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Open Thread 149.75

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1,020 Responses to Open Thread 149.75

  1. zqed says:

    This is just an acknowledgment that my January prediction, “less than 15k deaths from novel coronavirus worldwide” made with 99% confidence, turned out to be embarrassingly wrong. To punish myself for making very confident, very wrong prediction, I will not be consuming my daily chocolate rations for the duration of the epidemic.

    Unfortunately, my conditional prediction that if it does happen, it will be accompanied by previously unprecedented restrictions on movement, was correct.

  2. albatross11 says:

    An interesting split among Trump supporters w.r.t. early COVID-19 worries. They see the split as early vs late Trump supporters.

    As far as I can see, the split is between people who at least sometimes think for themselves, vs those who see their main job as staying on-message for their side.

    In general, the folks who were most worried about staying on-message were the least useful for knowing what was going on w.r.t. COVID-19, because the official sides’ messaging was either about immediate partisan advantage (keep the stock markets calm/blame Trump for closing down the pandemic planning office in the CDC) or was uninformed because our political and social elites are almost all innumerate technophobes who are mainly good at words and gaining power. They didn’t read and understand any scientific or mathematical discussions, for the same reasons the chimps in the local zoo don’t invent algebra.

    It’s really important and valuable to find people who are their own masters, who are thinking for themselves rather than following their side. They will often be wrong, and many times wrongheaded, morally questionable, and very often will be socially wrong even when they’re right in the narrow factual sense of making correct predictions. I haven’t read/listened to enough of Bannon’s ideas to know whether he’s an interesting thinker, but Razib Khan is smart and interesting and very much worth following. Claire Lehmann and Scott Adams, while not as smart as Razib, are also worth listening to from time to time. Greg Cochran, Geoffrey Miller and Curt Yarvin were out front, too. This is worth remembering for the future.

    The whole intellectual cooties thing where it’s shameful to even read/listen to someone because of their real or imagined moral failings, or the evils of their side in some CW battle, is a mechanism for making yourself dumber. OTOH, when you figure out that someone’s more concerned with being on-message for their side than telling you what they think, more concerned with being respectable than thinking things through and being right, or more worried about social truth than about literally-true truth, that’s a good sign that you’re wasting your time reading/listening to them.

    Similarly, news sources that are primarily concerned with “responsible journalism” or #resisting or “speaking truth to power” or whatever are much less valuable than ones that honestly try to report the truth to you, like you were an intelligent adult in need of accurate information. I always liked Ben DeLong’s formulation for this–in terms of what you want from them, political reporters are like the guy you’ve hired to check up on the folks managing your aged mother’s estate and health on the other side of the country. If they have strong ideological allegiances to some of those people, or are mainly providing you entertainment, you’re not going to find out about the guy embezzling money from your mom’s account.

    • matthewravery says:

      While I concur with the general advise of “seek information from a variety of sources”, why isn’t this a “broken clock” scenario? The folks you identified are all anti-globalist. “Corona virus being a huge epidemic caused by globalism” is an easy narrative for them to embrace. Had the virus had an R0 of 1.1 instead of 2-2.5, how many of these folks would’ve reacted the same way they did?

      Ideological reasoning and argumentation, regardless of what that ideology is, will occasionally seem prescient even if the underlying processes are useless. How do you tell when they’re “on to something” vs. grinding their chosen ax?

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        The folks you identified are all anti-globalist.

        Yes I didn’t get the impression that the important aspect of this group was that they thought for themselves. Probably it was necessary that this group of Trumpists think for themselves, since they were going against Trump, but certainly not sufficient. At least as far as the article was saying, the important aspect of these people was they see globalism as a bad thing, and so were very happy to glom onto the Covid-19 crisis as an example of the evils of globalism.

        They are correct that Covid-19 is a downside of globalism, but IMO a very small downside in comparison to the upsides of globalism. The countries that have most avoided international trade are also the poorest countries. Examples are North Korea, Myanmar, and Albania several decades ago. I’d gladly trade the possibility of getting the coronavirus in order to avoid living in one of those countries.

        • Jaskologist says:

          They are correct that Covid-19 is a downside of globalism, but IMO a very small downside in comparison to the upsides of globalism.

          I’d be interested in measuring this, once the dust settles. What are the current estimates for the gain to the US from free trade? And what is the cost going to be of damn near shutting the economy for X months?

          I can’t even estimate order of magnitude for either side. But it’s a utilitarian calculus that certainly needs to be done.

          • albatross11 says:

            The outbreak shows some issues with globalism and supply chains–when countries start having crises/closing borders to avoid contagion, a lot of important stuff stops working. That doesn’t make an argument for ceasing international trade, but it does suggest thinking through how to make sure our supply chains don’t fall apart during the next crisis (whether that’s economic, military, or epidemic).

            It also shows that disease moves pretty fast when there are flights everywhere, but nobody anywhere close to power actually wants to stop international travel by businessmen and tourists and such. The closest you get to that is wanting to stop illegal immigration and low-wage legal immigration and take in fewer refugees, but since COVID-19 seems to have mostly spread among businessmen and celebrities and well-off tourists, building the wall and letting ICE treat detainees worse doesn’t really have any relevance. Again, it’s not much of a knock on globalism if the policies that even the anti-globalists want to enact would have let COVID-19 spread about as well as it did this time.

            Yes, there were dumb clickbait articles about how quarantines were problematic or some such thing, and those were indeed dumb clickbait articles, but they just demonstrate that clickbait journalism isn’t a great source of insight into the world.

        • Matt M says:

          I’d gladly trade the possibility of getting the coronavirus in order to avoid living in one of those countries.

          This would be a uniquely poor time to make that trade, given that all of the other countries are intentionally destroying their own economies on purpose in order to avoid coronavirus…

          If all of our economic progress can be immediately undone (and personal freedoms revoked) thanks to an unwillingness to close the border and seem kinda racist, how valuable is it, really?

      • albatross11 says:

        Have you read anything by any of those people? I don’t think you can really characterize Razib, Geoffrey Miller or Claire Lehman as being driven by some kind of anti-globalist ideology. None of these people are Trumpists, either.

        Scott Adams and Steve Bannon and Tucker Carlson all probably fit that mold. Of them, I’ve read some things by Scott Adams (who is sometimes interesting but not as deep a thinker as he imagines) and a little by Tucker Carlson (who hasn’t impressed me much). I think Cochran is also at least a lukewarm Trump supporter and is pretty anti-globalist in many ways, but he’s also an intelligent and at times really insightful guy.

        I think there is a very important distinction that’s orthogonal to ideology, that has to do with whether you’re primarily a team player for your side, or whether you’re primarily your own person. And I think following the team players means you hear what the teams are saying, rather than getting an independent take on matters. In this case, as with the Iraq war, the big teams in US politics/culture were mostly spouting nonsense–it’s useful to notice this and notice who went along.

      • Jaskologist says:

        How do you tell when they’re “on to something” vs. grinding their chosen ax?

        By taking a larger sample.

        What you don’t do is say, “well, they were only right because they had X belief which makes Y true thing easy to believe.” That’s a point in favor of X. But just 1 point. You need to see if they end up also believing a lot things that didn’t turn out to be true, or if this is a case of predicting 10 of the last 1 epidemics.

    • nkurz says:

      > I haven’t read/listened to enough of Bannon’s ideas to know whether he’s an interesting thinker

      I’m surprised you haven’t read/listened to enough of Bannon to have an opinion. My impression is that he’s a smart and interesting thinker, and that people opposed to his goals are right to be afraid of him. If you are looking for a place to start, I think this interview from 2014 captures his worldview well: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/lesterfeder/this-is-how-steve-bannon-sees-the-entire-world

      • albatross11 says:

        I’ve read a couple articles about him, but haven’t read anything from him himself. I’ve also seen various hit pieces talking about what an evil evildoer of evil he is, which might mean he really is nasty or might mean he was just an easy target for various people who were looking for someone else to score off of in the CW battles.

  3. Estera clare says:

    !corona
    I’m sitting at home with nothing to do (that’s a lie, I’m just procrastinating) and would like to engage with some short texts that aren’t the news for once. Anyone have any poetry recommendations, whether topical or not?
    (For my part, I volunteer this poem: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/50495/jenny-kissd-me)

  4. AlexOfUrals says:

    Is it just my misconception, or is it true that specifically in the Bay Area living in a studio is perceived as slightly lower class than living with roommates?

    • cassander says:

      I haven’t lived in the bay area for over a decade, but I grew up there and that would be my instinct, yes.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Strange place. I always assumed everywhere is considerably higher class to live alone. Would you mind trying to explain why it’s so?

      • Deiseach says:

        Studio apartments, if I’m correct, are along the lines of what are (or were) called “bedsits” over on this side of the water, and those were always (a) low rent, low quality for people who couldn’t afford better be that because they were students not working yet or people in low-paid jobs (b) tended to be run-down and dodgy both with the landlords and the conditions (c) were the first rung on getting out to a better place as soon as you could afford it.

        Now, a decent single apartment would be a different matter, but bedsits are not that. See the 70s British comedy Rising Damp for an exaggerated taste of what they were like.

        • AlexOfUrals says:

          No, I’m definitely not referring to what you call “bedsits”. Studios here are normal separated apartments, just with the kitchen being inside the single room, sometimes but not always separated by a bar stand (here’s a typical floorplan), and area usually somewhat smaller than for a one-bedroom. The ones I’ve seen are located in the same apartment complexes with 1-2 bedrooms and just as those may vary significantly in price and quality.

      • AlexOfUrals says:

        I’m not even sure it is so, hence the question, and if the answer is yes I’ll also be confused as to why. But my best guess and intuitive perception is that – within my bubble of software industry workers at least – if someone lives with roommates they obviously can afford better options and do so because they love the company and/or doing the FIRE thing. While a studio leaves open a possibility that the person desperately wants to live alone and chooses the only such option they can afford.

        Although it might be just a biased sample: people who are social more likely to have higher status and more likely to choose to live with roommates.

        • cassander says:

          the two bedroom apartment has lot more square square footage, and you don’t have the the feeling of hanging out it someone’s dorm room when you’re there. Sure the square footage per person is about the same, but that’s usually going to be a little out of sight, out of mind.

    • JayT says:

      If this was at one point the feeling in the Bay Area, it hasn’t been as long as I’ve lived here, which is more than a decade.

      There are some live/work lofts, many illegal*, that tend to have a lower reputation, but an actual studio apartment is more desirable here than living with roommates. The only thing I could think is that maybe very young people (who I don’t have a lot of interaction with) feel this way.

      * Though there are fewer of those ever since there was a bad fire in one that killed a bunch of people.

  5. Purplehermann says:

    Elon musk making ventilators- likely to make a difference?

    • An Fírinne says:

      It would make more of a difference if he stopped hoarding all his wealth.

      • Purplehermann says:

        @An fìrinne
        As I understand it, most of his wealth is tied up in his companies, which are driving technological advances.
        He has taken the Giving Pledge, so apparently he intends to give it all away eventually.

        His wealth (~$30B) isn’t enough to cover cost of living for the country for a month (assuming 100 million people in need, each needing $500 a month).

        The goverment is talking about throwing around trillions, his wealth is kind of tiny comparitively.

        What do you think giving away his wealth now, as opposed to in fifty years, would accomplish exactly, and why is this better than saving a few thousand lives with ventilators, or driving technological advances?

        • An Fírinne says:

          He has taken the Giving Pledge, so apparently he intends to give it all away eventually.

          Its all well and good when your dead in the ground and have nothing to lose.

          His wealth (~$30B) isn’t enough to cover cost of living for the country for a month (assuming 100 million people in need, each needing $500 a month).
          The goverment is talking about throwing around trillions, his wealth is kind of tiny comparitively.

          Not the point.

          What do you think giving away his wealth now, as opposed to in fifty years, would accomplish exactly,

          Really? Why do you think? You can do good now instead of letting injustices continue for another 50 years.

          why is this better than saving a few thousand lives with ventilators, or driving technological advances?

          Again not the point.

          • Its all well and good when your dead in the ground and have nothing to lose.

            Considering we are all headed there,(baring singularity etc.) this isn’t too worrying. Though many of the giving pledgers will go back on it when they reach the age and suffer pressure from their children.

            You can do good now instead of letting injustices continue for another 50 years.

            This only follows if you model his charitable contributions are permanently alleviating the “injustices.” If you model them as temporarily alleviating them, it matters little whether a person is helped now or in fifty years from now, assuming there are still poor people fifty years from now.(There may not be, at least in the sense of certain definitions of “poor.”)

          • Viliam says:

            @Alexander Turok

            Too much logic. The only “good” is giving absolute power and all resources to An Fírinne’s group. Anything else is “injustice”.

            Helping people or saving lives is totally irrelevant. If done by someone else, it is not “good”, by definition.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            As I understand it, most of his wealth is tied up in his companies, which are driving technological advances.

            That was very much the point. Not very polite to censor him for straying a bit further when he did answer in the first line of the comment.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Really? Why do you think? You can do good now instead of letting injustices continue for another 50 years.

            Really, what good would actually be done right now?

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          You know, you can just ignore him.

      • souleater says:

        Less of this please, this seems a derailment of the original thread, and has turned a question about pandemic logistics into an argument about social justice

    • gudamor says:

      It already has. TSLA stock was around $360 per share before the twitter exchange regarding ventilators, and has since risen to $430, beating out the S&P 500 index.

    • Loriot says:

      That depends on whether he ever stops chasing PR and actually does something.

      • Purplehermann says:

        Assuming he does what he says he’s going to do, is this a drop in the ocean or changing the tides on the scale of how much it actually matters to the US?

        • Loriot says:

          Who knows? The past few years have taught me that it’s not worth paying attention to anything Musk says, and he doesn’t have a great track record even on stuff that he’s actually paid to do, like manufacture solar panels. But maybe this time will be different.

          Musk has been very successful at getting himself portrayed as a real life Tony Stark, and he probably even believes it himself, but that doesn’t mean there’s any truth to the hype.

          Edit: I came across a story titled “Ventilator manufacturers aren’t impressed by Elon Musk’s offer”. Sounds like making ventilators requires specific expertise and supply chains. Like much of modern society, it’s not something you can just will into being.

  6. Yair says:

    Ignorant question:

    Is it possible to freeze the economy for a few months? Freeze rents, freeze mortgages, freeze interest, suspend the stock market, the government pays a UBI to people that lose their jobs, etc., basically decide (by actions) that the rich people cannot make money from the rest of us until we make a vaccine.

    I know that the markets raise funds for a lot of things, and I know that they provide us with a lot of information, but I am not sure an alternative exists at this point?

    The restaurant down the road is now close, workers got sent home. Now if we just freeze things as they are, once we solved the health crisis, the restaurant is still there, the knowledge is there, workers can just go back and reopen, but if the bank repossesses the business the restaurant disappears and cannot be re-started.

    When people borrow money they use it to make more than what they are charged interest and they pay the loan back interest, but it seems unreasonable for the banks to keep charging interest when people cannot use the money for the purpose they borrowed it?

    So yes I know, it’s an uneducated question, but is it feasible to try to do something like that?

    • johan_larson says:

      The problem is that someone gets caught short.

      We have a restaurant that isn’t making as much money as it used to, because people don’t go out to eat. The business owner can’t pay his rent. OK, we can say his landlord can’t evict him until the crisis passes. But now his landlord can’t pay his mortgage. OK, we can say his bank can’t foreclose on him and take the property. But now the bank, which sold securities based on that mortgage, can’t make its payments to various investors around the world. And those investors we don’t control, because they are overseas. And we certainly can’t keep investors from marking down those securities, because the expected payments from them are not in fact arriving. Plus those investors aren’t necessarily fat cats, they’re insurance companies and teachers’ pension funds, and other respectable organizations serving ordinary people.

      If there is genuinely less money coming in, we can’t just call time-out for a month. Somebody has to accept less.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        My 92 year old grandma is a landlord – her income is a miserable pension, plus an apartment she’s renting. That’s quite common here in Romania. Something like 200 eur each, making a frugal but decent 400 a month.

        Going in that direction (freezings of any kind) is profoundly unjust. All it does is take the damage from some people and put it to others, that were normally better prepared. It’s a bit like taking all the food from the grasshopper and giving it to the ant, because she’s going to starve. What do you expect the grasshopper is going to do? Grandma can’t stay 6 months without income. Companies can’t pay salaries without any income for 6 months.

        And compare the damage. An employee that’s laid off is in a miserable situation, but he will survive, in a literal sense. He can adapt (Amazon is hiring massively, and I bet there’s quite a bit of increase in Uber Eats and probably even Uber). He can “freeze” his life, much easier than a company – move back with his parents. He can live on a friend’s couch for a while. I’m not tempted to compare support networks in US and Eastern Europe, but here I’m pretty certain he won’t be homeless, just very miserable, usually with the family.

        Now a company… if it goes under, it goes under. Paying salaries for 6 month out of pocket is not something you can restructure out of. No chapter 11. You’re dead. IF somebody else is picking up the pieces at once, he can possibly rebuild, but the owner is gone – and for most small and medium companies, the owner = the business. In other cases it’ll be sold piecemeal, or taken by the bank. All the negentropy sunk there over many years will now evaporate.

        One year from now the employee will be able to bounce back, pretty much like it never happened.

        The company is gone, and btw so are all the potential workplaces.

        • Kaitian says:

          If the demand is still there a year from now, won’t a new company arise to take the “dead” company’s place? The owner didn’t literally die, he can create a new company with his expertise.

          I don’t know how it is in Romania, but where I live, many people do not have the option to go live with their parents or couch surf for months (if only because their friends probably have similar jobs and may lose their homes as well).

          Of course it sucks for a landlord to lose rent, or for a business owner to lose his business. In some cases it is an existential threat to the person. But overall I think simple workers and renters are in a much more dangerous situation (and there’s much more of them, so placating them is wise politically).

          • Radu Floricica says:

            If the demand is still there a year from now, won’t a new company arise to take the “dead” company’s place? The owner didn’t literally die, he can create a new company with his expertise.

            To make a company you need roughly 3 things:
            – domain knowledge
            – capital
            – market.

            If you know how to run a pie shop, have 50k in your pocket and have the opportunity to rent a place where people would buy pies, you can open shop.

            If your old pie shop is dead, one year from now you still have the knowledge, but you’re lucky if you don’t have debt and the market is likely much lower that it was. Chance of just rebuilding is very low, without the 50k. And no, banks only finance new businesses in movies.

            I don’t know how it is in Romania, but where I live, many people do not have the option to go live with their parents or couch surf for months (if only because their friends probably have similar jobs and may lose their homes as well).

            Perfect. So more people can pull together and pay rent. For example romanians go to UK for work and live for months packed like sardines. They could afford a much better place, but they didn’t go there to “live”, they go there to work 1-2 years and make money, with which they’ll likely build a house back home. So it’s definitely possible, but like I said, mizerable.

            Of course it sucks for a landlord to lose rent, or for a business owner to lose his business. In some cases it is an existential threat to the person.

            Nah, that’s not the problem. Of course it sucks, but it sucks for everybody. That’s irrelevant. I’m saying the damage for the society is greater and it’s much harder to bounce back from.

            In my business, it took me many years just to find the clients I have now. For the last one it took almost a year of work just to get things running. That’s after we signed – all of it was pure work to make our product fit his needs (software btw). If I go under, it’s 10 years of work down the drain – and almost zero cash, because all of it is reinvested in the business.

            Do you know somebody who works at a software company fares if he loses his job? He gets another one. If he can’t, he’ll suffer for a while (might need to sell some stuff and bunk with somebody else for 6 months) and then he’ll get another job. Possibly a better one. That’s it.

            I think the fallacy is thinking you should weep for business owners. You shouldn’t – as a rule, they can always get a good job. You should weep for the products and services that disappear from the market, often for good. And for the people those businesses won’t employ anymore, which means wages go down for everybody. Not to mention that unemployment goes up.

        • Yair says:

          The renter could be the small business, in my example a restaurant, if you freeze the rent the landlord will lose money, but the restaurant will still exist and hopefully it can eventually re-open when the crisis is over.

          Also in the example, we would also close the stockmarket freezing the price of the bank shares.

          I understand that someone will lose money but that someone should be the one that will suffer the least from it. A landlord will lose some money (even if the mortgage is frozen too) but they will not lose the roof over their head, the renter will so the renter is more vulnerable.

          I understand someone loses money, at this point that seems completely unavoidable. Somehow or other we need to make sure that those that lose their money are those that can afford to lose some money without starving or becoming homeless.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            See my comment above. It’s not only about who suffers more, it’s that you don’t want to destroy value that’s hard to rebuild.

            But ultimately this is why libertarians tend to see government intervention as a nightmare. Government is absolutely blind to second order and long term effects. They don’t have the education nor the inclination. Few if any are economists, and they’ll be out of office before long term becomes a concern.

            So as a rule, it’s a lot less harmful for the government to just give money, and the wider they do it, the better. No rules, no complicated calculations, no chances to fuck up.
            Want to help? Pay extended unemployment benefits. Allow companies to suspend instead of fire and pay benefits there too. Taper off all benefits instead of ending them suddenly.

            And if shit hits the fan and is here to stay, relax housing rules and allow for more people to live per apartment, and also allow building of smaller apartments. A small studio may be cramped, but it’s a far cry from being homeless.

            Also lower minimum wage. If ever was a time to do it, it’s going to be later this year when people will start getting laid off.

            Edit: As for how you get those money? Short term I think it’s ok to print them. As long as you stay away from feedback loops, it’s just a tax on currency.

          • we would also close the stockmarket freezing the price of the bank shares.

            You would not “freeze” the price of bank shares. You would be making trade in them illegal, which makes the notion of “price” meaningless.(Assuming no illegal trading.) When re-legalized, they would not return to the prior price.

            I understand that someone will lose money but that someone should be the one that will suffer the least from it.

            This should be considered, I support some redistribution, but should not be absolute. We should not be robbing the responsible to support the irresponsible on the theory that the irresponsible are suffering more.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Also in the example, we would also close the stockmarket freezing the price of the bank shares.

            Our economy is far more complex than this.

            Lets say you try to freeze everything. Ok, bond payments and dividends are suspended, so what happens to retired people living off payments from these streams? Their income plummets. How is the government going to raise the money to pay out all the extra UE payments etc? We are starting this crisis with a trillion dollar* deficit already, and tax receipts in this scenario are crashing by a huge amount. Who is buying government bonds here? Who is even capable of buying government bonds here?

            A landlord will lose some money (even if the mortgage is frozen too) but they will not lose the roof over their head, the renter will so the renter is more vulnerable.

            What if my rental property needs a major repair in the next 6 months? A leaky roof, or a furnace replacement, where am I getting the 5-10,000 I need to pay for such a repair? I can’t borrow against the house, with no market price banks can’t figure risk. I can’t borrow against my stream of payments, as I have no stream of payments.

            What about local taxes? Home insurance? If you suspends home insurance payments you will bankrupt practically every insurance company in the country without a government bailout or a suspension of claims (which would mean massive deterioration of the housing stock, making people more, not less, vulnerable).

          • John Schilling says:

            I can’t borrow against my stream of payments, as I have no stream of payments.

            I think you’re supposed to just dip into your money bin to pay for fixing the leaky roof. If you’re a landlord you’re automatically rich, and if you’re rich you have a money bin. That’s how these things work, in the economic model behind this proposal.

            In the real world, the median landlord is a guy with a few thousand dollars in the bank, a few hundred thousand dollars in debt, and half a dozen rental units that bring in just enough money to pay the mortgage and maintenance expenses and a decent middle-class living for the landlord’s family. Take away the rent, or even freezing the rent in an inflationary economy, and something’s gotta give. It won’t be just a change in the reading on the money-bin depth gauge, so decide what you want it to be. Bank failures, unmaintained rental units, or children living in poverty because their father was a middle-class landlord instead of a proper middle-class factory worker.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Ohh, I forgot about my money bin! I took out two mortgage against it so I could lever up and buy a bunch of TSLA stock a few months ago, can I stop paying those mortgages and stop adding collateral to my accounts to cover those losses?

          • LesHapablap says:

            I don’t support a rent freeze, but we’ve given a 20% paycut to everyone at our business and suggested to everyone to speak to their landlords about getting a discount on their rent. (we would be laying off people, except that the government offered a 12-week wage subsidy if we keep people on at 80% pay). And I’ll be doing the same. And our business will be asking for a break or discount on our ground rent.

            The bank that finances our aircraft has also given us a break.

            The market price for rentals of all kinds has dropped through the floor, it isn’t *fair for the landlords to keep the price where it is.

            *Fair in the sense that it is a freeish market and if we have to pay the full rent we will go out of business and they will never get another tenant for what we are paying. Or in the case of housing, I will just rent another apartment from the thousand or so empty AirBnBs that have flooded the market.

        • Garrett says:

          This bothers me a lot. I select a industry to work in (software) knowing that it was a globally-competitive market. This means my salary in the US is partially suppressed by competition from lower-paid workers in India, but that I also have the potential ability to work anywhere. So working from home is fairly easy to do. I made that selection *deliberately*, mostly has a hedge against flooding or nuclear reactor incidents, but the result is the same.

          So I’m going to once-again have my earnings devalued to bail out others who didn’t plan for such eventualities. Those who are suffering from “bad luck”.

    • Purplehermann says:

      In a planned economy (communism done right i guess or similar) then everything non essential could just stop, because the economy is considered a team effort. No one needs to work for a living if the government prefers they not work. No one starves, there are less exports and less luxury itrms in the country, but that’s all.
      Everyone gets a semi-vacation, their jobs are to take good care of themselves so they can come back to work extra healthy.

      In reality the economy does its best to imitate a perfect planned economy (as best I can tell) through the free market.

      The method isn’t teamwork, it’s mutual co-operation between individual entities. So when one side can’t work/cooperate, someone has to get shafted. Either the non cooperater or their partner.
      Can’t pay your landlord? Someone loses.
      Can’t go to work? Employer has to fire you or take losses.
      Etc..
      When the economy is made of tons of assets and small deals freezing everything (fairly) is impossible.
      The UBI that is being talked about would be the closest thing- give people money so they can keep paying, so no one loses out. The issues with UBI are above my pay grade, but basically the money has to come from somewhere.

    • Secretly French says:

      I don’t know anything about economics and I would also like to hear the answer to this. My feeling is that one could, in pulling this thread, get so caught up in the idea of money and its movement within a society that one forgets entirely about how to keep human beings alive: man can’t eat money, he needs food. At the end of a long chain of people giving each-other paper, someone has to be pulling the potatoes he sowed out of the ground he tended and giving them to someone who didn’t help, so who’s it gonna be and why would he bother if he isn’t going to be getting anything in return, since the rest of the economy is frozen and everyone else is getting paid to do nothing?

      • Radu Floricica says:

        This is why I think this crisis is much worse than the previous ones, to the point it doesn’t even compare. It went beyond depression and straight into war territory and I don’t mean “US in ww2” kind of war, I mean the “France in ww2” kind – somebody/something is draining your wealth, and you’re not allowed to rebuild.

        This being said, part of me is in a good mood. Conservative as I am, I’m very much fearful of the Establishment – the creeping entropy that makes the most powerful countries crumble and fall into meaningless bureaucracies. This is exactly the kind of thing that’s needed to really shake things up. Medically I don’t think there will be much variety (Asia better at suppression, probably, plus the usual divide between rich/poor countries). But the economic and political response WILL give use very precious information. Is it ok to put a stop to firing people, like Italy is doing now? I’m betting it’s not – but there’s no way to see until you test.

        Hopefully at some point somebody will think “Hey, everybody makes less money, people are desperate to work but companies can’t afford them. Wonder what happens if we eliminate the minimum wage?”. My bet is that everybody will be employed, prices will fall and recovery will be quick. But again, no way to tell until some country somewhere decides to try this.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Conservative as I am, I’m very much fearful of the Establishment – the creeping entropy that makes the most powerful countries crumble and fall into meaningless bureaucracies. This is exactly the kind of thing that’s needed to really shake things up

          I feel the exact opposite, bureaucracies right now are the one sphere gaining resources, power and influence. It will be harder than ever to break them.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            You do have a point. But at least it might not be the same people.

            Plus one way or another I’m pretty sure we’ll at least have variety.

        • Matt M says:

          As pessimistic as I am, it’s definitely more US in WW2 than France in WW2. This disease won’t touch our capital goods. Factories aren’t getting leveled. We will still retain all of our productivity-enhancing capital stock. There won’t be anything we have to “rebuild” as such.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            On the other hand, I’m laughing at calls for a new Marshall Plan. Who’s going to pay for it, Hong Kong? Well, I guess when the dust settles China might be in a slightly better form, but they’ll have just lost all their markets. Wouldn’t be surprised if wages will go low enough and desperation high enough that people will start producing and buying domestically.

          • Secretly French says:

            This disease won’t touch our capital goods.

            I’ve heard the same said about the Great Depression though? No crop failed, no livestock caught the plague, no mines or wells exhausted, and yet…

          • Matt M says:

            I mean, the US did emerge from the 1930s-40s in a hell of a lot better shape than France, Germany, England, etc. did it not?

