and crew than she has seen thus far.

            The Borg episodes will help with that vis-à-vis Picard’s borg obsession specifically. But might not get her to the point where she fully appreciates the badassery of Picard calling Worf a coward, and Worf’s “If you were any other man, I would kill you where you stand.” comeback.

          • Nick says:

            Yeah, feel free to skip Descent. In addition to not being real Borg, the story wasn’t great either.

            ETA: Disregard, I guess!

            You probably have to watch the pilot. Datalore is necessary. Skin of Evil is meh but probably necessary because of Tasha Yar’s exit. Conspiracy isn’t bad, and The Neutral Zone is pretty important. There are a few episodes with the crystalline entity that I was interested in as a kid, but I don’t know whether they hold up.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            Avoid Code Of Honor and Up The Long Ladder. The first is just awful and the second is hilarious but ultimately subpar and pointless.

          • johan_larson says:

            Here’s a list with skip/watch ratings for every episode:

            They recommend watching seven episodes from the first season, and ten from the second.

          • Matt M says:

            Helpful. Thanks.

          • Deiseach says:

            The first season is hobbled by them trying to be all things to all men and to keep the ardent Trekkies on board, so they do things like remake original series episodes (The Naked Now, Where No One Has Gone Before).

            Once they establish the characters and get confident in themselves, it’s much better. Second season onwards is the way to go. The pilot episode is wonderful mainly for Q and John DeLancie playing him as a cross between Edith Sitwell and Judge Jeffries, but otherwise it’s not very good. That being said, there are a couple of good first season episodes, but I think everyone has a different opinion as to which ones those are.

            Avoid Code Of Honor and Up The Long Ladder. The first is just awful and the second is hilarious but ultimately subpar and pointless.

            Strongly agreed. They both suffer from the same problem, trying to address the criticism about “why do all the alien planets look like white mid-20th century America?” and use different cultures, but the handling is poor to atrocious. Code of Honour gamely tries to use an African-inspired culture but the whole “Tasha Yar fight to the death” thing is silly. Up the Long Ladder is dreadful ‘pigs in the parlour’ Oirish, and how Colm Meaney didn’t run amok and try to slaughter the writer and director, I don’t know. It’s the same complaint as I have about the Voyager Fair Haven episodes; they get tiny things right (Bringlóid is the Irish for “dream” and is used for the name of the star system settled by the ‘back to Nature’ colonists) then it indulges in the kind of fightin’, drinkin’ feckless men henpecked by strong wimmin stereotypes. The quotes from the writer do not help her case at all:

            Melinda Snodgrass remarked, “It was intended to be a commentary about immigration, because I hate the current American policy. I wanted it to be something that says sometimes those outsiders you think are so smelly and wrong-colored, can bring enormous benefits to your society because they bring life and energy. That’s what I was going for. Now my boss, at the time, was Maury Hurley, who is a major Irishman and leads the Saint Patrick’s Day parade. When I was describing to him what I wanted to do, I was trying to come up with an analogy, and I said it was like a little village of Irish tinkerers, and he loved it so much he made me make them Irish tinkerers. I said okay, and that’s how it came about.” (Captains’ Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)

            Irish “tinkerers”? Er, would that be Tinkers? Which is now the extremely un-PC term and they should be referred to as Travellers, and that’s a whole cultural and social can of worms you’ve opened up there, sister, with your fightin’ drinkin’ feckless men and exasperated women to babysit them, the whole culture viewed as backwards and primitive by the settled community! Plainly Ms Snodgrass was not aware of any of this 🙂

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            No no, Deiseach, Irish tinkerers. They’re a class of Irish people who invent things, in a folksy, individual way, not a bad goes-into-mass-production way. May overlap with steampunks.

          • Incurian says:

            My comments on the let’s watch list for season 1:

            Haven is ok, introducing Lwaxana is important.

            I liked The Big Goodbye.

            Datalore is essential.

            I agree that Coming of Age is good despite all the Wesley.

            Heart of Glory is good and important.

            Arsenal of Freedom is terrible, skip.

            Symbiosis is skippable.

            Skin of Evil is trash and so is Tasha Yar. In my own “watch tng with the gf” saga I just explained during the pilot, in that scene in the courtroom where she gets all worked up and frozen, that Tasha is terrible and will die soon but we won’t see it and you won’t miss her.

            I don’t remember it, but I think We’ll Always Have Paris was fine.

            I’m pretty sure Conspiracy was terrible.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          Skin of Evil is trash and so is Tasha Yar. In my own “watch tng with the gf” saga I just explained during the pilot, in that scene in the courtroom where she gets all worked up and frozen, that Tasha is terrible and will die soon but we won’t see it and you won’t miss her.

          I feel like you need her for Yesterday’s Enterprise and (kind of) Redemption.

          • John Schilling says:

            What we really need is to use actual time travel to tweak this universe into one where the plot of “Yesterday’s Enterprise” was set aside and used for the TOS/TNG crossover movie instead of “Generations”.

            Sadly, we still need Tasha Yar, to take over for Sulu when he steps up to fill Kirk’s shoes. So, yeah, we still need a set of TNG episodes that show her in the best possible light to set that up. I’m not sure which episodes those are, though. They didn’t let Tasha be a strong character until they’d already killed her.

    • Deiseach says:

      I’m tough on Voyager because as you say, they never sorted out what exactly they were trying to do with it. It started out as (semi) realistic; here’s a starship stuck in the Delta quadrant, cut off from all the usual allies and supplies and bases and structures, with no easy quick way home – they have to do it the long way and that is going to take them decades. Also, because they can’t simply refuel and repair at a Starbase, they’re going to have power rationing and other things that mean no cool holodeck episodes. Also, the crew is going to be melded Starfleet and Maquis and there will be internal tensions so it won’t be the usual united One Big Happy Federation Crew Family.

      That got old fairly fast, as doing it that way meant that they were stuck in Kazon space a long time (long by TV show standards) and the Kazon were boring, to put it bluntly. One note, and barely that. Seska the Cardassian triple-crosser was a strong character but they didn’t know what to do with her so they stuck her with the Kazon and wasted her. The Kazon couldn’t be allowed to defeat Voyager or else that would have ended the show in the first season – “actually they never got home, they’re all dead/enslaved by the Kazon in the Delta Quadrant”.

      So they had to get them away from the Kazon, and they had to cheat a little bit to do it. And then once you start cheating a little bit, it gets easier to cheat a bit more. So now we’ve got “they haven’t enough power to keep the replicators going so they’re all on standard rations with only a few replicator privileges” alongside “but they can run the holodeck! because, er um, that runs on completely different power source or something!”

      And they had to have Voyager able to fight off all kinds of enemies for the purposes of dramatic tension, so our one little scrappy starship was somehow able to keep itself going in parts and supplies and weapons because there would be plenty of planets along the way with compatible tech so they could trade. Yeah.

      The Doctor started off as an interesting concept, but since the character became a fan favourite, he was treated as a sort of second Data and built up in all kinds of ways to make him capable of moving about (I was irresistably reminded of the ‘hard light drive’ from Red Dwarf which enables holograms to interact with their physical surroundings) and was overused. Seven of Nine ditto (and really Voyager should have been no match for the Borg but they managed to pull that off acceptably).

      Inconsistency with the characters as well; they seemed to be trying for a Chakotay-Janeway romance but that seems to have gone nowhere; Paris was a pain in the backside (though he did get sufficient character development to finally grow up, surprisingly enough) and I do think Harry Kim was treated badly. There were good episodes and a mostly good season, but I gave up watching weekly around the end of season five, watched seasons six and seven sporadically and didn’t even bother watching the final “yay they get home!” end of season seven.

      • I always wanted to pull my hair out on those episodes where Janeway just decides to go run on some adventure rather than go home. The latter seasons were better over all but good god, they did that so many times.

        • Incurian says:

          It doesn’t help that her tendency to pursue diverting adventures started rather early on.

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t know… although I don’t necessarily “agree” with her decision to pursue diverting adventures… I do feel like they handled it reasonably well enough in the sense that you grow to understand that the crew is somewhat divided on the issue… some genuinely like the diversion, others eventually use it as a justification for some form of mutiny.

            Typically speaking, whenever any of the crew gets dissatisfied with her, you can bet that “You are wasting time and not getting us home fast enough” is near the top of their list of complaints.

        • John Schilling says:

          Pragmatically, given that the Star Trek universe is thoroughly littered with Negative Space Wedgies capable of transcending the normal limitations of interstellar travel, the rational course of action probably is to run around investigating anything that looks interesting rather than embark on a 20+ year mission with no resupply and hope nothing breaks.

          But admitting that would break suspension of disbelief in roughly the same way as the Skipper not bothering to try any more rescue plans because he knows Gilligan and the Professor are going to sabotage them so they can continue hanging out on the tropical island paradise with Ginger and Mary Ann respectively.

        • toastengineer says:

          Voyager is better when you go full sfdebris and assume Janeway is a villain protagonist and deliberately stranded the crew so she’d have no higher authority to answer to.

          • Lillian says:

            Supposedly Kate Mulgrew, Janeway’s actress, decided to deal with her character’s inconsistent writing by deciding that she was a high functioning schizophrenic and deliberately playing her that way.

          • Randy M says:

            I’ve always wondered why or if actors don’t try to speak up to writers and producers when their characters are written inconsistently.
            Seems like the average TV actor doesn’t have much influence in general.

          • AG says:

            @Randy M
            My guess is that it’s a combination of their not getting the scripts ahead of time (and in some shows, not getting to know their season arc), and then by the time they receive the script, asking for a rewrite is going to wreck the production schedule, which the show (and so the actor) can’t afford. So productions will have a selection bias for actors who don’t rock the boat.

            The other is that, apparently, many actors do speak up, but most actors don’t necessarily have the best ideas. It’s a cliche bemoaned by writers that the actors will try to change the script on the day of in a way that disservices the story. So writers and directors learn to just override the actor’s input, so confident in the writing.

          • Randy M says:

            Good point, it is hard to see the shape of the forest when you’re a tree. Still, I’d hope that at times, like between seasons, the writers & producers solicit feedback from the actors. Seems to me like it would be valuable.

          • AG says:

            Yeah, you do tend to hear about better shows being more collaborative, once both actor and writer have proven themselves to each other.

            But shows that rely on twists tend to still hide plots from their own actors. I believe Orphan Black was like that.

          • Randy M says:

            But shows that rely on twists tend to still hide plots from their own actors. I believe Orphan Black was like that.

            “Why is my character shooting that kid all of a sudden? Oh, wait, I’m another new clone, aren’t I? What’s my hairstyle this time?”
            😉 *

            *Most of my posts would probably be improved by assuming a winky.

      • Nick says:

        If you’re interested in seeing how six and seven were, check out some of Chuck’s reviews at SF Debris. He’s got one up on the finale, Endgame, too. (Also coincidentally a time travel plot to bring everyone back. I blame the success of TNG’s All Good Things.)

