Diamond Rust

Jul. 24th, 2017 04:57 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
[personal profile] stoutfellow
For some reason, I've been thinking about Neil Diamond. It seems that when you buy a "Greatest Hits" album of a singer or group you loved in your youth, it never contains all of the songs you want (unless it's a "Complete Works", and even that doesn't always work - my so-called "Complete Diana Ross" omits several songs of her songs from the Supremes. I found those later.)[1]

I have three Diamond albums. Two of them - Beautiful Noise and I'm Glad You're Here With Me Tonight - are from the late seventies, early eighties; they're good albums (I love "Dry Your Eyes" in particular) but they're not the Diamond I grew up with. The third is The Neil Diamond Collection, mostly from the early seventies, and it has some great stuff ("Sweet Caroline", "Holly Holy", "Brother Love's Travellin' Salvation Show"), but it's also not the Diamond I grew up with. It does have one song from that era, "Cherry Cherry", but - no. That song was written for and by someone a decade younger, and hearing it sung live, by the older Diamond, complete with grunting... just no.

The songs that introduced me to Diamond were on one album, belonging to one of my sisters. (I have no way of knowing which; they themselves sometimes disagree on the issue.) It was very early, mid-sixties Diamond: "Kentucky Woman", "Red Red Wine", "You Got to Me", "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon", "Solitary Man"... Yeah, some of them have probably been visited by one of the Suck Fairies (probably the Sexism Fairy), but that's what teen heart-throb albums were like back then, and I still remember them fondly. One of these days I'll have to get the CD.

[1] I can't decide whether the period goes inside the parenthesis or outside, when the parenthetical is a sentence and a half long. My rule of thumb - if the parenthetical is entirely part of the sentence, then outside; if it's a sentence, or more than one, in its own right, then inside - doesn't handle fractions well. Probably parentheses should be avoided then, but quod scripsi scripsi. :grmph:

An Ill Wind

Jul. 24th, 2017 04:50 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
[personal profile] stoutfellow
I put out a call for estimates on the fence this morning, and have spoken to one contractor. His estimate, based purely on my possibly-flawed description, is something over a Kbuck, but I can handle it. I've decided not to let the mowers into the back yard until the fence is fixed; the gate is in the damaged section, and opening or closing it is likely to increase the strain. That shim won't last very long....

We had a bad thunderstorm, with much wind, the last night of the heat warning, and I suspect that wind was the final blow to an already weakened system. This morning I noticed my trash bin (about 4'x1'x1') had fallen over; there was only one bagful of garbage in it. The recycling bin, of the same size and right next to it, was still upright. It was also about half full. (I seem to generate recyclables more quickly than I do garbage.)

Targeting Meritocracy

Jul. 24th, 2017 06:40 pm
[syndicated profile] slatestarcodex_feed

Posted by Scott Alexander

I.

Prospect Magazine writes about the problem with meritocracy. First Things thinks meritocracy is killing America. Feminist Philosophers comes out against meritocracy. The Guardian says “down with meritocracy”. Vox calls for an atack on the false god of meritocracy. There’s even an Against Meritocracy book. Given that meritocracy seems almost tautologically good (doesn’t it just mean positions going to those who deserve them?), there sure do seem to be a lot of people against it.

Some of these people are just being pointlessly edgy. The third article seem to admit that a true meritocracy would be a good thing, but argues that we don’t have one right now. This hardly seems “against meritocracy”, any more than saying we don’t have full racial equality right now means you’re “against racial equality”, but whatever, I guess you’ve got to get clicks somehow.

The other articles actually mean it. Their argument seems to be gesturing at the idea that elites send their kids to private schools, where they get all A+s and end up as president of the Junior Strivers Club. Then they go to Harvard and dazzle their professors with their sparkling wit and dapper suits. Then they get hired right out of college to high-paying management positions at Chase-Bear-Goldman-Sallie-Manhattan-Stearns-Sachs-Mae-FEDGOV. Then they eat truffle-flavored caviar all day and tell each other “Unlike past generations of elites, we are meritocrats who truly deserve our positions, on account of our merit”, as the poor gnash their teeth outside.