          • The Nybbler says:

            The Great Depression coincided partially with the Dust Bowl, so in fact crops did fail.

          • cassander says:

            @Matt M says:

            I mean, the US did emerge from the 1930s-40s in a hell of a lot better shape than France, Germany, England, etc. did it not?

            The US also entered the 30s and 40s in a hell of a lot better shape than those countries.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Is it possible to freeze the economy for a few months? Freeze rents, freeze mortgages, freeze interest, suspend the stock market, the government pays a UBI to people that lose their jobs, etc., basically decide (by actions) that the rich people cannot make money from the rest of us until we make a vaccine.

      I assume you are asking ‘is it possible to freeze the economy and then restart it and have things resume in a fairly normal fashion, because while you can do what you propose for a period you do not want to do that.

      Basically you are proposing that we suppress short term volatility in the economy, and the expected result of that is either (or both) more volatility later or lower growth later. Since you are trying to suppress a large amount of vol you should expect to have really dramatic ramifications.

      Economies are not smooth, but in our day to day lives we are accustomed to the base rate of change that is constantly around us. In the US during a growth period there are millions of quits, layoffs and discharges accruing every year, and the reason we are not constantly plunging into recession is that there are more new jobs being created and businesses being opened every year. If people’s behaviors and preferences are constantly shifting during good times, what is going to happen after several months of bad times? The economy is constantly handling low level crisis, and even during growth periods there are major shocks going on that threaten to tip it into recession. If you take 6 months worth of minor and moderate crises, push them all off to the side and then unleash them at the same time you have told everyone to figure out the impacts of a pandemic you are asking for an even nastier shock on the back end.

    • if the bank repossesses the business the restaurant disappears and cannot be re-started.

      No, that’s simply not the case. It means the restaurant is owned by the bank.

      When people borrow money they use it to make more than what they are charged interest and they pay the loan back interest, but it seems unreasonable for the banks to keep charging interest when people cannot use the money for the purpose they borrowed it?

      Interest is charged to compensate the lender for inflation, the risk of borrower defaults, and for delaying his own consumption. If you do some work to fix somebody’s roof, and then the roof is destroyed by a hurricane, should they be able to not pay you? After all, they don’t have a roof…

    • John Schilling says:

      Is it possible to freeze the economy for a few months? Freeze rents, freeze mortgages, freeze interest, suspend the stock market, the government pays a UBI to people that lose their jobs, etc., basically decide (by actions) that the rich people cannot make money from the rest of us until we make a vaccine.

      Yeah, “rich people cannot make money from the rest of us”, is going to make this a class warfare thing. Rich people “make money from the rest of us” by making stuff for the rest of you, and selling it to you. If you take away the “make money” part, they’ll be less motivated to make stuff for you and you’ll have less stuff.

      More generally, you cannot spend six months engaging in less productive labor, e.g. because you’ve told most of the work force to stay home and not spread their filthy germs, and still have the same wealth you would normally have had. Your society will be poorer for this. If you try to play games so that the people you sympathize with don’t get poorer and the people you dislike (rich people, apparently) take the entire hit, then you’re breaking the incentives and social trust that enable rich and poor alike to work together to create wealth for everyone and making it harder to climb out of that overall poverty.

      If you then lie and say “everybody has the same amount of money they had before and everything costs the same as before, anyone who doesn’t go along with the program goes to jail”, then the physical discrepancy between what is and what you say, means that something has to break. The usual way this happens is, everybody has wallets full of freshly-printed money in the usual quantity, and the stores have shelves labeled with stuff at the usual prices, but those shelves are mostly empty. Meanwhile, factory workers are lined up ready to make stuff but the factories are all short of something they need to keep the lines running because A: you spent the last six months not making the stuff you need to keep the factories running and B: too many of the (rich) people who know how to unravel that logistical mess are finding it much more lucrative to work in the black market.

      If you’ve got something real to trade, you can get the stuff you need in the black market. But black-market production is less efficient than the legal version, so there’s less stuff and your society is still poorer overall. And if all you’ve got is the stuff the government is handing out that it says is good money, the black market doesn’t take that at all.

      • LesHapablap says:

        What about instead of freezing all that stuff, everyone has to renegotiate their prices? So pay has to be renegotiated, rent, mortgages, etc to remove the stickyness and hopefully clear the market.

        Would be absolute chaos in practice to do it all at once, but the prices are all going to change whether we like it or not anyway.

        • Matt M says:

          In this case, wouldn’t salaries drop far further than rent, utilities, etc.?

          The demand for labor has gone down significantly. The demand for shelter, food, electricity, etc. is unchanged at best (and has probably gone up in some senses)

          • Radu Floricica says:

            Not really. Fundamentally everything is labor and energy, and most of the cost of energy is labor. So if left to settle, prices will get lower all the way down the chain.

            But we do need the government to let us. We’re going to be making some pretty tough choices this year, and many of them will be measured in lives. It’d be a shame if we still hang on to a “punch holes in bags to lower suffocation risk” mindset.

            Truth be told, the gov is not the only one that needs to change. We might realise things like *gasp* children can walk to school by themselves. Won’t be affording the gas and the time to drive them anymore.

          • LesHapablap says:

            In my town, which admittedly is not at all representative, all of the AirBnBs have suddenly hit the market for long term rentals at once. Most of the foreign workers have left to go back to their home countries, probably to live with their families. And many many people have been laid off and can’t afford rent and will either get evicted or work out a deal with their landlord.

            Rentals on the market now are ~35% lower than a month ago and this will keep dropping once the 12-week wage subsidies finish.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          Oh YES. This is the correct way to deal with things. Lower friction as much as you can. And note that most friction comes from the government, so they literally can snap their fingers and make it all better.

          Earlier in the thread I mentioned lowering or eliminating minimum wage (because the new equilibrium will clearly be lower), and finally doing something about zoning laws. Probably the first thing to do is to allow more people to live in the same house – they’ll be doing it anyways because it’s much easier to split a rent in 4 than in 2, but it’d be nice if it were official.

          But so many rules and regulations will be utterly miscalibrated it’s not even funny. I’m betting Italy still has the equivalent of mandatory hairdresser license even as they’re approaching a thousand dead per day. This will all have to be dealt with, if there’s any hope of quick economic recovery.

          • Garrett says:

            Repeal all of the friction and liability fears introduced by the civil rights act and associated Federal employment boards like the EEOC, etc.

        • John Schilling says:

          What about instead of freezing all that stuff, everyone has to renegotiate their prices? So pay has to be renegotiated, rent, mortgages, etc to remove the stickyness and hopefully clear the market.

          What does “have to renegotiate” even mean? Anyone who wants to renegotiate, already can. Anyone who doesn’t already want to renegotiate, can go into their “have to” renegotiation with the same price they’re getting now and a willingness to give up a token 1% to say “we’re negotiating, we’re negotiating!”

          Anyone saying “You have to negotiate and it doesn’t count unless you offer at least a 10% price cut”, isn’t mandating a negotiation, they’re doing government price-fixing. Which is a thing you can do, with reasonably well understood consequences that don’t go away if you call it a “negotiation”.

  7. callgirl123 says:

    A human hides in the shadows of a back street while his accessory gets ready as far as it matters for her in the trap. At the point when their objective — an infamous slave owner — passes the rear entryway, the associate shouts out, the slave owner comes to research xanathar’s guide to everything pdf free, and the professional killer’s cutting edge cuts his throat before he can make a sound.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      the slave owner comes to research xanathar’s guide to everything pdf free, and the professional killer’s cutting edge cuts his throat before he can make a sound.

      Copyright enforcement is strict.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Who says it’s copyright enforcement killing him? Maybe it’s the anti-slavery community action council, gone to alternate universes to do good where they’re most needed!

  8. Ben says:

    Has anyone seen analysis done on the effect of growth-in-testing-capacity on rate estimates and projections? The very desire/willingness/ability to test for coronavirus probably follows some sort of exponential curve at first, and in cases where testing has been very delayed, notably the US, this capacity would be catching-up to a backlog of more symptomatic people.

    I was looking for this in these “# of cases since 100th case found” graphs expecting the US would be shooting past the other countries now (as if the 100th case in the US was identified when maybe 3000 people had it, compared to an on-the-ball Euro country where they catch 100 after only 1000 infections) but it’s notably similar. Could a large portion of the country vs country similar infection trajectories found be due to similar test-capacity trajectories?

    • I’ve been plotting it for a couple weeks now and the rate of change has noticeably gone up in the last week and especially this weekend. That article was published on March 19 when it wasn’t as obvious but just today it shot up dramatically. I’m surprised how well my naive model of 33% growth per day has held up.

  9. johan_larson says:

    Since we can’t stop talking about the pandemic, and many of us are home anyway, we may as well double down. What are some movies about plagues, pandemics, and widespread contagious diseases?

    Contagion (2011), directed by Steven Soderbergh, and starring Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, and Jude Law. The disease in this one was real bad; victims suffered from necrosis of the brain, and died messily, with convulsions.

    The Andromeda Strain (1971), from a novel by Michael Crichton. A group of scientists in a highly secure facility try to come to grips with an extraterrestrial microbe.

    Outbreak (1995), directed by Wolfgang Pedersen; starring Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, and Morgan Freeman. Army doctors struggle to find a cure for a deadly virus spreading throughout a California town that was brought to America by an African monkey.

    Others?

  10. Deiseach says:

    !Corona, I saw this poem linked elsewhere and thought it funny, hopefully it will also help cheer you all up during this time of isolation and rumour (my nephew is recovering but now I’ve heard at third-hand that a cousin has it).

    From the Irish

    According to Dineen, a Gael unsurpassed
    in lexicographical enterprise, the Irish
    for moon means ‘the white circle in a slice
    of half-boiled potato or turnip’. A star
    is the mark on the forehead of a beast
    and the sun is the bottom of a lake, or well.

    Well, if I say to you your face
    is like a slice of half-boiled turnip,
    your hair is the colour of a lake’s bottom
    and at the centre of your eyes
    is the mark of the beast, it is because
    I want to love you properly, according to Dineen.

    Ian Duhig, from The Bradford Count (Bloodaxe Books, 1991)

    The “Dineen” mentioned is the author of the acclaimed dictionary and if you look up “realt”, “gealach” and “grian” you can see for yourself 🙂

  11. theredsheep says:

    !Corona but probably rather boring: can you recommend a good brand of paper shredder lubricant? I work in a pharmacy, and pharmacies have to shred a tremendous number of documents because of HIPAA. We have a very nice shredder, nicknamed “Herbert,” who dutifully chews through page after page, but a lot of our shred material is sticky labels, which put a lot of wear and tear on the poor guy’s blades. The ordinary shredder lube you get at Office Depot is garbage and does nothing. My old boss got some German brand that does much better (blue like Windex, comes in a little plastic bottle) but we’re going through it quickly and I can’t find out where to get more. I really don’t want Herbert to break; we got him as a special string-pulling favor from corporate, and if he breaks his replacement won’t be half as nice. What’s a nice brand that can clean the heads?

  12. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Conan review #21: The Hour of the Dragon
    First published in Weird Tales, December 1935 through April 1936. Margaret Brundage’s cover art depicted Zenobia giving Conan keys while he sits in a dungeon cell being like “Alms, alms for the poor.”
    When later published as a novel, as originally intended, its titled changed to Conan the Conqueror, with Frank Frazetta painting a battle scene.

    Four conspirators use a gem called the Heart of Ahriman to raise a mummy from the dead. He is Xaltotun, a wizard from the land of Acheron, which coexisted with Stygia until falling to Hyborian barbarians 3,000 years ago. They want his magical aid in replacing Conan with one of them, the deposed king’s son, and replacing the king of Nemedia with another, his younger brother.
    Xaltoun sends a plague through Nemedia’s capital, striking down serf, merchant and knight as well as the king and his sons. The new King Tarascus declares war on Aquilonia, and they meet in a low Aquilonian valley framed by rugged cliffs.
    (For those keeping track, Tarascus’s army outnumbers Conan’s, but only 50,000 to 45,000. And that’s after a civil war and all the losses in “The Scarlet Citadel”.)
    In his tent, Conan wakes from a nightmare and begins to surmise that the plague in Nemedia was sorcery.

    “Why did it cease when [the king] died?”
    “Men say he sinned — ”
    “Men are fools, as always,” grunted Conan. “If the plague struck all who sinned, then by Crom there wouldn’t be enough left to count the living! …

    “No! The black plague’s no common pestilence. It lurks in Stygian tombs, and is called forth into being only by wizards. I was a swordsman in Prince Almuric’s army that invaded Stygia, and of his thirty thousand, fifteen thousand perished by Stygian arrows, and the rest by the black plague that rolled on us

    Sure, blame Stygia for everything.
    A shadowy figure casts a spell of paralysis on Conan. His aides react with a Patroclus Gambit: putting a look-alike named Vallanus in the king’s armor. Everything looks fine until a magic rockslide kills the false Conan and the knights he was leading: morale collapses and the Nemedians win. Finding Conan, Tarascus wants him slain with arrows, but Xaltoun wants him taken alive (deja vu). The wizard throws a fireball (it’s described like a grenade), leaving Conan unconscious with 0 hit points so he can be thrown in a dungeon. He also intimidates some soldiers by casting an illusion that a man’s belt is a venomous snake.
    (Note that when Conan is thrown in the dungeon by four slaves, they literally have to move a skeleton chained cartoonishly to a metal ring in the wall to make room for him.)
    A girl brings Conan three different keys, letting him escape. She says her motive is that she’s a harem girl the late king never even took to bed, and she loved Conan from afar when first she saw him, and her means was getting three of the four slave guards drunk. Without the fourth key, he’ll have to escape the long way. She also gives him a dagger, impressing him with her practical intelligence.
    Soon he spies a carnivorous ape in the dungeon, which would have been let into his cell were he still present to eat.

    these apes were the goblins of Hyborian legendry, and were in reality ogres of the natural world, cannibals and murderers of the nighted forests.

    In reality they’re ogres, but legendry downgraded them to goblins? Huh.
    He fatally stabs the ape’s heart, then gets out to where the girl Zenobia is waiting. Doing a Polonius behind curtains, Conan overhears King Tarascus telling a rogue to go throw the Heart of Ahriman stolen from Xaltoun in the sea, “so far from land that neither tide nor storm can wash it up on the beach.” Now a Reverse Polonius: Tarascus is alone so Conan leaps out of the curtains and stabs him, non-fatally. Zenobia catches up with him and explains how he can escape alone to where she has a horse waiting. He promises to come back for her. On the outskirts of the city, he encounters someone literally called “one of the Adventurers, a class of warriors peculiar to Nemedia”, whom he has to slay to escape, riding off in the Adventurer’s armor. Thus ends Chapter 6 of 22. If only Conan had found a wizard who could summon a byakhee, this wouldn’t be a novel!

    Once in Aquilonia, Conan finds four soldiers trying to kill an old woman, who turns out to be a witch who can summon animals. She scries for him and they see that Valerius has already been crowned king, with many people satisfied. Next he visits a loyalist named Servius on his plantation, who explains the political situation as doomed because there was no heir to rally to. And with the king alive, the central provinces won’t rise up because they’ve already seen sorcery used against loyalists. Servius also mentions that Countess Albiona is slated for execution, which Conan departs to stop.
    A disguised Conan sneaks into a tower in the capital, where he spies the executioner and stealthily kills him. He then rescues Albiona, but outside they’re pinned between guards chasing them and ten soldiers in front. Conan can kill three, but masked loyalists have to backstab the rest for him to make it out of the encounter.
    The loyalists are led by Hadrathus, high priest of Asura, whose cult owes Conan a debt for letting them worship openly in Aquilonia.

    “Our ancestors came from Vendhya, beyond the Sea of Vilayet and the blue Himelian mountains. We are sons of the East, not the South, and we have knowledge of all the wizards of the East, who are greater than the wizards of the West. And not one of them but would be a straw in the wind before the black might of Xaltotun.”

    But he was conquered once, when he lost the Heart of Ahriman… and wasn’t there something about a thief throwing it in the sea? Hadrathus offers to send Clerics questing with Conan, but he says “This is a task for a fighting-man”, not an adventuring party, apparently.
    Meanwhile, Valerius is informed of the violence Conan just wrought, and it turns out that Valerius has four exiled mages from Khitai in the Far East serving him (apparently Conan’s not the only Hyborian who travels that far).
    Conan escapes as the “Charon” in a boat burial, with Albiona posing as the corpse. At a waterfall, an acolyte of Asura meets them with horses (and the GM fails to railroad them into accepting him into the party).
    When sitting with the loyal Count Trocero, word comes that Valerius’s thief was killed by mountain bandits, whose chief Zorathus is on his way to the main port of Argos to sell the Heart of Ahriman. Conan attempts to chase him in the armor of a Free Companion. Conan’s mind starts to revert to type:

    Why should he not seek forgetfulness, lose himself in the red tides of war and rapine that had engulfed him so often before? Could he not, indeed, carve out another kingdom for himself? The world was entering an age of iron, an age of war and imperialistic ambition; some strong man might well rise above the ruins of nations as a supreme conqueror. Why should it not be himself? So his familiar devil whispered in his ear, and the phantoms of his lawless and bloody past crowded upon him. But he did not turn aside

    He’s stopped by a robber baron named Valbroso, who’s imprisoned Zorathus, who won’t give up a locked MacGuffin box. Dying on the rack, he tells Valbroso how to open it, just so a sharp protrusion can poison him. A Captain Beloso smashes things over Conan’s head so he can be the one to run off with the Heart. Conan is knocked unconscious in the chase and wakes up being attacked by a ghoul. He kills it and saves his pony from others.
    Later, in Argos, Conan imposes on the hospitality of the merchant Publio, a contact from his Black Corsair days. He tells him about Beloso and the gem, and Publio decides to betray him. Beloso is traced to the House of Servio, where Conan finds him slain by a sorcerer of the black hand of Set. He escapes Publio’s assassins by feigning death just as he sees a Stygian galley row out to sea. But they return to report his death while Publio is being threatened by the mages from Khitai. They find Conan gone from the beach and extort a ship from Publio.
    Conan’s “escape” was merely being impressed by a passing galley. Unfortunately for its owners, they have eighty black men chained as rowers and Conan recognizes them as old corsairs, so he starts shouting “I’m Amra!” Slaves start breaking free. Reaching Stygia, they find that the man who took the Heart in Argos was probably a priest named Thutothmes. He’d said to be seeking occult power to overthrow Thoth-Amon.
    A Stygian city is described, and it’s all very evil and oppressive: few people out after dark! There’s a snake! Conan kills it instead of letting it eat someone, so he’s called a blasphemer. He ducks into a temple, where he kills a priest and takes his animal mask as a disguise. He joins a procession to find Thutothmes.

    They might have been ghosts, moving toward that colossal pyramid that rose out of the murk of the desert. … No man could approach one of those somber piles of black stone without apprehension. The very name was a symbol of repellent horror among the northern nations, and legends hinted that the Stygians did not build them; that they were in the land at whatever immeasurably ancient date the dark-skinned people came into the land of the great river.

    (This is a relatively late pulp example of “Egyptians didn’t build the Pyramids”: it started in 1898.)

    Inside the pyramid, he gets separated from the priests and stumbles into a room with an ivory-skinned woman. He refuses to answer her, as speech would give away his alien origin.

    “You are not a priest,” she said. “You are a fighting-man. Even with that mask that is plain. There is as much difference between you and a priest as there is between a man and a woman.

    (The term “fighting man” instead of “fighter” in the earliest versions of Dungeons & Dragons is universally mocked, but I’ve rarely seen the latter in a pre-1974 fantasy story. Tolkien’s Return of the King does have an orc say “There’s a great fighter about”.)

    He grabs her throat, which is “cold as marble”, and they start to talk. She offers to lead him to Thutothmes and the stolen object, which makes him suspicious. It begins to dawn on him that she is Akivasha, “that ancient, evil, beautiful princess still lived the world over in song and legend, though ten thousand years had rolled their cycles since the daughter of Tuthamon had reveled in purple feasts amid the black halls of ancient Luxur.” (Thoth-Amon, Tuthamon, Thutothmes… Howard’s Egyptian names are getting annoyingly narrow.)
    She tells him to let her drink his blood and love her, to which he throws her and says “Damned vampire!”
    Conan knowing every type of monster by name makes him seem like literally an experienced D&D character. But the description of psychological horror is kind of good:

    To so many dreamers and poets and lovers she was not alone the evil princess of Stygian legend, but the symbol of eternal youth and beauty, shining for ever in some far realm of the gods. And this was the hideous reality. This foul perversion was the truth of that everlasting life. Through his physical revulsion ran the sense of a shattered dream of man’s idolatry, its glittering gold proved slime and cosmic filth.

    In the pyramid’s catacombs, Thutothmes is preparing to resurrect all the elites mummified there, who stretch back 10,000 years. But before even the first, the mages from Khitai burst in. Demanding the Heart starts a fight, which the Khitans conduct entirely with Sticks to Snakes. They also have a lot of hit points, but the Stygian high priest has his death touch. Finally, Conan leaps out of the shadows and kills the fight’s sole survivor to steal the Heart. Oh, but that time it sat on the first mummy to be resurrected had an effect: he sits up all fleshy. The priest Thoth-mekri, 3,000 years dead, turns out to be a nice fellow who guides Conan out of the pyramid and lets him keep the Heart. Soon he’s back on the pirate ship, sailing for Zingara.

    Xaltotun has been aloof since Aquilonia fell, and one of the original conspirators rushes into a council to tell the two kings that he is being hailed as arch-priest by mountain folk whose race was here before the Hyborians and summoning mirages of land and city as they were 3,000 years ago: “I tell you he would restore Acheron by his magic, by the sorcery of a gigantic blood-sacrifice such as the world has never seen. He would enslave the world, and with a deluge of blood wash away the present and restore the past!”
    Xaltotun bursts in and kills him with a spell. Wizard and kings prepare for Conan’s rebel army from the west. Examining the terrain, they determine that he relies on a strategic river crossing to bring his forces to bear, but Xaltotun can take the long time to cast a spell causing rain and flood. Uncanny beings are heard in the wizard’s tent.
    The next day, they learn there was no flood. But hope comes when a local named Tiberias offers to show Valerius the goat pass around Thermopylae, letting part of the army strike King Conan from behind. However, he leads them into a canyon to be ambushed by a rabble of people Valerius has harmed by his misrule. Whoa, secondary hero out of nowhere!
    Xaltotun prepares to turn the tide of battle by sacrificing a virgin when the witch and high priest of Asura appear at the altar. The priest boasts that he dispeled Xaltotun’s rain magic and cast fog to trap Valerius. Holding the Heart, he intends to undo Xaltotun’s resurrection: “You shall go down the dark road to Acheron, which is the road of silence and the night. The dark empire, unreborn, shall remain a legend”.
    The battle is mopped up with Conan defeating Tarascus in single combat, giving him quarter. He orders him to give the slave girl Zenobia as his ransom, and she’ll be made queen of Aquilonia.

    This was the only Conan novel that Robert E. Howard wrote, at the behest of a British publisher that went out of business between accepting and publishing it. The form loses some of the compelling pacing of the better short stories, but I think Howard showed himself a skilled novelist by bringing back nearly everything he introduces back in the final chapter.
    Thoughts?

    • broblawsky says:

      I think this is the best Conan story. Conan progresses through each stage of his life on his quest to defeat Xaltotun: thief, pirate, mercenary swashbuckler, tomb-raider, general. It’s non-stop action.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Recapitulating Conan’s adult life is one of the things the long form enables. I found it interesting that his life is called out as having a moral trajectory and forgetting his kingdom to become a mercenary again is what his “shoulder devil” tells him to do.

    • Deiseach says:

      On balance, I think I prefer the Brundage cover – poor Zenobia is doing a great job of staying on her tippy-toes to be extra sneaky quiet and to keep out of the muck you’d expect down in a dungeon, presumably because high-heels for women haven’t been invented yet so she has to make do with what she has unlike Grendel’s mother who comes with built-in stilettos, whereas the Frazetta Conan rather looks like “Crap, I only now realised I have no idea how to ride a horse, particularly this horse which is going a teeny bit out of control, let’s hope all that exercise means my thigh muscles are strong enough to stay on his back and not end up under his hooves”.

      No! The black plague’s no common pestilence. It lurks in Stygian tombs

      This just proves Conan is not fit to be a national leader in a time of public crisis, he is plainly trying to distract attention from his incompetent handling of the situation and insufficiently timely response by transferring the fault to the blameless citizens of an ethnically different country with “the Stygian black plague” talk. I hope The Tarantian Times wrote a stinging editorial calling him out on this racism!

      “I tell you he would restore Acheron by his magic, by the sorcery of a gigantic blood-sacrifice such as the world has never seen. He would enslave the world, and with a deluge of blood wash away the present and restore the past!”

      Why any of this comes as a surprise to them I have no idea; guys, by now you should all have plenty of experience of what millenia-old undead sorcerers from out of the blighted past and shadowy realms are like. Of course he’s going to use you as cat’s paws to do all the heavy fighting for him and then make puppets out of you (at best) or sacrifice you to his patron demons (at worst) in order to take the rule for himself and re-establish the blighted shadowy past!

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        On balance, I think I prefer the Brundage cover – poor Zenobia is doing a great job of staying on her tippy-toes to be extra sneaky quiet and to keep out of the muck you’d expect down in a dungeon, presumably because high-heels for women haven’t been invented yet so she has to make do with what she has unlike Grendel’s mother who comes with built-in stilettos, whereas the Frazetta Conan rather looks like “Crap, I only now realised I have no idea how to ride a horse, particularly this horse which is going a teeny bit out of control, let’s hope all that exercise means my thigh muscles are strong enough to stay on his back and not end up under his hooves”.

        Ha! Yes, I agree with you; Brundage’s cover is one of her more dynamic and tells a story from the novel. Frazetta was an awesome painter, but any story in this particular painting is bathos about “Whoops, out-of-control horse!”

        Why any of this comes as a surprise to them I have no idea; guys, by now you should all have plenty of experience of what millenia-old undead sorcerers from out of the blighted past and shadowy realms are like. Of course he’s going to use you as cat’s paws to do all the heavy fighting for him and then make puppets out of you (at best) or sacrifice you to his patron demons (at worst) in order to take the rule for himself and re-establish the blighted shadowy past!

        Indeed. It seems like these guys would have already been young adults when a previous undead sorcerer from exactly 3,000 years ago ran around in “Black Colossus”. Have some genre savviness.

        • Deiseach says:

          Hang on a minute, I only just noticed this bit!

          The loyalists are led by Hadrathus, high priest of Asura, whose cult owes Conan a debt for letting them worship openly in Aquilonia.

          Wait – “Asura” as in asuras, the beings which were eventually cast as demons and beings of adharma against the gods? So Conan sees Hanuman as an evil god but allows open demon worship in his realm – yeah, no wonder he’s got all this bad luck with sorcerers trying to hoodoo him!

          • Protagoras says:

            In the earlier sources, “asura” just meant “god,” and the Conan stories are supposed to be set much earlier than the earliest sources, so the later use of the word to refer to the subcategory of opposition gods is probably not the relevant one.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Wait – “Asura” as in asuras, the beings which were eventually cast as demons and beings of adharma against the gods? So Conan sees Hanuman as an evil god but allows open demon worship in his realm – yeah, no wonder he’s got all this bad luck with sorcerers trying to hoodoo him!

            Well that would explain some things.
            Hindu terms used in the Conan series:
            Devi, Vedic “goddess”/Old Avestan “false goddess”: used as royal title in Vendhya.
            Asura, “mighty one”/”lord”/”Titan”: being whose cult spread from Vendhya as far west as Aquilonia.
            Mitra, proto-Indo-Iranian “cause of binding”, later Indo-Aryan “friend(ship)” and Old Avestan “covenant”, a noun treated as a Platonic Form/god/archangel. Chief Hyborian god.
            Hanuman, immortal monkey born prior to the events of the Ramayana. Worshiped with human sacrifices in Zamboula?!

            Howard seems to be alluding to the theory of mutual demonization between deva-worshipers and Zoroastrians in proto-historical India/Bactria, though in an unsystematic way.

      • Nornagest says:

        Yeah, that’s not one of the best Frazetta pieces — the horse aside, Conan looks like a George W. Bush caricature in a silly hat, and a round shield that size should be center gripped and not strapped to the arm (although I doubt anyone but me cares about that). Frazetta’s Conan usually looks miles more barbaric than the silent-movie hero from that Brundage cover, but in this case Brundage came up with a better painting.

        Kinda looks like she sketched a flashlight before realizing it needs to have a flame coming out of it, though.

      • JayT says:

        I don’t know what you people are looking at, this is one of my favorite Frazetta paintings. I’ve always loved how completely berserker raged, out of control Conan looks.

    • bullseye says:

      “Men are fools, as always,” grunted Conan. “If the plague struck all who sinned, then by Crom there wouldn’t be enough left to count the living! …

      If the plague struck all who sinned, wouldn’t that make it easier to count the living?

      In reality they’re ogres, but legendry downgraded them to goblins? Huh.

      Maybe they hadn’t yet established the convention of goblins being small and ogres being big?