        • greenwoodjw says:

          This time-travel plot wasn’t a “we wrote ourselves into a corner and need to undo stuff” but a “We want to wrap the series up on a positive note and send the captain out with a bang.” So, not The Worst. Voyager has a few time-travel plots that opened mise-en-scene so as to establish that it’s not an “undo” button. (Though I could never watch Year Of Hell because it’s a recursive time-travel plot)

          • Matt M says:

            Eh, I saw Endgame as sort of a failed compromise. They were trying to be extra clever, and it really missed the mark, IMO. They wanted to bring some closure, but they didn’t want it to be as simple as “And now they stumble upon a wormhole and get home.”

            Time travel was definitely Voyager’s most unforgiveable “thing they kept going back to when they were out of good ideas.” I place it as roughly equivalent to the “parallel universe” or ferengi-politics centered episodes of DS9. And while it’s nice that Janeway throws a lampshade on the whole thing by saying stuff like “temporal mechanics always gave me a headache…”, thus encouraging the audience to not think about it too hard themselves either (which is absolutely the right approach), her casual disregard of the “temporal prime directive” (most notably, but hardly exclusively, in Endgame) is hugely inconsistent with how much she typically is an absolute stickler for the regular prime directive (including being willing to strand her crew in the first place over it).

          • greenwoodjw says:

            I liked the Ferengi-politics ones. Quark’s speech in The House of Quark was amazing.

          • Matt M says:

            That was the one where he tries to marry the Klingon woman, right? I liked that one.

            I didn’t like the ones that built the arc of “The Ferengi slowly grow to renounce capitalism and recognize the benefits of charity, which correlates highly with womens’ rights for unspecified reasons” for reasons which should be obvious!

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I love DS9 but they butchered the Ferengi. When Quark tells of Sisko about how the Ferengi never has slavery, concentration camps, or interstellar wars, you are really seeing the trade-offs. But they actively retconned a lot of that stuff.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            Yeah, making the Ferengi socialist really irked me.

            To be honest, the Ferengi stance on women doesn’t even fit with everything else. All of Ferengi culture is supposed to be ruthless capitalism (also general crime for some reason), but it’s illegal for half the population?

        • Deiseach says:

          Time travel was terribly over-used in Trek, particularly later series. The only horse more deceased and more thoroughly flogged is Mirror Universe.

          Some episodes were clever, but Brannon Braga was the one-trick-pony of time travel and really burned me out on “hey, let’s have another episode of time travel shenanigans this season!” in any show he got his grubby mitts on.

    • greenwoodjw says:

      The notion that Starfleet never bothered with “let’s leave it on a bit and allow it to do non-medical things and see what happens” during the beta testing phase is absurd.

      Allow me to try and sway you on this. 🙂

      The holodecks have been a source of unexpected performance since TNG, from Moriarty taking over the Enterprise to the alien-infested Orient Express.

      That’s also not what happened. The Doctor wasn’t allowed to do non-medical things at first, and, as a result of interaction with the crew, having to work to be acknowledged as part of the crew, and generally learn how to navigate complex social situations that caused his AI to develop more as a full artificial mind instead of just a basic AI. TNG covered something similar with the Exocomps Data kept insisting were alive because they had a learning core that eventually stopped co-operating because it rejected the dangerous working conditions. (Quality of Life)

      So, in universe, there’s precedent for similar things, and it’s not hand-waved, though it is highly implausible.

      • Matt M says:

        The holodecks have been a source of unexpected performance since TNG, from Moriarty taking over the Enterprise to the alien-infested Orient Express.

        I didn’t much care for those either. Realistically, the second that happened, Starfleet would order a federation-wide ban on holotechnology until such point as they were comfortable they understood what happened, and that they could guarantee it wouldn’t happen again.

        Don’t believe me? I was in the US Navy when some idiot brought an infected USB drive to work and it got a virus onto the network. USB drives were then banned for a decade (probably more… they were still banned when I left).

        One of the issues with The Doctor is that we don’t even really know what sort of morality constraints his original programming had, much less whatever “evolutions” he has made. His behavior is all over the place in that regard…

        • greenwoodjw says:

          Starfleet would order a federation-wide ban on holotechnology until such point as they were comfortable they understood what happened, and that they could guarantee it wouldn’t happen again.

          Starfleet being really shortsighted is also well-precedented. 😛

          One of the issues with The Doctor is that we don’t even really know what sort of morality constraints his original programming had, much less whatever “evolutions” he has made. His behavior is all over the place in that regard…

          There’s actually an episode where he deals with this in some respect.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The “Equinox” two-parter is when the Voyager encounters another Starfleet ship, the Equinox, that was also ship-napped by the Caretaker. And the latter ship has purposefully disabled their EMH’s “morality subroutines” so that it could do the necessary-but-evil things to get home.

        • albatross11 says:

          Yeah, after the first episode that centered around a major holodeck malfunction trapping crew members or otherwise doing weird and dangerous things, they would have either shut the holodeck down or restricted it to limited necessary uses. (The holodeck should be used for training all the time.)

          • theredsheep says:

            If Starfleet training is anything like the mandatory “training” I’ve had to do at my various jobs, and the holodeck makes it immersive and three-dimensional, I expect you’d see a lot of crewmen get sent to catch up on their training after annoying their COs one time too many. Just imagine having to actively roleplay how you should handle sexual harassment.

          • Matt M says:

            Just imagine having to actively roleplay how you should handle sexual harassment.

            I think that’s what Barclay was doing, only he set the difficulty to “Very easy”

          • toastengineer says:

            What happens if you set it to “Very Hard?”

          • Aapje says:

            Same thing, har har har.

          • albatross11 says:

            If you really run afoul of the sexual harassment regs, they make you take Worf’s combat training program in the holodeck.

        • Nornagest says:

          To be fair, Starfleet was firmly established way back in the Sixties as doing shit all the time that’d never fly in the US Navy, or even in a moderately paranoid public company. It’s horribly irresponsible for a ship that’s got to be slinging around megaton-range weapons on the regular, but… eh, it’s just a show, I should probably just relax.

      • Jaskologist says:

        I will second this; it is very clear from all the series that Starfleet does not beta or even alpha-test anything before putting it into production. The Enterprise is their flagship, but it needs Geordi to invent some new technology every other episode just to keep from blowing itself up.

        • albatross11 says:

          Fortunately, everyone in starfleet forgets all those clever new invented technologies the next day. I always wanted to see a Star Trek/Men In Black crossover episode which explained why this happened via black-suited guys wandering around with neuralizers.

          • Nick says:

            Or there’s a big warehouse like in Raiders of the Lost Ark where they stick all their one-off save the day devices.

          • johan_larson says:

            a big warehouse like in Raiders of the Lost Ark

            Sounds like the premise of a great comedy. “Yes, the Deus ex Machina department does have the tools to solve most every problem. But most of our devices are single-use and have distasteful consequences that can’t be ignored. That’s why there’s a general doctrine that you can’t have one until you’ve tried everything else. Also, when we moved from index cards to microfilm to computerized records, we discovered some discrepancies in our records and probably created a bunch more, so we can’t be quite sure what we have in all those warehouses. And then there are the storage expenses; some of our holdings are radioactive, or explosive, or sapient and trying to escape. It adds up. But we manage.”

          • The Nybbler says:


            Aside from “single use”, that’s pretty much Warehouse 13

          • greenwoodjw says:

            And the SCP Foundation

          • Jaskologist says:

            I could see a Star Trek: Section 13 show working, if they were willing to do something small-scale with the universe.

            There’s already been crossover between the two. Before (in our timeline, obviously the event took places centuries later in-universe) he played Artie, the head of Warehouse 13, Saul Rubinek played a man who kidnaps Data in order to add him to his collection of “rare and valuable artifacts.”

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @johan_larson: “Also every time we try to bring out the Ark of the Covenant to save the day, fundamentalist Christian ninjas steal it and try to offer it to the Prime Minister of Israel on condition of demolishing the Dome of the Rock.”

          • Mark Atwood says:

            I could see a Star Trek: Section 13 show working, if they were willing to do something small-scale with the universe.

            That would be the “Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations” books. I very much highly recommend them, and I say that as someone who has almost otherwise given up on Star Trek.

            The two main novels are both sequels and prequels to each other (something you can do when the narrative is about Time Travelling Space Wedgies), plus there are a couple of novellas.

            I think the author has a photographic encyclopedic knowledge of every tv episode, including the Animated Series, a true affection for the show, and he somehow manages to make all the time travel episodes actually hang together more or less logically.

            Part of the thrill of reading them is suddenly realizing you’ve actually seen all the main characters on the TV episodes, mostly as what you thought of at the time as uninteresting throwaway background characters.

            It’s also full of interesting “internal critiques” of the Trek-verse, including their increasingly hide-bound technological conservationism, bio-chauvinism, and anti-transcendentalism and anti-transhumanism.

            There is even a “warehouse 13” facility, kept several kilometers under the surface of [redacted], until it was decided that even that was too dangerously close to Terra.

          • rmtodd says:

            That would be the “Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations” books. I very much highly recommend them, and I say that as someone who has almost otherwise given up on Star Trek.

            I may not be as negative on recent Star Trek as you (though admittedly I have not bothered to watch any of ST:Discovery past the pilot), but I certainly wholeheartedly second this recommendation of Bennett’s DTI books.

            I think the author has a photographic encyclopedic knowledge of every tv episode, including the Animated Series, a true affection for the show, and he somehow manages to make all the time travel episodes actually hang together more or less logically.

            Not only that, but manages to handwave explanations for much of the technical details of the time-travel stuff that happens in terms of General Relativity and Everettian quantum theory, which is fairly impressive considering that he’s having to retcon this for bits of Trek history that were written by people who probably wouldn’t recognize a wave function if it bit them.

            Poul Anderson, with his Time Patrol novels, came up with the idea of there being some sort of law enforcement agency to deal with people doing Naughty Things with time travel. Bennett in the DTI novels takes this to the next level, showing what it’s like if you’ve got more than one such agency, with disputes over who has jurisdiction over what — and disputes not just between the Federation and its neighbors, but between the 24th century Federation DTI and its 31st century successor (called something different which I don’t recall right now). Also in book 2 Forgotten History we get a look at the process by which the Federation comes to decide it needs some agency like the DTI.

            There is even a “warehouse 13” facility, kept several kilometers under the surface of [redacted],

            Ah, yes, the museum facility where they keep all the suspicious time-travel devices, including “a large blue boxlike artifact”.

          • Incurian says:

            wouldn’t recognize a wave function if it bit them.

            Well to be fair…

        • Protagoras says:

          Enterprise as flagship always annoyed me. A flagship is the ship the admiral commanding a fleet is on. Because it is more often than not the most impressive ship in the fleet, the word has acquired a secondary meaning referring to the best or (due to it being the one with the leader, I suppose) leading example of something, but when talking about actual ships, surely it is best to avoid the secondary meaning in order to avoid confusion with the primary meaning.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            I don’t think Starfleet had that many field-deployed admirals, and the word seemed to take on a third meaning – the ship most often used for high-value meetings and diplomatic situations, in addition to it’s regular duties.

