Open Thread 148.5

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881 Responses to Open Thread 148.5

  1. Three Year Lurker says:

    Space is not flat. Expansion occurs over time, and time passes slower in higher gravity. Voids age faster than dense areas, so they expand more. This leads to the conclusion that distance through a void can be greater than the distance around divided by pi.
    This affects the angles objects are viewed from and calculated positions.

    • eigenmoon says:

      That effect sounds implausibly large. I’d expect that if the matter around the void is gravitationally bound, then nothing happens because the extra space produced by the void is consumed by the sphere of matter surrounding it. If it’s not gravitationally bound, it will just fly asunder until there’s no more possible way to make it through the void or around it.

      • Three Year Lurker says:

        Adding qualifiers seemed to obscure my meaning more than they helped, so I left them out.
        The gravitational binding between objects on opposite sides of a void causes them to drift into the space coming from the void. Imagine a rope pulling a ship upriver.

        Gravitational binding of structures larger than ~500 MLY is already believed impossible (the exceptions are considered unexplained mysteries), so voids tearing apart structures by expanding is plausible.

    • theodidactus says:

      well if nothing else your “voids age faster than surrounding space, so they are much older” conclusion has fun implications for my Science Fantasy story, so thanks.

  2. Dack says:

    Is there a valid argument for daylight savings time?

    • AlesZiegler says:

      Yes. Employers unwilling to adjust work hours.

      • Dack says:

        Even if we take for granted a need to adjust work hours, employers already have very diverse work hours.

        • AlesZiegler says:

          employers already have very diverse work hours.

          Now I do not think that it constitutes a valid counterargument against adjusting work hours.

          • Dack says:

            What is the argument for adjusting work hours then?

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @Dack

            I am actually not necessarily convinced that daylight savings time is a good idea, but certainly there is a valid argument that many people on the one hand do not want do get up too long before a dawn, and on the other hand, on a summer days, they prefer to end their workday as early as possible in order to both not work when temperatures are highest and to enjoy sunshine.

            This of course applies only to places where there is a large difference between an amount of daylight in winter vs summer, ie. more to Europe than to the US.

    • The Pachyderminator says:

      No.

    • Plumber says:

      @Dack says:

      “Is there a valid argument for daylight savings time?”

      I despise Daylight Savings Crime!, but without it I imagine my boss would demand we come in before 6AM all damn year long instead of for the most of the year when 6AM is nominally 7AM!

      DST is a war crime committed by old and suburban against the young and urban, but since you youngsters don’t bother to vote it remains.

      If DST was still only half the year instead of now being most of it it would be easier to stomach, but it looks like the DST’ers will continue the onslaught and conquest of more months and force me to use a flashlight for my morning commute all damn year long!

      • Rebecca Friedman says:

        I vote! I vote!

        (Most people my age who I know are solidly anti-DST, although obvious biases.)

        • Plumber says:

          @Rebecca Friedman says:

          “I vote! I vote!

          (Most people my age who I know are solidly anti-DST, although obvious biases.)”

          Bless you and thank you for that!

    • cassander says:

      I don’t like it dark in the mornings. the question is, is there an argument for standard time!

      • Eric Rall says:

        I like sleeping in and staying up late. Early to bed and early to rise makes a man tired and blind in the eyes.

        I think Robertson Davies said it best

        I don’t really care how time is reckoned so long as there is some agreement about it, but I object to being told that I am saving daylight when my reason tells me that I am doing nothing of the kind. I even object to the implication that I am wasting something valuable if I stay in bed after the sun has risen. As an admirer of moonlight I resent the bossy insistence of those who want to reduce my time for enjoying it. At the back of the Daylight Saving scheme I detect the bony, blue-fingered hand of Puritanism, eager to push people into bed earlier, and get them up earlier, to make them healthy, wealthy and wise in spite of themselves.

        • cassander says:

          >Early to bed and early to rise makes a man tired and blind in the eyes.

          wise words.

      • The Pachyderminator says:

        DST makes the mornings darker.

    • Erusian says:

      Personally, I’d like to see a system where everyone uses the same hours everywhere in 24 hour format with no daylight savings. Someone in New York just accepts that rather than a 9-5 job they have a 5-13 job, which will be the same actual time but is calculated by this universal clock. This means everyone is always referring to the same hour all the time at the cost of ‘noon’ and ‘midnight’ no longer referring to 12am/pm. Seems like a worthwhile trade to me, especially in a more globalized world.

      • Lambert says:

        I also agree with this, but mostly because I’m British and I’ll never have to wonder what time ’12:18′ is wherever Scott lives.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I disagree; I think having one universal clock will make it much harder to coordinate across timezones. Today, if I (in Seattle) want to talk to someone from the North Carolina office, I can look at my clock and the time zone conversion and see that it’s 4:15 PM. Good; I can expect them to answer if I call or email now, but I should do so soon because they’ll probably be going home in another hour. If I try to contact the Ireland office… well, it’s 9:15 PM already, so don’t expect to get an answer till tomorrow. It works the same way if I’m planning to call my friends or relatives across the country and want to know if they’re likely to be busy at work or asleep.

        In your world, how would I go about this? I’d need to consult some table of standard wake / work / sleep hours across different parts of the world. But, that would just be a messier way of converting time zones. Worse, since there probably wouldn’t be any standards, we’d be back to the mid-1800’s where the Standard Hours Table could show different results for Baltimore and Philadelphia.

        Having standard time zones is much more convenient in practice.

      • bullseye says:

        If the whole world is one time zone, then the whole world transitions from one calendar date to the next at the same time – which for a lot of people will be in the middle of the day. (The Pacific Ocean isn’t big enough to prevent this; I read a proposal that would put the whole world on GMT, and that puts 12 am in daylight hours for both western North America and eastern Asia.)

      • phisheep says:

        That would get a touch complicated.

        So you want to abolish time zones?

    • Without it the light of the early mourning in the summer is wasted because people are asleep. This can be good in some climates and bad in others.

      • Dack says:

        Artificial lighting is ubiquitous. Work continues 24/7 in every industry that wants to. People still get the same amount of sleep (after they recover from the disruption of circadian rhythm). So who actually benefits from an extra hour of natural light? Golfers? They could light up their courses if they really wanted to.

        • Artificial lighting is ubiquitous.

          I beg to differ. And I’m in a city, it has to be much worse in a rural area.

          • Lambert says:

            Getting home and seeing darkness out the window is like my least favourite part of Modernity. Even lighting I can crank up to 6500K doesn’t compare.

          • JayT says:

            Waking up in the dark is infinitely worse than getting home from work in the dark.

          • Plumber says:

            @JayT says: “Waking up in the dark is infinitely worse than getting home from work in the dark”

            +1!

          • LesHapablap says:

            Waking up in the dark makes me feel like Rocky Balboa. It’s awesome!

            Getting home in the dark, to sit around for five hours until it is finally time to sleep, sucks.

          • Loriot says:

            I for one love waking up in the dark.

        • Matt says:

          In the fall I can leave work an hour early and rock climb until dark. When the time changes, we have to wear headlamps, which kind of sucks and increases the general amount of danger.

          Once winter arrives fully, the sun has already set when I leave work at 5pm. That sucks a lot.

          • Nick says:

            I leave work at 4:30 and basically don’t have an evening in the winter. It’s very frustrating, especially since my street is not lit, so if I want to go to the store after work I’m doing it in almost total darkness.

        • AlesZiegler says:

          So who actually benefits from an extra hour of natural light?

          Many people do. I would probably personally prefer to have daylight savings time workhours all year, except those times when sunset is so early that there is dark after work anyway.

          • Plumber says:

            @AlesZiegler ,
            And I’d personally prefer it to not have to need a flashlight to go to work ten months out of the year, I wish Standard Time was the majority of months instead!

          • Lambert says:

            IMHO, you’re better off letting your eyes adjust to the darkness.
            Flashlights just make everywhere it’s not poining at pitch black.

          • Matt says:

            When you actually have to work in the dark you should use a headlamp.

            In the summers in Kansas working construction we adjusted our start time to be ‘start rolling out tools as the sky began to lighten’.

            In mid-summer, a 6am-2pm shift was the best way to beat the heat.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @Plumber

            To state the obvious, our preferences on time change are in fact perfectly compatible. Those people who want to work different hours in winter than in summer are the “problem”.

        • Plumber says:

          @Dack says:

          “Artificial lighting is ubiquitous. Work continues 24/7 in every industry that wants to. People still get the same amount of sleep (after they recover from the disruption of circadian rhythm). So who actually benefits from an extra hour of natural light? Golfers? They could light up their courses if they really wanted to”

          Not ubiquitous enough, I’ve had hundreds of mornings of stumbling in the dark working construction because of the start times, I complained to my union rep that conditions were unsafe due to the early start times, but too many members have long commutes and want daylight after work.

          I hate it!

  3. johan_larson says:

    Anyone out there who has never eaten a Big Mac? How did that happen?

    • Tumblewood says:

      I was a picky eater until age 12 and would only get the chicken nuggets, then at 13 I stopped caring so much for McDonald’s. Also relied on being in a family that didn’t get much fast food.

    • Loriot says:

      Pretty much the same as Tumblewood. I was a pick eater, am not really found of McDonalds, and don’t like hamburgers much, though McDonalds burgers barely qualify for the term to begin with.

    • HarmlessFrog says:

      Burgers never appealed; I’m not sure if I’ve ever eaten one. Fast food I enjoyed was chicken nuggets and fries.

    • Matt says:

      Not as picky as tumblewood, but also a picky eater, here. I just got hamburgers/cheeseburgers with ketchup and pickles on them. Now I dislike paying for an… erm… ‘premium’ sandwich at McDonald’s because if I’m going to pay $4 for a burger, I’ll get it at a place that has better quality.

    • b_jonas says:

      I haven’t eaten a Big Mac (I have eaten a McDonalds cheeseburger once). But now that you mention it, I should probably try the Big Mac *once*, given how famous it is, just to know what this is about.

      I live in Hungary, where there couldn’t have been American fast food restaurants before 1989, and it took some time for them to open with a large number of locations after that (though admittedly McDonalds was the fastest). I am a picky eater, and by the time they opened, I was somewhat fixed in what I want to eat. These days I eat at fast food restaurants often, namely McDonalds, KFC and Burger King, but I usually order chicken breast nuggets and fries.

    • John Schilling says:

      I don’t recall ever having eaten a Big Mac, but I can’t be certain it didn’t happen in early childhood. I did learn early on that I don’t like mayonnaise or mayonnaise-based sauces on, well, much of everything but particularly burgers. So my standard order at McDonald’s has always been the quarter-pounder and/or Royale, with cheese.

      Probably had five hundred of those growing up; I doubt I’ll have fifty in the rest of my life, but it is still a fair choice if I’m travelling and I need a break from the more “authentic” local options.

    • Kindly says:

      I’ve eaten at McDonalds plenty, but I’ve always been worried that my mouth wouldn’t open wide enough to be able to eat a Big Mac.

      • GearRatio says:

        This isn’t a problem for two reasons: real life big macs aren’t as tall as big macs in commercials, and the buns are mostly air and squish down when you bite them.

        • Kindly says:

          Hm, maybe I can try one then for the cultural experience, but it’s neither convenient nor particularly interesting to eat at McDonald’s these days, so it might have to wait.

          It’s an option at airports, I suppose.

          • GearRatio says:

            I mean, it’s not exactly visiting MOMA or anything. I wouldn’t feel too bad if you miss it. I say that as someone who likes and appreciates McDonalds, even. It’s fine. It’s food.

    • BBA says:

      Picky eater. Not a burger guy. Certainly not a fast food burger guy.

    • DinoNerd says:

      I don’t know whether I’ve ever eaten a big Mac.

      There was one time when I was stuck at (IIRC) the Toronto Zoo, and McDonalds was the only food available. I ordered two of some kind of burger, being very hungry, and was able to choke down the first one and part of the second. What I don’t know is whether it was called a “Big Mac”. I do remember that it tasted rather like rancid grease; the thought of eating a McDonald’s burger makes me gag to this day, even though this event was at least 25 years ago, possibly as much as 40.

      It’s also possible that I’d tried one previously, with less bad results – by the time of the zoo incident, McDonalds was already on my “don’t eat there if there’s any alternative” list. But I think it got there because my parents detested it, rather than bcause of any experiences of my own.

      OTOH, there was a time when I appreciated and regularly consumed McDonalds’ breakfasts.

      The only chain burgers I eat at all regularly come from Wendy’s. But I much prefer the two local independent (one might be a tiny local chain) burger places.

    • crh says:

      Too picky as a kid, don’t really eat at McDonald’s as an adult.

    • Dack says:

      I’ve had one or two. I expect never again. A burger should have ketchup. And less than 3 buns.

    • Erusian says:

      I don’t think so. I ate very little fast food growing up. When I did want an unhealthy treat it was usually ice cream. Later on I ate some more fast food as a teenager but one particularly bad sandwich made me violently ill, so ill that I was briefly hospitalized. That caused me to swear off all fast food for the better part of a decade. I ate more fast food in college but when I went to Burger King (which was rare compared to Wendy’s) I usually got something like chicken nuggets.

      In general, I’m not a big burger eater though. Maybe I should try all the classic burgers just once to see?

    • Evan Þ says:

      I’ve never eaten one. My mother’s a dietician, so I rarely got fast food at all growing up, and when I did it was usually something other than hamburgers. (She says red meat is worse for you than other meat, and the BSE scare in the 90’s didn’t help either.) I had McDonalds hamburgers during one year or so when I was really young and a picky eater, but IIRC never a Big Mac.

      Nowadays, I still rarely eat fast food.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      I’ve never eaten a Big Mac. As a kid I ate McDonald’s hamburgers, but eventually I came to realize that they were really pretty crap. So I never found myself eating a Big Mac as an adult. I guess there was a period inbetween when I’d outgrown the Happy Meals but hadn’t yet stopped eating their hamburgers, but, as a picky eater, and also as someone who didn’t have a big appetite at the time, I’d just get ordinary hamburgers there, not the Big Mac. It’s honestly kind of mysterious to me that McDonald’s is known primarily as a burger place when their burgers are so bad. By contrast I quite some of their chicken dishes. It’s really too bad they got rid of the chicken selects, those were great. Their new chicken tenders are much worse by comparison. These days when I go to McDonald’s I stick to the chicken sandwiches.

      (You could say, oh, well it’s everything on the Big Mac that makes it good, to which I say, bah! Fundamentals! Their chicken sandwiches are quite tasty even with nothing on them, and if the things on the Big Mac are truly so great, you’d still be better off putting them on a better base like the chicken!)

    • beleester says:

      Big Macs aren’t kosher.

    • Lord Nelson says:

      I’m very picky about food textures. Burgers should have beef and cheese, maybe onions, but nothing else.

      Also, my mouth barely opens wide enough for a standard burger, let alone a Big Mac.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Madness: burgers taste better with each vegetable added, at least up to the standard four of onion/lettuce/tomato/pickles.

    • ryan8518 says:

      As a kid, grew up in a household that avoided beef (due to mother’s bad stomach reactions, and she did the cooking), mostly growing up overseas (navy), and that avoided fast food. As an adult, never developed a taste for beef or fast food, so the few times I get pushed into such a store I’ll get the chicken or fish option. In polite company I can justify on avoiding it on ethical/environmental concerns, but in reality I’m more just a picky eater by nature and from the few burgers I’ve had I don’t really enjoy them (the best part was onions+tomatoes……and there are better ways to get those)

    • fibio says:

      Never had a Big Mac, did get happy meals though. Don’t think I even started eating burgers until my teens, I had a thing about mixing flavors that didn’t really go away until then. By the time I actually started liking burgers I was at Uni and had the money to eat somewhere a little more upscale like GBK.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Me. I always order a quarter-pounder.

    • Purplehermann says:

      Not kosher

      • johan_larson says:

        Are any of the McD’s burgers kosher? By low standards, at least?

        • AlphaGamma says:

          Filet-o-Fish perhaps? Plus, of course, the vegetarian options.

          (Some McDonald’s in Israel, but not all, are actually kosher.)

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      same as tumblewood

    • johan_larson says:

      Well, there’s rather more of you than I expected. Your nonconformity has been noted.

    • Rebecca Friedman says:

      Don’t think I have. My mother disapproves strongly of fast food, and I was homeschooled. By the time I got to college, I agreed with her. I have gotten a McDonalds burger of some sort once or twice in airports with nothing else around, and liked it little enough to go back to my previous strategy of “some sort of ethnic fast food that I like” without hesitation next airport I was in. Most airports have at least Chinese, Japanese, or Mexican, and those all have options with vegetables I can eat.

      (Lettuce doesn’t count.)

      • Evan Þ says:

        I share your strategy: my first choice is usually a Chinese place, because of interesting sauces and good vegetables. But, what do you think of Subway’s? When I’m in the mood for some sort of sandwich, I usually go there, because I can customize things however I like.

        • Rebecca Friedman says:

          I think you have excellent taste. Subway’s is one of my top choices in airports, right after Chinese, and I don’t even really classify it as fast food – it is, technically, but the quality reminds me much more of something I’d make at home. And I can reliably get multiple vegetables I like and none I don’t, which is a big deal for me.

          I don’t go there often outside airports since I usually eat dinner with my family and lunch at home if at all, but definitely a place I’m very happy to see around.

    • Bergil says:

      I generally don’t like hamburgers.

    • Nornagest says:

      I don’t think I ever have. I’ve eaten at McDonald’s probably 2-300 times in my life — about half in childhood, half in college when it was a quick option with a good price:calories ratio, and a handful more recently — but the Big Mac was too big for my dad to order for me as a child, too expensive compared to the basic burgers or chicken nuggets when cost was a consideration, and these days it just doesn’t look particularly appealing when the chicken sandwiches and Quarter Pounders are available. It’s a very fast food-looking burger — all that bread and iceberg lettuce.

  4. Machine Interface says:

    A lot of people online seem to think that the epidemic of covid-19 will end up being significantly worse in the US than in other developed countries. Some of the evidence cited include:

    —Trump firing the CDC pandemic response team in 2018, and generally cutting budget from the CDC.
    —The CDC having pushed its own ineffective virus test instead of the WHO one, resulting in a critical delay in initial detections.
    —Demanding that US citizens pay hefty sums to be tested and for their stay into quarantine, which will incentivize many potential infected to not declare themselves.
    —Service industry workers not expecting to get any sick-leave and get fired if they stay home will continue to go to work even when infected.
    —No enforcement against selling sanitary masks to anyone, which will result in shortages when they’re actually needed, as people are massively rushing to buy them in panic.

    As Europe is slowly gliding toward pandemic and increasingly restrictive measures are being put in place (France just banned all public gathering of “more than 5,000 people in confined space”, with exception on a case by case basis, and further banned all public gathering period in specifically affected areas), how do you think things will develop in the US?

    • Loriot says:

      Personally I assumed the US would handle it better due to having more time to prepare, but those are some good arguments against.

    • b_jonas says:

      All those except possibly the first one are generic arguments that would prove that the flu should have worse outcomes in the United States in the last ten years than in Europe. Is that the case?

      • The Pachyderminator says:

        I don’t see how any of them are applicable to the flu except maybe the service industry one.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I think most of that is just the usual bellyaching about the US not being European/”Social Democratic” enough. It’s not even worth arguing about it, though, because none of it matters. The virus is out and uncontained in both Europe and the US (Washington State, at least). It is not going to be stopped by any viable public health measure, unless someone’s had a vaccine up their sleeve for a while now.

      • viVI_IViv says:

        It is not going to be stopped by any viable public health measure, unless someone’s had a vaccine up their sleeve for a while now.

        Yes, but slowing it down can reduce its impact by preventing the health system from being overwhelmed.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Some people say they just developed a vaccine; the CDC’s setting up a lightning-speed Stage One clinical trial. So, we might have a vaccine maybe as soon as next year.

    • On the other hand:

      1. Americans are more likely to live in detached houses rather than concentrated apartments.
      2. Americans are more likely to own cars and not have to rely on public transportation.
      3. For some mysterious reason American workers and businesses are more productive than Europeans and thus can direct more resources to healthcare.(Which will probably be a lot less useful than people assume, like all medicine.)

      • Loriot says:

        I live in an apartment and use public transportation, so I guess I’m screwed. On the other hand, I also don’t go out much compared to most people.

        • albatross11 says:

          Don’t touch your face while on public transit, and wash your hands when you get off.

      • DragonMilk says:

        There’s a red state/blue state split here. Liberal cities feature concentrated apartments and public transportation (I’m in NYC).

        My guess is that suburbanites well be better off than cities, and the poltical feuding will be a Trump, “these democratic cities are so badly run they can’t even cooperate and contain a pesky little virus like you sane suburbanites” vs. Democrats decrying cutting CDC resources in 2018.

      • Chalid says:

        4. The US is a bit younger on average than most developed countries, and that seems to matter a lot for this virus’s lethality. (OTOH this might have the opposite effect, young people don’t get sick so they don’t stay home and they help the virus spread.)

        There are very few developed countries younger than the US. One of them is the success story of this epidemic, Singapore.

        • EchoChaos says:

          The US is also further south and warmer than the other developed countries, which makes us also similar to Singapore. And we keep our old people in Florida, which is very hot and humid.

          Edit: Added developed

    • zardoz says:

      One of the scary things about COVID-19 is that you can be infected, but have no symptoms at all. So even if the US had luxurious medical leave for everyone, there would still be people coming to work, feeling perfectly fine, and transmitting the virus.

      Also, while it’s difficult to make generalizations about American medical leave policies (they’re governed by a complicated patchwork of federal, state and local law), everyone has at least some time off, and the option of unpaid time off in many scenarios. In California, everyone has sick leave separate from vacation leave. I think it would be reasonable to enforce that at the federal level, but the current situation is not quite as Dickensian as some people on Twitter are making it sound.

      COVID testing in the US is definitely a shitshow. Widely available, accurate, or cheap: pick zero, I guess, when dealing with the current iteration of the CDC. They’ve also made the decision to ban independent testing, so nobody else can step in to help. Other countries seem to be doing a much better job of getting people tested. I don’t know if this is a reflection of the budget cuts in 2018, or something else, but it’s bad.

      There are some factor that could help the US, though. We never built effective public transit, so that’s one important disease vector shut down. The US is a lot less dense, as well.

      • Loriot says:

        > In California, everyone has sick leave separate from vacation leave.

        This is not quite accurate. The law requires companies to give at least three days of paid medical leave per year, but it is allowed to overlap with normal PTO. My company does not provide any paid sick leave at all beyond the normal vacation leave. (They do however have a generous remote work policy, which de-facto amounts to unlimited sick leave as long as you can still pretend to work)

        • zardoz says:

          Thanks for the clarification. I was under the impression that the 2014 California law made it mandatory to have sick leave separate from PTO. But it looks like I was wrong. Businesses can still combine them, although there are some downsides, in theory:

          It’s a best practice in California to track your employees’ sick leave separate from paid time off (PTO) that’s used for vacation. Some companies do this by setting up two leave policies. One for PTO, which is for vacation or any other purpose like an employee taking a “mental-health-day” or time off for a child’s school visit.

          In California, unused PTO must be paid out upon an employee termination. Sick leave is not required to be paid out upon termination. In addition, providing PTO is optional while providing paid sick leave is required. If you combine the policies and allow employees to use PTO as sick time, you may find yourself obligated to pay it all out upon termination, even though sick time wouldn’t have been required to be paid out otherwise.

          But I guess that downside only kicks in if… you would normally give less than 3 days of vacation a year? Are they allowed to do that? Even the minimum wage jobs I had in high school gave a few days of vacation.

    • BBA says:

      According to this thread, COVID-19 has been spreading in Washington State for the past six weeks – i.e., since before even the initial Wuhan quarantine. If true, it’s not clear the CDC or anyone else outside China could’ve done anything to prevent the spread.

      • bzium says:

        If the virus has been spreading there for weeks, the incubation period is two weeks and people are contagious during that time, shouldn’t there be a large amount of deaths in that area of the US at this point?

        Wouldn’t an uptick in pneumonia deaths be noticed even without specific testing for Covid?

        • viVI_IViv says:

          Wouldn’t an uptick in pneumonia deaths be noticed even without specific testing for Covid?

          The extra deaths would be mostly elderly sick people, so it’s easy to miss unless somebody is collecting statistics in real time.
          I suppose collecting statistics to spot anomalous patterns should be the job of the CDC, but from what has emerged in the past few week, they don’t seem very competent at what they do.

        • John Schilling says:

          If the virus has been spreading there for six weeks, and the incubation period is two weeks, and each infected person will infect two others before being isolated / recovering naturally, then we would expect fifteen total cases in Washington to date (including asymptomatic and undiagnosed), and with a mortality of 2% we would expect 0.3 extra pneumonia-like deaths.

          These numbers are at least plausible for a back-of-the-envelope calculation. Using more detailed numbers, I get a median estimate of 11 cases and worst-plausible-scenario 263 cases. The latter would include five or so “pneumonia” deaths, but A: it’s worst-plausible, so not likely, and B: I can believe five pneumonia deaths being missed, though perhaps not retroactively now that we’re looking for that sort of thing.

          So, probably in the range of a dozen-ish cases.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Probably about fifty cases just associated with one nursing home, so it’s already way above your median. Admittedly, nursing homes are an easier environment for transmission, and we don’t have good numbers yet on how many cases not associated with that nursing home.

            (On the other hand, I’m concerned since I live just a few miles from that nursing home, and my grandma’s also at an assisted living home around here.)

    • viVI_IViv says:

      Also add the large homeless population in the West coast: from Seattle to Los Angeles you have got a large mass of mentally ill and/or addicted people with minimal access to healthcare sleeping, shitting and injecting drugs on the street.

    • sharper13 says:

      As much of the cited “Evidence” appearing in news reports and talking head claims appears exaggerated to me for partisan purposes (I’m not claiming by you originally), I’d suggest that the odds are things will develop better in the U.S. than most people in your social circle expect them to.

      I happen to personally know ~0.5% of the Americans who are presumed confirmed positive for Covid-19 (It’s not as hard as you might think, as many of them obviously know each other) and have followed their quarantine adventures online (they don’t have much else to do except post online) and in the news. So far the direct evidence I’ve seen is that (like in most situations where you know information you see later covered by the news) the “doom” scenarios are being exaggerated all out of proportion.

      So I’d guess worse case scenario, where there are lots of failed quarantine in the continental Unites States, we’re talking about the equivalent of a bad flu season.

      I wouldn’t expect that scenario to be “likely” because of all the extra attention being paid to it and all the measures (despite news reports) which have already been taken much faster in the U.S. in this case compared to previous possible pandemics. For example, it took six months for a national emergency to be declared after widespread swine flu outbreaks occurred in the U.S. For Coronavirus, borders with China were closed a month after the start there and it’s only taken a couple of weeks to declare a national emergency after cases began within the U.S.

      For comparison purposes:
      Bird Flu killed 322 worldwide
      U.S. Aids deaths ~13K/year
      U.S. MRSA deaths ~20K/year
      SARS killed 772 worldwide
      MERS killed 858 worldwide
      Swine flu (H1N1) ~240K worldwide and ~12K in the U.S.
      Malaria ~1M worldwide/year
      Flu ~450K deaths worldwide/year ~35K/year in the U.S. (FYI, China officially has a 50% higher death rate from the flu than the U.S. does, Iran 70% higher)

    • Matt M says:

      generally cutting budget from the CDC.

      Is this actually true, or is it just another one of those “reduced the rate of growth from the original proposed budget” things?

      • achenx says:

        It’s not even that, it’s false altogether. Trump proposed a budget cut to the CDC; Congress ignored him and increased the budget as usual. https://apnews.com/d36d6c4de29f4d04beda3db00cb46104

        • John Schilling says:

          The “budget cut” part seems to be a red herring, but Trump’s elimination of the CDC’s pandemic response team is a more substantial and accurate charge even if the overall budget is intact. In hindsight, at least, that was not a good move and it probably does somewhat increase the United States’ vulnerability to COVID-19.

          Fortunately, we’ve still got fifty state-level public health agencies that should be largely unaffected and would be handling most of the field work in any event. Would still help if we had a stronger CDC response in e.g. making sure the states have adequate and reliable testing capability.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            What’s the steelman for “good reason to fire pandemic guy?”

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            “We aren’t in a pandemic now, and if we ever are, those people have such a sense of civic responsibility that they would let us rehire them instantly.”

          • John Schilling says:

            The closest I can come is that the CDC was planning to spend US taxpayer dollars fighting pandemics in nations other than the United States and US taxpayer dollars are supposed to be for US interests.

            But the US interest in getting on top of pandemics before they reach CONUS is so obvious that, if this is a steelman, it’s the sort of steel that comes out of one of Mao’s backyard furnaces because someone let ideology trump reason.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            From what I understand, though, they just fired the white house leadership guy, not anybody at the CDC themselves, right? So we still have the experts, and they’re still doing their thing.

          • John Schilling says:

            Fired the top guy, and reorganized the CDC so that the rest of the pandemic response team is not so much a team as a list of guys who used to be a team and now have different jobs but still at CDC. Or something vaguely like that; even Politifact is having a hard time figuring this one out.

            And somehow John Bolton’s name comes up in this, because apparently his primary career goal is to look like the guy who’s courting one apocalypse or another at every turn. Before I heard of John Bolton, I never needed to know the plural of “apocalypse”.

          • bean says:

            Before I heard of John Bolton, I never needed to know the plural of “apocalypse”.

            The UC Sunnydale linguistics department are the experts on that question. Or they were, before UC Sunnydale was destroyed.

          • rumham says:

            @bean

            Their fault for chasing all that sweet, sweet government black-ops funding.

          • bean says:

            No, that’s the psychology department you’re thinking of. The linguistics department lasted another 3 years until the university was destroyed, along with the town.

    • rumham says:

      rump firing the CDC pandemic response team in 2018, and generally cutting budget from the CDC

      I see this often, but I don’t actually believe that their budget was cut. It would be nice if they would, buy however much they spend on stuff that is not diseases, but as far as I can tell it hasn’t happened.

      Edit: Ninja’d by Matt M and achenx

  5. Hoopyfreud says:

    In Eurovision news, EUROVISION IS SAVED

    Greece‘s and Iceland‘s entries are out since last thread. They’re not my favorites, but they’re a damn sight better than more ballads, and I have a weakness for keytaurs. Greece’s music video looks like a TV movie you’d find on Nickelodeon in 2004, too, so uh. That’s a thing. I hope they get way over-ambitious with the staging.

    • Deiseach says:

      It’s telling that they’ve both decided to write and sing in English, plainly that signals they are making a real effort to win it this year. I think Greece probably has Iceland beaten on this, as a cute sexy girl beats lanky guy in green jumper when it comes to “vote for who gets into the final”.

      I’ll wait and see if there are any acts that win my heart when the next lot of contestants comes out.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I liked Iceland’s song better, but their performance leaves a lot to be desired.

        And for Greece, why couldn’t the girl (or guy) have just climbed the tree to save the cat?

      • Aapje says:

        Fun fact: the Greek singer was born in The Netherlands, while the Dutch singer wasn’t.

  6. theodidactus says:

    Empirical Desert is a theory of criminal punishment that suggests positive utilitarian consequences flow from taking a deontological approach to criminal punishment. It generally calls for rigorous evaluations of community perceptions on the severity of offenses. It represents, in my view, a jaw-droppingly beautiful attempt to link utilitarianism and deontology…though it’s not without criticism (which I’m happy to discuss).

    The precise utilitarian consequences articulated tend to be that the justice system will gain moral credibility by reflecting the perceptions of the community.

    I’m considering a slightly different tack for a research paper. I think I can argue that human views on desert in criminal punishment contexts are the result of evolutionary assessments of current and future potential harm to the community. Might it be the case (in light of works like the secret of our success and seeing like a state) that in some limited circumstances this intuition can outperform purported experts? This seems like a pretty controversial proposition given obvious cognitive glitches revealed by our criminal punishment regime but I still think there might be a germ of an idea here. Anyone have some good source material for me to look into if I go ahead with this idea?

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Every society must decide what punishment it will allow for its most egregious case, be it the death penalty or life imprisonment or fifteen years. Once that endpoint is set, the distributive challenge that desert must guide is to determine who should be punished and how much. That process requires only an ordinal ranking of offenders according to their relative blameworthiness.

      What in the actual cockatoo fuck?

      I mean, OK, I kind of get it, but realistically speaking you don’t have perfect knowledge of all events in crime-space when you set this system up, which I’m pretty sure you need in a temporal setting in order to set appropriate ordinal rankings. There’s also no guideline provided as to proportionality. Like, I can see arguments that punishments should decline exponentially, or perhaps logarithmically, or just linearly, with ordinal ranking. The issue is precisely in closing the gap from an ordinal ranking of blameworthiness to a cardinal quantity of punishment. This isn’t even bad; I actually mostly agree that this is how justice works and should work. It’s just incomplete.

      As far as your research idea, I think you’re going to have to dig very deep to uncover a regime in which the only cultural institution that got changed was the justice system, it was changed by fiat, and the change resulted in a significant impact on fitness. Mandatory minimums might be useful to examine here, but teasing out those impacts from the simultaneous cultural shifts is going to be near-impossible.

      • John Schilling says:

        I mean, OK, I kind of get it, but realistically speaking you don’t have perfect knowledge of all events in crime-space when you set this system up, which I’m pretty sure you need in a temporal setting in order to set appropriate ordinal rankings.

        You only need that if you insist on perfectly appropriate ordinal rankings. But you don’t need perfection to implement a deontological approach that will have positive results from a consequential perspective.

        If, e.g., you say “People who deliberately shoot bullets into other people without a clear claim of self-defense are worse criminals than people who just point guns at other people and demand their stuff, who are in turn worse criminals than people who sneakily steal other people’s stuff when there’s nobody else around”, then imperfect information will lead to failures at the individual level – one of the shooters was actually acting in self-defense but you didn’t know that, or one of the robbers was bluffing with an empty gun, or one of the burglars was planning a murderous home-invasion robbery and just missed the residents.

        But, on the whole, this society’s criminality will be shifted away from murder and towards burglary, and that’s a good thing to any consequentialist. If your information is even reasonably good, this overall benefit likely does outweigh the occasional individual injustice when you add up the QALYs.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          What I’m objecting to is the idea that an ordinal ranking of blameworthiness and an endpoint are sufficient to distribute justice. In the end, you still need to assign punishments. The paper sidesteps this more-or-less entirely, suggesting that we use the ordinal ranking to do… something. I agree that ordinal punishment severity should correspond with ordinal blameworthiness, but punishment is fundamentally cardinal when operationalized. Like I said, I don’t think this is a bad principle, but I do think it’s incomplete.

      • theodidactus says:

        Also I think it’s worth noting: most people who talk about this stuff practically don’t suggest the actual criminal justice system take this into account perfectly. It’s a legal equivalent of a spherical cow or a frictionless surface. The idea (I think) is that sentencing should CONSIDER this rank-order in much the same way that it currently considers other abstracts like the mindset of the defendant when they committed the crime.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          The idea (I think) is that sentencing should CONSIDER this rank-order in much the same way that it currently considers other abstracts like the mindset of the defendant when they committed the crime.

          I mean, I agree that a crime that’s ordinally more blameworthy than another should receive a sentence that’s ordinally more severe, but it seems like this incompletely prescribes a methodology for assigning sentences.

          • albatross11 says:

            Part of what we want from our justice system is deterrence, and the punishments that come from that might not flow naturally from our moral ranking. As a simple example, we might want to retain the death penalty specifically for cases where the criminals murdered witnesses–not because murdering witnesses is worse than murdering anyone else, but because we want to create a strong incentive for criminals not to murder witnesses. Some crimes are probably hard to deter–for example, murder in the heat of the moment. Others are probably easier to deter–for example, embezzlement. We should consider that in our sentencing.