      • The Nybbler says:

        If the plague struck all who sinned, wouldn’t that make it easier to count the living?

        Nobody who was left would be able to count at all, being newborns and perhaps those mentally incapable of the requisite intent to sin.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Now having covered all of the original Conan stories, it’s time for analysis.
      As I’ve said repeatedly, these tales are great for ripping off for fantasy games. But what kind of fantasy is it?
      The term “sword and sorcery” was coined in 1961. Howard’s fantasies are the central example the label was coined for, in dialectic between Fritz Lieber and Michael Moorcock who were fans writing similar stuff (Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser and Elric, respectively). Catherine L. Moore’s “Jirel of Joiry” series, also published in the 1930s in Weird Tales, is typically included, but is set in the High Middle Ages and emphasizes Lovecraftian horror over swashbuckling. Its antithesis within the fantasy genre is purportedly the “high fantasy” of Tolkien, where the fate of the world turns on the protagonists’s actions… but isn’t that what we just saw in The Hour of the Dragon?
      Perhaps what distinguishes this type of fantasy is actually its anthropocentric, even ethnocentric nature? If you were hired to write a Conan pastiche and he met elves, you’d know you were doing it wrong – especially if they were portrayed as superior culture-bearers like Tolkien’s. The Earth belongs to us, even if it didn’t in the past, and anything pre-human is horrific and to be stabbed… ah, but wasn’t Yag-Kosha a highly sympathetic non-human?
      It’s worth noting that the quantity of sorcery we’ve seen in “sword and sorcery” is also low by current standards, though perhaps higher than The Lord of the Rings. We’ve seen a few “fireballs” or firey area-of-effect spells that could be alchemy/gunpowder, hypnotism, quite a bit of sticks turned into snakes, demon summoning, at least three cases of undeath, a couple cases of scrying, and some weather control used to influence battles.

      In any case, do you see literary value to this kind of fantasy in our day and age, or is it a virile relic of a time before Dungeons & Dragons and Standard Fantasy Setting video games?

      • John Schilling says:

        Its antithesis within the fantasy genre is purportedly the “high fantasy” of Tolkien, where the fate of the world turns on the protagonists’s actions… but isn’t that what we just saw in The Hour of the Dragon?

        Meh. It’s been a while since I read this one, but while there may have been talk of Acheron becoming the Dark Lord of All The Earth, the threat we cared about was mostly the threat to Aquilonia and to Conan, and we cared about Aquilonia mostly because Conan did. Any other kingdom, he’d happily have sacked its treasury and abandoned it to its fate, and we’d have happily cheered him on.

        That’s a rather different thing that Tolkien, who explicitly makes us care about the fate of Middle Earth. And even this lesser level of engagement in great affairs is rare for Conan; mostly he’s just sacking the treasury and helping out a few people who strike him as worth helping.

        In any case, do you see literary value to this kind of fantasy in our day and age

        I do. Generally, I think that genre fiction is overburdened with stories where The! Fate! Of! The! World! Is! At! Risk!, and has plenty of room for stories about people dealing with more people-sized problems.

        Also, keep the magic rare and exotic please. Tolkien got that as right as Howard, mostly, but his imitators very much less so.

        • Belisaurus Rex says:

          Rare magic seen more biblical to me. Sticks to snakes?

          The Lord of the Rings NOVELS had a bit of that feel too, although Tolkien was conscious not to parody religion.

          To me, Magic is best when there are not defined spells. There’s no spell to make the river flood, the magic user just DOES it. (Was Arwen flooding the river in the books too?)

          • Nornagest says:

            The river floods, but it was Glorfindel in the scene, not Arwen.

          • Evan Þ says:

            And Gandalf tells us in the next chapter it was Elrond remotely flooding the river (with a little help from Gandalf); Glorfindel wasn’t involved at all.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            And Gandalf tells us in the next chapter it was Elrond remotely flooding the river (with a little help from Gandalf);

            So what I’m hearing is, the scope of magic is very similar in Tolkien and “sword and sorcery”: the adjective in “high fantasy” means “high stakes” and/or “high morals”.
            (To Nornagest’s point that “There’s almost no distinction in Tolkien between magic or obscure lore or trickery or even technical cleverness, which isn’t unheard of, but he gets there by having his characters treat all that other stuff as less mundane rather than magic as moreso”, this is exactly how we see Conan reacting to technical cleverness in “Rogues in the House” and how fireballs and a wall of fire are treated in two battle scenes – magic spells, or do sorcerers know chemistry?).

          • Nornagest says:

            I think Gary Gygax might have been going for something like this with the material components for spells in early editions of AD&D — a fireball requires bat guano and sulfur, for example, which some might recognize as precursors to gunpowder. (You can get saltpeter from guano. Sulfur’s used directly.)

            It’s not consistent, though — other material components are only thematically related. And there’s not much indication elsewhere that wizards are doing anything other than bending the laws of reality with their minds — traps are probably the most obvious example of technical lore in D&D, for example, and they interact with the magic system hardly at all.

          • Deiseach says:

            the adjective in “high fantasy” means “high stakes” and/or “high morals”.

            Somewhat; it’s more to do with the “high” or “grand” style in literature (and art) which in turn strives to depict the noble, great, honorable and heroic:

            Rhetoric, as Chaucer and his contemporaries understood it, was an art developed in classical times, mainly by Cicero (“Tully”): the Rhetorica ad Herennium, attributed to Cicero, was his best known rhetorical work. It had a heavy influence on the twelfth and thirteenth-century “rhetoricians;” authors of handbooks on how to apply the techniques of late-classical rhetoric to the composition of ornate Latin verse.

            Basic to the doctrine was the concept of decorum; of the necessity to suit the style to the subject. As Harry Bailey says, the “high style” was suitable for writing to kings, or to writing about them: the medieval rhetoricians illustrated this with the “wheel of Virgil,” which assigned the high style to The Aeneid, the medium to works of instruction such as the Georgics, and the low (plain) style to the pastoral poems; thus a writer who intends to treat the doings of kings and the fates of nations should use the high style, while one who is to write about the doings of the lower classes should use the low.

            Tolkien addressed this kind of usage in LOTR in a letter of 1955 in reply to someone who criticised the language (“[In December 1954, Brogan wrote to Tolkien criticising the archaic narrative style of parts of The Two Towers, especially the chapter ‘The King of the Golden Hall’ ; he called this style ‘Ossianic’, and said he agreed with a critic’s description of it as ‘tushery’.”)

            But a real archaic English is far more terse than modern; also many of things said could not be said in our slack and often frivolous idiom. Of course, not being specially well read in modern English, and far more familiar with works in the ancient and ‘middle’ idioms, my own ear is to some extent affected; so that though I could easily recollect how a modern would put this or that, what comes easiest to mind or pen is not quite that. But take an example from the chapter that you specially singled out (and called terrible): Book iii, “The King of the Golden Hall’. ‘Nay, Gandalf!’ said the King. ‘You do not know your own skill in healing. It shall not be so. I myself will go to war, to fall in the front of the battle, if it must be. Thus shall I sleep better.’

            This is a fair sample — moderated or watered archaism. Using only words that still are used or known to the educated, the King would really have said: ‘Nay, thou (n’)wost not thine own skill in healing. It shall not be so. I myself will go to war, to fall . . .’ etc. I know well enough what a modern would say. ‘Not at all my dear G. You don’t know your own skill as a doctor. Things aren’t going to be like that. I shall go to the war in person, even if I have to be one of the first casualties’ — and then what? Theoden would certainly think, and probably say ‘thus shall I sleep better’! But people who think like that just do not talk a modern idiom. You can have ‘I shall lie easier in my grave’, or ‘I should sleep sounder in my grave like that rather than if I stayed at home’ – if you like. But there would be an insincerity of thought, a disunion of word and meaning. For a King who spoke in a modern style would not really think in such terms at all, and any reference to sleeping quietly in the grave would be a deliberate archaism of expression on his part (however worded) far more bogus than the actual ‘archaic’ English that I have used. Like some non-Christian making a reference to some Christian belief which did not in fact move him at all.

        • Nornagest says:

          Tolkien’s an odd case there. Explicit magic is rare, but his world’s absolutely steeped in mystical thinking, far more so than almost all of his imitators. There’s almost no distinction in Tolkien between magic or obscure lore or trickery or even technical cleverness, which isn’t unheard of, but he gets there by having his characters treat all that other stuff as less mundane rather than magic as moreso, which is exactly right and also much less common in fantasy than it should be.

          • John Schilling says:

            but he gets there by having his characters treat all that other stuff as less mundane rather than magic as moreso, which is exactly right and also much less common in fantasy than it should be.

            Very good point; thank you. If the audience lives in a technologically advanced society, they’re going to look at something like Lembas Bread or an Ulfbehrt Sword and recognize the work of a craftsman whose technology was slightly less laughably archaic than our own. To the people living in such a society, it’s a technology sufficiently advanced as to be indistinguishable from magic, and they should be treating it in about the same way that they treat any literal magic that the author introduces. Mysterious and special.

      • SystematizedLoser says:

        Catherine L. Moore’s “Jirel of Joiry” series, also published in the 1930s in Weird Tales, is typically included, but is set in the High Middle Ages and emphasizes Lovecraftian horror over swashbuckling.

        I’ve not before heard of her work. Would you say she’s worth a read? (For calibration, I like Lovecraft, Smith, Leiber, etc.)

        • John Schilling says:

          If you like Lovecraft and Lieber, you should definitely check out Moore. Probably starting with the Jirel of Joiry short story and its immediate sequel. It begins with the protagonist having just come out on the losing side of some Conanesque swashbuckling, and deciding that a more Lovecraftian means of dispute resolution might work in her favor.

          • SystematizedLoser says:

            I will definitely take a look, then. I’m surprised to find she is not included in the Vandermeer The Weird collection.

        • Deiseach says:

          Definitely recommend C.L. Moore. As well as Jirel, check out her Northwest Smith stories – science fantasy of the planetary romance type where Mars and Venus are inhabited and still habitable in the same time as a space-age Earth – look up “Shambleau” to read if you can, avoid any spoilers, and you’ll know if you would like her writing (I’m a sucker for these 30s-50s Exotic Planet tales).

          She married and collaborated with Henry Kuttner, anthologies might tend to have more of their joint-authorship stories. Looking at that collection you quote, I’ve read a ton of those stories and yeah, I’m surprised she’s not in there, but as Wikipedia says, it could have to do with problems around getting the rights.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          If you like Lovecraft and Smith, yes, she’s worth a read. Despite being a female knight who rides into battle and stuff, Jirel is less “Red Sonja as written by a woman” and more a thinker and experiencer of horror like a Lovecraft gentleman-scholar or Smith protagonist. She was more in their mold than penpal Two-Gun Bob. As Deiseach said, Northwest Smith is also interesting, and dovetails in theme and tropes with the handful of SF tales Smith wrote set in the Solar system.

      • Deiseach says:

        I was thinking about this a little and I think this kind of “low fantasy” is meant to be somewhat grittier and more realistic than “high fantasy” (e.g. more sex and violence, whether implied or overt, and the characters are more protagnonists than heroes, and more occupied with their own affairs which revolve around getting hold of money to live and roister on, be that from semi-honest work as guards or mercenaries or from dishonest toil like thievery and piracy), and I think this has morphed into the genre of “urban fantasy”, where the hero(ine)/protagonist is dealing with everyday life and problems on top of whatever magical or supernatural elements (e.g. think of The Dresden Files where Harry starts off apprenticed to an ordinary P.I. who specialises in missing children cases and has ads in the local phone book for anyone seeking to hire a magician as the way he earns his pay to pay rent and buy the necessities of ordinary life).

        So the traditional “low fantasy” genre might or might not still exist in its original form, but I do think it continues to exist in the new urban genre.

  13. salvorhardin says:

    From https://reason.com/2020/03/20/our-best-weapon-against-coronavirus-is-to-test-everybody/

    “Los Angeles-based diagnostics startup Scanwell has devised an at-home 15-minute antibody test for the coronavirus. Despite looser FDA regulations, the company expects that the agency will approve its test in six to eight weeks.”

    Like, seriously? Is there a real reason this has to take 6-8 weeks even under emergency conditions, or could they get it approved faster if they treated this as an actual, y’know, emergency?

    • BBA says:

      Color me skeptical of this startup’s claim. Does the name “Theranos” ring a bell?

      I’m all for approving it instantly if it works, but even if you replaced the FDA with minimally competent people, nobody could tell that instantly. And a test that gives incorrect results is worse than none at all.

      • JayT says:

        The article also had this bit:

        The North Carolina-based point-of-care diagnostics company BioMedomics is also waiting for FDA approval for its 15-minute serologic test for use in hospitals and clinics. It’s worth noting that its Chinese sister company has already sold 500,000 of the rapid tests in China and the test is widely available in Europe.

        So it would seem that it’s at least good enough for some other countries.

        ETA: More info.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Can we abolish the FDA and replace it with a law that just says “Any test or treatment for an infectious disease approved for use in a European country, Canada, Australia, Japan or South Korea is also approved in the United States”? If not, why not?

          • Evan Þ says:

            It’s useful to have our own agency as a check on European agencies. I’d instead keep the FDA around and in addition approve anything that’s approved in Europe, Canada, South Korea, etc.

          • JayT says:

            I don’t think we need to get rid of the FDA, but I do think it’s ridiculous we don’t have drug approval reciprocity with those countries.

            I should also say, I don’t think the FDA should have the right to tell us what we can or can’t put into our bodies, especially in terminal cases. I think that it should be there as a certification entity, but nothing more.

          • GearRatio says:

            You *might* be able to make the FDA weaker right now, when everyone is suddenly very aware that they cover their ass at the cost of millions of lives and very little else. Once the testing problem isn’t huge and in-your-face anymore, people will forget to care ever again.

          • johan_larson says:

            The first thing people are going to point to is Thalidomide: approved in much of the first world, but not in the US. That turned out to have some pretty dire consequences where it was approved.

            Obviously there can be problems both ways. If you over-regulate, some people will die who might have been helped by medicines that never got approved, or even tried. If you under-regulate, some people will die from taking dangerous drugs, and money will certainly be wasted on things that don’t work. And it could be a lot of money wasted, since people aren’t known for being rational, particularly when it comes to life and death, and very few consumers are in a position to accurately judge the costs and benefits of new medicines.

            This strikes me as the sort of thing that economists would have studied. Is anyone here familiar with the research on this? What’s the verdict?

      • Evan Þ says:

        Another 15-minute serologic test got FDA approval yesterday after only about three days of review! Its manufacturers, 20/20 BioResponse, claim ~97% sensitivity and 92% specificity. Wholesale cost is $20/test, and they plan to start shipping next week.

        This’s great news; thank you for prompting me to search!

        • marshwiggle says:

          Isn’t this really important if the specificity and sensitivity are as claimed? Has anyone looked into this and knows more?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            This is important in the sense that it will give us good information on the spread of the disease. Unfortunately, the sereological tests cannot detect early infections like the PCR tests can, and so it is not useful for early detection.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Hoopyfreud, how “early” can the PCR tests detect infections given that AFAIK they take at least two days to give results? How many days after PCR detectability do you get enough antibodies to be sereologically detectable?

            (Or do we just not have enough information?)

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Evan

            A number I’ve heard on serological tests is ~1 week. I don’t know if that’s accurate or just scuttlebutt. More fundamentally, the PCR tests taking a long time is a pipeline problem. The sereological tests taking a long time is a biology problem.

          • albatross11 says:

            Antibodies are made by your adaptive immune system, and it takes a few days after exposure for your production to ramp up to the point that you have protective antibodies. I’ve always heard it’s a week or two until you’re likely producing antibodies in detectable quantities. But antibody tests are nice because they tell you who *has* been exposed. Someone who has a negative PCR test and a positive antibody test is almost certainly immune.

    • Clutzy says:

      That article is fundamentally unserious. No, the best weapon against corona is not testing everybody. Testing, is, in many ways a canard gripped by anti-government and anti-Trump people. All testing does with an uncurable disease with a long incubation period is increase hysteria, which is why the Reason-faux libertarians must love it so much.

      This is how stupid “testing is the solution people” are: Imagine for simplicity there are 300 Million Americans and currently 500k actually have Corona. And we have a magic test that gives results instantly and we have 300 million tests. Now, this magic test is way better than any test actually in existence, it has only a 5% false positive rate (actual rates appear over 10%) and a 5% false negative rate (actual rates approach 50% false negative with some tests). After we give this test, there will be 25k people with Corona walking about with false confidence that they are virus free, and 15 million Americans that are actually virus free, scared to death that they have Corona, holing up with vitamin C and other stuff. Its totally idiotic.

      • Nornagest says:

        After we give this test, there will be 25k people with Corona walking about with false confidence that they are virus free

        Which is a lot better than whatever fraction of those 500K didn’t know they had the virus. Incubation’s about five days and the disease takes about two weeks to run its course, so I’ll ballpark that at 105K.

        and 15 million Americans that are actually virus free, scared to death that they have Corona, holing up with vitamin C and other stuff. Its totally idiotic.

        Which is a lot better than 300 million Americans preemptively isolated by order of the government on the chance they have corona.

        • Clutzy says:

          Given how disease transmission works, 25k isn’t all that much better than 105k (and again, my 25k example was discussing a hypothetical test that is much much better than current tests), in both cases you are still on the exponential transmission treadmill until you invent a vaccine or the disease putters out due to herd immunity or weather or something else.

          In seemingly all cases where you beat corona without having something lucky happen there are probably 3 options:
          1. Real quarantine. Already too late for this basically everywhere. No one sealed the borders fast enough.
          2. Lockdown. Seems to be the choice most places are picking. The theory is that you reduce transmission to basically 0, all the cases burn themselves out and then you can return to normal. The problem with this strategy is you destroy your economy and it doesn’t work if any significant number of infections survive the lockdown.
          3. Burn it out. You put the onus on people who are likely to get very sick from the disease to be personally responsible while also taking reasonable steps to track infections to discourage super spreaders and discourage penetration of the virus to workers who have to work with vulnerable populations. Testing is helpful in this scenario, but only targeted testing really helps because, like I said, the tests are not very good so they only help you if you vaguely already know where you want to go. Your overall strategy is not shifted by testing, its just a minor tool in the box, like a level when you’re building a table. You need a saw, wood, hammer, nails (or screws and driver), and a level makes all the work a little easier, but a master crafter can probably eyeball it, while a crappy carpenter will have an uneven table even with one.

      • John Schilling says:

        All testing does with an uncurable disease with a long incubation period is increase hysteria, which is why the Reason-faux libertarians must love it so much.

        Testing greatly increases the effectiveness and reduces the intrusiveness of contact tracing, which is pretty much the only way we get through this without either many millions of Americans dead or many months of economy-wrecking, liberty-wrecking lockdown (or both, if we’re really stupid about it). That’s why real libertarians like it.

        If you genuinely don’t understand and can’t figure out how contract tracing work and how testing makes it work much better, try asking without a chip on your shoulder.

        • Clutzy says:

          I dont think testing is useless when people are sick, its helpful for telling people who should self quarantine. Targeted testing is not what that article is talking about, and its entire tenor was indeed fundamentally unserious.

          And the idea that testing has massively helped in S. Korea is at best questionable given their extremely high false negative rate. Whatever they have done has worked, but testing has been a small part of that, at best.

        • Clutzy says:

          without a chip on your shoulder.

          And no, I’m not taking this chip off my shoulder on C19 anytime soon. All the extreme right wingers I know or follow were prepping and warning about this in January and even late December. Me, not being an extreme right winger, I follow these people to understand their zeitgeist, and if they talk about something interesting I try to fact check them and get info from other sources. Unfortunately, regarding the C19 issue, the WHO, UN, and almost 100% of American media engaged in a total blackout on this issue until basically March. At which point they went into panic mode. From mocking preppers to advocating a police state in 7-10 days.

          And yes I am mad, because if I had not attempted to verify anything with the “more reliable” media, I would be much, much, much richer today than I am. I would have sold all my long positions, and shorted hard, and I’d probably never have to work again. Instead I’m in the position of having taken out some of my long positions at the right time, but left a lot in as well because I couldn’t get any reliable information from the supposedly reliable sources.

          • Instead I’m in the position of having taken out some of my long positions at the right time, but left a lot in as well because I couldn’t get any reliable information from the supposedly reliable sources.

            If all the reliable sources were accurately predicting the problem, the things you would want to sell would already be down. At last month’s price, who would buy them?

            Your argument requires a world where you have accurate information and most of the rest of us don’t.

          • Clutzy says:

            My point about being rich is not really the point. The point is there was massive amounts of accurate information available, it was just sidelined. And sidelined to the extent that it is almost impossible for it to be a coincidence.

            And John was one of the people toeing the mainstream line that C19 was not all that serious January and February. Now he’s in the mainstream again saying testing is a panacea. You have to be engaged in a war against paying attention to not observe this pattern.

      • JayT says:

        After we give this test, there will be 25k people with Corona walking about with false confidence that they are virus free, and 15 million Americans that are actually virus free, scared to death that they have Corona, holing up with vitamin C and other stuff. Its totally idiotic.

        How is this in any way a bad thing compared to locking everyone down?

        • Clutzy says:

          Locking everyone down also is dumb. But you are ignoring what actually happens in “perfect test America” those 25k become 500k quickly again because social distancing is not practiced, telecommuting not enacted where its needed, etc.

          Basically, what we needed to do was what a lot of white collar work was doing before the governments did much of anything, move to telecommute for most things, sparse meetings, encourage washing and put wipes and hand sanitizer all around.

          Of course, the modern metropolis with its reliance on buses and subways is always going to struggle with pandemics, but thats commentary on that model, not really any response to a pandemic.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            Sigh. The testing plan – and why the testing plan is wholly reliant on cheap tests made by the billions is to test everybody.

            Daily.

            For a while.

            False negatives and positives are not a particular problem for that strategy, as long as they dont correlate. If your status slips through today, it gets caught tomorrow and you get to self-isolate until you have 3 clean tests in a row. That suffices to push r way below one, at which point the virus goes extinct.

          • Matt M says:

            Basically, what we needed to do was what a lot of white collar work was doing before the governments did much of anything

            Blue collar employees can’t work from home. Almost by definition.

          • Deiseach says:

            Blue collar employees can’t work from home.

            That’s what has been fascinating me recently; the demand for temporary workers in the supermarket/retail area has boomed. Now maybe this is due to everyone mostly staying at home and shopping online, but that can’t be all of it: a lot of the supermarket chains are putting in plexiglass shields at the tills as part of the virus protection strategy, so there must be in-person shopping going on as well. (They’re also doing dedicated hours for the elderly to shop and asking people not to come in during those times for social distancing purposes and to allow the elderly/vulnerable to access goods before they’re all bought out by ordinary shoppers).

            The major retail groups are hiring like mad and giving first preference to people from hotel/hospitality industries laid off because of the social isolation.

            People still need to shop for essentials, and the demand seems to be big enough and lasting enough that there’s the kind of pre-Christmas hiring going on.

          • Clutzy says:

            Sigh. The testing plan – and why the testing plan is wholly reliant on cheap tests made by the billions is to test everybody.

            Daily.

            For a while.

            This seems Star Trekkinan in its implausibility. The development of a $1 test that is actually accurate and can be produced at a rate of 350 million a day is just absurd. By the time you figured that out everyone would already have been infected.

            Blue collar employees can’t work from home. Almost by definition

            Yes, part 2 of that solution is just letting them do their jobs and hoping. The best evidence is that a vaccine isn’t coming very soon, so we need to infect a high % of the low risk population as quickly as possible.

          • Loriot says:

            Every time someone advocates deliberately infecting the population, I wonder whether they underestimate the risks the virus poses to young people or whether they think that containment is impossible (despite the counterexample of east Asia) so we might as well kill everyone as fast as possible to get it over with.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            You lack appreciation for the potential of mass production. But yes, even once the test has been designed, its going to take a few weeks to ramp production.

          • Clutzy says:

            I do think long term containment is not likely in America. My observation is that even during our current “shelter in place” order here large subpopulations are engaging in behavior I would frown upon during a normal flu season.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            @Thomas.
            Hmm. I don’t know exactly how these tests work, but my guess is the testee has a qtip shoved up their nose, the lab tech puts the gunk into a growth solution, and a week later someone looks at the resulting media under a microscope to see if any covid19 critters are there. If I am right, there is a limit to how much this can be mass produced, and also we don’t get immediate results. I agree with you that testing lots more people would very much help the situation, but I don’t think daily tests for everyone will ever be possible.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Every time someone advocates deliberately infecting the population

            When governor Cuomo says 40-80% of his state is going to get infected anyway, the idea of purposefully infecting people in controlled settings is less crazy.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, the same people who are saying it would be absolutely insane to just let everybody get infected are also saying “everybody is going to get infected no matter what we do.”

          • albatross11 says:

            From a quick web search, it looks like the price to labs/doctors offices for the rapid flu test is like $10-15/test. Presumably we can get the COVID-19 tests to that level. At $10/test, we give it to everyone who shows up at the doctor, clinic, hospital, etc., with flu-like symptoms, and then for positive results we test everyone around them. This is something people have been doing for a very long time, it’s not some new idea just spun up for COVID-19.

            The problem we’ve had so far wasn’t cost, it was supply–we just didn’t have enough tests. That was largely driven by US medical regulatory bureaucracy being unable to move quickly even when a massive pandemic was threatening us. There were lots of stories of people who were pretty clearly sick with COVID-19 unable to get tested, including doctors who’d treated patients with the virus.

            That seems to be more-or-less getting better now. There are actually two tests here–one is for viral RNA, another is for antibody to COVID-19. (We might also get some kind of test where we make antibodies that will bind to COVID-19 and fluoresce or something, but I don’t think anyone’s done that yet.) We need both, but I think right now it’s just the RNA test that’s being put into widespread production.

            With the antibody test, you could also determine people who were almost certainly immune to the virus. That would be very handy to know.

      • matthewravery says:

        Your thought experiment is a strawman.

        You don’t test everyone. People who want to “test everyone” don’t know what they’re talking about. What we should do (and what countries like SK that have successfully dealt with this did) is test everyone who looks like they might have the disease, and then test everyone who they were in contact with.

        You don’t just test 300 million people. You test the folks who, based on symptoms or behavior (e.g., close contact with known cases) are more likely than the baseline to have the disease. This is how diagnostic testing is done for basically everything else. The problem we had for the past 2+ months is that we first didn’t have any tests and then later didn’t have enough tests to test likely cases let alone everyone they’ve been in contact with recently.

        • Clutzy says:

          The article I was attacking basically held the strawman position, which is not surprising given the author. So, yea.

          But also even the aggressive testing regime of SK is only a moderate part of its success. Its pretty clear their mask culture is a huge contributor to their efforts being successful. Also their compliance levels being high. In my city there are still roving posses of teenagers romping around even though we have a shelter order, and people go to the grocery store without gloves or masks (also they buy incomprehensible things like tons of plastic forks).

          • albatross11 says:

            I was just chatting with my kids the other day about the differences between living in a high-trust and low-trust society. And a lot of this is about whether or not people can be expected to follow social norms. Will you return a lost wallet to its owner? Will you throw trash on the ground when nobody’s looking and walking to the trash can would be really inconvenient? Etc. I think this crisis is a demonstration of what that looks like, and the fact that within the US are both high and low trust communities, interacting uncomfortably from time to time.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Are they white? Because after 54 years, we will finally have roving bands of Caucasian youths.

            (Reference http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,836286,00.html )

          • Clutzy says:

            Are they white? Because after 54 years, we will finally have roving bands of Caucasian youths.

            I don’t live in a white neighborhood (mostly) so no. They are South Asian/Indian or Hispanic. The university students nearby have mostly seemingly bought into the lockdown or gone home because I don’t see many of them. But the general trend is East Asians (who are mostly uni age) = Complying, South Asians/Hispanics much less, whites nonexistant because there are not many of us around anyways.

            The supermarkets I go to are more diverse, but the ranking are generally the same, except Blacks and Whites I see at the supermarket also largely suck at obeying the informal rules. But again, I’m often the only white person around and I am complying so that makes the average go way up!

  14. AlesZiegler says:

    Scott Sumner wrote a reaction to our host´s post about biography of Herbert Hoover.

    • Etoile says:

      I want to read this book now! I did NOT know any of that about Hoover. I knew that the US had helped the Soviets with food, with industrialization, with a lot of stuff — things you won’t learn from them! But Hoover as anything other than a buffoon I’ve never learned and this SHOULD be taught in high school – if only to illustrate how so competent a person can nevertheless go wrong, and how it isn’t completely irrational to question technocracy.

  15. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Have you received a notice from your water company/gov’t water bureau stating that no one’s water will be shut off during the COVID crisis? I have (Kentucky American Water).
    So, put my household’s usual water bill in 3-month CDs?

    • BBA says:

      Late payment penalties will probably eat up all the gains, especially with short-term interest rates as low as they are now.

      Evictions are halted here, but I’m still paying my rent.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Kentucky American Water has also suspended late fees until further notice.

        I agree that it’s imprudent to not pay your rent in the absence of a like statement from the human/entity that owns your home.