            Yes, the writers were wrong. Just roll with it. 😛

      • Deiseach says:

        The Doctor becoming more sophisticated and a true AI because of circumstances (not just a back-up emergency medical aide, but because half the crew were dead becoming the only de facto medical personnel and so having to be turned on for extended periods regularly, which meant he got the time and resources to develop) wasn’t a bad idea in itself.

        The resulting “the fans love the Doctor, let’s write episodes around him” meant, however, that the character grew beyond its roots and went way beyond what a hologram/AI could or would do. That was the problem: “hey, wouldn’t it be cool if…(the Doctor was an opera star/was evil/saved the day)” episodes that were individual plots, not part of a theme of development.

    • Clutzy says:

      I really disliked the ending to that show. I still can’t comprehend why they chose that.

      • Jaskologist says:

        The first half should have been them getting home, so they could dedicate the second half to Janeway being put on trial for the murder of Tuvix.

        • Matt M says:

          Honestly, that one struck me more emotionally than any other probably.

          It led me to believe I was going to get a cold, ruthless, “whatever it takes” Janeway and a highly principled Doctor who is literally incapable of acting against the basic ethics he was programmed with from then on out.

          Then they walked it back, significantly. For both of them.

    • FLWAB says:

      I, like many, loved Robert Picardo’s performance as the Doctor. But I agree: he doesn’t make sense in universe unless you are willing to bite one of two very disturbing bullets. Either the Doctor is “alive” in a meaningful moral sense or he is not. If he is then it would follow that many, maybe most, holograms are similarly alive and their rights are being violated. They are less than chattel, literally called into existence and dismissed at the whim of their owners. Thousand, maybe millions of living creatures created and destroyed with little thought except their utility or entertainment value.

      Or, alternatively, the Doctor is exactly what he is supposed to be: a convincing facsimile of a living person. He smiles, he chats, he expresses desires and fears and opinions, but none of it is real. It is just an act, a clever simulation of how a “living” doctor would behave. They left him on long enough for the program to manufacture quirks and desires in order to better serve as an illusion of a real person, but there is nothing behind the mask. He is merely an automaton, cleverly designed to fool people into taking him at face value. This makes sense: Data was an android so advanced nobody else could recreate him and Starfleet’s best scientists could barely understand how he worked. Yet he acted very robotic and inhuman, and had to learn over a long period of time how to truly be an individual. The Doctor seems to skip all that and just acts like a normal person from the get-go. If it was that easy to make “real people” in a holodeck then you think Starfleet would be able to replicate Data fairly easily. Just make a robot body and put a hologram’s AI into it and you’re done, instant person.

      Both are pretty horrible options. The second seems more likely, considering that even the Doctor’s creator insists that he’s not really a person and is just designed to act like one: and he would know better than most, wouldn’t he? But if he is wrong and the Doctor really is a person (which seems to be what the writers believe) then hologram technology is morally problematic at best an an atrocity worse than Roman gladiatorial combat at worst.

      • greenwoodjw says:

        Why not see it this way?

        In the pilot, the Doctor can be just a basic hologram, like most holographic characters, save for a certain level of programmed adaptability. But, because he’s left on and idle for hours, his program has to adapt to idleness, extended interactions, etc. Like the exocomps, once a certain level of development occurs, actual sentience develops. Don’t forget too that several members of the crew modified him in several ways, especially early on. There’s at least one other instance (Revulsion) where an AI hologram left on more or less indefinitely develops some level of self-awareness.

        There are a few episodes that deal with the Doctor’s growth and development as an individual, and directly with his status as [being] or [equipment] (Latent Image). The writers tried to explore this with Seven and the Doctor separately, but, you know, television.

        • Randy M says:

          Moriarty basically achieved sentience in TNG.
          Don’t think of it as a sentient hologram. Think of it as an ai module running in the ships computer that can eventually become sentient if left running long enough or has enough resources devoted to it. Most holograms aren’t.
          edit: Another question, arises, though–why isn’t every ship’s computer sentient if electronic sentience can be bootstrapped like that?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Randy M: The post-TOS Treks would have been significantly more interesting if all the “mainframes” were people, full stop. Dee could be another cast member and Moriarty would just be, I dunno, the Big Bad NPC from one of her RPG campaigns.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            Because the average computer doesn’t run like holocharacters and uses separate tech? There were a few instances where they tried to scavenge parts from the holodecks but they’re incompatible.

            It’s like rampancy in Halo/Marathon – it can only happen in certain systems.

          • Randy M says:

            Honestly that just sounds like technobabble to me.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            why isn’t every ship’s computer sentient if electronic sentience can be bootstrapped like that?

            They have basically admitted that they do.

            There is an episode of ST:Disco (forgive me), where one of the characters is the Disco’s main computer left to it’s own devices but ordered to hold station for a thousand years, and she’s fully sentient by that point.

            The UFP and and their tech peers in the Trek-verse galaxy are flat out mercantile gunboat imperial hydraulic slave states, full stop. From our perspective, they are ALL the BAD GUYS.

            They just don’t realize it, yet, because of course computers aren’t people, and because Lokai is white on his right side of course.

            The kindest in-universe explanation is to remember that the Terran and the UFP and the larger galactic culture are not “us” 500 years in the future, but instead are a fusion of surviving groups that survived the unification wars of Terra and of the other 4 founding members, e.g. “the combination of Western libertinism, puritanism, & missionary zeal, Russian economics, Soviet organization, Arabian hospitality, and Chinese civil government”.

            The out-of-universe explanation, of course, is that TV writers are lazy and not that insightful, and that they labor under entertainment industry constraints.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            Honestly that just sounds like technobabble to me

            Well, duh. It’s a technical explanation in Sci-fi. 😛

          • Randy M says:

            Science-fiction: Supposing hypothetically possible fact X is true–what then?
            Technobabble: Supposing you need to resolve your plot in the next 17 minutes. What convinces the audience not to think through any longer term implications?

            They’re basically opposites.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            Then I don’t think “They’re very different” is technobabble.

      • Deiseach says:

        I’d argue that for true hologram horror, you should consider the character of Janeway’s love interest in the Fair Haven episodes, Fair Haven and Spirit Folk. (I intensely dislike the Fair Haven episodes but it’s because of the faith and begorrah paddywhackery, where they get tiny details correct like the name of the village in Irish, then call the village pub The Ox and Lamb, and don’t seem to know what to do with the characters other than have them act as Oirish stereotypes).

        She has no qualms about re-writing the character to better suit her (including killing off the wife) and to make it a toy-boy for her downtime on the holodeck. Well, okay, if holograms are the equivalent of cartoons (or, ahem, sex dolls) then it’s a bit grubby but morally okay:

        “Captain’s personal log. It’s been ten hours since the storm hit. We estimate another three days before we’re clear of it. The crew’s in good spirits, and many of them have taken the opportunity to visit Fair Haven. I met an interesting man there, and for a while I almost forgot he was a hologram. We weren’t exactly compatible, but then again, Mr. Paris didn’t program him to my specifications.”

        HOWEVER. As she interacts with the new, improved lust object she begins to have feelings for him. More, he begins to reciprocate and when she mysteriously disappears without a word (well, she does have have to leave the holodeck from time to time to run the ship) he reacts poorly to her absence:

        In the program, Neelix is the bartender; Michael was out of commission and drinking alone – not what Paris had originally programmed. Sullivan eventually explains he believes “Katie O’Clare” (Janeway’s “Fair Haven” name) doesn’t love him, and he does her. All he knows is that she’s gone, as she didn’t give any explanation.

        The Doctor, as resident sentient and sapient hologram, gives her a little lecture about not messing with wooden hearts and that if she treats Sullivan okay (and stops meddling with his program to make him into Mr Heart Throb) then it could be a real relationship.

        Skipping on to the next episode, where for reasons this particular programme has been let run all the time, the rest of the villager holograms begin to notice things. Things don’t add up. They’ve become aware (in a limited fashion) of their situation, and recognise the Voyager crewmembers as intruders. Eventually it’s discovered that the hologram systems aren’t working properly and the hologram villagers are capable of independent action and can’t simply be shut down (well, they can, but the objections to shutting them down seem to be more along the lines of “we’d lose our fun fantasy village and my lust object” rather than “these could be sapient beings like the Doctor”).

        So they try the good old “let’s turn them off and turn them on again”, or repairing and reinstalling the sub-routines that mean the holograms are no longer aware of the crew as outsiders and ignore anything strange that happens to contradict the scenario of the programme.

        Janeway demands to know what Paris did with the program. He says nothing he did should result in that. Torres shuts the program down so she can make system repairs, and Paris and Kim begin to examine the character parameters. When they call up Michael Sullivan’s character, instead of his image, the entire character comes to life, now in the hololab and sees them wearing their uniforms. He demands to know where he is, but they calm him down. They identify the subroutines which make him oblivious to things outside the program, and those subroutines are offline. They attempt to restore them, and as he realizes something is off-kilter, he pretends to appear to think nothing is out of the ordinary instantly (as the subroutines still don’t go into effect). But when they find a way to restore all of the other characters at once, it is clear from his facial expression – which they miss – he was pretending to be complacent. The stunned, almost angry, Michael Sullivan calls Fitzgerald into the church.

        After their various attempts fail, eventually Janeway has to go into the programme and explain to the villagers a simplified version of the truth: the Voyager people are from a starship and they come on visits to the village now and again for rest and relaxation.

        And then we never hear of Fair Haven again, apart from the end wrap up where Torres says they can’t run the programme full-time anymore and Janeway agrees, and the hologram villagers – who are approaching true sentience, remember – are more or less reset to ‘cartoon characters in the fun holodeck programme’ and perhaps never turned on again.

        So characters just as ‘real’ as the Doctor are, in a sense, enslaved, altered and then put into limbo at the whims of the crew!

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          So characters just as ‘real’ as the Doctor are, in a sense, enslaved, altered and then put into limbo at the whims of the crew!

          What fresh Hell is this?
          Reminds me of the original Mobile Suit Gundam, where the fundamental question writer Yoshiyuki Tomino seems to have asked himself is “In the future when we have more advanced technology, what new atrocities will humans commit?”
          Except I get the feeling the Voyager writers didn’t realize their crew were complete monsters.

        • Matt M says:

          The true worst part of Fairhaven is that none of the various crew members who had been relentlessly mocking Harry Kim for years for “falling in love with a hologram” (who, notably, it turned out wasn’t, in fact, a hologram) had the balls to say word one to the Captain for doing the same thing.

          And Barclay was basically declared mentally ill for doing pretty much the same thing, only basing his holosexbots on women he knew in real life.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            Yeah… I’m writing off Fair Haven as another Threshold.

          • Deiseach says:

            none of the various crew members …had the balls to say word one to the Captain for doing the same thing.