          • theodidactus says:

            @albatross

            Part of the argument behind Moral Desert (and limiting retributivist thinking in general) is that the justice system loses some imaginary “moral credibility” when its punishments deviate too much from the community’s expectations about punishment. The classic example is that deterrence-based thinking has lead to a situation where the possession of child pornography (considered a highly deterrable crime with immense negative societal effects) in many cases draws a harsher penalty than actually abusing a child.

            Under a purely deterrence-based approach, this disparity actually makes a lot of sense, but I think it sharply differs from the moral intuitions of most.

    • Dack says:

      Could one argue that positive utilitarian consequences flow from taking a deontological approach to everything?

      Taking a non-deontological approach involves promoting the view that nothing is inherently right or wrong,…and the world is worse off if that view becomes widely held.

    • Lambert says:

      If someone commits a worse crime than you does that mean your sentence gets commuted?

      • theodidactus says:

        I like this actually. I think it should be done by category. The state can hold at most 20 murderers, at most 20 burglars, at most 20 assaulters, and so on. The question the law enforcement apparatus of the state must answer is *which ones*

        this will serve as a valuable check on the carceral state.

        • Lambert says:

          What’s stopping from me comitting a murder that’s just not quite as bad as the least bad murderer in prison did and getting off scott free?

        • fibio says:

          No, it will be a fantastic exercise in the creation of new and interesting synonyms for crimes.

          • theodidactus says:

            also for special pleading as to the diminished severity of various crimes.

            “Your honor, my client robbed a bank. Yes. But far from terrorizing the bank tellers, he amused them with charming stories. Also the bank was Wells Fargo”

          • John Schilling says:

            In Walter Jon Williams’ “Drake Majistral” series of light-comedy SF novels, theft is explicitly legal if done in a sufficiently harmless (in both the no-violence and victim-is-rich-enough-to-eat-the-loss) manner. Partly because conquest by inscrutable semi-benevolent aliens has mucked up human legal systems, and partly because the sort of criminal who can non-violently overcome a rich guy’s security measures offers a significant entertainment value to society at large. See e.g. every fictional jewel thief ever.

            Actually, I think the rules allowed the thief to e.g. point guns at security guards and, if they choose to put up a fight, their choice and a good rousing fight with no innocent bystanders getting hurt is also entertaining. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled review of the Conan stories.

  7. Aapje says:

    IPCC RCP 8.5

    IPCC adopted 4 scenarios for the 2014 report: RCP 2.6, 4.5, 6.0 and 8.5. These scenarios are the best case, two more likely scenarios and a worst case.

    The Dutch center-left newspaper Volkskrant investigated the use of these scenarios and found that the worst case scenario has become dominant in the news. Of 40 Dutch newspaper articles from the last 5 years, 33 used the worst case scenario. Two thirds presented this as the consequence of not fighting climate change. RCP 8.5 has been used in court cases as the consequence of not acting. Some 1200 studies have used it as the ‘no policy’ scenario.

    However, RCP 8.5 wasn’t actually the ‘no climate-change policy’ scenario when it was published, but a scenario with both no policy and pessimistic expectations for economic growth, population growth and no innovation. Of course, the world didn’t stand still since 2014. There has been climate change policy and the pessimistic expectations used in this scenario turned out to be…pessimistic. As a result, the use of RCP 8.5 as the ‘no climate-change policy’ scenario has become increasingly deceptive.

    According to my newspaper, the reason why RCP 8.5 is so popular with researchers is in part that the RCP 8.5 scenario was available first, which probably biased researchers to use it. However, they also note that this scenario produces clear, marked outcomes, which I interpret as an accusation of p-hacking.

    There is also a feedback effect, where the dominance of RCP 8.5 (and to a lesser extent RCP 2.6) in studies, cause new reports by the IPCC to feature this heavily, rather than a more likely scenario.

    From a CW perspective, it is interesting how my newspaper frames it. They put heavy emphasis on wanting to prevent fatalism and argue that RCP 8.5 is still a possible scenario that must be made impossible. There is remarkable little concern over how presenting only an (unrealistictally) bad scenario or that scenario together with the best case, can be polarizing; causing people who figure out that they are being deceived to overcorrect to the best case IPCC scenario or total denial.

    • Lambert says:

      Yeah. Science journalism tends to be no better than worthless.

    • Dack says:

      It seems to me that attitudes on climate tend to go directly from indifference to fatalism with zero steps in between.

      • Garrett says:

        ISTM that it’s largely based on which approach would best benefit the Democrats in upcoming elections.
        A good bit of noise during the Bush Presidency which mostly went away during the Obama administration.
        Once Trump entered office the hysteria started up so quickly I found it remarkable.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Broadly agreed. We really need to be talking about RCP 4.5 and 6.0, because a global temperature rise of ~5 degrees is, as far as I can recall, broadly consistent with current trends. The effects of these rises are still likely to be significant and (at least on natural ecosystems) severely deleterious, and focusing too much on 8.5 gives people way too much latitude to brush them off.

      One thing I’m optimistic about in terms of the 2022 IPCC report is that they’ll explicitly link sociopolitical narratives (SSPs) to RCPs, providing a more clear picture of the viability of those models. I think it’s important to note that it’s not lukewarmers and deniers who believe this is a positive change; Carbon Brief, which is probably the best climate journalism org I’m aware of, says:

      One important takeaway is a shift in the definition of “business as usual”. Instead of a single worst-case scenario, the SSPs present a wide range of future emissions possible in the absence of climate policy, though all the new baseline scenarios result in at least 3.1C warming (and up to 5.1C) by 2100.

      While RCP8.5 lives on in the form of the SSP5 baseline, it is now just one of many possible no-new-policy futures. The fact that only one of the SSPs, SSP5, can reach the level of emissions found in RCP8.5 suggests that it may not now be best suited for use as the sole baseline scenario in future research.

      • bzium says:

        Wouldn’t a ~5 rise be the apocalyptic worse case scenario? Usually I hear people worrying about smaller increases by the end of the century.

        Wikipedia tells me that the mean and likely range for period 2081-2100 in the RCP8.5 scenario is 3.7 (2.6 to 4.8).

      • Ketil says:

        because a global temperature rise of ~5 degrees is, as far as I can recall, broadly consistent with current trends

        Are there any indications or models predicting the curves will flatten? A quick search got me graphs where (eyeballing this) 2.6 flattens out to a stable +1.3°C or so from 2050 onwards, 4.5 slows down but keeps creeping up towards +2.3 in 2100, and 6 and 8.5 continue on a linear increase, aimed at +2.8 and +4.5 in 2100

        All right – this was from Google Images results, looking at the actual link, it is this:
        https://www.c3headlines.com/2013/02/newest-ipcc-cmip5-climate-models-fail-at-global-temperature-predictions-too.html
        So maybe not the best starting point…

  8. John Schilling says:

    The best general resource for hard COVID-19 information I’ve found so far, comes from the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. Has, or at least links to, much of the hard numbers I have had difficulty finding elsewhere. Passing it on, for anyone here interested.

    And, based on information from their “Epidemiology” section, I am now estimating the basic reproduction number of COVID-19 in the first-world environment as (1SD ranges):

    1.1-1.5 if we exclude Italy and South Korea
    1.7-3.3 including Italy but not South Korea
    4.7-9.5 including both Italy and South Korea

    By comparison, SARS is estimated at 2-5, and the 1918 influenza epidemic at 2-3.

    So, freaky religious cults that take a carrier into their midst and then wall themselves away from the world are hosed. But Italy appears to be at least a partial outlier based on a hospital that admitted a COVID patient with no precautions, which means we’re probably in the R0 < 2 range now that everybody knows what COVID-19 is. And that's the range where basic public-health measures are usually sufficient to arrest an epidemic, so the apocalyptic predictions where basically everyone gets infected and 2% of us die seem unlikely.

    • The Nybbler says:

      The CDC does not currently believe public health measures will stop it

      It’s likely that at some point, widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the United States will occur.

      • John Schilling says:

        Unfortunately, I don’t see them putting anything resembling a number on “widespread”, so I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with that.

        • Eric Rall says:

          Assuming they’re using the terminology consistently here, China, Iran, Italy, and South Korea currently meet the criteria for “widespread”, but Japan does not, nor do any of the dozens of countries that have had isolated COVID-19 cases but no known “community transmission”.

          As of today’s sitrep, Japan has 239 cumulative confirmed cases and 9 new cases, while the lowest figures I see for the “widespread transmission” countries is Iran, with 593 cumulative total cases and 205 new cases. Both countries have smaller population than the US, but not by an enormous amount: about a factor of 2.5 for Japan and a factor of 4 for Iran. So it looks like the threshold for “widespread”, adjusted for population, would be around 1-2 thousand total cases and a peak transmission rate of a few hundred new cases per 24 hour reporting period.

          So if it just barely crosses the threshold for widespread transmission in the US, it would not be great, but (in terms of direct impact of illnesses, not counting the combined effects of popular panic and reasonable public health precautions) would be orders of magnitude less bad than a typical seasonal flu.

          • John Schilling says:

            OK, that looks like it at least brackets a consistent standard. And we’ve got local transmission, and we’ve got cases on both coasts in case there’s a literal geographic interpretation of “widespread” going on. The CDC’s claim is solid; they’ll be able to say “we told you so”.

            But if the inevitable “widespread transmission” is a few thousand cases and less than a hundred fatalities in the United States, then as you note that’s lost in the noise of an ordinary flu season. If it’s a few million cases, that’s really quite different and alarming. The few thousand cases probably is inevitable at this point; we need forecasts that can distinguish that from higher orders of concern, and language that properly conveys that.

          • Eric Rall says:

            Looks like I forgot the source link in my first paragraph:
            https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html

            If it’s a few million cases, that’s really quite different and alarming. The few thousand cases probably is inevitable at this point; we need forecasts that can distinguish that from higher orders of concern, and language that properly conveys that.

            Absolutely ageed, on both counts. And a big part of the CDC’s job here is to coordinate the public health response that gives us the best chance of the thousands of cases outcome bracket, not the millions of cases bracket. In that context, it feels like a bit of a cop-out for them to use a categorization system that fails to distinguish between those outcomes.

    • Or it’s so high in Italy and South Korea because they’re the only non-China countries doing widespread testing.

      • Eric Rall says:

        Assuming current CDC guidelines for coronavirus testing and reporting are typical of countries other than Italy, South Korea, Iran, and China, then I’d expect a degree of underreporting, but not enough to make the difference between hundreds (Japan) or thousands (Iran, RoK) of confirmed cases one one hand, vs single-digit numbers of confirmed cases.

        Specifically, in the US, any patient admitted to the hospital with fever and unexplained lower-respiratory symptoms should be tested for COVID-19 once other more common diagnoses (influenza, common cold, etc) have been ruled out. If that tests positive, then anyone that patient has had close contact with in the past 14 days who is showing symptoms should also be tested. While only maybe 5-10% of wild cases that don’t trigger a stricter testing guideline should be expected to get tested, any cluster of community transmission of more than a handful of cases is fairly likely to include 1-2 patients who meet the criteria, and once they test positive, that will uncover other cases in the same transmission cluster.

    • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

      H1N1 had a R0 of 1.75; it infected 11-21% of the world population. It just vanished from the public’s attention because the fatality ratio turned out to be so low. If 500 million people get the virus, 2% death rate is going too be devastating, and this is not even accounting for the fact that 2% is when hospitals are able to service patients.
      Source: http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2011/08/study-puts-global-2009-h1n1-infection-rate-11-21

      • bean says:

        The high infection rate and low lethality were intimately linked. The fact that it turned out to be just another flu meant that the full weight of the public health establishment wasn’t turned on it. Also, it’s not easy to track a disease which is that mild.

        • Murphy says:

          Ya, it’s almost a paradox.

          Highly deadly disease that kills half the people infected or more? everything will be suspended and quarantines will be enforced with guns if necessary.

          result: only a few thousand people die.

          Drop the death rate and people will try their best to ignore it and get on with life. Quarantines will be half-hearted.

          result: millions die.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Right, this is the point that I think is important to make. People are pulling on Swine Flu as an example, and think this is no big deal. If the CFR turns out to be so high, then this is a VERY big deal, and we need to use much more aggressive containment measures than the half-hearted “wash your hands” lecturing.

            IF we treat novel COV as a normal flu (no quarantines, eh maybe wash your hands if you feel sick, if you are sick don’t come into work but we know you probably will anyways), then it’s going to kill a lot of people.

          • albatross11 says:

            If you’ve ever played Plague, Inc., this dynamic is a big part of the game. Make your plague too scary up front, and the whole world shuts down travel and coordinates work on a vaccine or cure right away.

            That’s why HIV is so nasty–it presents like the flu, and then takes several years until it turns deadly. If that stuff spread like a cold, the current world population would be < 1 billion.

        • rumham says:

          If you’ve ever played Plague, Inc., this dynamic is a big part of the game.

          I was on a plane about to take off for a work trip when I was reading coverage of this about a month ago. I had the same thought. Though I haven’t played it in years, I downloaded Plague Inc. and named the virus “Kung Flu” to play on the plane.

  9. littskad says:

    Is someone willing to steelman the astronomical interpretation of medicine wheels in North America? Medicine wheels are pretty universally claimed to have been used as astronomical observatories. For example, they are widely claimed to have alignments identifying solstices (see the link). However:

    1. They don’t seem to have anywhere close to the necessary precision for this. The sun’s apparent diameter is about a half a degree, and near a solstice, the position of the sunrise/sunset changes by only about a tenth of a degree a day. But from looking at diagrams, it seems the precision of sight-lines along cairns in medicine wheels has got to be on the order of whole degrees at best.

    2. There are so many possible sight-lines in any given medicine wheel, it’s got just about the whole circle of the horizon covered along some possible sight-line. So if you want to find an alignment along the direction of the summer solstice sunrise, sure, there’s something close to that.

    Am I too skeptical?

  10. Beans says:

    I’ve noticed that my local grocery stores (in a city on the east coast) are low on certain things like dried beans and sanitizers. At a quick glance, amazon reports the same. I assume this is a symptom of virus-nerves.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I did a near-complete stock on every essential today and noticed all beans were there. The only thing gone were the sanitizing wipes at Costco. Those were entirely gone.

      Everything else I wanted, totally fine.

      The only thing we are missing right now is distilled water for our cool air humidifiers, possibly some stuff I might need for lawn-care, and drinking water. But we’re always short drinking water, because Mrs. ADBG does not believe that we should keep 50-100 gallons of purified water on hand.

    • DinoNerd says:

      Today my grocery store was short on white flour (no bags larger than 2 lbs), out of many brands of toilet paper, and had a couple of other small areas with pretty bare shelves. I spent 3 times what I normally do, and now have enough in the house to last for a month or more with nothing whatsoever in the stores and/or not being able to go out to shop. (Maybe more – this is a guesstimate.) We’d probably do OK for a week without electricity, but wouldn’t much like what we’d be eating.

      There were plenty of dried beans, which I declined to buy – we simply wouldn’t use them up if no crisis occurred – and I didn’t look at either sanitizer (we habitually buy soap in bulk, so I didn’t care) or OTC remedies for flu-like diseases.

      Interestingly, they weren’t at all short on beer – I’m told that’s a standard purchase in some places, before e.g. a bad storm, and usually runs low in pre-crisis hoarding situations. I bought 12 bottles of beer and 6 of cider, which is more than I expect my household to consume before running out of food.

      I’m in the Silicon Valley area, and I believe we’ve already got at least one case reported where they don’t know how the patient caught the disease.

      • Beans says:

        Interestingly, they weren’t at all short on beer – I’m told that’s a standard purchase in some places, before e.g. a bad storm, and usually runs low in pre-crisis hoarding situations.

        How come? I’ve never heard that.

        • ryan8518 says:

          Uncharitably…..because hurricanes happen in Florida.
          More charitably……because what else are you going to do for entertainment when the powers down and you’re worn out from a day of clearing debris (keeping people calm and happy during the teeth of the storm for that matter)

        • Spookykou says:

          I lived through a flood where I was trapped in my house without power for three days and I was VERY happy that I had a healthy(unhealthy?) supply of Vodka.

        • DarkTigger says:

          Modern Beer is relativly durable, keeps beeing drinkable for weeks, delivers some calories, brightens the mood when consumed moderatly, and maybe less positiv alcoholics need several cans a day, which means they need stock when the stores are closed.

        • toastengineer says:

          Operation Teapot found – and presumably therefore some Cold War era advice stated – that bottled beer is an effective preserved water source after a nuclear strike.

          • Plumber says:

            @toastengineer,
            Sad that the bottles weren’t saved and re-labeled “Atomic Brew!”.

          • Matt M says:

            If only Plumber was young enough to be a gamer and to recall Nuka-Cola from the Fallout series!

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        In the South Atlantic, the only thing I’ve had difficulty acquiring is hand sanitizer. Even then, I could with some effort.

        I couldn’t find garbanzo beans on the shelf, but lots of other beans.

        I think we are all prepared now.

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      Same here in the Bay Area. A Target close to my home was very low on dried and canned food, and some household supplies were completely out (I didn’t check what exactly it was, maybe sanitizing wipes). But a Lucky half a mile down the road didn’t seem to have any shortages, so I guess pricier places still hold.

  11. Canyon Fern says:

    Why did my comment, Slate Star Showdex Act 2 Episode 1, get deleted? Did I use a naughty word? Please tell me, Scott! I did not mean to break any rules!

    Oh lord, I already sent links to some supporters, and posted on Reddit, and now the post is gone – everything is broken! I am distressed.

    EDIT: is the proper noun “Palesteine” banned when correctly spelled? If so, I’ll tweak the story.

  12. rocoulm says:

    What is the likelyhood that COVID19 has already spread far more tham we’ve detected, but is just mostly unnoticed? They say something like 80% of the infected have minor enough symptoms they require no hospitalization, but what if there’s 10 times that many more whose symptoms are so minor they have no reason to even be tested for it? This would seem to explain the handful of cases that have no known transmission route (i.e., you could have, say, 5 nearly-asymptomatic carriers linking them to someone who got it in China themselves.)

    • The Nybbler says:

      What is the likelyhood that COVID19 has already spread far more tham we’ve detected

      Very good, at least according to one researcher. It appears despite being at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Dr. Bedford is an infectious disease specialist.

      On the one hand, this would mean the epidemic probably can’t be stopped. On the other, it also means it’s probably far less lethal than it appears. That’s where I would put my money at this point.

    • A1987dM says:

      I’m ~70% sure it has.

    • DarkTigger says:

      From reports of respectable newspapers, I would put the likelyhood for Iran at 100% (or they have 10 times the mortality rate, than anywhere else).
      From more or less respectable local newspapers I hear that the authorities in certain places in Germany (Berlin), already lost track of whats going on. I would put the likelyhood that there are more cases than reported in Germany at >80%.
      From less respectalbe reports (read rumors and first hand reports on the Internet), I hear that the test-facilities in the US are serverly lacking, so I would put the likelyhood for the US at ~70%.
      There are a lot of palces in the Third World with close contact to China, that do not have test facilities at all. I would put the likelyhood that there are unreported cases there at >50%.

    • albatross11 says:

      This seems almost certain at this point. If a bunch of people in a nursing home in Washington state with no connection to known cases are sick with it, then it seems almost certain that several people between the known cases and the nursing home inhabitants caught a cold, didn’t think it was serious, and walked around spreading the virus to those around them.

      But this implies that many cases aren’t very serious. Otherwise, we’d have a spike in people who were in the hospital for some kind of viral respiratory distress thing and the whole world would know about it.

  13. Aapje says:

    COVID-19 just seems to have gone out of control in The Netherlands, with new infections rapidly happening and there no longer being a direct link between the infected and trip to a place where COVID-19 is common.

    • John Schilling says:

      WHO is reporting seven cases as of 10:00 this morning, up from two yesterday. Are you anything significantly worse than that in local reporting?

      • Aapje says:

        We are up to 10 now, but the main issue is that the source of the infection is unknown for the most recent cases. So it seems likely that there is at least one unknown sneezer running around, infecting people.

        My guess is that the chance is considerable greater than 50% that it will not die out, but accelerate.

        • albatross11 says:

          It seems very likely that many people who get this virus have what seems like a cold, don’t think it’s serious enough to shut down their lives, and thus infect a bunch of other people without realizing it. And some of those people may be, say, making salads at the local restaurant, or taking care of people at a nursing home.

    • eric23 says:

      I suppose such outbreaks could be stopped by closing down public gatherings until the disease is controlled. But Western countries aren’t bothering to do that. Presumably they have decided that the economic disruption would be more harmful than the effects of the virus?

      • AlphaGamma says:

        Some are. Switzerland has banned all public gatherings of more than 1000 people- their football league is suspended, and this year’s Geneva Motor Show was cancelled.

        • Machine Interface says:

          France also banned large (5000+) public gatherings in confined spaces, resulting in the cancellation or abriging of several shows/conventions. They also banned all public gatherings and closed schools in specific areas where the virus is circulating.

        • Garrett says:

          How are these numbers selected, like 1000?
          Why not limit it to 500? or 50? or 5?
          Are 900-person gatherings somehow supposed to drastically reduce the likelihood of occurrence?
          My cynical nature is that this is just an attempt to be seen “doing something” while at the same time getting us used to yet-another liberty violation.

          • albatross11 says:

            ISTR there was some research based on simulations that showed that you could stop the spread of influenza by shutting down schools and daycares for a couple months. What we care about is labeled as R or R_0–the average number of infections per new case, and getting that below 1 so that the disease dies off. But averages are kind-of tricky–an average of 3 new infections per case might be because almost everyone sick infects 3 new people, or it might be because most people don’t infect anyone but a few people (little kids at daycare, say) infect dozens of people. In that second case, figuring out how to stop the rate infect-dozens person can have a big impact.

            I suspect the specific limits are just driven by someone needing to choose a number. 500 or 1000 or 100 are easier to think of than 74 or 393 or 768, even though they’d probably be just as reasonable.

          • Kindly says:

            Any cutoff would be arbitrary, so I assume they limited it to whatever would actually be enforceable.

            The likelihood of transmission probably does go up faster than expected as you gather more people together. For one, 1000 people might be using the same venue as 900, but crowd it more. Also, the number of potential interactions is quadratic in the number of people.

    • Aapje says:

      Update: the number of known infected has reached 24, which is not great, but not the worst.

      However, almost all new cases seem to have a clear cause, either another known patient or a trip to a place where the virus is common. So I was probably too pessimistic about unknown patients running around infecting people.

  14. Mark V Anderson says:

    I recently read four books on intelligence and IQ, to try to update myself on this issue. The Bell Curve was written in the early ‘90’s, and I wanted to understand research since then. It turns out not much new research, but some different ideas. I have reviewed the four books I read here. I also read a half dozen of the citations in these books, for the more controversial areas. Unfortunately, most of the papers are behind a paywall, so I only got a minority of the cites.

    Since I then wrote up my thoughts for each book, I now inflict this on SSC. Please don’t hate me for this. Maybe even make comments if any occur to you. On this thread I will put the first book I read.

    Intelligence and How to Get it (2009) By Richard Nisbett

    I found this guy pretty annoying in his arrogance. He makes pronouncements about how others are wrong, but he has the right answers, based on irrefutable evidence. He does make some good points, but his conclusions based on the evidence presented are way over-stated. This is the most interesting of the four books, since it disagrees with much of The Bell Curve without being anti-scientific, and makes the best points.

    1) Nesbitt claims that intelligence is much less determined by heredity than others have claimed, although he never states the percent he believes it to be. Also, he claims that hereditarians think intelligence is 70-80% inherited, whereas I have heard the standard claim is 50%. He is disputing only the strongest hereditarian claims. In any case, the heredity/environment percent is a moving target, since the correct percent is determined based on the variability of the environment. As government influence and schooling continues to increase in even the most remote corners of the US, the environment has become less variable in the US, so the heredity percent should continually increase. On that note, Nesbitt at one point states that heredity of intelligence is probably 0.70 in the upper class, but 0.10 for the poor, based on a twins study by Eric Turkheimer (http://ibg.colorado.edu/cdrom2016/franic/Moderation/Lit/Turkheimer_2003.pdf). As far as I can tell, the statistics in that study are good, but it is only one study, and only looked at kids’ IQs (which are more subject to environment than adults). I am very skeptical of the 0.10; it seems too low to me.

    2) White/Black IQ gap. Nesbitt believes this is 100% environmental. His evidence is far from overwhelming that this is the case. For example, he states that the gap has recently decreased from one standard deviation (SD) to 2/3 of an SD. He thinks this shows that it is likely that the rest of the gap is environmental. First of all, there is controversy as to whether the gap has really decreased at all. Secondly, the argument in Bell Curve was that it seemed implausible that the entire 15 point gap could be all environmental, since Whites with the same SES did not have the same IQ gap. The Bell Curve authors could well accept that 5 points might be environmental, but that doesn’t mean the rest would be. I do think Nesbitt is right that the Bell Curve doesn’t account sufficiently for an anti-intellectual Black culture that could bring down the average IQ significantly, and not affect poor Whites in the same way. But Nesbitt in no way proves this is the case. He does have more arguments than the recent decrease in the Black-White gap, but not any very convincing to me.

    3) Flynn effect, where all US IQ’s have increased 18 points over 55 years. Nesbitt discusses this a lot. I do think the Bell Curve probably didn’t discuss this enough. It hurts the case for measuring IQ, since it is hard to believe that people have really increased in intelligence this much. In reality, I think the Flynn effect exists because more and more of the population has become used to IQ tests, and so score better on the tests. A higher IQ will still correlate with a higher intelligence over the whole population at any given time, but if you tried to do these correlations in a temporal sense, comparing IQ’s now to those of 100 years ago, the relationships wouldn’t work nearly as well. It does not mean, as Nesbitt implies, that everyone is 18 points smarter, but it does show the imperfections of IQ tests in measuring intelligence.

    4) Nesbitt divides intelligence into two categories: a) fluid intelligence, the ability to solve novel, abstract problems, and b) crystalized intelligence, the store of information one knows. But I think intelligence means fluid intelligence plus the ability to learn new information, not the amount of knowledge you have. Since Nesbitt includes crystalized intelligence as part of intelligence, of course he comes down on the side that it is mostly environmental. No one denies that people can be taught information and thus have more knowledge. But that doesn’t mean they are more intelligent. It is true that many IQ tests measure at least partly how much knowledge you have, but that is just an indirect (and imperfect) way to measure one’s ability to learn.

    5) Nesbitt criticizes the twin studies which show that intelligence is highly inherited. He claims that most of the twins studied had similar environments, often raised by relatives, so they weren’t as pure nature vs. nurture measures as usually presented. I don’t know the answer to this, but such scenarios do decrease my confidence that twin studies are measuring genetic heredity.

    6) Nesbitt also implies that varying fetal environments have a large effect on later IQ, which partially throws into doubt both twin studies and adoption studies. This too decreases my confidence in these studies, although he gives no data on this so I don’t know how important this is.

    • eric23 says:

      I suppose one could study IQ of babies from different sperm donors, and thus avoid both environmental and fetal effects?

    • albatross11 says:

      Thanks for the writeup! I have this book on my bookshelf but haven’t read it yet–maybe I’ll get off my backside and do so now.

      1) I think this is an important point that’s easy to miss. Heritability estimates are talking about how much of the observed variability in my IQ is accounted for by looking at my parents’ IQs. This means that if, say, lead exposure is extremely variable across households and is often messing up brain development, then heritabilty of IQ will go down, because a huge amount of the variability will come from how much lead I was exposed to as a kid. As we decrease lead exposure, get everyone their shots, make sure everyone has enough to eat and goes to school, etc., all those *environmental* sources of variability in IQ will become less and less important, and so the heritability will become more and more important. You can think of this like raising the signal to noise ratio, where genes are the signal and environment is the noise–we’ve been working hard as a society for the last couple centuries to get rid of as much of the noise as possible.

      2) I think you can make a plausible argument for an environmental explanation, or a mostly genetic one, and there’s not enough evidence right now to decide between them with much confidence. It seems to me that the most intellectually honest position to take is that the facts aren’t in enough to know which way this goes. A *lot* of people seem to believe that without strong evidence either way, we should assume an environmental explanation and condemn those who assume a genetic explanation. I don’t see any way to justify this scientifically–it seems to me that it’s just about not liking the possible political/social consequences of a genetic explanation.

      3) I think The Bell Curve named the Flynn effect and may have been the first widely-read discussion of it. But it certainly does raise questions about how meaningful the IQ numbers really are overall, especially across times and cultures. And it makes a plausible case for why some or all of the black/white IQ difference might be cultural or environmental, though it doesn’t really prove anything about it. Most interestingly to me, I think highly heritable intelligence plus existing fertility patterns should lead us to predict falling raw IQ scores, not rising ones. When your theory gives you wrong predictions, you’re in danger of actually learning something new and interesting from the universe.

      5-6) Talking about twin studies: My understanding is that heritability estimates come from several different sources, all observational. Some of these are studies of twins raised apart. In that case, a really useful comparison is that you will have fraternal twins (about 50% shared genes) vs identical twins (about 100% shared genes), and you can see how much stronger the correlation in IQs/heights/whatever is between identical twins vs fraternal twins. If fetal effects are very important, that should show up as a lower estimate of heritability, because similarities between identical twins and fraternal twins will be closer to the same. Similarly, if adopted twins had very similar environments, that should apply to both identical and fraternal twins, and it should lead to a lower estimate of heritability.

      There are also adoption studies, where a useful comparison is between IQs of biological siblings (about 50% shared genes) raised apart vs adoptive siblings (unrelated) raised together. This lets us see where there are important environmental/upbringing effects, and it also lets us check to make sure the heritability estimates we got in other studies are consistent with what we see there.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Thanks for reminding me that Nisbett is a liar.

      You should always step back and ask why you care about these things. Why do you care about heritability, as opposed to biological effects, or long-term effects?

      5. “Twin studies” doesn’t mean identical twins separated at birth. There are very few such twins and people shouldn’t use them. In fact, I don’t believe that people do use them for anything beyond illustration. Twin studies means comparisons between identical twins and fraternal twins. Twin studies and adoption studies not involving twins are both capable of measuring heritability. They produce similar numbers.

      6. Yes, adoption studies will erroneously interpret fetal environment as genetic. But twin studies will interpret it as environmental. So using both is robust. Roughly speaking, Devlin et al subtract the twin study heritability from the adoption heritability to get the maternal effect. So this brings down heritability as measured by adoption to heritability as measured by twin studies.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Why do you care about heritability, as opposed to biological effects, or long-term effects?

        I don’t understand what you mean by biological effects or long-term effects. The reason heredity matters is it cannot be changed by the environment. It gives an upper limit to how much intelligence can be changed through improvement of society. I assume your comment about biological and long-term effects relates to this, but I don’t understand your point.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          If you care about shared environment, you should study shared environment, not heritability. Shifting variance from genes to prenatal environment shifts it to unshared environment (according to Devlin et al), which is probably not accessible to improvement. It is probably random noise, like the mother got a cold that pregnancy.

          What good is an upper bound? It doesn’t tell you anything about interventions outside of common practice. People keep trying interventions that are known not to work. What good would an upper bound do when the specific intervention is already well studied?

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            The pre-natal environment is important to the extent it can be changed. I presume the largest effects are when the mother doesn’t take care of herself, such as drinks alcohol or takes nasty drugs. I don’t know how much those things can be fixed in practice, but theoretically that coudl be fixed.

            We have tried zillions of different kinds of interventions, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some things that haven’t been tried. I suspect that the strongest intervention is to simply remove kids from a poor environment completely and give the kids to better parents. But that is outside the Overton window in most cases (and rightly so, IMO). But the upper bound is very important so you can determine the highest benefit possible under the cost benefit calculation.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            When Devlin et al measure the prenatal effect, they find that it is not shared between siblings, only between twins. This doesn’t sound like alcohol to me.

            But for anything specific, like alcohol, you should just measure the effect. You shouldn’t worry about aggregate metrics like heritability and shared environment.

            ———

            Removing children from a bad environment is pretty much exactly what adoption studies are measuring!

            There are lots of things we haven’t tried. Trying to equalize environments is what the shared environment puts a bound on. But it doesn’t tell us anything about trying things that aren’t normal.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Also, the secret subtext in all of these things are racial gaps. If you weren’t focused on that, would you be asking the same questions? Trying to eliminate racial gaps gives excessive focus to eliminating variation, to which shared environment variation is relevant. Trying new things might be good for everyone, but probably wouldn’t affect racial gaps. Even eliminating lead would have little effect on variation.

        • Loriot says:

          Just because something is heritable doesn’t mean it can’t be changed by the environment!

          Things can be both heritable and environment mediated.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Just because something is heritable doesn’t mean it can’t be changed by the environment!

            No. By definition you are wrong. Yes many things, including IQ, are affected by both genes and environment, but it is only the environment part that you can change (not counting some sort of DNA fixes in the womb or something, whenever that becomes feasible).

          • Plumber says:

            @Mark V Anderson says: “No. By definition you are wrong. Yes many things, including IQ, are affected by both genes and environment, but it is only the environment part that you can change (not counting some sort of DNA fixes in the womb or something, whenever that becomes feasible)”

            I don’t know if IQ is effected, but I’ve read enough pieces that cite studies showing that moving a poor mother and her children to better neighborhoods reduces the chance that her children will also be poor as an adult, sadly though it only works when the children are less than seven years old, older than that and the children are just as likely to be poor as an adult as if they stayed in a poorer neighborhood. 

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Drawing conclusions by invoking the definition is very bad. How could we possibly know that the environment can’t change something? Heritability isn’t magic. A high heritability means that the current existing variation in the environment doesn’t have much effect. It should rule out the kind of thing Plumber is talking about. But how could it tell you about every possible environmental effect? Rare environments don’t contribute to the current variation and don’t reduce heritability. Iodine deficiency definitely affects IQ. If it were common, it would lower heritability, but it isn’t. If it were uniformly present (as in some times and places), heritability would still be pretty high, yet there would be an opportunity to improve it for everyone.

          • Clutzy says:

            @plumber

            I don’t know if IQ is effected, but I’ve read enough pieces that cite studies showing that moving a poor mother and her children to better neighborhoods reduces the chance that her children will also be poor as an adult, sadly though it only works when the children are less than seven years old, older than that and the children are just as likely to be poor as an adult as if they stayed in a poorer neighborhood.

            2 Points:

            1. All those studies, including Chetty, who I think is the most famous example of, rarely adjust for IQ of the mother/children, or have much less statistical and predictive power than your typical IQ study. In other words, if you consider those studies valid social science research, you should REALLY value IQ research because it has more power, is more replicable, and predicts more.

            2. The problem that those studies also rarely (but sometimes) grapple with is that there aren’t enough rich people in nice places to put the poor people into. Even in the most bold studies, once the relocated population reaches a certain amount. Places that are actually very rich like New Haven (Yale) and Washington DC, have horrible minority outcomes.

            For example, Chetty’s “best” county to live in (for minorities) is the top county, the positive doppelganger to Oglala Lakota County, is Sioux County, Iowa, where kids grew up to make 35 percent more than the national average would predict, Sioux County is 97 percent white. Indeed of the top 25 places for minorities to live, all are red states save one in Colorado, they include Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota South Dakota, Utah, Kansas, Montana, and Wyoming. Not exactly moving minorities to the burbs of NY, LA, Chicago, and Houston. Rather, it means these minorities restructured their entire lives to move to a place that was booming economically.