  16. Lord Nelson says:

    !Corona

    I have a weird medical issue, and I’m hoping someone here has some answers (what it is, how to treat it, or just convincing me I’m not crazy).

    Whenever I’m out in the cold or wind for more than 5-10 minutes, my inner ear becomes extremely painful. The pain is so bad that I want to cry; it feels like someone dumped a bucket of ice water in my ear. Warming up my ears helps, but it takes 10 minutes for the worst of the pain to subside, and even after doing that, I have an earache for at least 30 minutes. The weirdest part is that it happens even in nice weather (50-60 F) if the wind is strong enough.

    This has been happening for as long as I remember. I assumed that everyone had this problem, but my husband has assured me that this is abnormal. Maybe it has something to do with the frequent, recurring ear infections that I had as a kid?

    Wearing earmuffs is the only thing I’ve found that helps. Unfortunately, I get strange looks if I do that when it’s 60 degrees and sunny outside.

    PS: I do plan to ask my doctor about this, but don’t expect to see her for several months due to self isolation measures.

    • noyann says:

      No explanation, but..
      Can you get a prescription for a tiny in-ear hearing aids, with the amplification set to 1:1? Then you’d have thermal insulation without acoustic dampening.

      • sksnsvbanap says:

        Apple’s AirPods Pro have a feature called transparency mode that does this, and are a lot cheaper than hearing aids.

        • acymetric says:

          AirPods have the added benefit of functioning as headphones for listening to stuff, another plus over hearing aids if you just want 1:1 sound. Good suggestion.

          • noyann says:

            Do they fully work with BT devices of other brands?

          • acymetric says:

            Good question, no clue. Other bluetooth headphones have similar features so it wouldn’t necessarily have to be Air Pod, I have a pair of Jabra Elite Active 65T headphones (that name does not roll off the tongue) and they have a similar pass through feature.

          • DinoNerd says:

            FWIW, my hearing aids also work as bluetooth headphones, though they seem to be only willing to pair with iPhones (not Android, not Apple computers)

            But the prior poster is right – if your hearing is fine, AirPods are notably less expensive.

          • sksnsvbanap says:

            AirPods do work with non-Apple devices. They show up as a normal Bluetooth device. Btw only the pro model has transparency mode.

    • ana53294 says:

      Have you tried washing ears?

      I’ve been having earwax buildups for years, and every couple of months I get rid of wax buildup by first softening it with some drops for a few nights and then gently pumping it with warm water. Most people’s ears get rid of wax naturally, but mine don’t. When I get wax buildups, pain is intermittent, and it does get worse with cold.

      I also sometimes get strong ear pain, unrelated to wax. After spending 6 hours in the hospital to see an otologist, I was informed it’s just a nerve in an uncomfortable position with my jaw. Opening your mouth a lot and moving your jaw helps. Also, chewing gum.

      • Lord Nelson says:

        I clean my ears, but not in the way described here, mostly because my mother put the fear into me when I was a child. (Apparently she cleaned her ears incorrectly and had to get a very painful procedure to reverse the damage.)

        I wouldn’t be surprised if it was related to earwax buildup, now that you mention it.

        • ana53294 says:

          Well, that was the way the doctor did it, when I had my first one.

          Boil the water before you use it, and let it cool. Don’t use a pump with too much pressure.

          I’ve heard a lot of the advice against cleaning ears was because it was done with plastic sticks, which are harmful.

    • tsutsifrutsi says:

      I have this on and off as well. I’ve also previously developed temporary hearing loss from acute otitis media, which was treated by antibiotic ear-drops.

      The pain now comes and goes, but only ever appears on top of an underlying constant dull pressure sensation (which also comes and goes, on a slower time-scale.) That pressure sensation is what I also remember happening directly before the hearing-loss episode, and which I now understand to be the feeling of my middle-ear (eustachian tube) becoming inflamed/sensitive/irritated, leading to an inability of my ear to regulate pressure (despite not being plugged from the ear-hole side.) The pain, I think, is from debris of some kind—previously soft, now hardened from the cold—scratching at the irritated/sensitive walls of my middle-ear.

      Regarding why the walls of my middle-ear would be inflamed/sensitive/irritated, and why there’s debris in there (there shouldn’t be!), I have a few guesses for what’s going on:

      – some chronic subclinical middle-ear infection (“otitis media with internal effusion”) that flares up every once in a while

      – my middle ear has some scar tissue in it now from the previous infection, and so is permanently narrower, such that whenever the occasional particle of junk gets into my eustachian tubes (which does happen to everyone every once in a while, from e.g. a bit of tonsilolith coming off your tonsils during sleep, when it can just travel horizontally to reach the entrance to the eustachian tube), that small particle will now be enough to really irritate it, rather than just rolling in and then rolling back out as soon as you wake up.

      – congenital abnormality of tissue formation (or scar tissue, as above) causing ceruminous [earwax-prodcuing] glands to either develop, or link into, the area behind the timpanic membrane, rather than the area outside it, leading to earwax being discharged into my middle ear and occasionally blocking it.

      I actually have the highest confidence right now in the last one, despite it sounding the most quackish, because I notice that in any situation where my regular outer-ear-canal earwax can melt (such as in a sauna), my middle ear will spontaneously come unplugged as well, as a completely separate sensation; and I will taste, at the back of my throat, a drainage of sticky, sour gunk that really does resemble the taste of earwax. (Yes, I compared. For science!) It really seems like the debris knocking around in my middle ear is (crystallized) earwax, or at least mucus with the same viscosity and melting point as earwax.

    • Etoile says:

      No solution, but I have a similar thing, though less severe — I get it after swimming in cold water – even when it’s pretty warm and I myself don’t feel that cold. It got worse as I got older (>25), and it happened maybe twice after a very very cold swim when I was <15.

      Blowing a hair dryer into your ear might help things.

  17. salvorhardin says:

    Here in the Bay Area, at least, there are a bunch of stores that are classified “essential” because of some things they sell, but also sell a bunch of other things that are not “essential”. For example, Target carries groceries and pharmacy stuff, but also furniture, electronics, and clothing.

    On the one hand, these stores now have no more bricks-and-mortar competition for “nonessential” things from the other stores (think IKEA, Best Buy, Marshalls) that only sold those things and thus must now close. On the other hand, people will presumably want to spend less on those things in the present economic environment, and when they do buy them, will be more inclined to go online. How might we find out which effect dominates? And how long before some of the “nonessential” stores start putting up a display shelf’s worth of canned goods, home hardware, and/or toilet paper so they can get reclassified and reopen?

    • JayT says:

      I’ve wondered that myself. And what if I want to buy pickled herring to eat? Why isn’t IKEA still open?!?

    • Demand is down, supply is also down, so even without the competition factor there’s no reason to assume prices will decrease.

    • BBA says:

      At least as far as New York is concerned, the official guidance says:

      With respect to business or entities that operate or provide both essential and non-essential services, supplies or support, only those lines and/or business operations that are necessary to support the essential services, supplies, or support are exempt from the restrictions.

      So Target would have to cordon off its general merchandise areas and operate only as a grocery and pharmacy. The other stores would close entirely – a workaround like you describe isn’t worth it. At least until the rules change again tomorrow.

      GameStop is trying to get itself classified as an “essential” business, but that’s because they were on the verge of bankruptcy before the crisis hit and they aren’t going to reopen when (if) it ends.

      • salvorhardin says:

        Interesting. Well, at some point in the next week I’ll likely go to Target and see whether they’re cordoning things off as you describe. My bet is no, but with lowish (say 70%) confidence.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          It would be just mean…

          In my country they used a pretty smart language: they close all places not operated by a single entity. I especially like it because there’s no division of responsibility – you get one owner (like Walmart) that does all the logistics and cleaning.

    • noyann says:

      “Essential” may well include stuff to keep people busy/entertained at home. Germany keeps hardware shops opened.

    • danridge says:

      IKEA has essential frozen Swedish meatballs. My hot take is that the IKEA cafeteria is a great low cost option for small-plates style dining, it would be great if they could stay open for take-out/delivery.

  18. Plumber says:

    !corona

    A few years ago for a Dungeons & Dragons game I wrote up this “back story” for a player character “Hans d’Shovel” which I’ll now share here:

    Once upon a time a spell-caster came to the village of Dorfweitwegvonüberall, and made a grand entrance with his hat and robe with stars and moons, and his wand, and changing reality to fit his will.

    The Spell Caster, being bored decided to look for some action, or make some. In looking around he finally laid eyes on a young lady named Gertrudt.

    It just so happens that a young lad of the village by the Hans also long had eyes for Gertrudt, and he didn’t like “Mr. High-and-mighty-magic-man” eyeing his girl (or rather the girl whom he’d like to be his girl).

    With Hans was his dog (puppy really) called Fritz.

    Now Fritz didn’t know why, but he could sense that the man in the robe leaning over the fence, talking to the large human women, was angering his boy Hans, and in an instant, Fritz’s little doggie mind made a split decision to bite the robed man.

    Ouch! What the…? Away you miserable cur!”

    …bellowed the spell-caster as he kicked at the little dog, and just when he raised his wand and started an incantation (as testified to by two village men of good reputation, “who saw the whole thing”)…BAM!

    Hans, defending his dog went right behind the magic-user, and bashed in his skull with a shovel.

    Upon seeing the magician dead (and the size of his coinpurse), the good people of Dorfweitwegvonüberall declared that Hans had rid them of a great evil that had turned several of the regulars at village’s tavern (called “The Tavern”) into toads the night before (they got better).

    Hans gloried in the new attention, everyone looked at him differently, especially Gertrudt (who now looked at him at all), and soon it was decided that there was a whole world full of Wizards, Warlocks, and Witches, that had to be met by a hero of Hans stature, and the world couldn’t wait, and he needed to go right now!

    And so Hans, handed some rations, a bedroll, and an axe, set forth…

    No, my PC wasn’t accepted for the game (something about “incompatible”), but even though I usually loath their existence I had fun writing the “back story”, hopefully you liked reading it, or it may inspire you to write something else and share it.

  19. EchoChaos says:

    Good news for Trump so far on Chinese Coronavirus. Last week a majority of Americans said he was handling the outbreak poorly.

    Now, with Italy doing even worse and the USA putting things together, 55% of Americans say Trump is handling it well. Link

    We will see how everything goes, but with daily briefings and a response that is being seen as effective, Trump looks to gain despite his rough early response.

    • broblawsky says:

      The question isn’t what this looks like this week; it’s what it looks like next week, and the week after that, and the week after that. If we’re lucky, by July the majority of the outbreak will have burnt out, but the economic damage will really start getting felt.

      • EchoChaos says:

        The question isn’t what this looks like this week; it’s what it looks like next week, and the week after that, and the week after that.

        Fundamentally, the only thing that matters to Trump is what the American people think of him on November 3rd. Any other day is irrelevant.

        If we’re lucky, by July the majority of the outbreak will have burnt out, but the economic damage will really start getting felt.

        No question about that. I fully expect the media to shift seamlessly to “how could Trump have not done more earlier” when they were beating him over the head for shutting down travel to China when he did it.

      • albatross11 says:

        One thing I expect: everyone is trying on a very different way of living than they’ve had before. This is likely to change peoples’ habits quite a bit. For example, my wife and I were Starbucks addicts until this hit. We haven’t been there in several days, and presumably won’t be back for quite awhile. By the time the social distancing/quarantine time is over, we’ll have changed habits, and it’s not so clear we’ll go back to the old ones.

        Similar things apply to pastimes–where I am, solitary outdoor pastimes (jogging, walking) are still pretty common, but all the bars are closed. You could imagine some interesting changes to habits coming from that. Or consider eating out–we previously ate out way too often for either budget or health, from a mix of desire to have some time with my wife to talk, crazy kid-oriented schedules that left a 15 minute window for getting dinner, and laziness about packing lunch. All our meals are home now, and I expect we will just eat out less when we’re done with this time.

        Even assuming the restaurants and bars survive this time, I expect demand to be less when we’re done for those reasons. (Also, there will be slow uptake because some people will be worried they’ll be exposed to the virus, even after mandatory shutdowns are lifted.) It will probably be a harder world to make a living running a restaurant when we’re done, and it was already a pretty hard world….

        Or consider keeping emergency supplies and stocking up. Everyone who lives through this is likely to want to have a stockpile of emergency food and supplies in their house for the forseeable future.

        If all the casinos are closed, or all the movie theaters, or all the concert venues, I expect some people who had a routine of doing that stuff every weekend will develop new routines. Some people will come back, but probably fewer.

        • Matt M says:

          Definitely agree. The notion that eventually this will “blow over” and things will go back to exactly as they were beforehand is fundamentally flawed. Things will never be the same.

          • johan_larson says:

            I wonder about that. Did the Spanish Flu cause any lasting cultural changes?

          • FLWAB says:

            “Things will never be the same” is life’s default setting. Things never stay the same. Do you have any particular predictions on how COVID will change things, and which of those changes will still be in effect this time next year, or ten years from now?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            “Things will never be the same” is life’s default setting. Things never stay the same.

            I found Waldo Heraclitus!

          • salvorhardin says:

            @johan_larson

            I would not be surprised if the Spanish Flu helped pass the early 1920s immigration restrictions. Reminds me to read _The Guarded Gate_ in my supposedly now copious free time.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Things will never be the same.

            Disagree. Yes, people’s habits will change for now, but as the virus fades into the past, folks will start to do what they prefer to do again. Why should a temporary blip change people’s natural preferences?

          • Deiseach says:

            The notion that eventually this will “blow over” and things will go back to exactly as they were beforehand is fundamentally flawed.

            This is like the story in “The Maltese Falcon” where Spade recounts one of his first cases as a detective; a married man who’s a solid citizen vanishes one day, and his wife wants them to find him. There’s no trace, no reason (such as debt or an affair on the side) for him to vanish. Five years later they pick up a trace of him, and this is his explanation for what happened:

            “Here’s what had happened to him. Going to lunch he passed an office-building that was being put up — just the skeleton. A beam or something fell eight or ten stories down and smacked the sidewalk alongside him. It brushed pretty close to him, but didn’t touch him, though a piece of the sidewalk was chipped off and flew up and hit his cheek. It only took a piece of skin off, but he still had the scar when I saw him. He rubbed it with his finger — well, affectionately — when he told me about it. He was scared stiff of course, he said, but he was more shocked than really frightened. He felt like somebody had taken the lid off life and let him look at the works.”

            Flitcraft had been a good citizen and a good husband and father, not by any outer compulsion, but simply because he was a man who was most comfortable in step with his surroundings. He had been raised that way. The people he knew were like that. The life he knew was a clean orderly sane responsible affair. Now a falling beam had shown him that life was fundamentally none of these things. He, the good citizen-husband-father, could be wiped out between office and restaurant by the accident of a falling beam. He knew then that men died at haphazard like that, and lived only while blind chance spared them.

            It was not, primarily, the injustice of it that disturbed him: he accepted that after the first shock. What disturbed him was the discovery that in sensibly ordering his affairs he had got out of step, and not into step, with life. He said he knew before he had gone twenty feet from the fallen beam that he would never know peace again until he had adjusted himself to this new glimpse of life. By the time he had eaten his luncheon he had found his means of adjustment. Life could be ended for him at random by a falling beam: he would change his life at random by simply going away. He loved his family, he said, as much as he supposed was usual, but he knew he was leaving them adequately provided for, and his love for them was not of the sort that would make absence painful.

            “He went to Seattle that afternoon,” Spade said, “and from there by boat to San Francisco. For a couple of years he wandered around and then drifted back to the Northwest, and settled in Spokane and got married. His second wife didn’t look like the first, but they were more alike than they were different. You know, the kind of women that play fair games of golf and bridge and like new salad-recipes. He wasn’t sorry for what he had done. It seemed reasonable enough to him. I don’t think he even knew he had settled back naturally into the same groove he had jumped out of in Tacoma. But that’s the part of it I always liked. He adjusted himself to beams falling, and then no more of them fell, and he adjusted himself to them not falling.”

            We’ll adjust ourselves to the conditions of a pandemic, and then it will pass over eventually, and we’ll adjust back to not-a-pandemic.

        • Elementaldex says:

          I’m really worried about this for my fencing club. Getting people to come regularly is a real effort. having them all simultaneously lose the habit of coming is going to make it wicked to get back to the critical mass where everyone has fun when we start back up.

        • JayT says:

          I expect things like coffee shops to bounce back pretty quickly. I do wonder about movie theaters. Especially if some studios end up sending some A-list movies straight to on demand, as was the rumor with the next Wonder Woman movie. Will people go back to the theater, or will they just get used to watching everything at home, a trend that was already in progress.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            And what would this change do to Disney, Comcast and AT&T’s earnings?

          • BBA says:

            Expect the trend towards fancy “dine-in” theaters like Alamo Drafthouse with full kitchens and bars to accelerate rapidly. Even my local Regal has pulled out its traditional theater seats and installed recliners.

          • ryubyss says:

            I stopped going out to movies last year. too many people using mobile device and (secondarily) talking. I decided to make an exception for the limited rerelease of Come and See. the theatre closed before I could see it. (I decided to flatten the curve and stay in until Tuesday.)

            a week ago. feels like a month ago.

          • broblawsky says:

            I like going to movie theaters, but I can’t remember the last time I paid more than $6 for a ticket.

        • The main change for us may be finally getting around to eating things in our yard that were supposed to be edible.

          Many year ago I planted cardoons, the ancestor of the artichoke, because they sometimes show up in medieval cookbooks and cannot be found in the local grocery stores. I tried one or two period recipes, didn’t find anything we really liked. But they grew and spread.

          Now we are self-quarantining, so not free to go to the grocery store, and we want vegetables. So I have been experimenting with cardoon recipes, medieval and modern. I figure that if I find one we actually like, that takes care of vegetables for the next couple of weeks — they are big plants, and you eat the stalk.

          Meanwhile my daughter has been experimenting with nasturtiums, of which we have a lot, and mallow, a common weed, and …

          • Buttle says:

            Nasturtiums are tasty, in a spicy way, we’ve eaten them for years. Can’t speak for cardoons. I do enjoy dandelions and purslane that spring up as weeds.

          • Rebecca Friedman says:

            We have no purslane, sadly; I enjoy it too, but I don’t know whether it grows in the Bay Area. I’m familiar with it from Indiana.

            Dandelions I’ve never managed something good with, and we don’t have enough to do much right now, but I have been marking where they are in case we want to experiment in the future.

            Nasturtiums are too spicy for me, but if you cook them – at least by the recipe I have, which is essentially boiling in little enough water that it all cooks off – they become much milder and not bad. Haven’t tried the nasturtium dolmeh yet.

            We have lots of woodsorrel, which works as substitute for lemon juice (though we also have a lemon tree), and you can make a decent improvised Gormeh Sabzi out of it. That’s the one I’m happiest with to date.

            Cardoons aren’t bad.

          • marshwiggle says:

            My parents had us eating dandelions when I was a kid. The most important secret is to eat new leaves. Old ones are tougher and bitter. I mean, you can still eat them and all, but they have less vitamins and don’t taste as good.

            The next important secret is to use some sort of dressing. Vinegar based dressing with bacon was my parent’s preference, but in a pinch, ranch dressing works great. I’ve even been known to eat dandelions in a tortilla with ranch dressing.

            Dandelions are everywhere this time of year, and if you can find ones that haven’t been sprayed with pesticide and herbicide, they can be a real part of a balanced quarantine food strategy. Also, if you can get your kids picking them, it exposes the kids to something new while reducing stir-craziness.

          • Silverlock says:

            I just love the fact that marshwiggle replied to a post mentioning the mallow plant. Now, if someone brings up chocolate and, say, Paul Graham, we can have s’more conversation.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Keep an eye out for garlic mustard. It’s an edible invasive weed found throughout the US, so you’ll be doing the country a favor by harvesting it, and it should be popping up just around now in most areas. Grill the young stalks like asparagus.

          • Buttle says:

            @marshwiggle

            Dandelions are everywhere this time of year,

            Depends very much on where you are, we’re just seeing crocus appear now.

            @Rebecca Friedman

            Woodsorrel is called oxalis (my grandmother called it sourgrass), no coincidence that it’s loaded with oxalic acid. Ok occasionally but I avoid eating anything more than small quantities.

          • sami says:

            Nettles are delicious; they have a milder flavor than a lot of foraged herbs and I can best describe their smell as extremely “green”. Eat them young, before they flower and develop cystoliths in the leaves which give them a gritty texture. Obviously they do sting when raw so use gloves to pick them, and add them to a soup or blanch them before eating. Shepherd’s purse grows most places too and is in the mustard family so it has a little zing to it. You can cook it or eat it raw in salad.

    • Atlas says:

      My guess is that the coronavirus itself, whatever you think of how the administration has handled it, is less potentially damaging to Trump’s public standing and electoral chances than the possibility of an economic downturn before the election is.

      • EchoChaos says:

        the possibility of an economic downturn before the election is.

        At this point the certainty of a downturn. The only question is when the recovery starts and how vigorous it is.

        • broblawsky says:

          Even if we go full UBI for the duration of the crisis, a V-shaped recovery will not happen.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Even if we go full UBI for the duration of the crisis, a V-shaped recovery will not happen.

            Almost certainly true. We’re not going to be out of this by November. But if we’re clearly on a recovery trajectory, the populace probably won’t blame Trump.

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s really not clear to me how much blame/credit will stick to Trump. Where would we look for similar cases, to make up a base rate? Maybe elections in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc., after SARS? Or maybe elections after the 1918 pandemic flu? What else?

          • salvorhardin says:

            We’d need similar cases where there is a very clear narrative of how the incumbents failed and lied. I’m sure Biden’s campaign people are already preparing a whole slew of ads featuring Trump saying variants of “this will all go away soon, don’t worry” in February, and hammering on the failure of testing rampup in the US vs the success elsewhere. Whether those are fair or not, or whether they’re effective or not, they’re likely to be a major feature of the election season narrative.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @salvorhardin

            I’ve said before that this is the coronavirus election now, and I hold to that. But I think that Biden is actually not in a great place to fight Trump on it because he actively opposed travel restrictions even when European countries were putting them in place.

            And attacking Trump for doing something that 55% of Americans think he’s doing right is not likely to be a big winner.

            Note that I disagree with none of your comment and Biden will absolutely try to attack here.

  20. baconbits9 says:

    Short term Markets thoughts and discussion- it feels like months since this started, and its been less than 1 month since equity markets started to melt down.

    Disclaimer I am not a financial adviser, I am taking risks by taking these positions, I am posting this because I think people are taking way more risks than they know of in their current portfolios.

    1: There are no risk free, or even low risk, plays in the market. There are to many similarities between the US now and Japan in the early 90s (demographics, government debt, interest rates) for anyone to feel sure that the equity markets are going to come back and give 6-7% annual returns over the next few decades, and that is without the effects of the Coronavirus.

    2. Everyone cannot insure against systemic risks, only a small minority can, and Corona is a systemic risk to the system. That doesn’t automatically mean collapse and Mad Max, but it might well mean that the things which have held value in the past will not in the future. Market volatility over the past month is saying that this is the most uncertain time in your lifetime, to claim that stocks will come back for sure is to claim you know better than the markets.

    3. This is a really bad time to be generation X. 40-60 year olds have really tough investment decisions ahead of them. Any safe bond holdings are incredibly low yield, and the best case scenario here is masses more government debt which will be paid off by the highest earning demographic which is this one. How you (we) will have to pay is unsure, but some combination of lower growth, higher inflation, higher taxes and reduced benefits (specifically social security come our retirement) is as close to a guarantee as anything is right now.

    How and why I am positioning myself.

    The only obvious thing is keeping our 401k contributions with a 50% match.

    Short term outlook

    Stability is relative, but the last two days have been stable compared to the chaos of the previous month. If stability is back in the short term we should see bond yields fall as all short term CB rates are near zero, and they are unlikely to be raised quickly, and inflation is unlikely in the very near term at least. That is potentially a 5%+ return over the next 4-6 weeks as yields find their settling places, which is a great return over that length period, but also is very risky. Bond yields spiked several times during the crisis period (if it is passed) due to mass liquidations even as CBs were intervening, and they can and likely will do so if volatility starts increasing again. There is also crashing production and mass easing by CBs, which raises the specter of inflation. Expected inflation has cratered so that probability is not likely imminent, but holding 4%) intra day move. In any other environment this would be a very high volatility day. Oil is still very volatile, as are bond yields.

    My short term positions:

    My trading account is currently split 40% in long term treasuries to hold for a couple of weeks at the most while I watch volatility. It is 40% in an options straddle on gold in case this volatility isn’t done shaking itself out, and is 20% cash.

    Our 401k is all in intermediate to long dated treasuries. I am thinking of splitting it into 2/3rds treasuries and 1/3rd TIPS. Unfortunately we don’t have any funds that allow us exposure to gold, which I would prefer to rotate into.

    Gold: Still holding lots of gold (for most people’s tastes, not enough for mine).

    Longer term outlook

    By longer term I really mean 2+ months out, not multiple years out, but slightly longer short term doesn’t have the same ring to it. This is the most intense market of my lifetime, and possibly in US history, and mental flexibility is going to be highly valued, as long as it doesn’t mean chasing the previous 2 days results. My plan is still to rotate my trading account from its positions to being long gold (through the GLD etf). I expect gold to rip at some point, the question is off what low and how soon. Touching all time highs (almost $2,000/oz) is possible in 2020 and flirting with $3,000 in ’21 possible as well, and there are gold bugs out there who would laugh at such conservative predictions.

    • Eric Rall says:

      Disclaimer I am not a financial adviser, I am taking risks by taking these positions, I am posting this because I think people are taking way more risks than they know of in their current portfolios.

      Thank you for calling this out. I want to highlight one often-overlooked hazard of long term bonds, especially Treasuries: their yields right now are extremely low by historical standards.

      Most of the investment gains in long-term bonds for the past few decades have come from interest rates steadily dropping (from 15% in the early 80s to about 1.7% today): bonds have their yields (relative to face value) set when they’re issued, and when market interest rates go down, the bonds trade at a premium to their face value because the stream of interest payments is worth more relative to buying a new bond at face value. The problem with this is that yields don’t have a lot of room to continue to drop. At current yields of 1.7%, newly-issued 30-year treasury bonds have a ceiling of about a 50% gain if long-term nominal interest rates drop to zero tomorrow (they might, although they’ve spiked significantly over the past couple weeks) and the market expects them to stay there forever (I don’t think this is terribly likely).

      On the other hand, if nominal long-term market interest rates go up to 2000-2008 levels (around 5%), with the same unrealistic assumption that the drop happens instantly the day after the bond you bought was issued and the market prices bonds with the assumption that the new interest rates will stay there forever, that translates to a price drop of about 65%. If the yields go all the way up to their early-80s peak (which is at least as unrealistic as them going down to zero), then you lose 98% of the net present value of your investment.

      Meanwhile, the interest payments are giving you very little return, not enough after taxes to cover inflation. This is even worse in most scenarios where nominal interest rates go up, since inflation is one of the big factors that drive up nominal interest rates. The bottom line is that by investing in long-term treasuries, you’re betting on nominal interest rates continuing to down to close to the 0% floor, not staying level or going up. You’re betting that inflation will stay low and that the Fed won’t have to drive an increase in real interest rates to keep inflation under control. In particular, you’re betting that either the financial sector will keep buying bonds to cover the very large and growing deficit at very low interest rates or that the federal government will get the deficit under control.

      30-year treasuries are pretty close to maximally exposed to interest rate risk, due to their long time to maturity (perpetuities are the most exposed, but the US Treasury doesn’t issue those), and due to their status as “risk free” investments (i.e. their default risk is very low, and if they do default, then it doesn’t matter because the process of the federal government going bankrupt would tank just about every other investment vehicle). Shorter-term bonds are less exposed to interest rate risk (also less exposed to potential gains if interest rates drop) because they come mature sooner. And corporate bonds are less exposed because they pay a premium over treasury yields to compensate for default risk, due to regulatory factors (reserve requirements incentivize many financial institutions to favor treasuries and AAA-rated agency bonds over other bonds), and due to psychological factors for individual investors (risk aversion and an oversimplified understanding of treasuries being “risk-free” investments).

      I am thinking of splitting it into 2/3rds treasuries and 1/3rd TIPS.

      TIPS would mitigate interest rate risk quite a bit. They’re still exposed to the risk of real interest rates going up, but not to the risk of inflation driving up nominal interest rates.

      • Ouroborobot says:

        As a non-trader guy with just a 401k, is it worth it at this point to shift my fund allocation?

        I also have a pretty large chunk of cash in the bank due to my salary skyrocketing in the last two years. In the current environment, is there anything simple someone like me can do with some of it to safely hedge against inflation?

        • baconbits9 says:

          Your best option for hedging against inflation is to buy gold. It has historically preformed very well in inflationary times and has a weak correlation with equity markets.

          Answering the 401k question is difficult. If you have a traditional 60/40 split in your 401k you had basically the worst 10 days of returns in US history for that split (and if you were 100% equities you had the worst stretch in history I think). Switching after such a bad performance is generally a way to end up with worse long term performance, but these are not general times. It also depends on what your options are for the 401k, ours doesn’t have the type of funds I would want to be in long term, which sucks but can’t be helped.