            Because they knew if they did, they’d have ended up scrubbing the inside of the warp core with a toothbrush in their underwear. Janeway wasn’t Nice under that very thin veneer of Federation rectitude, and she’d already played blatant favourites (“Hey Tom, I totally had a huge crush on your dad who was my mentor and pulled strings for my career, so have this promotion in spite of all the crap you’ve pulled; Harry, you’ve done nothing but your duty and followed the rules, so stay Perpetual Ensign forever”) 🙂

            I have no idea how Threshold got made. Were the writers drunk? high? the script was assembled from scribbled fragments found in the locked ward of the local mental facility?

            Not alone do Janeway and Paris end up making lizard babies (a thought to make the blood run cold), they are negligent parents who desert their helpless offspring and leave them behind on that jungle planet! Who knows, if the lizard babies had been exposed to the Magic Cure, they might have turned into human babies? Imagine a clan of Janeway-Paris kids running around Voyager!

            Yeah, on second thoughts, Tuvik probably made the right decision there.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I’d love the thought of a new Trek series based on the Seska-Chakotay baby and the lizard babies, who would be in their mid-twenties now, coming back for revenge.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Edward Scizorhands: Saul & Sally Mander-Paris?

  24. Plumber says:

    A bit of career advice please.

    My work is mostly repairing plumbing fixtures at two city buildings, that have cops, courts, DA’s, and a jail on the 7th floor of one building (there used to also be the morgue, but they moved across town and now I only go there about twice a year).

    Lately I just haven’t gotten many service orders about stuff to fix that isn’t in the jail, and after seven years of working in it I’m finding it psychologically harder to will myself up there with the screaming, the insults, the look of the place, and just waiting for the gates to open.

    When there’s lots of work ‘downstairs’ this isn’t as much of problem, but now that the percentage of my work that is for the jail is much higher getting the willpower to go up there is increasingly difficult for me.

    Any motivational tips (other than the obvious “do the job or get fired”)?

    • johan_larson says:

      What’s keeping you at this job? What makes it better than the next likely alternative?

    • Pretty much the same questions Johan asked. Given your skills, there must be a variety of employment opportunities, some of them less unpleasant. Are there plumbing companies in Oakland where you know people and get a good report of the company? Could you and a few other people start your own plumbing company?

    • HowardHolmes says:

      I know nothing about the job, but for the sake of discussion let me assume there are also some positive aspects. Possibly the pay is extra good for the time spent since it has an unpleasant side to it. There might be other reasons to like the job. Given that it is possible that over the years you have forgotten your choice in this matter and, therefore, feel trapped rather than a free agent doing what you want. Think in terms of you chose the job and chose it for good reasons. Working that job is what you want to do. Maybe that will help with the psychological aspects. Once I had a job cleaning portable toilets. Yeah, there were parts than sucked but the pay was good and the fellow workers were pleasant. It was actually a very good job. My guess is that you would not have written that post if you wanted to change jobs. You are there because you want to be. You have all the power.

    • RavenclawPrefect says:

      To what extent are you able to block out external sounds? Listening to music or an audiobook at high volume instead could at least help with screaming and insults, though improving visuals seems harder.

      If you’re generally of the opinion that U.S. prisons (or wherever you’re located, if you live outside the US) are excessively awful, framing things as making the system marginally better by having the facilities work properly might be helpful – feeling a little bit like an activist is probably a more sustainable mindset.

    • Erusian says:

      I think the best solution would be to get more or better work. My suggestion: go to the Oakland(?) Chamber of Commerce and any other trade meetings for companies that commonly have offices. Reach out to local apartment buildings and see if they need support for their internal maintenance team. If you want to get into house building, go to a REIA. Hand out cards. Talk up your experience, your commitment to customer service, how satisfied your current customers are despite the difficulty of the job. And say you’re looking for new clients. You can also do general advertising if you want home calls.

      If you think online advertising will help, I’d be willing to pitch in. I’m pretty good at targeting corporate decision makers.

    • Aapje says:


      Do you know why the service orders are now mostly in the jail? Did something happen to change your work permanently or is it just a temporary thing? If the latter, you might motivate yourself by recognizing that it’s temporary. If the former, is there something you can do to change the situation?

      Note that if the situation is psychologically damaging in the long term, it may be better not to accept it, rather than try to motivate yourself.

    • Tenacious D says:

      Can you take a vacation? A week or two away from that environment might recharge your motivation (or conversely the contrast might reveal just how draining it is to work there).

    • baconbits9 says:

      Besides the obligatory- sell your house and move to a cheaper part of the country where you can semi-retire (or flat out retire)?

    • broblawsky says:

      Are you self-employed, or do you work for someone else? If the former, is it feasible for you to get enough work elsewhere that you can afford to turn down the jail stuff?

    • Matt C says:

      I would start by asking for different work. Can you ask for different buildings? Can you ask for the work to be divided up differently?

      If you’ve been there seven years you’ve got some seniority, and quite possibly you’re more valued than you realize. I’d figure out what you want and ask for it. If the first person you talk to tells you “sorry no there’s nothing we can do”, consider going over their head and asking someone else.

      This might not be practical, or it might be unwise, but unless you’re absolutely sure it’s a bad idea, I think it’s the place to start.

      If it doesn’t work out, then plan B of getting out and working elsewhere is a good one. Change is good too.

  25. wraugh says:

    How do the predictive coding / perceptual control theories of mind explain messy people? Shouldn’t everybody be obsessed with keeping everything neat and tidy all the time to mimize surprise?

    • Uribe says:

      Mess is monotonous.

    • I can think of a few things here:

      1: One person’s mess can be another person’s order. One thing that’s common among couples is one person “cleaning up” the other person’s mess, only for that other person to be unable to find things now that they are “cleaned up” because there was method in the madness.

      2: It’s possible these theories are wrong because there are some trade-offs involved. Sometimes you have a choice between minimizing different kinds of surprise.

      3: Truly minimizing surprise or “free energy” would be to know everything possible about your environment, but one limit to this is that you don’t have infinite memory capacity, so there necessarily has to be diminishing returns to seeking out knowledge and order in any particular realm. If you have 1000s of individual objects to tidy up, then you can minimize prediction error to some degree by categorizing them and sorting them into groups, but beyond a certain point, you’re still going to be surprised months later by certain items being in a particular place even if you ordered them according to an original plan.

    • ThrustVectoring says:

      Physical objects often work well as reminders for tasks that need to be done – the surprise of the consequences for leaving bills unpaid is far larger than the surprise of seeing bills on the kitchen table instead of neatly filed away.

      And “neat and tidy” is not the same thing as unsurprising. A lot of people’s idea of “neat” is hiding things out-of-sight, and so the eventual re-discovery of those things can be quite surprising if they drift out-of-mind as well. In contrast, a bunch of open shelving with obviously visible objects and open containers on them are very unsurprising – you see them often as you walk by, so any changes become pretty immediately noticed and updated in your models.

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      In my – very limited – understanding, those people just predict corresponding parts of their sensory input with lower precision. To simplify, you expect to find your pants somewhere within 5 feet of the sofa – you find them there – no surprise. Like nobody bothers to remember the location and shape of every leaf on some tree next to they house – they just remember that the tree is there and it have this general shape and color. If they for some reason will examine the tree in such details, they won’t be surprised by any (plausible) result because they had no expectations about it to be contradicted.

    • Elliot says:

      It’s worth noting that a lot of messy people don’t like that they’re messy, and their room stresses them out (which fits with your intuition). Like, they often end up retreating to their beds and working from there since a desk will be covered in stuff. At least, that’s true for a few of my messy friends.

      • Matt M says:

        I “like” that I’m messy, in the sense that most of the ways in which I am messy are deliberate choices that I believe to be utility-maximizing.

        Example: I tend to leave things out on the counter. This drives my girlfriend nuts. “Why don’t you put this stuff away!” she wonders. And the answer, inevitably, is “Because these are things I use frequently, why should I waste time taking it in and out of cupboards constantly?” We simply have different priorities relating to the tradeoff of “things go in their right place” versus “things are available for easy access.”

  26. Via Thing of Things:

    This article about ransomware data recovery firms is incredibly interesting. Data recovery firms usually just pay the ransom; the value they add is (1) plausible deniability about whether you paid a ransom and (2) long-standing relationships with hacker groups, which lets them negotiate discounts and know who is likely to flake or claim to be able to decrypt something they can’t. Ransomware has become remarkably professionalized, including special discounts for data recovery firms who use a particular ransomware group regularly. Because multiple hacker groups use the same virus, there’s competition to see who can offer the cheapest ransoms.

    I haven’t gotten a chance to read the article yet, but I eagerly await @DavidFriedman’s description of a similar system that existed in medieval Iceland.

    • Not medieval Iceland, 18th c. England.

      Jonathan Wild, self-appointed Thieftaker General, supported himself for a decade by a combination of revenues from thieftaking, rewards for the recovery of stolen property, and income from the large-scale employment of thieves. He was convicted and hanged in 1725 but lived on in fame as the central figure of a book by Defoe and, in the persona of Mr. Peachum, of Gay’s Beggar’s Opera.

      • Bugmaster says:

        My expectations were already pretty high (our political disagreements notwithstanding), but once again, you’ve shattered them, so bravo ! That said: only a decade ? How come ? What led to Jonathan Wild’s downfall ? Was it something prosaic, like “sold out by a dissatisfied employee and/or customer”, or was there some grand caper at play ?

  27. BBA says:

    A semi-frequent topic here is how dehumanizing modern architecture is, the ugliness of Boston City Hall, etc. Now I certainly have no fondness for Soviet-era apartment blocks, but nobody is making buildings that look like that anymore.* New apartments look like this (paywalled Bloomberg link). Usually brick walls, four to seven stories, perhaps with retail on the ground floor. The style doesn’t have a name, this article calls them “stumpies” while another dismisses it as “fast-casual architecture.” Apparently it became so widespread in America because it’s the maximum size allowed by our building codes to use wood-framed construction instead of more expensive steel or concrete.

    Personally I don’t find this style “ugly” or “dehumanizing”, I just find it a bit dull. On the other hand, it’s not like suburban cul-de-sacs with their rows of identical houses (be they Levittown ranches or McMansions) are that interesting either. We’re talking about architecture for the masses here, not everyone can live in a McKim, Mead & White masterpiece, and dollar for dollar I think the “stumpies” are just fine. But that’s just me and I know my tastes aren’t widely shared around here.

    * At least, not sincerely. The Standard Hotel in Manhattan uses the style ironically – it’s a joke to make a luxury hotel look like a concrete Communist monstrosity. But the joke is only funny because the building is much nicer on the inside, and it isn’t surrounded by other buildings that look the same.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I don’t mind them. They look nice enough, but they’ll certainly become annoying if you see them everywhere. The bigger issue is that they well and truly represent homogenization in the nation’s housing stick and cultural perference.