          • Clutzy says:

            Late addendum:
            Chetty doesn’t address minorities, just income mobility, because he used IRS data.

          • Aapje says:

            @Plumber

            Poverty is not a trait, but an outcome that can result from a bunch of traits and environmental circumstances. It doesn’t make much sense to directly link it to genes.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            @Doug

            A high heritability means that the current existing variation in the environment doesn’t have much effect. It should rule out the kind of thing Plumber is talking about. But how could it tell you about every possible environmental effect?

            Thinking about this, I agree with you theoretically. The heredity measure looks at existing environments and says the difference in IQ relates to either the difference in genes or the difference in this environment. So the usual way to fix IQ is to try to incorporate the environment of the groups that currently lead to the highest IQs for everyone. So this is only the cap in the sense of moving kids from a current bad environment to another good environment that already exists. If someone comes up with a whole new environment that enhances IQ, then this cap does not apply.

            But I still think the cap is the correct way to look at for normal life. I haven’t noticed a whole lot of activity coming up with a whole new environment that increases everyone’s IQ.

        • quanta413 says:

          Heredity can’t change, but heritability can definitely be affected by the environment. Typically that’s in not such a great way (parasites or nutrient deprivation), but if someone discovered a brand new intervention tomorrow that actually can increase intelligence and applied it to only half the population randomly, heritability would drop and the average person would be smarter. That seems unlikely right now, especially since everyone keeps trying slight tweaks on the same sort of things that appear to not do much. But it’s possible.

          • Loriot says:

            I was alluding to the phenomenon of inherited environment dependent changes. I.e. you need both genes and the right environment for something to happen. Or vice versa.

    • broblawsky says:

      I haven’t read Nesbitt’s book, but I have read a bunch of recent papers about IQ heritability (mostly so I could shriek into the digital void about The Bell Curve here, to my discredit). I’ll try to address your points one by one on the basis of my current best knowledge.

      1) Claims for heritability of any attribute over 0.5 should probably be met with significant skepticism, not the least because correlations require exponentially greater accuracy as they approach 1.0. The current best-supported estimate I’ve seen for g heritability is at 0.5, and I consider this to be a reasonable value. It’s worth noting, though, that heritability =/= genetics: pre-natal environment (and post-natal care) are substantial confounders.

      2) Firstly, it’s worth bearing in mind that smaller differences on a bell curve don’t just mean that an effect is smaller: it means that it’s more likely that the effect isn’t statistically significant. Secondly, the fact that >5 points of the black-white IQ gap evaporated in a scant few decades should force us to update our priors tas to how much of any IQ gap we expect to be genetic. If >5 points are purely environmental, it makes it more likely that the rest is probably environmental, not less likely. The new data establishes that environmental influences are strong; we’ve yet to establish the strength of race-linked genetic influences. Personally, I’ve decided to go with a 100% environmental explanation as well: I think it’s reasonably well supported by the scientific consensus.

      3) If IQ tests don’t accurately measure intelligence, we don’t have many tools for measuring intelligence at all. At that point, we might as well stop talking about it, since we can’t quantify it effectively. This is Murray’s great sin in The Bell Curve, to my mind: he uses this argument to dismiss the Flynn effect without considering how it undermines his ability to discuss intelligence in any way.

      4) Yeah, there’s no universally accepted definition of intelligence, or categorization of different types of intelligence. I think it’s reasonable to use IQ as a proxy for g, under the assumption that different types of intelligence are all somewhat correlated. There’s some evidence to back this assumption up, but it isn’t as strong as I’d like.

      5) Yeah, this one is rough. Twin studies aren’t perfect.

      6) Fetal environment and pre-natal health studies show a strong influence on IQ, but this is a pretty new area of study, and I personally haven’t put together a clear picture yet of just how strong these influences are.

      • rumham says:

        Secondly, the fact that >5 points of the black-white IQ gap evaporated in a scant few decades should force us to update our priors tas to how much of any IQ gap we expect to be genetic. If >5 points are purely environmental, it makes it more likely that the rest is probably environmental, not less likely. The new data establishes that environmental influences are strong; we’ve yet to establish the strength of race-linked genetic influences.

        Since no one is currently running a eugenics program, and we are only working on improving environmental factors, why would you expect any different of a result if it was actually 94% genetic influences?

        • broblawsky says:

          I’m sorry, I don’t think I fully understand your point. Could you elaborate?

          • Desrbwb says:

            I think rumham’s point goes something like this (many apologies if I’ve misunderstood too).

            Observation: More than 5 (so 6 in this example) points in the IQ gap have been closed in recent decades.

            Observation: This reduction has coincided with an improvement of ‘environmental factors’ which affect IQ, therefore the observed improvement can be reasonably attributed to these improvements.

            However, this is not sufficient information to distinguish between 2 possible models.

            Reality model 1: IQ is entirely environmental, and we haven’t solved them all yet, hence gap.

            Reality model 2: IQ is mixed environmental and hereditary, we’ve improved environment (potentially as far as it’ll go), but some of the gap will remain, because heredity is still exerting the same influence.

            These are 2 contradictory explanations for the gap. Why does the available data favour model 1 over model 2?

            Hope that made sense, like I said, that’s my interpretation of what rumham was getting at.

          • rumham says:

            @ Desrbwb

            Much better stated. Thank you.

          • broblawsky says:

            @Desrbwb: thank you very much.

            The data doesn’t directly favor Model 1 (purely environmental) over Model 2 (mixed environmental and genetics), no. However, my argument here is less about what the data itself points to as the cause of the gap and more about we should adjust our priors about the cause of the gap – see Scott’s post on priors and confirmation bias.

            My argument here is that, regardless of whether your prior assumptions (before learning that >5 points of the IQ gap were environmental) pointed towards Model 1 or Model 2, learning that at least 1/3 of the 1994-era gap was environmental should make us adjust our priors towards Model 1, even if you had a strong belief in Model 2 previously. If you had a 5% belief in Model 1 and a 95% belief in Model 2, maybe you should be at 10% Model 1 and 90% Model 2. If you were at 50/50, maybe you should be at 75/25 now. Each piece of new information should motivate us to update our priors.

          • rumham says:

            @broblawsky

            I understand your point, I just don’t think it requires an update if you were previously at anything but 100% genetic, since if you weren’t, you would expect only environmental factors so far, since that is all that has changed.

          • rumham says:

            More than 94% genetic, that is.

          • broblawsky says:

            I understand your point, I just don’t think it requires an update if you were previously at anything but 100% genetic, since if you weren’t, you would expect only environmental factors so far, since that is all that has changed.

            Well, I think I understand your argument now, but I think that unless your baseline position was already at less than 67% genetic, you’re definitely obligated to adjust your priors to have a lower mean genetic determinance of intelligence.

          • rumham says:

            @broblawsky

            I really don’t understand where the 67% number comes from.

          • rumham says:

            @broblawski
            Nevermind. 5 out of 15 gap. I got it. I have really got to stop multitasking.

      • John Schilling says:

        Possibly there was a better way to phrase that criticism.

      • broblawsky says:

        OK, I’m just going to report this one and ignore you for the future.

      • albatross11 says:

        broblawsky:

        2) Firstly, it’s worth bearing in mind that smaller differences on a bell curve don’t just mean that an effect is smaller: it means that it’s more likely that the effect isn’t statistically significant.

        I feel like I must be missing something here, because this comment doesn’t make sense. (We could talk about a single study finding no statistically significant difference in IQs, but that’s not actually what we see from the available studies. And a difference of .67 to 1.0 standard deviations between means is huge, so unless you’ve got tiny sample sizes, this is going to be statistically significant.) Are you thinking of practical significance?

        If the IQ difference is 0.67 standard deviations, then the average black guy is at the 25th percentile for whites. A randomly selected pair of people, one white and one black, will have the white guy with the higher IQ about 68% of the time. If we imagine that the practical cutoff for being a doctor is an IQ of 120 and for a scientist it’s 140, then we get about 9% of whites and 2% of blacks smart enough to be doctors, and about 38/10000 whites smart enough to be scientists, and 4/10000 blacks. (If the real difference is closer to one standard deviation, which many other studies have found, then those differences are a lot bigger.)

        This is real-world significant for observed effects like racial mix in gifted programs, STEM majors in college, STEM fields, law and medical school admissions, etc. Though when you’re dealing with an individual, it’s almost always going to be smarter to talk to them and look at their accomplishments or just give them an IQ test rather than trying to go by racial IQ averages. (It’s worth noting that the great majority of people of any race aren’t smart enough to be doctors or scientists.)

        Secondly, the fact that >5 points of the black-white IQ gap evaporated in a scant few decades should force us to update our priors tas to how much of any IQ gap we expect to be genetic. If >5 points are purely environmental, it makes it more likely that the rest is probably environmental, not less likely. The new data establishes that environmental influences are strong; we’ve yet to establish the strength of race-linked genetic influences. Personally, I’ve decided to go with a 100% environmental explanation as well: I think it’s reasonably well supported by the scientific consensus.

        This seems like a reasonable position to hold, though I don’t think there’s enough evidence to be sure either way. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to believe (as some scientists do) that the remaining gap has a substantial genetic component.

        I also think it’s important not to get too hung up on genetic/non-genetic, when what we actually care about is whether we can do anything about it. If the IQ gap turns out to largely be driven by, say, a genetically-determined higher sensitivity to childhood lead exposure in blacks than in whites, then the cause is genetic but the solution is to keep children away from lead exposure. If the IQ gap turns out to largely be driven by some kind of deep thing in black culture, it may be extremely hard to change even if it’s 0% genetic.

        • broblawsky says:

          I feel like I must be missing something here, because this comment doesn’t make sense. (We could talk about a single study finding no statistically significant difference in IQs, but that’s not actually what we see from the available studies. And a difference of .67 to 1.0 standard deviations between means is huge, so unless you’ve got tiny sample sizes, this is going to be statistically significant.) Are you thinking of practical significance?

          Mostly practical significance, yes. A 1- or 2-point shift in IQ isn’t meaningful in real terms.

          This seems like a reasonable position to hold, though I don’t think there’s enough evidence to be sure either way. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to believe (as some scientists do) that the remaining gap has a substantial genetic component.

          I also think it’s important not to get too hung up on genetic/non-genetic, when what we actually care about is whether we can do anything about it. If the IQ gap turns out to largely be driven by, say, a genetically-determined higher sensitivity to childhood lead exposure in blacks than in whites, then the cause is genetic but the solution is to keep children away from lead exposure. If the IQ gap turns out to largely be driven by some kind of deep thing in black culture, it may be extremely hard to change even if it’s 0% genetic.

          I don’t think it’s unreasonable to believe that the IQ gap has some kind of genetic component, no. I think any claim that it’s more than 10% genetic should be met with significant skepticism, and any claim over 20% is almost certainly based on lies. Your point that we should be more concerned with finding ways to ameliorate the achievement gap is insightful, though, and I appreciate it.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Secondly, the fact that >5 points of the black-white IQ gap evaporated in a scant few decades should force us to update our priors tas to how much of any IQ gap we expect to be genetic. If >5 points are purely environmental, it makes it more likely that the rest is probably environmental, not less likely.

        Why? Black environments are more different than white environments than they were 50 years ago before white flight, not more similar. This means that the environmental fix either has to be something that affects blacks substantially more than white (and would therefore be somewhat hereditary) or something that makes the suburbs actually worse than the inner cities for IQ.

        • albatross11 says:

          EchoChaos:

          Is that true? At least some stuff is much more equal now (resources available for education, poverty rate). And both blacks and whites are on average much richer in material terms than 50 years ago.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Is that true?

            Relatively, yes. In the 1960s more blacks lived in rural poverty by a large margin. That’s what caused the mass movement into cities that caused white flight.

            And both blacks and whites are on average much richer in material terms than 50 years ago.

            This is absolutely true, but wealthy blacks still lag behind even poor whites in IQ, so it can’t just be wealth that causes it.

      • albatross11 says:

        Also it’s worth noting that heritability of IQ changes (increases) with age. The usual explanation I’ve seen for this is that as an adult, people with higher IQs continue to seek out more mentally stimulating things to do. Alice and Bob went to the same grade school and were in the same classes. In high school, Alice took basic classes and Bob took AP classes. Alice went to a year of community college and then dropped out and took a job in an office; Bob got an accounting degree and went to work in the same company keeping the books. Alice likes to watch TV and knit as hobbies; Bob likes to read books and play chess as hobbies.

        At each step of the way, their intelligence leads them to live in different environments (partly by choice, partly by opportunities) that then push them in different directions w.r.t. mental development. There’s a Matthew effect going on. (“Them as has, gets.”)

        This is also consistent with the idea that the Flynn effect may be caused partly by an increasingly mentally stimulating environment over time[1]. And that’s also consistent with the idea that various personality traits or cultural elements may change what kind of mental environment people soak themselves in–you can imagine some cultures being a lot better than others at encouraging people to do mentally stimulating things.

        [1] That’s more-or-less Flynn’s hypothesis.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        @brob
        There have been several responses to your comments, but I don’t totally get them all, so I’ll make my own responses:
        1) I think pre-natal environment is part of the environment; it certainly isn’t genetic. I guess 0.5 is a good split the difference number, but I find it much more likely to be greater than 50% genetic than less than 50%. A lot of this is because the environment in the US is much more similar for everyone now than it was when I was a kid in the ’60’s. If it was 50% genetic then, it should be much higher now. The Internet and dramatic increases in government reach has greatly decreased environmental differences.

        2) I don’t see why a 5 point decrease in the Black-White gap should in any way change our conclusions as to its proportion due to heredity. It was seen that there was a 15 point difference decades ago, and at least part of that difference was environmental. There have been immense efforts to try to increase Black’s environment in those decades, and so it appears that 5 points may have been shaved off the gap. This is exactly what we would have seen if we were right that it was partly environmental decades ago. Why should we update based on no new information?

        3) In the Bell Curve, it was shown very persuasively IMO that IQ has very strong correlations to many different facets of success in life. It is these correlations that indicate how important it is whatever is being measured (which I think is general intelligence). But a number of the tests that measure this just indicate how much knowledge each person has. That is definitely an indirect measure of intelligence, because it is very hard to measure directly the ability to obtain knowledge. That these tests correlate highly to success factors (and also tests of fluid intelligence) I think is due to the fact that most people in our society have pretty similar access to knowledge, so the amount of knowledge correlates well to the ability to obtain knowledge. But this correlation does a much worse job when comparing knowledge in today’s world to knowledge of decades ago. I think even the fluid intelligence measures have changed also because of these changes over time. Just because IQ tests work pretty well to compare people in our time doesn’t mean you can use them to compare folks across times.

        I think we pretty much agree otherwise.

        • albatross11 says:

          ISTM that the real model here is that you have a parameter which describes what fraction of the IQ gap can be attributed to genetic differences. If you started with a very high fraction, like 100%, then a decrease in the size of the gap[1] should definitely cause you to update your estimate down. On the other hand, if you started with a much lower fraction, then a decrease in the size of the gap that occurred at the same time as large-scale social change intended to make black/white environments more equal might not cause you to revise your estimate much.

          The thing that makes estimating the fraction difficult is that it’s hard to find a population of black and white kids to study where you can really equalize environments. Both internal stuff (culture, style of parenting) and external stuff (discrimination, socially-determined expectations and image) work out differently for blacks and whites. In the US, blacks and whites look somewhat different in income, region, religion, social class, parental education, media consumption, occupation, diet, choice of cars, credit rating, etc. Teasing out the signal of genetics in all that environmental noise is going to be tricky and easy to get wrong.

          You can narrow your study to look at, say, black vs white kids who are middle class and have two college-educated parents, and that’s likely to close some of the IQ gap, but as I understand it, the IQ gap will still exist and be pretty substantial. But that doesn’t tell you whether the remaining gap is genetic in origin–it might just be stuff you didn’t control for/account for in your experimental design.

          I am an interested amateur, certainly no expert, but I don’t see how anyone can have strong enough confidence to say (as broblawsky does) that anyone estimating more than 20% genetics is lying. I don’t think the available evidence tells us enough.

          [1] I see inconsistent claims in different places about the size of the black/white IQ gap–ranging from about 10-15 points, aka 0.67-1.0 standard deviations.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Thank you very much Atlas. I looked at the two links.

      I didn’t much like the Kirkegaard one, because he was as obnoxious as Nisbett.

      The Rushton / Jenson one was very enlightening. These two are on the opposite extreme from Nesbitt, so I didn’t agree all the time with their extreme viewpoints, but they were well argued. I especially don’t agree with their discussions on IQ testing in Africa; I just don’t believe you can compare them profitably with the US because the environments are so different. And I have a hard time accepting that there are entire countries in Africa with an average IQ of 70. I don’t think humans can survive on their own with intelligence so low.

      I found it a bit fascinating that they said South Asians have an average IQ of 84. It is true that the Indians we see in the US are highly selected for intelligence, but still it is a strange contrast with all the brilliant Indians we see here. Well, I don’t believe that South Asian number for the same reason as for Africa — the environment is too different from the US to compare.

      I also disagree with this quote of theirs:

      if gene-environment interactions make it impossible to disentangle causality and apportion variance, then pragmatically that view is indistinguishable from the 100%
      culture-only program because it denies any numerical weight to the genetic component proposed by hereditarians.

      This claim seems to be saying that believing that we can’t tell yet if the Black-White difference has a genetic component is equivalent to believing in the 100% environment position. That is absolutely untrue. The 100% environment position gives you much more credence to use the disparate impact argument. 100% environment tells you that if there is a discrepancy in outcomes between Whites and Blacks, then there is something in the environment that needs to be fixed. If one is unsure about the genetics, then the disparate impact argument is not reasonable.

  15. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Conan review #15: Red Nails
    Originally published in the July through October issues of Weird Tales this was the last Conan story sold by Howard. He mailed it to editor Farnsworth Wright in July of 1935, at which time his ailing mother had major medical expenses and Wright already owed him $800 for stories already published. On February 11, 1936, he wrote to HP Lovecraft,

    “As for my own fantasy writing, whether or not I do any future work in that field depends a good deal on the editors themselves. I would hate to abandon weird writing entirely, but my financial needs are urgent, immediate and imperious.”

    (At the time of his 1936 suicide, Howard was mostly making his living as a writer of Westerns, with three different magazines having a backlog of monthly stories to publish. He was an incredibly prolific writer despite markets seeming to push him away from his muse. Before barbarians, his inspirations had included such forms as poetry and boxing stories. No wonder that his only known girlfriend, Novalyne Price, was introduced to him as someone who could show her how to become a published writer.)

    We start from the POV of Valeria, “of the Red Brotherhood, whose deeds are celebrated in song and ballad wherever seafarers gather.” Despite being a pirate, she’s acquired a horse, on which she’s fled into rain forest after knifing a would-be rapist. A mile to her south, she sees the rain forest thin out abruptly into cactus-dotted desert… with a walled city! Suddenly she hears someone rustling the leaves behind her:
    “Conan, the Cimmerian!” ejaculated the woman. “What are you doing on my trail?”

    Among the pre-king stories, we can tell this one is late in his career, since elsewhere it was something of a cliche that he had to tell people “I am Conan, a Cimmerian.”
    So he’s followed her from the southern border of Stygia where the knifing happened.

    “If I’d been there, I’d have knifed him myself. But if a woman must live in the war camps of men, she can expect such things.”
    Valeria stamped her booted foot and swore.
    “Why won’t men let me live a man’s life?”
    “That’s obvious!” Again his eager eyes devoured her. “But you were wise to run away.”

    He goes on to explain that the rapist’s brother followed her for revenge, and he helpfully caught up with the brother and killed him. So all this, including Conan the Orbiter, could have been avoided if she’d disguised herself as a man.
    They exchange insults along the line of “penniless vagabond!”

    “Where are the fine ships and the bold lads you commanded now?” she sneered.
    “At the bottom of the sea, mostly,” he replied cheerfully. “The Zingarans sank my last ship off the Shemite shore — that’s why I joined Zarallo’s Free Companions. But I saw I’d been stung when we marched to the Darfar border. The pay was poor and the wine was sour, and I don’t like black women.

    Since the last time Howard wrote about people of Darfar they were trying to EAT Conan and he doesn’t mention “being cannibals” as a reason he doesn’t like their women, I infer the cannibals are a cult, not the whole ethnicity. So that’s nice at least.
    One thing I like about the dialogue here is how Howard economically conveys someone other than Conan having wide-ranging adventures. Just a couple of sentences can convey that Valeria was a pirate until her captain tried to make her his mistress, so she jumped ship while anchored in one country and wound her way to another, finding mercenary work.
    Conan, though, is being too pushy to come off as a good guy: he says he “won’t leave empty-handed” and when Valeria pulls a sword on him, he brags of being such a superior fighter that he can take it and spank her with the flat. At least Howard tells us “No living man could disarm Valeria of the Brotherhood with his bare hands”, so Conan comes across as a braggart and not a horny Marty Stu.
    Their unpleasant banter is interrupted by the sound of something killing their horses. It’s a dragon! Or rather a carnivorous dinosaur, though one that resembles a Stegosaurus, or at least an ankylosaurid with a thagomizer. But that’s as close as Conan got to fighting a dragon until pastiche authors came along.
    Even at this stage in his career and with another adventurer who’s, if not his peer, in the ballpark, Conan assumes they can’t fight it and they must retreat up a crag beyond its reach on hind legs. Of course we know Conan and Valeria will overcome it with violence, but it’s interesting that even with a partner Conan never assumes he’s leveled up into a dragon-slayer. The dino’s even said to be so tough that they’d break swords on its armor.
    Since they have trees on the crag, Valeria asks if they can’t swing away through the branches like apes. Conan says he’s read the Tarzan books too, but no luck: the branches are too light to support her weight. Bored, hungry and with Conan touching her, Valeria scans the environment and finds fruit… but it’s the Apples of the Queen of the Dead. You can see where this is going: they drive off the dino with poison fruit jabbed in its mouth at the end of a weapon.
    Now onto the city, with the poisoned dino chasing them. On the way, Conan makes food out of cactus.

    “I was a kozak before I was a pirate,” … “It’s food and drink to a desert man. I was a chief of the Zuagirs once — desert men who live by plundering the caravans.”
    “Is there anything you haven’t done?” inquired the girl, half in derision and half in fascination.
    “I’ve never been king of an Hyborean kingdom,” he grinned, taking an enormous mouthful of cactus. “But I’ve dreamed of being even that. I may be too, some day. Why shouldn’t I?”

    Mystery is raised by the fact that there are no farms around the city, no hoofprints, no road. Yet there are ancient irrigation ditches. The gate is rusted and has cobwebs. Valeria hopes to find treasure gathering dust and cobwebs.
    “The opened gate, or door, gave directly into a long, broad hall which ran away and away until its vista grew indistinct in the distance.” The whole city will turn out to be a dungeon crawl. The walls are jade-coated, the vaulted ceiling of lapis lazuli, adorned with green stones that gleam with a poisonous radiance. There’s also daylight, via skylights of “translucent sheets of some crystalline substance.” Balustraded galleries reveal the walled city to be a great four-storied house. Checking rooms, the furnishings are precious and not collecting dust. Noticing friezes, Valeria asks what race the people in them belong to. Sadly, the answer is not “sapient crinoids.”

    “I never saw people exactly like them. But there’s the smack of the East about them — Vendhya,” she asks with snark if he was a king out there. “No. But I was a war chief of the Afghulis who live in the Himelian mountains above the borders of Vendhya.”
    Valeria complains that the deserting population must have taken all their treasures with them, a strange complaint when they could strip the walls and ceilings of precious materials. Suddenly, Valeria sees a man, who strangely in no way resembles the figures depicted on the friezes. Sneaking after him into another room, she finds him dead and spies another man. The second man is threatened by a bone-white muscleman with a bare skull for a head, like Belit and Skeletor had a baby. She decapitates the apparition for him, breaking a spell: it was a brown person with a mop of black hair. The Distressed Dude, Techotl, infodumps names on Valeria as he thanks her: this is Xuchotl, where the people of Xotalanc and Tecuhltli fight each other.
    (These names are meant to be Uto-Aztecan, which makes a pun of Conan identifying the builders as Vendhyan/Indian.)
    There’s a fight scene, whose resolution explains the title: “Five crimson nails for the black pillar! The gods of blood be thanked!” Techotl’s side records their kills with red nails in an ebony pillar. Valeria and Conan are implored to follow silently back to the safety of Tecuhltli, because wandering monsters… er, Xotalancas could ambush anywhere. They are indeed attacked in the dark, Conan’s sword striking “the Crawler! A monster they have brought out of the catacombs to aid them!”
    Our heroes are introduced to the prince and princess of this small weird tribe, Olmec and Tascela. The way the latter eyes Valeria is hinted to be lesbianism. Conan lets slip that they stopped a dragon with poison, which makes a shocked Olmec exposit that the thousand men of their migrating ancestors came inside Xuchotl with the women and children for fear of the “invincible” dragons. Only a few hundred people dwelt there, and a vengeful slave named Tolkemec let the immigrants in, in exchange for the captured natives being turned over to him. As to the natives:

    “their magicians made a terrible magic to guard the city; for by their necromantic arts they re-created the dragons which had once dwelt in this lost land, and whose monstrous bones they found in the forest. Those bones they clothed in flesh and life, and the living beasts walked the earth as they walked it when time was young.”

    “So for many centuries the people of Xuchotl dwelt in their city, cultivating the fertile plain, until their wise men learned how to grow fruit within the city — fruit which is not planted in soil, but obtains its nourishment out of the air — and then they let the irrigation ditches run dry and dwelt more and more in luxurious sloth, until decay seized them. They were a dying race when our ancestors broke through the forest and came into the plain. Their wizards had died, and the people had forgot their ancient necromancy.”

    “For a few years, then, they dwelt at peace within the city, doing little but eating, drinking, and making love, and raising children. There was no necessity to till the plain, for Tolkemec taught them how to…” work the hydroponics. Then brother leaders started fighting over a woman. Since then, the dungeon has been divided into feuding factions: “Tecuhltli dwelt in the western quarter of the city, Xotalanc in the eastern, and Tolkemec with his family by the southern gate.” Though “Twelve years ago we butchered the people of Tolkemec,” — aw come on, wiping out the third faction before the Player Characters arrive is bad dungeon design.

    “Now we of Tecuhltli number only these you see before you, and the men who guard the four doors: forty in all. How many Xotalancas there are we do not know, but I doubt if they are much more numerous than we. For fifteen years no children have been born to us, and we have seen none among the Xotalancas.”

    Valeria and Conan agree to kill the Xotalancas in exchange for all the jewels they can carry away. They’re shown to bedrooms, where Conan is told that beautiful young Tascela is the woman the feud has been fought over for 45 years… she’s a witch whose spell of youth is a dark secret.
    Valeria sleeps happy that the NPCs split the party, but that was just an excuse to imperil an isolated hero: she finds Tascela’s maid drugging her with a black lotus. She leaps awake:

    “You sulky slut!” [Valeria] said between her teeth. “I’m going to strip you stark naked and tie you across that couch and whip you until you tell me what you were doing here, and who sent you!”

    … and that’s exactly what we see until Yasala the maid says she’ll tell all, but she begs for a drink. Untied, she throws it in Valeria’s face and flees, into the catacombs. Where an inhuman sound makes her go “Ahhh!”
    Elsewhere, Conan leaps into action because the enemy has entered Tecuhltli due to magical piping. It’s noted that the women on both sides fight as madly as the men. Tascela and Valeria rejoin the scene. Tecuhltli defeats the outnumbered enemy, surmised to be desperate. Conan goes to evaluate the hypothesis that they’re extinct. Conan’s escort is told by Olmec to kill him, which of course fails. Apparently it was so Olmec could take Valeria. Stalking to the rescue, he finds Olmec strapped into a torture device. Tascela had betrayed him to get Valeria, who she intends to sacrifice to prolong her youth. So perhaps it wasn’t lesbianism after all: the spell requires beautiful young women, and maybe Tascela had run out in the city.
    Conan finds Valeria naked on an altar, similar to the cover scene. Alas, the door has a hidden bear trap. Then Tolkemec saunters into the room for vengeance. In the lean hand of Tolkemec waved a jade-hued wand, on the end of which glowed a knob shaped like a pomegranate. He shoots a death ray from it. When only he, Conan, Valeria, and Tascela are alive, the last deactivates the trap Conan’s in so he can save her. Conan twists aside as the death ray fires again (save vs. death ray!) and fatally throws a knife. Tascela dives for the wand and Valeria stabs her to death while she’s prone.
    Now here comes the cliche about treasure we’ve been expecting:

    I don’t want any of their accursed jewels. They might be haunted.”
    “There is enough clean loot in the world for you and me,” she said,

    Now she consents to kiss him, and the story ends with a line of Conan’s dialogue boasting of future pillage. Yep, that cliche too.

    So ends the last fantasy story written by Robert E. Howard, though we still have a ways to go since that’s not our reading order. But we should remember it as we ask how well he conveyed his ideas within the form of a fantasy story.
    Two-Gun Bob’s words to chaste gentlemanly friend H.P. Lovecraft:

    “The last yarn I sold to Weird Tales –and it well may be the last fantasy I’ll ever write– was a three-part Conan serial which was the bloodiest and most sexy weird story I ever wrote. I have been dissatisfied with my handling of decaying races in stories, for the reason that degeneracy is so prevalent in such races that it can not be ignored as a motive and as a fact if the fiction is to have any claim to realism. I have ignored it in all other stories, as one of the taboos, but I did not ignore it in this story…”

    More bluntly, to Novalyne Price:

    I’m working on a yarn like that now — a Conan yarn. … When you have a dying civilization, the normal, accepted life style ain’t strong enough to satisfy the damned insatiable appetites of the courtesans and, finally, of all the people. They turn to Lesbianism and things like that to satisfy their desires…

    This isn’t clearly conveyed, for Tascela’s lust for Valeria involves the latter’s youth and beauty being “spell components”, so to say, and V. isn’t approached by other lesbian suitors (though there’s some vague touching). Further, for something Howard believed was a real-world phenomenon, “decaying/dying civilization” is under-defined here. The people we meet in Xuchotl were immigrants fifty years ago and degenerated into a blood feud only five years after arriving.
    Well regardless, it’s a heck of a story. It prefigures Dungeons & Dragons more than any other Conan yarn, with a vitality that would be impossible for any writer to replicate after that game.
    Your thoughts?

    • Deiseach says:

      It’s a very despairing story, despite Conan and Valeria surviving and heading off to pursue a life of pillage and free love; the original people of the city dwindled down into such a feeble state that the influx of strangers was easily able to overpower and replace them. But the newcomers, instead of bringing vigour and renewal, themselves fell into the same trap of luxury and ease, started a stupid civil war over a love triangle, and within the space of only about fifty years have been so vicious and self-genocidal that they’ve reduced their own numbers down to a handful which all end up destroying each other, not to mention their ingratitude for turning on the guy who let them into the city in the first place and taught them how to use its technology. Generally it takes millenia or at least a few centuries for a people to get to this degree of decadence and self-destruction, but for the Xuchotl folk it all happened within one human lifetime.

      Valeria may be right when she says to take nothing from it, that the city is cursed.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        the original people of the city dwindled down into such a feeble state that the influx of strangers was easily able to overpower and replace them. But the newcomers, instead of bringing vigour and renewal, themselves fell into the same trap of luxury and ease, started a stupid civil war over a love triangle, and within the space of only about fifty years have been so vicious and self-genocidal that they’ve reduced their own numbers down to a handful which all end up destroying each other, not to mention their ingratitude for turning on the guy who let them into the city in the first place and taught them how to use its technology.

        As you say, it’s a very despairing story, and it gnaws at me because what it means is unclear. Best I can figure, Xuchotl is structurally decadent. Unlike the trope of Germanic tribes replacing Roman decadence with a new culture, the newcomers to Xuchotl are auto-decadent. That would explain why Conan and Valeria are afraid to cart off a wall or ceiling as loot.
        So why is it structurally like that? The advanced technology? Was Howard trying to say with stuff like the hydroponics that he feared any civilization more advanced than the 1930s would lose all vigor?
        Ultimately though I don’t feel like getting too deep into this, as it’s not a worldview that holds up to as much scrutiny as, say, Lovecraft’s beliefs.

        Generally it takes millenia or at least a few centuries for a people to get to this degree of decadence and self-destruction, but for the Xuchotl folk it all happened within one human lifetime.

        Exactly.

        despite Conan and Valeria surviving and heading off to pursue a life of pillage and free love;

        The view of sexuality here is funny. Howard sees homosexuality as a form of decadence, but how clean-limbed men and women are supposed to have relations isn’t clear. Conan’s behavior is somewhere between hook-up culture and serial monogamy. It never has the clarity of its influence Edgar Rice Burroughs, who basically wrote romance novels from the male perspective and so glorified monogamous True Love.

        • Nornagest says:

          Howard sees homosexuality as a form of decadence, but how clean-limbed men and women are supposed to have relations isn’t clear.

          I always got the impression, reading these stories, that Howard wasn’t too clear on that either. Sure, the Conan stories are consistently lusty and kinky almost as often, but in a bubbly, boyish kind of way — it’s a depiction of what a hot-blooded yet honorable barbarian gets up to in his free time that you might expect from a fourteen-year-old kid without Internet access, and that’s fairly clear even though Howard discreetly fades to black for anything raunchier than bruising kisses. And I don’t think this is just 1920s cultural prudery, either, I think Howard was genuinely uncomfortable and out of his depth.

          • vrostovtsev says:

            This made me realize that my favorite Conan novels were not written by Howard but by Jordan. Jordan, as far as I can remember was much more comfortable writing the boudoir (and altar, hur hur hur) scenes, althought on the other hand it might’ve been the Russian translator.

          • Nornagest says:

            Jordan was more comfortable with the bedroom scenes, but I’d credit the translator with any other virtues the books you read might have. Jordan was nowhere near as good a prose stylist as Howard when he was writing those books — he wasn’t even as good at the peak of his career, writing Wheel of Time.

            (Although that’s a considerably smaller gap. If I didn’t know they were by the same author, I wouldn’t have guessed, although the spankings would have been a clue.)

          • Spookykou says:

            I found the opening of Wheel of time “we are stuck in an eternal repeating cycle, lets sit down and watch one random rotation” such a huge turn off that I couldn’t continue with the book. Does anyone, anywhere think that is a good opening?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Spookykou

            Wheel of Time is one of my favorite series, and I really enjoyed that aspect of it, so… yes?

          • Spookykou says:

            It feels like front loading an equivalent of the ‘it was all a dream’ ending, something like ‘none of this matters’, maybe the author breaks the cycle, I don’t know, I wasn’t willing to invest the time after being told I was about to read somebodies ‘dream’. A lot of books end up more or less where they started, it is common in fiction, but telling me to my face you are going to do that just kills my interest in the events, even if I can normally assume it to be the case. Do you really think the book is worse if it just opens on the road, and they gradually reveal the circular nature of the universe?

            Thinking about it more, I also really don’t enjoy the, opening on high powered crazy shit, rewind to farm boy, but seriously stick around because we will eventually get back to that high powered crazy shit! I don’t consume fiction explicitly for high powered crazy shit, I can enjoy it when done well, but it does nothing to hook me in and the method is jarring. I’m perfectly happy to read a book about a farm boy.

            It reminds me a bit of a deeply bizarre conversation I had with someone who recommend the anime Overlord to me solely on the basis that the main character was “like so crazy overpowered, it’s awesome!”.

          • vrostovtsev says:

            > opening of Wheel of time “we are stuck in an eternal repeating cycle, lets sit down and watch one random rotation”

            Opening is slightly dishonest because there appears to be an actual chance that the Dark One will prevail, break the cycle and remake the Wheel in his image.

