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Open Thread 147

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 – and also check out the SSC Podcast. Also:

1. I’m no longer soliciting updates about when links in my old posts no longer work. There are over a thousand SSC posts, and some are 5+ years old. I’m sure there are lots of links that no longer work, but keeping up with them would be a full-time job and I’m not interested (if someone else is, let me know).

2. I’ve added this to my Mistakes page, but it seems important enough that I want to signal-boost it here too: I’ve been informed of some studies suggesting Ritalin is just as likely to increase Parkinson’s disease risk as Adderall. This contradicts my previous position expressed in Adderall Risks: Much More Than You Wanted To Know that only Adderall and not Ritalin had this risk. I can no longer trace down the evidence supporting my previous position. Sorry for getting this wrong.

3. I had originally planned to end my review of Human-Compatible with a push for Soeren Everlin’s AI Safety Reading Group, which meets online every Wednesday and which was discussing Human Compatible for a while. But I waited too long and didn’t publish the review until they were done with the discussion. But that’s not their fault, and I still think you should check them out [see this comment for logistical info]

4. Comment on the week is Nick on Tyler Cowen’s state capacity libertarianism and the whole ensuing comment thread. And somehow I’ve lost the source comment, but also check out this article on how latitude affects binge drinking and not alcohol consumption per se. This may mean we don’t have to bring in sexual abuse to understand Greenland’s continued high suicide rates.

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714 Responses to Open Thread 147

  1. rlms says:

    Crosspost from OT 147.5:

    Anyone interested in another game of SSC readers’ Diplomacy?

  2. Rewrite says:

    Hi Scott, Just in case you didn’t see this link between blindness and not getting Shizophrenia (ever!?), I’m posting it hear: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/939qbz/people-born-blind-are-mysteriously-protected-from-schizophrenia

  3. IQrealist says:

    https://vdare.com/posts/affirmative-licensing-step-1-of-medical-licensing-exam-made-pass-fail

    When affirmative action was introduced over a half century ago, many assumed that once the under-represented demographics were given a little help getting past the initial gatekeeper, they’d do well at all subsequent levels. Unfortunately, that proved naive. So ever since there have been unending struggles over how far up the ladder to extend affirmative action.

    For example, if you have affirmative action in medical school admissions, should you also have affirmative action in doctor licensing?

    One obvious but little-discussed problem for the beneficiaries of affirmative action at professional schools is that both law and medicine school lead to professional licensing exams, which can be disastrous if the student can’t pass. In contrast, business school students don’t have to take exams to get a job (outside of a few specialties), so an MBA can be a safer bet for an underrepresented minority. Or at least that’s what logic implies: I’ve never seen this question investigated by academics.

  4. ConnGator says:

    Have not seen this posted here, but I found it very interesting.

    https://kotaku.com/therapists-are-using-dungeons-dragons-to-get-kids-to-1794806159

    • Viliam says:

      But I was told that people can only enjoy games where the protagonist is exactly like them…

      Oops, sorry, wrong Open Thread. It’s just a funny coincidence that today you can download for free Kingdom Come: Deliverance, the game that was criticized for not having enough black people in medieval Bohemia.

  5. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    An economist describes potty training

    This is the funniest thing I’ve read lately. Small children can be very strategic about incentives.

    • Etoile says:

      This is hilarious.

      However, the “magical” story of a 6-month-old figuring out is not so uncommon in the parts of the world without diapers; ask anyone from e.g. a former communist country at what age they or their kids (born there) were potty-trained – they’ll probably say about a year.

    • baconbits9 says:

      This person has no idea what they are talking about with cloth diapers, with cloth the benefit is that kids are uncomfortable early on. As they grow up they start to get used to the damp, and they also get far more engaged in their play which distracts them. The primary benefits of cloth are that parents know how often their kid pees, and is more on track for potty training because the actually know what is going on.

    • GearRatio says:

      This article reads very differently for me than some others, I sense. I’m bubbled and I 100% forget there’s parents whose parenting style is “My kids are in control and can occasionally be bribed into doing what I want; otherwise I am powerless against them”.

    • DragonMilk says:

      Too much carrot and not enough stick.

      I for one imagine myself scolding a child for butt splatter in waking hours!

    • acymetric says:

      But, after a couple of weeks, we had little to show for it except a personal dislike of jelly beans, as their consumption came to us to be associated with unpleasant activities.

      I think they’re doing it wrong. One of the best parts of my day! 😉

  6. albatross11 says:

    I loved this tweet–a short contemplation of the many ways we can benefit from our enemies.

  7. albatross11 says:

    Interesting essay on the subset of the internet taken over by conflict theorists. I’m not convinced he’s exactly right (I think he’s mistaking the small subset of the world he lives in for the whole world and giving the stuff he sees too much cosmic significance.) But something about the description of the mook/knight/beef economy seems very accurate, to me.

    ETA: It made me think a lot about an older essay by Clay Shirky talking about cognitive surplus–basically all the time and energy of people that could be harnessed and turned to some purpose, or could be spent in TV or video games or reading books or whatever. Editing Wikipedia articles is an example of a positive unpaid use of cognitive surplus; some kind of internet piecework might be an example of positive paid use of cognitive surplus.

    The internet of beefs is a socially destructive phenomenon that runs on cognitive surplus–lots of people who come home from a hard day at work and jump in on a social media pileon or send horrible messages to targets on the other side.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Is he saying the internet is full of conflict theorists, or just people who like to fight? I think it’s the latter. Rao doesn’t use our jargon.

      There’s something to it, esp. since the internet is mostly still an American phenomenon. Americans just like to fight, I find. It’s part of the civic religion. It doesn’t have to be with fists or guns; proxies or words are fine. Hence, pro US football, and internet trolls.

      I’m also not sure it’s a bad thing, in that light. Life might need fighters every once in a while, so it’s best to be prepared. And that means venues where we can fight without doing (too much) damage, so that means war games, Patriots fans, and twitter mobs. Could be worse.

    • Viliam says:

      Actual belief is a liability on the IoB. The more a knight of the IoB genuinely believes in whatever principle they think they are fighting for, the less effective they are as wranglers of fickle mook energy. Sincerely ideological players routinely overestimate the depth of intellectual coherence required to accumulate and wield mook power, producing nerdy intellectual edifices where mere covfefe gestures would not just do the job, but actually do it better.

      For some reason this reminds me of the review of Moral Mazes. Two different ways to serve Moloch, but there is some similarity.

  8. johan_larson says:

    A new tabletop RPG about the Alien universe has been published by Free League.
    Webpage here.
    Review here.

    This is the first official tabletop roleplaying game in the Alien universe since Leading Edge Games’ Aliens Adventure Game released in 1991. In a similar fashion, Free League’s Alien universe takes place soon after the events of Aliens, the blockbuster movie from 1986, and Alien3. That means 1997’s Alien Resurrection hasn’t happened yet, but both Prometheus and Covenant are part of Free League’s Alien universe. As you look through the book, Alien fans will notice references to the expanded Alien universe from novels, comics, and even the video game, Alien Isolation (2014).

    Alien: The Roleplaying Game is an outstanding product from top to bottom: the amazing original artwork, straight-forward game mechanics, and a ton of information detailing the Alien universe. Even if you don’t play roleplaying games, I recommend buying this book if you are a fan of the Alien franchise. And if you do play the game, you’re in for a treat with two modes of play to bring sci-fi horror to your players.

    Preview of the main rulebook available here.
    Two-some hours of chill affable dudes playing it here.

    Initial indications are good.

  9. Scott Alexander says:

    Suppose a socialist goes up against a capitalist in some important election (I would say Bernie vs. Trump, but I don’t want incumbency to play a role here, so imagine abstract versions of them). Just before the election, the economy crashes. Does this:

    1. Favor the capitalist, because now everyone wants a steady hand to restore economic growth, and this plays more to capitalism’s strengths than socialism’s

    or

    2. Favor the socialist, because capitalism seems to be in crisis, plus lots of newly poor and unemployed people will be naturally sympathetic to socialism’s promises

    • Civilis says:

      It’s going to depend on the circumstances of the crash, or at least the popular narrative that takes hold.

      If blame for the crash is associated with Wall Street or the banks, it will benefit the socialist. If blame for the crash is associated with healthcare or the housing market, it will benefit the Democratic candidate without necessarily advancing a socialist narrative.

      I don’t see that a crash can benefit the capitalist as a capitalist. It would benefit the populist right if the crash were blamed on an overseas cause, such as the disruption of China’s exports due to the virus.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I don’t see that a crash can benefit the capitalist as a capitalist.

        If the crash were associated with a nationalization, a sharp tax increase, or a trade war.

        But I think the incumbency effect swamps everything; whoever is seen as furthest from the President holding the bag when the crash happens gets the boost.

      • Matt M says:

        If blame for the crash is associated with Wall Street or the banks, it will benefit the socialist. If blame for the crash is associated with healthcare or the housing market

        So, which was 2008? Was that a “housing-associated” crash, or a “bank-associated” crash?

        In either case, the media definitely blamed capitalism, most people agreed, and Obama (who isn’t explicitly socialist, I know), won an election that he probably wouldn’t have if the economy was doing just fine.

        I’m having a tough time imagining any sort of crash that might happen where the overwhelming majority of media won’t work very hard to spin it as “capitalism caused this.” And they control the “popular narrative that takes hold.”

    • JayT says:

      The last few recessions that preceded elections seem to have benefitted Democrats, so that would lead me to think the socialist would fair better. Small sample size, obviously.

      Great Recession -> Obama
      Early 90s Recession -> Clinton
      1980 recession -> Regan
      1960 recession -> JFK

      • JayT says:

        Also, FDR would be more evidence for the socialist, since he won during the Great Depression.

        • FDR didn’t campaign, in his first election, as a socialist or anything close. He criticized the incumbent administration for spending too much.

          Then got elected and spent even more.

          • JayT says:

            Ah. I didn’t know that. I assumed his New Deal would have been a part of his campaign. I’m guessing that “not the incumbent” is probably the biggest benefit in this kind of situation.

          • broblawsky says:

            Roosevelt also campaigned on:
            – “a competitive tariff for revenue”
            – “the extension of federal credit to the states to provide unemployment relief wherever the diminishing resources of the states makes it impossible for them to provide for the needy”
            – “expansion of the federal program of necessary and useful construction effected [sic] with a public interest, such as adequate flood control and waterways.
            – “Extension and development of the Farm co-operative movement and effective control of crop surpluses so that our farmers may have the full benefit of the domestic market”
            etc.

            The Democratic party wasn’t explicitly socialist, but this is a pretty normal early 20th-century social democrat platform.

    • zqed says:

      Depends purely on the policies in place at the time of the crash. If the policies were more similar to those of the capitalist candidate when the economy tanked, then the socialist will have an advantage, and vice versa.

      This is fairly well-researched by political scientists (2008 provided great global data since so many countries had free elections), and the evidence shows that economic crises favor the opposition, no matter their policies. Given that most voters are interested in immediate problems (unemployment, taxes, etc.) over economic ideology, I expect this effect to dominate even in the unlikely case when neither candidate belongs to the incumbent’s party.

      • Aapje says:

        Given that most voters are interested in immediate problems (unemployment, taxes, etc.) over economic ideology

        I think that a better frame is that the typical voter in a two-party system chooses between “more of the same” and “something different.”

        Voters fairly logically judge incumbent politicians on actual outcomes, even though cyclical economics and short term politics that mortgage the future make this a mediocre measuring stick. Yet I think that most people are not capable of doing any better.

        • albatross11 says:

          It’s honestly really hard to do much better than that. Are we mortgaging our future by constantly running deficits? You can make a plausible argument either way, AFAICT.

        • Matt M says:

          I think that a better frame is that the typical voter in a two-party system chooses between “more of the same” and “something different.”

          100% agree. This is really all there is to it.

    • Atlas says:

      (I would say Bernie vs. Trump, but I don’t want incumbency to play a role here, so imagine abstract versions of them)

      My understanding is that many political scientists believe that incumbency is the dominating consideration here, so I’m not sure that the difference between the two scenarios (of who benefits from the recession) is going to be that important. E.g., here’s a paper by prominent political scientist Larry Bartels on the political effects of the Great Recession. (It’s paywalled, but if your local library system has access to academic databases you should be able to read the full text—e.g. I got it this way through ProQuest.) Bartels writes in the abstract:

      America’s political response to the Great Recession was surprising to pundits but mostly consistent with patterns familiar to political scientists. Ordinary citizens assessed politicians and policies primarily on the basis of visible evidence of success or failure. Thus, in 2008, the president’s party was punished at the polls for the dismal state of the election-year economy. The successful challenger, Barack Obama, pushed policy significantly to the Left, as Democratic presidents typically do, provoking a predictable “thermostatic” shift to the Right in the public’s policy mood. In 2010, slow economic recovery and public qualms about ideological overreach exacerbated the losses normally suffered by a president’s party in midterm elections. In 2012, Obama was reelected—as incumbents almost always are when their party has held the White House for just four years—thanks in part to a modest but timely upturn in the income growth rate.

      And elaborates in the paper:

      Over the past five years, dozens of incumbent governments around the world have faced their voters under conditions of varying economic distress.The results of these elections show little evidence of any consistent shift in favor of either left-wing or right-wing parties in response to the Great Recession. [My emphasis] While left-of-center governments (in Portugal, New Zealand, Britain, Spain, and Slovenia) suffered significant losses, so did right-of-center governments (in Iceland, Japan, and Greece)—and centrist coalitions (in the Netherlands, Austria, Germany, and Finland) fared even worse. 3 The most consistent pattern in these election results is that voters have simply, and even simplemindedly, punished incumbents of every stripe for economic hard times.

      And concludes:

      The truth of the matter is that ideological mandates are exceedingly rare in American politics, even in times of economic crisis. Indeed, what may be most striking about the politics of the Great Recession is how ordinary they look. In bad times, as in good times, ordinary citizens have a stubborn tendency to judge politicians and policies not on the basis of ideology or economic doctrine, but of perceived success or failure.

      Another thing probably worth considering is increasing partisanship, although I don’t know how exactly that shakes out here. Here’s an NYT article about how perceptions of the economy are increasingly partisan, so, the authors conjecture, it might not matter as much in the 2020 elections as previously. The stuff about partisanship/polarization/bias reminds me to say that Ezra Klein’s recent book Why We’re Polarized is really, really good and I highly recommend it.

    • Plumber says:

      @Scott Alexander, 
      The crash favors whichever party is in opposition to the one in power at the time of the crash, but all else being equal I’d say a deflationary crash would give more of an advantage to a more socialistic than median party (run away inflation would give more of an advantage to a less socialistic party).

      IIRC the biggest electoral win for a socialistic party was for Atlee’s Labour Party in the July 1945 UK general election, which wasn’t crash conditions, voters just wanted a domestic focus after years of war and they wanted a change “Look to the future”, it helped that during the wartime coalition government Atlee was in charge of a lot of domestic policy, and while Churchill warned that “Labour will have to employ a Gestapo to implement their policies”, Atlee was mild mannered (think less Bernie Sanders and more Walter Mondale) and didn’t fit the image of a dictator. 

      I’m guessing that you’re thinking of Bloomberg or Sanders in the primary if a crash happens in the next two weeks, in that scenario I’d say Sanders has the advantage, but that’s contingent on a 1929 or 2008 style crash and the public blames capitalism is, if it’s a Venezuela style crash socialism would be blamed. 

      If a severe deflationary crash happens during a Republican’s Presidency than yes the electorate will turn Leftward, if say a less Left Democrat is President (like Biden, Bloomberg, or Klobucher) then a Leftier candidate may try to primary them, but will fail (Kennedy in ’80).

    • Guy in TN says:

      @Scott Alexander
      The crash will benefit whichever candidate’s proposed economic policies differ the most from the current system.

      So in the DPRK: The crash would benefit the capitalists.

      In the USA: The crash would benefit the socialists.

      People are rarely astute enough to be able to thread the needle of “yes, this bad thing is happening under our current president/policies, but without him things would be even worse”, except for in cases of wartime where the blame is squarely not on the current president’s shoulders (e.g. Bush and 9/11, FDR and Pearl Harbor).

    • cassander says:

      I don’t think you can remove incumbency from the question. Whoever is in charge and whatever came before will be blamed, regardless of the connection to actual events. See, for example, how glass steagal got blamed for the housing collapse despite the fact that the crisis didn’t only have nothing to do with commercial banks doing risky ibank things with deposits, but that it was the ibanks like lehman bothers and bear sterns that got in trouble on their own.

      • Nick says:

        I’m sure we can’t remove an incumbency effect from a real election, but we may still want to answer the question how much favor a socialist qua socialist receives vs how much favor a socialist qua non-incumbent receives.

        • cassander says:

          Fair point. I think all else being equal, a crisis will give impetus to people who want the government to do something and blame someone, and that’s pretty much always going to be something not capitalist. “Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate It will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life. Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up the wrecks from less competent people” is never going to be a popular slogan.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Glass-Steagal was just a rallying cry; nobody blamed Bill Clinton even though he championed and presided over its repeal.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          I think the Glass-Steagall line was pushed by people for whom it was axiomatic that the crisis was caused by deregulation of some sort– relevant or no, G-S was the only major change to banking law they could think of which fit that description.

          • cassander says:

            I don’t think there was a secret meeting where people got together and said “alright, what repeal of banking regulations can we blame this on?” It was more a just so story that spread like wildfire because it sounded plausible and fit with the ideological priors of a lot of people.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            Honestly, I think it was, above and beyond than any particular rule being repealed, a crisis caused by the rules that remained going unenforced because of ideological bias and regulatory capture.
            The banks were doing lots of shit which was just straight up illegal, but the regulators were snoozing on the job because “the invisible hand will take care of it” and “I see myself at Goldman in 5 years”. Dont bloody well appoint people as regulators who dont believe in regulation.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I don’t think there was a secret meeting where people got together and said “alright, what repeal of banking regulations can we blame this on?” It was more a just so story that spread like wildfire because it sounded plausible and fit with the ideological priors of a lot of people.

            It doesn’t even have to be a just so story (in this case it largely is), if you have a badly built dam and it collapses it is correct to say ‘this fatal flaw here is what caused the dam to burst’ but it can still be incorrect to say ‘without that one flaw the dam would have been fine’.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The banks were doing lots of shit which was just straight up illegal, but the regulators were snoozing on the job because “the invisible hand will take care of it” and “I see myself at Goldman in 5 years”. Dont bloody well appoint people as regulators who dont believe in regulation.

            There was relatively little activity that was straight up illegal, and what there was came late to the party.

    • Lillian says:

      Allan Litchman’s Keys to the White House model has by far the best track record of any US Presidential election model I am familiar with. It has two main flaws. The first is that it only predicts the popular vote winner not the electoral college winner. I contend however that the EC is basically random noise and inherently unpredictable. The second is that one of the thirteen keys is post-facto, in that it turns against the incumbent party if a third party candidate gets at least 5% of the vote. This tripped Allan Litchman himself in 2016, when he predicted that Trump would win the popular vote because he expected that Gary Johnson would hit the threshold since he was polling above 10%. However Johnson’s polling numbers dropped closer to election day and he didn’t hit the 5% threshold, so as the model predicted Clinton got the popular vote.

      So per this model, a recession will disadvantage the incumbent party and advantage the challenging party. It makes sense, if the economy crashes the voters are most likely to blame whoever is in charge, which would make them more inclined to go with the other guys. It does mean however that it doesn’t actually matter what the party platforms are, or their candidate’s ideologies, or really the candidates themselves unless they happen to be exceptionally charismatic. The Keys as they are right now predict that if a recession hits before the election it will cause Trump to lose the popular vote, and this will happen completely irrespective of who winds up being the Democrat nominee.

    • DragonMilk says:

      This post seems to be a door to CW, but I’ll bite:

      It depends. What do you mean by economy crashes? S&P falls? Eh, people may say it’s temporary because they are afraid the socialist will win. Unemployment spikes? Then the socialist because workers are fuming. Debt bubble explodes? Depends on which candidate seems like a calm leader in a storm.

    • viVI_IViv says:

      If by capitalist you mean a business-as-usual centrist (e.g. Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden), then an economic crash will almost always harm them unless they can credibly blame it on an external cause (e.g. natural catastrophe). Historically, economic crisis favored both the socialists and the populist right.

      Trump got elected on a populist right platform that blamed offshoring and illegal immigration as the causes of high unemployment and underemployment. If the economy crashed under his watch and he couldn’t blame it on the coronavirus, then he would suffer because of incumbency. This would favor Sanders in this round, but in the medium-long term it would also further favor the populist right and weaken the mainstream centrists: somebody more radical than Trump would emerge and claim that Trump didn’t do enough.

      The coronavirus is generally speaking good for Trump:
      – Best case: China goes into mild recession and nothing happens to the US: win for Trump who has always been anti-China
      – Medium case: China goes into severe recession and political turmoil, the virus doesn’t significantly spread to the US but the US goes into mild recession due to trade disruption: Trump can plausibly blame trade dependency with China and praise his policy of trade war while also taking credit that whatever he had already implemented mitigated the crisis.
      – Worst-case: the new Black Death, millions of Americans die, institutions collapse, the survivors rally around the President as he maintains the last vestiges of law and order: win for Trump as long as he doesn’t catch the virus and dies, but then the point would be moot.

  10. Ben says:

    He walked into my office and threw the white paper on my desk with a thud.
    “It’s called Bitoogle. A cryptocurrency where…”
    “Nope,” I said.
    His face deflated like a balloon. “But I didn’t even…”
    “Crypto is overdone,” I said.
    “But this is a crypto idea with a twist!”
    “Crypto ideas with twists are super overdone.”
    “But this is an idea about an expansive set of blockchain forks who together record all non-set-members activity onto the blockchain. You have to admit that idea of blockchain id…”
    “Done,” I said.
    “Wait, really? The forks start estranged from each other, but then when they all merge together to…”
    “Done,” I said.
    “How could that have been done?”
    “Listen. I know you won’t believe me, but for the past ten years or so, the best cryptomancing minds of our generation have been working on creating blockchain ideas just different enough from every other blockchain idea around to get funded. First the clever and interesting twists got explored. Then the mediocre and boring twists. Then the absurd and idiotic twists. Finally the genre got entirely mined out. There is now a New York Times bestselling book about blockchain invading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. If your idea isn’t weirder than that, it’s been done. And that’s the logical ‘if’. If your idea is weirder than that, it has also been done.”

    “I will get Thankful for Cyrpto seeded,” he said.

    “You won’t,” I advised him.
    “I just have to think of an original angle.”
    “You really won’t,” I told him.
    “The blockchains are the good guys,” he proposed.
    “Done.”
    “The blockchains are smarter than humans.”
    “Done.”
    “In the end, we ourselves are the blockchains.”
    “Done.”
    “A human girl falls in love with a blockchain.”
    “Done.”
    “Okay, fine. Toss the set angle. There’s got to be some blockchain idea that will be fresh and new.”
    “I promise you, there’s not.”
    “Blockchain in space.”
    “Done.”
    “Blockchain from space.”
    “Done.”
    “Blockchain are space.”
    “Done.”




    “Blockchain are zombies”
    “…hmmmm…you son of a bitch, I’m in.”

  11. proyas says:

    Mexicane is the best cola soft drink I’ve ever had. I think it’s good largely because it uses cane sugar instead of corn syrup. I highly recommend everyone try it.

    https://www.maineroot.com/mexicane-cola

    Is there anything better?

    • broblawsky says:

      Can you go into a little more detail on why you prefer the cane sugar cola?

      • Lambert says:

        It’s the glucose to fructose ratio.

        • nkurz says:

          Cane sugar is 99.9% sucrose plus some trace elements. Sucrose is a one-to-one ratio of fructose to glucose, bonded together in an easy to separate molecule. High fructose corn syrup (which is what is normally used in sodas in the US) varies in ratio from having a little less than one-to-one fructose to glucose to a little more (42% or 55%). Which is to say, the ratios are just about the same: https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/high-fructose-corn-syrup-questions-and-answers

          A slightly more accurate but unsatisfactory answer might be that they simply taste a little different, and to some people plain sugar is a “purer” sweetness than the alternatives. But it’s really contextual, and once you start adding other flavorings it can be hard to tell different ingredients from different concentrations. Different syrups do have different flavors, but I’d guess that in most cases it’s the overall level of sweetness people are reacting to rather than the specifics.

          Note for non-US readers: Corn syrup is glucose syrup that is derived from corn, where corn in the US is maize. Calorically, it doesn’t make a difference what starch or grain is used as the source, although there can be some taste differences between sources. Corn syrup is pretty neutral though, and just tastes generically sweet, and not at all like the vegetable.

          • broblawsky says:

            I was just wondering what impression @proyas of the difference got – I also prefer cane sugar sodas to corn syrup sodas, but for me it’s not so much the taste as the absence of an aftertaste in the cane sugar sodas that I prefer.

          • Lambert says:

            Does anybody outside the UK make sugar beet?

            It’s a beetroot type thing that grows in East Anglia (former fens) and can be processed into sugar.
            During the WWI, when all the ships full of sugar from the West Indies were being sunk by U-boats, they started to grow and process it at scale.

          • DarkTigger says:

            @Lambert
            You mean except all of central, eastern, and nothern Europe ever since Napoleons Continental System? Because no one could trade British goods and most of the other powers sugar colonies were occupied by the Brits.

          • Aapje says:

            @Lambert

            The British were actually very late in adopting the sugar beet, because they could much more easily and cheaply import cane sugar from their Empire.

            The UK is now the 10th largest grower of the crop, producing 1/10th of what Russia produces, 1/6th of France and 1/5th of Germany (note that the modern sugar beet is derived from a German beet).

          • DarkTigger says:

            Seriously? France produces more Sugarbeets than the Germany? Go figure.

    • twocents says:

      How does it compare to Mexican Coke, which is also made with cane sugar?

    • nkurz says:

      > I think it’s good largely because it uses cane sugar instead of corn syrup.

      It’s interesting how much taste is affected by our expectations. Do you really prefer the taste of cane sugar over corn syrup, or do you prefer the concept?

      I once did a blind taste test of colas, and the results were surprising. A friend brought a half dozen different colas to a party, rebottled such that the original brand was not visible. I presumed I would like Classic Coke best, but I ended up choosing RC Cola as the winner. Even more to my surprise, I wasn’t even confident in distinguishing Coke from Pepsi (although I think I got it right by chance). It’s an experiment I’d really recommend actually doing yourself.

      > Is there anything better?

      I’m sure it depends on your taste, but I usually find commercial soft drinks too sweet, whether they are cane sugar or corn syrup. So I don’t drink much of them, and instead carbonate my own water and add flavorings. There are lots of things go well, but I find 3/4 sparkling water and 1/4 sour cherry juice hard to beat. Alternatively, 3/4 sparkling homemade hard apple cider (mixed flavorful Vermont apples fermented with K1-V1116) blended with 1/4 sparkling fresh cider (kept frozen from the same batch) beats any cola I’ve ever had.

      I will try to search out Mexicane, though.

      • JayT says:

        I do like Mexican Coke better than regular Coke, but I do wonder if it has more to do with the glass bottle instead of plastic or metal.

        Dr. Pepper, on the other hand, I feel is far superior when they use corn syrup. The corn syrup is a more neutral flavor, so the other flavors in the drink stand out.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Took me about a year to get used to Coke Zero, and now I find the original bitter and unappealing. If it’s like this, better to train your tastes towards something healthier.

    • Björn says:

      I am really into Club-Mate Cola, the cola offshoot from the popular German mate soda Club-Mate. It contains various spices like cinnamon, which give it a more full, complex taste than other cokes. Like Club-Mate, it also contains yerba mate extract, but I’m not sure whether you actually taste that.

    • Ben Wōden says:

      Diet Coke forever. Accept no substitutes. Diet Coke for Congress. Not just any specific seat – every seat in both houses should be Diet Coke. Diet Coke for President on a Diet Coke / Diet Coke ticket that pledges to appoint an entirely Diet Coke cabinet and staff the entire administrative branch with Diet Coke, as well as appoint Diet Coke as CoS, Deputy CoS, and all other staffing positions. Diet Coke for all 9 seats on the supreme court, and every other court.

      Diet Coke.

  12. baconbits9 says:

    Interesting tidbit about recessions and employment that I think is broadly unknown or misrepresented, which holds for the last two recessions in the US.

    US recessions are not caused by layoffs, nor are changes in layoffs an important factor early on. You can look at total non farm layoffs or at the layoff rate and the spike in each of the past two recessions and the uptick starts about 6 months into the recession.

    New hires is the closely associated indicator, starting its fall just before or just at the start of recent recessions, and job openings also tracks better.

    What is relevant is that the new hire rate has held steady recently while the job opening rate has dropped substantially (both lines together). Now job openings is dropping from a high level, the 5.2 reading in late October is quite a bit higher than the 3.7 preceding the GR and the 4.2 preceding the bursting of the tech bubble, but the drop is large and is now part of what appears to be a 15 month down trend which might well be foreboding.

    • broblawsky says:

      A drop – or just a year-over-year stabilization – in the quits rate is also concerning. As of December, the YoY rate has dropped, but it hasn’t gone negative yet.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Naive question: does saving money contribute to a recession? As in, enough people following the advice of Choosetosave.org et al. and abstaining from spending? It seems to me like it might, based on a few seconds thinking about it. If a hundred million people decide to put off buying consumer goods for a few months and live frugally, then everyone who sells consumer goods takes a bath – malls, clothing stores, some restaurants, and various service sellers have to lay off people. It doesn’t matter that their money is in a savings account drawing interest, because that interest comes from loans being paid off, and those loans were to grow businesses that aren’t growing because they aren’t able to sell anything. So we get a recession, as the story goes.

      But then, one of the reasons to save money is to later spend that money on larger capital expenses. So maybe all that spending on consumption is simply converted into spending on capital development. People are trading fashionable clothes and movie tickets and large screen TVs for roof repairs and more lathes and faster office computers. The money just leans into different sectors. Or maybe advice to save is based on the premise that the economy could use more capital right now, but not always.

      How does saving money actually work out in practice?

      • baconbits9 says:

        Naive question: does saving money contribute to a recession? As in, enough people following the advice of Choosetosave.org et al. and abstaining from spending? It seems to me like it might, based on a few seconds thinking about it. If a hundred million people decide to put off buying consumer goods for a few months and live frugally, then everyone who sells consumer goods takes a bath – malls, clothing stores, some restaurants, and various service sellers have to lay off people. It doesn’t matter that their money is in a savings account drawing interest, because that interest comes from loans being paid off, and those loans were to grow businesses that aren’t growing because they aren’t able to sell anything. So we get a recession, as the story goes.

        There isn’t a simple way to address this (generally false) concern because the economy isn’t simple. If you look at the production/consumption tautology you would expect no recessions ever, unless you had an exogenous shock or a reduction in consumption.

        I would probably start with the observation that recessions are defined as sub trend growth but not specifically sub zero growth. If there was 0% growth over two consecutive quarters it would be considered a recession despite it being entirely possible that the same amount of consumption was occurring as the pre-recession period. You could also argue that 0% growth was not a recession if the preceding period was negative growth*. This highlights that recessions require some change from the trend, so basically yes, if you got more saving vs consumption in a given period it is reasonable that it could be large enough to break the current trend, and one possibility is that it breaks the trend towards less growth and a recession. This begs a question though, if you had an unsustainable level of consumption then the recession is actually being caused by that level of consumption (definitionally if its unsustainable then it can’t go on, and if it can’t go on it must deviate from the trend), not by the reduction.

        This is one of the most basic critiques of the standard Keynesian story- it functionally assumes that because the trend prior to the recession existed that it must be sustainable, and your answer to the question of the sustainability of the previous trend pretty much will sort you into your macro economic viewpoint, and so naturally it is the least discussed question.

        *and you can argue per capita, how to measure real growth etc.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Depends on what you mean by “save money.” If you mean “everyone wants $10,000 in their bank account,” you can inject enough money so that everyone has their hard currency demand satisfied.
        If you mean, “everyone saves 40% of their income, regardless of how high said income is,” the US economy is not going to be able to restructure itself quickly enough to avoid a recession. You would have a traditional general glut of goods, IE our “savings” is stockpiled consumer goods that no one wants. You would need the US government to start running massive fiscal deficits to offset the increase in savings if you wanted to forestall a recession, and it’d still LOOK like a recession because, as you said, entire industries are going to become immediately unprofitable and will go under.