      Also, to me, they signify the Millennial Lifestyle Package. They throw a bunch of these up in the suburbs next to new retail parks along undeveloped arterial roads. Typically they are anchored by some big stores like Whole Foods or REI, and have some “American” restaruants that feature a few craft brews. Some weird mix of urbanism and suburbia. They are going to be Period Pieces in 20 years, only the real estate is going to go to hell because they are next to unsustianable commercial zones.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Why are the commercial zones unsustainable?

        • compeltechnic says:

          I don’t think they are any more unsustainable than anything else, but damn that “Millennial Lifestyle Package” bit is on point.

    • Nick says:

      It’s only semi-frequent because I won’t shut up about it. 😀 The style is dull, as you say. I don’t appreciate blandness, but I do appreciate that it’s not trying to be the center of attention. I am bothered by the slapdash materials on the outside—shades of the McMansion there. For all I know, ADBG is right and these things are totally unsustainable.

      There’s an interesting contrast to more high-end developments the same size, like in the CityLab article you linked. Those are a lot more expensive, they’re designed by architects, and they’re mixed-use, with real attempts to build “places” there where folks actually want to go and be. I approve of the sentiment, but I’m not sure how successful they’ll be. For one thing, the DC project is being designed by a starchitect “whose work … is as reviled as it is admired.” The style is “jengaform,” we’re told; if you click through to the article about the style, the first building looks like a bit like a Chernobyl husk being reclaimed by nature. Hilariously, that project was apparently not popular either with residents or local “bloggers,” but we’re assured “it’s a design that does the most with the least.” Apparently building a beautiful square building is literally impossible in D.C.—poor de Moura simply has no other choice than Chernobyl Revival.

      For another, “[e]very retailer and restaurant … has been ‘curated’ by the developers. Selective retail and a bespoke grid are two benefits of building a city corridor from whole cloth.” You said last time that high modernism is dead, and maybe so—but these developers are sure convinced they know what folks will want. What on earth is going on here; genuine question here, why do these developers think they know better than the market?

      Maybe I’m blaming the wrong things here. After all, the building codes are strict, so these architects are working under serious constraints. Economics does demand maximizing the space, and mixed-use buildings that encourage walking and biking and trying to make the place feel like a place are better than nothing. I’m less certain here than I might sound. But it seems to me that there are still shades of the high modern in these projects—smarter than Corbu, but risking the same mistakes.

      P.S. The Bloomberg link opens fine incognito. All it does on repeated viewings is warn about my perpetual nine remaining free articles.

      • Randy M says:

        I should take a picture of an apartment on my block, that is sort of ostentatiously modern… wait, Google probably already has.
        Is there any design principle that justifies this? It’s like walking by a prison.

        • BBA says:

          I think the design principle was paranoia – an inwardly focused building, meant to keep crime and, ah, undesirable elements out. It reminds me of driving around Sandton, a rich neighborhood in Johannesburg, where outside of gated communities all the houses had high opaque walls around them.

          • Randy M says:

            Maybe, but keep in mind, though it’s hard to make out from the street view, it’s an aberration on the block in that style, it actually doesn’t have a gate, it’s not a particularly high crime neighborhood for the county, and it is proudly titled “Le Moderne.”

            To me it says, “Look at how sophisticated we are in eschewing conventional beauty and knowing words like eschew.”

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        What on earth is going on here; genuine question here, why do these developers think they know better than the market?

        They do have one important advantage over Corbu in that they’re not trying to come up with something everyone will want, only with something someone will want. And if we accept for the sake of argument (I have my doubts as well) that there are a sufficient number of people out there who want selective retail, and will prefer the developers’ bespoke grid to the portion of L’Enfant’s bespoke grid which it replaces, then the market’s not likely to produce that combination spontaneously; having a developer buy up all the land and impose the central plan is the only way it’s going to happen. Nor is this necessarily anti-market thinking if you look at it through the lens of the theory of the firm, which tells us that markets can and almost certainly will have islands of command-and-control within them. From this perspective, the developers are not being all that much more high-modernist than, say, a grocery-store manager when he draws up a schedule (on an evenly-spaced rectangular grid, natch) for the employees, rather than letting the noon-to-5 slot working register 2 out for public bid. What matters in the end is that the wider market has some way of telling the developers no, this is not what we want.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        What on earth is going on here; genuine question here, why do these developers think they know better than the market?

        Hint: starts with “G” and ends with “entrification”

        They aren’t developing for the people who are there, they’re developing for the richer people they want to attract. The market, left to its own devices, would do silly things like cater to the existing base of non-speculative customers. And do exceptionally foolish things like charge based on what the local market can pay rather than what the Central Committee C-suite have decided their rent margins should be.

      • BBA says:

        I mean… is Levittown high modernist? Hausmann’s plan for Paris? Hell, we can go back to the 17th century when William Penn laid out Philadelphia on a rectangular grid.

        There’s a degree of central planning involved in any sufficiently large-scale development. I define “high modernism” as a planner saying “we know what’s best for everyone, never mind that no existing place looks or works like this.” Whereas these are more like “people seem to like neighborhoods like this elsewhere, let’s build another one here.” There’s something a little strange about building an entire neighborhood from scratch in one fell swoop instead of letting it grow organically, but give it time and it’ll become a real place. Besides which, lots of suburbs were built like that too.

        • Nornagest says:

          In a city planning context, it might make sense to define high modernism as the practice of laying out plans to serve high-minded social goals rather than the relatively mundane business of enabling people to get from Point A to Point B without drowning in sewage.

          This would encompass pretty much every plan laid down since the late 1800s, but with varying levels of enforcement and of buy-in from other stakeholders.

          • BBA says:

            I think that’s too broad. We point to high modernism as rigid grand plans that fail to appreciate people’s natural preferences. When the plans succeed, as ’50s suburbia did, we see them as “the natural state of things”, never mind that Levittown was as much an artificial imposition as Brasilia was.

            And preferences change over time. The L’Enfant Plan in DC might have been a phenomenal success in the age of the horse. But now that the automobile is king, it’s a nightmare to navigate all those circles and squares and diagonals. Give us an evenly spaced rectangular grid!

          • Nornagest says:

            I’d bite the bullet of calling master-planned subdivisions a species of high modernism. Or even zoning plans, though obviously not as strict of one. What’s not high-modernist in my sense about them is that they’re to some extent responding to bottom-up demand, but their approach to that is every bit as much guided by a social planning model. The fact of that model calling for a bunch of winding curvilinear streets with lots of cul-de-sacs instead of an evenly-spaced rectangular grid is more or less a coincidence.

            Preferences do change over time — a town laid out in the age of the donkey by drunken gold miners is not going to serve cars well — but that’s really a separate issue.

        • albatross11 says:

          There are a fair number of developments around where I live that are designed from scratch as walkable neighborhoods with shops, parks, schools, and common areas available. The best of these seems to work out pretty well–I kind of wish we’d bought a house there instead of in our more standard suburb, but it would have cost a lot more. But a couple of other attempts have failed in various ways–one mainly because of shoddy building.

          Trying to set up a stable community all at once seems inherently pretty hard, though one thing that probably helps with that is to get long-term commitments from both residents (who buy a house whose value depends on the community being a success) and businesses (I’m not sure how this might be done–maybe a long lease?) The physical infrastructure of a walkable nice community is great, but without the community of people who want to be there and keep it going, it won’t work.

    • Etoile says:

      It has a “SoDoSoPa” feel, to hearken to South Park.
      Fancy, glitzy, glassy apartment buildings and corporate high-rises are cool in NYC where they belong, especially when they’re iconic… It gets old when every town has an area that vaguely reminds you of the same neighborhood in another town.

    • Etoile says:

      One frustration I have with these fancy apartments is they’re often clearly made to be cheap: carpets not flpors, low ceilings, no overhead lighting where they can get away with it, few multi-bedroom units. They’re generic and optimized to be money-grubbing, which also adds some insult.

  28. bullseye says:

    When I play D&D, I spend a good bit of time between games working out exactly how much all my stuff weighs, and also how much it all costs (for stuff I paid for). I have the time and don’t mind the work, but I always suspect that the other players are fudging it; it’s hard for me to imagine a normal person (even by D&D standards) putting in enough work to get it right.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Personal experience is that encumbrance rules tend to get ignored.

    • bzik says:

      Just so you don’t feel lonely – I did that back when I was playing too. Most other people didn’t even bother checking the weight of the items though.
      As a DM I handwaved it unless it reached ridiculous levels, at which point players were told to go buy themselves a cart or a bag of holding.

    • pansnarrans says:

      Our DM takes a position of “I’m not bothering to calculate encumbrance unless you’re obviously carrying too much stuff, and anyway here’s a Bag of Holding”, which I think is pretty sensible.

      Encumbrance is exactly the sort of thing that works in video games but is annoying if you don’t have a computer to track it. We do use DnD Beyond, but even there you’d have to put in a fair bit of work adding custom items.

      Probably too late to this thread to get a response, but: does anyone bother to track whether their archers have enough arrows or bolts?

  29. caryatis says:

    What do other meetups do with regard to banning people?

    • cassander says:

      We don’t ban, sacrifice them to Moloch.

      • albatross11 says:

        We started sacrificing the badly-behaved attendees to Moloch, but it didn’t seem to work very well–popular misbehavers got away with it, sometimes people wandered around slapping womens’ backsides and tossing around ethnic slurs for many meetings before getting banned, etc. So we established a kind of reward system–if you and your group manage to sacrifice a misbehaver to Moloch, you get more members and more power. This worked great–people became very competitive about sacrificing misbehaving attendees to Moloch, and the process was streamlined until a misplaced smile or cough got the malefactor dragged off and sacrificed. For some reason, though, there don’t seem to be anymore attendees, just competing Moloch-sacrificing groups. So there’s not any interesting discussion or new people to meet anymore, but we’re really, really good at sacrificing the badly-behaved to Moloch.

  30. johan_larson says:

    So, the miniseries “Chernobyl” is finished. How far back do we have to go to find a series or a season that was better than these five episodes?

    True Detective season 1 was 2014
    The Wire season 2 was 2003
    The Civil War was 1990

    I can’t pick a favorite season of The X-Files or Mad Men, although there were some really great episodes.

    • Nornagest says:

      I haven’t seen Chernobyl, but I’d say Generation Kill (2008) was as good as True Detective season 1. Not sure how I’d stack it up against The Wire. Fair warning, though, that it might not be quite as engaging to someone without my particular basket of obsessions and cultural valances.

      I didn’t like Band of Brothers (2001) quite as much personally, but its critical reception was better.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I think the first season of Fargo beats it, and that’s 2014. True Detective takes itself so seriously, even when it’s being silly, and doesn’t feel as “tight”, although Fargo does have a few plot holes.

      I thought Generation Kill was better; just watched it and Band of Brothers and was considerably more impressed with the former. 2008 and 2001 respectively

      I liked Babylon Berlin, which is German, 2017/18. Like True Detective it is a bit silly, though it has a bit of a sense of humour. Gets kinda weird in the last 3 episodes.

    • cassander says:

      I haven’t seen Chernobyl yet, but your favorite season of Breaking Bad (2008-13) and all of Gravity Falls (2012-16) are certainly strong contenders.