            > recommend the anime Overlord to me solely on the basis that the main character was “like so crazy overpowered, it’s awesome!”.

            Sometimes it can be fun to `turn off the brain` and just watch an OP character dish the damage. Overlord *tries* to show actual challenges to an OP character and it sometimes is interesting — but Momonga’s real challenge is not in defeating his enemies but in finding himself and his posse a place in the world that he would like.

            it’s kinda like One Punch Man — there is no doubt Saitama will win with one punch, the real challenge is that he is playing videogames and noone bothers to page him because the bureaucracy does not recognize him as S-class hero anyway, which I personally find hilarious.

          • Spookykou says:

            @vrostovtsev

            I am having a hard time parsing your response.

            Is the opening of Wheel of Time a good way to open a story, is the story better for it? My impression is that it is almost to the point of being objectively wrong. Sure it’s art, it’s all subjective, you don’t have to help me suspend my disbelief any more than you have to pretend like the events in your story will have consequences.

            A related example, one thing I didn’t like about Star Wars episode 7 is that it undoes the work of 4-6, Oh the rebels won the war against the evil empire, lets all move forward thirty years in time to a point where the rebels are fighting the evil empire again. Is that really what Porkins died for?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest:

            (Although that’s a considerably smaller gap. If I didn’t know they were by the same author, I wouldn’t have guessed, although the spankings would have been a clue.)

            I’m morbidly curious about this tangent, as the only Robert Jordan book I own is The Eye of the World (Barnes & Noble leather bound edition). While he was by no means a bad prose stylist by that point, he’s like an anti-master of economy of prose/tight writing/whatever, and in particular is infamous for padding the Wheel of Time series with descriptions of clothes. Knowing that he got his start writing Conan novels just reminds me of passages like this from the legendary off-brand pastiche The Eye of Argon:

            Adorning the torso’s of both of the sentries were thin yet sturdy hauberks, the breatplates of which were woven of tightly hemmed twines of reinforced silver braiding. Cupping the soldiers’ feet were thick leather sandals, wound about their shins to two inches below their knees. Wrapped about their waists were wide satin girdles, with slender bladed poniards dangling loosely from them, the hilts of which featured scarlet encrusted gems. Resting upon the manes of their heads, and reaching midway to their brows were smooth copper morions. Spiraling the lower portion of the helmet were short, up-curved silver spikes, while a golden hump spired from the top of each basinet. Beneath their chins, wound around their necks, and draping their clad shoulders dangled regal purple satin cloaks, which flowed midway to the soldiers feet.

            (The hero murders these nameless mooks only a few sentences after they’re introduced via their clothes.)

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I didn’t have any comments for this one besides “good yarn” and a thanks for writing the review.

    • broblawsky says:

      I couldn’t really get into this one. The Xuchotlese don’t really click for me as a culture; they seem more like a lesson Howard constructed to express his beliefs.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        The Xuchotlese don’t really click for me as a culture; they seem more like a lesson Howard constructed to express his beliefs.

        Yeah, that’s a thing. This one is almost half a novel (in the late 1960s, when novels were shorter, it shared its page count with just the long “Beyond the Black River” and one short story/novelette) and it was consciously slower to get through than “People of the Black Circle”, which I assume had a similar word count.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Conan review #16: “Jewels of Gwahlur
      First published in the March 1935 issue of Weird Tales. It didn’t make cover money.

      Conan is climbing a 300-foot cliff. Why is he climbing a 300-foot cliff? He wants treasure. There’s a little niche of a cave near the top, which contains a mummy. Conan, “late of the Baracha Isles, of the Black Coast, and of many other climes”, doesn’t want a mummy. However, there’s a roll of parchment that seems important. Then he reaches the top, a mesa a few miles in diameter with a lost city called Alkmeenon. He seeks to rob the poor kingdom of Keshan of its lost treasure, under the cover story of offering his services as a General or master Drill Sergeant to train its army against its rival Punt, that fabled land of the gods the Egyptians, er, Stygians import incense from. But things got more complicated. Thutmekri the Stygian came in with an embassy from Zembabwei, telling the Keshan rulers that Punt had recently expelled the Zembabwan traders and burned their fortresses, so hey, we’ll help you conquer them but you can annex all the territory… just give us some of those lost Teeth of Gwahlur to seal the treaty in our temple, alongside the foreign idols. Conan decided to go use his Climb skill because the high priest Gorulga declared that their (sigh) White Goddess, the Oracle of Alkmeenon, must be asked what to do. Conan and Thutmekri know each other and Conan expects his rival to steal the jewels when the high priest lets the embassy in here, then run off, double-crossing the king of Zembabwei, whom he has believing he’ll win a war of expansion. Whew.
      So now Conan is there ahead of them, and among the ruins he finds the golden throne of Alkmeenon. “He weighed it with a practised eye. It represented a fortune in itself, if he were but able to bear it away.” Aw yeah, that’s a Player Character. In the next room, he finds the body of a woman on an ivory dais. She’s motionless as Conan taps the dais with sword, fruitlessly hoping it’s a hollow treasure chest. He also finds a secret alcove, where a priest can throw their voice to be the oracle.
      He puzzles over the parchment:

      “In his roaming about the world the giant adventurer had picked up a wide smattering of knowledge, particularly including the speaking and reading of many alien tongues. Many a sheltered scholar would have been astonished at the Cimmerian’s linguistic abilities, for he had experienced many adventures where knowledge of a strange language had meant the difference between life and death.”

      He gathered that the writer, the mysterious Bit-Yakin, had come from afar with his servants, and entered the valley of Alkmeenon.”

      The scroll is in “archaic Pelishtic”, which is apparently a chronolect of Semitic, which Conan speaks and is literate in (language #10! 2 remain unaccounted for).
      Suddenly he hears a gong. Fearing company, he finds it… with no one around. Beneath the gong the polished marble flagstones splinter under him and he falls into icy black water.
      He discovers metal ladders at regular intervals in the subterranean river and makes his way out. What is this, a modern swimming pool? Where would the water table be in a 300-foot-high mesa?
      When he makes it back to the room with the woman’s body… she’s alive! “She sat up with a supple ease, still holding his ensorcelled stare.” She tries to command him, but he figures out that she’s really Muriela, the slave girl of Zargheba, another foreign notable in Zembabwei’s embassy. He must have sent her here in advance of the priestly party as part of a plan to fool the locals. Seeing his anger, she throws her arms around him and pleads that she was forced to impersonate the oracle.

      “Why, you sacrilegious little hussy!” rumbled Conan. “Do you not fear the gods? Crom! Is there no honesty anywhere?”

      OK, that’s pretty funny.

      It turns out that Gwarunga, a priest (not the high priest), is in on Thutmekri and Zargheba’s scheme, and revealed a hidden cave they could use to beat the main party (and even Conan the Climber) here. Conan says he’ll free her from slavery if she makes a change of plans:

      When the priests come, you’ll act the part of Yelaya, as Zargheba planned — it’ll be dark, and in the torchlight they’ll never know the difference. But you’ll say this to them: ‘It is the will of the gods that the Stygian and his Shemitish dogs be driven from Keshan. They are thieves and tratiors who plot to rob the gods. Let the Teeth of Gwahlur be placed in the care of the general Conan. Let him lead the armies of Keshan.

      He skulks off to hunt Zargheba, but someone has decapitated him.
      Seeing the priestly party approach, he Moves Silently back in to watch them from behind the secret panel he found earlier. She does as he told her. Then the party moves off save Gwarunga, who throttles Muriela. Conan tries to kill him but he twists and only gets knocked out by the force of the flat. Good dexterity on that guy. Conan pauses to coup de grace him, but Muriela screams… and disappears, replaced by the incorrupt dead body of Yelaya the goddess. He opens a secret door she must have been dragged through. Beyond, he finds falling stone traps, which scare him into looking for another route. Backtracking, Yelaya had again vanished! And so did the man he didn’t kill.
      Hiding in shadows, he follows the high priest and friends, and sees them confronted by Yelaya. She tells them:

      Alkmeenon is no longer holy, because it has been desecrated by blasphemers. Give the Teeth of Gwahlur into the hands of Thutmekri, the Stygian, to place in the sanctuary of Dagon and Derketo. Only this can save Keshan from the doom the demons of the night have plotted. Take the Teeth of Gwahlur and go; return instantly to Keshia; there give the jewels to Thutmekri, and seize the foreign devil Conan and flay him alive in the great square.

      When the priests leave to obey, he sneaks up on Yeyala… and she’s dead! What is this, Weekend at Yeyala’s? A black shape attacks in the dark. Conan fights, not knowing it’s Gwarunga until he’s dead. He moves into another room. “staring for ever toward the arched doorway, sat the monstrous and obscene Pteor, the god of the Pelishti, wrought in brass, with his exaggerated attributes reflecting the grossness of his cult. And in his lap sprawled …” Muriela. Her wrists are chained to the Priapic idol’s gold armbands.
      Whoa. Was Howard daring Margaret Bondage to paint an unpublishable cover for this issue?

      Muriela was grabbed by hairy gray apes that walk like humans. It turns out that’s what Bit-Yakin’s servants were. Conan says he learned from the scroll that Bit-Yakin and his apes came here after it was abandoned, and found Princess Yayela’s dead body. He made an oracle of it, himself proving the voice. He ate Yayela’s offerings, while his apes used the ladders in the subterranean river to fish for human corpses, whose source is the funerals of Puntish highlanders. And it was they who killed Zargheba.
      Conan follows the priests and finds the apes killing them. He goes after the cask of jewels they’d taken out. From him it passes to Muriela, then an ape grabs her and it, walking high above the rushing water… well you can guess where this is going. The monster dies and drops both, but Conan can catch only one. He chooses the girl.
      When they reach safety, he tells her not to cry about the jewels. He has a new plan:

      I’ll tell [Punt] that Keshan is intriguing with Thutmekri to enslave them — which is true — and that the gods have sent me to protect them — for about a houseful of gold. If I can manage to smuggle you into their temple to exchange places with their ivory goddess, we’ll skin them out of their jaw teeth before we get through with them!”

      spit take

      Does every black kingdom have an ivory goddess in Howard’s mind?
      Stereotypical stand-up comedian: “Black guys be like ‘we gotta worship a white woman!'”

      I like these stories where everyone is trying to double-cross each other, but this is a weaker example of the type within the Conan series. Muriela is another non-entity of a woman, making me much prefer the scheming of Nefertari in “Shadows in Zamboula”.
      Here the pieces don’t add up as well as they could: there’s the fraudulent supernatural, but then there are also corpses that never corrupt and such unexplained stuff, there aren’t enough schemers on-stage, and then it ends in a paroxysm of racist Trope.
      Your thoughts?

      • broblawsky says:

        The Dark Horse adaptation of this one has some really lovely P. Craig Russell art.

        That’s about the best I can say about it.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Largely agree. They never did explain how Yeyala’s body doesn’t decay, although they did bother to explain how her clothes stay fresh: apparently the ape monsters have a stash of goddess gear and they swap them out like a dress-up doll. And are apparently still doing this 100 years after the last time any of the priests tried to show up.

        Also, we’ve seen many times now where Conan could have snagged some loot, but decides he doesn’t want any from such accursed places. So why bother going into the magic goddess temple to steal loot? There’s a really good chance it’s going to be magically screwed up and you’re going to wind up noping on out. Go rob a caravan or something, but stay away from haunted crypts if you’re superstitious, as Conan freely admits to being.

        Then again, does it count as superstition if your world really is populated by ghosts, wizards, monsters, dead gods and gibbering horrors from beyond the void? Like, if my friend in United States 2020 was scared of the dark because ghosts, I could tell him “please, there’s no such thing as ghosts, you’re just being superstitious.” But if Conan is wary about ancient tombs because horrors from beyond the grave…yeah that’s totally reasonable. He’s already stabbed at least two or three ancient undead sorcerers in those kinds of places, so that’s not a superstition, that’s healthy caution.

        Finally, there’s zero tension when it comes to choosing the girl or the treasure when this is the 15th time Conan ends a story with money, power and a girl and starts the next episode with nothing but a loincloth and a sword. It doesn’t matter which one he picks. He’s not going to have either next episode.

      • Deiseach says:

        Conan the Cimmerian, late of the Baracha Isles, of the Black Coast, and of many other climes where life ran wild, had come to the kingdom of Keshan following the lure of a fabled treasure that outshone the hoard of the Turanian kings.

        Okay, so we find out where he ended up after taking over Zaporavo’s ship and crew – headed back to the balmier climes with fat merchantmen in the shipping lanes to be plundered, probably did a bit too much plundering and attracted the attention of the law, and lost said ship and crew somewhere/somehow, so now he’s back on the thief/adventurer path again.

        I appreciated this exchange; ah now Conan, not every wizard, priest or mystic is a fake and a fraud. Okay, most of the ones you encounter, sure…

        “Thutmekri wanted the treasure where he—or the Zembabwans – could lay hand on it easily,” muttered Conan, disregarding the remark concerning himself. “I’ll carve his liver yet—Gorulga is a party to this swindle, of course?”

        “No. He believes in his gods, and is incorruptible. He knows nothing about this. He will obey the oracle. It was all Thutmekri’s plan. Knowing the Keshani would consult the oracle, he had Zargheba bring me with the embassy from Zembabwei, closely veiled and secluded.”

        “Well, I’m damned!” muttered Conan. “A priest who honestly believes in his oracle, and can not be bribed. Crom! I wonder if it was Zargheba who banged that gong. Did he know I was here? Could he have known about that rotten flagging? Where is he now, girl?”

        Conan has finally learned to pick up any loose loot when on a thieving expedition:

        “We can’t go yet,” he grunted. “I want to follow the priests and see where they get the jewels. There may be more loot hidden there. But you can go with me. Where’s that gem you wore in your hair?”

        “It must have fallen out on the dais,” she stammered, feeling for it. “I was so frightened—when the priests left I ran out to find you, and this big brute had stayed behind, and he grabbed me—”

        “Well, go get it while I dispose of this carcass,” he commanded. “Go on! That gem is worth a fortune itself.”

        Does every black kingdom have an ivory goddess in Howard’s mind?

        The way it’s described, I thought he meant they worship a goddess carved out of ivory:

        The people of Punt worship an ivory woman, and they wash gold out of the rivers in wicker baskets.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Okay, so we find out where he ended up after taking over Zaporavo’s ship and crew – headed back to the balmier climes with fat merchantmen in the shipping lanes to be plundered, probably did a bit too much plundering and attracted the attention of the law, and lost said ship and crew somewhere/somehow, so now he’s back on the thief/adventurer path again.

          Right. It’s an economical way of telling the reader what’s up.

          I appreciated this exchange; ah now Conan, not every wizard, priest or mystic is a fake and a fraud.

          Me too. The honest high priest is a great bit to have in an “everyone is planning a double cross” story.

          The way it’s described, I thought he meant they worship a goddess carved out of ivory:

          The people of Punt worship an ivory woman, and they wash gold out of the rivers in wicker baskets.

          Ah, that interpretation didn’t occur to me.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Now a special post I’ve been waiting to make: Tally of Lost Women!

      How often does Conan Get the Girl in the end, only for her to vanish forever? Let’s go down our story list.
      The Frost Giant’s Daughter: Atali wasn’t a girlfriend
      The God in the Bowl: no girl
      The Tower of the Elephant: no girl
      Rogues in the House: girl dumps him to the police, so he dumps her in a cesspool
      Queen of the Black Coast: after years together, Belit dies
      The Vale of Lost Women: Conan rejects a relationship with Livia
      Black Colossus: social rules kept Yasmela and Conan from staying together after they had sex next to a wizard’s corpse
      Shadows in the Moonlight: Olivia and Conan are a couple at the end
      * In the Lancer paperbacks, this story is followed by “The Road of the Eagles”, a non-Conan Howard story L. Sprague de Camp rewrote into a sequel… without mentioning Olivia.
      A Witch Shall Be Born: Conan rides off, Queen Taramis never having been his love interest
      Shadows in Zamboula: Nafertari acts like she’s going to pay Conan with sex, but refuses in favor of gold, not knowing he stole the Ophirean crown jewel she lost.
      The Slithering Shadow: Natala and Conan are a couple at the end
      The Devil in Iron: Octavia ends the story similar to Olivia and Natala
      * In the Lancer paperbacks, this story is followed by “The Flame Knife”, a non-Conan Howard story L. Sprague de Camp rewrote into a sequel… without mentioning Octavia.
      The People of the Black Circle: Conan accepts that he and Yasmina can’t stay together
      The Pool of the Black One: Sancha is the captain’s woman but doesn’t seem to like it
      Red Nails: Valeria and Conan are a couple at the end
      Jewels of Gwahlur: Muriela and Conan are a couple at the end
      * It’s not in the Lancer series, but L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter eventually (1978) wrote “The Ivory Goddess”, a sequel where Conan carries out the scheme mentioned at the end of “Gwahlur” and is forced by circumstances to break up with Muriela.
      Beyond the Black River: no girl
      The Black Stranger: there are significant female characters but Conan doesn’t hook up with one
      The Phoenix on the Sword: no girl
      The Scarlet Citadel: no girl
      The Hour of the Dragon: Conan sends a marriage proposal to Zenobia

    • Nornagest says:

      You can see where this is going: they drive off the dino with poison fruit jabbed in its mouth at the end of a weapon.

      Nice move. I’ll be taking note of this for future use in D&D.

  16. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Joe Biden jumped to 50 delegates (vs. Bernie’s 58) by crushing Bernie in South Carolina. It’s such a rapid change that Buttgig dropped out of the race, as did Tom Steyer.

    • Belisaurus Rex says:

      Don’t think that’s why. It’s 50 delegates out of over a thousand. FoxNews and Trump seem to think it’s so Buttigieg voters will flock to Biden for Super Tuesday. Perhaps the DNC made Buttigieg an offer he couldn’t refuse?

      Biden is now the youngest male candidate.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        FoxNews and Trump seem to think it’s so Buttigieg voters will flock to Biden for Super Tuesday. Perhaps the DNC made Buttigieg an offer he couldn’t refuse?

        Aw man, he’s so rich that he owns a race horse?

      • Loriot says:

        The issue is that Buttigieg’s campaign was premised on the notion that he would be the compromise candidate to emerge from a contested convention, since he had no plausible shot of winning an outright majority, but that strategy could only work as long as he was the strongest moderate candidate. After Biden’s landslide victory in SC, and getting double Buttigieg’s delegates, it makes no sense that a brokered convention would chose Buttigieg over Biden, and thus he had no plausible path to the nomination.

        • Matt M says:

          The issue is that Buttigieg’s campaign was premised on the notion that he would be the compromise candidate to emerge from a contested convention

          People keep saying this, but I think it’s incredibly unlikely. “Contested convention” basically means “nominee will be decided in a backroom among DNC insiders.” And people think the DNC insiders are going to pick the billionaire with zero party history/loyalty, questionable racial/gender comments, and who used to be a Republican? Why, exactly, would they do that?

          IMO a contested convention is more likely to result in Hillary or Michelle Obama or Oprah than it is Bloomberg… Nobody in the DNC actually wants Bloomberg. They might even prefer Bernie to him.

          • GearRatio says:

            I suspect although I am not sure that you misread the post you are replying to – he’s talking about Mayor Pete and Biden, and you seem to be refuting him with points that are about Bloomberg.

          • Matt M says:

            Oh geez, yeah, I misread that completely. Not sure how and browser issues are preventing me from editing/deleting.

            Consider this a formal retraction/apology.

          • Loriot says:

            That’s literally the argument that Buttigieg campaigners were making to me as late as yesterday morning. I’m not making that up. That’s what his volunteers were saying. Even they didn’t think he could win an outright majority.

            Edit: Oh, you just misread the post. Nevermind.

            Interestingly, the few Bloomberg volunteers I talked to were notably lacking in enthusiasm. In fact, I didn’t see *any* yesterday. I guess that’s what happens when you try to buy your way into the race.

      • Hoopdawg says:

        Perhaps the DNC made Buttigieg an offer he couldn’t refuse?

        Most likely. I thought it was just Sanders fans pointing this out (for quite a while now, long before Pete’s exit), but now even FiveThirtyEight is outright saying this. Buttigieg was a centrist candidate whose supporters are among the least likely to vote for Sanders instead, and may push Bloomberg/Warren up above the electoral threshold in several states. Meanwhile, the less successful candidates Warren and Klobuchar are encouraged to keep running instead, because at least the former has a significant cross-appeal with Sanders, and both still have their home states to run in and take votes away from him.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Biden is now the youngest male candidate.

        Youngest DEMOCRAT male candidate.

        Donald Trump is now the youngest man running for President in 2020 with Joe Walsh dropping out of the Republican primary.

    • Loriot says:

      Wow, that was sudden. Just this morning, I was talking to hordes of enthusiastic Buttigieg campaigners. I kind of feel sorry for them now. One mentioned that she’d been volunteering for almost ten months, ever since he launched his campaign.

    • meh says:

      Pete seemed clearly in third place by a wide margin by any measure. If he is out, what reason do anyone but Bernie and Biden have to stay in?

      • Clutzy says:

        Grifting.

        Most presidential campaigns are grifts.

      • Eric Rall says:

        Bloomberg stays in because he’s got a shot at the nomination via contested convention. Not a great shot, since he’ll most likely have fewer pledged delegates than either Biden or Sanders, but unlike Buttigieg, Bloomberg has the money to run a credible campaign and keep accumulating delegates through June. Bloomberg also has a lot more superdelegates who owe him favors than Buttigieg does. And even if he can’t win a contested convention, he’d at least be in a good position to play kingmaker.

        • albatross11 says:

          My guess is that if the coronavirus epidemic turns out really bad, it helps Bloomberg’s campaign a lot. Competent authoritarianism has a lot more appeal in a crisis than incompetent blustering authoritarianism or liberalism of most any kind.

      • Loriot says:

        I expect Klobuchar to drop after Super Tuesday, and Bloomberg and Warren to drop out soon afterwards (assuming of course that Bloomberg does poorly on Tues like I expect).

        Anyone else who’s still running is a nutjob who doesn’t care about viability (hi Tulsi Gabbard!).

        Incidently, I actually ran into a group of Warren campaigners this morning and asked them why they were still campaigning when she clearly didn’t stand a chance. They said it was important for “everyone to be heard” and that even if Warren doesn’t win, her delegates can still influence the party platform.

        • Eric Rall says:

          I expect Klobuchar to drop after Super Tuesday

          Agreed. My read is that she’s waiting until after her home state’s primary, which she’s (narrowly) projected to win. Winning a popular vote plurality in at least one state and picking up a couple dozen delegates is a somewhat more dignified position from which to exit the race

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          The DNC 2020 may have learned from GOP 2016, and are taking the necessary steps to stop Bernie.

          Pete dropped out. His support largely goes to Biden.

          Klobuchar stays in long enough to take Minnesota, stopping Bernie from taking it.

          Warren stays in indefinitely, leeching away Sanders’ support.

          Bloomberg isn’t part of the DNC and doesn’t care what they say, but he should see the writing on the wall soon.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Well, Amy is dropping out now, so I miss on that one.

            EDIT: Three of us made this prediction, and we all posted that we were wrong.

        • Nick says:

          The cascade of folks openly admitting their predictions were off is heartwarming!

      • Tarpitz says:

        Buttigieg has an upside to dropping out that most of the others don’t: he’s young enough that being a team player can induce the DNC and/or Biden to give him a high profile job that will make him a stronger candidate the next time he runs (and may well be appealing in its own right).

        • albatross11 says:

          +1

          Buttigieg made himself a national political figure this year, and he’s a young man with a long potential future in politics. Further, being a gay man is going to be less and less of an impediment to getting elected as time goes on. With more experience, he’d be a really strong candidate.

          The same is true of Yang, but probably less so. He got his ideas out there and established himself as someone worth listening to, and he’s also a young man.

          Tulsi also established herself, but she’s a fairly odd candidate (and person), and I don’t know what her political future looks like. If she runs third-party, she will likely burn bridges with the Democrats; otherwise, well, there are a lot of screwballs in politics, so I’m sure there’s room for one more.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            It’ll be interesting to see whether he sticks around Indiana. Being there is a big impediment to getting the sort of job from which he can launch a more credible run next time.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Paul Zrimsek

            Yeah, who ever heard of a politician from Indiana being tapped for a major government post

          • baconbits9 says:

            Seems like Pete has a shot at the vice presidency if Biden takes the primary. He could even be the nominee in 4 years if Biden takes it all with Joe’s age.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            My point (it should hardly be necessary to point out) is not that people are reluctant to consider anyone from Indiana for high national office, but that people are reluctant to consider anyone whose highest qualification is being the former mayor of South Bend. Pence was governor before he was VP; Buttigieg is never going to be governor of anyplace so long as that anyplace is Indiana.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Paul Zrimsek

            My post was light-hearted sarcasm. I agree with you that he doesn’t have a chance to win state-wide office (and he got clobbered the one time he tried).

            Moving to another state would give him a chance to grow into intermediate office, but it would also hurt his major appeal which is standing for the Rust Belt.

        • Loriot says:

          Klobuchar is still relatively young and a popular senator to boot. She has a future outside of this election.

      • BBA says:

        For Bloomberg, ego, which is most of the reason why he ran himself instead of throwing money at an existing centrist campaign.

        For Warren, spite. Most of her remaining support comes from Hillary hardliners who want to stick it to Bernie for not dropping out in 2016 when he wasn’t viable.

        For Klobuchar and the rest, who knows.

      • John Schilling says:

        If he is out, what reason do anyone but Bernie and Biden have to stay in?

        Given a choice between being seen as a loser and being seen as a quitter, which would you prefer? Sports teams give their best effort, or something close to it, to the very end of lopsided games where any hope of a comeback victory is lost, and the same holds in politics. Losing well gets more respect than quitting.

        So, the question isn’t what reason they have to stay in the race, but what reason they would ever have to quit. The two common answers are, first, running out of money when the donors drifted away and a continued campaign would look even more pathetic than quitting, or second, as Tarpitz notes, a tacit deal in which they are positioned for a better chance at winning in the next contest.

        Bloomberg, isn’t going to run out of money and he isn’t ever going to get a better shot at the oval office than this, so he’s in it to the end. The others will (or did) leave when the money dries up, with a bit of margin for optimizing future prospects.

      • herbert herberson says:

        There’s speculation that Warren is staying in to keep her voters from going to Bernie.

    • Plumber says:

      @Le Maistre Chat,
       
      Speaking of the Democratic primaries,  I just read a piece from February 28th by Olivia Nuzzi, on the South Carolina primary, that I found too hilarious not to share:

      ‘”Joe Biden is gonna kick ass here because this is a normal place,” Dick Harpootlian said. “No shit.” A member of the South Carolina State Senate and former chairman of the state Democratic Party, Harpootlian, who has known Biden since the late 1980s, was an early supporter of his third presidential campaign.

      “He’s a normal guy,” he said, by way of explanation.

      After a long day at the statehouse listening to his fellow lawmakers filibuster, he met me for coffee at Drip on Main Street in Columbia.

      “Iowa is like — you watch Game of Thrones?” he asked. I said I didn’t. “Well, that’s too bad,” he said. He took a sip of his latte.

      “Iowa’s like the area north of the wall where the White Walkers and the weird people are, okay? I knocked doors out there.” He gestured to his aide. “He knocked doors out there!” he said. “They’re not normal people, okay? And I’ve knocked doors in New Hampshire. They’re worse. If you’re snowed in, like, eight months a year, you’re not gonna be normal, okay?”

      He laughed. “By the way, I wonder what the incest rate is in Iowa. I bet it’s high! Really high. Like any part of Appalachia where nobody can get in.”

      His aide groaned, letting out an anguished “Noooooo.”.” He leaned down to speak into my recorder. “For the record, this is Harpootlian saying this about the incest,” the aide said. Then added, “I’m not.” (Earlier this month, the Biden campaign was forced to distance itself from Harpootlian after the former party chair was accused of making racially insensitive remarks — a characterization he challenged. The Biden campaign said that Harpootlian is not an official representative.)

      Harpootlian seemed satisfied with the reaction. “They’re not normal,” he went on. “When I say normal: They’re not like the rest of the country, like, as a group. Biden’s gonna win double digits here. And on Super Tuesday, he’ll do well in the normal states.” (By “normal,” I understood Harpootlian to be referring to demographically diverse states — versus the extremely white state of Iowa and New Hampshire.)

      There are no statistics by which to verify Harpootlian’s assumptions about incest rates in states outside of his own…’

      ‘…Even Lindsey Graham agrees with Harpootlian’s prediction (about the primary, not the incest). On Fox News Thursday evening, Graham said Biden would emerge from South Carolina with a double-digit victory.

      Harpootlian tells two stories about Biden to anybody who will listen. He prefaces both stories by saying that he never tells the stories, and that if Biden knew he was going around telling the stories, he’d kill him.

      The first story is about a golf outing when Biden was the vice-president. He was driving the golf cart, and Biden told him to move over. “I never get to drive anything,” Harpootlian recalled Biden saying, “I can’t drive a car. When I play golf with Barack, he drives. I’m driving the cart. Move over.” Harpootlian laughed. “So, I move over, and he drives the cart. Not very well, I might add.”

      Later, at lunch, Harpootlian said he apologized to Biden for his bad golf game. “He said, ‘Oh, no, no, no, no, Dick. Don’t worry about it. You know, I learned a lot today.’ I said, ‘Mr. Vice-President, what could you possibly have learned from me today?’ He said, ‘Oh, five new ways to use the word fuck.’”

      A few weeks later, Harpootlian said, Biden had his infamous “big fucking deal” gaffe during Obama’s signing of the Affordable Care Act. When he saw Biden next, Harpootlian said Biden pointed at him and said, “Your fault!”..’

      Better than The Onion!

    • Plumber says:

      @Le Maistre Chat,
      Well, I’m finding this pretty exciting (nor least because wirh our now earlier primary California will have some influence this year!), and what’s striking to me is the racial, religious, and age divide so far, that is younger less church-attending Latinos supporting Sanders, and older more church-attending blacks supporting Biden, non-college educated whites either supporting Sanders if younger than 40, and Biden if older than 60, with college educated and middle-aged (40 to 60) white voters having less importance so far.

      Since black American voters are on average older than Latino voters I suspect that difference in who those demographic groups support may just be a generational difference more than anything else.

      I was struck be a description in vox.com of Warren’s base of support being “white liberals with college educations and those who use Twitter a lot”, and how few delegates she has earned so far, other than other Mayors and “never Trump” Romney Republicans (like my wife) I don’t know who Bloomberg’s base is.

      Out of “battleground states” if Biden’s the nominee I see a chance for Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Virginia, and maybe Florida voting Blue.

      If Sanders is the Nominee he’ll get Michigan, and maybe Arizona, and (big stretch) Texas, with little chance for Florida and Virginia.

      I expect Bloomberg and Warren to pick up some delegates from California today, but mostly they will be for Sanders, as will be the ones from Texas.

      Except for Texas I’m guessing that Biden will sweep the South, and this will go long and look like 2008 and 2016 rather than 2004 when Kerry got an early lead.

      Bloomberg may win in Florida in the general election, but for the Democratic primaries his base is too small.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Looking back at recent polls on FiveThirtyEight:

        https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/polls/president-general/

        It looks like NC is closer than I expected, but so is Virginia, so that’s nice.

        As a surprise, so is Colorado, with Trump within 3 points of Biden. Colorado is a great bellwether for moderate white suburbs, so Trump being that close there has to be good news for those of us hoping for his reelection.

        New Hampshire actually shows movement towards Trump, with him having sizable leads out there, especially over Bloomberg, showing that “Live Free or Die” takes precedence over party with Bloomberg’s authoritarianism.

        I’d say your analysis is pretty solid with missing the movement of the very white states of New Hampshire and Colorado back towards Republicans.

        • Plumber says:

          @EchoChaos, 
          Oh jeez I didn’t expect Colorado and New Hampshire! 

          Going by, well me, Bloomberg does poorly among white non-college educated males and there’s no way the Rust Belt goes blue again with him, but judging by, well my wife, college educated suburban white women (she’s actually not white and she grew up in the city, but close enough) would go for Bloomberg, but not for Sanders. 

          Other than older southern black voters Biden doesn’t have many who’re enthusiastic for him, I like him, he’s a good cultural fit for me, but I’m seeing far less “Joe” signs than “Bernie”, “Tulsi”, and “Warren” (in that order) yard signs.

          Really Biden’s strength is in not alienating many folks (and no one thinks he’s a great intellect), “nice guy, but. ..” is about all anyone says about Biden. 

          There’s lots of enthusiasm for Sanders,  and a lot of fear.

          Personally, I just don’t expect much change in the status quo from now (or from 2015 either) if Trump is re-elected or if any of the other candidates is elected instead (unless a lot of Supreme Court Justices die), as Congress is more important and I expect divided government and gridlock for at least a decade more, but if Sanders is nominated, and it isn’t a McGovern in ’72 or Mondale in ’84 blowout, then, yeah, it really would mark a generational change, and really I wonder what Sanders ascent foretells, will he be a McGovern who’s followed by the less Left Carter and Clinton, or will Sanders be more like a Goldwater followed by a Reagan?

          Trump really did campaign as a different kind of Republican (different enough to win the Rust Belt), but Bernie, Biden, and Bloomberg really do seem quite different to me (though without Congress also changing there still wouldn’t be much difference in how they’d actually govern).

          So what each of the “three B’s” would symbolize; 

          Bernie: second coming of Henry Wallace in ’48, with him the Democrats are the young Leftists party, maybe the end of “the big tent”, the House goes Republican.

          Biden: the last gasp of the old Democratic Party, almost like George H. W. Bush was for the old Republican Party. 

          Bloomberg: Democrats are now “Rockefeller Republicans”, and the Party of the professional class, and I kinda doubt that most black Americans stay in the Democratic Party much longer, and I’d expect more Tim Scott’s.

          The first option is unprecedented (Truman followed F.D.R., not Wallace) so I can’t guess, and while the third option goes against my instincts and loyalties, maybe that route would be the best for our Nation’s racial divides.

          • Chalid says:

            Oh jeez I didn’t expect Colorado and New Hampshire

            You shouldn’t take state polls seriously yet as there are not enough of them. eg. according to FiveThirtyEight, Colorado general election matchups have been polled just once in 2020 and the poll had just 485 responses. This is simply not enough evidence for you to need to change your mind about anything.

  17. rj11258 says:

    Great Political Thinking 2020 is a podcast whose scripts are written by an instance of GPT-2 trained on political analysis transcripts. It’s mostly brain-melting in the ways that most of these gpt2 projects have been, but I love the commitment in fully performing and editing it like a real podcast. If I stop paying attention then it’s barely indistinguishable from regular political commentary.

    Is there something about the podcast format that we inherently more inclined to give more credence to it over written text, multimedia, or film/tv?

    • Deiseach says:

      DETROW: So maybe he’s the guy with the shiny object in his backyard.

      DAVIS: Yeah.

      DETROW: Yeah, so that’s…

      DAVIS: That was a really important point.

      DETROW: That’s an important point.

      KURTZLEBEN: Right.

      DETROW: That’s an important point.

      KURTZLEBEN: That is an important point.

      I swear, I’ve heard some talking heads/current affairs radio programmes that had exchanges exactly like this!

  18. Dino says:

    Seeing some other guitarists here recently, maybe someone can answer a question I’ve long had – why would anyone ever want a higher action? I heard that Jerry Garcia liked it high (snicker). I’ve always wanted the action to be as low as possible without buzzing. Someone once told me that a higher action gave a better sound, but I don’t see any physics/acoustics reason for that.