Grant that this is all true, and that it’s bad. Does that mean we should be against meritocracy?

II.

There’s a weird assumption throughout all these articles, that meritocracy is founded on the belief that smart people deserve good jobs as a reward for being smart. Freddie de Boer, in his review of yet another anti-meritocracy book, puts it best:

I reject meritocracy because I reject the idea of human deserts. I don’t believe that an individual’s material conditions should be determined by what he or she “deserves,” no matter the criteria and regardless of the accuracy of the system contrived to measure it. I believe an equal best should be done for all people at all times.

More practically, I believe that anything resembling an accurate assessment of what someone deserves is impossible, inevitably drowned in a sea of confounding variables, entrenched advantage, genetic and physiological tendencies, parental influence, peer effects, random chance, and the conditions under which a person labors. To reflect on the immateriality of human deserts is not a denial of choice; it is a denial of self-determination. Reality is indifferent to meritocracy’s perceived need to “give people what they deserve.”

I think this is both entirely true and entirely missing the point. The intuition behind meritocracy is this: if your life depends on a difficult surgery, would you prefer the hospital hire a surgeon who aced medical school, or a surgeon who had to complete remedial training to barely scrape by with a C-? If you prefer the former, you’re a meritocrat with respect to surgeons. Generalize a little, and you have the argument for being a meritocrat everywhere else.

The Federal Reserve making good versus bad decisions can be the difference between an economic boom or a recession, and ten million workers getting raises or getting laid off. When you’ve got that much riding on a decision, you want the best decision-maker possible – that is, you want to choose the head of the Federal Reserve based on merit.

This has nothing to do with fairness, deserts, or anything else. If some rich parents pay for their unborn kid to have experimental gene therapy that makes him a superhumanly-brilliant economist, and it works, and through no credit of his own he becomes a superhumanly-brilliant economist – then I want that kid in charge of the Federal Reserve. And if you care about saving ten million people’s jobs, you do too.

III.

Does this mean we just have to suck it up and let the truffle-eating Harvard-graduating elites at Chase-Bear-Goldman-Sallie-Manhattan-Stearns-Sachs-Mae-FEDGOV lord it over the rest of us?

No. The real solution to this problem is the one none of the anti-meritocracy articles dare suggest: accept that education and merit are two different things!

I work with a lot of lower- and working-class patients, and one complaint I hear again and again is that their organization won’t promote them without a college degree. Some of them have been specifically told “You do great work, and we think you’d be a great candidate for a management position, but it’s our policy that we can’t promote someone to a manager unless they’ve gone to college”. Some of these people are too poor to afford to go to college. Others aren’t sure they could pass; maybe they have great people skills and great mechanical skills but subpar writing-term-paper skills. Though I’ve met the occasional one who goes to college and rises to great heights, usually they sit at the highest non-degree-requiring tier of their organization, doomed to perpetually clean up after the mistakes of their incompetent-but-degree-having managers. These people have loads of merit. In a meritocracy, they’d be up at the top, competing for CEO positions. In our society, they’re stuck.

The problem isn’t just getting into college. It’s that success in college only weakly correlates with success in the real world. I got into medical school because I got good grades in college; those good grades were in my major, philosophy. Someone else who was a slightly worse philosopher would never have made it to medical school; maybe they would have been a better doctor. Maybe someone who didn’t get the best grades in college has the right skills to be a nurse, or a firefighter, or a police officer. If so, we’ll never know; all three of those occupations are gradually shifting to acceptance conditional on college performance. Ulysses Grant graduated in the bottom half of his West Point class, but turned out to be the only guy capable of matching General Lee and winning the Civil War after a bunch of superficially better-credentialed generals failed. If there’s a modern Grant with poor grades but excellent real-world fighting ability, are we confident our modern educationocracy will find him? Are we confident it will even try?