          • FLWAB says:

            Here’s a question coming from a place of near ignorance: gold is supposed to do well when stocks do badly, right? Or at least, they aren’t connected. Yet why has gold fallen in price so sharply around the same time the stock market tanked?

            Also, are precious metals in general a good hedge against inflation, or just gold?

          • Ouroborobot says:

            I’m just over 90% stocks, down 27% YTD.

            My primary concern with holding so much cash in that it could lose value rapidly in the face of repeated rounds of helicopter money.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Here’s a question coming from a place of near ignorance: gold is supposed to do well when stocks do badly, right? Or at least, they aren’t connected. Yet why has gold fallen in price so sharply around the same time the stock market tanked?

            If two things are uncorrelated then they will act the same way as each other sometimes, if Gold did the opposite of Stocks every time then they would be perfectly correlated, not uncorrelated.

            To answer the actual question: This stage of a crash is a deleveraging stage. Anyone who had borrowed in any way to go long stocks had found themselves without collateral and forced to raise it. This means selling pretty much anything else you own (also known as a margin call) in your accounts to cover those losses, which basically floods every market with sellers with few buyers present so prices drop across the board.

            Of note is that Gold didn’t sell off with equities, the S&P peaked on Feb 20th (iirc, but around then) and gold was at a 7 year high on March 10th. Then gold dropped (well actually it ran up 5-6%, then dropped, then ran back up to that high and then dropped). Also while Gold closed down today about $200 an ounce from its high in March, it is only down ~12% since then, while the S&P is down 32% from its late February peak.

          • FLWAB says:

            @baconbits9

            Thanks! That makes a lot of sense. Do you think gold is a better investment than silver or platinum?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Silver and Platinum tend to follow their industrial uses more closely, so in a recession/depression they often stay depressed longer than gold (at least in recent recessions). I own a small amount of silver, but it is a lot more volatile and requires much better timing. Its trough to peak out performed gold (under $10 an ounce to over $48 an ounce) around the GFC, but it is also back at ~$12.50 an ounce today.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I should also reiterate that while we don’t own any equities right now I still consider us well diversified. We own a rental property, bonds, gold and have a decent cash cushion with no debt out side of our mortgage and the mortgage on the rental property. I would be less aggressive if I didn’t have the rental property which we were fortunate enough to buy in 2010 and it should reasonably mirror the equity markets in value (while being a lot less liquid but also continuing to provide us with a cash stream).

        • Eric Rall says:

          As a non-trader guy with just a 401k, is it worth it at this point to shift my fund allocation?

          Maybe? It depends what your current fund allocation is. But in general, the case is probably stronger for rebalancing your funds to your target asset allocation than for changing your targets. An example of rebalancing if you had 60% stocks and 40% bonds, but after the last few weeks of stocks falling a lot more than bonds you now have more like a 50/50 split in your 401k, then you move 10% of your portfolio out of your bond fund and into your stock fund. You should be doing this anyway on a semi-regular basis (annually or quarterly are the most common recommendations, and it seems like it doesn’t matter much as long as you’re consistent about it), and there are those who argue that you should do a special one-off rebalancing after any particularly large movement in the market that badly unbalances your portfolio relative to your targets.

          In the current environment, is there anything simple someone like me can do with some of it to safely hedge against inflation?

          “Safely” and “hedge against inflation” are conflicting goals. Over a timespan of decades, stocks have historically given the best inflation-adjusted returns, but you need to accept the near-certainty that at some point (such as the past few weeks, or 2008, or 2000-2001), the market’s going to crash and you’re going to lose 20-40% of your portfolio’s value and may take years for it to recover. There are also examples in other countries (most prominently Japan in 1992) of crashes that take multiple decades to recover.

          The standard solution is diversification between asset classes. Stocks give you a lot of upside potential and the best long-term average returns, while bonds smooth out the volatility of stocks and reduce your risk exposure. International stock funds diversify you against the risk of a Japan-like scenario where there’s a lost decade or two in one country’s stock market but not the worldwide market, but that comes at the cost of exposing you to exchange rate risks and regime risks.

          Some people (including baconbits9) also recommend gold as a hedge against crashes, since people tend to panic-buy gold when stock and bond markets crash. I don’t like gold as an investment because gold’s price is mostly driven speculative betting, not by inherent economic value. The finance jargon for this is “The Greater Fool Theory”: buying an investment instrument that you think is overpriced because you expect someone else to be even more foolish than you’re being right now and buy it from you at a higher price. Greater-fool investments in gold have paid off big a few times in the past, but I don’t feel comfortable betting on the foolishness to continue.

          My own investments are currently about 90% stocks (mostly in broad-based US index funds) and 10% in a short-term investment-grade corporate bond fund. That’s a fairly aggressive allocation, but I’m investing for the long term, have a very good job that lets me continue investing when the stock market is on sale, and I’m comfortable riding out bear markets.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I don’t like gold as an investment because gold’s price is mostly driven speculative betting, not by inherent economic value. The finance jargon for this is “The Greater Fool Theory”: buying an investment instrument that you think is overpriced because you expect someone else to be even more foolish than you’re being right now and buy it from you at a higher price. Greater-fool investments in gold have paid off big a few times in the past, but I don’t feel comfortable betting on the foolishness to continue.

            Warren Buffet(t) has described gold as “We pay men to dig it out of the ground so it can be moved to a cleaner hole in the ground that we pay other men to guard with guns. Anyone watching from Mars would be baffled.”
            If you hedge with gold, you have to time the market for it rather than letting asset types sit. IMO.

          • baconbits9 says:

            If you hedge with gold, you have to time the market for it rather than letting asset types sit. IMO.

            Timing a gold market has been fairly easy if you buy during a crisis. Any purchase made before November 2009 has been up in price for the entire duration through today. There were periods where the gains were very poor, and buying in late October 2009 and holding until today would only put you up 50% over 11 years with no dividends even, which isn’t great, but it hasn’t been necessary to time your sales for the last 4 major crises in the US unless you bought well after the height of the crisis.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I would also add that the above is even more true in most other currencies. If you bought gold with Euros any time before 2020 and held you are up at least a nominal amount, and this is also true of the Yen and almost true of the pound with a few blips in 2019 slightly higher than today’s close price.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            That and you are making a continuing bet on gold mining not having any technical advances of significance. If sea-floor copper mining takes off, that would entail a pretty big side production of gold…

    • baconbits9 says:

      EDIT: I sold my 40% position in bonds today in the trading account. End of day action has me worried about the violent swings reemerging over the weekend.

  21. WarOnReasons says:

    I must be missing something but it seems that the cheapest and most effective strategy to deal with the current epidemics is to maximally boost production of surgical masks and encourage people to wear them. Based on the available measurements wearing masks should reduce Ro from ~2-3 to significantly below 1 even without lockdowns (as confirmed by South Korea). Can someone explain to me what am I missing and why it’s not done outside of East Asian countries?

    • EchoChaos says:

      Can someone explain to me what am I missing and why it’s not done outside of East Asian countries?

      Culture and production capability. We simply don’t have the production level to get enough masks for 300 million Americans and that many or more Europeans even to wear a mask a day for a month.

      And forcing a new cultural aspect is difficult at best.

      • WarOnReasons says:

        We simply don’t have the production level to get enough masks for 300 million Americans

        Are you sure the production cannot be organized very quickly? The ordinary production costs are just a few cents per mask, so even if organizing new production lines would raise the price by one or two orders of magnitude this would still be cheap relative to the total costs of the crisis. Of course, I’m not an expert on this, so please tell me if you know more on this topic.

        And forcing a new cultural aspect is difficult at best.

        Sure. But given that the possible alternative is millions of people dead and/or economic chaos, I would expect people to be at least somewhat open to persuasion on this issue.

        • EchoChaos says:

          Are you sure the production cannot be organized very quickly?

          I honestly don’t know. I am no expert on production lines.

          However, even if you could, adding new production lines takes a long time to return an investment. Any investor would want a guaranteed return. How much longer is there going to be demand for ~300 million masks per day?

        • Matt M says:

          The simple fact is that the west would rather see millions die than violate the norms of the standing bureaucracy.

          There is plenty of production available, but they can’t get “properly certified.”

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Even “uncertified masks” would have a great market, and reduce the demand for “certified masks.”

            Someone pointed out that when MERS (or was it SARS?) suddenly went away and the market disappeared, a mask producer who had ramped up production nearly went bankrupt. If the government agrees to purchase them for N months from now, they can get to work, but the government probably doesn’t want to guarantee to purchase masks with no certification whatsoever.

          • Matt M says:

            Hey, I made my “If you think you can help with this, you have a moral requirement to do so, government regulations be damned,” pitch a few days ago.

            Most people here told me that was stupid.

            People are terrified of doing anything the state has not given them permission to do. And the state does not seem that it will be granting permission for additional mask production any time soon.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Is the government stopping people from producing uncertified masks?

          • albatross11 says:

            Is there any reason to think a P100 mask (not medically certified, but good for keeping small particles out of your lungs all the same) would be ineffective here? My impression is that it’s the same basic thing, and plenty of folks tearing out rotten drywall use those with no particular problems. I mean, if the person checking you in was wearing one of these respirators instead of an N95 mask, would anyone actually be less safe? I’m sure there’s some bureaucratic box that would fail to be checked, but would that translate into an actual added risk somewhere?

          • Matt M says:

            This Twitter thread is from last night. It doesn’t seem like anything has been streamlined for them.

          • albatross11 says:

            Easy solution: The feds commit to stockpile at least N million N95 masks after the pandemic has subsided, where N is enough to cover healthcare workers’ needs for 2-3 months in a pandemic. This ensures a future supply even after the crisis is over. (Though I have no idea what the government budget will look like a year or two from now….)

          • Garrett says:

            @Matt M:

            Can you think of a good way to punish China for taking such actions as well as 3M for sending their manufacturing facilities overseas?

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I think you could create a cultural expectation to wear masks — if people had them available.

      • AlesZiegler says:

        Cotton masks that are not surgical level but still useful for protecting people around you can be produced by anyone with a sewing machine. I got mine from an acquitance.

        • Viliam says:

          Today my wife bought a whole bag of home-made masks. So that we do not have to wash them after every use, only throw them all in the washing machine once in a week or so. (The washing machine will probably do much better job than us washing them by hands.)

          How it all happened: First, someone created a local Facebook group for our neighborhood. This actually happened a few months before coronavirus, for unrelated reasons. Second, someone asked “is anyone making masks?” in the group, someone else posted an instruction video, and someone else said “ok, I will make them”. Then people simply put orders by private messages, pay online, and are told when to come for the masks.

          I assume that almost every neighborhood has at least one person capable of sewing and wanting to make money. So, hypothetically, the problem with lack of masks should be solvable overnight. Why do we even hear the complaints? Learned helplessness of civilized people? Fear of selling on black market?

          Do we Eastern Europeans perhaps have the advantage that we do not fear selling to our neighbors on black market, and do not expect our government to actually take good care of us? So when the need for masks arises, we go “ok, here is the mask I made, gimme money”. Small capitalists are the best capitalists!

          But everyone probably already has a scarf at home, so the real reason people don’t cover their faces is because they… don’t feel the need to do so.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Following up on one of her Facebook groups, my wife went out and bought elastic so she could make masks. She said local groups would want them, and I said “make sure they want them.”

            She checked, after buying the elastic but before beginning sewing. All our local hospitals report they have all the masks they need and their supply lines are full.

            It seems that in parts of the country that have not yet been slammed, the hospitals took the chance to talk with their suppliers and lock in purchases.

            I’m a little sad because I was kind of looking forward to wearing a mask.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Epistemic status: I don’t know crap about biology but I have read something on the internet about masks.

      You need N95 respiratory masks, not surgical masks. And those are good for preventing sick people from spreading the illness, not for keeping you from getting the illness. If you are sick and sneeze, the cough droplets are big enough to be stopped by the mask over your mouth. But as an unblocked droplet travels further it shrinks small enough to get through the mask of someone across the room. And regardless of size, if an unblocked cough droplets lands on a doorknob, and somebody else touches it and then touches their face…

      So you need enough masks for everyone in the country to wear one every day, even when they’re feeling just fine because they caught the illness 6 days ago and haven’t started showing symptoms yet.

      Based on this, I don’t think the “masks for everyone” idea is the slam dunk you think it is.

      • EchoChaos says:

        You need N95 respiratory masks, not surgical masks.

        Need is too strong. Anything that keeps aerosol coughs from putting as much infectious matter out will necessarily reduce spread somewhat.

        Surgical masks will do a decent job of preventing coughed up mucus/saliva from getting on surfaces, which is a major method of spread.

      • albatross11 says:

        From this diagram of this post, the best guess is that the airborne particles carrying virus are probably above 5 microns. (Anyone who knows more: please correct me on this!). Basically, when you cough or sneeze, you spray out a cloud of droplets of varying size. The big droplets land on surfaces quickly, the small ones can stay airborne for quite awhile. Breathing in droplets, having them land in your eyes/mouth, or getting them on your hands and then touching your mouth/nose/eyes are basically how you catch COVID-19, based on what’s known now. (And this is consistent with SARS and other coronaviruses. Though SARS also managed to spread via horribly screwed-up plumbing in one Chinese apartment complex–I think some people redid their plumbing so there was no vent pipe and there were no traps. Some people have diarrhea with this bug, and I guess it’s infectious, but probably not much risk to most people in first-world conditions. (But Plumber should be damned careful!)

        From the Wikipedia page on N95 masks, this is a range of size for which N95 and P100 particulate masks do well at removing. Any mask (like the normal surgical masks) will probably keep the big droplets off your face and will keep you from spreading many big droplets if you cough/sneeze. But an N-95 / P-100 filter will massively decrease the number of small droplets that make it from the air into your lungs. That may not save the day if you’re immersed in air full of those particles 24/7, but for occasional exposure I think that’s a big win.

        My amateur take on this is that everyone in public ought to be wearing at least a surgical mask, especially if there’s any chance they might cough/sneeze in public. And wearing an N-95 or P-100 mask seems like a very good idea if you’re going out into places where you might walk through a cloud of airborne particles containing the virus.

        • LesHapablap says:

          What about a ski mask/balaclava? or an old cut up t-shirt?

          • albatross11 says:

            I suspect it helps a bit with big droplets but doesn’t do much for small ones, but I don’t have good data here.

          • noyann says:

            The smaller the pores of the fabric the better.

            Tinker ideas:

            The stuff teabags are made of.
            The material of antiallergenic (anti-dust mite) bed covers.

            Other fabrics: several layers should be better.

            Soaking the homemade masks in soap suds (and drying them before wearing) could create a surface where a virus in a droplet should be quickly broken up. Wash and re-soak after every use.

            Afaik, NOTHING OF THIS HAS BEEN TESTED, but as a desparate measure if nothing else is available…

      • sharper13 says:

        You need N95 respiratory masks, not surgical masks.

        This is in inaccurate. Understandable, as certain authorities were outright lying about it in a misguided attempt to protect the supply of masks, but still inaccurate.

        Protection from Coronavirus should at least be in the same ballpark as the flu:

        In this pragmatic, cluster randomized clinical trial involving 2862 health care personnel, there was no significant difference in the incidence of laboratory-confirmed influenza among health care personnel with the use of N95 respirators (8.2%) vs medical masks (7.2%).

    • salvorhardin says:

      Why does South Korea confirm that wearing masks, *in and of itself*, reduces R0 to <1? They did a whole bunch of other things besides mask-wearing at the same time, and I very much doubt anyone ran a controlled experiment where mask-wearing was the only intervention. Not to say that it's unhelpful– it may well be somewhat helpful– but confounders are confounding.

  22. Faza (TCM) says:

    Content note: corona. Feel free to skip.

    It’s the small bright lights that see us through, I suppose.

    Today, the media announced our sixth coronavirus fatality, what’s more: one aged only 27.

    Clicking through to the story, I found out that the immediate cause of death was sepsis as a result of a post-delivery infection of her reproductive organs. She was also found to have the coronavirus that she caught from her visiting mother a few days earlier.

    Someone from the medical staff was quoted as saying that “this wouldn’t have happened if not for the coronavirus” and I’m left scratching my head. How does that work?

    Thankfully, the Ministry of Health has announced that this death will not be recorded as a coronavirus death, because it wasn’t caused by the coronavirus!

    Phew! Sanity has prevailed.

    • gph says:

      >Someone from the medical staff was quoted as saying that “this wouldn’t have happened if not for the coronavirus” and I’m left scratching my head. How does that work?

      Probably they are unconsciously trying to protect themselves in the “I don’t want this to be our fault so lets blame the current villain” way. Losing a new mother to a post-delivery infection.. seems like without coronavirus around that would land largely on the medical staff and the general cleanliness of the facilities, whether that’s actually fair or not. Understandable for the medical staff to want to deflect blame, and not necessarily in a sociopathic cover my ass manner, but more as an unconscious emotional reasoning

  23. AG says:

    I’m watching the anime Beastars on Netflix. It’s pretty good.

    So the film Zootopia softballed its own premise hard, reducing things to a cringey metaphor about racism. Beastars, instead, bluntly examines the logistics and ethics that emerge from a case where human-level-intelligent carnivores and herbivores try to peacefully coexist in an integrated fashion, in a rather hard sci-fi way. (“Hard fantasy” just doesn’t convey the same bent, does it?)

    In that Beastars extrapolates from its premise so much, some of the social situations are delightfully alien, and there’s not as obvious a metaphor to human behavior, but the emotions the characters have towards these situations remains impressively relatable. If I had to describe the show’s message as applicable to humans, I would say it’s something like “Even if evo-psych was strongly and viscerally true, we can and should still strive towards a society where we transcend those instincts, even if that means accommodating and planning for a certain level of people reverting to their innate impulses.”

    A more humorous take on the show, though, would be “Evo-psych? More like Evo-psychosexual, amirite?” The tensions around carnivores’ urge to eat meat is still, indeed, overtly lensed through the hapless horniness of adolescence.

    Would recommend.

    (Also looking forward to the upcoming new season of the “popularity politics is suffering” anime, Oregairu.)

    • Machine Interface says:

      I’ve been reading it in manga form. First time I’ve actually started a new series in years. The world building is indeed really great, the author never forgets to remind us that this is a universe where infrastructures have to accomodate for a range of sizes going from “mouse” to “elephant”, and I also like the exploration of prejudice as complex, multi-level thing – between herbivores and carnivores, between different species, and even between different breeds of the same species!

      And this is indeed done in a way that cannot be easily calqued on human categories – this universe has its own logic and internal consistency and is not a thinly veiled metaphor for whatever form of human-specific prejudice. This series was a very good surprise and I would recommend it too.

  24. proyas says:

    Several months ago, there was a blog entry about luminaries who dismissed the threat of hostile AIs and why they were all wrong. Can someone please give me the link?

  25. Plumber says:

    All of California (about 40 million people) is now ordered to “shelter in place” except for “essential workers”.

    I wonder if the across the street housing construction will stop now or if San Francisco will still deem that “essential”?

    • Randy M says:

      That’s as of yesterday :/
      I didn’t hear about until coming into work today, finding out the particulars just now.

      Not be That Guy, but is there any word on how this is going to be enforced? If I left the state tonight, would I be stopped on the road? My family is still stuck out of state, and I’d prefer to shelter with them if possible.

    • acymetric says:

      Anyone have thoughts on how long before this happens in other states?

      I need to return something to Best Buy but was hoping to wait until Tuesday when I get something else delivered.

    • Loriot says:

      I was wondering that myself, since the construction projects in my neighborhood are ongoing. It turns out that housing construction is exempt (as is construction of medical facilities and public works). Other construction is banned.

  26. Well... says:

    Sorry if this has been asked recently (if so please link me) but now that we’ve had a taste of what the response to a modern global pandemic looks like, what are some works of fiction that predicted it most accurately?

    • johan_larson says:

      I’m not sure we’ve had anything dealing with a disease as mild as this one. In the movie “Contagion”, for instance, catching the disease is pretty much a death sentence.

      • EchoChaos says:

        I think that’s the biggest surprise to everyone. Most expected the global pandemic that causes this level of disruption to have a death rate of 10+%, not 1-5%.

        • Well... says:

          Makes you wonder what it would look like if COVID-19 was something much worse.

          • fibio says:

            Weirdly, it would probably be a better response. If the death rate was 20%+ then the government would just station soldiers on street corners and threaten to shoot everyone who leaves their homes. The whole thing would then burn out in under a month. The combination of low death rate, long period of transmission and the general public confusion as to the level of response has caused most of the disruption.

          • gudamor says:

            Well, thinking of the Straight Lines post, maybe if it been observably worse in fatalities, stricter measures would have been taken, and sooner? I’m thinking specifically of the quarantine in Wuhan occurring *after* travel began for the Lunar New Year.

          • Well... says:

            If the death rate was 20%+ then the government would just station soldiers on street corners and threaten to shoot everyone who leaves their homes. The whole thing would then burn out in under a month.

            I don’t think so. First of all, they’d run out of soldiers pretty fast. Second, that sounds WAY more chaotic than just asking nicely for people to stay home, which they seem to mostly have done. Just the appearance of soldiers on some street corners in this country is tantamount to inviting civil war.

          • Matt M says:

            Just the appearance of soldiers on some street corners in this country is tantamount to inviting civil war.

            I have a funny feeling we’re about to put your theory to test.

            I expect to see soldiers on street corners in every state within the next week, and no meaningful civil unrest.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            This has all been another example of Common Knowledge.

            Once it became Common Knowledge that coronavirus was bad, people began staying home, and employers began accepting excuses to stay home, and insurers made it easy to work with people who wanted to do telemedicine.

            If this thing had a death rate of 20%, the Common Knowledge would be that you will stay in your house or you will get shot. And since it would be Common Knowledge, everyone would obey, and the army wouldn’t need to shoot anybody.

            (Okay, there would probably be one idiot who needs to be made an example of, because there’s always one idiot.)

          • johan_larson says:

            The thing I’d be really worried about if the disease were more dangerous is food. Right now we still have grocery stores open, and the supply chains backing them are still in operation. But if it was bad enough that we couldn’t let people into grocery stores or enough people stayed home that food couldn’t be harvested/processed/delivered, then we’d be in real trouble.

            Water and electrical power are also issues, but those systems are much more robust and hands-off.

          • winston says:

            would the 20+not be incentive enough to stay home?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I agree with johan_larson. At 20%+, in addition to those soldiers shooting people for leaving their homes, they’re also going to be threatening to shoot food supply chain workers too scared to leave their homes.

          • John Schilling says:

            I expect to see soldiers on street corners in every state within the next week, and no meaningful civil unrest.

            I’m going to predict no. Even if the current round of measures does nothing, or is perceived as doing nothing, a week is maybe a factor of four increase in cases or corpses, and we’re nowhere near 25% of the way towards anyone wanting soldiers in the street.

            Also, for what purpose? California’s lockdown is working, at least insofar as keeping people off the streets. That’s not going to change in a week. There’d be almost nobody to shoot. The people you hypothetically could shoot would be mostly harmless, endangering only their own lives and those of their like-minded friends and family, and a fair fraction of them would be telegenic innocents e.g. black kids going out to buy food for their 90-year-old grandmothers (legal and will remain so) but panicking and running at the sight of uniformed men with guns.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think the worst case disease isn’t instantly fatal, it’s slowly fatal. If HIV transmitted like the flu, the world population would probably be below a billion today. (The initial disease was like the flu, then you got better, and then your immune system and the virus had an arms race that lasted a few years, during which they were still contagious. Most of the time, the virus eventually evolved around your immune response and then it trashed your immune system and killed you–years after the initial spread of the disease.)

          • DinoNerd says:

            I think the worst case disease isn’t instantly fatal, it’s slowly fatal.

            The initial disease [HIV] was like the flu, then you got better, and then your immune system and the virus had an arms race that lasted a few years

            I keep being reminded of a fictional series, where the initial disaease was flu-like, and spread like flu. A few people died of it, but most of those who had it and appeared recovered went on to a secondary stage, where they turned into zombies (mindless hyper-aggressive monsters, attracted to noise, light, and attacking anything that moved). In that series there turned out to be a third stage, where the immune system finally threw off the invader, leaving a mentally retarded human bright enough to understand some speech and follow simple orders, and in some cases at least tractable and obedient.

            If you want to give yourself nightmares, imagine that CV-19 has a second phase, after the acute phase, that’s much more lethal. (No reason it would, and I know of no similar coronavirus; I just read too much disaster fiction.)

    • Atlas says:

      It sure feels a lot like World War Z so far. Interview with Max Brooks in Vox on the coronavirus.

  27. johan_larson says:

    Let’s map the nerdoshere, and start the search at “Star Wars fans”. What groups are one, two, or three steps more or less nerdy than Star Wars fans?

    • Spookykou says:

      More-each step requires that you also do one of the previous step to count.
      One: People who read fantasy and sci-fi books
      Two: People who play table top games
      Three: people who LARP/HEMA

      I basically see all these things as being connected to ‘nerd culture’, but with increasingly lower social acceptability, but I am willing to accept some odd confluence of athleticism and interest in swords that produces the occasional non-nerd in HEMA or similar.

      Contrasted with, being really into ball bearings and knowing a ton of stuff about ball bearings, which while also not very socially acceptable, doesn’t have the same connection to the word blob for nerd that I hold in my head, so they would be ball bearing geeks I guess.

      • Elementaldex says:

        As a fencer who mostly really does not like the HEMA people (they talk shit about fencers and constantly try to steal our members) I think you are about three years behind on HEMA culture as a whole. Its developed into a pretty solidly athletic endeavor over the last few years, they have a schism of sorts along the nerd/athlete line but it looks like the athletes are winning.

        • gbdub says:

          HEMA seems to consist of nerdy athletes. They take the athletic part seriously, and are not LARPing, but they are also nerding the hell out about Renaissance fencing manuals so… definite nerds. But on a different axis. There seems to be a group of nerds attracted to obscure sports (where they take the sport part quite seriously).

          I’m in a curling club and that describes a big chunk of the American membership.

    • fibio says:

      Step 1: Star Wars EU fans (i.e. any media that isn’t a movie).
      Step 2: Star Wars Fanfic fans.
      Step 3: Star Wars Fanfic writers.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Mapping the nerdosphere? Already been done.

      (Star Wars fans probably fit in the vicinity of “Trekkies” on that graph.)

      • johan_larson says:

        Who is less nerdy than the science fiction/fantasy writers, but still a nerd?

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Mathematicians.

          • johan_larson says:

            Do you have to be nerd to be a mathematician? I’ve known software developers who aren’t nerdy, though many are.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            You don’t have to be anything to be anything else… but it helps.

            #yogiberra

          • albatross11 says:

            Nerdy interests are pretty distinct from being a mathematician–I don’t know what fraction of mathematicians love comic books or SFF or go to cons in costume, but probably it’s a small fraction. OTOH, being a lot smarter than most people in your grade school class, so that you’re kinda weird and bored in all your classes and have unusual interests relative to everyone else, that’s pretty strongly correlated with being smart enough to become a mathematician later on.

        • noyann says:

          Astrophysicist, xenobiologists.

    • JayT says:

      I don’t think “Star Wars fans” can be considered nerds by any definition of the word. It would encompass like 90% of the population under 40.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        One of my friends once said, “I’m such a nerd, I’m addicted to my iPhone!” Oh, no, honey, no.

        • JayT says:

          It always makes my skin crawl a bit when my wife’s friends make mention of how they’re “such nerds” when talking about going to see the latest Marvel movie.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yeah, I have such a weird nerd hipster feeling about those. In high school in the 90s, I stopped by the comic shop on the way home twice a week to pick up all the books they pulled for me. All the Spider-Mans, Avengers, Venom, Astro City. But I would never in a million years have told the other kids at school that I read comics. They would have made fun of me and pushed me into lockers. And I would have killed to have massive budget, amazing looking Hollywood movies based on those comics. And now that those are a reality, all the same kids who would have made fun of me in high school are grown ups on my FaceBooks gushing over talking racoon superheroes. On the one hand…”wtf you people?” and on the other, “great, I’m glad this exists and you like it too..?”

          • JayT says:

            Yeah, I’m the exact same. I’m happy that the MCU movies are so popular because it means I get a lot more content that I enjoy. It’s just that it comes with all the “cool kids” talking about how they’ve been nerds their whole lives, when they aren’t now, and never have been.

      • johan_larson says:

        By “Star Wars fans”, I meant people who are really into the series and the universe, not people who watch and like an occasional movie. You’re not a football fan if you only watch the Super Bowl.

      • Tarpitz says:

        For both Star Wars and Marvel, it seems to me highly relevant to draw the distinction between people who have seen (and even liked) the films and fans. Endgame as best I can tell seems to have sold something like 100 million tickets, Star Wars 178 million (second only to Gone with the Wind) but both those totals will include a lot of people who saw it because they happened to fancy a trip to the movies that weekend, or to see what the fuss was about, and some people who saw it 18 times because it was the defining experience of their lives, or who have consumed every shred of content related to the universe that exists in any medium and for whom these stories are a central part of their lives (and of course many people in between).