    • danridge says:

      I’d also love an answer to this question if anyone here actually has that preference. I could imagine that maybe there are certain techniques (bends of some kind?) which have a greater margin of error with higher action. Perhaps it’s easier to get longer sustain? My philosophy has generally been go as low as you can; if you have problems, bring it back up a little.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      Funny you should bring it up.

      One of the things I did during the string change I mentioned last time was bring the action up, after trying a how-low-can-you-go setup* with the previous one.

      For me, the reason to have the action higher than just-above-string-buzz can be summed up in one word: bending.

      When you bend (or use wide finger/wrist vibrato), you generally want to have a bit of space to get your finger under the string. I find that with super-low action I’m having to use way too much finger pressure to get a good grip at the start of the bend – especially, given that I tend to use heavier strings.

      One way to deal with the issue is to have a scalloped fingerboard (indeed, that’s the main reason to have one in the first place), but taking wood out of the fingerboard will affect your tone.

      Acoustically, I can think of one sensible reason why low action might give a worse tone on an electric guitar (acoustic guitars are a different matter entirely, but there you generally won’t be changing the action too much) – except you’d deal with it by adjusting the pickups rather than the action – and one deep, dark mucky reason that might well be talking out of my rear.

      The sensible reason is that the same magnetic field that allows your pickups to do their thing can interfere with the strings vibrating and a higher action will bring them somewhat away from the magnets in the pickups. Of course, all guitars I can think of in this day and age allow you to adjust the height of the pickups (and usually the pickups have adjustable pole-pieces, too), so there’s no reason to set the action just for that.

      The mucky reason has to do with the strings causing sound waves to propagate, those sound waves hitting the fingerboard/body, being reflected and potentially interfering with the vibration when they hit the strings coming the other way.

      There’s definitely not going to be enough energy there to interfere with the fundamental vibration, but possibly, maybe it can do something to the resonant frequencies of the upper harmonics?

      I seriously doubt there’s anything there, but if we were to find that action does affect tone (after controlling for pickup height), that’s my guess as to why.

      * Pretty low, as it turns out, after finally taking the time to adjust the neck.

      • Dino says:

        When you bend (or use wide finger/wrist vibrato), you generally want to have a bit of space to get your finger under the string.

        Yeah – that makes sense. I’ve never actually had this problem because I’ve never succeeded in getting action that low. I’m envious…

    • Well... says:

      When I was was 19 I had a meth-head buddy who played guitar, and I remember he always liked real heavy gauge strings, with the action super high. (I could barely play his guitar.) The reason he liked it this way was that he played a lot of rockabilly music, and apparently (according to him anyway) that kind of setup is ideal for the rockabilly sound.

    • Machine Interface says:

      If I recall correctly, higher action means higher tension, which means clearer sound and more in tune harmonics.

      • Faza (TCM) says:

        We may have a winner here.

      • Dino says:

        I agree higher action means higher tension, but that would make the pitch sharper and out of tune. I can’t think of any scientific reason why higher tension would affect the sound, or intonation of harmonics.

        • Faza (TCM) says:

          It wouldn’t make the pitch sharper, any more than putting heavier strings on would. You would adjust the tension so that each string vibrates at the correct rate – otherwise known as tuning. 🙂

          The key thing is that a string doesn’t just vibrate at whatever frequency is needed for the fundamental pitch, but there are additional resonant vibrations at the frequencies corresponding to the harmonic series and these are affected by the actual tension on the strings.

          Here’s how you can test the difference: get a very light (008s or 009s) and a heavy (012) set of strings, put the light ones on the guitar and tune it down considerably (C# or C – 1 1/2 to 2 steps across the board – are good candidates). Record some stuff for comparison purposes and make a note of how the guitar plays.

          Now put the heavy set on and repeat.

          • Lambert says:

            Record the notes and take an FFT.
            Calculate Σf*fft(f)/Σfft(f)
            This gives you the spectral centroid. It’s commonly used to give a simple indication of the ‘brightness’ of a note.
            Now look at the FFT plots and calculate how many cents the overtone partials are from integer multiples of the fundemental. These are the inharmonicities, caused by nonlinear behavour of the string.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            The funny thing is that I probably have the tools to do it (and it has crossed my mind WRT the original question), but dammit, Jim! I’m a doctor guitarist not a physicist.

          • Lambert says:

            Right now I’m waiting for pyplot to cough up a spectrogram of me playing a trombone badly, so this stuff is kind of second nature.

            (It’s pretty simple if you have any experience with numpy/scipy)

          • CatCube says:

            @Lambert

            Any recommendations for tutorials/code? I’ve played with Python plenty, but never for this application. I’m pretty good at slurping in CSVs, but I don’t even know where to start for sound files.

          • Lambert says:

            scipy.io.wavio.read
            works well for me.
            note that it outputs (rate,array[the actual data]).
            I’m mostly just reading the docs and guessing.
            And hoping that the ram usage doesn’t crash my computer more than once a day.

          • Dino says:

            Guess I should have been clearer in what I said. Given 2 identical strings tuned to the same tension, the one with the higher action will sound sharper when fretted because it must be pushed down further, just as if it was “bent”. This sharpness could in theory be compensated for by adjusting the intonation, but usually only the bridge can be adjusted and I think you would need to adjust the nut.

            I know about overtones and harmonic series – I was not aware that strings had that much nonlinear behaviour dependent on tension.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            Dino,

            Sorry, I misunderstood your comment.

            Those are valid concerns, but – fundamentally – my answer remains the same.

            As a violin-playing acquaintance of mine was wont to say: equal-tempered instruments are never in tune. With guitars, we can try to fudge this by adjusting the lengths of the individual strings so individual frets give us, more or less, the right notes – and then hope it isn’t too audible.

            The problem of stretching the string when fingering it exists with low action as well as with high, of course. The literature I have suggests a difference of 2/64″ (~0.8mm) at the 12-th fret between “low” and “high” action and this seems to me to be well within normal intonation adjustment range (indeed, I suspect there’s a bigger intonation difference between an ultra-light and heavy string set with the same action).

    • acymetric says:

      I’ve always heard that higher action is better for slide guitar, although Jerry wasn’t exactly famous for his slide technique. It could very well be that it was just the way he liked it…lots of musicians like weird things that don’t actually matter but make a difference to them and the way the feel/interact with the instrument.

      Another semi-ridiculous but not totally implausible idea: Some people might like higher action because it allows them to bend under neighboring strings* rather than through them. SRV would roll over in his grave, I’m sure, but not everyone has dynamite finger/hand strength.

      *Source: The first guitar I ever had was a ~30 year old Kay electric that had lived in the crawlspace under my grandparents’ house for somewhere between 10 and 40 years. The action was so high that bending under neighboring strings was the only option, and I was too young/green to know any better anyway.

  19. johan_larson says:

    Welcome, again, to Hollywood. This time the Mad God/Executive Producer wants a movie based on a classic poem. You may choose from This Is Just to Say, Because I could not stop for Death, or Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?.

    What sort of film do you propose to make based on one of these three poems?

    • Deiseach says:

      *horror movie voiceover*

      Because I could not stop for Death…

      … he kindly stopped for me.

      From the makers of the Final Destination franchise comes an imaginative new reboot of the entire series. Now we’re getting to see Death’s side of the story.

      They tried to cheat Death. Now it’s personal!

      (Not very original, I know, but neither are most horror franchises).

      • fibio says:

        There could be a great comedy knock off where Death just can’t kill those troublesome teens. He keeps spending all day setting up overly complicated deathtraps and then when it comes to actually setting the thing off it gets a couple stages through the rube goldberg machine before something goes off script and it all comes crashing down around his ears.

        Actually, I think I just described the Roadrunner cartoons. Let’s make a movie about those!

    • Because I could not stop for Death-the Romantic Comedy!

      After high powered Emily is killed, she is visited by the suave Death who comes to take her away. Unfortunately, the car that takes him under breaks down and is temporarily replaced with a horse carriage. Under this romantic setting, they spend their slow moving trip squabbling until he confesses his love for her and she spends an eternity joining him in his grim reaper duties. I’m pretty sure this is exactly what Emily Dickinson was hoping for when she wrote that poem.

    • Björn says:

      On a tangent, I love the intro of Silent Hunter IV, which cuts scenes of submarine warfare to the rythm of the poem “On Time” by John Milton.

    • Bobobob says:

      Mad professor creates hybrid plums containing Chronoplasm (TM), a genetically engineered protein that facilitate time travel. Feckless nephew eats said plums, leaves an apologetic note on the refrigerator, and spends the rest of the movie battling dinosaurs alongside Bill, Ted, and Marty McFly.

    • honoredb says:

      The days of the year walk the Earth in the guise of mortal men and women, their personalities driven by the climate and history of their days. A human artist swipes right on a young man who turns out to be June 3rd, and they strike up a hot and thunderous relationship that brings the artist into the fascinating community of the Days. But June 3rd’s intemperate side reveals itself–he’s cruel to his less complicated May siblings, hot and cold in the relationship itself, and scarred by all the violence that’s occurred on his day. The artist struggles with the idea of leaving an immortal lover for a mortal one, but ultimately resolves to render a mortal soulmate immortal via art.

    • Nick says:

      If it were straightforwardly adapted as a male poet/writer/whatever ending up in a love triangle with a young man and a lady, it could be really popular with critics. Romance! Tragedy! Wokeness! It has it all.

      (If it were even more straightforwardly adapted, would the young man be trans?)

    • b_jonas says:

      Is this question inspired by the recent “https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/cynewulf” ? (Transcript of comic strip follows because you usually can’t find one of SMBC anywhere on the web, and I like to keep context inside my posts so you don’t need to follow links to figure out what I’m saying.)

      > P (emphatically pitching to V): It’s the movie of the decade. Based on ninth-century medieval tales by Cynewulf the poet.
      > P: Constantine, emperor of Rome, is about to go into battle. Huns surround him on all sides.
      > P: Suddenly, in the sky, Constantine has a vision of the true cross.
      > P: He carries the sign of the cross into battle, scattering his foes.
      > P: His wise men tell him he must find the true cross. He sends an army, led by his mother Elene, to Jerusalem on a quest.
      > V: Wow! That’s an amazing setup! What happens next?
      > P: Well, we’ll wanna stick close to the medieval source literature, so acts 2, 3, and 4 are just torturing jews until they pony up the cross.
      > V does angry grin
      > V: How dare you! Where do you get the nerve, sir?
      > P: What?
      > V: You walk right into Hollywood and pitch an action movie with an elderly female lead?!
      > P: But–
      > V: Get out!

  20. Well... says:

    While we’re still talking guitars, I have another Floyd Rose question.

    A common complaint about FRs is the strings popping out of the bridge. A common solution to this I’ve seen people online suggest is to cut the strings just above the ball end but leave the extra winding on, and then use that as a way for the saddle blocks to better grip the strings.

    But this seems to be a not-officially-endorsed method. Does that mean it is bad for the saddle blocks, or at least significantly worse than the officially-endorsed method?

    (I’m in the middle of a FR restring so I figure this is a good time for me to ask.)

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      IDK. To me it sounds like a way for the saddle blocks to grip the bit of string that’s not connected to the bit under actual tension, ‘coz you cut the loop that held the ball. Doesn’t that make the string more likely to pop out?

      Honestly, I’ve only seen “string pops out of Floyd” once in the wild, and that was due to a saddle block that needed replacing. One thing I always had made sure to do, when dealing with a Floyd, is to get as much string in the bridge as will comfortably fit. I can certainly imagine that with too little string under/below the block it might slip out.

      • Well... says:

        To me it sounds like a way for the saddle blocks to grip the bit of string that’s not connected to the bit under actual tension, ‘coz you cut the loop that held the ball. Doesn’t that make the string more likely to pop out?

        That certainly seems like a possibility — but there are so many people on guitar forums and Youtube who say this is their trick that it makes me think it doesn’t happen, or else everyone would have realized this problem and abandoned the method.

        What I’m more worried about is damaging the saddle blocks. Or, now that I think about it, wearing a significantly larger groove in them than they’d have otherwise. Because the only thing worse than having strings pop out of my Floyd Rose is having to then buy new parts for it as well!

  21. rocoulm says:

    How do delegates already won by dropped-out Democratic candidates vote? I recall in the Republican primary process, candidates would “pledge” their delegates to another candidate they approved of, but I have heard no mention of that happening so far in this race.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Depends on the state. In some states they still vote for that candidate on the first ballot. In others they become free to vote as they want.

      Regardless, they’re free on the second ballot.

      • acymetric says:

        Are you sure? I thought it was consistent by state, but that it depends on how they withdraw. Pete, for example, has “suspended his campaign” but, as far as I know, has not actually withdrawn his candidacy. This is fairly common. If this remains true (which is also fairly common), his delegates would still be awarded to him on the first ballot even though he is no longer running. If he formally withdraws, then his delegates become free to vote as they choose. There is some tradition/expectation that if Pete endorses someone they would vote for who he endorses, but it isn’t required and I don’t know how strictly that etiquette tends to be followed.

        So far as I know this is the case for all states, at least for the Democratic primaries (Republican primaries are different). I believe this is at least slightly different than previous primaries, as the rules were changed. You are definitely correct that on the 2nd ballot, if nobody wins a majority on the first, that all the delegates are free to do whatever they want.

        Disclaimer: I am not an expert, this is my lay understanding and I’m reasonably confident in it but fully expect to be corrected by someone who knows better

        • EchoChaos says:

          Are you sure?

          Mildly, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be wrong! I’m not a Democrat and working off of things I’ve heard online.

          Here is an article that digs into it further:

          https://heavy.com/news/2020/03/what-happens-delegates-candidate-drops-out/

          • acymetric says:

            I too got my information from things I heard online, although I couldn’t source any specific article at the moment.

            I don’t fully trust the accuracy of that article though, because they rely primarily on:

            1) An article about the GOP primary in 2016, which is totally inapplicable because it was a different party and a different election (so no reason to expect the rules to be the same)

            2) A howstuffworks article

            None of the references make a distinction between “suspended” and “formally withdrawn” which I am certain makes a difference.

            That said, I’m only ~60% confident in my own interpretation, so I’m hoping someone with real knowledge of the workings here (specific to the 2020 Dem primary rules) will jump in to correct one or both of us.

  22. Bobobob says:

    Fritz the Cat (1972) just showed up on Amazon Prime. I watched it last night. Amazingly, I had never seen it, even though I had a huge collection of underground comic books around the time it came out. Then again, Fritz was rated X, so I might have found it difficult to sneak my 11-year-old self into a theater.

    The move is awful, just awful. None of the spirit of the R. Crumb comics that inspired it. And it was directed by Ralph Bakshi, who (I guess I am finally getting to the point of this post) just never seemed to have the talent to make the most of the limited window of opportunity pop culture gave him. Fritz the Cat, Wizards, Cool World…they were all awful. I seem to remember that Heavy Traffic (which I have not seen in 30 years) had some good bits, and you have to give Bakshi credit for tackling Lord of the Rings, even though that movie has its stylistically jarring moments. But he just never seemed to be a good-enough animator, story-teller, or crafter of visual gags.

    How might history have been different if an actually talented animator/director had created edgy alternatives to the bland Disney crap of the 70’s and 80’s? We will never know.

    • Plumber says:

      @Bobobob says:

      “…R. Crumb comics…

      Fritz the Cat, Wizards, Cool World…they were all awful. I seem to remember that Heavy Traffic (which I have not seen in 30 years) had some good bits, and you have to give Bakshi credit for tackling Lord of the Rings….”

      My Dad and step-Dad left R. Crumb and Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers Comix lying around, and those were pretty much how I learned to read, I saw Fritz the Cat at a movie theater in the ’80’s, and I remember almost nothing about it ‘ceot for a musical segue/interlude featuring the song “Bo Diddley” by Bo Diddley which inspired me to buy some Bo Diddley records and play them at a college radio station I volunteered at (despite still being a high school student, hey I had a classmate/friend who did the same when she was still a junior high school student).

      I far better remember Wizards which I saw in the ’70’s in the theater with my Dad, and I saw The Lord of the Rings in the theater with my Mom in 1978, which didn’t impress me, I liked The Hobbit cartoon I saw on television, and the Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger film that I had seen the year before better.

      “…How might history have been different if an actually talented animator/director had created edgy alternatives to the bland Disney crap of the 70’s and 80’s? We will never know”

      These seemed to be plenty of “edgy” cartoons at the animation film fests I watched in the ’80’s, I suppose if Ralph Baksh’s works had done better there may have been some other non-European/non-Japanese long form works released besides Rock & Rule (featuring the voices of Deborah Harry, Iggy Pop, and Lou Reed!).

      • Bobobob says:

        Funny you mention that Bo Diddley interlude, that was the only good part of the movie! (All two minutes of it…)

    • Kuiperdolin says:

      Fire and Ice was OK as schlocky entertainment.

    • a real dog says:

      How was Cool World bad? Cheesy and kinda plotless, sure, but I enjoyed it and so did a lot of my friends – the visuals are quite memorable.

  23. jermo sapiens says:

    I dont know too much about the latest open source controversy referenced on ESR’s blog here. But it seems to be yet another skirmish in the war for open source where SJWs introduce “codes of conduct” which govern not only contributor’s behavior within the project but also outside of it.

    The strawman version of this is “SJWs thought-police everyone to cancel the people responsible for a project’s prestige and take that prestige for themselves”, and the steelman is “meritocracy is a sham and under-represented people are erased by discriminatory behavior and if we eliminate it the open source community will be even more productive and useful.” I tend to believe the former much more than the latter, but I’m curious to know what the SSC comment section thinks and if anybody has any relevant facts to add that would be great.

    • John Schilling says:

      Respect for perceived merit is basically the only thing Open Source has got in the way of a quality assurance methodology; it is IMO barely adequate at best, but it at least sometimes produces software useful to people who aren’t part of the movement. If you take that away, what’s the motive for anyone to ever produce non-crappy software or find the bugs in other people’s crappy software?

      • jermo sapiens says:

        Well that’s the theory that ESR is pushing, and based on it he’s predicting the ultimate demise of open source. He also views the open source movement as being critical to our infrastructure. I’m not as alarmist as he is but I dont really know anything about this beyond stuff I’ve read on ESR’s blog. But I’m also generally against SJWism anytime, anywhere, so I tend to sympathize with his side.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          Open Source in the original vision of ESR, RMS, Linus Torvalds, etc., i.e. code primarily developed by a open community of volunteers is pretty much dead at this point.

          What we have now is corporate “open” source: corporations gracefully deciding to release the code of some of their products when they think it can help adoption or outsource bug fixing and non-essential feature development, but with the original developer firmly remaining in control of the product.

          Open source organizations are completely dependent on corporate money, and ended up adopting corporate culture where disagreement with your boss is discouraged. This is why the old community leaders had to be purged or neutered: Linus caved after lots of pressure, including allegedly honey traps set up to #metoo him. RMS was purged last year using the Epstein excuse and now ESR seems to have been purged too.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Ok interesting. So you see the move towards SJWism and codes of conduct as related to corporations moving in the open source ecosystem?

          • Lambert says:

            I’m just surprised it took this long to cancel esr.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            It’s the foundation he started, so of course it would take a while to boot him.

        • John Schilling says:

          He also views the open source movement as being critical to our infrastructure. I’m not as alarmist as he is but I dont really know anything about this beyond stuff I’ve read on ESR’s blog.

          There’s definitely been a move towards “let open source handle it” for infrastructure code like e.g. OpenSSL, due to the difficulty of monetizing such work and the tragedy of the commons disincentivizing private development. Unfortunately, this seems to have come at about the time that the open source community grew too large for informal meritocracy to provide the level of quality assurance critical infrastructure software requires, and again see OpenSSL.

          Adding a “wokeness” requirement to open source is not going to be helpful in this regard, but open source was probably doomed as more than a hobbyist niche anyway.

    • The Nybbler says:

      It appears he was thrown out for arguing too forcefully against this. I don’t care how much carbon and iron you add to that, you’ll never make any steel from it; Section 4 is in absolute contradiction to Open Source (and also contradicts Section 1), and Section 5 isn’t much better depending on interpretation. Section 6 is impractical. Section 3 is a cruel joke considering the actual history of enforcement of Codes of Conduct.

      It’s certainly true that ESR argues _very_ forcefully. But allowing forceful argument from one side and not the other is putting a huge thumb on the scale.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        Yeah 4 is about being able to deny a license to ICE or something (and Chick-Fil-A, and anyone who deviates ever slightly from the most extreme SJW dogma). And presumably force any corporation which uses open source software to also deny a license to ICE and everyone which gets on the SJW’s wrong side.

        That would be very bad if it were not for the ability to fork.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Maybe they mean #4 to apply to ICE, but there’s no reason it wouldn’t end up applied to WalMart and then any for-profit company.

          #5… I sort of respect, and I sort of hate. People have the right for compensation. But I hate hate hate the business model of giving away software for free to drive out competition, and then whining that people aren’t paying for your software. Sell it if you want to sell it.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Maybe they mean #4 to apply to ICE, but there’s no reason it wouldn’t end up applied to WalMart and then any for-profit company.

            Yeah I believe ultimately the push for power within open source communities is to have a veto over who can use any software at all. It’s idiotic and will fail in the end, but I think that’s what they’re going for and they will cause alot of disruption.

            As for 5, it just seems odd. What does “solicit” mean here? You’re allowed to ask for money now, there’s a guy on a street corner around here who does this all day.

        • Nick says:

          Yeah 4 is about being able to deny a license to ICE or something (and Chick-Fil-A, and anyone who deviates ever slightly from the most extreme SJW dogma).

          Since you asked the other day why someone might think you’re edging close to a ban: this sort of thing would do it. An evidence-free accusation in strong terms is poor form. The least you could do is link to some of the docs from their Further Reading about the ICE thing.

          That would be very bad if it were not for the ability to fork.

          Yeah, I read through a few dozen comments on esr’s post and lots of folks are suggesting that. He doesn’t seem to want to do that, though. Here’s his own strategy:

          I have been pursuing another way for years. That is to broadcast a general understanding that these SJWs are the shock troops of a totalitarian memetic invasion.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Since you asked the other day why someone might think you’re edging close to a ban: this sort of thing would do it.

            You are correct. That was poor form. Apologies.

            Here is a link to an email by someone with clout in the open source community mentioning ICE. That is where I got this notion from. I found the link myself from reading the comments on ESR’s blog.

            I do believe though that section 4 of ethical software definition, reproduced below,

            It is distributed under a license that prohibits the software from being used any individual or organization which directly or indirectly facilitates, encourages, manipulates, coerces, or forces people to engage in behaviors that are in opposition to a specified framework of social good.

            is on its face a device for blocking people you dont like from using almost any software. I dont think I’m being snarky when I’m saying that if I wanted to write a euphemistic phrase meaning “people I dont like”, I would consider “individual or organization which directly or indirectly facilitates, encourages, manipulates, coerces, or forces people to engage in behaviors that are in opposition to a specified framework of public good” to be too close to parody.

            They obviously want to block ICE from using any software which in any way uses open source software. But I dont think they want to only block ICE. They have other enemies than ICE, and it is reasonable to expect them to want to use their new weapon against their other enemies also.

            That’s what I meant to say above. Thank you for calling me out and giving me an opportunity to clarify my point.

          • Deiseach says:

            “Social good” though is a very amorphous term to use; how do you define it? what do you consider a social good? Who gets to decide what are and are not social goods? What about competing models of what is a social good – is freely available contraception a social good? how about ensuring employer insurance plans pay for contraception? That’s how you get lawsuits against the Little Sisters of the Poor, with both sides presenting competing ideas of what is a social good.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            “Social good” though is a very amorphous term to use; how do you define it? what do you consider a social good?

            That’s part of why I consider this to be beyond parody. It’s not just a social good, it’s a “specified framework of social good”. And if your organization indirectly facilitates behavior that are in opposition to this specified framework, no software for you.

            If this standard was strictly applied, I dont think it’s an exaggeration to say nobody in the world would be allowed to use software.

          • albatross11 says:

            Along with the “whose version of social good are we using?” problem, this kind of license means that your software is much harder to get into widespread use. First, because many existing potential users will be excluded or think they will, and second, because this is a fuzzy enough definition that nobody can really be convinced they’re safe from a demand to stop using the software because there’s been a big moral panic about big pharma or something, and suddenly, there’s a question about whether a bunch of people using your open-source statistics software are allowed to do so.

        • Lambert says:

          > That would be very bad if it were not for the ability to fork.

          Unless it’s a viral license. But virality locks EC apart from GNU-style licences (and probably any EC licence with a different definition of ‘social good’).

          The whole of Copyleft standardising on the GPL is what keeps the ecosystem from People’s Front of xkcd.com/927 -ing itself.

      • Iago the Yerfdog says:

        Ethical source strikes me as open source’s “Atheism+”, and I suspect it will fall out the same way: the in-fighting and mutual resentment will lead to both movements’ collapse.

        Mind you, there will still be open source software, just as there are still atheists. But I think “open source” will lose a lot of its positive connotations and a lot of developers and projects will just call it a day.

      • Deiseach says:

        It is distributed under a license that prohibits the software from being used any individual or organization which directly or indirectly facilitates, encourages, manipulates, coerces, or forces people to engage in behaviors that are in opposition to a specified framework of social good.

        We Papists already have that. It’s called the Holy Office. (Technically the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith).

        Funny how the ultra-liberal always seem to need to re-invent the Inquisition, even as they decry the existence of such bodies for historically censoring them and what they did to transgress mandatory codes.

        • jermo sapiens says:

          Funny how the ultra-liberal always seem to need to re-invent the Inquisition, even as they decry the existence of such bodies for historically censoring them and what they did to transgress mandatory codes.

          Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

    • DinoNerd says:

      I’m somewhat plugged into the controversies in open source. I’m an acquaintance of the linux kernel engineer who left loudly and publically a few years back, citing dislike of Linus Torvalds’s behaviour, who was at that time the only female with subsystem responsibility. (She’d owned/controlled the USB stack, after personally causing Linux to support a new generation of USB before Microsoft and its paid programers.) I also left the linux kernel community myself, a lot more quietly, primarily due to an unwelcoming and generally annoying atmosphere – but I was merely a paid engineer, downstream, not an open source contributor.

      Frankly, I think Linus is an ass, and the community he fostered is full of people who vote with their feet against new blood whenever any appears, unless the newbie is already personally acquainted with and supported by a major maintainer. Rumor has it that Linus stepped back because of this, long after I abandoned the field, leaving a much nicer person in charge, who was one of the few who seemed to be actively supporting new contributors, as well as consistently behaving politely in public, but I have no direct knowledge.

      It is notable that women seem to be less likely than men to push their way into communities like this. I suspect “underrepresented minorities” may have the same statistical tendency. But it’s not limited to either group; plenty of American-born white males don’t want anything to do with that cesspit. In my case, I made a cost benefit analysis – I already had an excellent resume, and could get well paying software engineering jobs without any need to work on the linux kernel; I’d probably have made a different decision if I had been a new grad, looking for something to differentiate myself in a shrinking subfield (there are far fewer jobs for kernel engineers than there were 30 years ago).

      It’s also notable that many long established volunteer communities have the same problem – newbies are driven away. Wikipedia is full of problems of this kind. I personally had problems with my religious community. This can be done without ever being uncivil – if you define civility as the absence of active insult – just ignore the newbie entirely, and/or apply unwaveringly some set of rules they haven’t had a chance to learn. It can be done by nasty public insult, a la Torvalds. I’m not sure which behaviour is worse; it probably depends on the personality of the target.

      The linux community is special, in that status in that community translates directly into job opportunities, but at the same time many of the most active contributors are paid to contribute by their employer. People compete for these potential jobs, and some of them compete viciously. But it isn’t all that different from other established volunteer organizations run by a small clique most of whom don’t feel the need for any new helpers – or who want those helpers kept strictly subordinate.

      I find it unfortunate that people have noted the disparate impact effects, and are trying to change the behaviour based on what they believe/insist the average member of their particular underrepresented community (UC) would find comfortable. Most of the time, this bites members of the UC that are already part of the volunteer group, and behaving much like everyone else, having for whatever personal reason found the atmosphere congenial and/or cared enough to establish themselves in spite of it.

      I also find it to be a normal result of human nature.

      • zardoz says:

        I think Linus himself is kind of an anachronism. He’s a white collar guy who talks like a blue collar guy. If the supervisor of an auto mechanic called someone a “fucking retard” for putting in a brake cylinder in backwards, nobody would be that surprised. But white collar workers are supposed to use elevated diction instead. If you completely botch the code module, “you are not meeting expectations” (same meaning, different words.)

        I don’t know why he talks this way. I think part of it is the culture of Finland, where he grew up. I’ve been told that people are more blunt there. And part of it is doubtless just that he is old, and computer programmers were lower status when he grew up.

        Linus doesn’t attack random newbies, though. His rants are always directed at people who hold some kind of power in the project and who– in his view– made a mistake.

        For a while, I wanted to be a part of the Linux kernel community, and I tried pretty hard to find good jobs there. At the time, though, my resume was pretty thin, and the jobs I could find weren’t very good. Driver stuff, integration stuff. By the time I had a good enough resume to find a nice kernel position, I had already settled into a different line of work that was perhaps just as rewarding.

        I don’t think the Linux kernel is a nasty community like some people are claiming. If you work hard and build things that people like, you will make progress. You have to be open to the feedback that reviewers give you, though. You also have to be persistent. The attention of reviewers is scarce. If you develop a reputation for being overly argumentative or wasting people’s time, they will start to tune you out, like people at a party wandering away.

        I’m sure Linus will be eventually replaced by someone who doesn’t post salty messages comparing people to “masturbating monkeys,” or implying that they are on “some serious mind-controlling substances.” And the world will be a little bit blander and less weird. But I don’t think the community will be any more or less welcoming.

    • Aftagley says:

      Wait, I’m not understanding why this is something worth talking about. ESR was, as far as I can tell, not actively associated with OSI at the time when this incident occured. As far as I can tell he was in a quasi founder/spokesman role. Also as far as I can tell, he still is in whatever role he previously occupied. I’m not 100% confident but it doesn’t look like anyone has taken any action to sever their association with him.

      What did happen is that he was kicked off their mailing lists. More on that later. Before I get to that, however, according to Simon Phipps, it doesn’t look like he had an active member for very long. source. This is supported by This post from 24 Feb, where ESR explicitly states that he is just joining the threads for the first time in 20 years.

      Read through the record if you want. It looks like he joined up to an existing community, was pretty disruptive, then got moderated out of it. I haven’t, and don’t particularly want to go through and find examples of the unacceptable stuff that he said, but at least the consensus of that community’s moderators was that what he was doing is unacceptable. Here is the MODs message on the topic: link

      In Summary:
      24FEB – ESR joins the mailing list
      24FEB-26FEB – ESR posts relatively inflammatory stuff on the list, and sends personal email attacks off list. When challenged, he claims the moral high ground of some things being too important to be polite about.
      26FEB – the mods get pissed off and kick him out

      So, where’s the societal breakdown here? Why should I read this as “those creeping SJWs are taking down the open source community” rather than “old man showed up, was very disruptive and was quickly booted?” Does he get a permanent exception from forum rules?

      • Lambert says:

        IIRC, he’s also blogged before about how kicking out the founders is often a healthy thing for a mature community to do.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        For myself anyways, I’m not particularly interested in why he got booted off the mailing list. I’m more interested in the wider conflict within open source, the imposition of Codes of Conduct, and the attempted take-over of the open source community by SJWs. This latest episode is only interesting within that larger framework.

        • toastengineer says:

          At first I was pretty concerned about this, but looking in to it… it doesn’t seem like the organizations they’re taking over actually matter much, and were already compromised by anti-FOSS corporations anyway. All they really did was hand out money, which could still be a big deal, but it wasn’t that big of a fraction of the money that is being handed out.

          Codes of Conduct are probably either going to become widely acknowledged as bad signaling, or the meme will be earnestly repeated by people who take it at face value and thereby lose all its teeth.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        He wasn’t just booted off mailing lists; he was booted from the OSI as a result of his mailing list participation.

        Of course, when ESR himself described his behavior as ‘arguing too forcefully’ I knew in my bones, without looking, that he had done something exactly like what you describe.

      • Loriot says:

        Thank for your explaining this. It puts the situation in a very different light.

      • rumham says:

        Does it matter that he was defending his friend Marvin Minkskey who was being called a pedophile on the mailing list? (how is that not inflamatory?)

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          RMS != ESR

          • Nick says:

            Hey, how is RMS doing? The last stuff I was hearing (a week or two after he was booted) was not good. But I tried searching for followup news and couldn’t find anything. Does he have somewhere to live?

          • rumham says:

            Apologies, got my tech gossip bundled. What was ESR’s thought-crime?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Eh. His thought crime is not liking SJW stuff. His actual crime is joining the OSI mailing list to berate people over SJW stuff.

          • Aftagley says:

            What was ESR’s thought-crime?

            I wrote a summary of it in this post

          • oracel says:

            @Nick
            The ‘canary’ of the political notes section on stallman.org is still chirping, so he continues to have access to the internet and enough free time to spend waging the culture war. Other than that I also lost track of him – I don’t approve of the process behind his cancellation, but think there are plenty of ‘noncombatant’ victims who are more deserving of my concern.

          • rumham says:

            @Aftagley

            Woah. Thank you. That is a metric buttload of crazy. And I absolutely hate seeing bad arguments on things I support, like the exposure of climategate (KBG? Really!?!) and gun rights.

    • BBA says:

      Arguing about who gets to run the Open Source Initiative is like asserting yourself as the rightful heir to the throne of France. It’s difficult to imagine a world where the result will be relevant.

      And even in the much-diminished FOSS community that hasn’t been bought out by Google or IBM yet, I suspect there are a lot more people like Matthew Garrett than there are people like Eric Raymond. (Though the vast majority, like in every community, are apolitical and will go along to get along with whoever’s in charge.)

      • zardoz says:

        Yeah, I really doubt corporations will want to touch “ethical source” software with a ten-foot pole. It’s a huge risk with no upside for them. (They probably feel the same way about ESR, though….)

        • Loriot says:

          At least at Google, the Crockford license is banned, and that was basically meant as a joke. No way will they ever touch software where the licenses are actively trying to hurt corporations. Of course, activists will consider that mission accomplished, since Google is no longer part of the cool crowd and instead considered evil, but what they don’t realize is that any corporation with a competent legal team will do the same, even the ones they (currently) like.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Thanks, that made me look up the Crockford license.

            I love IBM’s solution, which was to get permission to use his software for evil.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        Arguing about who gets to run the Open Source Initiative is like asserting yourself as the rightful heir to the throne of France. It’s difficult to imagine a world where the result will be relevant.

        I think it’s an interesting case study in how organizations can be taken over by an ideological cabal. This is just me speculating but the whole thing doesnt feel that it happened naturally (ie new people wanting to write open source just having a different culture than those writing open source previously), rather it really feels like a take-over that was planned from the top down. I cannot prove this, this is just a hunch I have.

        Things that feed my hunch are blog posts like this one. This to me does not read like the author is arguing what the title says – that open source is broken. This reads like the author hates the notion of open source and wants to do away with the concept completely.

        The old saw by pro-choicers, if you dont like abortions, dont get one, should be applicable here. If you dont like open source, dont write open source. But these people are arguing seemingly incompatible points, like we need to get more representation of (some minority) in open source, and also that open source developers are being exploited. This same mentality seems to be at play in the push for codes of conduct and ethical software.