    • AG says:

      Another plug for Halt and Catch Fire, although the first season is bargain bin Mad Men.

      Honestly, though, you can just go through the history of mini-series Emmy nominees/winners.

      • Matt M says:

        I enjoy TV series but I don’t watch a ton of them.

        At a first glance, it seems to me that the Emmys are much better than the Oscars in the sense that they mostly reward actual popular things regular people will watch, and not just art-house critic-bait.

        On the other hand, there do still seem to be a lot of really popular shows they pass over, and a lot of stuff they nominate that I don’t actually know anyone who watches (this is becoming seemingly more common as viewing options become more fragmented with streaming original programming, and with paid individual subscription channels like HBO/Showtime stepping up their game).

        Does anyone have a theory as to why this is, and how long it will/won’t last?

        • AG says:

          This is because the crew of any show will naturally vote for their own show, so the nominees and winners alike are biased towards shows with larger productions.

    • Matt C says:

      Haven’t seen Chernobyl yet, but it’s sure getting good reviews.

      Nobody has mentioned The Leftovers, from 2014. One of the few TV shows that I intend to watch all the way through again.

  31. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Does nominative determinism apply to pets?
    I give you the case of Everest, short for “Don’t you ever rest?”, later to become famous as Pun Husky.

  32. proyas says:

    If we built an advanced enough trash incinerator with enough scrubbers and filters, wouldn’t it only emit CO2 and H2O? Why would there have to be any other gases or particulates?


    • HeelBearCub says:

      There is also an implied question here, and the answers to that will likely be CWey. Hard not to touch on it.

      Not all things oxidize, but I suppose you are capturing that idea with the addendum “scrubbers and filters”. But then that sort of amount to a tautology. With the “right” scrubbers and filters, we wouldn’t need to “emit” anything at all. Whether we could do that and produce energy is potentially important if we consider CO2 emissions to be important. How much of the garbage is fossil in origin matters at least a tiny amount.

      You can see from the article that they have by-product that is indeed captured and dealt with in some manner. Stack emissions are sufficiently clean by their standards. Ash is being captured and used or landfilled.

      So, the answer to your question seems to be that it is already possible to burn garbage without emissions, at least practically speaking. But then I’m not sure what the real question actually was?

      • Radu Floricica says:

        …And now I want to know the cw angle. Looks like an engineering question to me…

        And speaking of engineering, I think the original question could be answered with: “good, fast, cheap: pick two”. Burning at high enough temperatures and using enough scrubbers can definitely produce an arbitrarily small amount of pollutants, but that isn’t really useful if the scrubbers themselves cost more than the energy the process produces. Well, it might be worth it if you also take into account the value of trash disposal. Anyways, cost matters.

        As to where exactly the sweet spot lies… I can only guess that it depends (possibly exponentially) on your tolerance for pollutants. Is that the CW part?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Have you actually clicked through to the article?

          • Radu Floricica says:

            Yep. It’s quite short.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I was confused, because clearly garbage burning is cost effective for the Swedes, so I’m not sure why you went on that digression?

            As the other, just look at all the references in the article to the U.S.

          • Radu Floricica says:


            Well yeah, but that’s a legitimate difference in context. Pretty much the opposite of CW… I think? Meh, doesn’t matter.

    • Tenacious D says:

      In the national news in Canada there have been some recent stories pulling back the curtain on the recycling industry. It seems that plastic recycling has at least sometimes consisted of nothing more than baling it and shipping it to Asia. In view of this, I’ve become a bit more in favour of landfilling or incinerating locally where there is accountability for the ultimate fate of waste. My intuition is that recovering some energy from waste is probably about as good as recovering materials (aside from metal and maybe glass where I think recycling is more advantageous) anyway.
      If food scraps and similar waste can be segregated from other packaging, etc, anaerobic digestion can be a good alternative for the former (its high moisture content diminishes the energy balance for incineration).

      • compeltechnic says:

        Can’t remember where I read it (about 3 weeks ago on a link from news.ycombinator.com, I think), but if it comforts you at all, most recyclables are not shipped to Asia, because it is waaaay more expensive to ship it than to just bury it or incinerate it locally.

        The only stuff that gets shipped to Asia is the stuff that has resources still trapped inside, to be extracted via cheap labor. Think old electronics w/ gold contacts, etc.

        • helloo says:

          That’s incorrect.

          Because of the large trade export, the large cargo ships delivering stuff from China to America tend to be mostly empty the way back and thus the price to send stuff to China is very cheap.
          Generally speaking, costs to send stuff overseas is pretty cheap anyway.
          Otherwise, why would it be economically to send new shirt and cheap plastic goods that are made in China to the rest of the world in the first place?

          It might be the case NOW as China recently greatly increased its criteria for trash imports – they used to buy the majority of recyclables

          • compeltechnic says:

            I think we don’t disagree. Where you said “It might be the case NOW” I think I had updated my priors a month or so ago to be in agreement.

          • helloo says:

            Well, the reason you gave still isn’t correct – the shipping cost is low, that hasn’t changed.
            China is just limiting the amount it buys/imports not through imposing a tariff or anything. There has been an increase in trade to other countries but they do not have the capacity to match the amount of trash that the US and other first world countries produce.
            In time, other nations might increase their recycling facilities/ports to do the same thing China was doing before. Not greatly confident as the shock from the sudden stop has made many reconsider if sending trash overseas is a smart decision in the first place.

  33. Uribe says:

    A model for why some people are so susceptible to drug and alcohol addiction

    It’s common to refer to people engaged in high risk-taking behavior as having a high discount-rate. They value the short run over the long run, compared to others.

    A high-discount rate is rational if you don’t expect to live long. A common trope is someone who has found he only has a few months to live declaring he will now “live life to it’s fullest”, taking all sorts of risks along the way. If your life expectancy is reduced, trying to get more pleasure out of life in the short run may be rational. More significantly, for a young person and particularly for a young male, engaging in high-risk behavior due to a shortened life expectancy should be instinctive, because high-risk behavior increases the odds of procreation in the short run. (E.g., getting drunk increases your chance of having sex. Moreover, all high-risk taking behavior is related: drinking, norm-breaking, physical aggression, sexual aggression, etc.)

    The model is this: experiences which cause one to believe, to their very core, that their life expectancy has been shortened, change that person’s “life expectancy set-point”, and it is very hard to reset that “life expectancy set-point” once it has been brought forward. The sort of life experiences I have in mind here are engaging in significant violence, such as in a war, or engaging significantly and at length in suicidal thoughts.

    If you can’t reset your “life expectancy set-point” once it has been moved forward, this would explain a lot. It would explain why addicts have a tendency to relapse throughout their lives. It would explain why relapsing doesn’t always take much of a triggering event, and why someone who seems to have a lot to live for might throw it all away on a dime to chase a high.

    Edit: For clarification, by “life expectancy set-point”, I mean the feeling, deep down in one’s subconscious, of how much longer they have.

    • compeltechnic says:

      Nice model, I like it.

    • 10240 says:

      The model doesn’t match the fact that young males are more often risk-takers than older ones. Even if perhaps some instinctively believe they will have a short life for some reason, by and large older people should expect a shorter remaining life.

      • Uribe says:

        Fair point. That old people aren’t as likely to procreate is consistent with the notion that risk-taking behavior is about increasing the odds of procreating. So I don’t think your criticism entirely undercuts the gist of the concept I’m trying to map, but it does undercut the model as I’ve expressed it. I’ll give it some more thought.

    • Dack says:

      I don’t think this works. If it were true, you would expect people to constantly become more aggressive/criminal/risk-prone as they age; however, we know that the opposite is true.

      • Uribe says:

        Same as I answered above. It’s a fair point.

        One question is why are older people lower risk takers? Some possibilities:

        1) Their health is in fact more fragile, so more caution is rational.
        2) Evolution doesn’t care much about old age, so behavior in old-age is mostly an artifact rather than something optimized for by nature.
        3) Since procreation is no longer a concern, risk taking no longer serves a purpose.

        • albatross11 says:

          Less energy, more bad experiences, more accumulated damage, more fragile/slower recovery time, less sex drive leading to less need to do dumb shit to impress girls, more to lose (in many cases).

          • Plumber says:

            Also, more of the risk takers wind up dead or imprisoned so the older people you see are the ones who were less likely to be daredevils.

        • Beck says:

          Another possibility could be that extreme risk takers are less likely to make it to old age, at least without changing their behavior. So a bit of a selection bias.

          Also, I wonder if it might not be more appropriate to compare the risk-taking behavior of people with the adjusted set points you posit to people in the same age range who haven’t had the kind of experiences that change behavior. You could think of it as everyone’s risk-taking behavior decreasing with age, but some people’s line on the graph starting higher.

        • Sysguy says:

          Long comment because these misconceptions are surprisingly common:

          2) Evolution doesn’t care much about old age, so behavior in old-age is mostly an artifact rather than something optimized for by nature.

          Wrong. During the period when most of human evolution happened, humans lived in foraging bands and evolution DID care, very much, about old age in humans. This is why humans are unusually long-lived and why menopause happens. Neither of those traits would have evolved if the survival, and thus the behavior, of elders were meaningless.

          Before writing, tribal elders were the storehouses of vital environmental and cultural knowledge. Without them, entire bands of foragers failed and died. (Cf. “BOOK REVIEW: THE SECRET OF OUR SUCCESS”)

          There is also plenty of evidence from anthropology that having at least one living grandparent while growing to adulthood increases a child’s chance of survival and reproductive success.

          3) Since procreation is no longer a concern, risk taking no longer serves a purpose.

          In an r-strategy species, evolution is never just about procreation. For humans, multi-generational reproductive fitness is *much* more about childcare, nutrition, education, matchmaking, politics, and mutual defense than it is about conception rates. A reckless young man who gets three women pregnant and dies, leaving all three babies with a poor chance of survival and reproductive success, is not following a good strategy unless that’s literally his only choice. Any man with no children would be better off following the conventional ‘good father and provider’ path if that is possible.

          An older man who already has children has that many good reasons to be very careful with his own life. Risking his life to have one more child is a bad evolutionary bargain. That is NOT because “procreation is no longer a concern.” It’s because living longer enhances total evolutionary success.

          The same is true for older women, which is why they typically stop having babies and risking death in childbirth about the same time their daughters start having babies.

          Human evolution is never about maximizing conception rates. In fact, we evolved to reduce them. We have one of the most inefficient reproductive systems on the planet. Most mammals conceive at a rate of 90-99% per fertile period. By contrast, a fully fertile and sexually active human couple has only about a 25-30% chance to conceive each fertile period.

          Furthermore, without modern medical care about 40% of all conceptions fail to produce live offspring. One major reason is that the human endometrium is a brutally hostile environment for an embryo. It evolved to kill any embryo except the very fittest, because having and raising a human child was an extraordinarily risky and expensive proposition and mothers could not afford to invest in a genetically unfit baby.