        I have seen each of the original Star Wars trilogy more than ten times (I think perhaps twice each as an adult); I’ve seen each of the prequels at least twice and each sequel and spinoff except the most recent at least once. I’ve spent hundreds of hours playing a variety of Star Wars computer games, and some amount of time as a child playing pen and paper Star Wars Roleplay. I do a pretty good Palpatine impression. And I categorically would not consider myself a Star Wars fan. I think some of the content is good (New Hope, Empire, Rogue One) and most of it is not, but it isn’t in any way an important part of my identity. I would never dream of going to a Star Wars con, and feel no urge to inflict the presumably execrable prose of EU novels on myself. I don’t hang out on Star Wars subreddits, and I’ve no desire to.

        I’ve eaten a lot of McDonalds in my life, but that doesn’t make me a Maccy-D’s fan either.

        I submit that actual Star Wars fandom remains the province of nerds (and perhaps children, for whom fandom in general is less inherently nerdy). Marvel fandom too. Come to that, an actual McDonalds fan, who followed the vagaries of their limited edition burgers with obsessive interest, perhaps, would also be a nerd.

        • Matt M says:

          If you can see a picture and correctly name Darth Vader, you’ve seen the films.

          If you can see a picture and correctly name Mace Windu (NOT Samuel L. Jackson) you’re a fan.

          • Tarpitz says:

            You don’t need to have seen the films to identify Vader – that is definitely a cultural icon that has transcended its original context.

            And while I could certainly correctly name Mace Windu, I still maintain that I am not a fan. I think fandom requires a degree of ongoing emotional commitment, not just slightly deeper knowledge.

          • Matt M says:

            How does one obtain the deeper knowledge without the ongoing commitment?

            Knowing Mace Windu’s name requires either multiple rewatches or actively seeking secondary sources. Most likely both.

    • Chalid says:

      Entirely subjective of course, but the nerdiest activity I can think of is video game speedrunning. The ultimate deep solitary immersion in an already-nerdy activity, and your results are only of interest to a tiny number of other extremely nerdy people.

      Is there anything obviously nerdier?

      • JayT says:

        How does that compare to something like making dioramas for your action figure collection?

        • Chalid says:

          Usually, action figures are for playing games with other people, and that makes it less nerdy to me.

          • Randy M says:

            There used to be several sites that made comic book like diorama stories with GIJoes.
            That was incredibly nerdy, requiring an extensive collection of children’s toys, time spent writing a script, knowledge of the lore of children’s toys, camera equipment, etc.
            I enjoyed reading them, though.

          • JayT says:

            I’n not talking about wargaming miniatures, I’m talking about action figures like GI Joes or Transformers. The ones that kids play with, but adults collect and store in rooms totally devoted to just that purpose.

            Not that I would know anything about that.

          • acymetric says:

            I don’t think, even in previous decades, that nerdiness equated quite so much with “total social isolation” as you’re implying.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            The ones that kids play with, but adults collect and store in rooms totally devoted to just that purpose.

            I have all my original Gen 1 Transformers (about 75 of them) on display on shelves in my gameroom and I’m way cooler than speedrunners.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t think, even in previous decades, that nerdiness equated quite so much with “total social isolation” as you’re implying.

            Are you talking about “nerdiness” in the “likes genre entertainment” sense, or the “vaguely autistic-ish and likes to code” sense?

            Because genre entertainment going mainstream and its fans claiming both the “nerd” and the “geek” labels for themselves, seems to have erased the cultural history of a significant group of people. Who, yes, underwent a great deal of social isolation.

          • albatross11 says:

            My experience was that getting into a bigger pool of people made it possible to find a fair number of friends who shared my oddball interests, or at least could understand why someone would have them. This continued to get better as I got older and moved more and more into communities where “has lots of oddball intellectually demanding interests” was common and seen as a positive thing, rather than just more evidence you’re a weirdo scientific brain nerd. My preference for SFF instead of romance novels or westerns or mysteries, at the same time, seems to have moved from “flag for kind-of weird guy” to “totally normal and okay.” OTOH, I never really gave a f–k about the opinions of most people who thought my interests were weird once I got big and strong enough not to be an appealing target for being harassed in a locker room, and later once the authorities would actually take such harassment seriously instead of telling me to deal with it myself but don’t do anything against the rules.

          • acymetric says:

            @John Schilling

            Key word “total”. Anything that categorizes D&D (just one of many examples) as less nerdy because you do it with other people is probably missing something. Conversely, there are people who are socially isolated or do socially isolated activities that are not “nerdy”.

            For a stupid example to illustrate the point: running on a treadmill is not more nerdy than playing D&D or taking turns with the controller with a friend playing through [pick any single player rpg here].

            There is a lot of social isolation that comes from being a nerd, you don’t have to tell me that as I have a couple decades of personal experience (I sort of shifted at least partially out of it part way though college, although I still have a lot of “nerdy” interests). I’m just saying that # of people involved in an activity isn’t a good way to judge how nerdy an activity is.

          • John Schilling says:

            Key word “total”. Anything that categorizes D&D (just one of many examples) as less nerdy because you do it with other people is probably missing something.

            First, “total” is your word; I don’t think anyone else was using it in this discussion and I certainly don’t think anyone was using it in the literal absolute sense. So you’re tilting at a straw man with “nerds weren’t literally totally isolated”.

            Second, D&D is “just one of many examples” that are completely irrelevant to the point I was trying to make in explicitly calling out the two conflicting definitions of “nerd”.

          • ryubyss says:

            “playing games with other people”. what?!

          • acymetric says:

            @John Schilling

            First, “total” is your word; I don’t think anyone else was using it in this discussion

            It is a direct response to the parent comment:

            Usually, action figures are for playing games with other people, and that makes it less nerdy to me.

            Which is outright stating that anything that involves other people is less nerdy than something that doesn’t. That is what I’m arguing against, and I think it is a perfectly valid argument. I guess I can understand someone disagreeing, but you are disagreeing in a pretty hostile manner that I don’t think is warranted given that that the problem is you not paying attention to what I’m responding to. Chill out.

            Second, D&D is “just one of many examples” that are completely irrelevant to the point I was trying to make in explicitly calling out the two conflicting definitions of “nerd”.

            Yes there are multiple definitions of nerd, and it is annoying for people who were nerds 10/20/30 years ago to see how it has been coopted, but that doesn’t have anything to do with what I said, so quit directing your BS at me. Thanks.

          • John Schilling says:

            but that doesn’t have anything to do with what I said, so quit directing your BS at me. Thanks.

            Is that really where you want to go with this? Obscenity, followed by “thanks”?

      • aristides says:

        Touhou highscorers? Its an Japanese indie bullet hell franchise. It’s very similar to speed running, except you can’t meaningfully speedrun touhou. Instead, you have to play a brutally hard game, that for the longest time was only available in Japanese, some of which are so old, that they cannot run on PC. And you have to play it in a way so that the bullets pass through your characters sprite, but do not touch the hit box. And if anyone outside the circle watched you play it, they would ask you why you are playing a game full of badly drawn anime girls that look to be between the ages of 8 and 18, in often provocative outfits. Even my LARPer friends made fun of me for playing the game, though I did not spend the time necessary to beat it on any difficulty harder than normal, let a lone be a high scorer.

      • noyann says:

        When we had to read Parsifal in school, I finished in 3 days, and was unable to retell the daily 20-page homework chunk. Got chided, of course, but…
        …when I told the teacher I had done a complete graphical genealogy of the books characters (a thicked comprising nearly everybody ever mentioned), and an etymology of their names, he got read ears and started drooling (figuratively) and asked for my materials. Left me alone with homework thereafter…
        He was one of the good ones.

        Qualifies for nerdy?

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          …when I told the teacher I had done a complete graphical genealogy of the books characters (a thicked comprising nearly everybody ever mentioned), and an etymology of their names, he got read ears and started drooling (figuratively) and asked for my materials. Left me alone with homework thereafter…

          I remember this stuff because Parzival is the romance where P.’s dad marries an African Queen, which means he has a half-brother with black-and-white stripes, and also Wolfram reverses the names of Morgan Le Fay and a place she lives, creating a place called “Faymorgan”.

          • noyann says:

            Parzival. “Pierce right [in|through] the middle” — one of the most phallic names ever. Would suit on of those wannabe-gangstaz!

      • Purplehermann says:

        How about memorizing all the stats, types, evolutions, order of moves naturally learned, serial number (and some of the regions in which games found ) for the first four gens of pokèmon (mostly as a by product, but also for battle utility), along with the types of berries and items (and knowing where you planted all your berries)?

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      Sorting according to which thing they’re fans of is the wrong approach: someone who’s read the SW Legends books has more in common with, say, someone who’s read the History of Middle-earth books than they do with someone who enjoyed the SW movies as kids; the former can be placed somewhere around the sixth circle (following Dante) of nerdiness, while the latter are merely first circle. Similarly, someone who’s cosplayed Princess Leia shares the ninth circle with someone who’s cosplayed Legolas.

      • Tarpitz says:

        Which circles apply to 1. engaging with tinfoil theories on r/pureASOIAF and 2. travelling to different countries and in one case a different continent to sit in indistinguishable convention centres playing competitive Magic: the Gathering?

        Asking for a friend.

  28. Spookykou says:

    When watching a Youtube series why does Youtube autoplay so consistently skip an episode or just put a random related thing in the autoplay queue? I am watching episode 34, I just finished watching episode 33, why would you autoplay to episode 36?! (I don’t actually use youtube autoplay, but I notice it and it infuriates me)

    Tangentially related, is it really hard for people to make a playlist in the correct order instead of the order uploaded, because every other playlist I find starts with the latest video and then goes backwards chronologically, but I have never seen content that was intended to be consumed that way. (Maybe a philosophy Youtube series would accidentally be better off though)

    • VoiceOfTheVoid says:

      I’m infuriated that a few years ago, they removed the setting to play a playlist in reverse order (i.e. the order probably originally intended, given that as you say the default seems to be most recent first). It was replaced with the options to loop or shuffle the playlist–both things I totally would want to do with serial video content.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Lately, it’s been even worse. I have a playlist for songs to listen to while I work. It’s bad enough that I have to click on the screen to confirm that I’m still listening every once in a while, but now it’s taken to playing the same track twice in a row at random, and occasionally just booting me out of the playlist altogether, requiring me to reload the entire page.

        I’ve considered paying for premium in the hopes that it bypasses the “still listening?” hangup, but certainly not if it has bugs like the latter.

        • If you’re just using youtube for music, why not try Google Play Music or Youtube Music? (They provide more or less the same experience; I use Google Play Music and brief investigation revealed no obvious functionality that was different in Youtube Music.) I find the experience magnitudes better than Youtube. That said, I do pay for mine, I don’t know how obnoxious it is for Standard Accounts (i.e. free); and I couldn’t check (without a VPN) even if I wanted to, where I live Standard Accounts don’t come with streaming.

          Just putting that out there in case it helps. 🙂

    • AG says:

      Putting a playlist in reverse chronological order is for episodic series (no relationship between episodes) and intended for an audience closely following the series, watching each episode as it comes out. That way, you don’t have to search a queue for the latest episode, you just click the playlist.

    • FLWAB says:

      As far as I can tell the reason YouTube does this is because the algorithm is just guessing. Correct me if this has changed, but to my knowledge there isn’t a way when uploading a video to tell YouTube that it is part of a series and what sequence it is in that series. Even if there is a way now, there wasn’t one when I was uploading and a lot of series are likely that old. So the algorithm is just guessing at what people want to watch next. With that in mind, I find it remarkable how well it does with series. It usually has the next video in the series as the autoplay. It can tell that when someone watches one of these videos they often want to watch another particular one. But because it’s just guessing based on correlation and doesn’t actually understand that it’s a series, it’s going to make mistakes. Maybe a lot of people skip a particular episode: if so, YouTube might decide to skip it to when recommending.

      The better algorithms get, the higher our expectations of them.

      • acymetric says:

        Doesn’t this seem like an obvious and easy thing for the algorithm to get right (assuming episode numbers are in the title)?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Or code up something that notices what order people watch the episodes in?

          • FLWAB says:

            The Algorithm does notice what order people watch the episodes in: that’s one of the things we know it does for certain. But people don’t always watch things in order: if they’ve already watched through once they might skip around, or they might get bored and switch to something else in the middle and then come back.

            And the Algorithm needs to track a hundred other parameters. So really, I’m surprised it works right 90% of the time, not that it fails 10%.

        • FLWAB says:

          You would think so…and maybe you are right…but…

          Well, YouTube is immensely huge. And the algorithm is immensely complicated. It has to try to predict which videos, out of billions of videos available, this person might want to watch next. And it needs to pull those recommendations based not only and what the viewer might want but also on what YouTube would prefer the view watch. For instance, YouTube currently wants to maximize watch time, which is why longer videos are now more likely to be recommended. But YouTube wants more than just that, they have who knows how many requirements. So with an algorithm that complicated I’m not surprised at all that it makes mistakes like this.

          Also, I’m not sure how straightforward it is. It would really depend on how the show formats it’s titles. For instance, they could go “Supershow Episode 1: The Battle for Bilford’s Boat” or “The Battle for Bilford’s Boat: Supershow Episode 1” Or “Episode 1: The Battle for Bilford’s Boat -The Supershow” or any other number of combinations. And different series on YouTube will use different naming formats, and the formats may not remain consistant from episode to episode: and what if they have a “3.5” episode instead of going straight to “4”? It’s not as straightforward as it looks when there is no standard for uploaders to follow. And yet YouTube gets it right most of the time.

  29. GearRatio says:

    How do we ever get a good idea of the percentage of people who have COVID? Even now that tests are somewhat available it seems nobody is getting tested who doesn’t feel significantly sick. I’m extremely confused about how a test group that consists entirely of people who think they have a particular illness gives us usable information about prevalence and would appreciate help on this.

    • Matt M says:

      Until testing is universally available for everyone (and probably mandated), we don’t.

      All of the current numbers everyone is using are largely meaningless.

    • TimG says:

      My opinion: the government should pick a random date out of a hat. If your birthday is on that date, you should go get tested. If we test some random percentage of people born on that date, we’ll have a good idea how prevalent it is in the world.

      Around 1 million people in the US are born on any random day. So that would be (only!) 1 million tests. Obviously not everyone will show up, so it will be less than a million. Fairly do-able right now.

      My only guess is that they haven’t tried it because they don’t really want to know :/

    • salvorhardin says:

      Well, right, this is why we need to test a sample of the asymptomatic general population. AIUI South Korea has actually done this. The Italian town of Vo (~3K people in the Veneto) actually tested 100% of the population and got 3% positives. Then they quarantined the positives and their households for two weeks, tested everybody again, and got 0.3% positives. This is the single most hopeful data point I’ve seen in this whole mess.

    • albatross11 says:

      We need two different tests:

      a. A throat/nose swab that does a PCR for viral RNA.

      b. A blood test that looks for antibody to COVID-19.

      We need (a) to detect current infections; we need (b) to detect people who’ve already had the virus and are making antibody to it. I think it’s extremely likely (though not 100% certain because our data so far sucks) that people who’ve had it will not get it again, and will have protective antibodies.

      Select some fixed population with little inflow/outflow.

      Let (b,~a) be the set of people who have the antibodies, but not virus in the swab. It normally takes a couple weeks to seroconvert (start making antibody), so this is a lagging indicator–if you have antibodies but no virus, you were exposed, you’ve recovered, and you’re probably immune.

      Let (X,a) be the set of people who, as of two weeks ago, had died of the virus, assuming we test everyone who is dying/has died of pneumonia in that population.

      Let # be the count of people in a set.

      We could compute #(X,a) / #(b,~a). That is, we count how many people in the population had died of the virus as of 2 weeks ago divided by how many people had it and got over it 2+ weeks ago.

      That would give us a much better number on the fatality rate we could expect.

      Also, if it turns out that like half the population has already got antibodies, then we’re in a really different situation than if like 1% of the population has antibodies.

  30. winston says:

    how did everyone do in covid prediction thread a few threads back?

    • JayT says:

      I said that it would affect me a 3/10, and I’d say we’ve gone past that. I’m not sure where I’d put myself on the disruption scale. Maybe a 5-6? I can’t go to work, but I was working from home a few days a week already, so that’s not as big a change as it could have been. I can’t eat out, which I used to do a couple times a week. I bought something on Amazon the other day that was in stock, and my delivery date isn’t until next week. That was a pretty big change.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      I didn’t post, but I didn’t anticipate how much my kid being home would throw off the day. Despite his age he needs lots of supervision to actually do his schoolwork.

      • salvorhardin says:

        +1, same situation here and I think a very common one.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Yeah I’m working from home in my office/gameroom, which is right next door to my son’s room. He’s been playing Fortnite nonstop the entire week, and he doesn’t seem to be able to understand you don’t have to yell into the mic for your teammates to hear you. You can call them all bads who don’t know what they’re doing quietly, and they can still hear you.

    • Clutzy says:

      My prediction was that I had no confidence in anything. SO I guess that turned out alright.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Which prediction thread? You’re going to have to be more specific.

  31. VoiceOfTheVoid says:

    I was unsuccessfully trying to search for something (the post someone made on a previous OT about how for many computations (likely for consciousness, if it is a computation), it is provably impossible to predict the result of the computation without carrying out something like the original computation itself. (If anyone’s got a link to either the post or the youtube video it linked, I’d appreciate it; I can’t find it now that the comment search tool is down.)

    But then I was distracted by seeing in the ‘Searches related to site:slatestarcodex.com consciousness “open thread” computation’ links, between “slatestarcodex discord” and “slatestarcodex scott”:

    how many candidates sourced from slate star codex do we need in order to make this hire

    The only relevant results are a reddit post to r/NoStupidQuestions (literally just that line; one comment asking “what”) and OT116, in which this search suggestion was previously discussed.

    • oriscratch says:

      I like to imagine some secret Cicada 3301-style organization watching the comment threads and recruiting SSC readers for their cause. Normally they keep their communications private, but that one sentence got stuck in the google recommendations and they can’t figure out how to erase it. Or maybe they left it there on purpose . . .

  32. Edward Scizorhands says:

    Ignoring the cases of coronavirus, how bad is it to have our hospitals unusable for 3 months?

    I am comparing two situations:

    A: hospitals are overcrowded for 3 months, lots and lots of COVID-19 patients die left to die by triage
    B: hospitals are overcrowded for 6 months, many (but not as many) COVID-19 patients left to die by triage

    I’ve been assuming B is better, because we save more people of dying from coronavirus.

    But might it be better to get it over in three months, because of all the non-COVID-19 cases? People with all sorts of ailments that require immediate hospital care are going to face fierce triage while the hospitals are jammed, so these people would rather have case A than case B.

    I don’t know the numbers to check this.

    • Eric Rall says:

      I spent a night in ICU last year. A large tree branch had fallen on my head, leaving me with what turned out to be a mild concussion, a neck sprain, and a large laceration on my scalp.

      The head/neck CT they’d performed on me shortly after my arrival had come back inconclusive, with what the Trauma attending described to me as a “something-something” that was probably an imaging artifact or a benign structural abnormality but might be a subdural hematoma. On the off-chance it was the latter, they kept me for observation overnight in the ICU with hourly neurological exams and a list of symptoms to alert my care team about if I noticed them (ironically, half the symptoms on the list were also common side effects of the anti-convulsive meds they gave me as a prophylactic against the risk of post-TBI seizures).

      As it happened, I was fine to be sent home to finish my recovery. My guess is that had my injury come at a time when the ICU was already full of COVID-19 cases, the risk tradeoff would have been different. Either they would have done additional imaging to refine the diagnosis, or they would have sent me home with a neck brace and a bottle of anti-convulsives after stapling my scalp back together and giving my wife instructions to call an ambulance if my neurological condition got noticeably worse.

      For my case in hindsight, the outcome would have been pretty much the same. Probably for most people in similar situations. But some people who get sent home (or even admitted to a regular hospital room) instead of going to the ICU for observation are going to turn out to have the problems they would have been observed for, and some of them are going to wind up dead or with lasting disabilities because they didn’t get back to the hospital in time.

    • Kaitian says:

      The virus is expected to kill a lot of people. NY Times has a nice interactive statistic:
      https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/03/16/upshot/coronavirus-best-worst-death-toll-scenario.html

      Even with a 20% infection rate and a 2% fatality rate, it would be the largest cause of death this year. Since the fatality rate without treatment could be 5% or more (higher than the Times’ slider can go), the difference medical treatment can make in coronavirus deaths will probably outweigh the difference in deaths from anything else.

      To answer your question, we would need to estimate:
      – how many people are in danger of dying, but can be saved by medical treatment?
      – in how many of this cases can the treatment wait 3 months or more?
      – how many of them are actually competing with corona patients? Things like chemotherapy, trauma surgery or dialysis might be able to be handled in different hospitals.

  33. Plumber says:

    Political strange bedfellows freaky virus edition:

    Romney suggests “basic income”

    McConnell says to vote for more socialistic stuff than I would’ve imagined a Sanders Presidency could get enacted with a Democratic much less a Republican Senate

    Ted Cruz re-tweets Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

    I’ll risk the “okay Boomer”

    Strange days indeed

  34. johan_larson says:

    I’m hoping I could get a bit of advice about this MtG deck I drafted in Arena. It went 1-2 in Traditional Draft. Mono-black.

    Key: DEVotion, REMoval, ESCape

    CMC 1:
    1 Mogis’s Favor (ESC)
    1 Bronze Sword
    1 Omen of the Dead

    CMC 2:
    1 Mire’s Grasp (REM)
    1 Tymaret, Chosen from Death (DEV)
    2 Temple Thief
    1 Mire Triton

    CMC 3:
    2 Soulreaper of Mogis
    2 Pharika’s Libation (REM)
    1 Elspeth’s Nightmare (REM)
    1 Underworld Charger (ESC)
    1 Inevitable End (REM)
    1 Minion’s Return

    CMC 5:
    1 Gravebreaker Lamia
    2 Rage-Scarred Berserker
    1 Gray Merchant of Asphodel (DEV)

    CMC 6:
    2 Enemy of Enlightenment
    1 Blight-Breath Catoblepas (DEV, REM)

    My thinking is that I’m not getting enough benefit from being mono-black. Mono-anything profits from the devotion mechanic, but I only have three cards that care about devotion. I also don’t have any deep-black cards — BBB or the like — that that really need me to be mono-black. I’m also kind of short on removal, with six removal spells if I’m being generous. Also, in black, I should have more than two spells with Escape.

    Thoughts?

    • akrolsmir says:

      Rather strange forum to be seeking MTG advice but here goes:

      – I’m pretty sure Enemy of Enlightenment is straight unplayable
      – Likewise, Inevitable End is quite weak
      – Agree that the payoffs for being monocolor are weaker than in, say, ELD draft — really it’s a couple of devotion cards. I’d probably have tried cutting the three cards above in favor of a couple of splashed bombs/removal
      – FWIW another payoff for being monocolor is that your colors are more consistent, and you can maybe go down a land as a result.
      – What was your sideboard?

      • johan_larson says:

        Here’s the sideboard. Some of the cards don’t fit at all; they’re the last cards of the draft decks.

        2 Temple Thief
        1 Aspect of Lamprey
        1 Altar of the Pantheon
        1 Moss Viper
        2 Scavenging Harpy
        1 Deny the Divine
        1 Thaumaturge’s Familiar
        1 Starlit Mantle
        1 Aspect of Manticore
        1 Wrap in Flames
        1 Plummet
        1 Underworld Rage-Hound
        1 Pious Wayfarer
        1 Fruit of Tizerus
        1 Mirror Shield
        1 Eidolon of Philosophy
        1 Sleep of the Dead

        • gudamor says:

          Minions Return -> Scavenging Harpy
          I’ve never been able to make Minions Return, or cards like it, work. Has it been good for you? Scavenging harpy has ‘fine’ stats as a 2/1 flyer for 3, and will frequently have something to eat on ETB.
          Enemy of Enlightenment -> Aspect of the Lamprey
          Lowers the curve a bit and Aspect has worked for me. No, you can’t always get full value out of it, but even the lifelink can be helpful, for example if they’re racing your Underworld Charger.
          Lastly, I think I’d drop a land for the other Scavenging Harpy. I don’t view Temple Thief as a particularly evasive threat, and you need something to suit up with the Bronze Sword.

          • johan_larson says:

            This was my second time drafting Beyond Death, so I don’t have a lot to compare with, but in these games Minion’s Return didn’t pay off for me.

      • ManyCookies says:

        Enemy of Enlightenment is straight unplayable

        It’s not great by any means (and sometimes embarrassingly bad), but enough games grind out where it’s a passable top end card as 6 mana 4/4 flier (5/5 attacking).

        Inevitable End is quite weak

        I thought Inevitable End would suck, card gives opponents choice and all. But it turns out you rarely see situations where it’s not “Destroy target creature” (basically: you are dying to one scary attacker in <2 turns), it's just a good removal spell.

        On the other hand, Pharika’s Libation is pretty bad.

        • Jake R says:

          I second this. Enemy is low end of playable if you don’t have a better closer. Inevitable end is better than it looks. Unless they have something that cranks out tokens most opponents can’t just sack a creature per turn indefinitely. Pharika’s libation I wouldn’t play unless I was desperate for removal and you aren’t.

          Bronze Sword is also pretty unplayable. I’d replace it with a temple thief. They aren’t great but they’re serviceable 2/2s and they’re unblockable more often than you’d think.

    • ManyCookies says:

      I’d have to see the draft log to give a detailed critique, but the final list looks okay/not draft sinking. Got an Elspeth’s Nightmare, got Gary draining for 4+ and ways to recur it, not playing anything too embarrassing.

      I would’ve swapped out a Phraika’s Libation and the other Libation/an Enemy for the two Scavenging Harpies. You’re a bit light on creatures (14) for a midrange-y deck, Libation is just kinda bad and the second Enemy copy is iffy on an already iffy card, and the Harpies are playable little gremlins that hold a short sword well.

      My thinking is that I’m not getting enough benefit from being mono-black. Mono-anything profits from the devotion mechanic, but I only have three cards that care about devotion

      Did you actually pass up on powerful cards to stay mono-black? Sometimes you just don’t see a reason to branch out, and black’s pretty rad in this format (it’s a hotly contested color in human pods). Again, would have to see the draft log to pass judgement.

      Also, in black, I should have more than two spells with Escape.

      Black isn’t that escape centric in itself, there’s only two real payoffs and they’re at uncommon+rare (though the uncommon one is bonkers)

  35. Rock Lobster says:

    Are Peter Green purists a thing? i.e., people who think early Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green’s bluesy style was great and that Stevie Nicks came along and ruined everything? For reference check out the album “Men of the World: The Early Years” on Spotify. There’s also one called “The Best of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac” that I have somehow but I can’t find on Spotify.

    • achenx says:

      Yes, those people exist. I don’t think they are especially common compared to people who like Buckingham/Nicks Fleetwood Mac and have no idea who “Peter Green” is, but they’re definitely out there.

      The real trick is finding people who think Bob Welch-era FM is the best.

  36. rocoulm says:

    It sounds like the recession/depression/whatever we’re seeing begin now signals that now is the time for the savvy investor to buy. Well, not now now, but as soon as the market hits the “floor” as best as one can estimate.

    My question: Does this hold true for things like index funds and 401(k)s? I’m sure some individuals can keep an eye on a couple stocks they think will climb during the recovery and make a killing, but is a mutual fund manager likely to do this as well? Or will they be playing even more conservatively, making less-than-average earnings until after the market has returned to “normal” (whatever that is)?

    • broblawsky says:

      Estimating the floor is not a trivial thing. Even hedge fund managers won’t be able to reliably do it. If 2008 is any indication, they’ll be cautious for a while even after we hit a floor.

      • Matt M says:

        Looking at the chart for SPY, the actual bottom came in March 2009. But even if you missed it by three months on either side (for a total six month window of Jan – Jun 2009), you’d still have been in a position to have doubled your money in the next five years.

        • broblawsky says:

          Yeah, I’m trying to work out some kind of rough statistical analysis for timing the floor. I’m expected a minimum 40% drop from ATH, so I might just use that.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, that’s about what I’ve been waiting for too. Somewhere between a 1/3 and 1/2 drop from pre-crisis values and I’ll start looking at buying.

        • baconbits9 says:

          For the tech bubble there was a 13 month stretch where you could buy the S&P 500 for 1,000 or less, with (eyeballing) a quarter to a third of that period under 900, and roughly a 10 month period where you could have bought under 1,000 in 08/09, with more than half of that time under 900.

          We aren’t even a month into the steepest market decline in US history and people are already saying ‘buy, buy, buy’.

    • Chalid says:

      Index funds have to be fully invested so they will not attempt to time the bottom.

      Mutual fund managers can in principle attempt to do this, but in practice I think most of them are not allowed to aggressively do so (but my experience on this is several years out of date). The exact rules that your fund manager has agreed to abide by are going to be in the fine print of the documents they sent you when you signed up with them, but they are likely to include language resembling “must have 90% of assets in stocks at any one time” which of course prohibits them from going all cash. What these rules are and how easily they can be changed vary by fund. The motivation for this is that, in general, equity mutual fund managers are chosen to be good at assessing the relative value of different stocks, and not so much to be good at assessing the overall market’s level.