        So to me at this time the more likely explanation for the whole thing is that open source software was identified as a source of prestige/power/something of value by someone, and there is a concerted effort to conquer it. I dont know what the ultimate aim would be, but I think the ability to block enemies from using essential software is a potential candidate. I dont think that would work because of forking, but there are certainly tons of important considerations Im not even aware of, and my epistemic status on this whole thing is very low.

        • Lambert says:

          > I dont know what the ultimate aim would be

          > prestige/power

          It’s not people haning around in smoky rooms deciding to do a concerted takeover of a movement. It’s a bunch of likeminded people taking decisions that benefit them and/or the things they value.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            It’s not people haning around in smoky rooms deciding to do a concerted takeover of a movement. It’s a bunch of likeminded people taking decisions that benefit them and/or the things they value.

            It could very well be. I’m just trying to understand it because currently what I’m seeing almost pattern-matches to the default explanation of like-minded people taking decisions in their own interest, but it’s a bit off, in a way that makes me uneasy.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Because it’s not. There are some organic true believers in the movement, but there’s also a whole bunch of entryists (like Ehmke) and outside agitators (e.g. Shanley Kane). You can see in that blog post and elsewhere that they attempt to take advantage of a common insecurity in the non-true-believers — they they aren’t good with people and that their focus on code is somehow bad to people. ESR doesn’t have that insecurity and rejects it openly, so he had to go.

            The tendency of the entryists and outsiders to extremely abusively berate the others for being somehow non-empathetic and cruel has often been noted (e.g. “Untitled”), but for whatever reason, it often fails to evoke the appropriate angry reaction.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Because it’s not.

            What is this in reference to?

          • The Nybbler says:

            It’s NOT just “a bunch of likeminded people taking decisions that benefit them and/or the things they value.”

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Ok thanks.

          • Lambert says:

            I never said it wasn’t entryism.
            Just that the entryism was bottom-up.

        • BBA says:

          Again, I point you to Matthew Garrett, who is both an utterly insufferable SJW and one of the most prolific contributors to FOSS out there. This is not entryism, this is actual left-wing grassroots within the movement itself, 100% organic.

          And of all the institutions of the movement, OSI is one of the least relevant. They produce no software of their own, their main role is approving licenses as “open source”, but they’ve approved so many that the likes of Debian reject as too restrictive that almost nobody talks about OSI approval anymore. It meant something back when SourceForge was a thing, it doesn’t now. A perfect organization for “famous for being famous” types like Raymond and Ehmke to fight over, but not one that will make a difference to anyone’s life.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Ok. Well you clearly know much more about this world than I do, and I appreciate you sharing what you know. Thanks.

  24. Silverlock says:

    Pardon me for making this Public Service Announcement that doesn’t track all that well with typical SSC topics:

    Although most of the alumni of One Direction have not been that impressive post-breakup, Harry Styles has got it goin’ on. Boy has the chops and some good musical ideas.

    That is all. We now return you to your SSC open thread already in progress.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      While we’re making random comments about One Direction, one time when my drinking buddies and I were in New Orleans, a guy on the streetcar thought we were in a band. Well, they thought my friends were a band and I was the manager, because they look cooler than I do (this is true. He literally asked if I were the manager, and no one has ever let me forget it). After that we told everyone we were in a One Direction tribute band, “Two Direction.”

      That is all.

    • Garrett says:

      The original One Direction? Or the one out of the UK?

  25. voso says:

    The Coronavirus in Singapore seems to represent the best case scenario; a sizable initial infection has failed to go exponential.

    How much of this can be attributed to Singapore having a competent healthcare system and intensive tracking of victim relations (just look at the Wikipedia article) vs. Singapore being a tropical paradise that hits 90°F every month of the year?

    Will things get better as temperatures rise in the Northern Hemisphere?

    • Thegnskald says:

      Might I recommend we stop creating new top level comments for this topic?

      • Nick says:

        We may want to quarantine (no pun intended) discussion to 0.25 and 0.75 threads, too, or something. It’s like half of all top level posts right now.

        • EchoChaos says:

          On the one hand, the comment structure can get unwieldy and it’s one of the biggest current stories in the entire world, so you’d expect lots of discussion about it.

          On the other hand, how much real new information is being exchanged at this point?

          On the gripping hand, unless Scott bans it, anyone can create a top level thread about anything.

      • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

        Disagree. This is a specific question about an aspect of the topic that the other comments in this Open Thread have not mentioned yet. This would be like having only one top-level Trump comment per OT. If gets too much for most of the users, we could quarantine the debate to certain fractions of the OTs.

      • DragonMilk says:

        At this point, perhaps Scott should have a Coronavirus megathread so the comments section does’t get flooded with mostly coronastuff

        • johan_larson says:

          +1

          In fact, it might be useful to start special OTs for other hot-button topics too. There’s an awful lot of Inside Baseball about the US primaries here right now.

          • Nick says:

            A megathread occurred to me, but since it’s a developing situation I don’t think that would be ideal. Regular threads would be better. That’s why I suggested just quarantining to particular weekly threads.

            There’s an awful lot of Inside Baseball about the US primaries here right now.

            When it’s Canadian elections do they call it Inside Hockey?

          • jermo sapiens says:

            When it’s Canadian elections do they call it Inside Hockey?

            LOL. No. Inside baseball is used here too. Go Blue Jays. And the Expos (RIP).

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Nick

            When it’s Canadian elections do they call it Inside Hockey?

            Who is the heartwarming emergency goalie to emerge and save Canada in these dark days?

          • Tenacious D says:

            @EchoChaos

            Who is the heartwarming emergency goalie to emerge and save Canada in these dark days?

            The Conservative Party is having a leadership race right now and there are a couple of interesting candidates who aren’t currently politicians: Rick Peterson and Leslyn Lewis.

      • viVI_IViv says:

        It’s much more interesting than discussing every fart of the Democratic candidates.

        • AlexOfUrals says:

          This. At least the coronavirus is relevant to everyone and has been around for just a few months.

    • John Schilling says:

      Contact tracking probably is the most effective public-health measure at the present scale, and I expect Singapore is doing that quite well. Apparently well enough to compensate for the intrinsic disadvantage of being a crowded city-state with e.g. high public transit usage; contact tracking probably won’t be done quite so thoroughly in the United States, but it also probably doesn’t need to be.

    • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

      Good comparison is Thailand, which according to this link is the most at risk country by tourism from China: http://rocs.hu-berlin.de/corona/.

      They had quite a few cases early on, but from what I can tell from r/coronavirus have presumably not been very open about their cases, and definitely do not pour even slightly comparable resources into contact tracing as Singapore does. They also did not limit tourism from China, as this is one of their biggest income sources.

      So while we do not know exactly how many cases there are in Thailand, prima facie this country represents the worst case scenario. Since we have however not heard of imported cases from Thailand to other countries (in contrast to Iran), and there are no anecdotal reports of high numbers of pneumonia deaths (which probably should already be occurring).

      I am vaguely optimistic that warm weather will slow the spread.

      • MantaRay says:

        Prior to locking down air travel from China at the start of February, Italy had 3 confirmed cases of coronavirus (and France had 6, and Germany had 7, some of which were transmissions within country). At this point, Thailand already had 19.

        Assuming the same rate of detected to undetected cases, Thailand should have a far more extensive outbreak than any country in Europe given it spreading as quickly as it does in the European winter. But nothing. Same for Indonesia, which has reported only 2 cases – clearly wrong, yet the lack of detection should mean unchecked spread, which I think we can now be pretty certain is not occurring.

        I’m fairly confident that tropical heat/humidity prevents all but limited outbreaks. What about typical Northern European spring temperatures? Are there any countries in the southern hemisphere with both extensive enough traffic from China that we’d expect to have had at least one undetected case, and current usual temperatures around 15-20 celsius? If so they might be worth keeping an eye on.

        • DeWitt says:

          Are there any countries in the southern hemisphere with both extensive enough traffic from China that we’d expect to have had at least one undetected case, and current usual temperatures around 15-20 celsius?

          No. It is summer-going-on-autumn in the southern hemisphere, and none of its inhabited landmasses stretch into the arctic.

    • viVI_IViv says:

      Singapore being a tropical paradise that hits 90°F every month of the year?

      Paradise it’s not, given how humid it is, but apparently coronaviruses dislike hot and humid weather even more than humans do.

      • bean says:

        This. So, so much this. The weather there was the one thing I didn’t like. That probably helped, as did a competent government.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          I’m not sure government competence makes much difference: we also don’t see much spread in Southeast Asia or Africa, though it could be because poor countries aren’t good at detecting it and/or cover it up when they detect it.

          • bean says:

            Infectious disease control in a setting like that is absolutely something a competent authoritarian-ish government is going to be good at. They have the knowledge and authority to find people who have the disease, track their contacts, and throw everyone in quarantine until they’re tested. Most of the other countries in question have dubious public-health systems, which can’t really take these steps, or even test properly.

  26. The Nybbler says:

    So Klobuchar has a rally disrupted by BLM protestors. Remember them? Seems like this hasn’t happened in a while. My suspicion is this is the DNC higher-ups way of telling her to drop out… anyone think it’s just a coincidence?

    • JayT says:

      My conspiracy theory is that the DNC pushed Buttigieg to drop out before Super Tuesday, but told Klobuchar to stay in to lower Sanders’ Minnesota delegate haul, and then drop out after.

        • DragonMilk says:

          For what it’s worth, I was rooting for your conspiracy theory!

          I wonder what cabinet positions were promised Booty and Klo, given how much the latter despises the former.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            If Biden wins I want Klobuchar at Defense just so if we wind up in a war she can announce it yelling “It’s Klobberin’ time!!”

          • acymetric says:

            Why on Earth would anyone give Pete a cabinet position? For what possible benefit? He was going to have to drop out soon anyway.

            0 qualification for being on the cabinet in any capacity, and announcing that he will be on the cabinet in advance nets you approximately 0 additional votes in the general. Not the first place I’ve seen this, and still makes no sense.

          • John Schilling says:

            Why on Earth would anyone give Pete a cabinet position? For what possible benefit? He was going to have to drop out soon anyway.

            First, it may change the outcome of this election if Pete (and Amy) drop out before Super Tuesday, as opposed to “soon”. In particular, many of the Democratic primaries have a 15% threshold for awarding any delegates; marginal contests going from Joe, Pete, and Amy each getting 10-14% of the vote could give Sanders a lock on the plurality whereas Joe getting 15+% makes it a close to even race (or even a Biden plurality depending on how he does in his strongest states).

            Second, because the DNC may also want to see a Democrat win presidential elections in 2024 or 2028 when Biden can’t be their man. If not Biden, who? Some loser from 2020 that nobody’s heard from since, or the current Secretary of State (or whatever)? Note that Hillary wasn’t given State because of her vast experience in international diplomacy.

          • acymetric says:

            @John Schilling

            Your first point stands, my problem with it is that it damages credibility when part of what Dems are running on is “restoring competency to the White House”. That probably means having competent/qualified cabinet members. I get the need to have the field thinned, but using the cabinet carrot for Pete would have been pretty much a last resort.

            Second, because the DNC may also want to see a Democrat win presidential elections in 2024 or 2028 when Biden can’t be their man. If not Biden, who? Some loser from 2020 that nobody’s heard from since, or the current Secretary of State (or whatever)? Note that Hillary wasn’t given State because of her vast experience in international diplomacy.

            She at least had experience in governance above the municipal level. Also, Pete will (unfortunately) still not be a viable national candidate in 2024, and probably not 2028 either. He’s young, so maybe someday, but not any day soon.

          • John Schilling says:

            Also, Pete will (unfortunately) still not be a viable national candidate in 2024, and probably not 2028 either. He’s young, so maybe someday, but not any day soon.

            OK, so what’s the name of the guy the Democrats should be grooming for 2024 or 2028? If the answer is “meh, someone will probably show up”, then that’s how we wound up with such a lackluster field this time. Developing your talent pool is part of what winning political parties need to do, and that means giving your potential future candidates high-profile jobs. Ones beyond their currently demonstrated talents, where they might do real harm if they screw up.

            If you’re always going to give the top non-presidential jobs to your most qualified/experienced people in the name of “restoring competency”, then when it’s time to put forth a presidential candidate you’re stuck with graybeards on the edge of senility or younglings with inadequate gravitas.

          • albatross11 says:

            acymetric:

            How much less qualified for the presidency is Mayor Pete today than Obama was in 2008?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @albatross11

            Modestly? I view Obama in 2008 as one of the least qualified Presidential candidates we’ve ever had, but he did have a longer time in state elected office and some time in national elective office, which substantially beats Pete’s resume.

          • acymetric says:

            @John Schilling

            OK, so what’s the name of the guy the Democrats should be grooming for 2024 or 2028? If the answer is “meh, someone will probably show up”, then that’s how we wound up with such a lackluster field this time.

            I mean yes the Dems need to be getting some candidates ready for 2024/2028 and beyond. I just don’t think Pete is that guy (yet).

            @albatross11:

            How much less qualified for the presidency is Mayor Pete today than Obama was in 2008?

            Moderately less qualified, but not disqualifyingly so. Pete could be a solid President assuming he is backed by a quality supporting cast (cabinet). I do not believe he would be effective in a cabinet position (supporting someone else as President), at this stage. Put Pete in a cabinet position while also saying “we’re going to establish a more competent executive” as part of the campaign and Trump is going to fire back “Competent? They’re putting that guy in charge of [x], he’s never seen an [x] in his whole life! Sad!” and it’ll land regardless of how hypocritical it is with regards to his own staff. This is the kind of self-inflicted wound Dems are going to serve up to Trump on a silver platter on their way to losing this election.

            Pete has a bright future in politics, and the Dems need to find a prominent place for him, but it shouldn’t be on this cabinet (or at the very least if it is they should not announce it before the general in November).

          • DragonMilk says:

            Booty is in a red state and has lost big in his statewide attempts at elected office, so he needs to move or leapfrog.

          • Plumber says:

            John Schilling says: “OK, so what’s the name of the guy the Democrats should be grooming for 2024 or 2028?”

            My first guess is one of the 24 Democrats who are currently State Governors. 

            Have one spend some time in the U.S. Senate and that’s who should run for President. 

            As it stands whichever Party holds the Presidency when the next recession hits (which we’re overdue for) will lose the next Presidential race unless it happened early in the term and there’s a strong recover during most of the term.

          • Garrett says:

            > 0 qualification for being on the cabinet in any capacity

            You could make an argument that with his consulting background he’d be a good pick for Secretary of Commerce. Important enough that it looks good/sounds good on a resume. Not important enough that people are going to get stressed out about it.

            Hell – given that Republicans are opposed to the idea of the department in the first place, the “stuff an idiot in it” model would actually be appealing for some of them.

          • cassander says:

            @john schilling

            OK, so what’s the name of the guy the Democrats should be grooming for 2024 or 2028?

            If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on Gavin Newsom being the next democratic president of the US.

          • Plumber says:

            @Cassandra says: “If I were a betting man, I’d put my money on Gavin Newsom being the next democratic president of the US”

            Even though I’m a Democrat I find Newsom as lothsome as Trump (and for much the same reasons) and I fear you’re right.

            @Nick, when Newsom is our nominee try to get your side to nominate someone acceptable for President for when I re-register to change Party affiliation.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            OK, so what’s the name of the guy the Democrats should be grooming for 2024 or 2028?

            Social McPrimate.
            (Come on, it’s no sillier a name than George McGovern.)

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Pete has a bright future in politics

            What’s the appeal? I’ve listened to him at the debates and all I hear are platitudes.

            Can somebody steelman Mayor Pete for me? What great ideas or leadership qualities does he bring to the table?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Bright, good looking, well educated religious young gay man with a military background and executive experience that he seems to have executed relatively competently.

            It’s pretty close to the best “design a background for a politician” that you can come up with for Democrat curb appeal.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            “Gay” is probably not an attribute in either Indiana or Presidential politics. Maybe in the next cycle or the one after. He might be a decent VP candidate since he appeals so strongly to white, educated liberals that aren’t ready to go for Warren or Sanders.

            Steel-man for the conservative side is that Mayor Pete at the very least isn’t a socialist

          • albatross11 says:

            Conrad:

            At least he’s not Beto.

          • acymetric says:

            @ADBG

            Unfortunately (IMO) I think we are probably 10-15 years (at least) from a point where being gay doesn’t essentially eliminate someone from viability in a national or even most statewide elections.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            That’s not really a steelman.

            Is there anyone here who supports Mayor Pete? Why? What’s the elevator pitch?

          • Aftagley says:

            Elevator Pitch:

            Pete right now: he’s young, gay, charismatic and folksy/religious in a way that no one else in the field is. I can personally attest to the fact that his boomer pull was strong. In a field of relative extremists, he stood out for being the most attractive moderate position. If not for Biden’s presence in the field and young people disliking him, I’d guess he’d be one of the frontrunners.

            Pete in 10-15 years: All of the above + he’s turned his resume from “wow, what a great start to a political career” into “one of the most qualified candidates ever for presidency.” Seriously, give him a few years as VP, cabinet secretary or senator and he’s going to be one of the most qualified people the dems have seen in a generation. (Young people might still hate him though)

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Thank you Aftagley. That’s informative.

          • yodelyak says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            re: Mayor Pete, something nobody else mentioned but that is a major reason his brand emerges from this primary mostly burnished is his choice of core message (or, arguably, lack of core message) for his campaign.

            To explain, I will contrast Buttigieg’s message with Warren’s.

            Warren’s one-word message was “plan.” Don’t hate the bankers, hate the failure of politicians to sufficiently plan for how rational actors pursuing self-interest has bad results if we don’t have a plan to have a level playing field. Ditto college being too expensive, or healthcare, or etc. She’s got a plan for that. The thing is, the moment this moment passes, all of Warren’s plans will become archaic–wherever the country is in 10 years, politically, it is very likely to not be exactly where we are now… so many of Warren’s plans will end up outside the overton window, on one side or the other.

            Meanwhile, Mayor Pete’s brand was “mind.” Pete’s focus was never on specific answers, it was on showing he had the kind of mind that could get the right answers. For people who were eager to see candidates endorse specific policy promises, he seemed full of empty platitudes. But for at least some people who think politicians are better chosen for their energy, values, and capacity of mind than for stated positions, he was a strongly appealing candidate (despite obvious drawbacks of youth and inexperience) by the end of the first speech, because he has a talent for showcasing–you could even say, showboating–his capacity of mind.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            yodelyak, that was really interesting. I can definitely see the appeal to people who want a smart president.

    • Aftagley says:

      My suspicion is this is the DNC higher-ups way of telling her to drop out… anyone think it’s just a coincidence?

      So your theory (i realize it’s been since retracted) is that the DNC exerts such influence over BLM that they’re using it (or parties pretending to be associated with it) as a goon squad?

      That’s a pretty far-out assertion, especially given that the DNC has thusfar demonstrated no such competence for the last, what, 20 years?

      • DeWitt says:

        What even happened twenty-odd years ago that you’re using that for a benchmark? How common is this sort of thing anywhere, ever?

      • The Nybbler says:

        I believe that someone or some group exerts enough influence over BLM to use it as a goon squad, and the same person or group has influence at the DNC as well, yes.

      • ana53294 says:

        I am agnostic on whether the DNC controls BLM, but I think it’s much easier to exert control of a radical violence-prone group by provoking them to commit violence rather than making sure they don’t.

        It’s enough to infiltrate a couple of agent provocateur. Controlling a group from commiting violence does require tight control of the leadership. And even in top-down hierarchical groups like the IRA you get even more radical offshoots who don’t want to stop the violence.

        Provoking violence by a violent group does not require huge talent from the DNC.

  27. DragonMilk says:

    So since everyone seems to be discussing C who must not be named, let’s talk face mask habits/hygiene.

    In Asia, people wear face masks generally not to protect themselves, but as a courtesy to prevent spread to others.

    In the US, people seem to have a terrible habit of showing up to places like work or church or other public places coughing in the open. Just yesterday at church, a woman sitting next to my wife coughed into her fist repeatedly, to my wife’s consternation, as she’s a doctor.

    What will it take for the US to adopt better self-quarantine habits, such as wearing a facemask out of courtesy, and not making it feel weird? As an Asian, I’m not going to wear a facemask as people will assume I’m a carrier of the thingy, and there’s been anti-facemask incidents already.

    • profgerm says:

      A complete overhaul of American social norms and a strong move towards use of social shaming specifically for the benefit of the majority.

      American culture is too individualist for “do this to protect others” attitudes, and while social shaming seems to have stepped up the past few years, it has explicitly NOT been for the betterment/protection of the majority.

      As for literally how… mass propaganda campaigns. Every celebrity from Adele to ZZ Top, from the big screen to the medium screen to the pocket screen, wearing masks and encouraging people to do the same. How you balance this with messaging that people aren’t supposed to freak out, who knows.

      • Matt M says:

        As for literally how… mass propaganda campaigns.

        Yeah, my suggestion was going to be “lie and tell the public that it absolutely does protect you from catching the disease from others.”

        And given that it seems to spread a lot even before symptoms are manifest, it should still be helpful even if people stop wearing it once they believe they’re actually sick.

        • Lambert says:

          Why not just tell everyone to wear certified NIOSH N95 (or EN149 FFP2) masks?
          Because those do protect the wearer (c. tenfold).

          • John Schilling says:

            For approximately the same reason we don’t just tell everyone to get the COVID-19 vaccine – the small problem of inadequate existence, which will take months at least to rectify.

          • Lambert says:

            And thus did the spraypainters, carpenters and road workers inherit the Earth.

  28. Eric T says:

    Want to go to the Moon? Well NASA is looking for applicants. The requirements are about as strict as you’d expect. According to the site you must have the following:
    -United States citizenship
    -A master’s degree in a STEM field, OR one of the following:
    >Two years (36 semester hours or 54 quarter hours) of work toward a Ph.D. program in a related science,
    technology, engineering or math field;
    >A completed doctor of medicine or doctor of osteopathic medicine degree;
    >Completion (or current enrollment that will result in completion by June 2021) of a nationally or internationally recognized test pilot school program. However, if test pilot school is your only advanced degree, you must also have a bachelor’s degree or higher in a STEM field.
    -Have at least two years of related, progressively responsible professional experience, or at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft
    -Pass the NASA long-duration spaceflight physical. (Which generally requires you to be in excellent physical shape).

    If you have all of that, you might be qualified. Anyone here feel like applying?

    • achenx says:

      Last I checked, NASA astronaut requirements included being shorter than.. 6’1” or 6’2” or something. So even if I did finish up that master’s degree I’d still be out of luck.

    • Matt says:

      I meet all the educational requirements (not the pilot ones) and I already work at NASA, but I’m too tall and, while I’m in ok shape, I’m not in astronaut shape.

      Realistically, they’re going to take the cream of the crop, and of the people who would apply, I would be nowhere near the top.

      But if we get a lot of people in space again maybe they’ll open the training tank here in Huntsville and I can spend 8 hours a week or so assisting astronaut training. I work with guys who used to do that and it sounds pretty awesome to get paid for a couple of half-days each week diving while the astronauts practice EVA stuff.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        What is the test for being in astronaut shape?

        • rumham says:

          You have to be able to drive cross-country with only a single diaper.

        • Matt says:

          Other than good or correctable vision and height-weight inside some envelope, the test itself doesn’t seem to be available. A guy I work with who meets all the requirements and runs triathlons for fun applied to the astronaut program a couple of years ago and got rejected pretty early in the process.

    • Belisaurus Rex says:

      For a moment I missed the “one of the following” bit and thought that you basically had to build your life around this. But if it’s just ONE, that’s not actually too high of a bar. A degree and then (not too much) jet time.

      • Eric T says:

        It’s one of the “>” entries, you need all of the “-”

        In hindsight my formatting could use some work

    • AlphaGamma says:

      My favourite bit (from the USAjobs listing):

      Travel Required- Extensive Travel Required

      This seems like something of an understatement.

      • bean says:

        It’s not just that. Astronauts do a lot of travel even when on Earth. They go to meet suppliers, sit on boards, and do PR work.

  29. Luije says:

    If you’re so interested in morality, why aren’t you a judge?

    • Deiseach says:

      (1) It’s entirely possible that some of us are, or could be, judges in real life
      (2) Morality and the law don’t have very much to do with each other; you’d be better to ask why aren’t we clergypersons or members of ethics committees or suchlike
      (3) How do you know we aren’t sitting here judging you?

    • Iago the Yerfdog says:

      If you’re so interested in food, why aren’t you a health inspector?

    • Matt says:

      In addition to Deiseach’s replies:

      I chose my career based on

      1) I was interested in it
      2) I was capable of achieving it
      3) It (or the fall-back if I failed to achieve it) would produce a good result for me, salary-wise.

      There are probably people who are interested in morality and might choose a morality-related career, but for some combination of 2 & 3 not working out for them.

    • Bobobob says:

      If you’re so interested in criticism, why aren’t you Roger Ebert?

    • Aftagley says:

      I can’t tell if this is a real question or not.

      Assuming it is:

      1. Judges don’t assess morality. Our system of justice isn’t set up to care about morality, it determines guilt or innocence. If there is enough evidence to establish guilt, that’s all that matters. While you would hope that morality plays a part in determining what the laws are, that’s the legislature’s job, hopefully influenced by the voters. That’s why both eyes of lady justice are covered, she literally doesn’t care about “right” and “wrong” only justice.

      2. Even if trials did assess morality, that’s still not the domain of judges to make the final call; that’s what we have juries for. When a jury is present, the judge is just there to “call balls and strikes” as the saying goes. They help enforce process and serve as a final authority when the two parties come into disagreement over process. Morality really doesn’t come into play here, nor again, would you want it to.

      3. Even for cases where the parties have waved their right to a jury, and the judge is the person determining guilt or innocence, then you still don’t get to any major moral decisions, as a judge knows more than anyone else the rules surrounding and constraining their decision-making process.

      In short, I don’t see any reason to believe that judges have a career more dependent on an interest in morality than your average profession, and far less than some others (clergy/philosopher/activist/lawmaker).

      • Luije says:

        I hoped for an answer like yours. Thanks.

        • Aftagley says:

          Your welcome, I guess.

          Putting some pathos in that I left out of my original post, I’ve got someone very close to me in my personal life who is a judge. Some of the toughest aspects of their job have been times when just and right didn’t necessarily seem to stack up. Fortunately, in the most egregious cases of disparity, the system is normally flexible enough to account for it, but not always and the breakdowns can be heart-wrenching.

    • Two McMillion says:

      You get 30 days in jail for contempt of court.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      If you’re so interested in morality, why aren’t you a judge?

      Judge not, lest ye be judged?
      (Fun fact: when I was like 6 years old, I saw my parents watching one of those court TV shows and asked my mom “If Christians aren’t supposed to judge, does a Christian nation need unbelievers to become judges?”)

  30. Beans says:

    …support decriminalizing border crossings

    While I’ve heard of this concept before, I don’t think I’ve passed through the spheres where it’s ever really discussed. But I’ve gotten the sense that some support this, and I can’t imagine why.

    I see some benefits to the world being divided into self-organized administrative units: making the whole thing one big bowl of mashed potatoes seems like an organizational nightmare that would open the door to unimaginable chaos even if everyone involved had the best of intentions.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      And Biden, thank God, is the one who refused to be forced into that position. Because he knew the general was coming up.

      (Biden’s position, as I recall, was that such prosecutions “wouldn’t be a priority” but he kept on refusing to say he’d quit enforcing them altogether).

      • rumham says:

        While most of that seems very reasonable, the end is some bullshit. The cruel conditions for immigrants were largely caused by withholding of funding by the same people who made press conferences deriding it. “Liar! There’s no crisis!” and then changing up to crisis when the results of no funding and greatly increased border jumping predictably come home to roost and then blaming Trump. Getting rid of Trump will not end their cynical mendacity and cruelty.

        The ending:

        Two things will ensure our immigration system better reflects our values. The first is defeating Trump in 2020, ending his power to use the U.S. Code as a brutal tool in his nativist crusade. Then we need address our broken immigration system and enact lasting reforms that make the process humane, fair, and efficient moving forward.

        What the fuck was stopping them 4 years ago?

        • Plumber says:

          @rumham says:

          “…What the fuck was stopping them 4 years ago?”

          Because unlike the previous 58 U.S. Presidential elections the 2020 one will be a magic election in which Congress will be so swayed the election of [whomever] that all the Representatives and Senators will shout “Gosh golly Bernie/Joe/Liz/Mike/whoever you are so very correct, good looking, virtuous, and wise that I feel compelled to pass all of the agenda that you promised in your campaign and would you like a foot massage?”

          Or something like that.

        • rumham says:

          @Plumber

          It’s even worse than that. They don’t even have any plans other than giving all of central america free healthcare. Have you even heard anyone proposing anything the least bit logical? Like say, ankle monitors?

        • acymetric says:

          It’s even worse than that. They don’t even have any plans other than giving all of central america free healthcare.

          I’m pretty sure nobody is proposing that, or even something that could be construed as resembling it by anyone who is either reasonable or honest.

          Have you even heard anyone proposing anything the least bit logical? Like say, ankle monitors?

          On who? Everyone?

        • rumham says:

          @acymetric

          Granted it’s hyperbole. But if all of central america travels far enough north theoretically, it would be supported.

          On who? Everyone?

          People who are waiting on an asylum claim. Contrary to our current crop of politicians, there are other options than packing everyone into inadequate facilities or just hoping they show up for court.

        • Statismagician says:

          As opposed to detention camps, than which they’d be much more humane and cost-effective.

          EDIT: @acymetric

  31. rumham says:

    I am curious if my calibration is off here.

    “There’s an Amazon distribution center that was advertising, last time I was there, up to $12.75 an hour. Your parents made that three decades ago.”

    This was discussed in the fact check this way:

    From a narrow perspective, Pocan is off — an offer of $12.75 does not equate to hourly wages from 30 years ago, as a straight comparison or with inflation factored in.

    He fares much better when considering the larger point being made: That wage growth has been largely stagnant.

    It was rated “Mostly True”. Am I wrong for thinking that is in insane rating given that anyway you look at it is false?

    • baconbits9 says:

      But the cost of everyday goods like rent, groceries and cars have outpaced that median wage growth, meaning a worker’s 1990 weekly paycheck, at a $10.43-an-hour rate, would have held more spending power than the $23.33-an-hour rate does today.

      Its just a biased site cherry picking to fit their political bent.

      • rumham says:

        I have always run on the assumption that this will always be true, but this one seems more egregious than the vast majority.

      • Plumber says:

        @baconbits9,
        The union hourly rate for a Journeyman plumber in 1999 (when I was accepted to be an indentured apprentice) in Alameda, San Francisco, Santa Clara,
        and San Mateo counties (where I’ve worked) wasn’t much less then than it is today, meanwhile the median price for a house has gone up more than 6x, so if anything the price increases relative to wages seem understated to me (and “unusual area” doesn’t cut it for me when the “unusual area” is where I was born and have everywhere lived for 99% of my life, with housing in Seattle, where my wife grew up, having a similarly rise relative to wages, that prices in “There Be Dragons” may be cheaper doesn’t change what I see everywhere within a hundred miles of all I know).

        I believe my eyes.

        • Skeptic says:

          You’re obviously right about housing costs, but that’s a deliberate policy choice by incumbent home owners. If the government policy is to subsidize demand and restrict supply, then it’s apples to oranges.

          To compare apples to apples, you need a basket of goods or services with relatively constant quality or adjustable quality.

          Hours worked per calorie?
          Hours worked per furniture set?
          Hours worked per mile driven (gasoline plus depreciation)?

          • Plumber says:

            @Skeptic says: “You’re obviously right about housing costs, but that’s a deliberate policy choice by incumbent home owners. If the government policy is to subsidize demand and restrict supply, then it’s apples to oranges.

            To compare apples to apples, you need a basket of goods or services with relatively constant quality or adjustable quality.

            Hours worked per calorie?”

            Beans (on sale) aren’t much more now than what they were then, milk is usually 3.5x what it was then, and a cartoon of eggs are priced 2x to 3x what they were then (depending on sales).

            “Hours worked per furniture set?”

            I’ve little idea, but with the rise of IKEA, Target, and Wal-Mart I imagine they’re cheaper now (but shoddier).

            “Hours worked per mile driven (gasoline plus depreciation)?”

            A gallon of gasoline is (depending on summer or winter) about 3x to 4x what it was then.

            On balance guys in my trade have less purchasing power than twenty years ago, though median wages in my area are up those higher wages have largely gone to “the best and the brightest” from around the world (typically Asia and prosperous American suburbs), on the other hand work is just easier to find now than in 1990 or 2010 (if not quite as easy as 1999).

            In terms of the chance of finding a job that will let one buy a house during in my lifetime 1973 (when my parents bought the house my Mom still lives in) tops the list, second most after the ’70’s would be around 1995.

          • JayT says:

            You’re obviously right about housing costs, but that’s a deliberate policy choice by incumbent home owners.

            And don’t forget that those are policies that Plumber himself has derided for not limiting house ENOUGH!

          • Plumber says:

            @JayT says: “…And don’t forget that those are policies that Plumber himself has derided for not limiting house ENOUGH!…”

            It depends on where.

            San Francisco itself is quite dense enough already (and the places where it isn’t the ground is often toxic), and the sewers are already past capacity during heavy rains, as are the treatment plants.

            Oakland and Berkeley are also past sewer capacity, but parts of Oakland are non dense and non toxic still, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties could stand much more building, I’d be fine with a series of replicas of the Cabrini Green towers surrounding Larry Ellison’s Japanese-style mansion.

          • Skeptic says:

            Plumber,

            Infrastructure has nothing to do with it. If density is allowed, then property taxes rise and more infrastructure services can be provided.

            This is rent seeking.

            Just like Doctors refuse to allow Doctors from England to treat sick Corona patients.

            Just like Nurses refuse to allow Nurses from England to treat Corona patients.

            Just like California lawyers refuse to allow any other lawyer to represent clients.

            Just like California refuses to allow construction…..

            Rent seeking to steal from us, the working class and give to the 1%. And people vote for it every year

        • Skeptic says:

          Plumber,

          Gas price differential should be nowhere near that high unless this is a California regulatory thing. I’d add to that MPG and maintenance costs should make driving cheaper now than it was then?

          Housing in the Bay Area is completely insane though, but again it’s entirely an intentional policy choice.

          Generally speaking prices have fallen outside of areas where government policy is to subsidize demand and restrict supply.

          Just my 2 cents (potentially myopic) from looking at macro level data, I’m certainly not going to argue with your personal experience. 🙂

          • Plumber says:

            @Skeptic,
            I remember that a gallon of regular gasoline was still 99¢ in the early to mid 1990’s, by 2001 it spiked to $1.99, in 2007 it was close to $5 a gallon, today the going rate is $3.69 a gallon at the station closest to my work, and $3.59 at the station closest to my house, but there’s a crowded $3.35 a gallon station a 20 to 40 minute (depending on traffic) drive further away from my house. 

          • Skeptic says:

            Plumber,

            California gas prices apparently are indeed crazy. You’re paying 30-50% higher, again this is intentional California government policy. This has nothing to do with market forces. This is a policy choice that voters support.

            Egg prices are actually roughly unchanged, even not adjusted for inflation. Apparently 99 cents in ‘91, and still about 99 cents at Wal Mart in 2019 which is amazing. If there’s a differential it’s either some whacky California farming law or you’re paying California real estate leasing prices as part of those 12 eggs.

            Housing is entirely a policy choice on not allowing supply to expand. If you subsidize demand and restrict supply, housing becomes unaffordable. But this isn’t due to anything that except incumbent home owners protecting their millions of real estate wealth by making building illegal.