        There’s only so much you can gain from capital deepening, though.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Depends on what you mean by “save money.” If you mean “everyone wants $10,000 in their bank account,” you can inject enough money so that everyone has their hard currency demand satisfied

          You can only say this if people’s desire to hold hard currency is independent of the amount of currency in circulation.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          If you mean, “everyone saves 40% of their income, regardless of how high said income is,” the US economy is not going to be able to restructure itself quickly enough to avoid a recession.

          This was the sense I was referring to – it’s why I mentioned ChooseToSave.org. I think they’re obviously not trying to get everyone to save just to have a bigger number on the bank statement, but rather to forego all the knickknackery that leads to people later complaining about making ends meet.

          What I’m interested in here is a better sense of the actual numbers. I totally agree that if a lot of people stop buying plastic toys, there will be a glut of plastic toys (and in turn a glut on plastic, screws, paint, molds, etc.). But has anyone measured just how much is spent on capital vs. consumption? I found an article that puts consumption at 68% of US GDP and capital at 18% (most of the rest is govt spending), but I have no idea how objective it is. But if we assume it’s within 10% of correct, then a 50% drop in consumption spending could indeed look like outright depression, as millions have to find new jobs in capital industries.

          But then, I’m not expecting 100 million people to suddenly stop buying fancy cars and toys, either. It’d be gradual, possibly gradual enough that labor can keep up.

          Also, I’m interested in just how much capital deepening is possible before that sector is saturated.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            We almost certainly can absorb more than what we do currently. Other developed nations have higher investment rates, like Sweden and South Korea. But moving up to 50% of total GDP? No one does that, not even China.

            The US would turn into a net creditor nation as all our capital goes outward and rates would plummet. Can the world absorb an extra $6 trillion per year in savings? Sure, but that’s moving numbers on a spreadsheet. These decisions need to be made by individual people and leaders. If Apple can’t be convinced to spend their massive pile of cash, there’s probably something to it.

      • AG says:

        As you say, a large chunk of saving is about larger capital expenses, but an even larger portion of that is likely saving for retirement. If people spend now, they won’t have it to spend when they’re no longer working.

        Saving is also about the rainy day. The case where people can’t cover a sudden medical expense and gets sucked into a debt spiral is worse than a case where their day-to-day spending is reduced, but they aren’t wrecked by the healthcare industry. Or, the saved money gets people through transition periods, such as searching for a new job.

        It’s a case of the baseline spending appearing to be lower, but it’s also smoother, so the integrated area is overall larger.

      • You’re conflating savings and investment. Investment dollars go to buy things, just not finished products. If a mass increase in savings occurred, the value of those dollars that are being spent goes up. Firms lower their prices and consumers, while spending a lower amount of money, can buy the same amount of goods. Nominal GDP is down but real GDP isn’t. Where the theory breaks down is that wages don’t usually fall. Instead they are “sticky” and this leads to unemployment, a waste of resources that leads to a decline in real growth. Another bad thing about deflation is that when it’s unexpected it acts as a transfer from borrowers to lenders.

        tl;dr Sticky wages(and prices, to a lesser extent) are the real causes of recessions. Sudden increases in savings can prolong them but are not bad in general. If people invested more the world would be much richer due to the magic exponential growth.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Sticky wages, if it was ever true, is unlikely to be the cause of recessions in modern economies. Companies pay out more compensation than ever outside of wages, my wife for an example has somewhere between 15 and 30% of her total annual cost to the company come in non wage form that can be decreased at the companies discretion within a relatively short window. Bonuses, retirement contribution match, subsidies for health plans are significant portions of compensation and have been rising for some time.

          • Randy M says:

            That’s a good point, health insurance details change annually in many places, often for the worse but usually in ways difficult to directly compare.

          • that can be decreased at the companies discretion within a relatively short window.

            Employees would notice and react the same way as a decrease in the wage itself.

            health insurance details change annually in many places, often for the worse but usually in ways difficult to directly compare.

            If a company was in a situation where it could cut its healthcare costs without its employees knowing, it would have done so already.

          • Randy M says:

            If a company was in a situation where it could cut its healthcare costs without its employees knowing, it would have done so already.

            Employees do realize when the new benefits are worse, but I think there would be less resistance to “Times are tough, so we have to reduce our health care costs” than “Times are tough, so we have to reduce your wages.”

            But maybe it’s still not a good tactic because it’s hard to discriminate on benefits? You can’t really offer the particular employee you want to keep better benefits than others. Though I guess you could then increase his wages to compensate.

            But this is just speculation, is there actual data? Do large corporations make more changes to benefits during recessions than in other years?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Employees would notice and react the same way as a decrease in the wage itself.

            If a company was in a situation where it could cut its healthcare costs without its employees knowing, it would have done so already.

            #1 Most sticky wage theory is not about employees knowing or not knowing, it is a claim about coordination. In sticky wage induced unemployment no one employee can save the company from lay offs by reducing their own salary individually which leads to a prisoners dilemma situation where every employee prefers to have his wages remain as they are and have all other employees cut their own to save jobs.

            #2 Several of these costs are end of the year costs. For example bonuses, which means that the company will already have gotten the requisite productivity needed to meet costs and can trim here. If you are in a recession/pre recessionary situation then there is little recourse because, as I started with in the OP, hiring falls first not layoffs increasing.

            #3 Sticky wages is pretty much bogus as a major cause of recessions as it should be largely remedied (according to the theory) by inflation which allows a broad based decline in compensation that alleviates the coordination issues (ie the money illusion). As we see recessions that occur in inflationary circumstances (and increasing inflationary circumstances) there is at least a large subset of recessions where sticky wages aren’t the major issue.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Companies make benefits worse all the time with nothing more than grumbling; I’ve seen it on many occasions (including at Google where they used the “Cadillac Tax” as an excuse, but the numbers didn’t work). I’ve only seen a salary cut once (in the aftermath of the recession).

          • Matt M says:

            Screwing around with benefits can also be a way of “adjusting” the demographics of your labor force, without doing anything that might get flagged as potentially illegal discrimination.

            You know who actually pays attention to and cares about benefits? Older workers with families and kids.

            You know who won’t notice and likely doesn’t even care? The horde of recent undergrads you just hired.

            You know which of those groups demands generally higher salaries and is less tolerant of crappy conditions and other abuse?

          • sourcreamus says:

            In the companies I have worked for there is a limited period each year for the company to change health insurance plans or providers.
            As health insurance premium are increasing each year any plan to actually cut them would be felt by the employees and the ones with alternatives would be more likely to leave.

            Recessions caused by sticky wages can happen during inflationary times if the inflation expectations are factored in by the employees. If inflation is high then most employees are aware of it and only unexpected inflation can fix the sticky wages.

          • baconbits9 says:

            by the employees and the ones with alternatives would be more likely to leave.

            Sticky wage theory is about the broad class of employees, not specific employees. During a recession your broad employee base should not expect to find a new job.

            Recessions caused by sticky wages can happen during inflationary times if the inflation expectations are factored in by the employees. If inflation is high then most employees are aware of it and only unexpected inflation can fix the sticky wages.

            This is a just so story where employees are magically rational about their wages in one direction and understand the changes to their real wages but irrational in the other direction. If they are capable of understanding that they need higher wages under inflation why are they not able to understand that wage freezes and even wage cuts are fine under deflation?

          • CatCube says:

            I think that wages are stickiest because workers pay their bills in nominal dollars, not real ones. Your house payment isn’t going to go down next month because your wages did, and having cash on hand to pay it is not something that most people can bridge until they can negotiate the theoretical smaller payments that the deflation should give them.

            Or necessarily even the ability to negotiate that–the lender has a contract specifying a certain number of (nominal) dollars every month, so why should they reopen negotiations?

          • baconbits9 says:

            I think that wages are stickiest because workers pay their bills in nominal dollars, not real ones. Your house payment isn’t going to go down next month because your wages did, and having cash on hand to pay it is not something that most people can bridge until they can negotiate the theoretical smaller payments that the deflation should give them.

            The same logic holds true for people being terrified of losing their jobs. If you are going to struggle to make ends meet with a 5 or 10% reduction in pay then you are really going to be in trouble if you have to take a 50% pay cut and go on UE.

            Sticky wages is not simply the observation that people don’t like having their wages cut, it is a theory that tries to explain why employees are willing to risk unemployment instead of collectively taking pay cuts to avoid it.

            Additionally you don’t see the counter behavior, you don’t see workers benefiting from high inflation despite their fixed costs that aren’t going up.

          • Matt M says:

            Most workers don’t really have many truly fixed costs that wouldn’t go up in a high inflation environment. Unless you own a home with a fixed-rate mortgage, what else would there even be?

            Almost all other costs are variable and dependent on inflation to some extent or another.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Most workers don’t really have many truly fixed costs that wouldn’t go up in a high inflation environment. Unless you own a home with a fixed-rate mortgage, what else would there even be?

            Then the argument for sticky wages being due to the nominal nature and fixed costs doesn’t hold water as housing costs can be lowered (refinance at a lower rate) during a deflationary recession but don’t have to be increased (most are fixed rate, and even variable rate loans usually have a fixed rate component) during an inflationary environment.

            Car purchases are one of the few major categories where deflation is brutal and inflation significantly less so.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          You’re conflating savings and investment.

          Aye, on purpose. People save; that money sits in their bank account instead of going to someone else’s bank account in exchange for stuff. The bank uses that money to loan to people for things, like business growth (and houses and cars). Saved money gets put to work as investment, albeit not by the same individual.

          Sticky wages(and prices, to a lesser extent) are the real causes of recessions.

          What causes sticky wages? Joe Employer not wanting to get off his arse and update the payroll records? Or deciding to ride out the change in case it’s just a blip? Or something else? Whenever I look up this question, the stuff I find just asserts they’re sticky without saying why.

          ETA: I read baconbits9 below attributing it to coordination problems. Is that the sole cause, or a primary one?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The market value of my labor may be $11.37 an hour, but neither me nor potential employers necessarily knows that. There is dynamic discovery, where people like me refuse jobs at $11.36 but take it as $11.37, but in practice there are some people unknowingly taking lower-than-market wages[1], and some employers unknowingly offering higher-than-market wages.

            People are very very reluctant to ever accept a decrease in salary. Given the rise in experience, your wage next year should be greater than your wage this year, and you also have a somewhat good idea based on your prior job searches just what you ought to get paid.

            If your employer wants to lower your pay, you should be really suspicious that he actually figured out that he could have hired you for less, but you have no reason to go along with that, and you in turn insist that you accepted the minimum possible floor for compensation. Workers should never negotiate wages by saying “well, you could pay me less.”

            But sometimes, someone’s market value really does decrease. Small dips end up eaten by the employer, but significant drops won’t be.

            [1] I am just rolling all benefits into “wages” and ignoring other things the employer could offer like more convenient hours or a shorter commute.

          • Aapje says:

            People are not interchangeable cogs. Workers have a variety of traits and employers have a variety of desires. If employer A is willing to pay more than employer B, to have employee X do supposedly the same job, it is perfectly possible that employee X is actually more valuable to A.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The market value of my labor may be $11.37 an hour, but neither me nor potential employers necessarily knows that. There is dynamic discovery, where people like me refuse jobs at $11.36 but take it as $11.37, but in practice there are some people unknowingly taking lower-than-market wages[1], and some employers unknowingly offering higher-than-market wages.

            Employers generally have tasks they want completed and a budget. They look for the best candidate they can get at the price they think they can afford. Employees generally look for jobs they think they can get and take the best one they are offered.

            Market wages are the outcome of this matching process, the calculus is not ‘I think I can get $12 worth of work from this person for $11’.

          • Aapje says:

            @baconbits9

            Yes, but people are simply not interchangeable cogs, nor are workplaces equal.

            Imagine two McDonalds restaurants, A and B. A has a relaxed boss who allows his employees freedom, expecting them to self-motivate and take responsibility. B has a micromanaging, untrusting boss.

            Now imagine two employees: Amy and Bob. Amy is diligent and conscientious, but makes mistakes when micromanaged, due to high anxiety. Bob prefers to be lazy, but can perform very well when someone ensures he does the work. He has low anxiety, making him perform the best when micromanaged.

            Amy is now more valuable as an employee to McDonalds’ A, while Bob is more valuable to B. Amy is the better employee from A’s perspective and Bob from B’s perspective. If A is willing to pay $12/h to Amy, but only $11/h to Bob, while B is willing to pay $12/h to Bob, but only $11/h to Amy; then neither A or B are necessarily overpaying the one employee and/or overpaying the other.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I think it’s fairly well known that layoffs are the result (or at least a trailing indicator) of recession. But the new hires rate appears to be contemporaneous or slightly trailing also, and hasn’t been around long enough to really set a track record. Same goes for job opening rate. If we look at this graph of job opening rate, it looks like there’s trouble in the immediate future; the pattern is very much like that preceding the 2008 recession. But note the end date on that graph — 2017-01-01.

      The theory that “all good things must come to an end (Jean-Luc)” predicts a recession soon also. But I think the strength of the prediction for all of these things is very weak.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Re: new hires

        The new hire reading in Dec 2007, which is the official beginning of the recession, was 4.1 and that matches the 4 year lows set in Feb 2007 and Feb 2004 and it appears to be part of a trend of lower peaks starting either in 2006. Peak in hiring rate in that cycle was September 2005, though (eyeballing) if you did a 3 or 4 month average it might be in mid 2006. So hard confirmation of the recession is more like March 2008 for new hires when it hits a 5 year low and you have 5 months without an uptick there is advanced notice to be found in the 2005-2007 data indicating it is (or might be) coming.

        I think it’s fairly well known that layoffs are the result (or at least a trailing indicator) of recession.

        I would say the majority of time spent on discussing (in media) the labor force focuses on
        the UE rate or monthly jobs numbers, I have run across a fair number of people who make a claim that would require layoffs to be an early indicator.

        • baconbits9 says:

          I was prodded to post this today when I read this

          Still, despite this offset, the record two-month plunge in job openings is a very loud, and very clear signal that something is breaking in the labor market, and if this trend continues, then the next logical escalation is a surge in layoffs as US employers retrench and force their existing workers to boost their productivity further.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The standard joke is about stock prices predicting 9 of the last 5 recessions. Zerohedge has predicted approximately 10,000 of the last 0 recessions. It’s fun to read but I wouldn’t take them too seriously.

            Looking at a longer-term measure of layoffs, it appears layoffs lead in the 1980, 1990, and 2001 recessions. You could argue that they lead in 1970 and 2008 but this could only be determined in hindsight. They also “predicted” a recession in 1968, 1971, 1992, 1996, 2003, and 2013 (though the last is a single outlier). They failed to predict 1974 and 1981.

            I think a recession is likely soon, but mostly going by the “All good things” factor.

      • baconbits9 says:

        I should also note that lots of data is automatically trailing. New hires data for January won’t be released for another month so for an indicator to be concurrent it basically has to lead by a month or two at least.

  13. meh says:

    Another pop culture victory for China to be jealous of

    • Shion Arita says:

      What is this referring to?

      • meh says:

        Creativity and Chinese schooling were discussed in the post

        https://slatestarcodex.com/2020/01/22/book-review-review-little-soldiers/#comment-844449

        and this story http://en.people.cn/90782/7973104.html indicated some envy of South Korea’s ability to produce cultural exports.

        Parasite’s Oscar wins are another success for South Korea

        • broblawsky says:

          Can we definitively say that South Korean schooling is less abusive than Chinese schooling?

          • ana53294 says:

            From what I’ve heard, the issue in South Korea is not so much daytime schools, as cram schools. Daytime schools are apparently quite relaxed, and don’t give much homework either.

            The issue is with cram schools. But cram schools are an issue in China too.

          • Erusian says:

            Yes, it definitely is.

            But I’d say the key is less the schooling and more the freedom. South Korea and Japan are not known for arresting people for moral crimes. There’s basic freedom of expression. A Korean or a Japanese creator doesn’t need to fear the government knocking at his door because some bureaucrat disapproves or think it makes their country look bad.

            Also, there are less cultural controls, which in turn means more American influence. A significant amount of Korean pop culture in particular, but also Japan, comes from the ability to sell to and consume from the American, and to a lesser extent European, markets. Art also goes through expertise transfers too. For example, animation was (and is) very cheap in Japan and Korea, which means even American studios started to do some animation there, which means there are a lot of skilled animators around, which in turn helped fuel the growth of manga/manwha and anime. The same was true of film and the like.

            In fact, to some extent I’d argue that the schooling not being as strict is part of the formula. The cultural avant garde are usually not a bunch of conservatory students. When you have a system that allows the regime to define art, they tend to define it conservatively. The ability to start outside of this, like punk rock or jazz, is key.

          • meh says:

            we can say China would prefer to have the culture export success of Korea.

            i wouldn’t use the word abusive, but it may not foster creativity

  14. Noah says:

    Edit: My comment got posted as a comment to the wrong post somehow; I’m surry

  15. johan_larson says:

    What do we want? Lame jokes! When do we want them? Now!

    If you raise ducks professionally, but lose money money doing so, you can subtract your losses from your effective income at tax time. It’s a standard de-duck-tion.

  16. proyas says:

    “The drones are our heat shield.”
    https://youtu.be/BHJBKd6P3eQ?t=355

    Would this work in real life, or would the main battleship burn up in the atmosphere as if it weren’t shielded at all?

    • Lambert says:

      I suppose putting something in front of your ship to clear a path through the air isn’t prima-facie insane. But I suppose the trick is to use something a lot bigger than the ship.

      At the high Mach and Knudsen numbers of re-entry, one must note that the atmosphere behaves less like a gas and more like a hail of machine-gun fire. Molecules very rarely collide with each other and have all have more-or-less the same velocity relative to you. So an object in front of a craft may well cast a ‘shadow’. Of course, said object probably has a far greater drag/mass ratio than the thing you want to protect, so good luck keeping it from slamming into your ship at hundreds of ms^-1. Can’t aerobrake if you’ve shoved all the air out of the way, either. It’s even worse for any bits that might fall off/disintegrate, which probably far outweighs the benefit.

      There might be a bow-shock composed of slightly less rareified (and superheated, probably plasma, which will mess up all the coms and sensors needed to co-ordinate this maneuver) gas which interacts with stuff too. IDK, I’m not an expert on this*.
      It’s highly probable that there’s enough space between the drones for air to hit the spaceship anyway.

      Also the drones would burn up far too fast to do much good, if you are halfway competant at designing a space-battleship. And I’ve not even thought about the structural forces on the ship.

      Tl;dr
      -If your space warship has drones that can absorb as much heat as the mothership without failing, you’re doing something wrong.
      -Things with big gaps are not know for being windproof.
      -Bits of molten drone are probably worse than air.

      *Wouldn’t mind being one, though. ESA or someone has a wind tunnel where they simulate re-entry and melt bits of satellite hardware. WInder if they take doctoral students.

      • woah77 says:

        Considering that, in Ender’s Game, the goal wasn’t so much slowing down as getting closer, I would say that the drones could provide some amount of windshield, but… as you point out: lots of problems with that.

    • fibio says:

      Just reading the quote makes me laugh. I’m going to say not unless you’ve hacked Kerbal Space Program.

    • John Schilling says:

      If we imagine the drones themselves can take the heat long enough to matter, and that they are propelled by magic inertialess thrusters, then sort of yes. The drone swarm will act as a porous blunt body, producing a bow shock that is somewhat weaker than would be the solid blunt body that is Ender’s ship. Weaker shock means less compressive heating – and it is shock compression, not “friction”, that produces most of the heat that we worry about in atmospheric entry.

      The hot gas flowing through this shock and porous drone-swarm will then expand and cool, and if you get the spacing right the ship will wind up flying through a bubble of air that is still somewhat hotter than ambient but substantially less dense and at lower relative velocity. That should reduce the heat flux on the ship.

      But, as Lambert notes, the drones will have a much lower ballistic coefficient than the ship, so the ship will overtake and ram them in short order. And if we imagine the drones are powered by reaction thrusters, then the ship will be flying in their exhaust stream. Trying to angle the exhaust away from the ship won’t work because it will be entrained and mixed with the surrounding air. Short of magic inertialess thrusters, you’re going to be fried by your own drone swarm’s rockets even worse than you would be by the air.

      Also, if the drones don’t promptly vaporize, then they are obviously made of a pretty beefy heat-shield material, and the cube-square law means it would take proportionately much less of that material to protect the main ship, so why didn’t they do that in the first place? Yes, it’s not designed to fly in atmosphere, but A: that’s a pretty obvious contingency and B: it is a warship and so has to consider the possibility that an enemy might try to vaporize even if it isn’t in an atmosphere.

    • Lambert says:

      Turns out there’s also the Boeing Gambit, where you screw up the software (gee, where have I heard that before?) that handles the maneuver thrusters on the service module so it ends up re-entering directly ahead of the crew capsule.
      (then collides with it, damaging the heat shield and leading to LO(C)V)

      Luckily for holders of BOE shares, they managed to find and patch the bug inflight while running simulations to assess the other mission-critical bug in the flight control software.

  17. @jaralaus says:

    Regarding Ritalin and Parkinson’s disease

    A non exhaustive list of things that could explain the results in the linked article.

    1. Stuff that happens more often to people with ADHD and potentially could contribute to risk of tremor and Mb Parkinson: Trauma to the head, obesity, substance use (subjects with SU diagnosis were excluded but not all people using substances gets a diagnosis).

    2. Subjects in the ADHD group are already “in the system”, i.e., have the means to use healthcare and have shown a propensity to seek medical aid when they have symptoms. They see a psychiatrist regularly and psychiatrists are quick to refer somatic complaints. It is not unfeasible that people in the control group have a higher rate of undiagnosed essential tremor or will get their Parkinson diagnosis a few years later than the ADHD group (and thus will not show up in this study).

    3. It is very likely that the patients in the ADHD group are prescribed other psychoactive drugs. The only attempt to correct for this (as far as I can see) is to add a diagnosis of psychosis (as a proxy for use of d2-blockers) as a covariate. This leaves a ton on medications with potential neurological side effects that are way more likely to be prescribed to a patient with ADHD than a random person in the population. Not to mention that d2-blockers commonly are prescribed for bipolar disorder (ADHD + bipolar is not an unusual thing)

    Given the high prevalence of psychostimulant prescription the potential of long-term side effects is important to investigate. I do however think it is very hard to get conclusively answers for this question using observational data. When the absolute differences between groups are tiny (as they are here) other stuff that is not easy to measure can play tricks on the numbers (crud factor!).

  18. kupe says:

    Has anyone here tried the James Koppel Coaching for programmers that’s advertised in the sidebar? I’m wondering if it’s a good fit. Some of the things I’m concerned about are:

    1) I work in a team with set practices and there would need to be a strong argument to disrupt this.
    2) Is it language agnostic? Front-end/back-end agnostic?
    3) What level of seniority is it for? I’m an intermediate dev looking for the jump to senior.

    Finally, are there other resources I should turn to first before trying this out? Thanks in advance for any help.

  19. Soeren E says:

    Scott, thank you for the mention of the AI Safety Reading Group.

    Shortly after we had Stuart Russell as guest, my retina detached partially. I’ve only very recently become able to use a computer again, and it will probably be at least a month before I can read longer texts.

    Since this prevents me from participating in the reading group, it is temporarily being coordinated and hosted by Chris Cooper, available on Skype as “thecoopers2005”

  20. helloo says:

    You’ve been tasked with a lot of time traveling shenanigans. How about looking at the other boot?

    You suddenly see someone teleporting in covered with high tech stuff. Those then become hidden/merge with relatively period appropriate clothing.

    Will you sound the alarms? Or help them with their goal?

    After all, how would you know they are stopping the next Hitler. Or the next Sarah Connor.

    • Matt M says:

      See if I can somehow overpower them and steal their tech (like that crazy guy in that one two-part episode of Voyager when they implied the 90s internet boom was entirely due to time-travel shenanigans)

    • Tarpitz says:

      Trying to help them seems liable to get me killed. Trying to report them seems liable to get me sectioned. I am having nothing to do with it.

    • pancrea says:

      Time travelers are crazy rich, both in technology and in information.
      They also frequently need help with stuff.
      This is an opportunity for mutually beneficial trade.

      I politely ask if there’s anything they need help with, and if they’d like to trade me a download of Future Wikipedia in exchange. I’d also accept lottery numbers or stock tips.

      I briefly consider attacking them and taking their stuff, but (1) that would be mean, and (2) they probably have weapons that I can’t even recognize. Not going to try it.

  21. baconbits9 says:

    I missed the libertarian/better government rather than less government thread and it looks like the major counterpoint wasn’t brought up.

    In terms of good governance in the US the Federal Reserve ought to be at or near the top of the list. It employs a ton of well educated people, has a large research budget, and has relatively little bureaucracy compared to other agencies. The end result is that the Fed has managed to expand its powers significantly and in short order during a crisis situation, and has managed to build a economic structure around it where it is difficult to impossible to reduce their power without causing massive problems. It’s a libertarian nightmare of ever increasing scope and ever increasing normalization of that scope. If you massively reform the tax code you will de facto make the IRS more powerful, instead of having long and complicated audits they will have the time, resources and organizational ability to enact policy. If they get 10% more efficient at collecting tax revenue that is potentially hundreds of billions of dollars more in revenue the federal government has to work with.

    • TJ2001 says:

      I observed the same with Growing Government at the same time as “Growing freedom”… It seems like the major distinction is “Our government by Us and for Us” vs “They are trying to rule over us for their own benefit – not ours.” In the first case there is no conflict between Government and Freedom. In the second – there is.

      It seems like the #1 thing that SCL Libertarians will have to deal with is “How do we get rid of Governmental Pieces once they have outlived their utility…”. How do we disband and dissolve stuff that is no longer needed in a way that doesn’t freak everybody out?

      This is always the thing that plagues well run Governments…. And it’s ridiculously difficult because of all the Constituents which are Employed By It in MY district…

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        One thing that has occurred to me is to make it explicit that governments runs on souls, not money – that is, to make it far, far easier to enact new policy if you can source the workers for it by shutting down or making more efficient some other already existing department.

    • Thomas Jorgensen says:

      Government activity is not constrained by tax revenue. Government does the things there is political backing for the government doing, then collects taxes to keep inflation under control.

      If tax collection becomes more efficient, that just results in lower headline rates. That in turn might then increase appetite for more government activity, but that is not an inevitable slope, and certainly not a reason to oppose a simpler, better enforced tax code.

      • Matt M says:

        +1

        Everyone assumes there must be some link between government revenue and government spending.

        There isn’t. They raise as much as they can, and spend whatever they think they can get away with, and the Fed plugs the gap with money printing.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Everyone assumes there must be some link between government revenue and government spending.

          There isn’t. They raise as much as they can, and spend whatever they think they can get away with, and the Fed plugs the gap with money printing.

          This is not how it works.

          • Matt M says:

            Yes it is.

            Unless your point is “Well actually, what the Fed does isn’t technically money printing, per se…” in which case I don’t really care about that particular semantic argument.

            The government spends what it feels like spending. The notion that their spending is constrained by available revenue is just absurd. No high profile politicians have even pretended this was true since the 1950s. The remaining balance is borrowed. They roll over and pay back to the extent that they can, but if ever they can’t, it will be monetized by the Fed.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The government isn’t a single minded monolith, with all actors behaving as a hive mind towards a single goal of spending more and modeling it as such gives you no useful information on causes and outcomes.

          • Matt M says:

            What does that have to do with anything I’m saying? If anything, it should support my claim that expenditures are not directly connected to or dependent on revenues.

            No, there isn’t one monolith solely dedicated to “increase total spending,” but the vast majority of individual actors are dedicated primarily, or at least significantly to “increase spending on my particular fiefdom/interest area.” And that there are very few people involved in the entire apparatus who are specifically dedicated towards “ensure revenue grows in line with expenses.”

            At one point, historically, Congress and the President acted as if that was their responsibility. But we really haven’t seen that since the Eisenhower administration…

          • CatCube says:

            @Matt M

            You’re not wrong that the Treasury is always trying to maximize intake, but it’s absolutely incorrect that everybody is getting the expenditures they want.

            The last time I was involved in cost/benefit analysis for civil works project funding, OMB didn’t even look at anything with a BCR of less than 2.5 or so. Even then, that wasn’t “guaranteed funding” that was just “you’re competitive enough that you might get funding.”

            There is very, very much a fixed pot of money that everybody is competing for. That’s not to say that this BCR holds for most things–obviously any goodies that Congress or the White House think will buy them votes get funding first, regardless of benefits–but the notion that expenditures are unlimited by revenues is bonkers.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Even if this were true, which it isn’t, you would still have the connection. A broader ability to enforce taxation would imply a stronger ability to control inflation which would imply more government power.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Government does the things there is political backing for the government doing, then collects taxes to keep inflation under control.

        How, mechanically, does collecting taxes keep inflation under control? Does the government collect taxes and then sit on physical cash, allowing it to pile up year after year pulling it out of circulation?

        If you don’t have a mechanical explanation what are examples of governments successfully decreasing inflation by increasing taxes? We have many counter examples, the US has more or less maintained their rate of taxation relative to GDP and have increased spending over the past 10-12 years leading to higher deficits and has lower inflation over that period than in the preceding period. This is the exact opposite result that you would expect if taxes are used to control inflation.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          The government collects ones and zeros, which it frequently just deletes (that is what happens when a federal reserve bond is retired), and even when they are “spent” the distinction between a fresh digital currency unit and one “collected from taxes” is meaningless. People are paid in data base entries, and always accept that the database entries of the government are valid currency.

          • baconbits9 says:

            which it frequently just deletes (that is what happens when a federal reserve bond is retired)

            No its not, when a federal bond is retired it is paid off, currency (physical or digital) is transferred from one account in the government to either a private individual/corporation, another government agency or a foreign government.

        • John Schilling says:

          How, mechanically, does collecting taxes keep inflation under control?

          All else being equal, if there are X dollars in circulation and the government collects Y dollars in taxes, then there are (X-Y) dollars in circulation. Less dollars, same amount of stuff, so the demand for dollars increases and the amount of stuff that must be traded to get a dollar increases. Looked at from the opposite direction, each dollar buys more stuff, which is deflation, which counters any preexisting inflation.

          Does the government collect taxes and then sit on physical cash, allowing it to pile up year after year pulling it out of circulation?

          All else being equal, the government is spending a constant Z dollars to buy stuff for the government (and/or handing it out to people whose loyalty it wishes to buy). If Z<Y, then the excess taxes have to be stashed in vaults or burned or whatnot, because by definition it isn't being spent. Up to min (Y,Z) dollars can be either stashed in vaults with new dollars issued for government spending, or the same physical dollars can be turned around and spent by the government to buy stuff, and except for the minimal printing costs it doesn't make any difference.

          The "all else being equal" bit, is of course not true no matter how much the MMT people want it to be. The government's decision to spend Z dollars and not 10*Z is not because the government is satisfied with the stuff it is buying for Z dollars, and is not independent of the government's collecting Y dollars in taxes. For that matter, the amount of stuff available to buy is not independent of the government's taxing and spending decisions.

          However, if we focus narrowly on the decision to impose a marginal tax increase while changing nothing else, the effect of that increase is deflationary and so counters any existing inflation. This is rarely of any practical relevance, because either the effect is infinitesimal or the people making the decision aren't even thinking about holding everything else constant. So, while it is technically a true statement, you'll want to think carefully about trusting anyone who makes it.

          • baconbits9 says:

            All else being equal, if there are X dollars in circulation and the government collects Y dollars in taxes, then there are (X-Y) dollars in circulation.

            Collecting taxes does not reduce the number of dollars in circulation, it simply shifts where those dollars are allocated. Tax dollars do not get put into government accounts and sit there indefinitely by any stretch, and so taxation does not (though this mechanism) alter the supply of dollars.

          • baconbits9 says:

            All else being equal, the government is spending a constant Z dollars to buy stuff for the government (and/or handing it out to people whose loyalty it wishes to buy). If Z<Y, then the excess taxes have to be stashed in vaults or burned or whatnot, because by definition it isn't being spent. Up to min (Y,Z) dollars can be either stashed in vaults with new dollars issued for government spending, or the same physical dollars can be turned around and spent by the government to buy stuff, and except for the minimal printing costs it doesn't make any difference.