          If conception rates mattered, we would not have evolved to be so bad at getting pregnant and carrying babies to term. And if old age were irrelevant to evolution, our maximum lifespan would be MUCH shorter, and women would remain fertile until near death.

    • caryatis says:

      >A common trope is someone who has found he only has a few months to live declaring he will now “live life to it’s fullest”, taking all sorts of risks along the way.

      It’s a trope, but is it actually true? I doubt it. The people I have known who knew they had only a few months to live did not typically make major life changes. Perhaps in part that’s because the typical dying person is in pain, low energy, and spending a lot of time in the hospital, but still the idea that people who know they will die start taking more risks seems more literary/theoretical than factual.

      This doesn’t really invalidate your theory, just a side point.

      • albatross11 says:

        Yeah, almost anytime someone’s told he has only months to live, he’s going to be getting increasingly ill and weak during that time.

      • Matt M says:

        I would also propose that most people don’t actually want to engage in a lot of high-risk behaviors, even aside from the lifespan-reducing aspects of them. Most people are pretty much living life the way they want to live it, adjusted for their means.

        The idea that within each and every one of us is some sort of daredevil, constrained only by fear of death and nothing else, strikes me as something that is entirely fictional and not at all supported by experience.

        Also, if you’re told you have 30 days to live, each day becomes far more valuable to you than they otherwise would have been. Would you go base jumping on Day 15, risking death and thus costing you 15 more days you could spend with your friends and family?

  34. dndnrsn says:

    The TV series Chernobyl is British actors, mostly. Can anyone here with the ability to spot British accents tell me if they make sense for the characters? For example – does the old peasant woman at the beginning of the fourth episode have an accent that someone in the UK would hear and identify “old, rural, farmer”? Is there a correspondence of accents?

    • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

      At least for that example: somewhat old, but not at all rural or farmer — it’s more or less RP.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Yeah, I thought she sounded a bit educated, but I don’t have enough of an ear for it to really say anything.

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          On the topic of films set in the USSR that use British accents, The Death of Stalin does it very nicely.

          • Nornagest says:

            It kind of messed with my head getting used to Stalin as a Cockney, but once I got into the flow of it, it worked.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I have no idea how they corresponded to the regional accents, but I liked the mix of American and British. Helped remind that the leadership was from across the USSR, not just Russian.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      On the podcast the writer explains how he wanted the accents to just fade into the background (but that American accents in the Soviet Union would be a distracting bridge too far), so I’d have been a little surprised if they went to that level of synchronizing.

      They tried having the actors do Soviet accents during casting but quickly determined it rang as too goofy for the Chernobyl story. Definitely recommend giving the podcast a listen, there’s also some neat tidbits on how they localized some eastern idioms so they could shoot it in English but still get the right vibe – without drifting into “Boris and Natasha” territory. The end result was quite successful, IMHO

      • dndnrsn says:

        Oh, it works great for me, but I get the feeling if I was a Brit it might kill the suspension of disbelief. Accents from Soviet republics definitely wouldn’t have worked.

  35. Edward Scizorhands says:

    In about a month I am taking a personal trip. What makes it unusual is that no one needs me at either end of it, so my travel times are extremely flexible. What can I do to use this to negotiate a cheap fare? I don’t mind showing up at the airport and being on standby for a few hours until I get a seat, as long as I know I have a good chance of actually flying.

    • bean says:

      It doesn’t really work that way. The airlines have gotten very good at how much they overbook, and security has more or less killed off classic standby unless you have a relative at the airline. Just find a set of flights that are cheap and book them now. Priceline or something like that may be a bit cheaper, but watch out for fares that book into basic economy.

      • Matt M says:

        Hardly an expert, but most airlines still overbook, right?

        I would suggest picking a popular route at a popular time (presumably you can use the internet to research which these are, right?) and showing up with the intention of the flight being overbooked, and you being able to sell back your seat to the airline in exchange for travel vouchers.

        Granted this is high-risk, high-reward. If the flight isn’t overbooked, you probably paid a slightly above average fare to end up on a crowded flight. But if it does work, you may very well get a voucher that’s of equal value to your ticket (essentially getting a free flight).

        • bean says:

          Your odds on this are bad. They’re very good at overbooking, which means that they usually have almost exactly the number of seats they need. Overall, I’d guess that you’d be better off just flying the cheapest route you can find.

          • Nornagest says:

            This seems true for peak times, but the last four or five times I’ve found myself on a 737 flying out after, say, 7 PM or so there’s usually been a few empty seats. Especially in the premium economy section (which I usually take, because I’m tall and standard seat pitches are torture), but a few in economy too.

          • bean says:

            Now that I think it over, when I’m not flying at peak times (holidays), you’re right. But I was specifically responding to Matt’s suggestion that he try overbooking to score a free flight, which has bad odds. I’ve only seen a couple of overbooked flights in the last few years. Took the bump on one, which was nice. Southwest paid me ~$450 to get where I was going two hours late. On the other, I couldn’t for schedule reasons.

    • toastengineer says:

      How opposed are you to bus travel? There’s power sockets, so if you have a laptop a day on the bus is pretty much the same as anywhere else.

  36. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Was Typhon the first kaiju (Godzilla-type monster)?

    Hesiod’s Theogony says:
    “Strength was with his hands in all that he did and the feet of the strong god were untiring. From his shoulders grew a hundred heads of a snake, a fearful dragon, with dark, flickering tongues, and from under the brows of his eyes in his marvellous heads flashed fire, and fire burned from his heads as he glared. And there were voices in all his dreadful heads which uttered every kind of sound unspeakable; for at one time they made sounds such that the gods understood, but at another, the noise of a bull bellowing aloud in proud ungovernable fury; and at another, the sound of a lion, relentless of heart; and at another, sounds like whelps…”

    Sounds like a more elaborate version of Godzilla’s rival King Ghidorah, where the suit used the wearer’s shoulders and arms for extra dragon heads. All his heads also have ranged fire breath (ambiguous here, but corroborated by Aesychlus, Seven Against Thebes). The reference to spoken language, bull, lion, and dog sounds were interpreted by some later writers as human and other animal heads between the serpent heads extending from his shoulders: i.e. snakes for arms, explicit in the Bibliotheka of (pseudo-)Apollodorus.
    “In size and strength he surpassed all the offspring of Earth. As far as the thighs he was of human shape and of such prodigious bulk that he out-topped all the mountains, and his head often brushed the stars. One of his hands reached out to the west and the other to the east, and from them projected a hundred dragons’ heads.”

    Symbolically, Typhon represented the possibility of the destructive end of the current world-order (kosmos, hence divine epithets like Zeus kosmokrator). He was literally Gaia’s Revenge against Zeus and his family, as Godzilla is a literalization of fear of nuclear weapons. He also symbolizes volcanic eruptions, in the myth that he was buried under the volcano Etna upon his defeat by Zeus. It’s also intriguing to note that one source, the Dionysiaca, records the mortal Cadmus participating in the battle against him, and Cadmus was synchronized with Ahmose I of Egypt’s New Kingdom. Was Typhon originally a memory of the Thera eruption?

    Counterpoint: scholarly consensus is that the Typhon myth is a particularly Mesopotamian/Near Eastern influence on the Indo-European core of Greek mythology, so maybe the first kaiju is whoever inspired him?

    • AG says:

      Surely there’s a kaiju in the Gilgamesh saga?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      !Pedantry alert!

      Was Typhon the first

      This is sort of a silly aside, but does anyone else get bothered by this type of sentence construction?

      It seems like a) the right question to ask, and b) what is usually actually being asked, is whether something is the oldest known reference to … whatever it is.

      People seem to take for granted that oldest known reference is the same as first time ever imagined or discussed. This seems very unlikely to me.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        It seems like a) the right question to ask, and b) what is usually actually being asked, is whether something is the oldest known reference to … whatever it is.

        People seem to take for granted that oldest known reference is the same as first time ever imagined or discussed. This seems very unlikely to me.

        OK, correct. Obviously “is the oldest known reference to X?” is the right way of asking about anything really old, due to the state of records and possibility that the first time discussed/story told was literally prehistoric. It’s arguable whether the formulation I used is technically correct for categories of imaginary construct whose first known reference is the 20th century.
        On that note, it would be interesting to ask “What’s the oldest known superhero who wasn’t a religious figure like Achilles?”

        • Nick says:

          On that note, it would be interesting to ask “What’s the oldest known superhero who wasn’t a religious figure like Achilles?”

          If a hero is someone who is half god, then Gilgamesh, who is two thirds god, is the first superhero.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Well played, Nick, but I explicitly said I was disentangling the set “superheroes” from religious figures.
            The lit crit argument “superheroes are modern gods” is a silly category error. People understand that they’re light entertainment, and confusing the point just leads to Zack Snyder’s Frank Miller’s Batman Fights Superman.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Does Odysseus count as a superhero? Or does “favor and protection of a god” kick him out?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @HBC: Derp, yes. Odysseus would count: not a demigod, and didn’t have hero temples like Heracles, Achilles, etc.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Le Maistre Chat:
            That was a clarifying question, not what I was necessarily thinking was an answer.

            The “clever, strong, willful” character seems like a near universal archetype, and given the ubiquity of gods in cultures, it seems like a traditions might have someone human who manages to hold their own vs. the gods. Frequently that might be just by be being clever.

            So, do we know of any examples before Odysseus?

          • John Schilling says:

            Well played, Nick, but I explicitly said I was disentangling the set “superheroes” from religious figures.

            Does that mean MCU Thor isn’t a superhero? What about DC’s Wonder Woman?

            Unless there’s evidence of a major Gilgamesh cult that e.g. prayed to Gilgamesh in the sincere expectation of miracles, I’d guess that “is a demigod” was basically the -3rd millenium version of “was bitten by a radioactive spider”; the sort of thing people can convince themselves is vaguely plausible for the purpose of suspending disbelief and enjoying a good story, but that almost nobody really takes seriously.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            That isn’t what she implied in her question. She just asked about superheroes that weren’t also religious figures. The set of superheroes overlaps with the set of religious figures, but she is interested in the first in the set not in the intersection.

          • John Schilling says:

            I am A: questioning whether Gilgamesh really counts as a “religious figure” and B: pointing out that simply including the word “god” in a superhero’s origin story doesn’t make them a religious figure.

          • Civilis says:

            Does Odysseus count as a superhero? Or does “favor and protection of a god” kick him out?

            He’s certainly not as old as Odysseus, but how would you count someone like Guan Yu, who wouldn’t count as a religious figure while he was alive but was elevated to deity centuries after death?

            I think the Three Kingdoms era Chinese warlords are interesting examples in the ‘ancient superhero’ discussion because they’re historical figures that get elevated to superhuman heroic (and villainous) legends as time progresses. Guan Yu’s just probably the most vivid example where you can follow the process out to deification.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            I think you are still reading an unintended implication.

            I read the original question as more about “What is the origin story for the superhero and where do they get their super powers?”

            Child-of-a-God is an easy and once extremely common origin story.