            Cheers! 🙂

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            by 2001 it spiked to $1.99, in 2007 it was close to $5 a gallon, today the going rate is $3.69 a gallon at the station closest to my work, and $3.59 at the station closest to my house, but there’s a crowded $3.35 a gallon station

            In Lexington, Kentucky, gas has been as low as $1.99 a gallon in Anno Domini 2020.

          • Jake R says:

            @Le Maistre Chat
            I paid $1.89 last week in southwest Louisiana.

          • Nick says:

            Prices have been $1.99-2.19 here in Northeast Ohio.

        • baconbits9 says:

          I believe my eyes.

          You aren’t believing your eyes, you are deciding that only blue collar workers matter. Inflation adjusted earnings in the Bay area are up a significant amount since 2000, but moreover if we take your posts seriously about when you bought your home, what you bought it for and how you paid for it then your net worth is likely near or over a million dollars just from your real estate holdings. I find it hard to cry for someone who chooses to complain about housing prices so frequently when they are likely able to retire and live off said increases if they were willing to move to where 75% of the country lives.

          • Plumber says:

            @baconbits9,
            We bought our house was bought for $550,000 in 2011, as a rough guess it could sell for almost twice that now, my beef is that it took us until we we’re in our 40’s to buy a house, and our son’s won’t be likely to be able to buy one until after we’re dead, my parents on the other hand we’re able to buy one in Berkeley in 1973 when my Mom was in her mid 20’s and my Dad was in his early 30’s, and my wife’s parents were able to do the same in Seattle in the ’70’s.

            What really rankled was my going through a grueling 9,000 hours of labor apprenticeship with five years of night classes in order to triple my wages only to find that housing had gone up 5x in less than a decade. 

            And yes, I care about how my social class has fared, but also how my peers have, my brother got a college diploma and a white-collar job, but he moved to Maryland to be able to live in a house, and I really don’t see the value of an economy that has newcomers come here to make their fortunes and then leave, with few able to build roots.

            When the Okies came they didn’t force natives out, this feels more like being a Californio rancher being displaced by Anglo squatters during the Gold Rush. 

          • baconbits9 says:

            We bought our house was bought for $550,000 in 2011, as a rough guess it could sell for almost twice that now, my beef is that it took us until we we’re in our 40’s to buy a house,

            So you worked and saved for ~30 years and now you have a significant amount of wealth that you could tap? Sounds like how things should work to me.

            and our son’s won’t be likely to be able to buy one until after we’re dead

            You mean specifically in SF, right? Because I ‘bought’ my first house in 2003 at 24 while making $15 an hour. It worked because I split the mortgage with my brother, and we rented the 3rd room out for the 6 years we lived together and choose a cheap city to do it in. Then my wife and I bought together in 2010, and despite having a combined income of under $50,000 that year we managed to buy a twin that we could rent half of by again choosing a less than ideal location, and committing to managing the property and repairs by ourselves as much as possible. Later on we dropped ~ 1/3rd of our income so we could have kids without sending them to daycare/school.

            Where we live now is far from ideal from my view, but I know that those were decisions I made about what I value + scarcity. Not everyone can live in San Diego like I would want to.

            What really rankled was my going through a grueling 9,000 hours of labor apprenticeship with five years of night classes in order to triple my wages only to find that housing had gone up 5x in less than a decade.

            Home ownership rates in the US went up from 64% in 1990 to 69% in 2004-2006, and didn’t fall back to 1990 levels until 2014. It was easier to acquire a home, going by that rate from 1995 through 2012 than it was at any point prior to 1995 going back to the mid 60s.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            We bought our house was bought for $550,000 in 2011, as a rough guess it could sell for almost twice that now, my beef is that it took us until we we’re in our 40’s to buy a house,

            That sucks, but now that you’ve had it for nine years and it’s worth $1.1 million, you could sell it, pay a bit over $150k cash for a house like mine, and live off (mortgage-free) the $950,000 you passively invest with Vanguard or Fidelity.

    • Nick says:

      This isn’t the first time that factcheckers have admitted something is factually wrong but concluded it’s “mostly true” in the end anyway. Babylon Bee parodied this a while back.

      • acymetric says:

        Maybe they need a new classification. Something like “false/overly exaggerated, but the general point stands”.

        • EchoChaos says:

          They can call it “Trumpian”.

        • Nick says:

          Yeah, I think we have to admit when something is false, but we should be able to break down whether it’s complete fabrication, or exaggeration, or the like. The same way we can admit something is strictly true but misleading.

        • Eric Rall says:

          Maybe “truthy” or “fake but accurate”?

        • Matt M says:

          No. Their job is to check facts.

          If you want to get into “well the facts are one way but they could be interpreted a different way in which case….” scenarios you are no longer a fact checker. You’re just another propagandist/journalist…

      • EchoChaos says:

        The article was even better than the headline, which it isn’t always.

        There are four lights.

      • ana53294 says:

        Reminds me of this short film.

    • Tatterdemalion says:

      All quantitative claims are false if you demand enough precision; to get “mostly true” you should only have to be in the right ballpark.

      What counts as “in the right ballpark” depends on what degree of precision could reasonably be expected.

      This one is out by a bit less than 20%. Given that the natural point of comparison is how much prices have changed by in that time span, and they’ve changed by far more than 20%, I think that rating this as “mostly true”, while certainly open to criticism, is also certainly defensible – in the context of prices having risen by a factor of multiples, describing a wage change of 20% as still basically the same strikes me as not unreasonable.

      • Matt says:

        I disagree that ‘median wage of all workers’ is a reasonable comparison to ‘starting wage of unskilled labor’.

        It looks like the median wage in 2017 was about $21.50

        Defensible comparisons would seem to be ‘amazon warehouse worker vs average warehouse worker in 1970’ or ‘$12.75 vs $21.50’

        • Tatterdemalion says:

          That strikes me as a much stronger point than “the difference between $10.43 and $12.75 is significant”, and if your numbers are correct I agree that it probably makes his point extremely misleading to the point of being deceptive, even if not technically false.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Perhaps, but my experience with fact checking sites is that they do not extend this benefit of the doubt to people they don’t like or who are making points they don’t like. Those get the “false” or “mostly false” rating, even if they’re just as defensible as this one.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          My favourite example was when Politifact rated Trump’s claim that Hillary was in favour of open borders “mostly false”… right after quoting a speech in which Hillary literally said she wanted “a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders”.

        • Tatterdemalion says:

          While I agree with you that Politifact (and possibly other fact-checking sites, but that’s the only one I read) tends to extend more benefit of the doubt to left-leaning than right-leaning claims, that doesn’t mean that this rating is indefensible.

      • rumham says:

        describing a wage change of 20% as still basically the same strikes me as not unreasonable.

        Would you ascribe that percentage as basically the same to any other economic metric?

        For example: “taxes are down 20% for the upper class”

        Would you describe that as “basically the same”?

        • Tatterdemalion says:

          No, I wouldn’t – that’s what I meant by “depends on what degree of precision could reasonably be expected”.

          My natural point of comparison for a changes in taxation is other changes in taxation, which are usually small, so I view even being out by 2% is a big deal.

          My natural point of comparison for a change in the value of a thing over 30 years is the changes in value of other things over 30 years*, which tend to be in the range of hundreds of percent, so 20%, while not trivial, is a much smaller deal.

          *At least when being referred to make this sort of point – I imagine there are other contexts where more precision is expected, and in those getting this number wrong by the same amount would be a much bigger deal.

          • rumham says:

            @Tatterdemalion

            Is that really the right way to look at it? The most wage change in the last 50 years, according to pew, was upper-income level going up 64%. If I said that it only went up 44%, would you rate that mostly true?

          • Tatterdemalion says:

            While I agree with you that Politifact (and possibly other fact-checking sites, but that’s the only one I read) tends to extend more benefit of the doubt to left-leaning than right-leaning claims, that doesn’t mean that this rating is indefensible.

    • The Nybbler says:

      The summary:

      But his larger claim, that wages haven’t moved much in the last three decades, is on point. Accounting for inflation, the median wage has only increased $3 since 1990 — and the cost of living expenses has far outpaced that number.

      But “accounting for inflation” is already accounting for “cost of living expenses”. The usual deflator is some version of the CPI. So they’re double counting inflation. Completely invalid, and completely unsurprising.

    • MorningGaul says:

      Politifact hasn’t been reliable for a long time, if ever.

      • Aftagley says:

        That’s not true, actually.

        Poltifact evaluated that claim back in 2018 and rated it as “Pants on Fire.”

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Nonsense.

          In 2019, I read on Poltrifact that that claim was “Egg on Your Face”.

      • Tatterdemalion says:

        I disagree.

        It’s true that where ambiguity exists Politifact tends to give more benefit of the doubt to left-wing than right-wing claims. But being biased is not the same thing as being unreliable.

        • Clutzy says:

          The ratings are unreliable because of the bias. It means that there are instances where a 100% true statement is rated as “partially true”.

    • GreatColdDistance says:

      I think “mostly true” is the right call on this one, though it’s a tough call. More broadly, I think the question here boils down to “how do you fact check a vague claim?”

      He says “your parents made that 30 years ago”, without really making it clear what group he’s referring to. You can parse his statement as meaning “that was the median wage 30 years ago” but it seems to be a stretch to call it a false statement based off such an significant alteration.

      I tend to read the claim as meaning that that was a fairly common wage 30 years ago such that many parents of those in the audience likely made around that. Under such a parse, the statement seems to be true. I think it was the right call to knock it down to a “mostly true” due to how vague “your parents” is, and how other (IMO worse) interpretations of the statement are not accurate. But I don’t think it’s fair to call it false on the assumption that he was referring to median wage when he never said that.

      • Nick says:

        If something is really vague, it seems wrong to me to call it true or false at all.

      • rumham says:

        That seems a better take. But if viewed that way, it’s essentially a meaningless statement, right? I mean, there’s a pretty large set of numbers that qualify for the money that someone’s parent(s) made in the 90s.

        But I don’t think it’s fair to call it false on the assumption that he was referring to median wage when he never said that.

        I wouldn’t even have been commenting on it if they had gone even to just “half true”.

        • GreatColdDistance says:

          But if viewed that way, it’s essentially a meaningless statement, right?

          Not quite, but damn close. If he had suggested that “your parents” made $2 or $2500 an hour I think that’s far enough off the mark that you could call it false because it is quite unlikely that anyone’s parents in the audience made those wages, but it is a pretty squishy statement with a lot of leeway indeed. It would be ideal if they added some kind of “too vague to call true/false but here’s some data to help you decide how to feel about it” rating, maybe to go with a “true but misleading” label as well. But it is hard to place on their scale as it exists.

      • baconbits9 says:

        I tend to read the claim as meaning that that was a fairly common wage 30 years ago such that many parents of those in the audience likely made around that. Under such a parse, the statement seems to be true.

        Under such a claim it is false. Amazon warehouse entry level positions aren’t the mean wage now, and were the mean position 30 years ago.

  32. Purplehermann says:

    Conspiracy Theory: (Israeli Politics)

    Benny Gantz and PM Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu are collaborating.

    Gantz brought Bibi’s more mainstream oppononents under him to challenge Bibi for control of the country.

    Bibi is facing charges for bribery which seem shaky as well as more minor but more likely charges. If the anti Bibi faction relented, those charges would be made toothless.

    As elections are repeated, smaller parties are failing to pass the minimum threshold needed and either combining into larger parties or disappearing. At this point all that remains are the Arab and Ultra Orthodox parties, Bibi and anti-Bibi (Gantz), and a smaller right wing and left wing party each.

    Personal relationship: Bibi appointed Gantz as Commander in Chief in 2011.

    Motivation: power. The two are also fairly close on the political spectrum. Much closer IMO than any other party is to either (aside from liberman, but he might be in on it too.)

    Realism: It only takes two, maybe three people. The whole thing would be pretty easy to do imo because of the way govt. works in Israel, the ideological differences on (in) each ‘side’ of the ‘left’ and ‘right’, and the narrow margin by which the ‘right holds power.

    The plan for the future: sqeeze out the two smaller left and right wing parties, raise the threshhold for entry (to keep new groups from coming up), dispose of the charges and take power together.

    Thoughts?

    • broblawsky says:

      Counterargument: what does Gantz get out of this? He can’t share power with Netanyahu; his supporters despise the man.

      • Purplehermann says:

        The despising issue has two main sources from what I’ve heard, both easily enough fixed.

        1) corruption. Fixed by Bibi standing trial and the major charges being found as baseless.

        2) Bibi works with the right wing and ultra-orthodox. Working with Gantz and wrecking the right parties (there used to be more..) tackles this.

        Additionally, a lot of the country that just wants the govt to be formed and this would be fine (as long as Bibi stood trial and wasn’t granted retroactive automatic immunity.

        Gantz is currently a figurehead who will mostly disappear after a while if he wins, this would be his best shot at gettting and holding on to power imo.

        • broblawsky says:

          The despising issue has two main sources from what I’ve heard, both easily enough fixed.

          1) corruption. Fixed by Bibi standing trial and the major charges being found as baseless.

          I’ll admit I’m not an expert in Israeli law, but this seems unlikely, both on the basis of multiple commentators saying that Netanyahu is pretty obviously guilty, and on the basis that Netanyahu is trying to give himself immunity to prosecution. If Netanyahu thought he could easily get exonerated, he wouldn’t bother trying to give himself immunity.

          2) Bibi works with the right wing and ultra-orthodox. Working with Gantz and wrecking the right parties (there used to be more..) tackles this.

          The core issue isn’t just right vs left, it’s over the conscription of Haredim. That isn’t going to go away just because Likud swallows the other right-wing parties. Yisrael Beteinu’s survival shows that it remains a significant scissor issue, even among the hard right.

  33. Nick says:

    SSC, how do you keep from losing digital things?

    I keep track of webpages with bookmarks and a very large browser history, but it’s never enough, because of link rot or magically disappearing history. Some of the stuff I’m more concerned about losing ends up as downloaded files or stored on the cloud. Others I track down a mostly intact copy of on the Internet Archive.

    My own files are decently organized at a low level, but disparate; I have some on Google Drive, others on Dropbox, others on Evernote, and I’m not happy with using any of these, but I don’t see an alternative. There are also files I don’t put on any of them, like those I want to be actually private, or those that would take up too much space, like bigger pdfs.

    This all works well enough, but it’s very piecemeal. There’s a chance that I could lose my hard drive. And different services offer different benefits; Dropbox promises relatively simple cloud storage of any kind of file and shareable links, while Evernote is for documents but offers tagging, formatting, and so on. I wish I had fewer better solutions here, but with how many different kinds of things I’m saving, from webpages to text documents to pdfs, that might be impractical.

    • Canyon Fern says:

      For links to favorite pages, and extra copies of one’s own thoughts, my editor, Ludovico, keeps such things on his personal website.

      To guard against hard-drive failure and other hazards, I think there’s not much for it but to have an on-site hard drive backup and an off-site hard drive backup that you swap with the on-site one at intervals, as well as online backups to as many services as you can easily use. Of course, don’t forget to test these backups regularly.

      The only techniques which I’ve found to be truly reliable for organization and non-search-based retrieval, are making folder and file names as long as I need them to be, and minimizing the depth and breadth of the folder tree on my (Ludovico’s) computer system.

    • John Schilling says:

      My own files are decently organized at a low level, but disparate; I have some on Google Drive, others on Dropbox, others on Evernote, and I’m not happy with using any of these, but I don’t see an alternative.

      My alternative to those is the flash drive that I carry just about everywhere, and holds the working copy of all files that I use at all regularly. And is mirrored on the hard drive of my main desktop machine at home, which is itself regularly backed up to an external hard drive that I keep in a safe. And periodically to [redacted] as well.

    • Basscet says:

      I have the same problem with webpages. In spite of all the data that Google is supposed to be collecting on me, their records of obvious things like my YouTube history seem to get gradually pruned over time. I guess they’re more interested in my aggregate data, but they’re still sometimes useful for tracking down videos/webpages from memory. Though like bookmarks, it requires me to stumble on the right keywords to search with. Perhaps I should just archive this stuff myself, but there’s a lot of material and I’m quite lazy.

      As for local files, it’s a mess. Spread out across a couple systems, some backed up to cloud services, others to external hard drives. It will probably bite me in the ass when something actually happens. Maybe I’ll find that some files didn’t have copies after all, or that they were buried under random folder hierarchies.

    • Lambert says:

      Everything’s on one of the many, many partitions (some LVM, some not, some with conflicting namespaces) on my external hard drive.
      Find | grep and wait.

    • lvlln says:

      I recommend the Everything application for finding stuff on your own local HDDs. It’s a very fast dumb text search of all the filenames of all the files on your filesystem, with options to limit your search to certain folders and to use wildcards.

      • Nick says:

        Huh, sounds like it does indeed promise to be very fast. Searching filenames via file explorer is so awful. It takes 0.001 seconds to search my personal files then spends three million years searching Windows files.

  34. Canyon Fern says:

    Presenting: Slate Star Showdex, Act 2, Episode 1.

    [Missed Act 1? Catch up now: Episode 1; Episode 2; Episode 3; Episode 4]
    -#-#-
    Two days after the events of Act 1:

    In the California city of San Jose, all is dreary fog. The fog is not inviting. It offers no handbills, no pinwheels, no electric lights, no scantily-clad ladies. All it offers is a challenge.

    “Come and try me,” it says. “I’ll soak you good.”

    Only one man could brave this fog without flinching. Only one man, with the patience of stone itself, could venture out into this Satanic soup. Only one man, lit by an unquenchable inner fire, could look this fog in the face, hear its challenge, grit his teeth, and say:

    “Go soak an egg.”

    Dr. Scott “Slate” Alexander, the indefatigable doctor-investigator, stares coolly at the cluster of buildings before him. The fog, robbed of its fun, curls listlessly around each one in turn.

    General Intelligence. The largest and most prestigious research corporation in America. Home to the world’s brightest intellects, its biggest brains, its boldest visionaries. One of these visionaries, Eliezer Yudkowsky, is known far and wide for his work on electromechanical calculation. Nearly a fortnight has passed since this great man went missing under mysterious circumstances.

    Nearly three days have passed since Slate Alexander brought him back.

    The Man of Slate pulls his gray fedora low on his head, and cinches the belt of his gray trenchcoat. A bulge at his waist, no larger than a harvest mouse, is the only sign of his trusty revolver.

    Scott “Slate” Alexander approaches Building B. The fog sees him, and it fears him, and it soaks itself.
    -#-#-
    “Scott! My good man!”

    Eliezer Yudkowsky, radiating pure delight, shakes Scott’s hand and claps him on the back. “It’s so lovely to see you without any lizardmen around.”

    “Likewise,” Scott says, “but with any luck I’ll be getting my hands on a certain lizardman any day now. Spliggo Hiss is still out there.”

    Eliezer grimaces at the name. “I imagine that’s why you’re here?”

    Scott nods. “I know all about your kidnapping, and your imprisonment, but I’m still in the dark about that crate,” he says. On the nearest workbench sits the small crate recovered from Hiss’s room at the Hotel El Dorado.

    “Of course,” says Eliezer. “Let me give you a closer look.” He walks to the workbench, lifts the lid off the crate, and motions Scott over.

    Behind Scott, the door to the lab bangs open. Half a dozen researchers fight to be the first one inside.

    “Dr. Alexander!” one of them shouts.

    Scott ignores the shout. He peers inside the crate.

    Empty!

    “I notice I am confused,” Scott says.

    Something jabs Scott in the small of the back. “Howzabout I clear things up for ya?”

    The imperturbable doctor-investigator whirls on the spot. The researchers stand in a loose gaggle. All assembled — save one — wear natty suits, ID badges, and big smiles.

    The odd man out is three feet tall if he’s an inch. He wears a black suit with white pinstripes, and a pinky ring with a sapphire the size of an eyeball. His eyes are beady, his nose is squashed, and his frown is the frown of a liquorless clown. In his right hand, the pinky-ring hand, he carries a black-lacquered cane.

    Scott blinks. Still confused. “I’m Dr. Scott Alexander, here in my capacity as a private investigator. I was the one who stormed Hiss’s hotel room and–”

    “Can it, bub!” The little man waves his cane. “I know all about your bozo stunt! I was there!”

    “Do you mean … you were in that box?”

    The man cackles. “Got it in one, bub!” He twirls the cane through the air and into his left hand. With his right hand newly empty, he spits into his palm, and offers Scott a handshake.

    Slowly, like a sloth ascending Everest, Scott shakes the spitty hand.

    “Tremendous Value, at your service!”

    Scott comes dangerously close to being flapped. Tremendous Value’s frown inverts into a genuine smile.

    “Forget ‘bozo,’ pal. That stunt of yours was ballsy,” says Tremendous Value. “All I can say is it’s a crying shame you didn’t shoot Hiss dead! I should never have trusted that overgrown gecko!”

    Slate Alexander dips his hand into the inner pocket of his trenchcoat, but the pocket is curiously empty.

    Eliezer senses an opening. “Scott, let me introduce you to everyone.” He goes around, naming names, but though Scott’s hand performs further handshakes, his mind is elsewhere.

    Between Tremendous Value and Navy Suit, Hiss’s trail might not be so cold after all.

    ” … and finally, this is Dr. Falkovich, who came all the way from British Palestine to establish our Center for Numeric Lovemaking!”

    Dr. Falkovich smirks harder than any human being in recorded history.
    -#-#-
    Lunchtime. Food o’clock. The eating hour.

    The canteen at General Intelligence boasts a marvel of modern mechanics. The room itself is filled with iron tables, powder-coated blue, with cushioned benches — but there’s nothing special about those. What’s special is the chef.

    Scott, following the others’ lead, takes a punch card from a box by the door. The card has a grid of nine squares printed on it. Scott contemplates the menu board.

    \\\///
    PLEASING EGG. #100.
    YOUR FRIEND THE MEATLOAF. #200.
    A NICE SALAD. #300.

    COFFEE. #010.
    TEA. #020.

    MEALSQUARE. #003.
    \\\///

    Scott plucks a gleaming hole punch from its hook below the menu. He punches the first and third squares in the card’s first column, and all three squares in the third. On the wall, a few steps past the menu board, is a slot marked “INSERT.” Scott does as it says.

    There is a pneumatic flormp. A panel in the wall instantly slides upward, revealing a terrier-sized square tunnel to parts unknown. In the mouth of the tunnel rests a blue tray, which bears three white ceramic plates. On the first plate is an unshelled hardboiled egg completely devoid of unsightly dimples, surrounded by elegant rosettes of horseradish sauce. On the second plate is a generous pile of mixed greens, tomato slices, curls of bell pepper, radish rounds, and slivers of carrot, all shining with pungent vinegary dressing. On the third plate are three tiny, tented placards, perfectly identical.

    The placards have writing on them, in ink still wet. Each one reads, in a flawless serifed hand: “APOLOGIES. OUT OF #003.”

    Scott sighs as he picks up his PLEASING EGG and NICE SALAD. Having turned around and located Tremendous Value, Scott seats himself opposite the crime lord, stares vacantly at his tray, and is not at all pleased.

    “Look, Mr. Value,” the Man of Slate says. “I’ve got to be on my way. Anything you know about Hiss would be of, uh, stupendous worth.”

    Tremendous Value cackles. “Just a moment, Mr. Private Eye.” He uses both hands to scoop YOUR FRIEND THE MEATLOAF into and onto his face.

    Unf. Smleck. Gronch. “Aaah.” The beady-eyed dwarf looks up at Scott, meat dripping from his nose. “These eggheads don’t know how good they have it.” He wipes his hand across his face.

    “Listen, bub. That slimy scumbag Spliggo Hiss approached my gang to arrange a deal for a smorgasbord of high-tech gadgetry. When my men reported the price Hiss offered, I got suspicious — too suspicious for my own good. I went incognito to oversee the swap myself, posing as my most trusted capo, Confaldo. Before I could even slug anybody, Spliggo had sliced up my men with his claws, and his bozo suits were stuffing me into a box. They knew ‘Confaldo’ was a high-up henchman with a direct line to Tremendous Value himself, see?”

    “I see.”

    “After he took us by surprise, Hiss used me to put pressure on ‘Tremendous Value’ — which was actually Confaldo, pretending to be me. I’m just glad my right-hand man was brainy enough to figure out the score and play along. The two of us convinced Hiss that ‘Tremendous Value’ was crazy enough to meet Hiss in person at the El Dorado.”

    The Man of Slate decides it would be rational not to say that Value actually had been crazy enough to meet Hiss in person.

    The crime lord belches. “By the end, Hiss was pressing me for help designing his machinery. I tried to throw him off track with false information, and I think he bought it, but who knows whether he’s found the errors by now. If you hadn’t wrapped things up yourself, my gang would have busted me out of there the following day — but I would have lost a lot of good men doing it. I owe you!”

    Slate Alexander rubs his temples. “Think nothing of it, Mr. Value. You’ve been extraordinarily helpful just now.” The weary doctor-investigator stands up. “Thanks to you, the loose ends of this mystery are tightening into a hangman’s noose.”

    “You said it, Doc. Hey, don’t take off without leaving me your address. I’ll send an enforcer to thank you properly for getting me out of that lizard’s clutches!”

    “You don’t have to do that, but I’ll leave it up to you.” Scott writes his home address on a business card, and hands the card to Tremendous Value. “By the way, I’m not hungry. Help yourself to my tray.”

    “All the food in the world won’t satisfy my hunger for revenge,” says Value. “I wanna wring that lizard’s stupid neck! Making me beg and degrade myself just to keep my cover!” Meat and spittle fly from the criminal kingpin’s maw. “That two-bit turtle! That cold-blooded creep!”

    “Don’t worry, Mr. Value. I’ll make sure Spliggo Hiss gets exactly what he deserves.”

    As he leaves the canteen, Dr. Scott “Slate” Alexander’s mood is foul enough to negate a thousand PLEASING EGGS.
    -#-#-
    This episode of Slate Star Showdex brought to you by:
    Ubercar.

    “Lord, I’d love a motor ride–
    But I’ve no motor car!”
    Good sir, you need a vehicle
    That meets you where you are.
    You don’t need to own your own:
    Just pay a usage fee.
    The car will take the wheel for you,
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    “What the devil do you mean?
    Do these cars drive themselves?
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    We don’t mind a skeptic, sir!
    That’s why the first time’s free.
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    • Nick says:

      Dr. Scott “Slate” Alexander, the indefatigable doctor-investigator, stares coolly at the cluster of buildings before him. The fog, robbed of its fun, curls listlessly around each one in turn.

      Wait—do you mean to tell me Scott managed to rob a fog bank?

      Entertaining as always!

  35. Mark V Anderson says:

    This is the second book on intelligence that I read.

    Emotional Intelligence (2018) By Michael Carron

    I was looking for a book that talked about things outside of IQ that affected success in life, and I think Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is so touted. I think the seminal book on this was written in the 1990’s, but I wanted a more current book with up-to-date research, so I bought this one. Unfortunately I made a pretty bad choice in this book.
    It turns out this is mostly a self help book. But mostly I wanted to know what is meant by Emotional Intelligence (EQ), which is here. It seems to be a combination of controlling one’s own emotions and understanding others’ emotions. I’m not sure why those two pieces are combined, since they are quite different skills. But it is true that both skills are not the same as IQ, and both are needed to succeed in life.

    Even as a self help book, this is so so. He has a lot of good ideas, but it is shallow. Two examples: 1) He discusses personal space issues, and lists the distance you should be from others for various interactions. He never mentions that this distance will vary widely in other cultures outside the US. 2) He has a chapter explaining how to judge body language to determine if someone is lying. But he never mentions that this will yield a lot of false negatives and false positives. Good liars won’t have these mannerisms. People who are nervous might well have them even when speaking truthfully.

    • Matt M says:

      But it is true that both skills are not the same as IQ, and both are needed to succeed in life.

      Of course, the relevant question is not whether such a skill is “the same” as g, but whether it is correlated with g or not.

      “EQ” is only valid as a concept if we can comfortably state that it has no correlation whatsoever with g. Popular wisdom, of course, is that it has a negative correlation with g, which would be even harder to prove…

      • albatross11 says:

        It could be useful even if it had a large correlation with g, as long as we were convinced that it had some predictive value on stuff we cared about even after accounting for g. I care about my doctor having a medical degree even after accounting for her general intelligence, and swapping her out for a smarter person with no medical training would probably not make me better off.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Of course, the relevant question is not whether such a skill is “the same” as g, but whether it is correlated with g or not.

        This is certainly not true. I think EQ has a small positive correlation with g. This is just because pretty much all skills correlate with g. I think athletic ability correlates slightly with g, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth looking at physical abilities separate from intelligence.

        I think the correlation of EQ with g is low enough that it is worth looking at separately. Just reading SSC I see many folks who rate their social skills rather low. Now that probably just means that smart folks are used to being on the top of the cognitive scale, so being medium feels like a big drop. But the variance with IQ is high enough, and EQ important enough, that it makes sense to look at it separately.

    • aristides says:

      It seems to be a combination of controlling one’s own emotions and understanding others’ emotions. I’m not sure why those two pieces are combined, since they are quite different skills.

      IQ is often separated into mathematics skill and verbal skill. Those are two different skills, but are correlated enough that IQ is a useful concept. That is a good way to think of EQ and empathy and emotional control.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Yeah but I rather doubt those two are correlated. Maybe I am typical minding, but for me at least, I am very good at controlling my own emotions, but suck at understanding others’. My instinctual thought is that the two skills would have an inverse correlation.

      • albatross11 says:

        Success at almost any mentally demanding task is going to be correlated with IQ. But it may still be useful to measure in addition to IQ, if it gives you more information than IQ alone.

        Income is also positively correlated with IQ, but if you’re extending me a loan, you’d probably like to know my income along with (or instead of) my IQ.

  36. Clutzy says:

    The fact that you know Julian Castro’s name means it was a success. The guy was a nobody and now hes a kindabody.

  37. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Only in Japan(?) could a major corporation be this flippant about Christianity.

  38. Tenacious D says:

    In the last integer OT, there was an interesting discussion on neopaganism in Russia, including the extent to which adherents were hippies playing in the woods versus blood-and-soil ultranationalists. It sounded like the latter were the dominant variety in Russia. What about elsewhere? Does the same split apply?

    • metacelsus says:

      Norse mythology is often used by white nationalist groups in the USA. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heathenry_(new_religious_movement)#Racial_issues

    • a real dog says:

      In Central Europe neopaganism is certainly a blood-and-soil traditional thing, I’d expect Russia to be similar. The hippies stick to whatever bastardization of Indian culture they’ve found on the internets.

      Some of the broad aesthethic is agreeable to both, so sometimes you can see the worlds collide on various conventions… a guy speaking about a machine to shut off Jewish psychic influence interviewed by a guy who believes he’s a reincarnation of a Slavic warlord, followed by workshops by a chakra healing namaste lady.

      • FrankistGeorgist says:

        I actually knew someone growing up who was an Esoteric Hitlerist, which was a particularly batshit concoction of Theosophy, Neopaganism, Hinduism (seen through a glass, darkly), and most curiously to me at least Christian Gnosticism. I’m sure he would have found much to enjoy in that hypothetical interview.

        As you might imagine he was not what you would call well.

        • a real dog says:

          It’s not quite hypothethical – the left guy builds anti-Jew machines using a dowsing rod, the right guy calls himself “king of Lechia”. Both are kind of a spectator sport for the local internet.

      • Deiseach says:

        The hippies stick to whatever bastardization of Indian culture they’ve found on the internets.

        I wish.

        If I see one more Wiccan/neo-Pagan/whatever tootling about how she (and it always is a she) is setting up an altar to the Morrigan/is taking the Morrigan as her patron goddess, I’ll go “You feffing well deserve what’s gonna happen in your life after this” *insert grumpy face here*

        most curiously to me at least Christian Gnosticism

        Mmmm, well if we’re talking some kind of German influence, Anthroposophism has a lot of weird beliefs regarding Christ so that fits in with it. If you care to plough through this lecture by Rudolph Steiner, you’ll see what I mean:

        Through spiritual science we are thus led to a vision of Christ not based upon the Gospels. Through spiritual science we can perceive that in the course of history Christ entered the evolution of humanity, and we know that He had once to live in a human being so that He could find a path leading through a human being into the spiritual atmosphere of the earth.

        Spiritual research thus leads us to Christ, and through Christ to the historical Jesus. It does this at a time when external investigation, based upon external documents, so often questions the historical existence of Jesus.

        …From a spiritual contemplation of the whole evolution of humanity we can, through spiritual science, come to a recognition of Christ, and through Christ’s own nature we can recognize that He once must have lived in a human body. Spiritual-scientific investigation necessarily leads to the historical Jesus. Indeed, it is possible to indicate with mathematical precision when Christ must have lived in the man Jesus, in the historical Jesus. Just as it is possible to understand external mechanical forces through mathematics, so is it possible to understand Jesus by regarding history with a spiritual vision that encompasses Christ. That Being Who lived in Jesus from his thirtieth to thirty-third years gave the impulse humanity needed for its development at a time when its youthful forces were beginning to decline.

        This book (or series of lectures) is even wackier. We get both Lemuria and Atlantis!

        • FrankistGeorgist says:

          @Deiseach

          Atlantis and Lemuria were indeed part of his cosmology, with Lemurians being the progeniter of the Han Chinese and Atlantis… the Greeks and Romans I think? Both were beneath the Hyperborean Aryans. So far as I can tell this is the part that came from Theosophy but with the seed races bit recast. Now they’re two and a half master races collaborating to conquer/manage the Earth instead of ancestors of each other.

          The Gnostic aspect though was a sort of bare-bones Platonic recasting of the Bible:
          a) the God of the Old Testament is real and as described, but a demiurge, only controlling the physical world (thus nothing outside of it like hyperboreans or lemurians who came from [input not found])
          b) the Jews are his chosen people, which I guess dovetails with the whole “control the world” thing
          and the part that really kills me
          c) the Prophets were truly Prophets and Jewish people retain the ability to see the future because of their relationship to the Demiurge (which honestly sounded like a pretty good gig to me) again explaining the alleged “control the world” thing

          I’ll be honest we didn’t get into the nature of Christ in our discussions (by which I mean him ranting at me while I was trying to play video games with his sons), except that Jesus was Hyperborean and proof that Hyperboreans could come out of their human forms. Sort of anthroposophist if you squint, but frankly the whole thing is only something if you squint.

    • Tenacious D says:

      Thanks for all the replies.

  39. Vermillion says:

    Science fiction. Why bother? What good has it ever done in the real world?

    Helped prevent global thermonuclear war for one.

    • I would definitely watch a movie where aliens invade in the 80’s and Reagan and Gorbachev team up to take them down.

      • Belisaurus Rex says:

        *Bob Dylan music plays softly in the background*

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Reagan will need to be in a wifebeater and a cowboy hat, toting an M16 with pistol sidearm. Gorbachev will of course require a ushanka, but also a sleeveless denim vest. And a minigun.

        Special cameo appearance by Miguel de la Madrid in a poncho, bolero, and custom revolvers.

      • Lambert says:

        The sort of movie where people are still wearing clothes after the 5:00 mark or…

  40. The Pachyderminator says:

    Girl scout cookies, ranked. Not comprehensive, including only the ones stocked by the Girl Scouts stationed outside the grocery store in my neighborhood. Also, I’m not considering cost or cookies per box, even though this affects my cookie buying in practice.