      The funds who are trying to do big directional bets on markets are “global macro” funds.

  37. winston says:

    I’m pretty sure that all my comments from my home network are being dropped. Since the account is able to post from a different network, I assume it’s the IP? Is it possible my ip is blocked, and if so are there steps to getting it unblocked?

  38. BBA says:

    Aelkus on getting “radicalized” by the complete failure of every institution in the face of crisis. When official sources are publishing “noble” lies and half-truths every day, how are we supposed to take them seriously when they wail about “disinformation”?

    • Matt M says:

      Agreed. When all major institutions throw away their credibility, this sort of thing is a completely predictable and logical consequence…

    • Incurian says:

      Yes, I am disillusioned now that they have just started doing this for the first time ever.

    • albatross11 says:

      The failures of the CDC and FDA were especially shocking to me, because I’ve always thought of them as extremely technically competent and functional parts of the USG, and yet their handling of COVID-19 testing has been awful and I think they’re still basically fighting bureaucratic baliwick battles where they should be thinking about how to get the best, fastest possible response to the crisis.

      Media from the NYT to Fox have long since lost my trust on any scientific/technical issue, but they’ve certainly been beclowning themselves up to my expectations w.r.t. this crisis. OTOH, there are good technical sources of information. And I have to say that the fastest way for me to lose trust in an information source is to see them engaging in noble lies, or knowingly pushing social truth instead of actual truth.

      And to be fair, there hasn’t been good data on a lot of this stuff, and even well-intentioned experts have been wrong often enough. It’s not shocking that the NYT gets some facts wrong when nobody knows what the facts are yet. It’s dismaying when the NYT and Fox and various other media organs try to use the pandemic to justify various already-held political and social positions at the expense of care or honesty, but it’s not surprising–that’s day-ending-in-y stuff.

      • John Schilling says:

        The FDA is failing in the same way it has always failed, by doing everything in its power to prevent anyone else from doing anything in their power until it’s been studied for eighteen months and proven absolutely harmless.

        The CDC is failing in about the way you’d expect of an organization with a normally boring core function that’s been chomping at the bit to take on Teen Vaping and Gun Violence and every other sexy new cause that doesn’t involve the spread of infectious disease.

        Only the details of the CDC’s shortcomings are a surprise. But then, I’m a libertarian, so not being surprised by governmental bureaucratic incompetence is my default setting. I will be peeved if the result is people demanding more government and bureaucracy because the bureaucrats will be aligned with their tribe’s priorities and that will somehow make it competent. And, yes, I expect a high peeve level at the end of this.

        • Matt M says:

          Here’s our legacy media demanding we not be optimistic about a potential treatment, because after all, the FDA hasn’t officially approved it yet, and that could take a really long time!

        • Clutzy says:

          Nothing about the CDC’s failure is a surprise if your default is that it is largely staffed by the same type of person as staffs most GS8+ positions: what Taleb calls “intellectual yet idiot” or what others have recently come to refer to as “midwits”. These people were almost universally in lockstep with the WHO on C19, which was
          and remains in lockstep with CCP propaganda.

    • BBA says:

      *sigh* Did you read the post? This isn’t just confirming everyone’s hobbyhorses about bureaucracy or media or whatever. Nobody came out of this looking good. Nobody. Not even Trump, although we can’t expect anything else from him. A total shitshow, top to bottom, left to right, no exceptions.

      All right, the Sentinelese, with their policy of never leaving their island and murdering any outsider who comes near, have once again been vindicated. That’s about it.

    • VoiceOfTheVoid says:

      My favorite tidbit was a NYT article that said “testing is limited because of a shortage of what’s called reagents.” Which is pretty much like saying, “We can’t bake a lot of cakes because of a shortage of what’s called ingredients.” Which reagents is there a shortage of, NYT, and what’s the bottleneck in producing them? God, it’s like they interviewed a mathematician and reported that she works with some things called numbers. Do your homework NYT!

    • Jaskologist says:

      This reads just like something I would have seen out of the alt-right 4-8 years ago.Obviously the specific details are different, but hammering at the fact that our institutions have consistently failed us was a central theme.

      • BBA says:

        As I mentioned above, the author is squarely on the left, and certainly doesn’t think Trump is the answer.

        Are we going to get an alt-left now? On the one hand, the wokies and tankies are insufferable, but on the other hand I’d have said the same about the Religious Right and those who replaced them are much worse.

        • Clutzy says:

          It was an interesting read, (though this article link edin it was far better), but I think it failed in not addressing how much this does indeed look like a conspiracy. The media pivoted on C19 almost instantaneously. They went from 0 to 100 in a day, what was the precipitating event?

          • VoiceOfTheVoid says:

            Perhaps there was no single precipitating event, I suspect all the media outlets (and local governments) were just watching each other to see which way the wind was blowing and once a few well-respected parties stopped pushing “Don’t Panic” and started pushing the “This Is A Serious Crisis” narrative, everyone else hopped from one bandwagon to the other.

          • Loriot says:

            The stock market went from 0 to 100 (or rather 100 to 0) in a matter of days, so I think that is evidence against any sort of grand conspiracy.

          • BBA says:

            The outbreak in Lombardy was when a lot of people’s thinking flipped from “this is just China’s problem and they have it contained” to full-scale panic mode. It’s when mine did, anyway, and the stock market agreed. Took a couple more weeks, and multiple outbreaks in the US, to get the rest of the country on board.

            It’s only in retrospect that I recognize how the WHO has become an agency of the Chinese government and Xi has played us all for schmucks. Chide me for being naive if you will.

            I have no interest in joining the far right because they got this one “right.” That’s like subscribing to advice from a permabear who called 10 of the last 2 recessions. Besides, they don’t want (((me))) as a member, at best they want to “deport” me to Israel, where I’ve never lived.

  39. J.R. says:

    Fighting the last war

    Once this is all over, I imagine that first-world countries will beef up their emergency supplies of ventilators as preparation for a future pandemic.

    But is there a good chance that the next pandemic will also unleash widespread respiratory failure? What else is out there in the world of infectious diseases?

    • broblawsky says:

      Generally, airborne viruses mess with your lungs; they have to, in order to reproduce. Nipah virus, for example, is basically unrelated to coronavirus, but still causes shortness of breath and requires ventilation for supportive care. It also causes encephalitis, though.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      During the transition from Obama to Trump, the Obama team ran a tabletop exercise where a flu originates in Asia and spreads around the world, and one of the problem the US faces is the shortage of ventilators.

      The government needs to plan for a whole bunch of low-likelihood-but-extremely-severe events. Loose nukes, terrorist attacks, chemical attacks, pandemics.

      You can never plan perfectly. But when you plan you take care of some issues, and have a known response to some other issues that might pop up.

      • albatross11 says:

        Yes. This kind of planning is something we want government at all levels to be doing. I think this is the sort of thing that’s easy to cut because it may look pointless or like a waste of money, but it would be really nice if someone in power had a folder somewhere that represented a few months’ careful work and analysis by a team of epidemiologists and ID doctors on what to do if there was a really nasty respiratory virus that started circulating. (And the same for at least a couple dozen similarly plausible disasters.) And it would be better still if they had gone the next step and stockpiled some supplies, worked out chain of command and instructions for different parts of the government, trained people on their responsibilities in case of this kind of crisis, etc.

        • matthewravery says:

          The “table top exercises” I’m familiar are basically functions of illustrating viscerally to leaders (who otherwise don’t get it) the implications of certain unquestioned assumptions they hold.

          • rumham says:

            @matthewravery

            The “table top exercises” I’m familiar are basically functions of illustrating viscerally to leaders (who otherwise don’t get it) the implications of certain unquestioned assumptions they hold.

            That’s certainly how I run them (that and to test the communication tree).

      • Loriot says:

        Not that it matters, but I thought the exercise simulated a pandemic originating in *Brazil*?

    • Winja says:

      They’ll sit in warehouses, unused.

      Like all of the Geiger Counters the government built in anticipation of a nuclear war.

      • BBA says:

        And then, by the next time we need them, they’ll be obsolete.

        About 15 years ago, the NYS government convened a blue-ribbon commission on the future of its health care system, which recommended closing nine hospitals and downsizing a few dozen others, eliminating over 4,000 beds from the state. It was simply too expensive to maintain all this excess capacity that could only be used in a once-in-a-century pandemic.

        The commission’s recommendations were implemented and, here’s the kicker, it was the right call. I know of two other hospitals here that went bankrupt and closed since then, as insurance companies pushed their clients away from hospitals and towards more cost-effective “urgent care” clinics and doctor’s offices whenever appropriate. (Nominative determinism alert: one of them, the Long Island College Hospital, was briefly kept open by court order even though the board and management had agreed on closing it down. So LICH was undead.) We really had overbuilt, downsizing and consolidation were called for, the process worked… up until this month when we really could use those extra beds.

        True, this was the product of central planning, but since Saint Vincent’s and LICH failed even with the state literally shutting down their competitors, I have little reason to believe that a freer market would lead to a materially different result.

        • JayT says:

          A freer market* would create more beds when needed though. There’s no reason the US can’t build a functioning hospital in a weekend like the Chinese did, other than regulations and laws against it.

          * Or a totalitarian government.

          • BBA says:

            As of yesterday, those laws are suspended in New York, and Washington State is already building temporary hospitals.

            (And I doubt the Chinese really built a hospital in a weekend.)

          • JayT says:

            I guess it was 10 days, not a weekend.

            I’m glad to see NY streamlining this. I hope other states do it as well.

            And I really hope they all realise that what’s good in an emergency is often good all the time!

  40. Matt M says:

    Can anyone recommend some good general survivalist/prepper books?

    I’ve pretty much lost the appetite to read anything else…

  41. Deiseach says:

    While we’re all talking about the latest news on the COVID-19 front, Irish distilleries are turning to making hand sanitiser!

    There has been a recent explosion in the number of gin manufacturers (I have no idea how or when Mother’s Ruin became the trendy fashionable drink) and one such, Listoke Gin, is turning over production to making hand sanitiser.

    Now one of the big guys, Irish Distillers, is doing likewise in collaboration with Mervue Laboratories in Cork.

    Well, I suppose if the pubs are shut down and you still have all this spirit alcohol manufacturing capacity, you might as well do something with it! 🙂

    • gudamor says:

      We did a distillery tour and they explained that new distillers, which may be targeting other liquors later, will often do gin/vodka when first starting out because it has a short turnaround time.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      Yeah, this is happening here as well. Also, everyone with a sewing machine has taken to a production of facemasks.

    • woah77 says:

      A friend of mine is in the same boat in Michigan. They’ve apparently been stockpiling the ingredients as a byproduct of what they normally brew, so now they’re ramping up hand sanitizer production.

    • Del Cotter says:

      BrewDog in the UK are making BrewGel.

      ETA I hear elderberries have antiviral properties, and they have actually made an IPA with elderberry flowers before, so they should make a scented hand sanitiser and call it BrewGel the Elder.

    • Three Year Lurker says:

      Maybe they can start delivering combo packages of hand-and-mind sanitizer.
      Clear your brain and clean your hands.

    • Ant says:

      Even better, an English beer company and a French perfurmer are making hand sanitiser.

  42. EchoChaos says:

    The media has decided to pound Trump for his relentlessly calling COVID-19 “the Chinese coronavirus”.

    Regardless of what you think of Trump, this seems an insanely dumb fight for the media, who look like they’re defending the communist regime that caused this global pandemic by censoring doctors and other scientists in Wuhan before it finally got too big to be controlled.

    • Plumber says:

      @EchoChaos says:

      “The media has decided to pound Trump for his relentlessly calling COVID-19 “the Chinese coronavirus”…”

      I haven’t noticed either yet (I’ve actually heard VP Mike Pence speak about the disease more than I’ve heard President Trump), though I have seen lots of “Big list of ways Trump has bungled” from sources that were previously anti-Trump anyway, when I’ve bothered to read them they sometimes acknowledged “He’s on the right track now, but he should’ve been sooner!”, AFAIK they’re correct but at least Trump closed traffic with China before others were talking about doing that.

      “..this seems an insanely dumb fight…”

      I agree, when someone says “Wuhan virus”, “coronavirus”, “covid-19”, or just “the epidemic” I know what they mean, whether the oncoming iceberg’s color is called “eggshell” or “white” doesn’t matter much to me.

      Other than that they closed some cities off a month or three back I haven’t actually heard much about what Red China’s done (I wish I had more foresight on learning that news!), I have read about Taiwan’s efforts to keep the disease at bay, which have seemed to work well.

      The news from Italy is just frightening, apparently being the place everyone wants to visit has its downsides!

      • EchoChaos says:

        when someone says “Wuhan virus”, “coronavirus”, “covid-19”, or just “the epidemic”

        Or Kung Flu, which is the new one going around righty circles.

        • Silverlock says:

          Courtesy of the Babylon Bee, I like “Lung Pao Sicken” and “Srirachoo.”

        • Plumber says:

          @EchoChaos >

          “….Kung Flu…”

          That’s funny!

          I just took a look at vox.com and they did indeed have a headline of the type you described (I shoud’ve guessed they would!).

          • EchoChaos says:

            That’s funny!

            And it means we can praise all our healthcare workers as “Kung Flu Fighters”.

            they did indeed have a headline of the type you described

            Always trust EchoChaos brand media analysis. 🙂

          • Nick says:

            @EchoChaos
            Good thinking. Weird Al has said he won’t be doing another My Corona parody, but maybe he should be doing one of Kung Fu Fighting.

          • sharper13 says:

            @Nick, @EchoChaos:

            Wouldn’t take much to update “Everybody was Kung Flu fighting!”

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      It looks like the media is defending innocent Chinese people, since English doesn’t distinguish between the race and the country demonym. I’m sure Trump means to tar the communist party. Honestly I’m shocked it took him so long to pivot to that angle. But I assume he wants me to transfer the hate from “coronavirus” to “Chinese” and that word cuts two ways and people already presume Trump/the right is racist so Trump/the right insisting on appending a race word to a word you’re supposed to hate and the logic seems pretty clear to me why people won’t love that.

      Also “the media has decided to pound Trump” for everything, and this doesn’t seem noticeably dumber than any other reason.

      • EchoChaos says:

        the media is defending innocent Chinese people

        I mean, that’s their party line, but nobody serious is blaming Chinese-Americans for this, and they are doing it right after the Communist Chinese government started aggressively pushing a “not our fault” line (because it’s clearly their fault).

        Also “the media has decided to pound Trump” for everything, and this doesn’t seem noticeably dumber than any other reason.

        This seems way dumber than hitting him for things that actually matter like not restricting travel earlier or telling the FDA to shut its big dumb mouth so that we can get tests to America.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Eh, I’m pretty sure nobody blames the inhabitants of Spain for Spanish ‘Flu, and I’m not convinced that any non-negligible amount of people blame the ordinary Chinese for the Coronavirus, whatever they call it.

        (Also, I suspect a lot of people who call it the “Chinese Coronavirus” do so largely because they know the media doesn’t want them to. IOW, they’re doing it out of anti-media, rather than anti-Chinese, animus.)

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          (Also, I suspect a lot of people who call it the “Chinese Coronavirus” do so largely because they know the media doesn’t want them to. IOW, they’re doing it out of anti-media, rather than anti-Chinese, animus.)

          Bingo. People on the Right would call it “coronavirus” or whatever was most common until the media told them what not to.

          • Matt M says:

            A group of them was trying to get “Wuhan Media Virus” to be a thing for a while, but that seems to have fizzled out.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Matt M: Lung Blitzer.
            Madd Ow Can’t Breathe!

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            While that’s true, I agree with BBA below. Yes, the media is awful for harping on this. At the same time, can’t we hold off on owning the libs until this over? Just a little bit? We own them ALL THE TIME. A little break can’t hurt while we get the pandemic fixed, eh?

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s so nice to see that even with half the economy shut down and the other half searching frantically for facemasks, the clickbait journalism economy continues on apace.

        • John Schilling says:

          Also, I suspect a lot of people who call it the “Chinese Coronavirus” do so largely because they know the media doesn’t want them to.

          This, which is the equal and opposite bit of childishness as the media making a big deal out of it.

          If we’d called it the “Wuhan Flu” in December, it wouldn’t mean anything more than “Spanish Flu”. Or SARS or MERS or Legionnaire’s disease. But very few people did that; mostly people just called it “the coronavirus” until there was a proper name, and some of them switched to “COVID-19” and some didn’t.

          Anyone who wasn’t calling it the “Wuhan Flu” then and is now, I’m pretty sure is doing it to blame the Chinese and/or pwn the libs. Knock it off. And, libs, stop getting pwned by such a cheap trick.

          • EchoChaos says:

            I’m pretty sure is doing it to blame the Chinese

            This is good, though. The Chinese Communists deserve the blame.

            This is why Trump is doing it. pwning the libs is just a lagniappe.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, and honestly, I think it’s a bit tit for tat given the Chinese are advancing stories that the US military somehow brought it to Wuhan.

            If they knocked that stuff off, maybe Trump would let it go. But he definitely stop before they do…

          • gbdub says:

            “But very few people did that”
            Several prominent media outlets doing that…

          • sharper13 says:

            Not to pile on, but the NY Times calling it the Wuhan Flu in it’s own stories and then later stating anyone calling it the Wuhan Flu is just racist is positively Orwellian.

          • John Schilling says:

            This is good, though. The Chinese Communists deserve the blame.

            In what sense do you think the nominal and in practice vestigial Communism of the PRC is responsible for the present outbreak? The wet markets in Wuhan were capitalist enterprises, and the Chinese government did as good a job of containing the outbreak as any other I know of.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @John Schilling

            When they forcibly silenced and shut down labs that were trying to warn the world of the outbreak in December, or when they had the WHO deny there was human to human spread in a worldwide announcement?

            Their subsequent quarantine has been effective, assuming their numbers aren’t blatant lies, but this wouldn’t be a pandemic if they hadn’t tried to hide it in the start instead of solving it.

          • salvorhardin says:

            Given the increase in relative global power they are likely to get out of having contained their outbreak effectively, officially denigrating China now is arguably not smart even if deserved.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I do think the CCP is to blame for not shutting down these wet markets. The CCP has no problem instituting draconian laws that stomp on cultural practices. They let these things continue knowing full well how unsanitary they are.

          • AG says:

            Going out of your way to cross out Corona and replace it with China in briefing notes sure is a look, though… Regardless of if it was previously fine to call it the China or Wuhan virus, and if it’s still bad for the media to be wailing and gnashing their teeth over it now, there is no question that this is a deliberate decision being done.

          • John Schilling says:

            I do think the CCP is to blame for not shutting down these wet markets.

            You think a Chinese capitalist party would have been more likely to shut down what are essentially privately owned free market small businesses?

            If it’s orthogonal to communism, then there’s no call to blame the “Communists”. Yes, that’s the name of the ruling party. Shall we now blame the bureaucratic failings of the CDC and FDA on the “Republican Trump administration”, which are the proper names for the people at the top?

            Yes, there are people doing that. These people are being partisan assholes at exactly the wrong time, and they should knock it off. And you’re just as bad, and you should knock it off too.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Wait, what am I doing wrong? I’m not sure what you’re talking about with communists and capitalists. The people in charge of the government of China are the CCP, correct? And they’re letting the unsanitary wet markets continue, correct? I would like them to shut those down.

            What is wrong with this?

          • BBA says:

            Yeah, weird as it is for me to be defending Conrad… China doesn’t have an independent civil service, let alone a “Deep State.” Everything that the government does there, national or local, is squarely the responsibility of the CCP.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @John Schilling

            Why not? The United States has food sanitation standards and to all but the most libertarian is pretty clearly led by capitalist parties.

          • John Schilling says:

            The people in charge of the government of China are the CCP, correct?

            And the person in charge of the executive branch of the United States Government are Donald J. Trump of the Republican Party.

            What is wrong with this?

            Among other things, you’re making me feel like a chump for having singled out the CDC and the FDA for having screwed up the early testing, when I could have blamed it all on Donald J. Trump of the Republican Party.

            So, OK, it’s all Trump’s fault, every bit of it except insofar as we can use it to tar the Republicans generally. Let’s all have fun blaming Donald, and let’s not hear a peep out of you objecting.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            John, I honestly do not understand your hostility here. I do not like the whole “Chinese virus” shtick just to own the libs. I posted that elsewhere around here that I don’t like what the media’s doing, and I want this whole situation to be as depoliticized as possible.

            That said, I still want the people in charge in China, which is the CCP, to close the wet markets. And they should be able to exercise the power to do this easily, because they have no qualms about stomping on cultural and personal aspects of people’s lives. They forced everybody to only have one baby, I’m pretty sure they can say “no more eating bats” and make it stick.

            And this has nothing to do with Trump, but Trump does not have control over the US government or the US in general in any way like what Xi and the CCP have with regards to China.

            You’re being very hostile here and I do not understand why. I want the wet markets to close, I’m 100% sure the CCP can do that, and I don’t want pandemic response in the US to be a political shitshow. Can we agree to that? If not, pretend I’m really dumb and explain why not because I don’t get it.

          • salvorhardin says:

            Point of order: I believe the CCP has now in fact shut down the feature of the wet markets which created the problem, namely the trade in wild animals.

            https://www.businessinsider.com/china-bans-wildlife-trade-consumption-coronavirus-2020-2

            Horse, closed barn door, and all that, and it’s also legitimate to ask as National Review did whether they’re going to keep them closed this time or just let ’em rip again when people get distracted; but still.

          • John Schilling says:

            I do not like the whole “Chinese virus” shtick just to own the libs. I posted that elsewhere around here that I don’t like what the media’s doing, and I want this whole situation to be as depoliticized as possible.

            And yet you are gratuitously using partisan political terminology. So I’m skeptical of your claim to want it depoliticized, and if that is what you want, you’re clueless as to how to go about it.

            That said, I still want the people in charge in China, which is the CCP, to close the wet markets

            The “people in charge in China” are the “CCP”. They are also the “Chinese Communist Party”, the “Chinese government”, and for that matter “Beijing” usually works. You can use any of those, and everyone will know who you are talking about. But only one of them, and the most verbose one at that, spells out a political platform that everyone here knows you and EchoChaos are hostile to. Only one of them, makes people think that you are indeed trying to politicize the situation and ought to be ignored.

            Very often, when there are several different names you could use to identify a person or institution, your ability to communicate effectively will depend on which of those names you chose. That the name you chose is technically correct, is neither necessary nor sufficient for communication to be effective. You’re going to wind up needlessly insulting a whole lot of people, and saying “but I was technically correct” isn’t going to undo that.

            And you’ll probably never understand that, so I’ll stop trying to explain it to you.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Okay then yes, the problem was that I was too dumb to understand what you were saying. I did not understand people got defensive about the CCP. I thought that was less politicized, because saying “China” or “the Chinese” sounds racial, when that’s not what I’m getting at at all. My criticism is for the government of China. Which to my understand was the CCP, and since generally no one likes the CCP, I don’t see why anyone would be getting defensive about it.

            I also largely agree with the leftists who describe what China does as “state capitalism” rather than communism. China doesn’t look much like the idealized stateless communism, nor does it even look like Soviet Russia. So when I say “CCP,” I’m not even railing at communism. I’m talking about the specific organization that is in charge of China.

            And I’m glad to hear they’ve shut down the wet markets.

            BTW, did anyone besides John think I was making this a criticism of communists?

          • Jaskologist says:

            The Chinese government suppressed early reports about the virus, and punished people who tried to make it known. Though not exclusive to Communists, encouraging systematic misreporting of reality is a pretty standard feature.

            What term would be considered acceptable to emphasize their culpability, if we cannot mention Wuhan, China or Communism?

            (Wuhan is currently reporting zero more cases for the third day in a row. Do you believe them this time?)

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, all indication seems to be that China has flipped into “herd immunity” mode and has decided to just reopen everything and let the disease circulate.

        • ana53294 says:

          I’m pretty sure nobody blames the inhabitants of Spain for Spanish ‘Flu

          Because it didn’t originate in Spain?

          Although there still seems to be debate over whether it originated in the UK, US, or China, nobody seems to think it originated in Spain.

          MERS, Ebola and Zika are diseases that are called for the places they originated from. The Spanish Flu isn’t. Spanish Flu is not in the same category as the rest of them. The Spanish Flu is called Spanish because Spain, as a country not at war, was the only country that did not censure the news of the disease.

    • BBA says:

      If this is the end of America, we totally deserve it. Between a media dominated by the view that everything is about racism and saying something isn’t about racism is inherently racist, and a President who even in a once-in-a-lifetime crisis can’t pass up any opportunity to trigger the libs, we are so fucked.

      • Matt M says:

        Not to be outdone, here’s “rich guy volunteers to help, is widely criticized for not having already helped more”

        https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1240486275892662273

        • gudamor says:

          It’s interesting how different our filters can be. The narrative I’d seen is that Tesla got the order that all non-essential businesses should shutdown, so decided to call itself essential, and that this offer to help is to retroactively defend that decision.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Huh. I could believe the battery factories might be, because aren’t some of those used in load balancing for the power grid? But the fancy cars not so much.

        • Deiseach says:

          Matt M, I had previously seen reporting on tweets from Musk calling it no big deal about the virus, so I imagine any offers of doing stuff are somebody telling him to engage in some positive PR for the love of God and stop dragging all his companies into a hole by opening his yap online.

          Right now we seem to be oscillating between “don’t encourage a panic by making this out to be the end of the world” and “nobody has taken this seriously enough from the start” so I am pretty much ignoring all statements from celebs, media big names and the likes.

          • Matt M says:

            Sure, that’s all well and good. I’m just recalling our previous discussions of billionaire philanthropy and thinking of the incentives involved.

            If your response to billionaires offering to help is to denigrate, insult, and criticize them, expect them to NOT offer to help in the future.

          • Deiseach says:

            If your response to billionaires offering to help is to denigrate, insult, and criticize them, expect them to NOT offer to help in the future.

            Given that this particular billionaire is Musk who only opens his mouth to change feet, I remain a bitter, black-hearted cynic 🙂

          • Loriot says:

            Elon Musk has a terrible track record when it comes to “philanthropy”. It’s all just meaningless PR stunts. Remember when he offered to help rescue the people in a cave with a wildly impractical submarine concept, and then attacked the diver who actually rescued them as a “pedo”?

        • John Schilling says:

          Yeah, some of the stuff Musk does is legitimately impressive and some is at least useful, but not so much this. “We will make ventilators if there is a shortage” is useful if you’ve got Star Trek logistics. Without replicators and transporters, great, you can dump the ventilators in the ditch next to the one they’re dumping the bodies in, and the credit goes to whoever started making ventilators before there was an acute shortage.

        • gbdub says:

          I don’t trust Musk to not put a Ludicrous Mode into a Tesla brand ventilator.

          • Matt M says:

            I want my lungs to be SUPER ventilated. On autopilot! And there should be a button that summons the ventilator to my location!

          • gbdub says:

            You have to pay an extra $5000 to unlock 100% respiration.

            But don’t worry, all Tesla Model Vs come with “full self breathing capability” which will be delivered via software downlink in like 24 months tops, we promise.

      • CatCube says:

        I think he’s less worried about triggering the libs (though he’d see that as a bonus), he’s trying to trigger the Chinese government, who’s running around telling people the US created COVID-19.

        By the way, here’s your periodic reminder that the Chinese government is running concentration camps where they put people based on race.

      • Well... says:

        @BBA: Speak for yourself. I don’t deserve it. At least not for anything close to the reasons you listed.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        “There are more important things at take right now than fighting about the narrative! So let’s just all accept my narrative and move on!”

      • Secretly French says:

        America will not end, life will just get harder and harder for the median man (I imagine elites do about as well in Brazil or even Nigeria as they do in The West, this isn’t about them), and one day the few who are still able to recall history will look back and claim that we have lost something incredible (like a system whereby basically every house in the country has running water which is totally safe to drink, wow wtf how even), whereupon they will be immediately castigated as racist liars.

    • Deiseach says:

      I’m only going by what I’ve seen online, but has there been some kind of online pushing back by the Chinese government and/or Chinese officials that it may not actually have originated in Wuhan? That’s assuming what I’m seeing is not (a) fake/hoax/jokes (b) not some Chinese tin-foil hat wearer.

      I can see why the Chinese would be VERY VERY VERY SENSITIVE about this, but honestly fighting over “that’s racist!” if it’s called the Chinese coronavirus is stupid. There are bigger problems than that out there.

      • aristides says:

        At the same time, my wife listens to the occasional Russian news report, and they are reporting it came from a Chinese Lab in Wuhan that didn’t follow safety protocols. There is a crazy amount of misinformed out there right now.

    • The Nybbler says:

      He’s doing it largely because he knows the media will (counterproductively, for them) pound him for it. It’s not 4D chess, it’s so easy it’s tic-tac-toe at this point. Also as a poke in the eye to China, which I believe is currently floating stories about it being a US bioweapon.