            Not even this, because money doesn’t follow a linear scarcity to value ratio, it has long been known that inflation doesn’t follow a simple quantity theory of money and that velocity has been added as an ad hoc fix to the theory. Even if you assumed the destruction of tax money you still can’t assume an impact on inflation, the ‘all else equal’ only works in direct, causal relationships, and it has been long established the inflation is not a direct cause of the quantity of money in supply.

  22. Deiseach says:

    This is a satirical humour site and I would have said that the piece is exaggerated for effect, except that on the lunchtime news I heard a Fine Gael representative pretty much claiming this was how they hadn’t won the election: the electorate just didn’t understand the finely detailed and laboriously complicated way Fine Gael had served the nation over the past five years, the party had failed to adequately explain how fantastic they were to the voters.

    So, y’know, this is more or less the mood of the party right now:

    “You have fled in your droves to other parties and so the only logical conclusion is that you pea-brained knuckle draggers with coarse accents and heroin problems can’t begin fathom how complexly complex our fantastic Fine Gael led governments have been,” added a senior Fine Gael advisor, in between bites of peasant (sic), during a lunch in one of his five spare houses.

    • Plumber says:

      @Deiseach >

      “This is a satirical humour site…”

      In a similar vein, here’s Biden’s call for Party unity, and here’s Sander’s pitch to moderates

      • Milo Minderbinder says:

        Is the Bernie one even satire? That just seems like a pretty reasonable response to people worried about his extremism lol.

        • TJ2001 says:

          Ironically – this is what led Adam Ford (creator of The Babylon Bee satire website) to create Disrn news…

          The ACTUAL news was so ridiculous and implausible that intentionally fictitious “Satire” simply ended up front-running the actual news… He was publishing complete satire pieces which then turned out to be reality a day or two later…

          At that point – you may as well get into the news business….

          It’s as if the actual news making public officials were reading The Onion and The Babylon Bee and saying “Yeah, we may as well go with that..”

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          Is the Bernie one even satire? That just seems like a pretty reasonable response to people worried about his extremism lol.

          It is satire because Bernie wouldn’t dare make such a speech, even though it’s true. This is why I don’t think it matters very much who wins the Dem primary, at least as far as policy changes if they become president. The more radical ones will only be able to enact the “moderate” Dem positions, so how is that different from what the “moderate” candidates will enact?

          My sister has been trying to get me to support Klobuchar as a moderate choice (I think she is concerned that I will vote for Trump, and I probably will). But Klobuchar has said she supports the New Green Deal, as an “aspiration.” So what does it mean to have it as an “aspiration.” I think it means she would support it if it became politically possible to enact it. To me that means she believes in policies just as radical as Sanders and Warren, but she is being moderate for pragmatic reasons. So how is she different from Sanders? Only rhetoric, no difference from a practical point of view.

        • LadyJane says:

          That’s basically why I supported him in 2016. I figured his leftist economic policies wouldn’t have much chance of passing anyway, but he might actually be able to do some good when it came to foreign policy, civil liberties, and opposing the military-intelligence-surveillance-prison-industrial-complex, since the Executive Branch has more power on those issues.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          There is differences. For example, I would expect Warren to succeed in reigning in Wall street somewhat simply by appointing people to SEC who are not utterly in Goldmans pockets, and I am not sure anyone else would successfully do that. I mean, Sanders would probably try, but he does not have her rolodex.

  23. gleamingecho says:

    EDIT: This is in response to DragonMilk’s request for LA food recommendations. Not sure if this is showing up in the right spot.

    Here are some LA and LA-adjacent recommendations. Keep in mind that the LA dining scene changes rapidly, so you’ll want to do additional research to see if any of these places have had chef changes or closed recently. Doesn’t look like any have so far…..

    Lunch/casual:

    -Grand Central Market. https://www.grandcentralmarket.com/ Everything there is casual and there are a lot of options. My favorite one is a Thai restaurant called Sticky Rice. Thai BBQ Chicken and Crying Tiger are fantastic. (Downtown LA)
    Philippe’s – French dip sandwiches (Downtown LA)
    -Zankou chicken: Lebanese food and rotisserie chicken (Lots of locations in LA area, including Glendale)
    -King Taco: Mexican food (it’s a chain, but good) (Lots of locations, including Pasadena)
    -Du-par’s for breakfast: best pancakes in the world IMHO (mid-Wilshire)

    Dinner/more expensive:
    -Sushi Kimagure (Pasadena) [this might stretch your budget, but not more than 1.5x]
    Petit Trois (West Hollywood)

    In general, you probably can’t go wrong with a well-researched noodle/yakitori/sushi restaurant in Little Tokyo or a regional Chinese place in the San Gabriel Valley. I’m not knowledgeable enough to have specific recommendations here.

  24. bean says:

    Biweekly Naval Gazing links post:

    The last two weeks have been about weapons. First, I looked deeply into the world of battleship torpedo armament. Most battleships before the 1940s actually carried torpedoes, although they receive very little coverage even in specialist works. This ended up running to three parts: the first covering the basics through about 1914, the second looking at WWI and after and the third covering WWII, including the only successful use of such torpedoes.

    I’ve also wrapped up my aircraft weapons series with a look at the longest-range weapons, aerial cruise missiles.

  25. AKL says:

    Request for advice on a home stereo:

    tl;dr: Does anyone have recommendations for a whole-home audio setup that is easy to use and sounds better than Sonos?

    I’m moving into a new house and want a nice stereo 2.1 setup that will be used for music, the TV, and the radio. Currently we listen to music or the radio by streaming to a wireless amp via bluetooth and are reasonably happy with that. We have separate speakers attached to the TV. We’d like to consolidate into one system that sounds better, has less stuff, and offers some additional features.

    There are some must haves:
    – I want a rich, room filling sound. I’m not so picky about sound that I’ll arrange the room around e.g. the optimal subwoofer positioning though. The speakers and sub will have to fit into the existing room, not vice versa.
    – It has to be easy to use. If a teenager who has never been to the house comes over, they should be able to play music from their phone within a minute or two without downloading anything. If anyone (even the babysitter) is ever confused because the TV is silent (wrong audio input selected or something) then the system is too complex.
    – There must be a fast, easy way to play at least local radio without using a phone or other separate input device (think: hit power, turn tuning knob to the right station).
    – The subwoofer input must be wireless

    And some nice-to-haves:
    – It would be nice (but not essential) to have whole-home audio support, so I could e.g. use my phone to play music out of 4 different sets of speakers in different rooms at the same time
    – Bluetooth streaming is OK but if there’s a simple wifi solution with better range, that’s probably better
    – I would prefer to avoid Alexa or other voice assistants if possible. It may not be (in light of my other constraints).
    – I would prefer to avoid being locked in to one manufacturer’s lineup
    – I really prefer to avoid more stuff: extra physical boxes, remotes, and extra apps
    – Ideally the system will not be ugly

    Current thinking is to get a Yamaha stereo receiver, a pair of Q 3030i bookshelf speakers and a subwoofer tbd. I assume that I can find a wireless transmitter / receiver like this that will make any sub wireless. All TV based input will pass through the TV and to the receiver from the TV’s optical out (e.g. cable, streaming video). I’m not sure about Yamaha’s app but this seems like it would work well for a single-room solution. If we expanded into other rooms we’d be locked into Yamaha’s wireless receivers / amps.

    I’ve also considered getting active speakers like the Kanto Tuk and connecting them to an Echo Input or similar, but after more than an hour or two of reading I still can’t make heads or tails of whether this would actually support multi-room audio or be easier to use. Could I just slap an Amazon Input on any set of speakers and they’d fit seamlessly into the existing network? The documentation makes it REALLY hard to tell. I also have some reservations about the sound quality and richness of similarly priced powered speakers vs. passive + receiver separates.

    Does anyone have a similar audio setup that they really love, or any particular recommendations for products and / or specific manufacturer ecosystems that work well (or that we should avoid)?

    • acymetric says:

      – It has to be easy to use. If a teenager who has never been to the house comes over, they should be able to play music from their phone within a minute or two without downloading anything. If anyone (even the babysitter) is ever confused because the TV is silent (wrong audio input selected or something) then the system is too complex.

      – It would be nice (but not essential) to have whole-home audio support, so I could e.g. use my phone to play music out of 4 different sets of speakers in different rooms at the same time

      This requirement and the related nice-to-have are probably mutually exclusive. An app that allows controlling inputs/outputs is probably going to be a lot easier to use than forcing your generic teenager to try to understand what buttons and switches to push on the receiver to get the right input/output.

      Whole home audio support would almost certainly require an app, unless you want to have to physically walk to the receiver to set which speakers should be on/off every time you stop playing.

      If you compromise on having an app you probably get a much better experience generally as well as more (and better) options. The app can still be simple/easy to use.

      • AKL says:

        This requirement and the related nice-to-have are probably mutually exclusive. An app that allows controlling inputs/outputs is probably going to be a lot easier to use than forcing your generic teenager to try to understand what buttons and switches to push on the receiver to get the right input/output.

        I was kind of under the impression that a receiver would automatically switch to whatever input was active, or even better just “merge” all the active inputs? So in theory if I was watching TV someone started streaming audio then we’d hear both streams simultaneously (or the newest input would “win” and start playing exclusively). That seems to be the way a lot of TV’s handle input switching at least… Is that not right?

        Whole home audio support would almost certainly require an app, unless you want to have to physically walk to the receiver to set which speakers should be on/off every time you stop playing.

        When I open Spotify on my phone and my phone is connected to bluetooth speakers, there’s a menu to select my output (phone speakers, bluetooth headphones). Perhaps it’s too much to ask that zone-switching be handled in the music apps (though umm that would be great). So an app to control zone switching might be unavoidable. But if I have to open that app every time I want to play something (or no one without the app can play anything), that’s a non-starter.

    • The Nybbler says:

      It has to be easy to use. If a teenager who has never been to the house comes over, they should be able to play music from their phone within a minute or two without downloading anything. If anyone (even the babysitter) is ever confused because the TV is silent (wrong audio input selected or something) then the system is too complex.

      Teenagers are no problem, they’ll figure it out. But to solve the second problem, at best you need dedicated TV speakers, or at least something that will automatically switch the input to the TV. This probably means HDMI CEC, which the receiver you linked to does not support (and of course your TV needs to support it too). With my Onkyo it works pretty well but occasionally it still gets it wrong.

      • AKL says:

        This probably means HDMI CEC

        Good tip and something I was not aware of before. Thanks.

        Honestly though (and this is a complaint about the industry, not you), why TF should I need to know this? What a ridiculously esoteric “feature”. It seems like there are a million products out there for people who want to spend 10k on a pre-amp that produces a precocious and uninhibited sound that is nonetheless coy and subtly restrained but nothing for someone who wants to spend a thousand dollars on something that sounds great to human people and is easy to use :/

        • LHN says:

          This page has more information on HDMI-CEC, including some of the three million different brand names vendors use for it.

          https://www.howtogeek.com/207186/how-to-enable-hdmi-cec-on-your-tv-and-why-you-should/

          I will say that I’ve tried it a few times and always wound up turning it off due to annoying interface issues. (E.g., with it on every time I adjusted the volume on my receiver, a screen-width volume display would be superimposed over the content I was watching.)

          Presumably that varies depending on how it’s implemented by the manufacturers of your components. And it may still be better for your use case. I can live with controlling different devices separately and no one else knowing how to use the system. 🙂

          (If my wife watched more TV, I’d put more effort into making it usable, but in practice her video entertainment of choice is PC gaming and she watches a disc or streaming show without me less than once/year.)

        • Silverlock says:

          With undertones of chocolate and raspberry and a hint of oak.

  26. itsabeast says:

    I often hear of the phenomenon where countries with more egalitarian gender norms have more stereotypical gender career distributions. Does that phenomenon have a name, and if so what?

  27. DragonMilk says:

    So I have booked flights, rental car, and lodging for my March 11 to 23 California trip. As others-described foodies, I now solicit good dining options in the following locations:

    1. LA area, 5 lunches and 4 dinners, potentially a 5th dinner
    2. Ojal for Lunch, potentially dinner
    3. Oakhurst area, 3 dinners
    4. Yosemite Valley, 5 lunches, 1 dinner
    5. Berekley/San Fran, 3 lunches and dinners

    All non-internal organ suggestions welcome! No allergies.

    • Randy M says:

      I think we need to know your budget for that.
      There’s a garlic themed restaurant named the Stinking Rose in LA area that’s nice.
      And the famous California burger join, In-N-Out may be worth a stop. It’s over hyped, but still above average in quality and below average in cost, ime.
      If you pass through Bakersfield in the day time on a weekday, this place is really good: Locale Farm to Table Eatery.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Ah, so I’d say constraints are time (I don’t want to wait in line, but open to booking a reservation in advance), and fashion (no suit and jacket places, we’re going full casual or business casual at best).

        But since you ask, let’s say….less than $100 for a couple? Prefer under $50 though. No alcohol necessary, purely there for the food.

    • Bugmaster says:

      What does “LA Area” mean ? The city of LA is already pretty huge, and that’s before you start factoring in the suburbs such as Tarzana, Glendale, Torrance, etc.

    • broblawsky says:

      Guelaguetza has probably the best Mexican food in LA, IMO.

    • Elementaldex says:

      I really enjoyed Porto’s Bakery and Café last time I was in LA. Its a weird blend of factory and restaurant but thoroughly delicious and cheap. I’m only in CA maybe one week a year but I think Porto’s was my favorite food there ever.

    • JayT says:

      My favorite lunch in the LA area is a pastrami from The Hat.

      For the SF area,
      Lunch:
      Cholita Linda (Oakland/Alameda)
      Cam Huong (Oakland)
      Sichuan Fusion (Richmond) – I love their spareribs

      Dinner:
      Trattoria La Siciliana (Berkeley)
      Wood Tavern (Oakland)
      Mockingbird (Oakland)
      Ohgane (Oakland)
      East Ocean (Alameda) – Weekend morning dim sum especially
      Mama Papa Lithuania (Alameda) – Not sure where you’re coming from, but this is (supposedly) the only Lithuanian restaurant west of the Mississippi, so it might be something new for you.
      House of Prime Rib (San Francisco)
      Waterbar (San Francisco) – Their food is good, but I mostly go here for the oyster bar and nice view.
      Flour+Water (San Francisco)

      That’s off the top of my head, I’m sure I’m forgetting some. Overall, if you stick to Asian food you’ll be in good shape. A lot of the “nicer” looking restaurants are disappointing though, so if a place looks too clean, go find a dirtier one.

    • zzzzort says:

      Near USC chichen itza has some really good food, not big on ambience though. I’ve also enjoyed night + market, though definitely need reservations. The LA times list is good in general, and has a solid mix of cuisines and price points.

    • LesHapablap says:

      It’s a shame you aren’t heading up the coast between LA and SF, some great restaurants around the San Luis Obispo area. And a much more scenic drive.

    • Statismagician says:

      SF area – Moonraker in Pacifica is maybe 25min South of the city, and has great food and a neat view of the ocean.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Nice, I think that’s the perfect place to grab dinner before a flight out of SFO that night – do you know how long the supposed 15min drive can take around 7pm or so?

        • Statismagician says:

          Sorry, I’m a frequent visitor, not a native – wouldn’t care to speculate. Google Maps can tell you, though, and I’m given to understand that there are back routes for when the highways are crowded.

        • JayT says:

          I’ve never made that specific drive, but at 7pm the 280 shouldn’t have too much traffic, so I’d guess you could make it fairly quickly.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Yosemite Valley has a few places to eat, within walking distance of the main tent area, and I think that would be your best bet if you want to also enjoy the park. Pizza and burgers for the most part, and there’s also that big supermarket. Honestly, the usual custom is to eat trail food, and maybe cook your own thing for dinner.

      That said, if you’re planning to commute to the Valley from Oakhurst, you might enjoy seeing nearby sites. I commuted from a hotel in Mariposa and liked it fine, trading a 15-mile drive (very scenic) each way for a comfortable bed and free breakfast. Dinner in my case was at the 1850 Restaurant – great service, great burgers and steaks. Mariposa is about 40 min away from Oakhurst.

      If you’re willing to go 2 hours from Oakhurst – say, a half day at the Valley, then out 120 to Tolumne to see the sequoias, then to Rainbow Pool (might be too cold to swim, but YMMV), then keep going west out of the park to 49 north, you’ll eventually find Columbia, site of a cool little museum and entire street of stuff right out of the Gold Rush days. I had another burger there at Columbia House (just before I arrived at Mariposa).

      I definitely recommend driving during daylight as much as possible – all of the landscape is beautiful.

    • salvorhardin says:

      SF faves you might not hear about from everyone:

      L’Ardoise (French bistro)
      La Ciccia, Sociale, Da Vittorio (Italian)
      Ozumo, Akiko, Ebisu, Eiji, Yoji (Japanese)
      Canela (tapas)
      Ton Kiang (dim sum)
      Kingdom of Dumpling, Dumpling Kitchen, House of Pancakes (Chinese dumpling-centered places in the Parkside neighborhood)
      Sichuan Home (really hot Szechuan)
      Burma Superstar (Burmese; warning, no reservations and often super busy)

      Some nice pizza and Italian places in Berkeley/Oakland:
      Bellanico
      Marzano
      The Star
      Corso

    • AG says:

      Homeroom (Mac-and-cheese, paired with alcohol, walkable from BART, Berkey/Oakland area)
      Hong Kong Lounge (Dim Sum, must drive on the peninsula)
      Shan Dong (Chinese restaurant, Oakland Chinatown, walkable from BART or drive)
      Gourmet Delight (very authentic dim sum so YMMV, Oakland Chinatown)
      Umamiburger (Oakland downtown, walkable from BART)
      Chez Panisse (Berkeley, very pricey)
      Cornerstone (Sports bar/music/craft beer, Berkeley, walkable from BART)
      Orenchi (Ramen, peninsula, very famous so you may have to wait in line)

  28. ausmax says:

    I saw this link today, and it amused me in light of the Billionaire Philanthropy post:

    https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/feb/09/bill-gates-orders-500m-hydrogen-powered-superyacht

    So in addition to criticizing billionaire philanthropy, the Guardian is now praising billionaire yacht buying. We are clearly living in the bizarro universe.

  29. Konstantin says:

    It looks like the study you cite stating that Ritalin may increase the risk of Parkinson’s was published after you wrote your article about Adderall risks. I wouldn’t call it a mistake when later science calls into question earlier conclusions, and I don’t think anyone expects you to constantly update your articles as the science changes.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Was it a mistake?
      Since he can’t figure out how he reached his conclusion, that’s pretty damning. What should one make of the evidence presented in the article? If there’s a study about amphetamine and no study about methylphenidate, what should one conclude? The whole rest of the article says that they’re practically the same, so why would you expect this one untested item to be different? Even if there were studies in opposite directions, I’d probably trust the general trend over the typical low-quality studies.

      ———

      What is the point of Scott’s articles?

      I think that the political articles are mainly about meta-level points: this is what an argument should look like; this is how much data you should use; you should try to have principles and think about them. If the object-level points are undermined, the essay still illustrates its meta-level points.

      Whereas I think that the psychology articles, while also illustrating some meta points are mainly about the object-level points. If the article is not better than UpToDate, why bother? If it was, it probably still is, and it is valuable to keep it updated. It may be a lot of work to keep up with “the science,” but keeping the article up to date with Scott’s beliefs is a lot less work. And, as he says at the beginning of the article, this is a big part of his job, so he does keep up to date.

      • acymetric says:

        Right. I don’t think Scott should feel bad that he wrote an article about effects of Ritalin that he now thinks is wrong. Even if he can’t remember why he thought that at the time, I have enough confidence in Scott’s process to think that he probably had some kind of good or at least decent reason for thinking so.

        That said, I think especially in articles about risks/benefits of medication it is well worth the time for Scott to go back to articles he no longer thinks are accurate (do to more time thinking about the subject, or new evidence, etc.) to add a note to the top along the lines of “I no longer [believe/have confidence in] the content of this article for [reasons]” because someone might come across that article when considering which medication to take.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      There were other earlier studies that were less conclusive but said overall the same thing.

  30. bobbert says:

    What fraction of personal spending do you think is spent on positional goods? i.e. goods whose purpose is to convey status, and for which allocation of them is typically thought to be a zero-sum game.

    • eightieshair says:

      Kind of depends on how strictly you define “positional good”.

      Housing is a major expense for most people. We all need a roof over our heads regardless of what it says about our status, but living in a particular neighborhood, or in a house of a certain size/with certain amenities can certainly serve a s a status signal.

      • eric23 says:

        I think status is minor compared to other factors like good schools, low crime, proximity to jobs, proximity to people of similar values and social class (current or future friends), etc.

        • Statismagician says:

          These are autocorrelated – those things are what make high-status areas high-status.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Basically, yes.

            There is no end of ways that good things are better than bad things, which makes them not a good fit for pure status goods.

            A pure status good would be something like a Rolex instead of a Tag Heuer instead of a Seiko instead of a Citizen (I think I have that series correct).

            All of them perform equally well as watches to any margin that matters for most of life, but one is higher status than another.

      • Konstantin says:

        It’s a gradient. A BMW has more features and is more comfortable than a Honda, and also confers higher status. On the other hand, a Ferrari is purely about status unless your hobbies include car racing. One thing I have noticed is at least where I live (the US midwest) it is considered unfashionable to blatantly show your wealth with items like Ferarris. Instead, the fashionable thing to do is to subtly indicate it, showing that you are rich, everyone important already knows you are rich, and you feel no need to broadcast this fact to the world at large.

        • eightieshair says:

          Right, this is why I was saying that the answer to the original question depends on how strict your definition is. I guess the most stringent definition would require virtually no practical difference between the “prestige” item and some simply functional equivalent. Like you can buy a $200 t-shirt that’s functionally indistinguishable from a $30 t-shirt. Or wine, where studies show that people will rate the taste of wines more highly when they’re told that they cost a lot.

          If we’re using that strict definition, I’d guess that spending on purely positional goods is pretty low for most people, and only takes off when you reach the rich (who can do things like collect fancy wines & etc.).

      • keaswaran says:

        I think the best way to think of status here will be to operationalize it in terms of spending on zero-sum goods. It’s not hard to increase the fraction of people who live in a leak-free house, and it’s hard, but possible to increase the fraction of people that live in a neighborhood with convenient mass transit options to get to thousands of jobs and shops. But it’s impossible to increase the fraction of people that live in the fanciest 10% of neighborhoods or to be in the school district with the top 10% college admissions rate.

        I’m not sure how you factor out the positional aspect of the price from the object level quality aspect, but it’s at least a definition.

        • albatross11 says:

          Freddie DeBoer had a nice essay awhile back pointing out that school quality is basically this kind of good. There is a best school in the county, or maybe a smalll set of best schools. Only a small fraction of kids can be in those schools. Any way to allocate those spaces will upset many people, both for rational reasons (I want my kid in the best school so they get the best education and have the best peer group) and for positional/status reasons (I want to periodically name-drop that *my* children go to GoldPlatedHigh.) You can improve individual schools, but you can never make more than 10% of your schools be the top 10% of schools.

    • Hoopdawg says:

      People can live comfortably for much less that they actually do, and much of their spending can be constructed as conveying status in one way or another.
      On the other hand, status is a prerequisite for much of the enrichment opportunities, and conveying status is probably impossible to disentangle from investing in oneself.

      So, it’s close to 0% if I were to assign personal blame, but quickly approaching 100% for increasing amounts of wealth – if I’m taking the eagle eye systemic view.

      • LesHapablap says:

        This is correct and it has made me rethink a lot of the financial wisdom I got when I was younger. Don’t buy expensive clothes, don’t buy a nice car when you’re young, save lots for retirement from a young age, etc. Cars and clothes confer status and will benefit your life in ways that are hard to quantify, but actually are probably important.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Indeed; if you’re a guy, nice clothes and a nice car help you in some absolutely obvious ways. Though I expect that most guys who have a good idea of what “nice clothes” are beyond a clean T-shirt (i.e. not me) realize this already. I had a Miata when I was younger; it attracted the right sort of interest, even if I absolutely sucked at following up.

          • Bugmaster says:

            I’ve been told that an expensive[-looking] watch is also an absolute requirement. People may not notice the thread count on your jacket, but they will notice the watch.

    • DinoNerd says:

      Wouldn’t this vary a lot depending on the person doing the spending, even among people with the same resources?

      Also, it seems to me like there are three dimensions here:
      – Is the quantity of the good limited such that we couldn’t all have one if we wanted to?
      – Does the good convey status? Many fashionable things seem to convey status even though we could in theory make as many as were wanted.
      – Is the status-seeking instrumental, i.e. is the person using status goods to attract a better grade of mate, or to facilitate a con game, or to encourage the local law to turn a blind eye to their misdeeds?

      It’s a different question depending on how you navigate these dimensions.

      • DinoNerd says:

        A particularly fun example would be the most-of-the-way-to-threadbare clothing sold a couple of years back, though only to those who followed fashion closely. Was that a rare good – only a limited amount of clothing with whatever designer label was relevant? Was it temporarily rare, and only status displaying as long as it stayed rare – once knock offs were in every clothing store, higher status people had moved to some new fad? Or was it non-rare, low status, whatever the fashion followers were wearing – since threadbare clothing can be found in the back of many closets.

  31. Murphy says:

    Re:Dead links. Have you considered when not actively signal boosting a specific site, linking to a web archive page for the content right from the start, as in when you first write the post?

    • deciusbrutus says:

      Is there a tool that can quickly generate the correct Internet Archive link for a broken one? That could make the ‘fix it’ easy enough to still happen (as opposed to finding a replacement link that has the same content as the old one did).

      • Hackworth says:

        I would imagine such a tool, if it exists, would be limited in what it can do. The days where every broken link returns a 404 are long gone. Many news sites, sometimes ISP themselves, redirect broken links to their home page or whatever, making the task of automatically identifying broken links much harder.

  32. RubusArcticus says:

    People who started to gain weight as a result of taking antidepressants or antianxieties: How much time passed untill you noticed you gained weight? Did you change to another medication because of that? Was the change worth it?

    • Lurker says:

      About a year. It went very slowly.
      Whether or not it makes sense to change the medication depends on how high the weight gain is, how much it bothers you and how well the medication works for the symptoms it’s supposed to help with.
      Also, weight gain is a side effect that can be mitigated by lifestyle changes that are a good idea anyway (healthy eating, regular exercise – both are helpful for a lot of conditions including depression. I am currently seeing success applying those changes.). I also suspect that stopping the medication would not automatically mean going back to my original weight.

      [disclaimer: I am taking antidepressants, but as a migraine prophylaxis, also I don’t own a scale and am at the upper border of the “BMI-is-still-ok” scale, so your mileage may vary. I prefer less pain and fatter to more pain and thinner, this may change if I ever get to the point of being obese.]

  33. Mr Mind says:

    A weird medical question about myself: when I lay down, whether supine or prone, my nose closes completely, and I’m forced to breath through the mouth. Clearly this makes for a very shitty night of sleep, but also impacts things like reading, sex, etc.
    I’ve found that xylometazoline clears my nose completely, for a few hours, so it’s now a couple of years that I’m able to rest soundly just because prior to sleeping, I have one spray of the drug in each nostril.
    What do you think it is? Should I have surgery if the drug works so well?

    • Aapje says:

      They sell nasal valve dilators. Have you tried those?

      In any case, I would suggest going to a doctor. They can examine the cause & severity and give advice for the best treatment.

    • Garrett says:

      From The Wiki: Long term use is not recommended due to a rhinitis medicamentosa when stopped.

      More broadly, this could be a whole host of issues. I’d start by ensuring that your blood pressure is under control and work with your primary healthcare provider to evaluate causes and appropriate treatments.

    • bobbert says:

      Flonase (or generic fluticasone proprionate) was recommended to me by my ENT doctor when I had tinnitus caused by clogged eustachian tubes, or essentially clogged sinuses.

      Even if you don’t have allergies, It tends to open up your nasal passages and might be worth a shot. It also seems to be OK for long-term use, will probably cost $5 per month, and is considered a performance-enhancing drug by most athletic regulatory organizations.

  34. johan_larson says:

    Any takes on the Oscar nominees and winners?

    https://oscar.go.com/nominees/best-picture

    I have only seen two of the eight nominees for Best Picture — Ford v Ferrari and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood — and of those two I would have picked Ford v Ferrari. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood just seemed weird, with a hyper-violent ending that was really at odds with the rest of the picture. It’s like Tarantino decided to make a film that was 80% historical drama and 20% splatter-punk horror.

    • sty_silver says:

      I have only seen Marriage Story, which I thought was quite strong. I dropped the Irishman after like 15 minutes.

      • I thought Marriage Story was compelling but feel very differently about it compared to some of the reviews I’ve seen. People say it’s some kind of tragedy about two sympathetic people who are put through a broken system and are pushed in to more conflict than needed. But I see it as Scarlett Johannson’s being vindictive and hiding behind her lawyer and the courts as an excuse. It was infuriating to watch.

        • Etoile says:

          I saw it, and it had a powerful effect on me. I sympathize with some of her frustrations in that marriage, but think they should have stayed and worked them out. It was also a cautionary thing for me — “if things ever go this bad for you, don’t drag in the lawyers”. It seemed like a waste for them to split up.

          I did think it was basically Scarlett Johansen acting a role she acts in lots of other movies (Lost in Translation, Vicky Christina Barcelona) — chronic grass-is-greener syndrome, in essence.

        • sty_silver says:

          My reaction was somewhere in between. I definitely thought that, between them, she was the clear bad gal, rather than both being sympathetic people. At the same time, the system made it dramatically worse.

          • The most reprehensible thing she did in the movie was when it first got started and Charlie needed a lawyer. They said that he could lose custody of his kid if he didn’t get one so he went searching. Of course, Nicole made sure to have a meeting with all of these lawyers so that he was barred from using them. It was only by luck that he managed to get one. You can blame her lawyer or the courts or whatever for incentiving her to do that but at the end of the day, she made a decision to have a meeting with all those guys for no defensible reason.

    • johan_larson says:

      For what it’s worth, Movies with Mikey’s five favories of 2019 were:

      Rocketman
      Parasite
      Midsommar
      Knives Out
      Little Women

      The non-overlapping entries with the Best Picture nominees are Rocketman, Midsommar, and Knives Out. Rocketman got the Original Song Oscar and Knives Out was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, but did not win. Midsommar was left out completely.

    • HomarusSimpson says:

      I’ve seen 5 of the 9. Just saw “The Lighthouse” which is staggeringly better than any of those. What gets nominated for Oscars is pretty arbitrary I feel.

    • viVI_IViv says:

      I watched Ford v Ferrari, Jojo rabbit, Joker, 1917 and Parasite.

      They were all good movies, I would have picked Joker as the best picture, but Parasite was also very strong.

    • OriginalSeeing says:

      I’ve seen none of these…
      I don’t know if that should surprise me anymore.

      Bong Joon-ho is an amazing director and Song Kang-ho is one of my favorite actors, so I may watch Parasite.

      The Host and The Good, the Bad, the Weird are two of my favorite films. I strongly recommend both. Both were involved in the former and Song Kang-ho was a main character in the latter.

    • Anthony says:

      Parasite did pretty well at the Oscars considering there was no host.

      (I stole this from elsenet.)

    • Gossage Vardebedian says:

      I just saw Parasite, and while I’m a big fan of most of Bong Joon-Ho’s other work, this one felt kind of flat. I’m not sure what the message was, other than “capitalism is bad,” which is both puerile and probably why it won. Although, since the changes in Best Picture voting a few years ago, there have been some surprising winners, so it might be a fool’s errand to parse the results for the big prize. I did expect Tarantino and his movie to have done better.