Remember that IQ correlates with chess talent at a modest r = 0.24, and chess champion Garry Kasparov has only a medium-high IQ of 135. If Kasparov’s educational success matched his IQ, he might or might not have made it into Harvard; he certainly wouldn’t have been their star student. And if it was only that kind of educational success that gave spots on some kind of national chess team, Kasparov and a bunch of other grandmasters would never have a chance. Real meritocracy is what you get when you ignore the degrees and check who can actually win a chess game.

One of the few places I see this going well is in programming. Triplebyte (conflict of interest notice: SSC sponsor) asks people who want a programming job to take a test of their programming ability, “no resume needed”. Then it matches them with tech companies that want the kind of programming the applicant is good at. It doesn’t matter whether you were president of the Junior Strivers’ Club in college. It doesn’t matter whether you managed to make it past the gatekeepers trying to keep you out for not excluding the right kind of upper-class vibe. What matters is whether you can code or not. As a result, a bunch of the people I know are poor/transgender/mentally ill people who couldn’t do college for whatever reason, bought some computer science books and studied on their own, and got hired by some big tech company. Programming is almost the only well-paying field where people can still do this, and it doesn’t surprise me that the establishment keeps portraying its culture as uniquely evil and demanding it be dismantled.

I think we should be doing the opposite: reworking every field we can on the same model. Instead of Goldman Sachs hiring whoever does best at Harvard, they should hire people who can demonstrate their knowledge of investing principles or (even better) who can demonstrate an ability to predict the market better than chance. Some of these people will be the academic stars who learned how to do it at Harvard Business School. But a lot of others will be ordinary working-class people who self-studied or who happen to have a gift, the investing equivalents of General Grant and Garry Kasparov.

I don’t think the writers of the anti-meritocracy articles above really disagree with this. I think they’re probably using a different definition of meritocracy where it does mean “rule by well-educated people with prestigious credentials”. But I think it’s important to defend the word “meritocracy” as meaning what it says – decision by merit, rather than by wealth, class, race, or education – and as a good thing. If we let the word be tarnished as some sort of vague signifier of a corrupt system, then it’s too easy for the people who really are in that corrupt system to exploit the decline and fall of the only word we have to signal an alternative. “Oh, you don’t like that all the important jobs go to upper-class people instead of the people who are best at them? You’d prefer they be given out based on merit? But haven’t you read The New Inquiry, First Things, and Vox? Believing in so-called ‘meritocracy’ is totally uncool!” And then we lose one of the only rallying points, one of the few pieces of vocabulary we have to express what’s wrong with the current system and what would be a preferable alternative. We ought to reject the redefinition of “meritocracy” to mean “positions go to people based on their class and ability to go to Harvard”, and reclaim it as meaning exactly what it says – positions going to those who are best at them and can best use them to help others. Which is what we want.

(None of this solves one of the biggest problems that the anti-meritocracy folk are complaining about: the fact that there’s a distinction between millionaire Goldman Sachs analysts and starving poor people in the first place. I’m just saying that in a world where somebody has to be an investment banker, a surgeon, or a Federal Reserve chair, I’d rather choose them by true meritocracy than by anything else.)

rachelmanija: (Book Fix)
[personal profile] rachelmanija
Illness memoirs, like child abuse memoirs, have a number of pitfalls. They’re about depressing topics and so are hard not to depress the reader, they’re often by people who don’t write professionally and so are not well-written, and as the subject is inherently self-focused, they can very easily come across as self-absorbed. Even if they manage to avoid those problems, many are valuable works of self-help, self-revelation, community-building, comfort, and calls to action… but are not interesting to someone who mostly wants to read a good book.

This one is a good book.

Julie Rehmeyer, a mathematician and science writer, chronicles how chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalopathy (CFS/ME) crept up on her until her entire life had vanished and she was frequently completely paralyzed. While she desperately tried to find a treatment, she instead encountered an array of quacks, snake oil salesmen, nice but useless therapists, nice but useless doctors, a patients’ community full of apparent crackpots, and medical literature claiming that it was a mental illness caused by, essentially, being lazy and whiny.