    • Kaitian says:

      I can see a couple of reasons not to call it that:
      – The virus is everywhere by now. Calling out any specific country is not useful any more, if it ever was. China has fewer new cases than many other countries at this point. Continuing to call it “the Chinese virus” might make people think it’s a far away problem.
      – I don’t think you can blame the Chinese government for this virus. The reaction in Iran, Italy and even the US makes me think that it would have spread from these places just the same. That doesn’t mean you can’t condemn the Chinese government’s behavior in this or many other cases, but to say that they “caused this global pandemic” is a bit much.
      – Racist memes about Chinese people are pretty popular in the context of this virus. I don’t think Trump is personally to blame for any of them, but his insistence on calling out China is not helping. There have even been some corona-themed physical attacks on Asian people.
      – The WHO says not to call it that, if he’s dismissing their guidance on this small issue, will he listen about more important things?

      Maybe the media are milking this for the outrage clicks, but I don’t think the criticism itself is a problem.

      • Chalid says:

        I’d never in my adult life been harassed for my Asian appearance. The first time was a few months ago. Looking forward to more, once I’m allowed to leave my house :/

      • JayT says:

        I personally don’t care about this beyond the fact that it’s damn annoying that someone asks a question about it every single press conference. However, do you think MERS has the same issue? Why do you think no one complained when the Obama admin used that term? I think the biggest issue here is that it really does look like the people complaining about this are just coming up with anything they can to knock Trump on. I think it will backfire on them.

        • Kaitian says:

          “Middle East” is not the name of a country or an ethnic group, and I don’t think many people even know what MERS stands for. The president also never talked anywhere near as much about MERS as he now talks about COVID-19.
          I suspect if people went around calling it “the Arab virus” the reaction would be similar.

          • JayT says:

            I think the average person would disagree that “Middle Eastern” isn’t an ethnic group. Do you really think no one would have minded it if Trump called it the “Asian Virus”?

            This is an isolated demand for rigor, and looks very silly to me, someone that doesn’t support Trump.

          • Kaitian says:

            @JayT:

            Let’s compare MERS on the other points:
            – Virus is already here: Not really, the large majority of MERS cases are in the middle east.
            – Blame government: “Middle east” (famously) has no government, so n/a
            – Racism: We’ve discussed that
            – WHO guidance: MERS is the official name of the disease.

            So I don’t really see the similarity. You can of course say “names are generally not important”, but the comparison to MERS doesn’t hold.

          • JayT says:

            I’m not arguing that it should be said, there are plenty of reasons not to say it. I’m just saying that it was a silly thing to complain about in the first place, and the complaints only amplified it’s usage.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          I think the biggest issue here is that it really does look like the people complaining about this are just coming up with anything they can to knock Trump on.

          Partly that, and partly media types finding racism under ever bed. To read some news outlets, you’d think we were only one inflammatory word away from a mass pogrom.

          However, do you think MERS has the same issue?

          You could add Spanish ‘Flu to the list as well. AFAIK nobody has ever blamed the Spaniards for that one.

          • Kaitian says:

            The name “Spanish Flu” was coined 100 years ago, when people had very different mindsets, and when “blaming the Spanish” may well have been a desired outcome.

            Scholarly sources nowadays are moving away from calling it “Spanish flu”, e.g. the WHO:
            https://www.who.int/influenza/pandemic-influenza-an-evolving-challenge/en/

            The Pandemic Influenza of 1918: Remembering the flu that killed millions around the globe

            2018 marks the 100th anniversary of one of the largest public health crises in modern history, the 1918 influenza pandemic known colloquially as “Spanish flu.” The intensity and speed with which it struck were almost unimaginable – infecting one-third of the Earth’s population, which at the time was about 500 million people. By the time it subsided in 1920, tens of millions people are thought to have died.

            There was nothing “Spanish” about the influenza epidemic of 1918, which began during World War I and affected countries around the globe. The cost in human life eclipsed that of World War I: more American troops, for instance, died from flu than they did in the battlefield.

      • albatross11 says:

        Nobody with the brains God gave a turnip blames Chinese-Americans for the virus, but on the other hand, the bell curve has a left tail, so there are inevitably some idiots doing just that. There are *always* idiots doing whatever dumbass thing you can think of.

    • Chalid says:

      Yes, our president is a troll, who is focused on stoking culture war as opposed to solving problems. And we collectively can’t resist feeding the troll. We all already knew this.

  43. FrankistGeorgist says:

    So one of my quarantine projects is to listen to full albums without distraction, and to try and “get” metal music to my own satisfaction. The central example in my head when someone says “metal” is a long-haired viking type in black torturing a guitar and screaming hoarsely and pseudo-melodically to an adoring crowd, also screaming. I started my adventure with Black Sabbath which decidedly wasn’t that. It was nice, really nice. Sorta bluesy and psychedelic.

    But I will say my favorite songs so far have been Planet Caravan and Changes, probably because they’re the slowest. Have I successfully honed in on the two not-actually-metal songs from a metal band, which points to me not actually liking metal? Spotify kicked me over to Led Zeppelin when the albums finished, which I liked considerably less. The subgenres of metal also indicate to me that either the world “metal” disambiguates precisely nothing and we have to kick the discussion one level down or that metalheads are nerdy snobs like all other people for whom knowledge of a genre of music form an important personality trait. Both of those could be true or neither.

    Can anyone recommend a good guide to why metal is so broad and why we still call all the component parts metal? Or some kind of chronological guide of “metal” albums so I can maybe get a picture of how we got to “let a thousand -metals bloom.”

    Also is metal one of those things that you have to hear in person to “get” because I’m too tall for live music.

    My next artist will be Deep Purple, and then I’ll try Led Zeppelin again, since they’re “the genre’s most famous pioneers” on the wikipedia article along with Black Sabbath.

    • 2181425 says:

      Not an expert by any stretch, but since you mentioned Deep Purple, I think an interesting ‘evolutionary’ arc for early metal is Deep Purple -> Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow -> Dio.

    • mendax says:

      To get an understanding of how genres of metal relate to each other and evolved across time, check out this (sentimental) Map of Metal.

      If you like slower, bluesier metal, check out sludge/stoner/doom metal/rock.

      • EchoChaos says:

        This is fantastic. As a guy who really loves everything in the speed/thrash/power triangle there, it’s a really good view of the genre’s evolution.

      • FrankistGeorgist says:

        Ah, this is exactly the sort of thing I needed, thank you! I will do a bit of a random walk through this map and see how it goes.

        • mendax says:

          I hope it helps. Looks like a lot of the youtube links underlying it are dead, but I’m sure you can still find those songs somewhere.

          And, to quote Christopher Lee, “Metal is not a genre of music. Metal is a way of life. I had been metal for many years, though I did not know it.”

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I’m pretty sure Christopher Lee became metal doing special operations against the Nazis.

      • Well... says:

        I take exception to “grunge” being listed as a genre, as if it has a sound. It was a social circle.

      • Winja says:

        Oh cool! Thanks!

        I remember coming across a similar project for electronic and techno music years ago that was helpful in finding new stuff.

    • Well... says:

      Metal’s common sonic denominators:

      – Harmonic and melodic minor keys
      – Distorted tones from guitars and/or synths
      – Mechanical drumming

      Not all metal subgenres have vocals but where they are present they can be divided into “clean” (i.e. sung) and [can’t remember the term] in which they are screamed. The screaming can be further divided into low gutteral belching and high pterodactyl screeching. Regular yelling in a way that doesn’t sound like a human attempting to sound like a demon is uncommon.

      The best single proxy for predicting metal subgenres might be tempo. With just the proxies of tempo and instrumentation your predictiveness can get pretty high. But much of that is nebulous because there’s not always agreement between the subgenre determined by the band, its fans, and outside observers. Worth noting that it’s possible (duh) for a band to write songs that span multiple metal subgenres or multiple genres period. Mr. Bungle has written songs that include speed metal in some parts and free jazz in others (example).

      Definitions of subgenres are a constant source of debate and controversy, which I think might be the point. Metal fans are mostly kinda nerdy kinda nihilistic white guys who wear black t-shirts a lot.

      You can also use peri-musical elements categorize metal. Like, if there’s a rock band whose name, lyrics, song titles, album art, costumes, and/or other creative elements around or related to the music but not the music itself adhere to schlocky or occultist themes, that’s probably a metal band.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      Metalheads – especially hardcore ones, especially these days – are a type of nerd. Of course, they’re going to have highly elaborate classification systems. To their credit, those classifications tend to make sense, broadly speaking, so if you’re familiar the lingo, you’ll have a decent idea what a melodic death metal band you’ve never heard will sound like.

      As for why metal is such a big tent, I believe it is best explained by ingroup/outgroup dynamics. On the one hand, much of the community-building around metal happened when this type of music (that wasn’t quite metal, yet) was very much unfashionable and being passed over in favour of punk and disco – and then subsequently in the Nineties, after it had fallen out of mainstream favour again. On the other hand, the evolutionary lines are traceable, because unlike pop, say, metal performers tend to be musicians first and celebrities second, if at all. Also, metal musicians are no less nerdy than their audience.

      The result goes something along the lines of “You like Sabbath? I like Sabbath! Purple?” “Nah, not really. Now, Priest…” “Hell yeah! Listen, if you like Priest, you’re gonna love this tape I found in the import bin. It’s this small band from England, that nobody’s ever heard of, but they’re way out there with Priest and Maiden!”

      Rinse and repeat over a couple of decades.

  44. sunnydestroy says:

    Finance discussion.

    Looking at the Shiller P/E ratio and the total market cap/GDP ratio, looks like we’re approaching fair value territory. Just slightly overpriced from the calculations I see right now.

    Shiller P/E ratio is at 23, historical mean is 17, the 2009 housing crisis low was 13. So we’re about 35% over historical mean. The couple years after 09 it hovered around 20.

    For the Buffet indicator total market cap/GDP we’re at 109.2%. The 2009 low was about 59%. Assuming somewhere around 80-90% is fair value, we’re slightly overvalued.

    Do we have a lot farther to fall? Buying opportunities coming up?

    • brad says:

      Earnings isn’t a continuous variable. For PE we have current price divided by 2019 Q4 earnings (annualized). For many companies 2020 Q1 is likely to have lower earnings. The way things stand now Q2 is looking even worse.

      For some companies you can make the argument that they’ll bounce back after this is all over, but even so the net present value of all future cash flows weighs today more heavily than eventually.

    • Matt M says:

      I am not an expert, but I certainly believe we have a lot further to fall. I’ll start looking at buying once the S&P is below 2000. I think we could easily see below 1500.

      And it won’t happen all at once. The true economic impacts of #FlattenTheEconomy won’t be fully known until a quarter from now…

  45. Le Maistre Chat says:

    I am closing on previous home (lived in it for 2 years, blah blah) tomorrow and will net $226,000 cash. What do?
    Our 78% S&P 500/22% bond Fidelity account has lost 15.3% of its original value.

    • sharper13 says:

      My reaction would be the Nasdaq 100, assuming you can handle a potential year or two of recovery. If you’re looking for more immediate risk, straddle options around the markets to get paid based on how unstable they are.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        If you’re looking for more immediate risk, straddle options around the markets to get paid based on how unstable they are.

        I don’t understand straddle options.

        • sharper13 says:

          Here’s a quick description.

          Basically you put together calls and puts so that as long as the market moves rapidly either up or down, you make lots of money. Essentially profiting on the instability. You lose if the market stays stable, which is why it’s a high-risk trade. Sounds like a no-brainer, though, right? The recent instability is likely already priced in somewhat, though, so it’s not necessarily as much of a guaranteed winner as it may sound.

    • Eric Rall says:

      Start by topping off your emergency fund. The standard recommendation is at least 3-6 months of necessary living expenses (not your normal livong expenses: you can assume a reasonable degree of belt-tightening if you lose your main income). And some advocate for up to a year. 1-2 months worth should probably go in your checking account, and the rest can go in a money market fund, a high-yield savings account, or short-term CDs with staggered maturity dates.

      For the rest, one option is to pay down your mortgage on your new house. This is equivalent to investing in a low-risk bond with a mostly-tax-free return (mortgage interest is tax deductable, but it overlaps with the standard deduction so only the left-over amount above the standard deduction actually lowers your taxes) of whatever you interest rate is. And if you can pay it off completely, your fixed expenses just got a lot cheaper.

      Or you can throw it into your investment account. Your 78/22 split is moderately aggressive, which is probably good if you’re investing for the long term. In the long run, the market will very likely recover, and buying stock now is much cheaper than it was a few weeks ago. But brace yourself for things getting worse before they get better. Maybe a lot worse.

      I paid off my mortgage on my current house a couple years ago when I sold my previous house. I don’t regret that at all: not having a motgage payment hive me a lot more financial flexibility and is reassuring in trying times. I rebalanced my investments back to my target allocation (90% stock index funds, 10% short-term corporate bond funds) on Monday, and I’m leaving my 401k and ESPP contributions on autopilot. The rest of my income net of expenses is going into padding my emergency fund.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Start by topping off your emergency fund. The standard recommendation is at least 3-6 months of necessary living expenses (not your normal livong expenses: you can assume a reasonable degree of belt-tightening if you lose your main income). And some advocate for up to a year. 1-2 months worth should probably go in your checking account, and the rest can go in a money market fund, a high-yield savings account, or short-term CDs with staggered maturity dates.

        We bought the new house for cash, so our necessary living expenses are very small. Car insurance is >$495 for 6 months. $45/month gas covers essential errands and even our short commute. Property tax should be about $1,500/year. Internet and 2 smartphones = $90/mo. The only other essentials are electricity (no gas or oil heating), water and Costco/the grocery store.
        Our first property taxes here are due Nov. 1, so probably try to stock up on staples at Costco and then top up the emergency fund to $2630+6 months utilities.

        In the long run, the market will very likely recover, and buying stock now is much cheaper than it was a few weeks ago. But brace yourself for things getting worse before they get better. Maybe a lot worse.

        Yeah, that’s my concern!

        • FLWAB says:

          Don’t be afraid of the market crashing further. Unless you need the money right away, this is a buyers market. Stocks could fall significantly further and you’d still clean up long term if you buy now. But timing the market is hard, and if you hold out too long, well…

          I mean if you’re worried that you won’t be getting the best deal possible, then stop worrying. You won’t. Buying at the absolute bottom of the market is like winning the lottery. If you want to hedge a bit, take the money you’re willing to invest and invest half of it now, a quarter next week, and a quarter a month from now. Or something like that. But with things the way they are, I would have no qualms about investing it all at once. Look at it this way: if a store was selling something you wanted to buy and they were having a 33% off sale at the moment, is it really worth waiting and hoping they’ll have a 60% off sale in a couple weeks? I know, it’s not a great analogy, but the fact remains that if you have cash now is the time to invest it. I wish I had cash lying around right now.

    • baconbits9 says:

      I suggest gold to actually balance a portfolio. I tell my family 5-10% because telling them 20-30% would prevent them from actually buying any until it was to late. Gold has almost always increased in value in the short term as a crisis moves to its next stages, and has shown significant upside.

    • broblawsky says:

      Hold cash for a little while.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I would recommend putting it all into a good index stock fund covering the entire US market. Stock prices may fall some more, but it certainly isn’t guaranteed. I’m a little surprised it has fallen so much. Covid-19 is a short term issue, so I don’t see it having that great effect on long-term cash flow, which is what stock prices are supposed to be. Of course stocks were probably a bit high regardless, so it might be the virus was just an excuse for everyone’s inner bear to come out. In any case, there is no guarantee that the market will fall further, and it is very likely that the market will be quite a bit higher than now in two years. So I’d invest now.

  46. People always joke about what happens you kill a Mongol envoy but you have to wonder why people always want to kill them.

    • GearRatio says:

      Probably because he’s cooking things on a big hot rock like an asshole.

    • Kaitian says:

      You’re not the only person asking themself that: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/7absmk/why_does_everyone_murder_mongol_envoys/ (unless that’s you).

      • Hmm. The guy basically says it’s a coincidence. I’m not convinced. Mongols envoys seem to have a low life expectancy compared to other envoys. I’m wondering if Mongol envoys were particularly arrogant compared to others.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          The mongols contacted a *lot* of nations they had never met before in the course of their conquests. The average envoy is dispatched to a neighbor that your people have dealt with for decades or centuries, and you will know how to be polite, and will only fail at it intentionally. No arrogance required for mongol envoys to have a higher than usual rate of being mortally offensive. But also, the mongols were really, really racist towards anyone not a mongol.

        • Kaitian says:

          It’s possible that some amount of envoys were being murdered all the time everywhere, but in the case of the Mongols people remember it due to their historical importance and the unusual circumstances. If Albert count of Dillingen kills the envoy from Botho count of Meiningen, and Botho responds by burning some fields, only local historians will bother to even write it down.

          • Yeah, I’m thinking either that Mongol envoys were provoking people in to war or that it’s not actually a higher rate than others, the Mongols just emphasized it more in their history.

        • Chalid says:

          The Mongols envoys were being dispatched to tell other kings to surrender or die horribly. Most envoys were probably sending much milder messages.

    • DeWitt says:

      The Romans, when they didn’t have a good pretext for war, had a habit of sending over envoys who’d then misbehave themselves to the point of returning with the message that ‘gee guys, they just done declared war on us’. This wasn’t a uniquely Roman matter; Saigo Takamori is a more recent example. It is entirely possible and even likely that the envoys were people seeking a pretext for war much more than anything else.

      • That’s exactly what I’m thinking. Mongols sent out envoys saying that if they didn’t surrender, they were going to rape their women and burn their crops and then feign shock when people get pissed and cut their heads off. When it comes to Rome, we generally understand that these were just pretexts but people seem to take the Mongols claims of outrage at face value.

  47. MrApophenia says:

    Curious if anyone has any advice. My brother lives in upstate NY, and his boss refuses to allow anyone to work from home. The governor just issued an executive order that all non-essential businesses must have at least half of their workforce out of the office, effective Friday.

    My brother’s boss said flat out that he is planning to ignore this and continue business as usual. It is a small business, so it doesn’t have an HR department.

    Any options anyone can see for forcing the boss’ hand that don’t get my brother on the boss’ shit list?

    • Machine Interface says:

      Your brother should come to work pretending to be sick, then closely follow his boss around as much as possible, with no regard for personal space, while continuously, messily and loudly coughing, all while telling the boss at length how brave he is to keep everyone at work despite the high risk of dangerous contagion.

    • Is he married? Could always pull the “my wife made me do it” card. It has a surface plausibility that the standard explanations(you happen to be sick, your kid happens to be sick, etc.) lack. It shows him as somewhat weak-willed, but that’s what many bosses want anyway.

      A more combative approach would be to have someone else call the boss up and threaten to call up the business’s customers if he goes through with flouting the law. I wouldn’t think this would qualify as blackmail, since I don’t think strong-arming someone into following the law could count, still, best to consult with a lawyer…

    • John Schilling says:

      First, there’s a classic prisoner’s dilemma at work here. Your brother would rather not be out of a job, but your brother is going to be out of a job as soon as any of his coworkers call the police, health department, or local media and make enough of a fuss. And it’s the person who makes the call who gets protected status as a whistleblower, is first in line for a wrongful-termination settlement when the boss’s lawyers explain the situation to him, and gets his name in the local papers as the stand-up guy who could use a new job. All of which is more hassle than just keeping low and keeping his job, but if your brother is the second one to the phone he gets neither.

      Second, your brother is playing a classic prisoners’ dilemma in an environment where we already know one of the players is in fact a dangerous sociopathic criminal, so really he needs to be looking for an exit strategy.

      • MrApophenia says:

        Yeah, it’s wild to me that his boss is taking this stance – particularly since it is a business that isn’t going to actually have any customers until this is a over. So he is making everyone come and sit in an office doing no business for 8 hours, seemingly just to be a dick.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          I remember on 9/11 there were rumors of bosses ordering their staff to stay at their desks.

          I can’t find it easily now. But we’ve all known that boss, so it’s very easy to believe.

    • zoozoc says:

      Has the boss at least taken steps to make the work in the office safer? Most office work doesn’t seem too high risk. And an individual in an office environment can do a lot of things to limit their exposure even if others aren’t.

      How do the other employees feel about this? Is it just him? If he has more support, he could talk to the boss with the others. Or at least everyone implementing measures to reduce exposure.

      • eric23 says:

        Just spending time in a closed room with someone who’s infected is high risk. There is no way of avoiding this possibility in an office.

        • John Schilling says:

          An office is frequently a closed room where one spends time with zero other people, and in the slightly broader sense of the word a collection of such buildings with common hallways, restrooms, and the like. With reasonable precautions, that can be made roughly as safe as a home office; you don’t get sick by walking past someone in a hallway.

          Of course, it’s unlikely that Brother Apophenia’s boss is going to be taking such precautions, so the point is moot in this case.

          • The Nybbler says:

            An office is frequently a closed room where one spends time with zero other people

            Maybe for you upper management types in mature industries. For us peons in tech, an office looks more like this, only with monitors and keyboards on the desks.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Unless it’s an open-plan office, of course, in which cases there are likely to be lots of other people there. Even smaller offices often have two or three people working in them.

          • John Schilling says:

            Unless it’s an open-plan office, of course

            Can we hope that Covid-19 will be counted as one more strike against the insanity of open-plan offices?

            And, to accelerate that, can we prevail on doctors to start writing notes that so-and-so has some vague respiratory “sensitivity” that requires a private office? Maybe call down the wrath of ADA lawyers on anyone who doesn’t go along with the program?

    • Deiseach says:

      Two things to consider: if it’s a small business, will laying off staff/shutting down mean that it goes belly-up? The boss sounds like an idiot but he may be struggling to keep his head above water. That is one thing to keep in consideration: if the business sends staff home/shuts down, will your brother lose his job?

      Secondly, I don’t like informers generally but in this case – if the governor has issued an order, and if the business is non-essential, is there a hotline or other means of identifying non-conforming businesses? If so, then your brother should leave an anonymous call – that’s about the only way I can think of not to get on the bad side of the boss by confronting him directly.

    • Skivverus says:

      I mean, given the location of the known cases in the state (per-county breakdown here), the math suggests a couple weeks of buffer yet for upstate (assuming two orders of magnitude for invisible cases rather than three). Rochester and Buffalo (Monroe and Erie counties, respectively) are the only places where more than three people are confirmed infected, and even there it’s less than thirty people between them. The surrounding counties all have zero or one confirmed cases, as does every county north of Saratoga. All the action’s pretty much between Albany, NYC, and Long Island, for the obvious density reason.

      • MrApophenia says:

        While this is sound reasoning in theory, unfortunately one of the confirmed cases is specifically in the very small town where my brother lives/works.

        Right now he is pinning his hopes on his boss realizing that this is a potential lawsuit disaster.

    • MrApophenia says:

      Thanks for the advice, everyone!

      As an update, they did finally cave, but only after the state specifically announced that car dealerships are not essential businesses, despite their tenuous claim to being transportation infrastructure.

    • Purplehermann says:

      Is your brother at risk? Is anyone in the household at risk? If not this might be good for him, he can keep making money.

  48. The Pachyderminator says:

    !corona

    Inspired by a subthread down below: There’s a conversational failure mode with no name that I know of, where someone illustrates a general/abstract point with a specific/concrete example, but the example is much juicier than the original topic, and the original topic is quickly forgotten while everyone starts arguing about the example. I’m sure we’ve all seen this scenario play out many times (but, for obvious reasons, think twice before providing illustrative anecdotes!).

    It’s related to the “scissor statement” but not really the same thing. The example or side note that gets the conversation off track isn’t necessarily something wildly controversial: it’s merely a cheaper thrill, a more competitive meme, or something about which opinions are abundant and outlets for those opinions relatively rare. On the theory that more meta-jargon to discuss our own discussions is always a good thing, what name should we give this demon?

    • Eric Rall says:

      How about “conversational sidequest”?

    • FLWAB says:

      I personally used to call it “attacking the icing.” Because in debate club I’d make what I felt were some very strong arguments and then I’d throw out a much weaker but illustrative argument as “icing on the cake.” Naturally all my opponents would comment on was the problems with the weak illustration and ignore the strong core arguments. Of course in the end I just learned not to ice the cake at all, so the metaphor didn’t hold up since who doesn’t ice a cake?

    • Kaitian says:

      I don’t have a name for this, but this is an important and much discussed concept in early Chinese philosophy. From the Great Learning:

      What the Great Learning teaches, is to illustrate illustrious virtue; to renovate the people; and to rest in the highest excellence. The point where to rest being known, the object of pursuit is then determined; and, that being determined, a calm unperturbedness may be attained to. To that calmness there will succeed a tranquil repose. In that repose there may be careful deliberation, and that deliberation will be followed by the attainment of the desired end. Things have their root and their branches. Affairs have their end and their beginning. To know what is first and what is last will lead near to what is taught in the Great Learning.

      https://ctext.org/liji/da-xue

      The phenomenon in question would in Chinese be called 本末顛倒, which in the dictionary is translated as “take the branch for the root, put the incidental before the fundamental”. I guess the English is too long for a technical term.

  49. broblawsky says:

    In (mostly) !corona news, West Texas oil has now dropped to $20/barrel, the lowest level since February 2002. Oil is now cheaper than Coca-Cola.

    • mobile says:

      That’s mostly corona news. Dim growth prospects reduce the forecast demand for oil. The price could be a little higher without Saudi Arabia declaring a price war on Russia, but corona is still the big story.

      • Matt M says:

        Disagree. It was down to $30 or so almost entirely on the Saudi/Russia price war. The next $10 down is a mix between “in-line with GDP expectations” and “a little worse than that because people aren’t driving”

  50. Beans says:

    Ignore this: Tried to reply to something but goofed it up.

  51. Plumber says:

    Lots of “What’s going on in [place] questions, here’s another one:

    What’s changed where you live and work since last week?

    • John Schilling says:

      Work has gone to almost full telecommuting, which is a bit more than I’d prefer but mostly not a big deal for at least a few weeks. Going to be a bigger deal when we start having to do launch support, and there are some other activities where FTF meetings work much better than the alternative.

      Home, I don’t have to deal with kids being out of school. I do have to deal with restaurants being closed and grocery stores absolutely out of the staples I normally use for home cooking. There’s no danger of going hungry, but maintaining a diet that is both healthy and palatable is very annoying and I’m pretty sure it’s “healthy” that is going to be sacrificed if this keeps up. And, cabin fever is a thing.

    • bullseye says:

      Here in Ohio they closed all the bars and restaurants starting Sunday evening. (They still do delivery and carryout, though. Their employees have started wearing gloves, or at least the ones I’ve seen have.) Also our primary was supposed to be yesterday, but the day before they decided to reschedule.

      I had been teleworking about half the time, but as of this week it’s all the time. The system we use for conference calls is getting overwhelmed.

      There’s a gaming store nearby that is still open but has cancelled their Magic: The Gathering events.

    • Plumber says:

      I work in San Francisco, California and live 15 miles from work in Alameda County.

      Since last week:
      1) Schools have closed

      2) Public libraries have closed

      3) Bars/pubs/taverns have closed

      4) Restaurants are “take out only”

      5) A general “shelter in place” order is in effect, drug stores, grocery stores, and gas stations are to remain open, people may go to them, and walk/jog but are to remain 6′ from each other, no groups of more than ten allowed, otherwise stay at home.

      Yesterday I saw a line around the block of people waiting to get into a supermarket.

      My job has been deemed an “essential City disaster service worker” one and I’m still at work, but my commute is now 25 minutes instead of 90 minutes, on the streets I see few except cops, deputies, and dazed drug-users/schizophrenics, with at most a tenth of cars being driven compared to last week.

      • JayT says:

        I haven’t been downtown since last week, are you seeing the same number of homeless people, or are they hunkering down too?

        • Plumber says:

          @Jay T,
          I haven’t been north of Market Street, and all I’ve really seen of San Francisco is parts of “SOMA”, but from what I’ve seen it’s about half of the usual numbers of homeless, but they’re now the majority of people on the streets.

          I’ll drive down Folsom in a few minutes and see if that looks any different.

        • Plumber says:

          @JayT says:

          “I haven’t been downtown since last week, are you seeing the same number of homeless people, or are they hunkering down too?”

          I took the long way and didn’t pass by the 5th Street tent camp yesterday, but Folsom from 6th to 1st hardly had any visibly homeless at all, there were less than a hundredth of the usual number of pedestrians, of those left I saw one grey-haired couple (both wearing masks), and one child with their parents, mostly they were young adult singles and couples.
          Driving through Berkeley it looked much the same but with more bicyclists, when I crossed the Brandywine and reached Hobbiton from my driveway I could see a grey-haired lady speaking to a trio of young women on the corner (and yes, they were all within 6′ of each other), taking my stir crazy three year old for a walk around the block showed that the few other pedestrians gave a wide berth. The air smelled floral and the ever present sound of cars was mostly gone.

          This morning Bryant Street still had one beggar (man) and one screaming schizophrenic (women), a few cops (who all stayed close to each other), and some lawyers. Across the street the new housing construction project is still manned, apparently housing construction has been deemed ‘essential’ and will continue.