            Compare that to Odysseus or, say, Batman where “generally badass (and smart!) human meets great motivation”.

            I’m sure someone has done sort of “classification and tropes of the origin story” out there somewhere.

        • helloo says:

          A political one like Yu the Great. There might have been an earlier Pharaoh but hard to conclude which ones would not count as religious.

          I liked Gilgamesh better as an answer myself, and he’s a bit earlier.

      • Randy M says:

        what is usually actually being asked, is whether something is the oldest known reference to

        “Was X the first” and “Is X the oldest we have evidence of/reference to” are generally going to be resolved with the same evidence.

        And if someone has an argument for an example of something that predates any reference to it, that’s going to be interesting, at the least in a sort of Jordan Peterson sort of way.

        Clearly the Kaiju represents our fascination with the primal ineffable force of chaos, which we can see in the earliest societies–indeed, predating even the written word. Even monkeys have Kaiju–even Lobsters have Kaiju. No, Le Maistre Chat, Typhoon is not the earliest Kaiju, surely, unless it has, you know, just these sort of unstoppable spiritual claws gripping our forebrains, climbing to the top of our dominance hierarchies and just looking us in the collective eye, snarling back and daring us to try to put up our puny lobster civilization in its way. That, that is the first Kaiju, and don’t you forget it.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          “Clearly the Kaiju represents our fascination with the primal ineffable force of chaos, which we can see in the earliest societies–indeed, predating even the written word. Even monkeys have Kaiju–even Lobsters have Kaiju.”
          “What, how could lobsters be capable of the abstract thought necessary to be fascinated with something like ‘chaos’?”
          “It goes back deeper than that. Something older grips their crude minds by the claws, the claws of the earliest society, which fought the primal chaos of the Kaiju of the void and the ocean.”
          “So you believe there were intelligent beings with lobster claws before lobsters even evolved?”

      • Nick says:

        It seems like a) the right question to ask, and b) what is usually actually being asked, is whether something is the oldest known reference to … whatever it is.

        People seem to take for granted that oldest known reference is the same as first time ever imagined or discussed. This seems very unlikely to me.

        People ask it that way because that’s what is usually being asked. It’s a more efficient way of asking the same question because the literal reading of the question is ridiculous, so nobody presumes that is what is meant. Compare that instead of asking, “Do you know when Five Guys closes, and if so what time?” folks ask, “When does Five Guys close?” There are two possible answers to the first question, “No, I don’t know” and “Yes, 10pm.” The second has the same two answers but takes half as long to ask, so it’s preferred.

        This is related, I think, to Gricean maxims, which are presumptions about speech. In Wikipedia’s example of a conversational implicature according to the maxim of relevance, “That cake looks delicious” implicates “I would like a piece of that cake.” In our case, folks presume Le Maistre Chat is asking a question which can be answered (“earliest recorded extant kaiju”) rather than one that can’t (“earliest kaiju”), because the latter would be irrelevant; what is there to talk about?

        • Randy M says:

          This is related, I think, to Gricean maxims

          Can someone come and beat this into me sometime? I’ve taken to being literal in conversation too much. I’m not sure if I’m trying to communicate the specific nuance between words or engaging in fun wordplay, but I’ve noticed my children asking “Dad could you–I mean would you–I mean, will you please help me sometime soon?”

          Oh, and if LMC hasn’t put a Leonides expy named Gricean Maxims into his D&D game, I’m disappointed.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Sorry to disappoint. 🙁
            She has other character puns you may take as a consolation prize.

          • Randy M says:

            In any case, remind me to make that reference if Scott ever puts out another Dungeons and Discourse post.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Sure, I’m generally down with all that … but.

          When I said “People seem to take for granted that oldest known reference is the same as first time ever imagined or discussed.” I did actually mean that some conversations around this, especially related to ancient history, seem to actually assume that the ancient record is complete in a way that absence of evidence is evidence of absence. (Caveat: the more complete the documentary record, the better off we are in this assumption. )

          I am certainly sympathetic to the idea that Gricean maxims demand we interpret this question/statement charitably. But I do wonder how often people forget that oral traditions exist.

          ETA: And again, I recognize this is, even on a small scale and certainly on the grand one, very small potatoes indeed.

          • Nick says:

            It’s fair to wonder generally. In LMC’s case specifically, she was writing effortposts about anthropology and Near East religion and advertises her Bronze Age campaign on the regular, so I think you can be sure she knows that oral traditions exist. 😀

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Sure. I hadn’t made those connections, that is certainly very relevant. I’ll likely remember now.

            But then we get to everyone who reads what she writes.

            And then we get to how we encounter this kind of construction in the wild, which is where my general pedantic reaction comes from.

            But certainly, you make valid points and I’m probably better off just suppressing it in general.

  37. sclamons says:

    I’m writing a “Today I Learned” series on Medium that I think some readers would enjoy.

    Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday night, I write a short (2-8 minute read) post on three things I learned that day. I’ve got just over a month’s worth of posts now, archived at the index linked above. If you like it, you can subscribe on Medium (free) and they’ll notify you whenever a new post goes live. If you don’t want to give information to Medium for some reason, friend me on Facebook and you’ll get posts whenever I put up a new TIL.

    Content is usually pretty science-focused, with an emphasis on biology, but subjects vary widely, according to my own interest (the last one up is entirely tips for fiction writing; before that, there have been several posts featuring apples). A lot of content from SSC also makes it up there, so there will be *some* duplication of information for y’all.

    I hope at least some of you enjoy! And of course, if you have any tips for how to make my TILs more enjoyable and/or informative, please let me know.

  38. Plumber says:

    I just realized that the Tolkien bio-pic is already out, and given that

    1) I read “Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth” over a decade ago

    2) Saw both versions of “Shadowlands” (the C.S. Lewis bio-pic)

    3) Am a sucker for romance and tragedy with world war backdrops

    I’m guessing that I’m the target audience for it and it would be evil of me to miss it.

  39. johan_larson says:

    In the past, we have talked about the practice of hiring software developers by whiteboard coding, using miniature problems concerned with algorithms and data structures. Doing so has some problems and frustrations. So let’s talk about alternatives. How is this done in other white-collar work? How are accountants, petroleum engineers, actuaries, finance quants, and analysts of various sorts hired?

    • SamChevre says:

      I’m an actuary; I’ve never been asked to do any whiteboarding. The last job I interviewed for was a fairly-typical interview process. “Tell me about project X.” “How did you deal with Y?” “What do you expect in ‘field where regulation is changing'”

      Key things interviewers want to know:
      1) Do you have the skills to do this job
      2) Are you the sort of person who keeps up to date on changes and thinks ahead about them? Being an actuary involves a lot of interacting with regulatory frameworks.
      3) Will we be able to stand working with you.

      One difference between actuaries and most other professions: it’s a small profession, and tightly networked. I have never heard of person changing jobs where someone at the new job hadn’t worked with some of the job-changer’s former colleagues. So reputation matters a great deal.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Accountant. I’ve been asked to “white-board” once, by a manager who was not greatly respected. We are typically asked standard open-ended behavioral questions like “tell me about a time when you needed to get everyone to agree on a difficult course of action.”

      Technical skills generally get teased out by asking probing follow-up questions to these open-ended general questions.

    • John Schilling says:

      Aerospace engineer. We find candidates by various sorts of networking, by sending recruiters out to select universities, and by quickly skimming whatever resumes come over the transom. If you’re coming straight out of college, we’d rather you have done an internship with us first, and if you haven’t we’ll be looking at your other internships. And, yes, extracurriculars; if you’re the B+ student who as an undergrad launched a rocket into outer space on your own time, we want you way more than the guy who spent all his time studying for an A+ record. Even if it isn’t specifically job-relevant, teaching yourself, say, battleship engineering because it’s cool getting it right means you probably don’t need hand-holding when it comes to picking up any other engineering specialty. If you aren’t coming right out of college, we’ve also got your prior career to look at for examples of your actually Getting Shit Done.

      And, yes, getting yourself admitted to and then graduating from an elite university(*) is an achievement that demonstrates relevant competence. But we’d still rather you join the rocket club than get straight As. Seriously, if you’re looking for a job as a rocket scientist, pointing to the rocket you built is a really strong discriminator.

      If we like what we see, the actual interview is close to an all-day process. The centerpiece is a one-hour presentation on a technical subject of your choice (Master’s thesis or subset of a Ph.D. dissertation is normal for a recent graduate), to a technical audience that will be asking questions. This addresses both technical competence and communications skills. There’s also usually three major sit-down interview sessions, one with the hiring manager and his manager, one with a panel of ~three of their future colleagues, and one with a manager from a different department. The first is usually as much about selling the company to them as vice versa, and also addresses past experience and judgement/behavioral rather than technical issues. The panel interview is part technical and part culture fit; if there’s any “whiteboarding” that’s usually where it will be. The outside manager is a sanity check, and may also go into whiteboarding territory. And of course we take them out to lunch, which often leads to talking shop but not in an interrogatory way.

      I did get one lame “puzzle” question when I went through the process; not going to out the guy who threw that one at me. When I was doing the technical part of the interviews, my standard technical “question” was to hand them the schematic of a fairly complex satellite propulsion system and have them go through as much of it as they could, explaining how it worked and why it was designed that way. I’d also usually ask them to redo their one-hour technical presentation but in five minutes and as if they were explaining it to their grandmother.

      * Or correctly identifying the elite program or professor at an otherwise sub-elite university and taking that path to completion.

    • cassander says:

      Aerospace & Defense Industry Analyst

      Similar to, if somewhat less intensive than, what John does. Prospects are grilled on their writing samples and the subjects thereof and their general familiarity with defense industry terms and goings on. They’re then tested on their knowledge of aircraft and data skills, if they claim any (most have none worth mentioning). Points are awarded for experience, esoteric knowledge, good schools, relevant military career, and extremely high GPA. Will they fit on the team usually isn’t a too much of a question because most of the prospects come from very similar backgrounds. More senior positions will usually involve more stakeholders and be longer, but the process is pretty similar.

    • Art says:

      I am a hedge fund research quant. We hire applied math majors with good computer skills right out of college. We do not go to college campuses, but recruit college seniors using Linked In. We hire people with top notch grades in challenging math courses from high ranked universities, but not necessarily the highest ranked. Our last two hires were from Johns Hopkins and Northwestern. We interview about 20 to 25 people over the phone, and invite the top 4-5 candidates into our offices for a half day visit. We look for a personality type that will work well as the junior person on a team effort, someone who is cheerful and upbeat and pleasant to be around. We prefer to teach the technical aspects of our trading algorithms ourselves; we do not require much course work in finance itself. In our experience, everyone with top grades from a good applied math program can learn the technical side of the job from us, so we do not fire a lot of technical questions at them. If a candidate claims to have studied options theory, we might ask a straightforward question about put-call parity to verify they have the claimed knowledge, but otherwise focus on personality fit with out group. Our team works together in one large open office, so we cannot be productive unless we all get along well personally.