In desperation, Rehmeyer finally starts listening to some of the apparent crackpots… and when she applies her scientific training to their ideas, she finds that stripped of the bizarre terminology and excessive exclamation points, they sound surprisingly plausible. With her entire life at a dead end and nothing left to lose, she reluctantly decides to try a treatment which is both radical and distinctly woo-woo sounding.

And it works.

But unlike every other “How I cured/treated my illness by some weird method” memoir, the story doesn’t end there. Instead, she not only researches and theorizes about how and why it might have worked, she interviews scientists and doctors, and even arranges to do a double-blind experiment on herself to see if it’s a real cause of her symptoms or the placebo effect. I cannot applaud this too much. (I was unsurprised to find that every article I read on her book had a comment section claiming that her results were due to the placebo effect.)

Lots of people have suggested that I write about my own horrendous illness, crowd-sourced treatment, and jaw-dropping parade of asshole doctors who told me I was lying, a hypochondriac, or crazy. While you’re waiting… read this book instead. Though it’s not the same disease and she was treated WAY better by doctors, a lot of her experience with being beaten over the head with bad science and diagnoses based purely on sexism was very similar. As is much of her righteous rage. I am way more ragey and less accepting than she is. But still. It’s similar.

Overall, this is a well-written and honest memoir that shines a welcome light on a poorly-understood illness. Rehmeyer's perspective as a science writer provides for clarity, justifiable anger, and humor as she takes apart the morass of bad science, victim-blaming, and snake oil that surrounds chronic fatigue syndrome. It's informative without being dry, easy to read and hard to put down.

Through the Shadowlands: A Science Writer's Odyssey into an Illness Science Doesn't Understand

Curbing hate against police

Jul. 24th, 2017 11:54 am
drwex: (Default)
[personal profile] drwex
One of the areas where I can differ from other liberal/progressives is in the area of violence against law enforcement. A nice column addressing this came out today from Professor Margulies of Cornell.

Margulies is also very left-liberal and has been deeply into the theories and research around policing and criminal justice reform. I was interested to see that he takes a stand very similar to my own, which is that although acts of murder against police are quite rare (and have been dropping steadily for the last 40 years) there is still a perception that police are targeted and that violence against police is not adequately addressed.

I understand why this is so - we focus attention on the victims of police violence, particularly because those victims are often young men of color who are ignored and denied a voice unless we keep a hard focus on their unjust treatment. But I think we are adult enough to pay attention to more than one thing and in this case that means giving appropriate attention to violence against police without taking attention away from the violence committed against their victims.

Margulies' column notes that police are increasingly being asked to solve problems that they simply cannot solve, and that a first step in reducing violence and tension is for us (society) stop making police the first and only approach to public manifestations of complex intertwined social problems such as addiction, homelessness, and mental illness. He argues we need to change the role and mission of police - if you read his earlier writing you'll see he's a big advocate of place-based policing, reducing overall police presence in favor of concentrating on the handful of individuals and locations that are responsible for the majority of crimes.

I think it makes sense to try these approaches - in particular I agree with Margulies that AG Sessions' attempts to reverse the history of policing are only going to make things worse. And I would go one step further, specifically to address the perception issue. I would make it law that any person who targets police because they are police should be subject to hate-crime investigation and possible prosecution.

At first this seems like a stretch. "Police" are not an identifiable protected class the way black people or women are. But I think that misses the point. When someone firebombs black churches, or vandalizes Jewish cemeteries, or shoots up a gay nightclub they are attacking the visible symbols of identity of a class of persons. Likewise, on those rare occasions when someone specifically targets those in uniform such as happened in Dallas last year they are attacking the class of persons who wear those uniforms. And I believe those attacks should be investigated and potentially prosecuted the same way.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the perception of police being under fire is not matched by statistical evidence; however, when women say they feel a company has created a hostile environment we don't ask them for statistics (or ought not). Instead we (ought to) work to turn the environment around. Part of turning around the environment for police is to stop asking them to solve unsolvable problems; another part can be making a clear public statement of how we feel about violence that targets them.

new Penric impending!