      Ford v Ferrari was the best of the lot that I saw, and I saw most of them. I prefer for actual good movies to win, and by ‘good movies,” I mean movies that people will still be watching years or decades from now. I don’t mean to say that Bad Boys II is a better movie than, say, Kramer vs Kramer (it is, but that’s not what I’m saying), but stuff like Marriage Story? Please. Nice film, well done, now go away. It could have been a novel and had the exact same impact. You don’t have to blow stuff up, but there should be a visual, visceral element to the best movies. It can be any number of things, from lighting, camera work, clever mise en scene, or yes, just blowing shit up, but something. Any film that has a claim to be the best of a year should have a lot going on, should work on many levels. I thought FvF did that very well. 1917 was interesting, but it was a little too fun to watch, too artificial. Frankly, it didn’t seem horrible, rather it felt spectacular.

      • Tarpitz says:

        I think there’s a real divide between people who love movies qua movies and people who love stories and think movies are just one good way to tell them. It really doesn’t bother me if something could also have worked well as a play or a novel. I cared about the characters and narrative of Marriage Story, and that’s good enough for me. That doesn’t mean I don’t also love films where the medium is more integral, but if the only thing you’re really getting by putting something on screen is closeups, that’s fine by me.

      • viVI_IViv says:

        I just saw Parasite, and while I’m a big fan of most of Bong Joon-Ho’s other work, this one felt kind of flat. I’m not sure what the message was, other than “capitalism is bad,” which is both puerile and probably why it won.

        I don’t think there was a really message. Definitely it was not “rich people bad, poor people good”.
        It’s a fun commedy, the actors are good, the scene composition and camerawork look nice, and the ending is… weird enough to make the film stand out among other commedies.

        Ford v Ferrari was the best of the lot that I saw, and I saw most of them.

        Probably the best one from a technical standpoint. The story and the characters are also strong, but it’s still fundamentally a sports movie, which I think makes it too niche to win “best picture”.

        1917 was interesting, but it was a little too fun to watch, too artificial.

        The “single shoot” gimmick gets old very quickly, and you can actually notice the transitions which kinda takes you out of the story. Other than that, is a good, but not particularly groundbreaking war movie, better than Dunkirk but worse than Private Ryan.

      • CatCube says:

        I thought 1917 was good and recommend it, but it distantly annoyed me that you could summarize the plot as “The luckiest motherfucker on the Western Front wanders around northeastern France for a day.”

        Also, why didn’t they send several runners separately from the Army staff to do this? I mean, that vastly increases the chances of one of them making it. It seemed like kind of lazy writing to not have them do this. Of course, Mendes claims this was from a story told to him by his grandfather, so maybe they really didn’t send more than one team, or his grandfather didn’t mention it (or didn’t know).

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          My first guess is simply that they had too few men to spare more than two, and/or the mission wasn’t considered that perilous. Send enough to guarantee a warning, and you end up losing the local front if the Germans move on it.

          I liked 1917, too. WWI doesn’t get enough play, so I’ll take what comes. I also liked the single cut gimmick. Despite my craftman’s eye hunting for transitions, I was able to let myself sink into it and enjoy the feeling of presence. Meanwhile, the cinematography was first-rate, single cut or no.

          • Matt M says:

            Alternate guess: They did send 20 guys, but of course you don’t actually tell any of the individual guys that!

        • John Schilling says:

          Also, why didn’t they send several runners separately from the Army staff to do this? I mean, that vastly increases the chances of one of them making it.

          Realistically, most of the variance will be on the German side. Either the British are right that they have abandoned their former lines, in which case any pair of runners with probably get through, or they are still present in force in which case twenty runners just become twenty corpses and/or prisoners. The bit where they leave just enough men to make it a tricky but not impossible proposition for George MacKay to get through, is dramatically interesting but knife-edge unlikely in practice.

    • Machine Interface says:

      If I’m not mistaken, this is the first time ever in history that a movie wins both the Academy Award for Best Picture and the Palme d’Or.

      This is almost as weird as the year 2011, where an American film won the Palme d’Or and a French film won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        While it is widely reported that this is unprecedented, Marty (1955) won both awards. (Lost Weekend (1945) also won both, but there 11 winners at Cannes that year)

        How many Palme d’Or films were nominated for Best Picture? Pretty close to which ones were in American: Friendly Persuasion (1956), MASH (1970), The Conversation (1974), Taxi Driver (1976), Apocalypse Now (1979), All That Jazz (1979), Missing (1982), Pulp Fiction (1994), and Tree of Life (2011)

        Of the Palme d’Or films that weren’t American, I count five that were nominated for the Best Picture, three in English:
        The Mission (1986), The Piano (1993), and Secrets & Lies (1996);
        and two in other languages: Amour (2012) and Parasite (2019)

        Some American Palme d’Or winners weren’t nominated: The Scarecrow (1973), Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989), Wild at Heart (1990), Barton Fink (1991), Elephant (2003), Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) (nor Best Doc).

        There are a lot of British films that won at Cannes but didn’t get nominated in Hollywood: Brief Encounter (1946 tie), The Third Man (1949), Orson Welles’s Othello (1951), The Knack …and How to Get It (1965), Blowup (1966), if… (1968), The Go-Between (1971), The Hireling (1973), The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006), and I, Daniel Blake (2016)

        Added: Paris, Texas (1984), Harry Dean Stanton’s first of two starring roles, was, obviously, shot in America, but it probably should count as foreign. It was not nominated for any Oscars. I’m usually annoyed by Wikipedia starting the article about a movie by identifying its nationality on the basis of its production company, but this example illustrates the relevance.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          A sixth foreign film that was nominated in Hollywood is The Pianist (2002). Since I’ve lost the ability to edit, I don’t have to classify it by language.

    • Etoile says:

      I’ve at least heard of more of the nominees this year, and even saw one. So that’s something.

    • Tarpitz says:

      Big disclaimer: Parasite only came out in the UK on Friday and I have not yet seen it. I have also not seen Le Mans 66/Ford vs. Ferrari.

      I straightforwardly adored Little Women, which would have been my pick for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay; I thought Florence Pugh in particular was extraordinary and should have won Best Supporting Actress, while I’m more agnostic about Ronan vs. Johansen for Best Actress out of those nominated (have not seen Judy; highly doubt I’ll be impressed).

      Speaking of Johansen, Marriage Story was my favourite of the other nominees, roughly on a par with my other two top non-Little Women films of the year, Only You and Amanda – neither of which was nominated for anything. Only You and Marriage Story make an interesting pair – beautifully observed and sympathetic examinations of the struggles of two quite different couples. I would have given Marriage Story best Original Screenplay out of the nominated films, but Only You would edge it if I was allowed to pick it, and Laia Costa 100% gave the best performance I have seen from any actor, male or female, this year. Amanda, meanwhile, is a terrific French film about a young man who has to care for his seven year old niece after his sister is killed in a terrorist attack, and would be my pick for Best Foreign Language Film (again, haven’t seen Parasite yet).

      Joker was pretty good, and I’m happy enough with its wins for Best Actor and Best Score.

      I really liked Jojo Rabbit; more very fine work from Johansen and also from Thomasin McKenzie after her outstanding debut in Leave No Trace. She’s going to be a huge star and she thoroughly deserves it.

      Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was… a perfectly good slice of daft entertainment that went on longer than it needed to, had a silly ending and has been taken far too seriously.

      I very much liked Knives Out. Not to the point that I’d actually have given it any awards, but I’m glad it was nominated and look forward to the sequel.

      I couldn’t be doing with The Irishman. I don’t really get on with Scorcese or De Niro, and I’m not a fan of the genre as a whole (*massive* exception for Godfather). Not for me.

      1917 is I think a very fine film that I like much less than I think it deserves. I really struggled to get past the weirdness of seeing World War One in glossy digital HD. George Mackay is brilliant and I am gutted we dithered and missed the chance to cast him in one of our movies last year.

  35. Taymon A. Beal says:

    I’d be willing to help with the broken-link-management issue, in part because the task of replacing broken links with Wayback Machine ones seems pretty amenable to automation, for the majority of broken links if not literally all of them. Scott, let me know if you’re interested.

  36. Liface says:

    I run a sports tech company and am hiring for two open (remote) sales roles. My sense is that SSC is not rife with people looking to get into sales, but it’s worth a shot:

    http://usetopscore.com/p/topscore-is-hiring-a-sales-development-representative
    http://usetopscore.com/p/topscore-hiring-a-sales-representative

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      @Atlas

      If you don’t mind the kind of work where “You will be required to do cold calls and emails daily, as well as hit weekly, monthly, and yearly sales targets…”

      (Personally, I’d rather get a job testing medieval dungeon equipment, but it takes all kinds)

      Also, OP, I think penny stocks does more to sell a sales job than always be closing. But then again, like I said, I’m not exactly a born salesman. I do know a lot of movies, though, and only the first one is free.

  37. Plumber says:

    For what it’s worth this last Wednesday I cooked lunch for the crew at work and my improvised recipe was a success!

    Tools:
    1)
    a four and a half quart enameled cast iron “dutch oven” (specifically this one)
    2)
    1950’s Wedgewood gas oven
    3)
    welding striker (a long match would’ve worked as well)
    4)
    welding gloves and towels (for oven mits)
    5)
    plates
    6)
    forks
    7)
    long spoon
    8)
    knife

    Ingredients:
    1)
    7 pounds of corned beef
    2)
    olive oil
    3)
    water
    4)
    pickling spices
    5)
    yellow mustard
    6)
    sourdough bread

    Without pre-heating it I lit the oven, set it for 300 degrees Fahrenheit, put in the dutch oven filled with the corner beef, spices, half a cup of olive oil, and a cup of water, left it in for four hours (no idea when it reached 300 degrees Fahrenheit)

    Served with mustard for those that wanted mustard (horse radish “for next time” was suggested), and bread.

    Delicious!

    • EchoChaos says:

      horse radish “for next time” was suggested

      We can’t be friends if you didn’t provide horseradish for corned beef without the suggestion.

      Seriously, sounds delicious.

    • Deiseach says:

      Sounds like you made a very good job of it! Personally, I’d throw in some pickled onions as an accompaniment, maybe some sliced tomatoes as a gesture towards ‘healthy eating’ 😉

      • Plumber says:

        @Deiseach,
        Shamefully I have no memory of what pickled onions are like (any hints?), but slices of tomatoes are now planned!

        • sourcreamus says:

          Pickled onions can be made by cutting up some onions (red are best for this) then submerging in a mixture of 1 cup vinegar and two tablespoons sugar. You can boil the vinegar mixture and they will be ready in 1 hour or the next day if using room temp vinegar.

        • Deiseach says:

          sourcreamus below gives a decent recipe for making your own quick-pickled ones. I’ve generally eaten the commercially pickled varieties not home-made ones, and the type I personally like are the silverskin ones – small onions in spirit vinegar/salt mixture. I like ’em because they’re crunchy and tangy – I like sour/tart flavour in pickles better than sweet pickles (the ones which use sugar as well in the recipe).

          Another traditional English version is large onions in malt vinegar, with sugar, salt and spices such as peppercorns. Like this recipe from Sarson’s malt vinegar – as I said, I buy the commercial version because who has time to wait six weeks for your onions to pickle properly? 🙂

      • JayT says:

        Also get some gherkins to go with the pickled onions and buy some nice stone ground mustard instead of just regular yellow.

  38. greghb says:

    Does anyone remember Scott talking about patients coming to him with weird prescriptions from their prior doctors, but no rationale for why they were on these prescriptions? And then maybe having to try to infer what the prior doctors were thinking, if they had a good reason, or if the patient was on the prescription out of habit but it had long outlived its utility, etc.

    I vaguely remember some stories like this throughout the years, but can’t turn them up now.

    More generally, I’m interested in any anecdotes of doctors having to infer the reasoning of a patient’s prior doctors — if anyone has any to share.

    Thanks!

    • GearRatio says:

      Not quite relevant, but I used to have a boss who would fly off the handle for very little reason, lived with absurd mood swings, paranoid, the whole bit. It turns out he had over the past few years before that had multiple psychologists, and they’d put him on new drugs and keep him on the old drugs from the old doctors. Eventually he got to a doctor who cleared out all the old drugs and put him on one (new) prescription, and he got better basically overnight.

      It’s possible this story is untrue, but having worked under the old and new him, I’m inclined to believe it and it horrifies me.

    • FormerRanger says:

      The pattern Scott was seeing is very common with elderly patients. Doctors appear to be very conservative about stopping a medication, so they just add a new one on top of the old one(s). Elderly people with cognitive issues find it difficult to explain the reason for a medication, even if it was explained to them (which is often isn’t).

      Every so often a different doctor decides to start from scratch, or to actually follow the dosing and duration recommended, and the results can be positive. At the very least, it is common for quality of life to improve.

    • aristides says:

      I’m pretty sure you are talking about one of my favorite anecdotes from his residency days. You will find it under Roman numeral III. It’s hilarious in a sad sort of way.

  39. Enkidum says:

    TIL that Christopher and Jonathan Nolan’s other brother is a suspected contract hitman wanted for extradition to the UK.

  40. The problem with the site that I commented on some time back is still there. I routinely read new comments by putting “squiggle n e” (no spaces and “squiggle” instead of the symbol so people won’t keep seeing this post as new) in the browser search box. Most of the time it takes me to the next unread comment. Perhaps one time in ten or twenty, it instead takes me back to the top of the thread. There does not seem to be any pattern to when it does this.

    • Nick says:

      Did you try what I suggested last time you mentioned it?

      • Another Throw says:

        I thought at the time that was a likely explanation, though I usually select some text rather than just clicking somewhere in the text. It makes me feel better to be able to see the selected text highlighted to be sure I know where it is going to search from.

      • Yes.

        The phenomenon sometimes occurs when I have selected text in a previous comment.

        • Another Throw says:

          Does your browser show some kind of “7 of 23” display near the search box and is it resetting to 1 or disappearing before you click next and get taken back to the first new comment?

          • No. I’m using Firefox. No such display.

          • Another Throw says:

            Interesting. I am using Firefox atm, and it is currently telling “3 of 7 matches” in the Find Toolbar next to the button for “Whole Words”. I can’t get it to not search from the location of the text cursor/selected text.

            Browser bug? Maybe try opening the web developer console and see if it throws some kind of error before/during it happening? I don’t know enough about web development to tell whether that is a worthwhile time investment.

            ETA: Does it occur when searching for text on other pages or just SSC?

    • nkurz says:

      For me, using Safari, I get this when I inadvertently click in the sidebar between advances. Is this possibly what you are doing?

      In more detail, I start with Cmd-F, type tilde-new, then Escape so the search box disappears and the screen undims, then Cmd-G to move to the next new comment. Then repeat Cmd-G until I have found all new comments. After the last, it rewinds to the first. But if after some number of Cmd-G’s I click in the sidebar, the subsequent Cmd-G will take me back to the first occurrence rather than the next one.

      The solution (besides not inadvertently clicking the sidebar) is to scroll down to the last new comment I’ve seen and click somewhere in the text of the comment. This resets the position so that the next Cmd-G moves me to where I want to go. The same approach of clicking where you want to start searching is required after submitting or editing a comment.

    • VoiceOfTheVoid says:

      A while back, someone posted a link that, when I clicked on it, gave me buttons at the top of each comment thread that can auto-hide old comments, leaving only the new ones open. Based on opening the site in incognito or other browsers, this doesn’t seem to actually be a feature of the main site and may be some javascript/cookie wizardry? If whoever made the “All/New/None” links could clarify that would be helpful.

  41. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Welcome to the third of my reviews of the original Conan stories by Robert E. Howard. This one is “The Tower of the Elephant”!

    Review #1: “The Frost Giant’s Daughter”
    Review #2: “The God in the Bowl”

    Wikipedia has 25 stories and an essay by Robert E. Howard.

    Since we’re going through these in an internal chronology, Conan is still a youth of a thief. We’re in an unnamed city in the country Zamora, in a tavern where Conan approaches a foreign kidnapper who says “I know lords in Shem who would trade the secret of the Elephant Tower for [a female victim].” It seems “that Yara the priest dwells there with the great jewel men call the Elephant’s Heart, that is the secret of his magic.”
    Conan naively asks why no one has stolen this jewel already, for he’s seen no guards there. Just climb the sheer walls, easy! The man mocks him as a foolish yokel planning the impossible (I guess not every Thief has an 85% or better chance?)

    The Cimmerian glared about, embarrassed at the roar of mocking laughter that greeted this remark. He saw no particular humor in it, and was too new to civilization to understand its discourtesies. Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.

    They of course get into a bar brawl, which knocks out the only candle and leaves the kidnapper dead and most patrons fled when it’s relit. Outside, Conan’s tunic has been ripped, so he one-ups Captain Kirk by entirely discarding it, going about in only a loincloth and sandals.

    He had entered the part of the city reserved for the temples. On all sides of him they glittered white in the starlight—snowy marble pillars and golden domes and silver arches, shrines of Zamora’s myriad strange gods. He did not trouble his head about them; he knew that Zamora’s religion, like all things of a civilized, long­settled people, was intricate and complex, and had lost most of the pristine essence in a maze of formulas and rituals. He had squatted for hours in the courtyards of the philosophers, listening to the arguments of theologians and teachers, and come away in a haze of bewilderment, sure of only one thing, and that, that they were all touched in the head.

    This establishes that Conan is eager to learn and has now been in cities long enough to start stereotyping them. Approaching the tower’s courtyard wall, he starts to feel fear: he’s heard report that Yara the priest can transform people into spiders. But he continues and finds an armored guard on the other side of the wall, but a dead one! He meets a second thief, Taurus of Nemedia. Now we have an adventuring party. He’s been planning this for awhile, and tells Conan “We’ll steal down through the top of the tower and strangle old Yara before he can cast any of his accursed spells on us. At least we’ll try; it’s the chance of being turned into a spider or a toad, against the wealth and power of the world.” They won’t be able to climb the tower when there are lions guarding it, but Taurus has planned for them too. “A long jet of yellowish powder shot from the other end of the tube and billowed out instantly in a thick green-yellow cloud that settled over the shrubbery, blotting out the glaring eyes.” It’s an airborne toxin made from the black lotus, whose blossoms wave in the lost jungles of Khitai, where only the yellow-skulled priests of Yun dwell.
    Conan asks why Taurus can’t just go on killing people by blowing that powder: “Because that was all the powder I possessed. The obtaining of it was a feat which in itself was enough to make me famous among the thieves of the world. I stole it out of a caravan bound for Stygia, and I lifted it, in its cloth-of-gold bag, out of the coils of the great serpent which guarded it, without awaking him.” That’s one way to limit spell-casting!
    Taurus throws a grappling hook and starts climbing when Conan has to save his life from the one lion not caught in the toxic cloud. On the 150-foot climb, Conan gets distracted by the scintillating jewels embedded in the wall and suggests prying that fortune out. But changing goals in the middle of a heist could get you killed!
    They open the door into the top floor and find a glittering chamber, the walls, ceiling and floor of which were crusted with great white jewels which lighted it brightly, though its only light source. This is akin to an explanation in Hindu Puranas of how the pleasant underworld is illuminated: lightbulb-like jewels in the hoods of the nagas who live there.
    Something in the room kills Taurus. Conan soldiers on to see what it was. It sneaks in the shadows but eventually reveals itself: a spider the size of a pig, skittering around a second treasure room. Conan is injured even from the splash of tiny drops of venom as the spider misses its attack, and barely prevails in the fight scene. Continuing into other rooms, he finds “Smoke and exotic scent of incense floated up from a brazier on a golden tripod, and behind it sat an idol on a sort of marble couch. Conan stared aghast; the image had the body of a man, naked, and green in color; but the head was one of nightmare and madness. Too large for the human body, it had no attributes of humanity. Conan stared at the wide flaring ears, the curling proboscis, on either side of which stood white tusks tipped with round golden balls.”
    This is no statue, but a rational organism, who turns out to have been chained, blinded, and otherwise tortured by Yara. He says his name is Yag-Kosha, and tells a tale of how he came to this planet with others of my world, from the green planet Yag, with wings faster than light. They fought the strange and terrible forms of life which then walked the earth, so to establish peace and quiet in the jungles of the East. They observed humans develop from apes to city-builders, and the sinking of Atlantis. As Deep Time ground on, all died except Yag-Kosha. Then to the temple in Khitai where he was worshiped came Yara, who learned white magic at his feet before betraying and torturing him to divulge what black magic he’s learned over the eons. Yara also forced him to conjure the bejeweled tower into existence in a single night, like the Slave of the Lamp for Aladdin. Now he asks Conan to kill him and squeeze his heart’s blood onto the Heart of the Elephant, then take it to Yara’s bed chamber and then flee the tower while he, now a mighty spirit instead of flesh and blood, takes his revenge.
    Conan is savvy enough to do as a supernatural being bades, and runs out past the magically-dead guards on the ground floor as the spirit of Yag-Kosha wreaks vengeance. Then it sways and crashes down into shining shards.

    Well that was Lovecraftian, wasn’t it? We’ll see this sort of invocation of Deep Time as the monster’s origin again in this series, but it seems to be done best here. The tone partakes of myth and fairy tale as well as Lovecraftian SF, and the strength of Howard’s descriptive prose adds its own element to all that.

    • Nick says:

      So, am I right to think Taurus got greedy at the end, right before he died? Conan seemed to suspect it, and I don’t see any other reason he closed the door. It’s awfully foolish of him, seeing as having Conan around was clearly useful. So much for the prince of thieves.

      I love the Lovecraftian influences in this one.

      • Phigment says:

        I thought Taurus started greedy, and then had second thoughts when Conan saved him from that last lion.

        I mean, he only tried to ditch Conan, instead of trying to knife him or give him the long drop when he was climbing the rope.

        The spider fight was genuinely good. The bit where the spider is slowly webbing up the whole room, hemming Conan in gradually and inexorably moving in for the kill was chilling.

        Then, Conan solves the problem by picking up a heavy nearby object and throwing it at his enemy. This is not the last problem he’ll solve via the “throw heavy object” method.

        • Deiseach says:

          Yeah, I think Taurus sends Conan out because hey, he planned this as a solo job all along and if he can lay hands first on the Heart of the Elephant then that will save any awkwardness over division of the spoils. Let the barbarian kid chip all the jewels he likes off the walls of the tower and any other trinkets he can pick up, but Taurus plans to be the one who walks off with the real treasure. Why should they fight and kill one another over the Heart when there’s plenty of gold and gems to satisfy Conan as ordinary loot?

          I’m sure Taurus expects double-crossing to happen when they reach their goal (no honour among thieves) so he just gets the double-crossing in first, and it’s relatively mild: he sends Conan out to wait on the balcony instead of trying to backstab him or poison him.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          I mean, he only tried to ditch Conan, instead of trying to knife him or give him the long drop when he was climbing the rope.

          The spider fight was genuinely good. The bit where the spider is slowly webbing up the whole room, hemming Conan in gradually and inexorably moving in for the kill was chilling.

          Then, Conan solves the problem by picking up a heavy nearby object and throwing it at his enemy. This is not the last problem he’ll solve via the “throw heavy object” method.

          Count me as another who didn’t suspect Taurus of trying to betray Conan. I always preferred to think of him as an honest Player Character who died. 🙂
          I agree, the spider fight was chilling. It’s well-written enough that you can suspend your disbelief and not think of Conan as invincible (hard to achieve when we know he’ll grow up to usurp a kingdom!).

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I very much enjoyed this story.

        I’m not sure Taurus intended to abandon Conan. He didn’t seal the door behind him or anything, he just closed it. I think we can only guess: there’s nothing explicitly stating Taurus betrayed him, only the question of why else he would close the door. Regardless, when I read the story I didn’t get the impression he was betrayed: I thought Taurus just went ahead while Conan spied out the rear for a minute. It wasn’t until I read your post that it occurred to me that he might have.

        I did wonder what would happen if they had both managed to live until they recovered the Heart (before we knew its true nature). They can’t both keep it…

        Also, it was sad that after all that Conan escaped with zero loot. He couldn’t have stuffed a couple of rubies down his loincloth after killing the spider?

        LMC: Next story is Rogues in the House?

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          I did wonder what would happen if they had both managed to live until they recovered the Heart (before we knew its true nature). They can’t both keep it…

          Also, it was sad that after all that Conan escaped with zero loot. He couldn’t have stuffed a couple of rubies down his loincloth after killing the spider?

          Clearly Conan is not yet a seasoned Player Character, even if he’s been a thief long enough to start stereotyping city folk (unlike “The God in the Bowl”, which perforce must take place earlier). If he was, he’d have stuffed the most valuable rubies into his loincloth and made a mental note to get a new tunic entirely covered with pockets.
          And yes, how is this impromptu adventuring party supposed to not come into conflict over the Heart of the Elephant? That’s a clever authorial trick, making a gem too valuable to form an equitable share of the loot: compare the conflict over the Arkenstone in The Hobbit.

          LMC: Next story is Rogues in the House?

          That’s right.

          • Phigment says:

            You know that Taurus’s player is mad about this whole thing.

            I mean, he spent ridiculous resources on rare potions and magic ropes and did all the planning.

            Then Conan’s player shows up, the only thing written on his character sheet is “sword”.

            Then, one bad save vs. spider ambush later, he’s dead, and Conan’s player doesn’t even bother to loot his body on the way out the door.

          • John Schilling says:

            And yes, how is this impromptu adventuring party supposed to not come into conflict over the Heart of the Elephant?

            Not having any of the key party members holding a sentimental or political attachment to the Heart. If Thorin had been a mercenary adventurer, he’d have just sold the Arkenstone to some wannabe Dwarf king for a bunch of gold coins, easily split fourteen ways so that Bilbo can have a fair share.

    • Plumber says:

      @Le Maistre Chat,
      This last year I’ve read or re-read the Conan stories: The Frost King’s Daughter, The God in the Bowl, The People of the Black Circle, The Phooenix on the Sword, and Rogues in the House, as well as The Tower of the Elephant.

      “Tower” is the best by far!

    • Deiseach says:

      I’ve always liked this story; first, it settles down into the style that Howard will most successfully use for Conan, and second, he doesn’t easily get past all the obstacles put in his way – he was very lucky to meet Taurus in the garden, and that Taurus decided to make a temporary partner of him rather than get rid of a rival.

      I mostly like it for the touch of delicacy amongst the rip-roaring adventure. Conan isn’t just a brute from the far North, all muscles and cunning but no brain or sensitivity:

      He knew the marks of the rack, and the searing brand of the flame, and tough-souled as he was, he stood aghast at the ruined deformities which his reason told him had once been limbs as comely as his own. And suddenly all fear and repulsion went from him, to be replaced by a great pity. What this monster was, Conan could not know, but the evidences of its sufferings were so terrible and pathetic that a strange aching sadness came over the Cimmerian, he knew not why. He only felt that he was looking upon a cosmic tragedy, and he shrank with shame, as if the guilt of a whole race were laid upon him.

      ‘I am not Yara,’ he said. ‘I am only a thief. I will not harm you.’

      This is an important strand of Conan’s character, he has a fundamental decency or even a kind of compassion deep down, alongside his ruthlessness and pragmatism, and that sets him apart from the brutish strongmen and over-civilised decadent citydwellers that he encounters as he goes along his career from young thief to the end as a king of his own kingdom.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I’ve always liked this story; first, it settles down into the style that Howard will most successfully use for Conan, and second, he doesn’t easily get past all the obstacles put in his way – he was very lucky to meet Taurus in the garden, and that Taurus decided to make a temporary partner of him rather than get rid of a rival.

        I mostly like it for the touch of delicacy amongst the rip-roaring adventure.

        I agree with all this. The adventure is well-constructed that Conan needs a companion to stay alive rather than powering through the obstacles like a Marty Stu, and the way his empathy for Yag-Kosha is described is really good.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Review #4: “Rogues in the House”

      Illustration by Frank Frazetta

      Conan is in jail for murder in an unnamed city “whose real ruler” is Nabonidus the Red Priest. The victim was another priest, or Anu, who also worked as a fence and a spy for the police. This was made possible by the temple of Anu being on the edge of the Maze, “a tangle of muddy, winding alleys and sordid dens, frequented by the bolder thieves in the kingdom.” The narrator comically describes how Conan was arrested: his hired prostitute betrayed him while he slept drunk, and waking up to flee “he missed the open door in his headlong flight and dashed his head against the stone wall so terrifically that he knocked himself senseless.”
      An aristocrat named Murilo offers to arrange Conan’s escape if he’ll kill Nabonidus. Conan agrees. The plan is that the guard has been bribed to let Conan, having unchained himself with a key from Murilo, bind him with cloth and tell those who discover him a false story about him being broken out by fellow thieves. But some time after coming home, his spy brings the news that the guard had been arrested and thrown into prison – oops! He’s terrified that Nabonidus, who has indirectly threatened his life, is “more than human”, specifically a sorcerer who knows ESP, and used that to foil his plan.
      Murilo arms himself and goes to the wall of Nabonidus’ home, fearing what might guard it besides a big dog, a slave and a servant. Then he finds the dog in the garden with a broken neck and bite marks. Breaking into the house, he finds Joka the servant dead too. In the next room he finds a seated figure in a hooded red robe, and he falls in terror when the man in the chair rises and faces him.

      Back to Conan: the bribed guard brought him a joint of beef and a tankard so as to leave on a full stomach. Between then and consenting to the pretend escape, he’s arrested on unrelated corruption charges! His replacement is shocked to find a prisoner unchained and eating a huge beefbone. When he enters to restore dungeon propriety, Conan brains him with the remains of dinner and leaves with his sword and keys.
      On his way to his mission, Conan walks through the Dung Ages of the Maze (streets are mud and residents empty their chamber pots there). He disembowels the departing John of the hooker who betrayed him just for being her John, then chivalrously(?) gives her the lesser punishment of being defenestrated into the muck.

      Next Conan sneaks into Nabonidus’s basement, where he finds Murilo. Murilo tells him their target has been replaced by a thing “not unlike a man, but from the scarlet hood of the priest grinned a face of madness and nightmare! It was covered with black hair, from which small pig-like eyes glared redly; its nose was flat, with great flaring nostrils; its loose lips writhed back, disclosing huge yellow fangs, like the teeth of a dog. The hands that hung from the scarlet sleeves were misshapen and likewise covered with black hair.”
      Conan’s response is priceless: “Everyone knows there are men who take the form of wolves at will. But why did he kill his servants?”
      They agree to escape without trying to kill the were-thing, but infer that every exit is trapped. They find a half-naked man lying limply in a corridor… and it’s Nabonidus! Conan wants to kill him on the assumption that he’ll werewolf out and be immune to normal weapons immediately upon waking, but Murilo stops him. The priest reveals that his pet ape Thak beat him and stole his robe. And there’s further wacky miscommunication: his threat to Murilo was supposed to be understood as exile, not the death penalty. And why? Murilo bribed someone to filch state secrets, which he in turn sold to rival powers. Murilo retorts that Nabonidus swindles the king, so hey, we’re all three thieves. They agree to work together: they’ll overcome Thak so the priest is back in charge of the house, not report Murilo to the king, and let Conan escape the city to ply his trade in another.
      It seems that Thak’s species is something like Australopithecus, and Nabonidus knows about evolution, saying “If they are not exterminated, I believe they will become human beings in perhaps a hundred thousand years… They dwell in the high crags of well-nigh inaccessible mountains, knowing nothing of fire or the making of shelter or garments, or the use of weapons. Yet they have a language of a sort,”
      They observe Thak on the main floor through a series of mirrors, the invention amazing Murilo but not Conan, who shrugs it off as witchcraft. A gang of “ardent young nationalists” breaks into the house, and Thak knows how to activate traps to kill them.
      (To last story’s deadly black lotus off Khitai we now add “The dust of the gray lotus, from the Swamps of the Dead, beyond the land of Khitai.” It seems to give you instant rabies.)
      Eventually Conan gets Thak in a leglock and tries frantically to not get killed in the clench while stabbing him with a sword. (This is why you need usable grappling rules) Succeeding, he says “I have slain a man tonight, not a beast. I will count him among the chiefs whose souls I’ve sent into the dark, and my women will sing of him.”
      Well, shoot. We see Conan with more than a dozen love interests by Howard’s own pen alone, before getting into the later authors, and I don’t think we ever see him teaching a woman to sing the Ballad of Thak.
      Just one more plot twist before the end: Nabonidus betrays them. He’s going to pull a rope that opens a trap door down to the acid pit, dissolving Murilo along with Conan and Thak – hey, I only swore not to get you killed by the king! Conan quickly dispatches him with a thrown piece of furniture and says Murilo promised him gold and a horse for his death.