    0. Posthumous grand prize to the dearly departed Savannah Smiles. They had just the right crunch, just the right amount of lemon flavor, and the final touch of melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness from the sugar coating. Not just my favorite Girl Scout cookie, but one of the best packaged cookies I’ve ever had. I really miss these.
    1. Do-si-dos. A good peanut butter sandwich cookie. I realize many people aren’t as enthusiastic about peanut butter as I am, but I’m into these the way most people are into Oreos.
    2. Trefoils. The most underrated Girl Scout cookie. Nothing fancy, just a good solid shortbread cookie. A simple and wonderful thing, like a smile or a kiss.
    3. Tagalongs. Yes, peanut butter again, this time in a rich, seductive combination with chocolate. If the Do-si-dos are the fair youth of Shakespeare’s sonnets, these are the dark lady. You can eat a whole box if you don’t watch yourself, but then you’ll regret it.
    4. Thin Mints. These are the most overrated Girl Scout cookie. Nothing objectionable, but really pretty mediocre as mint-flavored sweets go. Junior Mints hit the spot much better, if that’s the spot you want to hit.
    5. Toffee-tastic. Inferior in texture to the Trefoils, but the toffee flavor provides some welcome variety and a note of sophistication.
    6. Lemon-Ups. Quite frankly, these are weak. The lemon flavor is faint and nothing else about the cookie is interesting. An absolutely pathetic attempt at a substitute for the Savannah Smiles.
    7. Samoas. I know some people love these. Coconut and caramel just isn’t my thing. Like First Friday novenas or tabletop war games, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with these, but they’re not for me.

    I believe Girl Scout cookies are standardized in the US, but no idea what the cookie situation is in other countries. Any reports from the foreign cookie scene would be interesting.

    • Kuiperdolin says:

      Having never seen much less tasted a girl scout cookie, none of these sounds any good from the description except the shortbread one.

    • Belisaurus Rex says:

      The Thanks a Lot, which is a large cookie with a layer of chocolate on the bottom, and which you can juuuuuuust barely eat in one bite

    • acymetric says:

      1. Thin mints (from the freezer)
      2. Thin mints (room temperature)
      3. Lemonades (significantly better than Lemon-Ups)
      3. Tagalongs
      4. Do-si-dos
      5. Toffee-tastic

      If I’m ever in the mood for a Trefoil I’ll just eat a slice of plain bread. I’m with you on Samoas, but I hate coconut (the texture, not the flavor).

    • gbdub says:

      The holy trinity of Girl Scout cookies are thin mints, Tagalongs, and Samoas. They are the tastiest, but also the most unique.

      The draw of Girl Scout cookies is not that they are superlative cookies, it’s that they are pretty good cookies that are only seasonally available, with extra Brownie points for nostalgia and the charitable aspect.

      Trefoils can’t be the best, because they aren’t unique. Store bought shortbread cookie is a flavor you can get all the time, anywhere. (Do-si-dos, maybe, but they aren’t better enough compared to Nutter Butter)

    • Aftagley says:

      4. Thin Mints. These are the most overrated Girl Scout cookie. Nothing objectionable, but really pretty mediocre as mint-flavored sweets go. Junior Mints hit the spot much better, if that’s the spot you want to hit.

      I love the flavor of mint, and Thin Mints (and their derivatives) are pretty much the only mint-influenced pastry that exists (to my knowledge). They’ve got a perfectly balanced mint taste, the chocolate is actually kind of bitter and unlike junior mints or most other mint-related confections, they aren’t too sweet.

      My rankings mirror acymetrics –
      1. Thin mints (cold)
      2. thin mints (room temp)
      3. Samoas
      4. Thin mints (any other temperature)

      • acymetric says:

        I wish I could remember who told me I should freeze my Thin Mints for best results so that I could call them and tell them I love them.

        Unless it was an ex-girlfriend, in which case “so long, and thanks for all the [thin mint related advice]”.

    • JayT says:

      They are all in 7th. I find them all to be garbage. Their chocolate is waxy, their caramel only tastes like “sweet”, and their cookies are mediocre. The only thing worse than the traditional Girl Scout cookies is that gluten free Girl Scout cookie I tried last year.

  41. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Early Indo-European authority words.

    Georges Dumezil made much of Indo-European religious and/or political sovereignty being conceived as a dual category: the king (Sanskrit raja, Latin rex) and the priest (Sanskrit brahman, Latin flamen). But those are only two subdivisions of IE! What about the rest?
    Well as it happens, linguists reconstruct Common Celtic as having the noun *rixs (nominative singular), from an earlier *rig. This is represented historically by Gaulish -rix (in personal names), and ri in Old Irish, Old Breton, etc. Priests however were called druids, from dru-vid, “oak knowledge” or “Oak Veda”, which could hint at a new religion super-ceding an older one where priests were called a cognate of brahman/flamen.

    Move to Greek, though, and both the earliest word for “king”, wanax and the more familiar basileos (“leader”, of the tribe, the guild of smiths, or whatever) are believed to have no Indo-European etymology and thus belong to the pre-Greek substrate IE immigrants to the peninsula absorbed. Then “priest”, hiereos is IE, from the root hieros (“holy, sacred, consecrated” – Sanskrit has iṣirá) & -eos “masculine person”. If they ever had a term other than “holy man” that goes back to proto-Indo-European, it’s unattested.

    Now here’s a fun one: Germanic. English “king” descends from proto-Germanic kuningaz. -ingaz is a suffix meaning “descending from” and may not be Indo-European, but the first part is traced back to proto-IE *ǵenh- (“to beget, to give birth”), so a king was “descending from the family”. “Priest” in Germanic languages are reconstructed back to gudjô, god + agent noun suffix.

    This stuff is complicated.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      There are also the words for King or Emperor that come from personal names- kaiser and tsar from Caesar, and kral and коро́ль (korol’) from Karl (specifically Charlemagne).

      This led, amusingly, to the Polish and Russian word for ”rabbit” being krolik which means “little king”, as the German dialect word Kuniklin was mistakenly thought of as a diminutive of König rather than a descendant of the unrelated Latin cuniculus.

      Meanwhile, rex entered Greek in the Byzantine era as ρήγας (rigas), originally used to refer to foreign monarchs and now surviving only as the word for the king in a deck of cards.

      • Ketil says:

        There are also the words for King or Emperor

        And of course, “emperor” itself, Latin “imperator”, from the verb “impero”, to command. But you knew that.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        There are also the words for King or Emperor that come from personal names- kaiser and tsar from Caesar, and kral and коро́ль (korol’) from Karl (specifically Charlemagne).

        I was going to mention the latter, which not only spread through Slavic after its 6th century AD expansion, but also became the word “king” in Lithuanian and Latvian (karalius, karalis). The other known Baltic language, Old Prussian, had rikis (a cognate of raja retaining the normal IE terminal -s?)
        I forgot another Germanic “priest” word: völva. This one needs to be mentioned because it has a cognate, Common Slavic volkhv. The Germanic is feminine, generally held to mean “wand-bearer” and having Old Norse synonyms including seiðkonaseiðr being the women’s magic Odin famously got to learn.
        This does not seem to go back to a hypothetical common ancestor of Balto-Slavic and Germanic: Baltic has Lithuanian krivis, Old Prussian krive.

    • Do you know if the Old Persian word for king “Xšâyathiya” has any connection there? It doesn’t look like it to me.

      It doesn’t seem to me like the Indo-Europeans would have strong political titles. They were steppe nomads with the Caucus Mountains as a strong barrier to any of the Middle Eastern Kings, meaning that they might not even have an understanding of “Kings” in the way we think of it. Their politics would be very decentralized and in a constant state of flux. So maybe they had a word for clan leader but I doubt it took on the kind of connotations that something like Emperor does to us. It could be replaced by a native word like basileos, which coming from a land with more contact to long settled societies, probably did have those connotations.

      • Lambert says:

        𐏋 (from which ‘Shah’ is derived) comes from PIE *tek- (to take, receive) (not to be confused with *teḱ-)

        (and last I heard, the finno-uralic (pre IE) languages didn’t have a word for ‘king’ and had to borrow them from Indo European.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Do you know if the Old Persian word for king “Xšâyathiya” has any connection there? It doesn’t look like it to me.

        It seems to be related to Kšâtriya in the other branch of Indo-Iranian. Perhaps the Iranians originally had rajas but later experienced title inflation, like Mycenaean basileos getting upgraded from “group leader” to “emperor”?

        It doesn’t seem to me like the Indo-Europeans would have strong political titles. They were steppe nomads with the Caucus Mountains as a strong barrier to any of the Middle Eastern Kings, meaning that they might not even have an understanding of “Kings” in the way we think of it. Their politics would be very decentralized and in a constant state of flux. So maybe they had a word for clan leader but I doubt it took on the kind of connotations that something like Emperor does to us. It could be replaced by a native word like basileos, which coming from a land with more contact to long settled societies, probably did have those connotations.

        Steppe nomads could have complex chiefdoms, though chiefdoms do exist in a state of flux that rarely lasts beyond grandparent-grandchild.
        Being replaced by a native word when they settled down somewhere closer to long-settled societies is exactly what’s surmised for Greek. Indo-Iranian would be another good candidate in the model where the primitive Indo-Europeans swept through the BMAC and Harappan civilizations, but the evidence says otherwise (maybe they didn’t actually invade 😛 ).

        • Steppe nomads could be fairly complex but I highly doubt that the first steppe horsemen had much in the way of complexity.

          Indo-Iranian would be another good candidate in the model where the primitive Indo-Europeans swept through the BMAC and Harappan civilizations, but the evidence says otherwise (maybe they didn’t actually invade 😛 ).

          Maybe the Indo-Europeans were so dominant that fewer words survived? I don’t know much about this but I get the impression that Greeks are thought of more as a population mixture while in India, it involved more in the way of replacement(not fully of course).

    • Nick says:

      I always wonder what it’s like speaking a language where words have an etymology comprehensible to most speakers. English has borrowed from and mixed in so many languages, and especially with names of people, places, and things, they’re just weird and hard to explain.

      Like I was watching Spirited Away last night. We learn at the end that (spoilers) Haku’s real name is Kohaku; he was the spirit of the Kohaku, or “swift-flowing amber,” river. And like, okay, so his name means swift-flowing amber! Perfectly comprehensible! English names are hardly ever like this.

      • Aapje says:

        Languages tend to greatly change even without external contact, unless there is an intentional effort to preserve the language as it is.

      • Erusian says:

        This is a simplification from the Japanese. The character is Haku (白), which means white. His name is revealed to be Nigihayami Kohaku Nushi, the middle word of which is Kohaku (琥珀). You can see how 珀 has the element of 白 in it. The other element is ‘jade’ and the first letter is 琥, the first element being jade and the second being tiger. So the word means ‘Jade tiger jade white’, which translates into Amber.

        That level of abstraction basically means the experience isn’t that different from what we have in English. No average person hears the word kohaku or reads the word 琥珀 and thinks ‘jade tiger jade white’ in the same way no average person reads the word ‘heathen’ and thinks ‘a person that lives on unimproved land’ even if they understand the -en ending and the meaning of heath.

        • Nick says:

          That’s interesting, thanks. Even so, it seems to me like a Japanese speaker would hear Kohaku River and think, “Okay, the amber river.” How often can we do that in English?

          • Cliff says:

            Wouldn’t the equivalent be an American river called Amber River?

            Is your point that rivers in America don’t have names like that? Some do though, I think. Although there are a lot of Indian names on the East coast at least.

          • Erusian says:

            I’m not sure I understand your point. A Japanese person would hear “kohaku kawa” and they would think “amber river”. (A closer approximation would “electrum river” since kohaku is a somewhat archaic but recognizable way of saying amber. But this is foreshadowed in that Haku speaks in a somewhat archaic way and is dressed in a formal, quasi-archaic outfit.) But this is exactly the same as someone in English, as Cliff says.

          • Nick says:

            Yes, but most rivers we name don’t have names like Amber River. Or people. Or cities and towns.

          • Randy M says:

            Yes, but most rivers we name don’t have names like Amber River. Or people. Or cities and towns.

            A lot more would if we spoke the language of the natives that named them. Including, in some cases, Ye Olde Englishe.

            edit: Also, some people do have names like “Amber River.” That even only marginally signals hippy chick at this point. 😉

          • Deiseach says:

            Yes, but most rivers we name don’t have names like Amber River.

            I was going to quote Irish rivers at you but yeah, the only one that is English words is the river Blackwater.

            Well, if we’re talking river names and a song about rivers, here you go!

            Bathe me in the waters of the Lagan, of the Boyne
            Of the Liffey, of the Slaney, of the Barrow, Nore and Suir
            Of the Blackwater, the Bann, the Lee, the Shannon, Foyle and Erne
            Bathe me in the waters

          • FrankistGeorgist says:

            Idaho has quite a few rivers with names that are quite legible, although no shortage of French and a smattering of native. Maybe it’s a western thing.

            Clearwater River
            Salmon River
            Priest River
            Snake River
            Big Dick Creek
            Battle Creek
            Pack River
            Raft River

            And my favorites The Big Lost River and the Little Lost River, which disappear and sink into the ground at the aptly named Big Lost River Sinks.

          • Erusian says:

            Not all Japanese names are comprehensible, but the main reason is top down control and being relatively recent. Because it’s a character language, towns can’t keep arbitrary characters around and the Japanese government will force them to change their name if it falls outside of the syllablery.

            This means every name is always made up of relatively modern characters, even if they had to change those characters over time. America, for example, is often called Beikoku. Which in kanji means ‘rice country’. This is because the full name is “Aibeirika Koku”, which is nonsense. If I were to translate its kanji then it would mean something like, “Lower Ranking Adding Rice Wealth Country.” But it really is nonsense and no one thinks of it when they see the word. The point is that Aiberika sounds like ‘America’.

            For domestic names, people tend to choose more symbolic names.

          • Lambert says:

            Counterpoint: everywhere in New Zealand.
            Southland? In the south.
            Northland? In the North.
            Fiordland? Full of fjords.
            90 Mile Beach? Someone didn’t bring a tape measure. Actually 55 mi long.
            Bay of Islands? There’s a buttload of islands.
            One Tree Hill? Kind of complicated due to Western/Maori relations but used to have a single pohutukawa on top.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’m pretty sure there’s about a billion “White River”s in the US. OK, USGS gives only 290. 66 “Yellow River”s. 304 “Black River”s. Lots of other color rivers. But it turns out the people who named American places were some of the least creative people ever: More than 2000 “Mill Creek”s.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            One interesting thing I find about same-named rivers is that they’re relatively minor – with two exceptions.

            I looked up “Yellow River” in Wikipedia and found four in the US that one could call “major”, ranging from 56 to 118 miles in length. Those four are all in widely separated parts of the US. “Black River” has even more US entries, but they seem to be mostly smaller tributaries. The biggest I found was about 125 miles long, in New York.

            Some states have multiple rivers with the same name. But they tend not to be major waterways, and unlikely to come up in the same situations.

            The biggest two same-named US rivers were known to me since childhood – the 1450-mile Colorado of Grand Canyon fame, and the 860-mile Colorado that runs through Austin, Texas.

          • helloo says:

            Uh what about the one in China? The one that you get when you search for Yellow River in Wikipedia? And is the sixth largest in the world as listed on that page?

    • Erusian says:

      While flamen and brahmin seem related, they’re likely not. Brahmin appears to derive from a term meaning ‘elevated’, making its closest English cognate the -burg ending for city or the term barrow. Flamen, meanwhile, has an old Latin suffix (-men) that means ‘that which is produced by’. So, for example, flumen means ‘that which is produced by flu’, with flu in this case being ‘flow’. It meant river but it literally meant, ‘that which is produced by flowing’.

      Exactly what the fla part of flamen is has some debate: it could mean breathing or shining/burning or some other word we don’t recognize

      Basileos is almost certainly from pre-Greek substrate, with it being a minority position that it has PIE origins. However, anax might have Indo-European origins. There’s a significant substrate school of thought but there are also people who compare it to some other PIE terms. In particular, there’s a word attested elsewhere (wenag) that means something like, ‘provider of wealth’ that would work as an etymological origin. The term appears to have meant something like a lord, such as being used to refer to Indra, but by later periods apparently had transformed to mean merchants.

      Hieros, meanwhile, pretty straightforwardly means ‘holy person’. However, interestingly its root elsewhere shows association with fire. Likewise, fla could mean ‘burning’, which implies at least some parts of PIE had a strong association of fire and spirituality. If so, we see echoes of this with how central burning is to sacrifices in Greece to the fire temples of Persia.

    • Bergil says:

      Isn’t “reign” is the English equivalent of raja/rex/rix?

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        More or less, just not inherited Germanic.
        Latin reg-num -> Old French reigne -> reign in 12th century (Middle) English.

  42. johan_larson says:

    The Nebulas are a set of awards given out every year by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. The list of nominees for works from 2019 was published on Feb 20 of this year.

    Many of the short stories and novelettes are available online. Follow the links from the page I linked to.

    The novel A Memory Called Empire is among the nominees, and was mentioned on this site back in February.

  43. Ketil says:

    Fun fact: The Arctic archipelago Svalbard is under Norwegian jurisdiction, but not completely. Specifically, there is limited taxation (generally an 8% income tax) and mainland alcohol regulations don’t apply. So while on the mainland, alcohol is taxed from 100 to 400%, there is no similar alcohol tax on Svalbard. To prevent thirsty Norwegians from taking advantage of this happy fact, there is alcohol rationing, the quota being one case of beer (24×0.33l) and two bottles of hard alcohol per month. Wine is apparently less strictly regulated, probably due to the elites who write the laws wanting to curb the working class miners, but not their own more cultured consumption.

  44. Chalid says:

    Copper has anti microbial properties. Why are copper coated door handles, sink handles, etc not more common in heavily trafficked places?

    • BBA says:

      Copper is expensive.

      • Chalid says:

        Not nearly as expensive as employee sick days and lost productivity, I would think.

        • Statismagician says:

          I haven’t looked at this specifically, but I ‘d be pretty surprised if [cases provably contracted from contact with the sorts of things amenable to being plated with copper] had more of an impact on [company/agency/school board]’s bottom line than the cost of copper-plating all that stuff. I don’t know if I buy that it does work out financially at the population level, even; copper is very, very expensive and if the unlimited-PTO semiexperiemnts are any guide people are oversupplied with sick time, at least in the kinds of industries that have enough marginal capacity to consider expensive infrastructure changes without a guaranteed ROI.

          • Chalid says:

            The copper doorknob is like $100. I don’t know much it would cost to add “polish the doorknobs hourly” to janitorial staff’s other duties – on the order of a thousand dollars per knob per year maybe, depending how thorough you have to be? Whatever it is, it’s peanuts to a big company.

            Meanwhile, in a big office you might easily have 100+ people collectively earning tens of millions of dollars a year all sharing a bathroom and a couple doors.

          • Statismagician says:

            The ‘I’ is indeed tiny for a big company, but the ‘R’ is, if not impossible to prove, then at least not proven by anything you’ve said so far – big companies are already giving out lots of paid sick leave and generally supportive of stuff like teleworking, a business case would need to show differential productivity over baseline where baseline already has significant lack built in. Also, if places I’ve worked are any guide, facility management is generally subcontracted, not in-house, and I have no idea what relationship my company’s profit margin has to our facilities people’s profit margin; what’s tiny for us is plausibly not tiny for them.

            Where this might make a difference to public health is in high-volume customer-facing businesses like retail and fast-food, where a few thousand a year in extra costs of dubious business value is not trivial to the functional financial units.

          • Chalid says:

            Paid sick leave is a cost to the company in lost revenue generation (and this can be an order of magnitude greater than the employee’s paycheck). Lost productivity even to people who aren’t sick enough to stay home is a cost to the company.

            Obviously I haven’t studied this stuff, but the business case for an antimicrobial office seems *much* more plausible than the case for having $5M art in the lobby, or having foosball tables in the breakroom, or having a really fancy coffee machine instead of a basic one, or providing free potato chips instead of charging for them in a vending machine, or paying extra for office space that has nice views, or any number of other common corporate practices which I’m guessing haven’t been rigorously studied either.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Foosball tables are an immediate need to recruit young workers. Hell, foosball tables are amateur-hour, some downtown offices have freakin’ slides that take you down a floor. Slides!

            If you aren’t a hip place to work, you’re losing employee talent, and you’re losing it right now. And there’s nothing like “right now” to motivate someone to change.

            There isn’t anything in the water supply about an anti-microbial office. However, businesses are very, very susceptible to trends. So, get yourself a Ted Talk. In a few years, everyone will be doing it.

          • Lambert says:

            > There isn’t anything in the water supply about an anti-microbial office.

            Maybe they should start adding chloroquine? 😉

          • Randy M says:

            Foosball tables are an immediate need to recruit young workers. Hell, foosball tables are amateur-hour, some downtown offices have freakin’ slides that take you down a floor. Slides!

            How young are they trying to recruit?

          • silver_swift says:

            @Randy M

            How young are they trying to recruit?

            Don’t think they need to be aiming at particularly young people for this to work. Things like foosball tables and slides in the office is mostly about signaling that you’re willing to prioritize silly fun over the usual corporate obsession with appearing professional and boring.

            I’m in my thirties and I’d love to have a slide in the office.

        • Plumber says:

          @Chalid says:

          “Not nearly as expensive as employee sick days and lost productivity, I would think”

          If employers thought in those terms it would be easier to get replacement eye protection (presuming their workman’s compensation insurance rates go up with eye injuries), since in my experience employers don’t, they don’t.

        • Clutzy says:

          But the building is rarely owned by the employer.

      • ana53294 says:

        Is it that expensive?

        Copper as a commodity is 2.6$ per pound. I don’t think you’d need more than a pound for a doorknob, so as far as materials costs go, it’s not that much. Now, manufacturing a copper doorknob may be more expensive than modern allow ones, but the price difference certainly doesn’t come from the commodity.

        • acymetric says:

          Well, you’re increasing the material cost for doorknobs and other items you’re replacing by a factor of between 2 and 5 depending on what material was currently being used, so that’s not exactly insignificant.

          Plus buildings already have doorknobs, so this would involve the cost of replacing doorknobs with even more expensive ones.

          Also, how anti-microbial is copper exactly? Are we talking 10% reduction? 50%? 100%?

          It might be worth it at 99%+ but anything under that and my guess is no. It also wouldn’t be very aesthetically pleasing in a lot of settings.

      • Ketil says:

        No it’s not, about $6 per kg. And you only need a thin layer. If copper door handles were mass produced, the cost would be negligible.

    • Nick says:

      Trads have been yelling about this for ages.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Unlined copper cookware poisons you as well, at least if you cook acidic foods in it. And it’s certainly not true that it will “NEVER lose value”, unless you use it only as decoration. With ordinary cooking and cleaning you’ll wear through it. With tin-lined copper you’ll wear through the lining first.

        • Nick says:

          I actually linked to the post below the copper pan one. But that is good to know, thanks. The trouble with relying on these threads (ETA: i.e., WrathofGnon’s threads) is that there is far too little counterpoint.

    • acymetric says:

      Corrosion?

    • Lambert says:

      Brass fittings are far from uncommon.
      But unlike 304 steel, you have to give them some brasso and elbow grease from time to time.

    • The Nybbler says:

      It would have to be brass, and solid (or at least fairly thick) brass at that; in any relevant place a thin coating would be worn through in no time. Which means the main answer is “money”.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Money as everyone has said, but don’t discount the additional money effect of maintenance. Copper needs more maintenance than equivalent steel does by a pretty significant margin.

    • Well... says:

      In addition to what others have said, most large companies install hand sanitizing stations all over the place and some also post signs in the bathroom with instructions on proper handwashing. Presumably, this eats up some of the budget the might have (hypothetically) gone toward outfitting the building with fixtures that have antimicrobial surfaces.

    • nkurz says:

      I wondered this morning why a regular HN poster had submitted an odd review of door knobs which deep within the article included the suggestion that one should consider copper-alloyed bronzes for their germicidal properties:

      “With the increasing occurrence of antibiotic-resistant germs, surface hygiene can be a concern with bronze door handles, particularly because of their naturally high frequency of use. However, bronze created from copper alloys sport bactericidal properties that can eliminate this issue almost completely, with critical studies in the U.S. and Britain revealing that bacteria on copper alloy surfaces are 99.9% eliminated after two hours at the latest.”

      https://www.archdaily.com/929360/stainless-steel-bronze-brass-or-aluminum-how-to-choose-handle-materials

      Now I presume that they must also be a reader here who came across that article while researching the answer to this question. It’s nice when seemingly inexplicable random events turn out to have clear but hidden causes. Or at least when you can convince yourself that they do…

      • John Schilling says:

        However, bronze created from copper alloys sport bactericidal properties that can eliminate this issue almost completely

        As opposed to bronze created from non-copper alloys?

        • Another Throw says:

          A significant amount of “bronze” finishes on architectural accents don’t actually contain any bronze. They are “whatever is cheapest and vaguely the right color” electroplated on the normal steel piece.

      • acymetric says:

        99.9% eliminated after two hours at the latest.”

        Aren’t the doors where we are really concerned about this transmission being used quite a bit more than that? How much has been eliminated after 5 minutes?

    • ana53294 says:

      Or they could install doors that can be pushed with the foot, and thus don’t require contact with unprotected skin.

      • gudamor says:

        My local bar has one of these installed on their Men’s bathroom doors, so obviously someone is thinking about this. But that really only words for door-types that don’t latch.

  45. Thegnskald says:

    Content warning: Crackpot physics

    There’s an idea I’ve been tossing around for a while, that Lorentz Contraction causes motion, rather than the other way around. This sounds like nonsense when you know what Lorentz Contraction is, but I think I have found a formulation which may make it sound less like nonsense, and more like something trivially obvious:

    If we take the velocity vector of an object at rest as [0,0,0,c] – that is, an object at rest is moving at the speed of light through time – Terrell-Penrose rotation, considered as a rotation rather than an optical effect, is sufficient to get motion through time. (The implications with regard to time dilation are both obvious and possibly wrong, but I haven’t finished sorting through that stuff yet.)

    Left unexplained is why objects move through time at all, although if we take that as axiomatic in nature, we reduce velocity to a question of geometry. Also it is very tempting to drop relativity when thinking in these terms, but that would be a mistake.

    • Three Year Lurker says:

      >Left unexplained is why objects move through time at all,

      Objects move through time because they are in a gravity field. Take an object outside of gravity, and it appears infinitely fast to observers inside gravity. In other words, the object becomes a uniform distribution when unaffected by gravity.

      This also explains the beginning of the universe as the point when gravity came into existence. Gravity appeared, and brought time with it. Matter appeared as a random sampling of the probability distribution. Inflation was the transition from everything happening infinitely fast to having a finite (and variable) progression of time.

      • broblawsky says:

        Why do photons have a defined speed, rather than infinite speed, if they’re massless and therefore unaffected by gravity?

        • jermo sapiens says:

          if they’re massless and therefore unaffected by gravity?

          They are affected by gravity. That’s what Einstein predicted, and was shown to be correct when astronomers were able to observe a star that was behind the sun but seemed to be right next to the sun. The sun’s gravity bent space-time and the photons from the distant star followed the bend and were therefore visible to us.

          • broblawsky says:

            Oh, of course they are. That was a pretty stupid question on my part.

          • Ketil says:

            They are affected by gravity, but they don’t cause gravity, having no mass. Maybe that is the main difference between the classical (Newtonian) view of gravity as a force depending on masses, and relativistic gravity, where mass bends space? If one of the m’s in Newton’s gmM/r² is zero, the force would be zero, but this is not actually the case, at least not for photons.

            We had a discussion here that mentioned the possibility of antimatter having negative mass, not sure how that concluded, but there doesn’t seem to me to be any principled objection to causing negative curvature. Under Newton, a negative mass would repel a positive mass, but attract other negative mass. Under relativity, negative masses would repel both negative and positive mass (thus explaining why we don’t see clumps of antimatter). On small (particle) scale, other forces dominate anyway.

            Disclaimer: all just conjecture based on weakly grasped high-school physics now fallow and long forgotten. Please educate me as you see fit.

            ETA: Just occurred to me that curvature doesn’t explain attraction. My mind always wants to present this as a 2D pool table with depressions representing gravity, but this model requires, eh, gravity in the z axis. I don’t think we have that in 3D space. Is this why general relativity needs bending time as well?

          • hls2003 says:

            @Ketil:

            My understanding is that photons do “cause gravity.” They have no mass, but they do have energy, which is the same thing. E=mc2 and whatnot. Sufficiently energetic photons generate particle-antiparticle pairs with mass, so there’s nothing about a photon which suggests its energy doesn’t warp space just like mass; it’s just that its mass-energy is extremely low in comparison to massive particles and thus its gravitational effect is generally negligible.

          • Randy M says:

            My understanding is that photons do “cause gravity.”

            But not very much, because they’re light.

          • John Schilling says:

            They are affected by gravity, but they don’t cause gravity, having no mass.

            Photons have no rest mass, but that is a mathematical curiosity given that photons are never at rest. Any photon with finite energy has mass equal to E/C^2, and this is real mass that creates real gravity in proper relativistic fashion.

            You can even, theoretically, make a black hole by just focusing so much light into such a small area that the photons cannot escape their own combined gravity.

            ETA: Ninja’d by hls2003

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            My understanding is that photons do “cause gravity.”

            But not very much, because they’re light.

            Thank you, I laughed out loud at this one.

        • Thegnskald says:

          Setting aside that I don’t really agree with jermo’s explanation, the speed of light is fascinating in that no matter what value it “really” has in the universe, I am reasonably certain we would measure it the same. Double the speed of light? We measure it the same. Halve it? We measure it the same. Our perception of time is defined by the rate of processes which are limited by the speed of light, so any change to that speed results in a change to our perception of time such that the apparent speed remains constant.

          Mind, I’m not certain if this is true in conventional physics, but I’m reasonably certain it is true about reality.

          Which implies that the speed of light might be a particular kind of infinity in which portions of that infinity remain well-defined with respect to each other; that is, half of that kind of infinity isn’t equal to a third of that kind of infinity.

          I’m unfamiliar with a mathematical definition of infinity which works that way, however; maybe the kind of infinity between whole numbers, as we can define halfway through that infinity pretty well.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            Setting aside that I don’t really agree with jermo’s explanation

            Really? I thought that was just the very standard textbook explanation.

            Our perception of time is defined by the rate of processes which are limited by the speed of light, so any change to that speed results in a change to our perception of time such that the apparent speed remains constant.

            Speed is distance over time. If time changes with the speed of light such that the apparent speed remains constant, the speed of light is the observed value, by definition.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I mean on why gravity would give rise to time.

            I think you need a singularity to arrive at an infinite discrepancy in the rate of time passage; given only Earth in the universe, I’m pretty sure the rate of relative time dilation falls off with gravity, that is, approximately inversely proportional to distance. Or, to phrase that differently, Earth provides a finite (edit: squared) amount of time dilation from gravitational effects.

            I think you additionally need to posit that we are inside a singularity for gravity to give rise to time. Or posit that everything is made of singularities, maybe, I’m uncertain of that.

            ETA:

            Maybe it works if you use another singularity as a reference point as well. Also uncertain of that.

          • Three Year Lurker says:

            > Or posit that everything is made of singularities,

            Every mass has a defined Schwarzschild radius, having the mass inside that radius doesn’t make a difference to other bodies.

          • Thegnskald says:

            It makes a difference for the existence, or nonexistent, of a point in space-time which can be used as a reference point for these purposes. The comparative time dilation of no point on or in Earth is infinite with respect to any other point in a universe in which Earth is the only source of curvature.

            And the distribution of mass certainly makes a difference to other bodies. The negative binding energy increases as radius decreases.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Also, sorry Jermo. That was Three I was disagreeing with there. I wasn’t paying close attention, my bad.

          • TheAncientGeeksTAG says:

            . Double the speed of light? We measure it the same. Halve it?

            The speed of light is an artifact of human measurement units. The “real” speed is 1.

      • smocc says:

        > Take an object outside of gravity, and it appears infinitely fast to observers inside gravity.

        How in the world do you justify that statement?

        • Three Year Lurker says:

          I can’t find an equation for time rate and gravity, so I can only justify it with peculation. The gravitational redshift explanation tells us an object further from a mass ages faster than a close object. So an object infinitely far from any mass would age infinitely fast.

          • smocc says:

            So you’re using General Relativity’s predictions about gravitational time-dilation near a massive object. OK. But there’s two issues with using that to claim that gravity is what causes objects to move through time.

            The first: if you are using General Relativity to predict the behavior of objects in the presence of some massive object you also have to accept the claim that nothing is ever perfectly outside the reach of gravitational influence. So you can’t really use those equations to predict what will happen without gravity

            The second: if you use the GR framework to ask what happens in a universe with absolutely no gravity then all observers still see each other age at the same rate. No infinities at all. Time can still happen.

            Put another way, GR already supposes as an axiom that objects move through time with gravity or no. So you can’t use predictions from GR to then claim that motion through time only happens with gravity. You’d need some outside idea or axiom.

          • smocc says:

            What’s more, you don’t even get infinite time dilation for an object infinitely far away from a massive body.

            The time-dilation ratio between object at r=R and an object at r=infinity is √(1-rs/R), where rs is the Schawrzschild radius. It’s a perfectly finite ratio, except in the very special case of R=0.

          • Three Year Lurker says:

            Yeah, General Relativity isn’t the right framework for it.
            If the Schwarzschild radius were somehow -1 (negative mass?), then there could be infinite time dilation.

          • smocc says:

            And you would be back to having no justification at all for your statement.

    • Thegnskald says:

      Taking the (I hope trivial) conclusion slightly further:

      If we can model the rotation as causing velocity, we can model gravity as rotating objects. If we consider a singularity in this framework, it is the point at which the applied rotation is 90°. Then the next interesting point is the point at which negative binding energy equals mass, which I think might be an applied rotation of 180°.

      Any angle greater than 90°, however, already starts to exhibit a behavior whereby space-time might be described as doubled back on itself, upside down and inside out. What’s interesting here is precisely what shape space-time takes under these conditions; in particular, I suspect it gives rise to a pseudo-dimension which is analogous to distance in many respects. I suspect this pseudo-dimension to be spiral-shaped in a complex plane.

      Still trying to work out a way to approach the math there, though. It is thus far intractable to me.

    • smocc says:

      Terrell-Penrose rotation, considered as a rotation rather than an optical effect, is sufficient to get motion through time.

      As always, how? What does it mean, precisely, to consider Terrell rotation as a rotation instead of an optical effect? The words “Terrell rotation” as commonly used mean an optical effect, so if you want to change what those words mean, you have to explain what the new meaning is in detail.

      And how, precisely, does it change the stationary trajectory C(x) = (cx,0,0,0) into the moving trajectory C'(x) = (ax,bx,0,0)?

      • Thegnskald says:

        To begin with, it means treating the rotation as reflecting reality; the object doesn’t appear to be rotated, it is rotated, and a component of the rotation is in time.

        If we do away with velocity in terms of defining the rotation, we instead construct a 4×4 matrix representing the rotation transformation. Multiplying this by a matrix representing position nets the optical effect; multiplying this by the vector of rest velocity nets a vector representing motion.

        Or, to rephrase that, if we create a matrix representing the rotation necessary to produce the optical effect, the same matrix, multiplied by rest velocity, should produce motion.

        Granted I should be framing that in terms of more generic tensors, but does that make sense?

        • smocc says:

          1. What about multiple observers? When Terrell rotation is considered as an optical effect different observers may see the same object rotated in different ways. For example consider two observers at rest with respect to each other as an object passes between them. One will see the object rotated clockwise the other will see it rotated counterclockwise. Which of these two rotations is the real one that is causing the underlying motion?

          2. A matrix necessary to produce a rotation and stretch of a 3D object is a 3×3 matrix. How do you get from the 3×3 matrix to the 4×4 matrix?

          2a. The distortion produced by Terrell rotation is non-linear in that it does not map straight lines to straight lines. So there’s not even a 3×3 matrix.