Jul. 24th, 2017 07:53 am
filkferengi: filk fandom--all our life's a circle (Default)
[personal profile] filkferengi
Lois McMaster Bujold says, here:

https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/15463253-new-penric-impending

I am pleased to report that I have finished the first draft of a new Penric & Desdemona novella. (For that peculiar value of "finished" that means, "still dinking till it's pulled from the writer's twitchy hands.")

Title will be "Penric's Fox"

Length, at this moment, is around 37,400 words. It is more-or-less a sequel to "Penric and the Shaman", taking place about eight or nine months after that story.

Final editing and formatting, arranging for cover art to send it out into the world nicely dressed, etc., will take some unknown amount of time and eyeball-endurance, but e-pub will likely happen in August.

My computer file tells me I started typing the opening on March 3rd, but of course there was lead-up to that. It is, in general, hard to tell or remember when a project segues over from "notion" to "planning", although the notion had been with me for some time. Story notions are like a collection of vaguely related objects rattling around in a box; planning starts when some key object that connects them all drops in, and things suddenly get interesting.

Ta, L.
[syndicated profile] grrlpowercomic_feed

Posted by DaveB

Grrl Power #547 – This kiss is on my list

Not sure how Dabbler’s going to study the problem if they can’t be in the same room, but no one ever said being a super hero was easy.

So here’s a case of bad planning on my part. It’s easy to miss, but Dabbler is covered in lipstick on this page, only Jabber’s lipstick is nearly the same color as Dabbler’s stripes. There are some things in this comic I plan quite far ahead, but the color schemes of these two as it relates to a joke several years in the making did happen to slip through the cracks this time.

This page was a real pain to write, mostly because Dabbler’s discussion of the Aethershpere went off on a real tangent and was, I finally realized, a crazy and irrelevant info dump. So I cut that discussion out for a future comic. Maybe one day Sydney will ask Dabbler to teach her magic.

Whoops, I forgot the XXXX on Dabbler’s choker. I’ll have to add that in later today as it’s already 2 am. :(


Double res version will be posted over at Patreon. $1 and up, but feel free to contribute as much as you like.

Oh, joy, the car battery is going.

Jul. 23rd, 2017 09:38 pm
archangelbeth: Bleach's Captain Byakuya, three-quarters view. Captioned: sigh (Sigh)
[personal profile] archangelbeth
Here's hoping it'll make it to the car place tomorrow! (I turned the car on this evening -- after going nowhere all day yesterday -- and got a "grindgrindgrind." I paused, tried again. She started. The clock had reset to 1:00. Um. Mm-kay. I wasn't going far, so spouse could rescue us, and I hoped that it was just that I hadn't driven her all day yesterday. Went and got gas. She ground a little (didn't lose the clock) and started. Got dinner nearby. Re-started car and she groundgroundground a little less than the first startup, but more than the second, and lost the clock back to 1:00 again.

Pretty sure that's "battery does not hold charge; replace battery" indication. ...crap, I'm gonna hafta reset the radio buttons AGAIN. *headdesk*

Tomorrow is ALSO fun because of multiple doctor appointments -- spouse has one pretty far away, and I have one nearby, and there's going to have to be Dropping Car Off, and depending on how the weather is, I might wind up walking back home or something. -_-

Well, we'll see. (Might need a jumpstart tomorrow, depending on how bad the battery is being.)

Have sneaking suspicion I have the kid's -- and spouse's -- stomach bug now, which has Queasiness After Eating. Maybe I should take a ginger pill.