      This story was published in the January 1934 issue of Weird Tales (NSFW). You’ll notice that despite that despite being written for that market, there’s no demonstrable supernatural element. Claims of magic only appear as part of the comic misunderstandings. This tone is a fun change of pace for the series, but the story’s just not as good as “The Tower of the Elephant”, which it cribbed several bits from (lotus powder, worrying about a wall, and Conan stripping to his loincloth as he leaves a building).

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        1) Conan is a terrible thief. This is the fourth story, and he’s yet to come out of one with more booty than he went in with. I mean, he got a shred of gossamer from the Frost-Giant’s daughter, but that’s not even good loincloth material. He couldn’t filch anything from Nabonidus’ house?

        2) I like the fact that the only way to capture Conan is to get him to knock his own ass out.

        3) It doesn’t say the girl who betrayed him was a prostitute. Still, he kills the new boyfriend but all she gets is thrown in the muck? Conan is some kind m’ladyin’ White Knight I guess.

        4) In addition to cribbing the poison powder from The Tower of the Elephant, there’s also the bit about throwing heavy objects at the enemy. He killed the spider by chucking a chest or something at it, didn’t he?

        What’s next?

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          What’s next?

          5. “Queen of the Black Coast”
          6. “The Vale of Lost Women”
          7. “Black Colossus”
          8. “Shadows in the Moonlight”
          9. “A Witch Shall Be Born”
          10. “Shadows in Zamboula”
          11. “The Slithering Shadow”
          12. “The Devil in Iron”
          13. “The People of the Black Circle”
          14. “The Pool of the Black One”
          15. “Red Nails”
          16. “Jewels of Gwahlur”
          17. “Beyond the Black River”
          18. “The Black Stranger”
          19. “The Phoenix on the Sword”
          20. “The Scarlet Citadel”
          21. The Hour of the Dragon

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          1) Conan is a terrible thief. This is the fourth story, and he’s yet to come out of one with more booty than he went in with. I mean, he got a shred of gossamer from the Frost-Giant’s daughter, but that’s not even good loincloth material. He couldn’t filch anything from Nabonidus’ house?

          The last sentence has them still standing in Nabonidus’ garden. I would infer that they did loot it.
          (Heck, that’s probably why the Gamemaster had Nabonidus betray them: otherwise he’d have gotten to keep everything in his house.)

          2) I like the fact that the only way to capture Conan is to get him to knock his own ass out.

          3) It doesn’t say the girl who betrayed him was a prostitute. Still, he kills the new boyfriend but all she gets is thrown in the muck? Conan is some kind m’ladyin’ White Knight I guess.

          I guess!
          And you’re quite right. The narrator just says “woman”, “girl” and “her new lover.” That makes Conan’s homicidal rage more understandable: she was his actual girlfriend and he probably thinks she had the new guy lined up the day she sold him out (I doubt he was imprisoned awaiting execution very long).

          4) In addition to cribbing the poison powder from The Tower of the Elephant, there’s also the bit about throwing heavy objects at the enemy. He killed the spider by chucking a chest or something at it, didn’t he?

          Ah, right.
          “Conan caught up a jewel chest and hurled it with all his strength. It was a move the monster was not expecting. Full in the midst of the branching black legs the massive missile struck, smashing against the wall with a muffled sickening crunch.”

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Re: Looting:

            Murilo raked back his sweat-plastered hair with a shaky hand as he leaned against the table, weak from the reaction of relief.

            “It is dawn,” he said. “Let us get out of here, before we fall afoul of some other doom. If we can climb the outer wall without being seen, we shall not be connected with this night’s work. Let the police write their own explanation.”

            He glanced at the body of the Red Priest where it lay etched in crimson, and shrugged his shoulders.

            “He was the fool, after all; had he not paused to taunt us, he could have trapped us easily.”

            “Well,” said the Cimmerian tranquilly, “he’s travelled the road all rogues must walk at last. I’d like to loot the house, but I suppose we’d best go.”

            Terrible thief.

          • John Schilling says:

            Terrible thief.

            Sensible thief. There’s lots of valuable stuff in the world to steal, most of which isn’t going to be associated with a high-profile murder investigation. This is fold and run time, not hold and walk away.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Everyone who might know what’s missing from the house is dead. And Conan is leaving town immediately. There’s got to be something of value he can snatch to sell wherever he winds up next. That’s probably not going to get him caught, as it’s highly unlikely Hyborian Interpol is going to be coordinating between city-state police forces to find some stolen junk. And if he gets caught on the way out of town, they’re going to know it’s him, anyway, because what other man big and powerful enough to take down that monster is also still bleeding from the wounds of fighting said monster? He’s really got nothing to lose by pocketing a couple of items on his way out.

            Terrible. Thief.

          • Nick says:

            I think it’s less that Conan is a bad thief and more that narrative laws have conspired to make him Live In Interesting Times. Spike and Jet from Cowboy Bebop are really good at all their respective individual tasks, but somehow they never bag a bounty.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m not saying he needs to be swimming in gold, but just grab a little coin pouch for ale and wenches or something. We’re on story four and the entirety of Conan’s item sheet is:

            1 Sword
            1 Loincloth (soiled)

          • DarkTigger says:

            Spike and Jet from Cowboy Bebop are really good at all their respective individual tasks, but somehow they never bag a bounty.

            Lazy standard tropes that I hate number n (with n >= 1, and n in the set of natural numbers), our capable, likeable, smart heroes, can’t get a win if their life depend on it.
            Seriously if you can’t explain why adventurer types keep getting into dangerous shit after hitting one big haul, you seriously need to read up on irl pirates, explorerers, conqueres, head hunters, treasure hunters, and mercenaries.

        • Deiseach says:

          Yeah, he’s not great as a thief. He’s not stupid, but his plans seem to be impromptu and mostly “I’ll wing it”. At least at the end of this story, he has Murilo’s promise to pay him if he kills Nabonidus, and I don’t think it would be very safe for Murilo to try welching on that when they both get back to his place. Better to hand over that bag of gold and horse and let Conan disappear to the next city, while he invents an alibi for himself if any pesky investigators come knocking.

          Conan does a lot better when it comes to being a pirate or in a gang of brigands, when it’s plain “hit the caravan train/merchant ship with overwhelming force and loot it” rather than “think up sneaky plan, use stealth to get in, keep being stealthy, pick up anything not nailed down, sneak back out without anyone seeing you or having to fight giant spiders and ape-men and whatnot” 🙂

        • Deiseach says:

          Still, he kills the new boyfriend but all she gets is thrown in the muck?

          I think there’s more going on with the new boyfriend than just “wrong place, wrong time”; the line where New Guy is leaving the woman’s room while Conan is coming up the stairs is:

          Conan reached his destination without being seen, just as one he wished fervently to meet was leaving it.

          This sounds like Conan has a personal reason for wanting to kill the guy, more than just “old girlfriend dumped me for him”. I don’t think Conan would kill him just for that, and if it was just “fancy of the moment dumps me for another guy” I think he’d let it go at that. But she sold him to the cops and I get the impression (which could be completely wrong) that New Guy not alone lured her away from Conan, he convinced her to sell Conan out and split the reward money with him. That’s why Conan kills him and merely dumps her in the cesspit (he doesn’t kill women unless they’re actively trying to kill him, more of that anachronistic chivalry). He kills the guy for actively getting him arrested by persuading the woman to betray him, but he punishes her without killing her in a combination of “women are just treacherous like that” and “it was New Guy who made her do it”.

      • Phigment says:

        See? Never underestimate the danger of Conan throwing a heavy object at you. Conan has killed more enemies with projectile furniture than most barbarians manage with axes.

        Also, this story is a very clear example of Conan’s dubious moral foundations.

        He’s stealing stuff with a friend, and the friend gets double-crossed, caught, and hanged. Conan murders the double-crossing priest responsible. The city guards try to arrest Conan for the murder, and he kills their captain while resisting arrest, then brains himself on a door and gets captured. Then, another guy shows up and offers to help him escape if he’ll murder a second priest, which he quickly agrees to do. The escape goes wrong, so Conan kills another guard on his way out, with his dinner leftovers. After this, he goes to get revenge on the woman who turned him in to the police; en route, he murders her new lover by ambush. Then he settles for throwing the woman his actual grievance was with into a cesspool and laughing at her. Then he resumes his mission to kill Priest 2.

        Only then do we get into the actual meat of the story, infiltrating the house, fighting Thak, etc.

        That was a lot of casual murder for a framing device. But only murdering men, and ape-men. Women just get tossed into raw sewage.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I mean, he is a barbarian after all. Wait until we get to the next story, Queen of the Black Coast for another perfectly reasonable interaction between Conan and the legal system.

      • bullseye says:

        “I have slain a man tonight, not a beast. I will count him among the chiefs whose souls I’ve sent into the dark, and my women will sing of him.”

        How does Conan make this determination? Is there something distinctly human about the way he fights? Surely it’s not just that he put up a good fight; if anything, that makes him seem less human; how many men could threaten armed Conan with their bare hands?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          He knows that Thak is moderately intelligent, having deposed Nabonidus, donned his clothes, and worked his traps. Beyond that, he’s simply honoring a fierce foe.

      • Nick says:

        How Conan gets out of prison is just hilarious. Really, the whole middle chapter is perfect. I’m amused that Conan pronounces Nabonidus the rogue in the house, in the end.

  42. Mark V Anderson says:

    I recently read the book “Concrete Carnival.” In the book a long-term convict discusses his time in prison. He doesn’t say where he is, but my guess is he is in New York State.

    It was very interesting to get an inside look at prison. I realize reading the book that being in prison sucks even more from the standpoint of having no control over one’s life than even staying in one building for years.

    In the past, I’ve thought that being in jail might be bearable just because I would have no responsibilities and be able to read as much as I wanted. But it occurs to me now, that the prison might not allow me to have a book, or the lighting could be very bad, or very noisy, or lots of other issues inimical to reading. And of course even if I was was somewhat satisfied reading or just meditating in my own space, the guards could change this at any time, since they had total control over my environment.

    My personal experience is just three days in a county jail 40 years ago, so not much. I’m curious if others have more experience and agree that it is the loss of control over one’s life that is the worst part of prison.

    • Plumber says:

      @Mark V Anderson >

      “…curious if others have more experience and agree that it is the loss of control over one’s life that is the worst part of prison….”

      Most of my work is repairing County Jail plumbing fixtures, so not State Prison, but I imagine there’s similarities, limited personal space most of the time is bad, but I’d say that all the yelling from other inmates id what makes jail most unpleasant.

      Like living in a very small apartment with screaming neighbors, but you can’t go for a walk and get away from the noise.

    • andrewflicker says:

      I think this is very high variability- I have multiple family members in law enforcement and corrections, so I’ve heard plenty of stories. Sometimes people are in two-man cells with a good, quiet roommate and they could read as much as they like (common with scripture studies). Sometimes people are in a low-security pod with a lot of other inmates and it’s not very rowdy and pretty easy to go your own way. Sometimes it’s a nightmare. Incarceration means not having any control over which over those states you might luck into.

    • BBA says:

      The loss of control, more than anything else, is why imprisonment is my greatest primal fear. It’s also why I could never serve in the military.

  43. marshwiggle says:

    I’ve got an idea that I’m not sure works, but if it did, might be awesome.

    There are all kinds of games that teach coding in some way. Plus lots of non game free ways of getting a coding education of some sort. It is possible to improve on that, but it is not like there is nothing there.

    But nothing like this exists for quantum computing.

    I’ve taught surprisingly young people the basics of quantum mechanics and quantum computing. Yes, it is really nice if they have had matrices and vectors and stuff first, but just being really smart and good with algebra is enough to get started. If people are interested, I could explain some of how I’ve done that.

    Imagine a quantum computing version of link text. If you don’t look at the link, it’s an old 80s game that taught kids to design full chips out of logic gates.

    We would have a chance of getting young people into the field, and of modifying their thinking to be quantum computing capable at a younger age when perhaps they are more creative or their minds are more plastic.

    We would have a chance of identifying seriously intelligent (and or talented at quantum mechanics) kids from backgrounds that otherwise would not get identified.

    This is the kind of thing that Emergent Ventures likes to fund. If not that, there are other funding sources. I don’t think money would be the obstacle to getting this done.

    Problems: We don’t really have languages or operating systems or stuff like that fully worked out for quantum computing. All kinds of theory is still missing.

    This would be crazy hard to put together.

    I am not sure if people would want to play it even if someone did put it together.

    I have never played a game on a cell phone so there might be all kinds of problems from the direction of this being a game that I’m not even thinking of. It would probably need to be a cell phone app to reach the most people; feel free to tell me I’m wrong about that.

    So… people of SSC…

    Reasons this wouldn’t work?
    Ways to fix those reasons?
    Ways to improve it?
    Anyone want to actually do this? (I have stuff with my church and kids and so on that tends to eat my time, plus my lack of experience with so much as playing cell phone games makes me a bad candidate.)
    Reasons this actually might work?

    • Erusian says:

      My first two questions: Are you actually accredited and capable of teaching in a formal sense? And what is the current practical application of knowing quantum computing?

      • Are you actually accredited and capable of teaching in a formal sense?

        Not a problem when you’re not gonna encounter any competition.

        And what is the current practical application of knowing quantum computing?

        As far as I can tell, not much. Cryptography would have to change. Maybe it could be useful in medicine for protein folding if you could use that to find practical applications of that knowledge. But it’s most immediately useful for bragging rights. Do YOU know how a quantum computer works? No? Maybe you should think about why that is…

        • Erusian says:

          Not a problem when you’re not gonna encounter any competition.

          You’re always going to encounter competition. Even if you’re literally the only person offering a thing, you’re competing with all other things a person could do.

          As far as I can tell, not much. Cryptography would have to change. Maybe it could be useful in medicine for protein folding if you could use that to find practical applications of that knowledge. But it’s most immediately useful for bragging rights. Do YOU know how a quantum computer works? No? Maybe you should think about why that is…

          People don’t tend to consume education for bragging rights qua bragging rights. Sure, there are things like Harvard, but people don’t go to Harvard to brag. They do it because it helps with getting jobs etc. Learn to code is so popular because it’s a gateway to a six figure salary.

          I really doubt that EV or any fund would give you money for this unless you can prove out demand and have qualified people working on it. Of course, you can get around that by doing it first and proving successful.

          • marshwiggle says:

            Have you read the lists of things EV has funded?

          • Erusian says:

            Have you read the lists of things EV has funded?

            I must admit, I’m not as familiar with EV as other funds. But I’m actually pretty deeply embedded into the social good funding space and have decent ties in the greater DC area.

            I know it sometimes gets caught up in progressive purity tests but those people are not, by any measure, stupid.

        • phi says:

          From what I have read, quantum computing would also be extremely useful for chemistry and materials science. There’s a bunch of calculations where people can’t do them or have to use ad hoc approximations because the quantum physics makes them too difficult, and having a fast way to simulate quantum mechanics removes that problem completely. Of course, no one has yet built a quantum computer that is much good. So, the *current* count of practical applications is still 0.

          • Erusian says:

            Yes, this is my point. I think there’s a strong argument for funding research or companies producing practical applications. But generalized teaching of basic concepts? I’m skeptical at this point.

      • marshwiggle says:

        First question, no, and I think the number of people both accredited at the high school level and actually capable of teaching quantum computing to high schoolers is quite possibly 0.

        Second question, about all you can do with it is go to grad school to get the discipline to the point where it has practical applications. Quantum computing is missing so much on both the theory and the physical implementation side. Thus, trying to get bright high schoolers interested and thinking about it. If it was already a lucrative career, there would be thousands of parents already pushing their kids towards it. I think that there are lots of amazing materials yet to be discovered that would be amazingly useful, and that quantum computing is the path to getting the most interesting ones.

        Before lasers and semiconductors were everywhere, what would you have answered if asked what the practical applications of quantum mechanics were? They would have been in the future, and largely unknown. I don’t know how many decades it will take for quantum computing to have practical applications, but I’m fairly sure they will come.

        • Lurker says:

          First question, no, and I think the number of people both accredited at the high school level and actually capable of teaching quantum computing to high schoolers is quite possibly 0.

          My high school physics teacher (in Germany) was doing research in quantum mechanics at university before becoming a teacher for economic/social reasons. I didn’t like him all that much, but I think he’d definitely have the understanding and ability to do this.
          I also know of quite a few others who got a M.Sc. in Physics before deciding to become a teacher who I think would be capable of this. Also, “how to teach quantum mechanics at high school level” is a frequent topic of conversation with other people who’re getting the same degree as I am (Master of Education for people who already have a science degree in physics). It’s possible that this sort of thing is less common in the US though.

          • marshwiggle says:

            Oh, I know that there are plenty of people with physics degrees doing high school physics. But teaching physics to high schoolers and teaching quantum mechanics to high schoolers are very very different things. It is the difference between ‘can multiply’ and ‘can teach calculus to 8 year olds’. First, only a few of the 8 year olds are capable of it. Second, even with ones who are capable, it isn’t necessarily easy. I really don’t think you can teach real quantum mechanics in school. It is the rare high school class that has even one person capable of it. Perhaps in the most extreme magnet schools.

          • Lurker says:

            well, yes, a lot of kids aren’t going to be capable of this. But my experience says that there’s at least one per physics class in 12th grade who could.
            (but I think here the difference between US and German schools might be the deciding factor – in Germany kids get sorted into three different kind of schools at the end of fourth grade according to (perceived) ability – so the kids I meet are already pre-sorted for “this is the smarter half/third of their age group”)
            the actual issue for teaching quantum mechanics in this setting is time!
            I did not understand quantum mechanics in high school and neither did the other kid that went on to study physics, despite having a teacher who knew the material and had some ability at explaining things, because there was so little time for everything.
            So experience (+ what I hear from didactics professors + physics teachers) has me half agreeing with you – the conditions for teaching it are bad, but the potential is there.
            part of the problem in didactics of physics is also that – opposed to math – we’re still trying to figure out how to best teach these things.
            if there were a game/app/pc-game that accurately taught quantum mechanics, I am reasonably confident that you’d find at least one kid per physics class who’d want to try that out, just because they’re that fascinated by the idea. The problem as a teacher is, that you have all the other kids you have to teach as well, so having additional material for those probably-going-to-try-studying-physics kids is absolutely vital (and the best case scenario is material where they can keep themselves busy AND learning).
            sorry, if I went a bit of topic here. “What to do with the huge gradient in ability in a classroom?!” is something that’s been bugging me since I made this career choice.

            tl;dr:
            – there are more kids capable of this than you think, the deciding factor in a school setting is time and attention (because there are also the kids who definitely aren’t capable of it)
            – an app/game/etc would be amazing to have to keep those kids interested and from getting bored (and doing something stupid)

    • Soy Lecithin says:

      I’d be interested in hearing how you talk about quantum mechanics without linear algebra. Quantum mechanics kind of is linear algebra. Of course, a game that taught kids linear algebra would be cool.

      I can imagine an Euler Project sort of thing for quantum circuits more easily than I can imagine a kids’ game, though.

      • marshwiggle says:

        See my response to Vitor below. I can put together a fuller writeup if you think you might actually teach someone that way. I can’t imagine it working without a rather exceptional student though.

        • Lurker says:

          I’d love to see it as well. I’m studying to be a physics teacher and I’m always on the lookout for things to keep the smart kids from getting bored and the ones who struggle from getting frustrated. this seems like it’d be really useful for the former!

    • Vitor says:

      I have definitely seen an explanation of quantum computing without linear algebra. It involved balls falling through gates and changing colors, etc. It was by an actual researcher, so highly accurate on top of educational.

      Unfortunately, there are about 1 trillion bad explanations of QC on the web, so its kind of hard to search for it. I’m very short on time and can’t help you right now. Maybe try searching through Scott Aaronson’s blog archive?

      • marshwiggle says:

        I’ve already seen it, off of Scott Aaronson’s blog. link text

        That is what inspired me to try teaching quantum computing to middle school and high school students. I’ve extended the idea to bringing physical balls, with cupcake holders for negative balls. Gates are just different colored pieces of paper. That lets you do integer positive and negative amplitudes, not normalized. You have to normalize to do probability calculations and for a few other things, but leaving things not normalized didn’t turn out to be a problem.

        Anyway, 1 on 1 or with a small group of really smart kids, you really can teach kids everything from superposition all the way up to things like error correction.

    • ksteel says:

      Isn’t that pretty much the IBM Quantum experience? I remember using that in college. It both allows you to simulate a circuit that was build via drag-and drop and can run it on an actually real quantum computer as well. Ofc not large enough for anything useful but exactly the kind of toy you’re talking about.

      It also offers a lot of decent material for educators.

      • marshwiggle says:

        It is a good tool, but it requires a good educator to make anything happen. At the very least, it really requires someone who knows the material already. So it is not the kind of tool/toy I am talking about. I’d like something that got kids interested and educated and challenged without needing every high school to have a teacher who knew quantum mechanics. I already have methods that work if you have a teacher that knows quantum mechanics. I’m looking for methods that work without a teacher at all, or a teacher who doesn’t know anything.

    • marshwiggle says:

      Perhaps I should have been clearer: I really would not mind if someone picked up this idea and ran with it. I want it done if it would work. Money coming to me as a result would be nice, but hardly necessary. Mind you, I’m not sure it is actually viable. Just because teaching quantum computing works face to face doesn’t mean there is a way to turn it into a game that competes in the games ecosystem and gets kids interested.

      • ksteel says:

        I admit that I’m not sure how good this idea really is. Like, what’s the advantage of teaching kids quantum computing over traditional computing, which is bound to still remain vastly more important for a loooong time?

        And it’s not like there are few tools to teach that. Minecraft alone has gone a long way to teach a generation of kids some measure of circuit design and logic gates. There are even quantum computing mods for it.

        I think making something like a game out of that a honorable goal – but focusing on quantum computing as a hot new buzzword might be putting the cart before the horse. Maybe it’s higher value to contribute more generally to the ecosystem of edutainment at the level of math education.

  44. Anaxagoras says:

    Like Atlas, I too would like advice on the job front. I went to Carnegie Mellon undergrad in computer science and math, then after graduating, got software engineering jobs at Microsoft and Booz Allen. Unfortunately, while I’m a decent programmer, I dislike software engineering as a job, and I couldn’t find other work. So I went back to CMU for grad school, and picked up a master’s in privacy.

    I graduated about a year ago, and I’ve been wholly unable to find a full-time job since then. I’ve found a couple short-term things, like working on recommendations to the California AG’s office about their new privacy law and a report for the UN on child online protection, but while both of these have been fun, they’re contracts, not jobs. So far, I’ve been focusing my efforts primarily on privacy engineering roles. My best prospect, mathematics with the NSA, recently fell through for unknown reasons, and I’m really not sure what to do.

    I have a strong preference not to work as a software engineer, so while I’m confident I could quickly get a good job in that domain, I won’t do so unless it seems I’ll no longer be able to support myself in the short term, which fortunately I’m a ways away from. Probably my favorite job I’ve held was as a TA in grad school, but I don’t know if I have the dedication in me to pursue a PhD. I’m very good at math, programming, and less commonly for someone with my background, writing and teaching. Does anyone here have any advice or know of any avenues I should pursue?

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      How much do you care about money and how much tolerance do you have for stupid bureaucracies?

      If “not much” and “a lot,” respectively, high school teaching or a position as a college lecturer may be an option. If you have other preferences, (digital) security consulting or working for a digital security company may be an option, especially in a sales/support role.

      • Anaxagoras says:

        Unfortunately, it’s “not much” and “not much”. My father was a public high school teacher for many years, and his aggravation with the administration, in allegedly a very good district, has given me substantial pause about pursuing that route.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          Well, my understanding is that colleges treat and pay lecturers like shit, but on the plus side there seems to be less admin to deal with than at high schools, as far as I know. That might be an option?

          • Anaxagoras says:

            Possibly. There might also be less accreditory burden to getting into that.

            I don’t drive and doubt I could afford to move on a lecturer’s salary, but there is a community college within a bus ride of home.

          • Protagoras says:

            Yeah, the pay is terrible, but while of course individual school policies vary, the usual system is you teach what you want to teach how you want to teach it, and the credentials required are limited to an advanced degree in the relevant area; no additional teaching certifications or anything required.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Protagoras is correct; I don’t know if CMU has lecturers per se, but yeah, an MS is basically all you need to work as one. Not sure, but I think that some adjunct professor positions have similar requirements. Aside from CCs, big state schools tend to have some of these positions.

      • Elephant says:

        This may not be relevant to the OP given stated preferences, but in general high school (STEM) teachers are much happier than college lecturers / adjuncts, and get paid a lot more. Refs, e.g. here.

        – “Teachers in the United States rate their lives better than all other occupation groups, trailing only physicians.”
        – “Mid-career teacher salaries typically range between $60,000 and $100,000.”
        – “Grade 7-12 science and math teachers get paid more than most college faculty.”

        Really no one should be an adjunct at a college / university. The pay is awful, the conditions are terrible, etc. It is mind boggling that anyone does this, except as a very temporary gig or if they don’t care at all about money or their career. (I am at a university and know adjuncts here and elsewhere.) In contrast, being a high school teacher, in a decent district at least, should rank much higher in peoples’ minds.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          To be clear, I agree. Despite what I’ve been saying, I wouldn’t, generally speaking, recommend making “adjunct faculty” into a career.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I believe the qualifications for becoming a high school teacher are considerably greater than becoming an adjunct. Like you need a teaching certificate and all the prerequisites for that.

          • Plumber says:

            @The Nybbler,
            I’ve known Oakland Unified School District teachers that were hired with Bachelor’s degrees but without teaching credentials due to a “temporary staffing emergency” that has lasted decades.

    • brad says:

      What part of software engineering as a job did you dislike? Is it possible there’s something adjacent you might like?

      • Anaxagoras says:

        While I enjoy programming projects I do on my own, I have much less ability to just try stuff in software engineering roles. Additionally, I found that they did not involve the gorgeous math of computer science, but instead are more about taking existing systems that aren’t designed to work together and smashing them together until they do. Containerization may be involved. It’s boring, frustrating, non-intellectual, and past bad experiences also give me a gigantic mental block around actually doing the work.

        In terms of adjacent domains, I expect that I could teach computer science quite well, and I also imagine that a lot of the jobs I am looking at will likely have a programming component to them, and I’m okay with that.

        • Bugmaster says:

          I personally love software engineering, so my advice may not be for you. Still, one suggestion I have is to find a job in bioinformatics, computational linguistics, computational chemistry, or some data science field. Your job would still require you to write software, but it will mostly involve one-off pieces of code that are designed to solve some particular task — before you move on to the next task. This way, you will get to practice devising beautiful algorithms, while producing non-reusable spaghetti code that no one but yourself will ever need to see.

          • Anaxagoras says:

            Out of curiosity, where do you disagree with my assessment of the job?

            After undergrad, I did look into data science, though ultimately I was unable to find a job. I’m not big on machine learning, but the field is certainly larger than that.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’m not Bugmaster but I would second the recommendation.

            Containerization is more on the operations/IT end; I’ve never had to use it at work, though the SSC comment search is running in a set of containers. Taking existing systems that weren’t made to work together and making them do so… yes, that describes a large number of software jobs. When you do get to do the math-type stuff (and I have, on occasion), chances are a lot of the job will be connecting your algorithm to the rest of the system.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @Anaxagoras:
            I don’t exactly disagree with the substance of your assessment, though obviously I disagree with the tone. Let me see if I can show where I’m coming from though.

            Let’s say that you need to trace the evolutionary relationship, on the DNA level, between some poorly studied species of rice, and corn (*). One way to do that is to take your rice DNA sequence, chop it up into little pieces, then computationally align each piece against the known chromosomes of corn. This is a challenging problem to solve, because a naive approach would take several human lifetimes to run. Creating an algorithm for doing this would be a very interesting task (in reality, such software already exists, but let’s pretend it doesn’t). AFAICT, solving such a task would please you greatly.

            Unfortunately, in order to do its work, your program will first need to read DNA sequence files in a variety of well-known formats. You can write the code to read those formats yourself, or you can take an off-the-shelf library to do so. Your program will also need to output its results; the same comment applies. You might discover that running the program on a single machine is impractical, so you’ll need to distribute the workload somehow. You can spend some time on devising a parallel execution framework (which could also be fun in and of itself), or you can use an off-the-shelf library, or you can use AWS (if you have the money for it). You might discover that your program could really benefit from running on the GPU. You could code the shaders by hand, or…

            Things get even more complicated if you want to solve this problem more than once. What if you didn’t just want to align rice vs. corn, but build a system for your scientists to align anything vs. anything ? Well, now you need to provide them with some minimal UI (even if it’s just a CLI). You need to maintain your code, to fix any bugs that will inevitably come up (e.g. because wheat vs. sorghum has some major differences between rice vs. corn). Ultimately, you might need to hand off your code to someone else, so you can go work on other tasks.

            Before long, you have a choice to make. You can do everything yourself, and spend most of your time on peripheral tasks; or you can pay the up-front cost (in time if not in dollars) for learning a third-party library.

            What I do is write those third-party libraries. I enjoy making code that doesn’t merely do its job in some fashion, but that is aesthetically pleasing and easy for other people to use. I know many tricks for writing software that is reliable, flexible, yet simple. I want to know that my work had saved you a week of figuring out how to parse a file or spawn a thread or whatever it is that you needed to do — instead of doing your actual job. What I really do not enjoy is working with people who write deliberately bad spaghetti code because it’s easier, or because they just don’t care. It shows a real disrespect for the craft; and, if I’m one of the people who has to take your code and turn it into a working product, a disrespect for me personally.

            (*) Leaving aside the reasons for doing so, for now, let’s just assume it’s a problem you’re interested in.

          • Aharon says:

            @Bugmaster:
            What you write about libraries sounds very interesting. My boyfriend works in Software Engineering, and has the same dislike as Anaxagoras for making things work together that weren’t supposed to, and for containerisation.

            However, he wrote lots of stuff that he uses for his own purposes that (in my understanding as a non-programmer) qualify as library-like, and he enjoys that a lot.

            So the question is – how do you get paid for making libraries? A lot of them seem to be open source and don’t cost anything – are you doing it like companies that consult for Apache/Eclipse?

          • Bugmaster says:

            @Aharon:
            Well, I may have lied a little. I used to get paid for making libraries, because I used to work for a company that made CMS software, and extension libraries are a huge part of that. Today, however, I work at my own company; but my job within it often consists of making APIs that other people in the company can use. For example, I wrote a reasonably fast task queue/scheduler, parts of the graphics library, some server-side stuff, etc.

            What you say about open source is, of course, true; unfortunately, open source does not always do exactly what you need it to. For example, there are tons of open source libraries for parsing biological data files, and most of them assume that you have infinite RAM and a lot of patience. Our software needs to be interactive, and it needs to run on regular people’s machines, so that’s never gonna fly.

            FWIW, I’ve gotten to interview a lot of prospective employees over the years, and I could detect (subjectively speaking) a pronounced bimodal distribution among them. Many of them are quite good at churning out code quickly and efficiently, by doing what Anaxagoras alludes to — banging together a bunch of open-source libraries until they get the desired result. This approach can and does work in many cases, but sometimes, you need something more. You need someone who is not just creative, but who also has the theoretical CS knowledge to anticipate what is needed, and the discipline to organize his code in a way that other people will find useful (and even pleasing). In my experience, both a college degree and a certain amount of experience are required to accomplish this, but YMMV.

        • zardoz says:

          Let me guess– you were at a gigantic company where everything interesting was already claimed by the senior engineers and the juniors just had to integrate system X with system Y, for various values of X and Y.

          You shouldn’t give up on software engineering so easily. There are a lot of different jobs and environments, and you probably just randomly picked a bad one. Containerization itself wasn’t even a blip on the horizon until like 5 years ago. In 5 more years, there’ll be something else. The mathematics is the only thing that really endures.

          Try a small company. They tend to give a lot of autonomy to people. And you will hit math surprisingly quickly if you are working on anything non-trivial. Any interesting problem is never boring, despite the best efforts of pointy-haired individuals and empty suits. They still need us. And they still pay us very well.

          Don’t become a teacher. At colleges, teaching staff are lower than dirt, and get starvation-class wages. I’ve heard that some of them even legally qualify for food stamps. How they’re allowed to do this, I’ll never know, since universities are flush with money. But they do. Only research professors have any prestige, and getting that position requires a lifetime of painful struggle and sacrifice.

          Being a high school or grade school teacher will be a different experience than you think, because you will mainly be dealing with misbehaving kids who can not be kicked out of public school (by law). The teaching part is strictly secondary to the babysitting part, especially if you’re at one of the worse schools (and you will start as the lowest of the low, until you get seniority).

        • johan_larson says:

          I think you need to adjust your expectations a bit. I’m currently on job eight of my career, and as far as I can tell, the cool stuff is at best a small part of work. Even a very good job has maybe ten percent cool conceptual work of the mind, and in a bad job, it’s zero. The rest of the time, 90-100%, is the tedious and frustrating stuff.

          This means you should be looking for a job that has you doing something interesting, rather than a job that is interesting all the time.

          Given your background, I think it makes sense to stay in the software industry. But if you’re unhappy with programming, perhaps one of the related positions, such as technical writing or PM would be more appealing. I would expect there to be PM jobs out there that focus on privacy and security, which is what you have a solid background in.

          Failing that, why not do more of these consulting gigs in the privacy domain? Plenty of people work as consultants.

        • Garrett says:

          Just remember: they pay you for the parts of the job you *don’t* want to do.

          Pretty much nobody can stop me from programming – I enjoy it too much.
          But I get paid to work on the problems other people care about. Which are usually very annoying, uninteresting, but valuable.

    • wkfauna says:

      You might consider technical evangelism. There might still be code to write, but I think it would be more likely to be fun and interesting one-offs than boring system integration.

    • Murphy says:

      Any interest is science?

      I did the CS thing followed by working as a software engineer for a while. The software engineering was like a slow death working on dull projects doing boring things I didn’t really care about that were typically written badly but which we couldn’t change because of the 20 legacy systems it had to interface with.

      Moved into science, I still code but in a “lets get this shit working” way rather than “lets generate a set of documents for the client to prove we spent time to write this and test it” way.

      The pay is ok but not amazing. On the other hand it’s easy to slot into teams of scientists if you’ve got a coding background and an interest in science and the work is way way more interesting.

      If you’re good at math, have any knowledge of statistics, can handle data competently and don’t mind a long stream of oddball custom projects then there’s lots of jobs in research that come with a lot more interesting mental challenges.

      Research in an academic setting also tends to come with a certain amount of teaching people how to do stuff.

      Keywords: *informatics.

    • aristides says:

      You might enjoy a job in a Think Tank or Lobbying firm. It would be very similar to the contracts you have, but be a steady stream of work. I think that someone with your background would be very useful to them, especially if you can in fact write well.

  45. fortybot says:

    > I’m no longer soliciting updates about when links in my old posts no longer work. There are over a thousand SSC posts, and some are 5+ years old. I’m sure there are lots of links that no longer work, but keeping up with them would be a full-time job and I’m not interested (if someone else is, let me know).

    Have you considered linking to something like the wayback machine or archive.is by default?

  46. Deiseach says:

    Preliminary results from our election, and the major surprise is that Sinn Féin have done so well, they should have run two or more candidates in most constituencies. Far from the pre-election campaign declarations by both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael that “Under no circumstances will we go into coalition with Sinn Féin”, now for any possible new government it’s looking like Sinn Féin will have to be one of the partners:

    Sinn Féin came out on top with 24.5% of the vote, ahead of Fianna Fáil on 22.2% and Fine Gael on 20.9%.

    The Green Party received 7.1% of first preferences, with Labour on 4.4%, the Social Democrats on 2.9%, Solidarity-People Before Profit on 2.6% and Aontú on 1.9%.

    Independent candidates got 12.2% of the first preference vote and Others got 1.3% of first preferences.

    So far 57 out of 160 seats have been filled and 29 have gone to Sinn Féin with 9 to Fianna Fáil and 8 to Fine Gael. Even in his own constituency, Leo Varadkar (Taoiseach of government up to the election) only got in on the 5th count, while the Sinn Féin candidate was elected on the 1st count. Micheál Martin only got in on the 6th count. NO LABOUR CANDIDATE HAS BEEN ELECTED YET.

    A party needs to win 80 seats to achieve the majority needed to form a government, or if it can’t do that on its own, gather together enough allies to come up with that number of seats.

    So on the extremes: a left-wing government with Sinn Féin as the majority partner in a coalition with any or all combination of Labour, the Greens, Independents, and smaller parties like Social Democrats and Solidarity-People Before Profit, though this article says this isn’t likely or possible to happen.

    Extreme extreme: Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael do the previously unthinkable and go into coalition with each other (imagine the Democrats and the Republicans agreeing to this, due to a third party sweeping the polls, for how strange this would be).

    Possibles: Fianna Fáil manage to cobble something together with Labour, the Greens and a majority of the Independents. Fine Gael the same, but slightly more difficult for them to work the numbers.

    Whatever happens, after the count resumes and is finalised tomorrow or Tuesday, there are going to be a lot of talks and bargaining and horse-trading to form the next government.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      It is interesting that Irish parties all have these poetic names that explain nothing about them, unlike parties in less lyrical cultures. Or do these names mean something in Gaelic or something?

      So why did Sinn Fein do so well? Maybe it’s like other democracies in the world; the electorate is telling respectable parties to go to hell by voting for groups outside the Overton Window mainstream politics?

      Have the two main parties banned unity with Sinn Fein because of their association with the IRA? Has Sinn Fein disavowed the IRA?

      Could you explain the political positions of all the parties out there?

      I’ve asked this of D, but I know there are other Irish commenters out there, I’d love to get comments from them.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        It is interesting that Irish parties all have these poetic names that explain nothing about them, unlike parties in less lyrical cultures. Or do these names mean something in Gaelic or something?

        Well, Fine Gael means “we’re fine Gaels”, while Fianna Fail means a woman named Fianna FAILS.

      • gbear605 says:

        You say that Irish parties don’t mean anything, but what do “democrats” and “republicans” mean other than that one likes democracies (both do) and one is part of a republic (both are)? Admittedly other countries are better (conservatives and labour come to mind) but still Ireland is not alone.

      • Deiseach says:

        It is interesting that Irish parties all have these poetic names that explain nothing about them, unlike parties in less lyrical cultures. Or do these names mean something in Gaelic or something?

        It’s to do partly with the history of the foundation of our parties; modern ones have conventional names like the Progressive Democrats (now defunct) or the Social Democrats. The older ones date more from the foundation of the state and our Civil War in 1922 (via various iterations) and were heavily influenced by the national foundation myth coming off the back of the Gaelic Revival – the point was to distinguish ourselves from the British and to emphasise that not alone we were Genuinely Gaelically Gaelic but that we had a heritage and culture of our own reaching back into the mists of time.

        Hence “Fianna Fáil” which split off under the leadership of Eamonn de Valera from original Sinn Féin and which takes its name both from the Fianna of legend and the name for Ireland of Inis Fáil from the magic speaking stone the Lia Fáil; the party name can be translated as “the Soldiers of Destiny”. Fianna Fáil was the anti-Treaty side in the Civil War, broadly speaking (I say “broadly” because of the association with the Old IRA and then the later disavowal of such links, but this is getting into deep detail). Positioned itself as the Republican Party (not American Republican, this is 32-county Irish Republic). Centre-left (seen as the party of the farm labourers, not the farmers, for instance) though has moved more to chasing the urban middle-class vote like most Irish parties – including Labour – in recent times. Slightly less socially progressive traditionally, but has moved to follow all the gay rights etc. etc. in recent times.

        “Fine Gael” comes from “Gael” which is meaning “(the) Irish (people)”, a Gael (Irishman) as opposed to an Englishman or whomever, and “fine” meaning “group of persons of the same family or kindred”, thus “Kindred of the Irish” or ‘the Irish people as one big family’. It came about as a combination of a couple of parties (see Sinn Féin below) and was the pro-Treaty side in the Civil War. Most famous member – Michael Collins. Most ironic member – Michael Collins, because Fine Gael over the years decried very vigorously the ‘shadow of the gunman’ and terrorism in Irish politics, yet Collins was a terrorist, and it is only in relatively recent times that they’ve come around to rehabilitating him with an emphasis on him as a statesman and politician. Centre-right party, always business-friendly (and perceived as the party of the middle class), has moved strongly to social liberalism in recent years (again ironically, given former members such as Oliver J. Flanagan). Always liked to represent themselves as a cut above the uncultured mucksavages dragging their knuckles whilst roaming the bogs in Fianna Fáil, whereas you could take a Fine Gaeler anywhere and they wouldn’t make a show of you in front of the neighbours 🙂 (can you tell I’m Fianna Fáil family background?).

        Sinn Féin – meaning from Irish language “Ourselves Alone”. Current party claims direct lineage from original party, strong links with IRA in the struggle for national self-determination. Left party, varying from Marxist-Leninist to Socialist to common or garden liberal leftism due to DNA from the Irish Citizens’ Army and James Connolly (the avatar used by our friend who comments here, An Fírinne). IRA, old and new, was always to the left in Irish politics; in the 30s when we had a proto- or imitation Fascist movement (the Blueshirts, because they wore blue shirts as Mussolini’s guys wore black shirts and Hitler’s guys wore brown shirts, associated with Fine Gael and hence why their nickname to this day is ‘the Blueshirts’), it was the IRA who got into public fights with them and broke up their demonstrations etc. Modern Sinn Féin, particularly in the South, have put work into representing and appealing to the traditional urban working class voters that Labour used to represent (before they went all New Labour and decided champagne socialism was the thing). This is in large part why they’ve done so well in this election – the party in power, Fine Gael, was running on “we’ve managed the economy and its recovery so well” but, unlike the Celtic Tiger years, outside of Dublin nobody feels like the economy is on the up and we the public are doing well.

        Old Sinn Féin – nationalist party in the 1900s. Like most of the Irish political parties, came about as a result of splitting off from established party/amalgamation of smaller ones. Sinn Féin The Original came about as amalgamation: Nationalist (but not Republican or Separatist) Arthur Griffith who was arguing for an approach to Irish self-governance even more independent than the Home Rule on (alleged) offer, on the model of the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy, founded a nationalist party called Cumann na nGaedheal (literally “Association of the Gaels”). A slightly later foundation or reformulation of Cumann na nGaedheal would be the forerunner of Fine Gael. Merged with a couple of smaller bodies to found Sinn Féin, which was also infiltrated by the Republican physical-force movements of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and similar bodies (who had a stated aim of doing this to gain influence and steer the Nationalist movement towards full-on Republicanism). Was not involved in the Easter Rising, because Griffith was “ballot box” reformist but not revolutionary, but due to a combination of (a) the English got it into their heads that the anti-British pro-Republic movement was all “Sinn Féin” and (b) the response of the British to the rising driving public opinion to the more extreme side, became de facto the Republican revolutionary party.

        Time passes, splits happen, extremist sides arise, here we are today. Coming to the end, I realise that I haven’t explained what the pro- and anti-Treaty thing is all about, but that’s another lesson 🙂

        • Gerry Quinn says:

          How deep does the coinin hole go?

        • Aapje says:

          @Deiseach

          Michael Collins, because Fine Gael over the years decried very vigorously the ‘shadow of the gunman’ and terrorism in Irish politics, yet Collins was a terrorist

          Was he? What terrorist attacks did he commit?

          I can only find that he attacked British military, paramilitary and intelligence services. For example, on Bloody Sunday (not that Bloody Sunday), the two civilians that were killed seemed to have been accidental, with the 13 other victims working for the British.

          This in contrast to the retaliations by the paramilitary Auxiliary Division, who opened fire during Gaelic football match, targeting civilians intentionally.

    • ryan8518 says:

      The analogy about about Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael going into coalition being as weird as if the Republicans & Democrats went into coalition struck me as particularly poignant but not going far enough, it’s almost as if they were doing so in the state government in Albany because a Quebecois separatist party had just taken a plurality of the New York state legislature seats (maybe it’s just me, but that it’s an international party is weird)

    • Plumber says:

      @Deiseach,
      Your (most of) an island’s political system sounds way more fun, than our “two parties plus social clubs” system (but I thought the Iowa caucuses sounded more fun than primaries as well).

      • Deiseach says:

        Well, it’s all fun until the bombs start again. That’s part of bringing Sinn Féin into government in the South, now that they have been winning and taking their seats in the Dáil since 1986. And pragmatically, I think the Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael opposition to Sinn Féin has as much to do with calculations that they can take seats away from those two parties as it has to do with IRA membership.

        Now they have taken seats, and if they had run more candidates, would have taken more seats. There is going to have to be words eaten by the two main parties, or some cobbled together coalition which may be unsteady. The solution to “no single party has a majority” might be “a second election” but the fear there is that Sinn Féin would then run extra candidates and would possibly win enough to form a majority government of its own.

        As it stands, SF have taken the most first preferences. Probably FF will win the most seats, but nobody can say for sure. At the moment, there are 58 seats remaining to be filled.

        SF – 36 seats so far
        FF – 21
        FG – 19
        Labour – 2
        Greens – 7
        Independents – 10
        Social Democrats – 3
        Solidarity – People Before Profit – 3
        Aontú – 1

        Sinn Féin have displaced Labour as the third main party, and whatever talks about forming a government happen in the next few weeks, the two main parties cannot keep the pre-election “no possibility of working with SF” pledges.

        • Plumber says:

          @Deiseach, 
          Since you did such a fine job on listing and introducing Eire’s political parties I’ll do the same for California’s:

          American Independent Party (around since at least the ’70’s, Right-wing, likes Trump but not all Republican candidates in California, says it’s against “liberalism” and “evildoers”)

          Democratic Party (around since at least the early 19th centiry, center-Left, you know these guys)

          Green Party (around since at least the ’90’s, Leftists who love polar bears)

          Libertarian Party (around since at least the ’70’s, against taxation and drug laws, more Right than Left, but not quite either)

          Peace and Freedom Party (started in the ’60’s, “California’s Feminist Socialist Political Party”)

          Republican Party (around since the 1850’s, center-Right, you know these guys)

          If anyone feels I mischaracterized any of the Parties just please feel free to consider yourself better educated on them than me and tell me that I’m wrong on this or that

          • Bugmaster says:

            The American Independent Party’s platform reads like it was written by the Taliban. If anyone from that party is reading this, my advice would be to tone it down. Just a notch or two.

          • Eric Rall says:

            You left out the two “best” things about the AIP:

            1. They were founded as a vehicle for George Wallace’s 1968 segregationist third-part Presidential campaign.

            2. They’re California’s largest third party with 2.94% of registered voters registering as AIP (compared to 0.86% Libertarian and 0.44% Green), but most of this is due to the party’s name typo-squatting: unlike most states where voters who don’t register with a particular party affiliation are said to be registered “Independent”, California calls them “No Party Preference” (formerly “Decline to State”). Newly-registered voters (especially those who recently moved from another state) intending to register as “Independent” miss the “No Party Preference” line and pick “American Independent Party” as the closest match.

    • ana53294 says:

      Extreme extreme: Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael do the previously unthinkable and go into coalition with each other (imagine the Democrats and the Republicans agreeing to this, due to a third party sweeping the polls, for how strange this would be).

      The equivalent actually happened in Spain, although only for the Basque region. The right-wing PP and the left-wing PSOE went together there, although they had disagreements on the national level.

      The thing is, this wouldn’t be impossible in Spain anymore, because the PP has several right-wing challengers that would make it political suicide for them to stray.

      Do Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have challengers that are taking their territory? By which I mean parties like them, but supposedly more principled/less corrupt/less willing to compromise.

      Is it possible for Ireland to have no government, like in Spain or Belgium? If they’re unable to make a government, what is the deadline for a new election? Would another election change results (thus giving politicians a reason not to horse-trade)?

      • Deiseach says:

        Do Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have challengers that are taking their territory? By which I mean parties like them, but supposedly more principled/less corrupt/less willing to compromise.

        Right now Sinn Féin are doing this – the newer parties, such as the Social Democrats and the Solidarity etc. are too small and fragmented to make much impact; the Greens are still recovering from the effects of 2007 when they went into coalition with Fianna Fáil, got used as a catspaw and lost all the moral high ground, then were wiped out in the 2011 elections. Labour was the third main party but have lost a lot of ground due to (1) Sinn Féin successfully targeting the areas they used to represent and picking up the mantle of the left wing party representing working class and (2) again, the after-effects of being the minority partner in a coalition with Fine Gael in 2011 and pretty immediately went into intra-party turmoil and internicine struggle with members resigning over what the government was failing to do; didn’t help that the Labour members who got cabinet posts came across as shrewish, lecturing and full of self-importance while the party was imploding, and again was punished by the public in the 2016 elections.

        Labour have suffered the most here, in real terms: they only have 2 seats so far, went into the election with 7 seats, and I’ll quote you a delicious piece of Schadenfreude from the current leader Brendan Howlin (who only managed to retain his seat on the 8th count in this election):

        Howlin has stated that as leader he is prepared to bring Labour back into government, citing the lack of influence on policy from opposition. He has denied any suggestions that Labour could lose any further support from their 2016 performance, stating “We’re not some outfit that comes out of the morning mist and disappears again. We’re the oldest party in the state”.

        This is precisely the kind of “Well ackshully” lecturing that Howlin can’t resist indulging in, and which comes across so badly to the public 🙂

        Is it possible for Ireland to have no government, like in Spain or Belgium? If they’re unable to make a government, what is the deadline for a new election? Would another election change results (thus giving politicians a reason not to horse-trade)?

        (1) No government – I have no idea, we’ve always managed to fudge something together. If there isn’t a new government formed, the old one continues: “The Taoiseach and other ministers in office at the dissolution of the Dáil continue to hold office until their successors are appointed. This is so even if the individuals concerned did not seek re-election to the Dáil or were unsuccessful in doing so.” So technically Leo Varadkar is still Taoiseach until a new government is formed on the basis of this election.

        (2) Deadline for new election – I think nobody wants one, as going on these results it would only result in even more gains for Sinn Féin. There is an allowance of time for negotiations to try and form a government after the election. If we had to have a second one it would need to be as soon as possible. An election has to be held within thirty days of the dissolution of parliament (the Dáil). We’ve had that, and once all the results are in, everyone goes back to take up their seats and, if there isn’t a majority party to form the new government, then the horsetrading starts. If they still can’t agree, then they’d have to have a second dissolution and then a second election after that:

        Once all the seats have been filled, the Dáil votes on who will serve as Taoiseach and lead a government. If one party has a majority, or has the support of other parties and/or independents, it will be clear who will lead the country into the new Dáil session.

        If there is no clear majority, there may be a period of negotiation, where groups of parties and/or independent TDs try to build a majority.

        If there is no clear winner, and T.D.s are unable to decide who should form a government, the Taoiseach (from the previous government) may have to ask the President to dissolve the Dáil again.

        (3) Another election change results? – Going by this, if we had a second election Sinn Féin would put in more candidates in each constituency and if they got the same results (and didn’t split the vote) then they’d get the majority of seats. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil would need to tighten up such things as getting their candidates to support each other rather than “vote for me and to hell with my running mate” (seems to be why they lost their seat in my constituency) and on transfers – maybe do a deal whereby “vote No. 1 for me, No. 2 for my running mate, No. 3 for FG/FF rival”. Labour have had their lunch eaten by Sinn Féin and I have no idea what they could do to improve things – turning around and promising the opposite of what they ran on in the first election would be seen as naked hypocrisy and vote-grabbing.

  47. Atlas says:

    I will be graduating from college soon. (With meme majors and minors in the social sciences and humanities.) What kind of careers should I think about pursuing in today’s labor market? What general advice do you have about looking for and having jobs?

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      If you have friends who graduated earlier or already have jobs or people you know from internships, talk to them about whether they work for anyone who wants you. Also talk to any professors you’re close to – they often have friends. Write cover letters. Tailor your resume. The way you do this last thing specifically is by copying phrases from the job posting verbatim and inserting them into your resume to describe your previous experience. In your cover letters don’t suck the company’s cock but make it clear why you expect the work you’d do to be interesting. Interesting is more important than “meaningful” here. If you have any really good topical papers, put them up on Medium. If you have any technical writing samples, put them up on Github or submit them as WikiHow articles (lmao).

      You may be able to find work in technical writing, but understand that it’s much more about talking to people and understanding technical processes than it is about writing. Journalism is a low-paying career full of vampires who will work you to the bone until they throw you under the bus. Don’t unless you have a very good “in.” If you don’t object to manual labor and are capable of testing clean, showing up reliably, and showing a modicum of intelligence in following procedures, small high-end manufacturing operations are always looking for assembly technicians, though your pay may suck until you get certs, and there’s a path to manufacturing engineer through that. English teacher in a foreign country is a bad way to pay student debt but a fine way of living for a while, especially if you’re white (not mixed). It can be significantly more challenging to get good money out of this if you’re not. Getting a job teaching high school is doable but probably difficult at your age.

      Advancement in most other careers that don’t involve freelance work or entrepreneurship will require an Master’s degree of some kind. You don’t have to get this now, but you may want to keep that eventuality in mind.

    • Plumber says:

      @Atlas says:

      “…What general advice do you have about looking for and having jobs?”

      First, read

      How To Tell When You’re Tired
      A Brief Examination of Work
      by Reg Theriault

      and

      Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work by Matthew B. Crawford

      to better clue you in on what you’re getting into.

      For jobs either get whatever you can with the City and County of San Francisco:

      https://www.jobapscloud.com/sf/

      if you get a good job great!, otherwise after six months you may apply to be an apprentice Stationary Engineer, which is a good living,

      or if you’d rather serve an apprenticeship in private industry check out:

      http://www.calapprenticeship.org/about.php

    • LesHapablap says:

      There’s a big-time pilot shortage at the moment. You could be a pilot if you have the right mindset for it, and a year to go through training and some money. It is one of the easiest paths to a good paying and respected career. It also has the benefit that women really like pilots, so it makes dating and relationships much easier.

    • Bugmaster says:

      Sorry, I’m way too old an uncool for this, but: what are “meme majors” ? Or maybe I am parsing your sentence wrong ? Are you saying “(meme majors) and (minors in the social sciences and humanities)”, or “(meme majors and minors) in (the social sciences and humanities)” ?

    • Sucrose says:

      If you don’t have particular inroads, I found both of my initial jobs by keeping my availability as open as possible, to the point of being willing to move anywhere in the USA, and applying to all relevant jobs on broad websites like Indeed.com. The following advice is for that approach.

      Aim to make each application pretty good, with a customized resume and cover letter, particularly for the appealing jobs, but aim for at least five good applications each day. I found it good to save each resume and cover letter, so that I could modify ones that were for similar positions, letting me focus on particular job’s unique elements, rather than making the same modifications to the base resume over and over.

      Your local unemployment office is likely to have free services available. Use them. Even if they are a bit behind the times, it is still generally good advice and service.

      Take mock interviews, looking up all the questions that you can in advance, and having another person ask them of you, to test your ability to think on your feet. Your unemployment office may help with that.

      Once you have found your job, aim to make your superiors’ lives easier, but do not let yourself be taken advantage of. Find a place where your talents are valued. A long job search can be hard on your self esteem, but remember that you will be of most use to everyone in a place where you are happy. Don’t let a rut waste years of your life, but don’t assume that you must change if you really are in a good place.

      Good luck!

    • Atlas says:

      Thanks to everyone in the thread for the responses, I really appreciate them.

  48. JohnNV says:

    I’m a New Hampshire-registered voter and am still undecided in the democratic primary in two days. Do your best to convince me to vote for your candidate knowing nothing other than that I read Slate Star Codex (the NV in my name comes from Nevada where I moved here from, but it’s been a while)

    • Protagoras says:

      Though I really don’t like Biden, not having been impressed with him in the past and feeling like he’s definitely showing signs of being too old for this, I am not sure I want to convince anyone to vote for any candidate. I want whoever will beat Trump to win, and I think somebody’s ability to win the primary contest is better evidence of their “electability” than my opinions on that subject. Plus honestly they all seem about comparably flawed to me; I have a tiny preference for Warren (seems to have her act together just a little bit more than all the others), but if you don’t agree, maybe I’m wrong and you’re right.

      • Nicholas says:

        Almost 50% of Yang supporters say they would not vote for any other democratic candidate if Yang is not the nominee (much higher ‘X or bust’ ratio than any other candidate). This is important, as it means yang is pulling a significant number of stay homes and trump voters. Consider districts that voted twice for Obama, then for trump; Yang is the only Democrat left in the field that can pull those swing votes (which count double) instead of just trying to turn out higher numbers of already decided democrat voters. As a bonus, as the nominee he would still get the full ‘blue no matter who crowd’ in the general. Biden and Bernie beat trump in head to head polls, but the polls all had Hillary winning in a landslide in 16, and I think they’re still significantly underestimating trump’s support.

        • sty_silver says:

          Almost 50% of Yang supporters say they would not vote for any other democratic candidate if Yang is not the nominee (much higher ‘X or bust’ ratio than any other candidate).

          Source?

          I’ve followed conditional odds on markets pretty closely. Yang’s were always high, but now his odds to win are so small that you can’t infer anything from the numbers anymore. Out of the leading candidates, the markets fairly consistently said that Bloomberg > Biden > Sanders > Warren / Buttigieg / Kamala (while she was still running)

          • Jon S says:

            The PredictIt markets are so inefficient (specifically for nominee and President, where it’s not unusual for the sum of everyone’s prices to exceed 120; if someone wants to max buy a candidate for 3%, it takes 32 people to max-sell them to offset) that I read very very little into those conditional probabilities.

            The Bloomberg conditional could also theoretically be off if he has a chance of winning as a 3rd candidate (though I think the inefficiency effects are larger).

          • sty_silver says:

            I’m looking at BetFair (which is larger), not PredictIt.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Betfair has less of a long-shot bias than Predictit, but it’s still a bad idea to infer conditional probabilities from its numbers. (And volume doesn’t cure all causes of long-shot bias. Indeed, Betfair’s advantages are probably mainly not from volume.)

            Moreover, conditional probabilities are not what we want. Asking how good Yang (or any other long-shot) would be as the nominee is very different from asking for the conditional probability. If a dark horse actually managed to convince a lot of primary voters to vote for him, that would be new information that he’s a great campaigner that probably is a sign that he would be a good campaigner in the general election. The conditional probability takes this into account. But the voter should not take that into account because we haven’t actually observed the bizarre situation that would lead to a Yang nomination.

        • zzzzort says:

          I’m guessing Bernie would have with the highest absolute number of X or bust voters. 50% of Yang supporters is less than ~30% (can’t find the number now) of Bernie supporters. That said I think that consideration is a bit overblown.

        • Purplehermann says:

          Should we take into account Bernie playing nice with Yang? If Yang falls I could see him supporting bernie, and that could change the X or bust equation

    • brad says:

      Is Bloomberg on the ballet there?

    • Plumber says:

      @JohnNY,

      Since on “visible” Open Threads our hosts asks us to “please try to avoid hot-button political and social topics”, I just don’t feel free to discuss other “whys” besides ‘likeliest to win the general election electoral college’, and on that score (assuming you want whomever you vote for in the primary to actually have a chance to become President) for a while now polls show Biden as most likely to win the Electoral College (Sanders is #2),

      So vote for Biden.

    • dodrian says:

      If you are a Republican, or you are a centrist or centrist-Democrat who values signalling with their vote over tactical voting, vote Gabbard.

      If you are a typical SSC reader who values signalling, vote Yang.

      If you are a centrist/Democrat who values voting tactically vote Buttigieg or Biden, depending on if you think Biden can campaign coherently until November or not.

      If you are a leftist pleased with the Democratic party vote Warren.

      If you are a leftist upset with the Democratic party vote Sanders.

      • bullseye says:

        If you are a leftist pleased with the Democratic party vote Warren.

        There are leftists pleased with the party? Not in my bubble, at least.

        • dodrian says:

          Perhaps I should have said:
          If you would like to have a leftist candidate to work within the party, vote Warren
          If you would like to have a leftist candidate to send a message to the party, vote Sanders

      • Douglas Knight says:

        What does a Gabbard vote signal? Why would a Republican and a centrist-Democrat want to signal the same thing?

        • dodrian says:

          Republican, but assuming you don’t want to vote for Trump: she’s the center most candidate.

          Centrist Democrat: signal that you believe the party is moving too far to the left.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Huh. I thought that Gabbard was too weird to be reduced down to “furthest right.”

          • albatross11 says:

            Gabbard is an antiwar nonwhite non-Christian who is pro-choice, and I believe she favors decriminalizing marijuana and medicare-for-all, so she doesn’t look like an obvious great fit for the right. In policy terms, I think the rightmost candidate among the Democrats is Biden.

            She probably plays a little better with the right than other candidates because she’s served in the military and seems to have little use for the more extreme identity politics rhetoric of the left. (She’s not from inside that bubble.) I gather she’s friends with several Republican congressmen.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Word in some communist circles is that Gabbard has the best platform because of war and police. But expressive voting can’t express much. A vote for Gabbard has to be reduced down to something simple. The more I look, the more it seems to me that it would be reduced to right-wing.

            Biden might be more right-wing than Gabbard, but there is a subtle difference that Gabbard seems more conciliatory. That might suggest that a crypot-Republican should prefer her, but hyperpartisan conservative Democrat should prefer Biden.

          • albatross11 says:

            Douglas Knight:

            Why would a Gabbard vote map to right wing when a Biden vote wouldn’t, when Gabbard is to the left of Biden on most issues? Is it just a matter of Gabbard not being sufficiently hostile to the right?

            I’ll admit that your reasoning makes absolutely no sense to me.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            My two paragraphs were about different topics. My second paragraph was about what the voter might prefer. Yes, I only gave that one reason why the right-wing voter might prefer Gabbard.

            My first paragraph was about how little information can be communicated by a vote. When I said “the more I look,” I didn’t mean the more I look at her platform. I meant coverage of Gabbard supporters and how journalists interpret it. For example, 538 says that an outright majority of NH Gabbard voters describe themselves as “Conservative,” a demographic that is only 3% of primary voters.

        • Matt M says:

          What does a Gabbard vote signal?

          A strong preference to avoid destructive wars that are fought for no purpose and accomplish nothing.

          Why would a Republican and a centrist-Democrat want to signal the same thing?

          Because destructive wars that accomplish nothing are so popular among both the Democrat and Republican mainstream, the only way we’ll ever get rid of them is by forming some sort of temporary alliance and working together, rallying behind the most famous anti-war politician who is in the news at any given moment.

          10 years ago, that was Ron Paul. Today, it’s Tulsi.

          • acymetric says:

            There are other anti-war candidates in the field, although you might find them less appealing for other reasons. I certainly don’t think Tulsi is the most famous one, and she has 0% chance of getting the nomination (because of various other problems, not because she’s anti-war) so I wouldn’t get your hopes up.

        • Plumber says:

          @Douglas Knight,
          Maybe ’cause of the most hot-button of “hot button issues”?

          IIRC, at one of the televised Democratic Presidential debates Gabbard was the only candidate to support allowing States to restrict third-trimester abortions (still ‘pro-choice’ on earlier term abortions).

          I imagine that some voters may be swayed by that.

    • Well... says:

      I don’t have a candidate and am not registered as a Democrat. But please, please don’t for Biden. He’s played a huge critical role in our country’s worst policy since slavery.

      The headlines speak for themselves but feel free to read the individual articles: [results of web search for “Biden drug war”]

    • viVI_IViv says:

      If you are a Trump supporter, vote Biden so that Trump wins in a landslide and the Dems get burned (imagine the face Pelosi will make).

      If you are a Dem, vote Yang. Sanders is a commie and the other candidates are boring. Trump will probably win anyway.

      Btw, I’m not American and I don’t live in the US, so you should probably not take my advice.

      • If you are a Trump supporter, vote Biden so that Trump wins in a landslide

        I’m curious about why you think this.

        I can see arguments both ways. The argument I would offer for your position is that Trump is good at bullying people for tactical effect, as demonstrated in the contest for the nomination, and that Biden would be vulnerable that approach, would end up looking weak.

        The argument the other way is that Biden is a relatively centrist candidate, hence likely to pull more people who dislike both Trump and left wing policies than his chief rivals. Buttigieg might be an exception, but is vulnerable to the argument that he is insufficiently experienced.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          I… dont think an experience argument is going to hold much weight in an election where the alternative is Trump.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          I can see arguments both ways. The argument I would offer for your position is that Trump is good at bullying people for tactical effect, as demonstrated in the contest for the nomination, and that Biden would be vulnerable that approach, would end up looking weak.

          The guy needs no bulling when he can just walk on a stage and ramble about kids rubbing his hairy legs.

          Seriously, he has no charisma, no Internet presence, no public persona (who?), and is either senile or outright weird. He doesn’t stand a chance against @realDonaldTrump .

          Buttigieg might be an exception, but is vulnerable to the argument that he is insufficiently experienced.

          People hate experienced politicians. Experience is seen as synonymous of corruption.

          • sty_silver says:

            I think your conception of “people” is something like “people I meet online”. But in the real world, an important voting block is also “black people,” who will overwhelmingly vote for Biden far above anyone else, and another big one is “moderates above 50,” who like Biden a lot (and far more than Yang). Buttigieg, on the other hand, does abysmal with black people.

            What you said also matters, but it’s only a part of the puzzle. And if you’re just looking at a part of the puzzle, you’ll get fairly wrong answers, such as Biden being the least electable (when in reality, he’s probably #2 among the people who still have a shot).

          • Aapje says:

            This analysis suggests that Hillary would have won with the 2012 turnout of black voters.

            Of course, it is questionable whether Biden will energize black voters like Obama did.

          • Deiseach says:

            This analysis suggests that Hillary would have won with the 2012 turnout of black voters.

            I think that was part of the problem with her campaign; they seem to have assumed that black voters would turn out for Hillary in the same numbers as they did for Obama, just because she was the Democratic nominee (and don’t seem to have bothered trying to work out that juuuuust maybe you’ll get more black voters turning out to vote for First African-American President than First Old White Woman President).

            The analyses I’ve read of where her campaign went wrong do have a selection of those kinds of assumptions: “We’ve a lock on the X vote; the Y vote doesn’t matter, who cares about Ys? Let’s put all our eggs in the Z basket!” and wedding themselves to Big Data Crunching despite people on the ground begging them to get off their backsides and come canvass in this area where you’re throwing away votes otherwise.

          • Aapje says:

            Isn’t Bill Clinton the “first black president” (although Toni Morrison meant that very differently from how it is interpreted today)?

            NPR was pushing the narrative that the Clintons had a special relationship with black voters early in the 2016 primary season, when Hillary got a greater share of the black vote than Obama got in 2008. However, that merely suggests that black people liked Obama more than Hillary who they liked more than Sanders.

            That doesn’t mean that they were just as motivated to vote for Hillary as for Obama, just like Biden’s good performance among blacks in the primaries merely means that he is more liked by the black people that vote in primaries. It doesn’t mean that less politically interested black people will massively come out to vote during the ‘real’ election to vote for Biden, like they did for Obama.

        • EchoChaos says:

          The argument the other way is that Biden is a relatively centrist candidate, hence likely to pull more people who dislike both Trump and left wing policies than his chief rivals.

          Biden has some serious weaknesses here because of his long career. Basically every modern Democrat position can pull up Biden opposing it in the past because of how the parties have shifted.

          Edit: Also, and I hope this isn’t CW, but he has just done some WEIRD stuff on the campaign trail.

          Lying dog-faced pony soldier is my new favorite insult, btw.

          • Plumber says:

            @EchoChaos,

            Push up contest?

            Tourette’s syndrome?

            Biden vs. Trump would be the best televised Presidential debate EVUH!

            Maybe a Sanders/Trump loudness-off could match.

            A Warren nomination could be best but only if she or Trump in the debates emulate the fashion sense of Presidents Coolidge and Roosevelt

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Plumber

            Oh, don’t get me wrong, I would dearly love a Biden/Trump competition for lots of reasons, some actually related to policy.

            Unfortunately, it looks like no love there if current trends continue.

      • AlesZiegler says:

        I am also not an American and this is not an appropriate thread for this kind of discussion anyway, but isn´t Yang´s platform quite a bit to the left of Sanders?

          • AlesZiegler says:

            Based on admittedly cursory scrolling through both platforms (here is Sanders). It seems to me Yang has overall similar, albeit far less detailed, proposals, plus he proposes UBI. So if massive new unconditional entitlement program is considered leftwing, Yang seems more commie than Sanders.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            I think UBI is more libertarian than left wing, definitely not commie.

            Libertarians hate welfare in general, but the type of welfare they hate less is UBI, because it comes with less government overhead and because they think that most people are fundamentally rational so if you give them money with no strings attached they will spend the way that benefits them the most.

            Communists instead emphasize the protection of jobs. They are very much against giving free money, if they give handouts they will want to micromanage who gets them and they spend them. They think that most people are fundamentally economically incomptentent and must be educated and directed by the state.

            As for the other policy points, it seems to me that Sanders is bigger on climate change and social justice, Yang also has this stuff on his platform but doesn’t appear as extreme.

          • bullseye says:

            Communists instead emphasize the protection of jobs. They are very much against giving free money, if they give handouts they will want to micromanage who gets them and they spend them. They think that most people are fundamentally economically incompetent and must be educated and directed by the state.

            I’m a progressive, and I’m surprised to read this; I thought of this as the conservative view rather than the communist view (except that instead of “most people” being incompetent, it’s specifically those losers who get welfare who are incompetent).

            In the red state where I used to live (Georgia), you had to prove you were looking for a job in order to collect unemployment. I remember progressive friends complaining that Florida conservatives required drug tests to collect welfare. (My friends weren’t the ones trying to collect; it was the outrage of the week they read in the news.) And I’m pretty sure conservatives prefer handing out food stamps (which only buy certain things) to handing out money.

          • Eric Rall says:

            I think UBI is more libertarian than left wing, definitely not commie.

            It depends on the details of the UBI. Variants of UBI are mainstays of “bleeding heart libertarian” welfare reform proposals (e.g. Milton Friedman’s Negative Income Tax proposal), but in libertarian proposals the UBI is generally proposed as an expenditure-neutral replacement for existing transfer programs. This requires setting the UBI at a fairly low level.

            From the far left, UBI is usually proposed as an add-on to existing transfer programs, not as a replacement, and as such needs to be funded by some combination of taxation and borrowing. The amount of the UBI in these proposals is also generally set to a more generous amount than libertarian UBI proposals: the goal I’ve heard the most from the far left is for the UBI to suffice to provide for a lower-middle-class level standard of living.

            Yang’s proposal takes a bit from both camps. It’s a partial replacement for existing programs, not an add-on as in far-left proposals, nor a full replacement as in libertarian proposals. Specifically, Yang’s UBI would overlap with other transfer programs’ benefits, so recipients who qualified for more from the existing programs would keep those benefits instead of the UBI, and recipients who would get more from the UBI would waive their other benefits and only get the UBI. This still leaves a very large residual cost to be funded by taxes (Yang’s main proposed tax increase is a VAT) and borrowing.

            I’m pretty sure Yang also omits health care programs from the overlap. This includes Medicare, Medicaid, ACA exchange subsidies, and the Medicare-for-All program that Yang has also endorsed. I think most libertarian variants of the UBI count at least Medicaid and ACA exchange subsidies as transfer programs to be replaced (at least for most recipients) by the UBI.

            Yang’s UBI amount is closer to the far left proposals than to the bleeding-heart libertarian proposals. $1000/month per adult is somewhere around the federal poverty line, depending on household size and composition: not quite lower-middle-class, but much closer to it than the more cost-constrained libertarian proposals.

          • Aapje says:

            @bullseye

            Marx famously said: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” So communism puts a burden on people to contribute as much as they can.

            There is a distinction between anarchist and authoritarian communism, where the former expects that people will self-motivate when capitalism is removed, while the latter…does not.

            The former seems to only work when there is fairly strong self-selection and/or covert authoritarianism (like kicking out freeloaders), which only works if you have a niche commune in a larger non-communist society. Society-wide communism seems to inevitably become overtly authoritarian, for that is the only way for it not to implode.

          • Matt M says:

            In the red state where I used to live (Georgia), you had to prove you were looking for a job in order to collect unemployment…

            Which is why Vivi claimed UBI was a libertarian preference, rather than a “conservative” one.

            Conservatives and libertarians agree on some things, but not all. On the question of “Do we need the state to micromanage the underclass to prevent them from making bad decisions?” well, that’s one where American liberals and American conservatives generally agree, just with different specifics and for different reasons.

            American liberals support “targeted” welfare in an attempt to properly exclude “the rich” from also collecting any. American conservatives support “targeted” welfare in an attempt to ensure such welfare goes only to people who are legitimately suffering from specific well defined-problems and making an effort to remedy said problems. Both are highly concerned with ensuring the welfare only goes to those who “deserve” it, they just have very different definitions of deserving…

          • bullseye says:

            Which is why Vivi claimed UBI was a libertarian preference, rather than a “conservative” one.

            viVI_IViv argued that micromanaging what people do with welfare is communist; I think that it’s conservative rather than communist. Neither of us think it’s libertarian.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      Do your best to convince me to vote for your candidate knowing nothing other than that I read Slate Star Codex.

      Yang also reads Slate Star Codex. ’nuff said.

      • viVI_IViv says:

        Hello Andrew.

        • albatross11 says:

          Yang is the only one of the candidates you can actually imagine reading SSC.

          • J Mann says:

            To test your assertion, I imagined several candidates reading SSC, and I can assure you it is (a) (mostly) possible, (b) hilarious and (c) well worth your time. I imagined:

            1) Bernie shouting at his computer,

            2) Warren logging off in horror

            3) Trump being told about it* and tweeting about a bunch of loser nerds,

            4) Former Mayor Pete earnestly and boringly responding under a screen name,

            5) Biden grinning and trying to create a login to respond, but not able to figure out the minimum password requirements to register. At that point, Biden begins doing pushups and asks his staff to tell the SSC commenters how many he did (three, but his butt is way up in the air and he only drops about two inches on each one) and challenge them to do better. His staffers tell him they’ll do it, then ask for a story about the war to distract him.

            * OK, I admit that:

            (1) While I am just barely capable of imagining Trump reading SSC himself, it’s so implausible that it takes a lot of effort, and

            (2) I find that I can’t imagine Kloubuchar (sp?) or Bloomberg in any recognizable sense at all – I can sort of imagine a stick figure with Klobuchar’s hair hitting another stick figure with a brush and yelling at her, but I can’t put a face on it or make it read SSC, and Bloomberg just comes across as a political cartoon, standing on a box and yelling at people for using drinking straws.

          • Nick says:

            4) Former Mayor Pete earnestly and boringly responding under a screen name,

            His username would be Streeling.

          • albatross11 says:

            Melissa won’t let Bernie back on his computer until he turns on two-factor authentication….

      • theredsheep says:

        I decided I like Yang after reading through his Wikipedia entry’s list of positions and saying, “well, that’s wrong, but not horrifying … I could agree to that … we were never going to see a pro-life candidate at this point … at least he’s thought about the issue in depth … that might actually work, and won’t be as destructive as Sanders’s ideas … aaand that would be the end of the article. Okay, I haven’t been a registered Democrat in years and won’t bother with voting, but I ‘support’ Yang in the sense that I hope the whole hideously irrational process winds up with him on top. I don’t expect it, though.”

    • Phigment says:

      This is a person whose name you will have to be reading, hearing, and potentially typing or conversing for the better part of a year, and possibly another four years after that.

      So, judge accordingly.

      Biden: Easy to spell, some easy puns. “Biden his time”
      Warren: Easy wordplay. “Warren Peace” “Borin’ Warren”
      Buttigieg: Long, spelled weird. Most possible word-play is innuendo.
      Yang: Short, easy to spell, easy to rhyme with other words. Bang, fang, rang, slang…
      Gabbard: Lots of duplicate letters, so very efficient. Not a lot of obvious puns. Sounds like a children’s TV show.
      Sanders: Everyone calls him Bernie, which may be cheating, but has lots of word-play potentional. Also crossover with Kentucky Fried Chicken founder.
      Bloomberg: Long. Extra typing. Limited rhyming or pun potential.
      Steyer: Fairly short, wordplay opportunities. “Steyer the course”

      If you want to narrow it down before making a choice, just flip a coin. Heads, you get a “B” name, and tails you get an “S” name. Then evaluate your options from there. Anyone who didn’t have the foresight to start their name with B or S is an outlier and eliminated. (Bernie Sanders is cheating, obviously, by having both a B name AND an S name.)

    • HomarusSimpson says:

      Going full Martin Gurri. We are at the point where we are stuck between the end of the old paradigm, as trust in institutions has collapsed and there is no possibility of it repairing, and whatever is to come next, which is unknowable. On that basis, at least Yang is willing to try something that is actually new (UBI for example). Any other things purporting to be ‘new’ are actually just riding on the coat tails of the nihilism that has led to the collapse of trust (ID politics, schoolboy socialism).
      As I said, full Martin Gurri mode, just finishing the book so it’s very in my mind,
      Disclaimer – not in USA so what do I know.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Since you read SSC, please do not vote for Andrew Yang. His signature campaign issue is just adding yet another entitlement, and his justification that robots are soon going to take all of our jobs is about as correct as predicting Skynet was going to kill us all by 1997. He has a lot of good traits, but he is wrong on his signature issue.

      I would recommend voting for Biden, with Klobuchar as a secondary option. “Evolution, not Revolution” is a solid mantra, and Mayor Pete lacks any relevant experience at all, leaving you with the above 2 options. If you think Biden is going senile, Klobuchar has 14 years of Senate experience.

      • Matt M says:

        I’m super conflicted on Yang. In one sense I totally agree with your assessment. Not only is he wrong on his signature issue, he’s wrong on it in such a way that he’s actively misleading the public about what the problem is and what the viable solutions may be.

        On the other hand, he seems to be one of a very small handful of politicians who actually is even thinking about this stuff at all and isn’t just in the business of shouting various focus-group tested platitudes until they find the right combination of empty, hollow, statements that allows their poll numbers to increase.

        In general, I think I’d prefer “the guy who thinks about stuff but is wrong” to “everyone else who doesn’t really think about anything other than how to increase their own power.”

      • Purplehermann says:

        As long as this is coming up, why doesn’t Yang have more support? Free money is tempting promise

    • metacelsus says:

      Vote for Klobuchar. She’s moderate enough not to alienate people (and Biden is getting old and senile)

      • theredsheep says:

        Biden is at the top of his game. Anyone who says otherwise is a lying, dog-faced pony soldier.

        EDIT: This is sarcastic. So very, very sarcastic.

      • Jon S says:

        +1, she also crushes elections in Minnesota, outperforming a generic D by large margins. And mild home-state effects in the midwest will be helpful in the general.

        • Protagoras says:

          Yeah, all my Minnesota friends who follow politics really like her. I feel people don’t pay enough attention in these contests to how candidates are viewed by those they’ve represented in their previous or current jobs. It seems to me to be much more useful information than anything you get from the usual pundits. Of course, Sanders also looks pretty good by that standard; Vermont loves him.

        • John Schilling says:

          Popular in Minnesota, against an incumbent Republican with a rabid fanbase? Seems like I’ve heard this story before.

          • Protagoras says:

            I don’t know if they were following the relevant statistics as closely back then, so I don’t know if it would be possible to measure this, but I don’t think Mondale’s popularity in Minnesota ever exceeded what you’d expect from partisanship to the degree that Klobuchar’s has. The senate races he won were not landslides (I don’t have a good sense of the opposition), and he did lose one senate race (under odd circumstances, but still he really shouldn’t have lost if Minnesotans truly loved him).

    • Garrett says:

      Vote for Joe Sestak. The world is far more entertaining when on fire.

    • J Mann says:

      The probability of your vote mattering is negligible.

      Do whatever would give you the most emotional satisfaction – including a protest vote for your actual preferred candidate out of all real and fictional persons in all of human history, voting for whatever candidate actually has you excited, or staying home and eating chicken wings. Also, staying home or voting will give people some information about dem voter engagement, so send whatever message you like on that score as well.

      (The argument against this is the free rider problem – if enough people who have similar preferences to you stayed home or cast protest votes and people with other preferences didn’t, there would be an overall effect that you might not like. If that argument affects you emotionally, then vote the way you would prefer people similar to you to vote, but do it because it gives you emotional satisfaction not to be a free rider).

      Overall, I’m fairly convinced that apart from the things he says, Trump has been about the same as most Presidents – a little better in some areas, a little worse in others. I don’t see any way to turn around our current race to the bottom in rhetoric and partisanship, so if Trump’s behavior bothers you, I don’t see anything getting better no matter who you vote for. If you’re anti-Trump, you can probably convince yourself that any alternative is probably significantly better than him in terms of behavior, so vote for somebody and then feel good about yourself.

      If I follow you on social media, I’d prefer you not to post something smug about it, but I don’t mind if you’re smug with like-minded friends if it makes you happy.

    • JohnNV says:

      Update: I voted for Klobuchar, as did apparently a surprisingly large number of New Hampshirites at the last minute. I had forgotten the open/hidden thread rules when I started this thread, so I won’t go into the details why.

  49. CaptainCrutch says:

    You just got a shiny new single-use time machine in your mail box. There’s a list of rules for it.
    – You can send your consciousness to any date in the past, but no later than 1 year before you were born
    – While in the past you will exist as an incorporeal ghost. In this state you will be aware of where every single human being on Earth is, what they are doing and what is happening around them. Though you will not be aware of something no human is presently experiences. You will also retain all your memories from the present, but will not receive further updates – that is, you won’t know how your actions affected your now future.
    – Being a ghost you can possess any human being you want. You will have full control of all their skills and bodily functions they could control normally, will be able to make them do or say anything that is possible to do or say.
    — While possessing the person you will gain access to all their memories – letting you impersonate them flawlessly – but won’t remember what you learned as an omniscient ghost.
    — Upon leaving them you will remember what you did and experienced but will not retain host’s memories. You can’t blatantly cheat this rule by, say, making them write down their secrets, you will remember writing, but won’t remember what.
    — Possessed people will think they did what you made them do at their own volition. If you made them act our of character, they might try to undo your actions, feeling like they changed their minds. Drastic OOC actions might make them feel like they gone mad, or maybe even possessed, but they won’t be aware of you specifically.
    – After exactly 365 you will be returned to the present. To your body if possible, or you will permanently merge with another person if you no longer exist – that person will be selected to match your own life circumstances the most, but what does it mean is not explained, you’ll only find out if it happens.

    You are expected to change history more to your liking. You can spend time doing research in preparation, but it’s not really an offer you can refuse.

    • bullseye says:

      I think I’d try to turn China or the USSR democratic, probably by possessing the premier. I don’t think one year would be enough, though; sudden shifts to democracy tend not to stick. Maybe I’d just be a partisan hack and possess Ayatollah Khomeini to keep Carter in office.

      • bullseye says:

        I misread the original post and thought I was stuck with just the year immediately prior to my birth. If I can go back further, I can pick out someone influential from the distant past and plant modern values (or at least something that might lead to modern values sooner). And who had the most influence? That way lies blasphemy.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I possess Dean, Mitchell, Liddy, and the rest of the Watergate crew, and prevent Watergate from even happening. If I can’t seem to stop it by possessing them (because the unpossessed ones keep pushing for it), I bring it directly to Nixon as Dean or Mitchell. If he doesn’t stop it, I possess him to stop it. If it’s still going on, I leak the plans to the Democrats.

      My main aim here is to prevent the suffix -gate from being used for scandals.

    • Kindly says:

      While possessing the person you will gain access to all their memories – letting you impersonate them flawlessly – but won’t remember what you learned as an omniscient ghost.

      If that’s the case, wouldn’t I end up doing exactly what that person would have done anyway, seeing as how I have access to their memories but not mine?

      • CaptainCrutch says:

        No, you will remember what you knew before departure, and what you directly saw while possessing other people, but won’t be able to just retain other people’s memories on your way out. You’ll remember how it all ends and how you want to change it, but, for example, you want be able to briefly jump inside a safe owner to learn his combination, then jump into a thief to unlock the safe.

    • Lambert says:

      Be Kronprinz Frederick III of Prussia in 1858 and keep in in my pants britches during the Spring.
      Willhelm II never gets born so Henrich becomes Emperor during the Dreikaiserjahr.
      Probably insult Prinzeß Irene von Hessen und bei Rhein to avoid Hæmophilia getting onto the Hohenzollern bloodline.
      With luck, there’s a relatively smooth transition to a German republic or constitutional monarchy. No world wars.

      The other option is to become Augustus Caesar and see if I can invent the caravel, compass, sextant and telescope in a year. Compared even to the high medieval, the Romans sucked at seafaring. An alternative to the roman roads, coupled with not having to worry about Parthia being on the Silk Road might just prevent the decline and fall. Also mercantilist capitalism might get started properly and skip past the whole feudal thing.

      • cassander says:

        If you want to prevent the fall of rome, don’t invent seafaring, invent flintlocks. That’s going to prevent 1000 years of horse people stomping all over the settled people whenever they manage to get sufficiently organized.

        • Lambert says:

          You can probably figure out something equivalent to a American Civil War rifle musket.
          (mix saltpetre, alum, blue vitriol and calcine to make aqua fortis (HNO3), invent still and make ethanol, mix mercury with above ingredients to make fulminate.)
          Breech loading may well still be a couple of Industrial Revolutions away. Writing a treatise on the three plate method probably wouldn’t hurt.

          But I’m not sure the transition to early-modern warfare causes the correct sort of structural changes in the whole of society needed for civilisation to not collapse. I daresay if horse nomads had attacked during the height of the Principate, Rome would have developed the missile/polearm combined arms tactics (As the Han did against their steppe enemies. Nor is it entirely disimillar to pike and shot) needed to defeat nomadic horse archers. I want to prevent the Crisis of the 3rd century, not the Huns.

          • cassander says:

            the crisis of the third century, at least in part, caused by invasions of franks, Alamanni, and others.

            But, and I think this is crucial, gunpowder increased the capital intensity of warfare and drove a lot of state formation in early modern europe. It would probably do so to a lesser degree in a unified rome, but there would still be some effect. \

            Also, while the crisis of the 3rd century was bad, rome did survive it. what it didn’t survive, in the west, was barbarian invasion in the 5th century. And remember, the Ming dynasty was still overrun by horse people as late as 1644.

          • Lambert says:

            Gunpowder probably would help rome.
            But I’m being contrarian because ‘Romans with minie balls curbstomp everyone’ is a boring timeline.

            Giving out flintlock muskets sometime in the 11th c. would have been interesting, though. Since they work well with many soldiers who have a medium level of training, rather than a few career knights, it’d’ve disrupted Europe a whole lot.

      • noyann says:

        > but no later than 1 year before you were born

        What did you do to live so long? 🙂

    • Protagoras says:

      Hmmm. Might try George III earlyish in his reign (with perhaps switching to other people as necessary) and find a way to push through reforms to give the Irish, the American colonists, and whoever else in the overseas territories of the Empire I can get away with, representation in Parliament. See if I can create a British empire that will continue to dominate into the 20th century and beyond!

      • cassander says:

        Any particular goal in mind? or just for fun?

        • Protagoras says:

          I think it would have been beneficial to the citizens of the empire, and set good precedents. I would also be trying to implement such other reforms as I could get through (maybe make some progress against slavery, etc.) And write out and publicize widely (or maybe more efficiently and effectively get some of the top thinkers of the time, Hume and such, to write out and then use the George III influence to publicize widely) the reasons why expanding the franchise makes the Empire stronger.

          • cassander says:

            Bringing the US into the empire with voting power is almost certainly going to make progress against slavery slower, not faster. Especially because if you’re giving the continental colonies votes, the Caribbean colonies are probably going to get some too.

          • Protagoras says:

            I don’t know. Sentiment in the American colonies on slavery was already mixed even this early, so I think with enough nudging the end of slavery could be hastened rather than slowed. But the goal is mostly the intercontinental democracy; other issues are just side projects.

      • bullseye says:

        This would be a tough sell. It undermines the purpose of conquest if you give them the vote. I guess you could justify giving America the vote considering many of us were of British origin.

        Alternate history:

        British colonies in America get representation in Parliament. Parliament restricts German immigration to America to keep them from getting representation.
        Instead of the U.S. buying Louisiana from Napoleon, we seize it by force (since Britain is at war with France).

        Britain isn’t interested in picking a fight with Mexico, so we don’t get Texas or the west. (But maybe Britain buys Alaska and makes it part of Canada.)

        Sooner or later, the population of British America becomes larger than Britain itself (though not quite to the extreme we see in real life), and we start to complain that we’re underrepresented in Parliament. Britain is faced with the possibility of the American Revolution happening after all; but this time around the British military has more Americans than British. Actually giving us a majority in Parliament is unacceptable, so they decide to start the Commonwealth early.

        British America joins in World War I much sooner, and so that war ends earlier. World War II happens anyway, and American joins in a little earlier, but with less manpower (since we still don’t have the southwest). We beat Germany, and keep Japan out of Australia, but Japan keeps China and Korea.

        Japan sides with the West in the cold war, with a long and nasty proxy war in China and Korea, which the Communists eventually win. China emerges with better relations with the USSR than we saw in real life. China also has control of Korea, and Korea hates China less than they hate Japan.

        Thanks to a strong alliance with China, the USSR survives to the present day. They look a lot like a stronger version of real life present day China: no longer really Communist and no longer really an enemy of the West, but still certainly a dictatorship. China itself is weaker and more backward than we see in real life, but they’re getting stronger and are beginning to resent Soviet influence.

        • Protagoras says:

          If I’ve done my job correctly, you end up being wrong about England being reduced to a minority in Parliament being unacceptable. But perhaps I have given myself an impossible task.

        • Erusian says:

          This would be a tough sell. It undermines the purpose of conquest if you give them the vote. I guess you could justify giving America the vote considering many of us were of British origin.

          While Protagoras’s specific plan would be a tough sell there were proposals, prior to American independence, to create places like the United States as separate kingdoms. Basically, King George would be King of Great Britain, Ireland, and America (or whatever name). America would have a Lord Lieutenant, a Privy Council, a hereditary aristocracy, and a House of Lords and House of Commons.

          This would have settled the primary issue that led to the American Revolution. Parliament would not have been able to pass the legislation that Americans felt violated their rights: that would have been the duty of the Parliament of America and required the consent of the American House of Commons.

          • cassander says:

            I think setting up a separate parliament and kingdom (in anything other than name) was a recipe for conflict. The two parliaments would constantly be passing laws that annoyed each other. the model of the acts of union (nominally separate kingdoms but a single parliament and each colony electing some number of members) is much better idea.

          • Erusian says:

            The system worked for centuries between England, Ireland, and Scotland. And it worked with Portugal and Brazil. The personal union model wasn’t issue free, certainly. But the alternative didn’t exactly work either: Imperial Federalism was unsuccessful and the British Empire eventually fell into a bunch of completely independent states instead.

            But you’re right that it’s not a sure thing by any means. But if you’re King George and trying to prevent America from leaving, that seems like the easiest case. Particularly because it would be impractical to be shipping representatives across the sea.

          • cassander says:

            @Erusian

            The union of scotland and england only lasts about a century before union, and there was a huge civil war in the middle of it. And the relationship between ireland and england was a lot of things, but amicable was rarely one of them.

        • I guess you could justify giving America the vote considering many of us were of British origin.

          Adam Smith suggested that as the best politically possible solution to the American Revolution. He added the prediction that, if the colonies got vote in proportion to their contribution to the revenue of the Empire, in about a century the capital would move to the New World.

          • Protagoras says:

            Indeed. My proposal was partly based on his discussion of the advantages of such an arrangement.

      • zzzzort says:

        How wold you handle the indian question? Britain was well on the way to conquering them, and their population was already much larger.

        • Protagoras says:

          Thorny, to be sure. In the spirit of my proposal, residents of India obviously need to be enfranchised as well. From what I know of Indian history, Indian nationalism and ideas of Indian unity mostly formed in reaction to British rule, so acting early enough means integrating a bunch of units that together do admittedly command a huge proportion of Parliament, but which wouldn’t have any overwhelming tendency to work together in opposition to the rest of Parliament (should, hopefully, instead make alliances and enemies among the Americans, Europeans, Africans, and Australasians as much as among the other Indian factions) and so which hopefully wouldn’t produce intolerably destabilizing effects. Probably some degree of devolution of power and guarantees in the form of something like a constitution might also be helpful. But while making India a full participant in this more or less Imperial Federation (not endorsing all the details of the program advocated by the Imperial Federation movement, but obviously I am in some ways trying to produce something like that, and start early before the forces that prevented it in our history have gathered strength) will be extremely challenging, to the extent possible I will be trying to lay the groundwork for that to be the outcome. Honestly, I am not all that optimistic about prospects for success, but while having a year to work with is quite limiting, the ability to jump between controlling different people is extremely powerful, so I’m shooting for the stars here.

    • I wouldn’t try to actually change history, which I’m not even sure I could and wouldn’t want to anyways. Instead, my attempt would be to document something we currently have few sources for and do my best to preserve it until it survives to modernity. The question would be what to document?

      But if I was going to change history just for the fun of it, I would stop Napoleon from invading Russia, have him retreat from Spain and see what happens.

    • Rebecca Friedman says:

      Well, what I would want to do is not change history at all, just go back to sometime around 1590 and watch about two dozen balls, figure out what all the fiddly little steps my favorite dance manual was describing actually looked like, see whether the revisions in his second book had taken off yet (maybe 1594 for that?) and how many people were listening to him anyway (he comes off as decidedly opinionated), and maybe get to dance in a ball or three…

      … but since changing history seems to be the goal, and is probably a moral obligation anyway, then unless “rhetoric” counts as a skill I can steal I’ll need to go for something simple – I’m not actually a very good liar…

      … so I go back to a carefully-researched time shortly before 1938, possess Hitler, and shoot myself.

      The rest of my time goes to mitigating the damage from that, depending on when I did it, and trying to stabilize the Weimar Republic into something that won’t either starve its citizens or start WWII. (Figuring out how to do this is what most of the research in preparation is aimed at.) I might also try to spread penicilin a bit more quickly by jumping into someone important and paying attention to it – I probably won’t get more than a few years’ earlier adoption, but even a few years could save a lot of lives.

      Sorry for violating a key time-travel rule, but with my skills and knowledge, it really is the highest-value thing* I can think of. I might even have a few more cousins when I get back.

      (Or it might go wrong in many horrible ways. But… it’d save a lot of people if it didn’t.)

      *Realistically, medical/technological interventions would do more, but I don’t think I have the skills to do much in a year, even possessing someone who does.

      • FormerRanger says:

        I’m wondering why you don’t go earlier than “shortly before 1938” to get Hitler.

        The risk of assassinating Hitler is that you might instead get either a more competent Evil Fascist leader, or you might get a weak Weimar Far Right, and end up with a Communist Germany.

        Assassinating Lenin before he returns to Russia has similar risks.

        A previous time traveler managed to kill Rasputin, but a better idea would be to kill him sooner, or to go further back and not let Witte be fired.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Hitler was really evil even by fascist dictator standards, so even if all you do is get Hitler replaced by a German equivalent of Franco or Mussolini, that would still be a considerable improvement over what really happened.

          • John Schilling says:

            True, but with a 1938 intervention you risk trading seven more years of Hitler controlling most of Continental Europe with seventy or seven hundred years of “merely ordinary” fascism across the whole of the Old World. There’s a point at which getting rid of Hitler just means Hitler’s generals go ahead and invade Poland, etc, anyway. And Hitler’s generals without Hitler probably don’t do damn fool things like issuing no-retreat orders on the Eastern Front, or offending Canaris to the point where he signs up with MI6. I cannot emphasize how important it is, when trying to conquer the world, that the head of your military intelligence service not be an agent of the other side’s military intelligence service.

            I’m pretty sure that the break point is Munich, give or take six months, but it’s good to have a margin of safety in such matters. If you’re planning to use a time machine to neutralize Hitler, do go back well before 1938, preferably before 1932.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Given that the historical war resulted in the Soviet Union controlling most of continental Europe, and that Stalin was more bloodthirsty and paranoid than basically any fascist dictator apart from Hitler, I’m not sure that a few decades of “merely ordinary” fascism in Europe would be any worse than what actually happened. Regardless, though, it would probably be safer to go back early enough to prevent the war from happening. Though going back to before 1932 might just result in the communists taking over instead of the Nazis, and “ordinary” communism seems to have a worse track record than “ordinary” fascism (not that “ordinary” fascism is any good, of course). Perhaps it would be safer to wait till the Nazis are elected, then take Hitler out, and possibly take out all of the more bloodthirsty Nazi leaders as well to make sure that somebody who isn’t prone to genocide or starting world wars ends up as Fuehrer.

          • Lambert says:

            I wonder whether you could spin the night of the long knives into an existential threat to the NSDAP.

            Play the SA, Reichswehr and SS against each other then kill Herrn Hitler, Göring and Röhm once open fighting breaks out. Make sure everyone has plenty of kompromat on each other to release to the public.
            Maybe work out some way for the Reds to end up coming off worse-for-wear too. Possibly involving some kind of manufactured connections to the SA.
            Ensure any halfway competant officers end up dead or disgraced, to blunt Germany’s military effectiveness.

          • Rebecca Friedman says:

            I did say it could go horribly wrong! “The Holocaust never happens, so the certainty that things like fascism and eugenics (in the sense of forced sterilizations, etc.) are extremely evil never gets burned into people’s minds, so the rest of the world never retreats from those principles” was one of the scenarios I had in mind. I’m relatively certain removing Hitler removes the Holocaust, because that was his nutty idea and (to my knowledge) other people tended to want him to stop (specifically, stop killing all those people, we need more labor – ergh, but…).

            Preventing WWII would be lovely, and obviously having it go worse falls under “going horribly wrong,” but I’m not confident enough in my own abilities to be sure I can do that. I’m pretty sure the Holocaust is one person’s nutty idea, so removing that person should stop it. WWII, like WWI, is a whole complex mess of pressures pushing towards war – I can try to stop it, but I don’t think throwing away my one chance trying is morally obligatory when I could spend it on “chance to try to avert WWII, and also definitely avert the Holocaust.”

            I picked 1938 for Munich – my goal was to prevent it* – but I am perfectly happy to take the recommendation of someone who regularly seems to know what he’s talking about and go earlier. My main worry with going too early is that the sentiment that was behind Hitler will, if he dies while he’s fairly unimportant, just find someone else. I don’t know if that someone else would be as bad, and there are worries of creating a martyr the other way (though I would think considering death by suicide to lead to martyrdom would be hard for the Nazis? They’re AFAIK pretty hostile to mental illness. I suppose they could deny it was actually a suicide…)

            At any rate, 1932 would be better for the penicilin side-quest (and make it less of a side-quest), so possibly that plus firefighting to try to keep someone else equally bad from stepping in and making the whole thing a dictatorship anyway would work. If I can do that without just throwing it to the communists. For the rest, note I specified assuming I couldn’t be as good a speech-giver as Hitler by possessing him; I am assuming I also don’t automatically steal the ability to play five sides against the middle (if he had that? I am not actually a specialist on this period of history, I took two classes that covered it among other things), and since I am not actually a skilled social manipulator, I strongly suspect that any attempt to do so will just put someone worse in power. And I only have one year to try to fix any foul-ups!

            *I suppose I could possess Chamberlain and say no, but I’m not actually sure fighting the war early would help. Or work. I defer to our experts in military history on that.

          • Churchill, in the first volume of his history of WWII, points out that, the first time Hitler moved to annex Austria, it was Mussolini who stopped him. What changed thereafter was Abyssinia and the allied response, to verbally attack Italy for its actions but not do anything substantive to stop them, convincing Mussolini that they were not his friends nor very dangerous enemies. The next time Hitler wanted to annex Austria, Mussolini told him to go ahead.

            Suppose you alter the response of France and Britain to the attack on Abyssinia, either ignoring it or using naval power to prevent it — the two alternatives Churchill suggested. The first keeps Mussolini as an ally, the second results in his government falling. How much more restrained would Hitler have been if Italy had been clearly on the allied side in the years leading up to Munich?

            Alternatively, could you possess Mussolini and get him not to attack Abyssinia?

          • bean says:

            *I suppose I could possess Chamberlain and say no, but I’m not actually sure fighting the war early would help. Or work. I defer to our experts in military history on that.

            Hmm. That’s still something of a live issue, AIUI. Both sides were still mobilizing at that point, and I’ve seen at least some arguments for “appeasement was buying time for the British to arm, and was successful in doing so”. On the ship front, the new battleships and carriers mostly commissioned starting in 1940, but the same is true of the Bismarcks. I’d need to look into it more.

            Actually, in terms of messing with WWII, saving France is a good place to look. If you manage to sort out some of the issues the French military was having (the French high command sometimes found out what was going on on the front lines from the British ambassador, and a higher percentage of RAF than of French squadrons participated in the Battle of France) you end up with a much shorter war in Europe, and one that probably doesn’t involve the Soviets at all.

          • Lambert says:

            What’s the current historical thinking on Alfred Jodl’s statement: “if we did not collapse already in the year 1939 that was due only to the fact that during the Polish campaign, the approximately 110 French and British divisions in the West were held completely inactive against the 23 German divisions.”?

            ISTM that the ‘slave economy’ and general kleptonomy of the Third Reich means that German expansion is easiest to stop before it gets started.

            Britian giving significant material support to Poland in ’38 might have made Hilter think twice about Fall Weiss.

            I’d agree that making the French Army a bit better is a good strategy, and probably knocks history into the ‘Blunted Sickle’ attractor.

          • DarkTigger says:

            @bean
            I would be seriously surprised if the one and a half years between the annexation of Austria and the invasion of Poland didn’t helped Germany more than it did help Great Britian, let alone “We have the strongest land army in the world but don’t know how to use it”-France.

            Remember the Wehrmacht was still in the Leichttraktor and Pz. 1 phase of the rearmament, back then.

          • John Schilling says:

            The French army wasn’t “completely inactive” in 1939; it actually did invade Germany during the period when the German army was busy in Poland. But, with the Germans having the initiative and a measure of surprise, it took the French a while to get their invasion under way, and the German invasion of Poland ended quickly enough that they were able to pivot and block the French with far more than that 23-division garrison.

            The British army also wasn’t “completely inactive”. Being unsurprisingly based in the British Isles during peacetime, it was actively involved in getting itself to France during the period of the German invasion of Poland.

            If you can find the right mind to occupy to arrange a substantially higher degree of preparedness in the French and British armies in August 1939, without scaring the Germans out of invading Poland altogether, that could well lead to a quick collapse of Germany while Russia sits it out.

            But a 1938 intervention in support of Czechoslovakia is probably a better bet, because Czechoslovakia is much more defensible so long as it still holds the Sudetenland and you’ve probably got more than two weeks to make a difference.

            And I’d still prefer a pre-1932 intervention against the rise of Hitler and the Nazis in the first place. If Germany winds up with Mussolini- or Franco-level fascism anyway, then I note that neither of those ever tried to start a European war on their own initiative. That was pretty much a Hitler thing, or a Stalin thing if we’re counting Finland.

          • bean says:

            @Lambert

            Pretty much what John said. There just wasn’t time.

            I’d agree that making the French Army a bit better is a good strategy, and probably knocks history into the ‘Blunted Sickle’ attractor.

            Where do you think I got the idea?

            @DarkTrigger

            This is something I’m really not sure on. I picked ships because that’s the one area I can be confident I understand what was going on in Europe. I have no real insight into British tank production, for instance.

          • Lambert says:

            >But a 1938 intervention in support of Czechoslovakia is probably a better bet,

            *Glances at topographical map of Cenral Europe*

            Wow, we could have got the Wehrmacht bogged down in so much mountain fighting. But we just handed it over on a silver platter.

          • Both Bean and Rebecca seem to be assuming that if Chamberlain said “no” at Munich Hitler would have attacked someone anyways, starting WWII a little earlier.

            Is that clear? My understanding was that the German generals argued against attacking Czechoslovakia, on the grounds that doing so would take enough of the German army to make it vulnerable to attack, presumably from France. So Hitler might have backed down.

            And if he didn’t, the issue isn’t only rearmament by the allies vs rearmament by the Germans. There is also the fact that the allies would have included Czechoslovakia which, as I understand it, was a significant military power, although not one of the major ones.

            And, if Hitler had started the war then, would he have had a Soviet alliance?

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m pretty sure that the German general staff had already lost that fight, in part due to one of the worst-timed sex scandals ever. If they do somehow block Hitler in 1938, that basically just means blocking him until sometime in the 1940-44 range, because they were pretty much all in favor of a war of expansion and only concerned about the timing and balance of forces.

            We want 1938, if there’s going to be a war at all, to get it over with as quickly as possible and while Germany is as weak as possible. We particularly don’t want 1938 to end with something that to the outside world looks like “those wacky Nazis backed down; I guess they aren’t that big a danger after all” while the Nazis themselves see it as “we need a few more years of Maximum Rearmament before we go to war with everybody”.

          • DarkTigger says:

            @Lambert
            Yes, and also there was the most modern defense line in the Sudetenland. So taking it by force would have been as much of a non-starter as invading France via Strasbourg.
            By taking the Sudetenland diplomaticly, Germany was able to dismantle Czechoslovakias whole defense concept, and taking a lot of infrastructure to train assaulting fortified positions (e.g. they trained for Eben Emal on formaly Czechoslovakian fortresses).

            @DavidFriedmannm John Schilling
            Germany wouldn’t have a lot of time left to do something big. The German economy started to run on fumes, and it needed the plunder from foreign treasuries to keep paying for the expansion of the armed forces.

      • Anthony says:

        I become an Austrian policeman in Sarajevo and arrest Gavrilo Princip.

    • albatross11 says:

      I think the trick here would be to possess someone very influential and respected, and use them to have an annus mirabilis where they invent a bunch of technology that will be useful in changing the world. Maybe possess Newton[1] in his last few years and write a treatise on how germs cause most diseases, can be seen with microscopes, and can be killed with alcohol and washed away with soap. In a year, I won’t be able to construct a huge amount of evidence, but with Newton’s prestige, this will probably be widely accepted and followed.

      Or maybe try going back further to Aristotle or Galen and do the same thing. Or spend a year as Aristotle or some similarly-placed person writing a 2500-years-early version of _The Origin of Species_. I’m not sure what 2500 extra years of understanding broadly how evolution works will do to the world, but it should be interesting. Add in a treatise describing the basics of how genes work, and another explaining the germ theory of disease, and you’ll probably shake the world in a lot of interesting ways.

      I’d be afraid to monkey with history anywhere close to the cold war, because I think it was relatively likely we would end up having a nuclear exchange.

      [1] The problem being that I’m not remotely the one-of-a-kind genius that Newton was, so everyone might be talking about Newton’s sad mental decline and how he’s writing all this weird biology/germ stuff but seems just a lot less intelligent than he was before….

      • Jon S says:

        You could sort of collaborate with Newton, though the process would be a little slower. You inhabit him, incept the ideas (and write down some notes while you’re in there), then leave and let him think over his brilliant flashes of insight. Repeat as necessary. While you’re giving him time to think, pop over to his correspondents and perform the same trick – start a series of letters going back and forth so they can collaborate with each other as well.

      • Konstantin says:

        I doubt that would work. Even the most well respected people develop their ideas in collaboration with their peers and as a part of the culture they are a part of. If Aristotle started talking about how disease was caused by tiny invisible creatures, he would be challenged to prove it by the pre-scientific standards of Classical Greece. You wouldn’t be able to do that. I’d go for some lower hanging fruit, such as introducing the Arabic numeral system. The utility of this is easily demonstrated, it’s ideologically neutral, it will stick because it gives clear advantages to anyone who uses it, and it will accelerate the study of mathematics.

        • albatross11 says:

          Yeah, introducing zero and Arabic numerals would be a huge win.

          I haven’t read any ancient medical treatises, so I don’t know what kind of evidence or argumentation led to ancient medical theories. The germ theory explains the way contagion works and why good sewers and water supplies prevent disease really well, though, whereas I don’t think the four-biles kind of theory gives you any explanation for that.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        The Greeks did have the germ theory of disease. Fat lot of good it did them. Galen is probably the guy who chose to discard it.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Or spend a year as Aristotle or some similarly-placed person writing a 2500-years-early version of _The Origin of Species_.

        Bloody hell, I hope not. Ancient Greece already had its eugenicists (cf. the Spartans, Plato’s Republic), and introducing the theory of evolution would only increase their number.

        • albatross11 says:

          If only there were some benefit to understanding how the natural world came to be *other* than inventing eugenics….

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Evolution is a neat theory, but I’m not sure it has many practical benefits for improving human life. Maybe helping to understand how germs can become resistant to antibiotics, but then I doubt ancient Greek medicine was good enough for that to be a factor anyway. Other than that, you have things such as eugenics and scientific racism, neither of which does much to improve people’s quality of life.

          • Aapje says:

            @The original Mr. X

            Plant and animal breeding is hugely important!

          • fibio says:

            Modern medicine is built on the back of evolutionary theory. Most directly, evolution underlies the majority of our understanding of how novel diseases develop. Understanding how structures in biology evolved and in what order also gives us huge insight into the function of human biology. This is a fundamental part of novel drug development and leads into treatment methods.

          • JayT says:

            @ Aapje, people were effectively breeding plants and animals long before Darwin’s time, has the theory of evolution really affected that science much? I’m not doubting it, I’m just curious.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            There is a wide range of effectiveness in plant and animal breeding. People long before Darwin were breeding, but not very effectively. There was a revolution in breeding shortly before Darwin that inspired him. The revolution continued after him, but I don’t think it’s clear how much difference he made.

            Varro says that the Romans learned breeding from the Greeks.

          • albatross11 says:

            Providing the rudiments of genetics (maybe just Mendel and the breeders’ equation?) would help a lot with selective breeding of animals and plants. But I also expect that two thousand additional years of having a broadly accurate understanding of the natural world would have borne fruit in better understanding of the world generally. If nothing else, it makes biology make a hell of a lot more intuitive sense!

            Assuming a widely-accepted theory of evolution among classical philosophers, people will understand what fossils must be, and will likely be thinking in terms of the right time scales for geology (or at least within a couple orders of magnitude of the right time scales).

      • albatross11 says:

        Interesting question: How far back could you go and invent, say, corrective lenses, the telescope and the microscope? Get microscopes widely known and used, and you’ll push forward lots of discoveries, including germs as the cause of disease. Get telescopes widely used, and you’ll push forward astronomy and mechanics.

        Or, how about spending a year writing a treatise on probability theory and gambling? The “and gambling” hook will cause the treatise to be widely copied and read, and the probability theory content will provide a big boost to all kinds of science and mathematics once people get started with it. (Not sure I’m up for doing probability calculations in Roman numerals, though….if you can’t do multiplication efficiently, it’s going to be damned painful to work through probabilities even for simple cases!)

        • Jaskologist says:

          Glasses are more important than telescopes and microscopes. They let a large portion of the population work more productively, and for a much longer fraction of their lives.

          • Statismagician says:

            Disagree. Telescopes and microscopes open up whole new fields of endeavor, glasses make fewer people than you’d think better at stuff which mostly doesn’t matter outside of specific modern contexts. I’m legally blind without mine; it straight-up does not matter in my daily life except for driving and I usually don’t bother putting them otherwise. This will be more true, not less going backwards, except for stuff like hunting and military archery where you’re already going to be disproportionately selecting people who’d have better-than-average vision to begin with.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m legally blind without mine; it straight-up does not matter in my daily life except for driving and I usually don’t bother putting them otherwise.

            This really surprises me. I might not be unproductive without my glasses, but they sure do improve my quality of life.
            I’m quite nearsighted, but I don’t think I’m legally blind.

          • acymetric says:

            I’m going to speculate that @Statismagician is

            A) Barely over the threshold for “legally blind”, and probably underestimating the impact of truly bad eyesight on people with worse vision than his.

            B) Possibly farsighted, understimating the different challenges that face nearsighted people (less confident of this, I’m quite confident in the former)

            For example, I started trying to see if I could type the rest of this response without my glasses…answer: nope, can’t read anything on the screen. I probably can’t recognize anyone until they get within about 3-4 feet of me, unless possibly it is someone I expect to see and I saw them earlier with my glasses on, in which case I might recognize them by the color of their clothes.

            @Statismagician

            Are you legally blind, as in can collect disability, or legally blind as in your driver’s license indicates that you have to wear prescription lenses to drive?

          • albatross11 says:

            The big win with glasses, once they get cheap enough: more-or-less everyone over 40 has their eyes change focus in a way that makes it increasingly hard to do close-in work. Reading glasses let a 50 year old craftsman continue doing close-in work. That’s potentially a very big improvement in the world.

          • Statismagician says:

            @acymetric

            The second – I thought that was clear, but apologies if not. Your A) is also right; I’m at about 20/250. I had assumed a large majority of people had better vision than I do and very few were significantly worse, but I didn’t think to actually check that and so could be totally off-base – mea culpa.

        • Lambert says:

          It took a long time to figure out how to make clear enough glass.
          If you want to invent the telescope before the high medieval, it’ll probably be necessary to spend a decade or so in the present as some kind of experimental archaeologist.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ef2_aaYpZSI

          • Another Throw says:

            Only if you are interested in refracting telescopes.

            I suspect you could make a good enough telescope with polished metal mirror(s) to get people interested pretty easily. Bronze mirrors have been made since the neolithic, and while not very reflective bronze is probably good enough to make a working telescope. Speculum is basically just bronze with 2-3x the usual tin content and is what early reflecting telescopes were made of. It is only about 2/3rds reflective, brittle, and prone to tarnish. But you’ll definitely get people interested! William Herschel and all those chaps were using speculum mirrors in their telescopes.

            Silvered glass is also, all things considered, not that difficult if you know the secrets and don’t mind giving people mercury poisoning. Still prone to tarnish but something like 90% reflective. It also doesn’t rely on the clarity of the glass, just being free of voids (in the reflecting surface).

            If you have tons of it you could also just make a mirror out of solid gold (or silver). Something like 95% reflective through about half the visible spectrum——it is really shiny!——and not prone to tarnish. Good luck accumulating that much gold (or silver) without without getting stabbed, though.

          • Lambert says:

            Forgot about that. ?
            Or there’s always the ‘spinning bowl of mercury’ trick. So long as you want to look directly upwards and don’t mind the whole ‘spinning bowl of mercury’ thing.

            Note that the reason telescopes became popular wasn’t astronomy.
            The question people sought to answer was not ‘what is man’s place in the cosmos?’, but ‘are those ships on the horizon friendly or not?’

          • Another Throw says:

            I don’t think you can make a usable parabolic liquid mercury mirror with pre-modern technology. If Issac Goddamn Newton couldn’t do it, what chance do I have?

        • Douglas Knight says:

          This is my third comment saying that no, they already had that knowledge.

          This page makes a variety of claims about ancient lenses. Nero famously used an emerald monocle to watch the gladiators. Schliemann found dozens of polished crystal magnifying glasses at Troy. They have been lost, but many have been found at Neo-Assyrian sites and during the classical period. I’m unclear on the dating of Cretan magnifiers, some of which is Classical and some of which might be Bronze Age. The Hellenistic period had clear glass. An engraver in Pompeii had a magnifier made of glass.

          Telescopes are more controversial. It claims that Ibn Khordadbeh claimed to have used a telescope in the Lighthouse in the 9th century, although I don’t see anyone else claiming that. The page also has a picture of a Greek pot that seems to depict a telescope pointed at the heavens, but it’s pretty hard to say. There are medieval manuscripts that depict astronomers pointing tubes at the heavens. The identification as astronomers is valuable in identifying the instruments as telescopes, though they might have just been empty tubes, but why would they flare?

          I am not aware of any evidence for microscopes in antiquity, though.

          • Lambert says:

            Ok, that hellenistic glass looks plenty clear enough for basic telescopes.
            For some reason search results for stuff like ‘ancient glass’ and ‘Roman glass’ look kind of crappy.

        • Protagoras says:

          Microscopes are really hard. Early microscopes basically didn’t work, because of various distortion effects, and they didn’t realize they didn’t work because they didn’t know what the things they were looking at should look like. It was a long, long time (more than a century, if I recall correctly) from people having what they thought were microscopes to microscopes that were in any way actually useful. So if you aren’t an expert on microscopes, you can mostly tell people it can be done, and I suppose warn people that their first efforts won’t work, but it is unclear exactly how much giving people that information will speed anything up.

          • noyann says:

            Have there really been no water droplet microscopes before Leeuwenhoek? Water drops are ubiquitous, so are children, and children peer at everything. Did nobody older get the idea from that to experiment with what they saw through a droplet?

          • Clutzy says:

            I agree.

            The microscopes at your average high school (from my exp) are mostly useless. They are very hard to use, basically just give you blobs at most settings.

    • Garrett says:

      Find someone to push FDR off a cliff (or into the path of an oncoming train) in his wheelchair early in his paralysis.

      • albatross11 says:

        Why are you confident that the alternative presidents would do better getting the US through the depression and WW2? This seems way less obviously a win than possessing Woodrow Wilson to make him do something that rendered him permanently unelectable before he ran for president.

    • EchoChaos says:

      How fast you can switch might matter as well. Being able to take over the entire Supreme Soviet and have each of them speak in turn might allow you to make larger changes than expected.

      The obvious best thing to do in terms of reducing overall human suffering is to have Mao misdirect the Long March and have all of them captured by the Nationalist Chinese.

      While Nationalist China probably wouldn’t have the per capita GDP of Taiwan, it would save untold millions of lives and spark massive innovation and learning.

    • OriginalSeeing says:

      Is there a time limit on how long I can wait to use it? Otherwise I would likely save it to prevent an extreme catastrophe in the future.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Jesus the Nazarene.

    • Purplehermann says:

      Go back to the time of Rav Ashi and nag him ascot writing more clearly for a year

    • noyann says:

      EDIT: got this wrong:
      but no later than 1 year before you were born

      Was this added later as an edit? And very late so? If not, the SSC commentariat has an unusually high concentration of living Methuselahs.

      ===========
      As there seems no limit on possessing people, and no limit on dates to go to (y’understand what I mean) I’d do this.

      Go to my birth minus 1y first, then, in ghost state, I’d be aware of every offender of world problems (violent conflicts, oppressions, carbon fuel defending, ecological devastation (the current rate of species extinction is alarming), etc).

      I’d possess and suicide the worst of them.
      Repeat every 5yrs until now.

      Weeding out the worst for >1/2century should raise the probabilities for better todays and tomorrows, by improving culture, historical role models, and (slightly) the gene pool. A tiny drawback might be some imitation suicides, though.

      This year spent on permanently killing my body would be horrible for me, until there is a fun way available, like base jumping without a ‘chute and leaving the body before impact. If there isn’t, searching for good ways to kill myself would take time off of the effective action, so, no.

      • Statismagician says:

        You’re misreading the specification – the latest possible time you can be a ghost is one year before your true birthdate; no restriction on earliest.

        • noyann says:

          You are right. (“ONE wrong-way driver?!? HUNDREDS!!!!”) Thank you.

          So I adjust my action to “up to 1year before” and start, maybe, some time in the early 1800s.

          • How confident are you that you know enough to judge who you should murder?

            Consider how much disagreement there is on what people made the world better or worse, even for the past century. Some people would include Shaw, Keynes, and FDR on their hit list, others would say they were the ones it was most important to keep alive. Similarly for Franco, Pinochet, Castro, … .

            To put my point less tactfully, what does your proposal say about you?

          • noyann says:

            How confident are you that you know enough to judge who you should murder?

            That depends on the clarity of the information, of course. But because [w]hile possessing the person you will gain access to all their memories — there should be evidence of past actions and intentions that are much more certain than any court today has available.

            Also, as an incorporeal ghost [ … ] you will be aware of where every single human being on Earth is, what they are doing and what is happening around them. That will provide then-current contexts to deepen the understanding of what they were doing at that time and why.

            Consider how much disagreement there is on what people made the world better or worse, even for the past century.

            Good point. But 365 days is fairly short, so we’d need to focus on the most unambiguous cases anyway. Give a few minutes to in-possess and out-possess, another few min to orient oneself inside the mind/body/situation of the possessed, and some longer time to carry out the suicide. Assuming 20 mins/suicide we get 26280 killed in 365 days (assuming one could keep this up 24/7, that is), killed from a 150-year period (as per my amendmend above). That makes an average of 175,2 evil newcomers per historical year that we’d have to be really certain about, from the whole globe, from all mankind (pick a longer period to have even less and higher chances of certainty). To spend time doing research in preparation to get at the most obvious cases would probably be a waste of time.

            A further point to consider is when to stop them, (even Pol Pot has been an innocent baby at one time; or think of a freedom fighter who turned into a despot when in power, who would need to be force-ceded power at the right time). Hence the 5-year jumps — come to think of it, maybe a day-to-day basis would allow finer control. Still, the exact point when people shifted morals (and then locked themselves into defenses and rationalizations) [citation needed] enough for the death-warrant is definitely a matter of great uncertainty.

            I guess your mind raced straight to the edge cases: the tragic, the theorist, the destroyer-as-precondition-for-improvement.

            Very few well-meaning folks in real life ended in a trap of tragic developments when their best intentions turned out to have horrible results. But it makes great stories since at least Laios.

            Theorists cannot be held responsible for the atrocities that implementors of their ideas commit. So, Marx shall live despite the existence of the GULAG.

            Similarly, nobody shall be excused because of later positive developments after the destructions and deaths they commanded.

            Some people would include Shaw, Keynes, and FDR on their hit list, others would say they were the ones it was most important to keep alive. Similarly for Franco, Pinochet, Castro, … .

            Judging from within an ideology or preference is not comparable to the level of insight we would have in the scenario — and we are very fortunate that we would not have to justify our deeds to anyone with less insight. 🙂

            To put my point less tactfully, what does your proposal say about you?

            That I am either enjoying the thought of multiple suicides and loved the pretext to revel in it, a morbid writer, or that I am merely in a black mood today. What were you hinting at?

            A more general remark: Why have so many answers been a deterministic one-point intervention, for such a complex chaotic system as human history?

          • JayT says:

            Do you really even need to kill these people? It would probably be enough to take over someone like Hitler when he was a youth and just move him far away from home, no? Check up on him every few years to make sure he isn’t starting up the Nazi party in Melbourne, or where ever you put him, and if he is, take him over and move him again!

          • Lambert says:

            The Hitler who spent his youth in Braunau, Passau, Lambach, München, Wien, Linz, Ieper, Arras, Beelitz, Pasewalk, etc?

          • JayT says:

            And every time he moves he happens to lose his passport! Oh Hitler, you’re so absent minded!

          • noyann says:

            Do you really even need to kill these people? It would probably be enough to take over someone like Hitler

            Although Hitler would certainly be one of the certain cases early on, my guess is that the cultural climate (antisemitism, nationalism, conflict solving through war) would float someone like him to the top. And the education of that time, the widespread poverty and violence provided much fuhrer material (maybe of somewhat lesser quality, but still capable).

            My idea is more akin to breeding (take out the weakest of the herd, or those sick with a contagious disease). Its changing the probability of atrocities, by clipping off the worst end of the bell curve. Of course the final rabid top dog is among those taken away.

            Of course, if there was a way to alter someone’s personality irreversibly, the suicides would be, erm, overkill. But If you made [the possessed people] act our of character, they might try to undo your actions, feeling like they changed their minds. Drastic OOC actions might make them feel like they gone mad, or maybe even possessed, so there is a lower certainty of results, and more time needed to achieve a lasting change.

          • baconbits9 says:

            How confident are you that you know enough to judge who you should murder?

            If given the near omniscience about actual events I would feel pretty comfortable murdering a fair number of people. Hitler level dictators, serial killers, the person who invented robo calling.

  50. I don’t see what is wrong with Divine Command Theory(assuming the existence of God). It’s supposedly refuted by the Euthyphro Dilemma where you have to deal with two problems on the nature of morality. Either morality is determined by God’s will, in which case it’s arbitrary, or it’s not determined by God, in which the all powerful God didn’t create it and it exists independent of him. But I don’t think the first part of the dilemma is that big of a deal. That may seem “arbitrary” to us, but so what?

    Think of it in teleological terms by taking the example of a clock. I built the clock and you ask me why I built it. I say it’s to tell time. Then you ask me why I think clocks should tell time when I could build it to do something else. That’s a weird question. The clock was built to tell time because that’s the purpose I gave it. It’s as simple as that. In the same way, we could say that God created morality to serve his purposes and questioning why he did that is just missing the point.

    • keaswaran says:

      The issue isn’t just that divine commands are arbitrary – it’s that they’re arbitrary in a way that makes it unclear why we should think they play any of the roles that morality is meant to play. If morality is just the rules some big and powerful guy told you to follow, then it’s not obvious that you should think better of someone who follows those rules and worse of someone who doesn’t, or that you should think it would be better all things considered to follow those rules than to break them in order to help someone you care about, or that legal systems should agree with these rules. God created morality to serve his purposes, and questioning why is missing the point – but questioning why we should follow it is precisely the point.

    • Bugmaster says:

      One problem with this argument is that it’s inapplicable to any decisions you might consider making. Firstly, God could be evil or indifferent; in this case, following his moral precepts would still be a pretty bad idea. Secondly, God could be benevolent and powerful, but not very smart (by cosmic standards). In this case, he might mean well, but we should still use our own judgement.

      Even if we assume that God is omniscient and omnibenevolent, we still run into a problem: God may be all-seeing, but you’re not. How do you know what God actually wants you to do ? Even seemingly simple commands such as “thou shall not kill” are massively ambiguous. Can you kill an animal ? Can you kill a human in self-defence ? Can you kill a human for worshipping the wrong God ? Can you kill yourself ? People are still hotly debating these questions today, and that’s just one example.

      So, no matter what, we need to use some sort of a home-grown moral system to determine what course of action would be best. The practical version of Divine Command Theory does not say, “do what God wants you to do” (unless perhaps you happen to be a prophet), but rather, “do what you can reasonably infer God would want you to do, based on available evidence”. Unfortunately, as soon as you bring evidence into the mix, faith-based moral systems begin to unravel pretty quickly. Faith is the antithesis of evidence, so at best you would arrive at a sort of moral solipsism: your morality works for you personally, but for no one else. This flaw makes other moral systems more robust, pretty much by default.

      • marshwiggle says:

        Minor nitpick – ‘thou shalt not kill’ doesn’t actually say anything that ambiguous. The Hebrew translates more like ‘thou shalt not murder’ or ‘though shalt not murder or manslaughter’ or something along those lines. Plus there are supporting commands elsewhere in the Torah to reduce ambiguity even further. More generally, the Torah is fairly good at doing things to reduce ambiguity. Sometimes the Torah requires reading all the words of a section to notice it, but the ways of reducing ambiguity are often really there in plain sight.

        Major nitpick – faith is not the antithesis of evidence. Faith is not synonymous with evidence either. For instance, say you believe something because of evidence. Faith can let you continue to act consistently with your belief even when emotions or circumstances make that hard to do.

        Second major nitpick – As part of reasonably inferring what God would want you to do, Christians can refer to what the prophets and apostles have said in similar situations. They get the help of the Holy Spirit in interpreting those precedents and commands. They can believe that God has arranged the evidence in front of them in ways that make their efforts to decide wisely possible. They can pray asking for wisdom.

        In short, the system might not be robust if God doesn’t exist, I’ll grant that. But God exists in this hypothetical, no? You seem to have left God out of calculating its robustness.

        To be clear, I am not arguing in favor of Divine Command theory. But I find your arguments against it rather flawed in important ways.

        • Bugmaster says:

          ‘thou shalt not kill’ doesn’t actually say anything that ambiguous.

          You follow that up with various sources that people have used over the years to try and reduce the ambiguity, which pertain to (at best) one specific religion out of many conflicting ones… so, I stand by my statement.

          Major nitpick – faith is not the antithesis of evidence.

          I should have said that I was talking specifically about religious faith: “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. For instance, when atheists ask, “why doesn’t God publicly reveal himself to everyone tomorrow”, one answer that theists offer up is, R