Havva Quote
GM: The woods are dark and creepy and...oh never mind, you all have low-light vision.
RANGER: We do?
GM: You have darkvision.
RANGER: Oh. Huh. Yeah!
--http://tkingfisher.dreamwidth.org/1488336.html


INwatch+Bookwatch )

Dragons under fold )

Make a good first impression

Jul. 24th, 2017 12:44 am
[syndicated profile] manly_feed

Posted by Coelasquid

Considering Reaper had no idea what Vialli looked like, there’s a good chance he’s never actually sat at the Talon round table shadowy board of directors thing before and this rufflepuff masquerade costume was their first time experiencing him in person.

[personal profile] ndrosen
In the evening of August 18, we held a Center for the Study of Economics Board meeting, which was not strictly speaking part of the Georgist Conference, but with a number of CSE Board members present, it was a convenient time and place for a meeting. Alodia Arnold proposed a BIL talk (an informal alternative to a TED talk) in Fairhope, Alabama, on October 22, 2016. I'm not sure what came of that.

Then there was a Henry George Institute membership meeting; again, this wasn't formally a part of the conference as such. Our program director reported that we have many enrollments, but few people following through and completing the course. Some people (mostly prisoners) still complete the basic course by mail (rather than over the Internet), and two are to receive transcripts from Excelsior College.

Can we get more people by advertising?

The Robert Schalkenbach Foundation is now helping to support publication of the Georgist Journal, at $5000 per year.

We need money, and some day, we will need a successor to Lindy Davies, our Program Director. I'm president, but I have a full time job elsewhere.

Reanalysis

Jul. 23rd, 2017 01:32 pm
stoutfellow: Joker (Default)
[personal profile] stoutfellow
A current article in Atlantic contains the following: "[T]he FSB has built an empire in the same way, making minigarchs out of rank-and-file FSB officers whose salaries don’t square with the posh lifestyles they lead." I draw your attention to the coinage "minigarch", presumably a portmanteau of "mini" and "oligarch".

Of course, that's a bastardization reanalysis of "oligarch"; an oligarchy is a state in which there are many few [1] ("oligo") powerful people ("archon"). [I am no doubt messing up the precise Greek, but the roots are common enough...] Evidently the "g" has been reinterpreted as being part of the second morpheme rather than the first. (Compare, in English, "a nadder" > "an adder", or "helicopter", originally "helico-pter" ("helix-wing"), being interpreted as "heli-copter" > "copter".)

Just an oddity....

[1] Thanks to [personal profile] ndrosen for catching my error on this one.

On the Fence

Jul. 23rd, 2017 01:16 pm
stoutfellow: My summer look (Summer)
[personal profile] stoutfellow
That's "on" meaning "pertaining to".

After I bought my house, twenty-some years ago, my next move was to acquire a dog. (That would be the late lamented Murphy.) In order to allow him outside time, I then had a fence erected around part of the back yard - a plain, unadorned picket fence.

I have to admit that I haven't taken good care of the fence - hammering in the occasional loose nail, no more than that. Just now, I glanced out the window and saw that the western segment of the fence had broken; one of the supports had leaned out of true, and the section of fence north of it had come loose and sagged inward. If Buster had noticed it, he would have had an easy route to freedom. I shut the access to the doggy doors and went outside to inspect it. Armed with no more than a hammer and a shim, I managed to get it realigned, but it's no more than a makeshift. Among other things, it puts increased strain on the already-misbehaving gate.

No help for it; I'll have to call in the pros to repair the fence ASAP (and hopefully get the gate working properly again). At least the excessive heat warning that's been in effect since Tuesday noon will expire this evening.

Crossovering Letter

Jul. 22nd, 2017 11:57 pm
desertvixen: (Default)
[personal profile] desertvixen
I'm super excited about this exchange, because I love crossovers and AUs.

First, let me tell you (a little) of what I love about each fandom.

Profile

selenite0: (Default)
selenite0

July 2017

S M T W T F S
      1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031     

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Jul. 24th, 2017 10:45 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios